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75: Managing Teams & Projects Like a CTO with Nelly Yusupova of TechSpeak for Entrepreneurs

Published April 27, 2021
Run time: 00:58:45
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You don’t have to know how to code to successfully manage a technical team, project, or startup. Nelly Yusupova, CTO, Startup Tech Advisor, and Creator of TechSpeak for Entrepreneurs, joins the show to discuss how to build tech teams when you aren’t a technical person, from understanding lean and agile methodologies, to deciding what tools to use, to earning a CTO, to not impeding progress with NDA’s.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How being okay with uncertainty can help you grow
  • The difference between lean and agile concepts and how they work together
  • How the tech team you build is dependent on the technology you use
  • Why it’s important to learn the high-level options for building technology
  • Why thinking of your agency as an extension of your team will help you pick the right one
  • When you should consider bringing on in-house developers
  • Why and when it’s important to document knowledge
  • How to find, or earn, a technical co-founder
  • How expecting someone to sign an NDA during initial discussions is like bringing a prenuptial agreement to a first date
  • Why companies with established processes are pivoting to lean and agile methodologies

This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.

Recorded April 9, 2021 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski

Show Notes:

TechSpeak for Entrepreneurs

Episode Transcript:

Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non-technical look at what it takes to build and grow digital products. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.

Today we are chatting with Nelly Yusupova, CTO, startup tech advisor and creator of Tech Speak for Entrepreneurs, which is an online learning program that teaches entrepreneurs and companies how to successfully manage technology teams and projects without being technical or learning how to code. Nelly is a CTO with more than 18 years of experience managing software teams and projects of all sizes. And I am excited to have her on the show to discuss how to build tech teams when you aren't a technical person. So without further ado, here is my interview with Nelly Yusupova.

Nelly, welcome to the show.

Nelly Yusupova 1:02
Hi, Tim, I'm so excited to be here today. Thank you for having me.

Tim Bornholdt 1:06
I am too. I mean, we've already had a really good conversation. I always feel bad not just like immediately hitting the record button because you always end up getting such good stuff. But I think you and I were like destined to have this conversation given all of your experience in helping non technical people find their way around this technical world. So I'd love for you to introduce yourself to the audience here and explain what led you to finding the Tech Speak for Entrepreneurs program.

Nelly Yusupova 1:33
Sure. So I am a CTO. I'm a startup tech advisor, and the creator of an online training called Tech Speak for Entrepreneurs. And Tech Speak is a program where I teach non-technical entrepreneurs how to manage teams and projects, like a CTO without being technical or knowing how to code. So what led me to start it is actually an evolution of lots of different experiences as a CTO. And then as my role in the industry grew, I started going out and speaking at conferences and doing trainings. And after every single event, I have to tell you, I had a huddle of entrepreneurs sharing their horror stories with me of projects not working out, them losing $80,000, $100,000 of their seed round, money that they were able to raise simply because they didn't know what they were doing. Or they couldn't manage the development team. Oftentimes they were outsourcing or offshoring. And they were just losing so much money to things that I thought were, you know, everyone should know. But of course, they didn't know. And the reason why oftentimes this happens is entrepreneurs, especially non-technical ones, they don't know the process for building web and mobile applications. They don't know how to communicate their ideas so that their tech teams will know exactly what to do. They don't know how to hire the right people. They don't know how to manage the project. And this one is a classic one, trusting developers will take care of everything and kind of having a hands off approach and not knowing how to ask the right questions to make sure that the right decisions are made for their business, and that all of the technology decisions are actually aligned with the business goals. And of course, when you don't know any of these things, you will always make a lot of costly mistakes because you will miss a lot of the red flags.

So I created Tech Speak to address a lot of these issues and teach, it's a 10 step process, and I teach lean and agile methodologies in the process so that entrepreneurs can test their products early and often, iterate to success. And we can talk about a lot of the details if you'd like to dive into that. But my goal is to give them the power to take the control back and run their tech startups effectively and efficiently without losing 1000s of dollars on mistakes.

Tim Bornholdt 4:12
There's a million ways we can take that because there's so many things to unpack in here. But I first of all, we were talking just before we hit record that your journey into becoming a technical person and a CTO. It can't possibly be true that you went to school for computer science and didn't know how to turn on a computer. That's not true, is it?

Nelly Yusupova 4:31
It is.

Tim Bornholdt 4:33
How did you go down that path?

Nelly Yusupova 4:36
So I am a first generation immigrants. So when I came to this country, you know, I went straight into high school and all of my high school years had been really targeted to learning the language, learning the culture. And when I got out of school, I wanted to have a practical profession that would ensure that I would have a job when I got out. And like I sat down with my counselor and like we went through and decided, like what is going to be the profession. And this is in the early 90s. Technology was definitely the way to go. Like if you went into tech, you knew that you could get a job. And so I decided I was going to major in computer science, but at the time, because I never had a computer, there were like word processors that we used before, but it was not a computer. And I had no concept that, you know, you could type commands to the computer, and it would actually do something. So I actually thought majoring in computer science would teach me how to use Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel really, really well. But of course, that's not true. And so that's how I got started. And I actually think like, a lot of the empathy that I have for the work that I do now with non-technical entrepreneurs comes from not knowing technology, not being born with it, which is what a lot of technical people tend to be, right. They learn it, they grow up with it. And they kind of don't have that. They've never had to stand in front of another tech person and be questioned for how much they know. Are they good enough? Do they know enough? And I felt a lot of that pain, which gives me a lot of empathy for the work that I do now.

Tim Bornholdt 6:21
I can totally understand where you're coming from with that, because especially with your story of like being in high school and spending a lot of the time learning the language and coming from another country, I'm sure that there was so many times where you were placed into those situations where you're like, Well, I don't know what to do in this case, but I better figure it out. Yeah, so it's kind of cool to have that muscle built up, because I think, and you kind of lucked into it with computer science, because that's what we do as programmers is oftentimes, you know, the new hotness comes out with, you know, machine learning or, you know, whatever new language comes out, and you just kind of have to be like, Well, I don't know what this is, but I better figure it out. And you get kind of comfortable in that uncomfortability, as well as having like the empathy to help other people, you know, understand that. Obviously, being uncomfortable is not fun. So helping people navigate through that, it's such an interesting way of coming about the problems you're trying to solve.

Nelly Yusupova 7:15
Yeah, I have this whole mantra about my life, and it's on my website. It's" Never fear what you don't know." Because this is so relevant for anyone who's starting anything new. There's so much fear that comes with not knowing. And a lot of the questions that a lot of early stage entrepreneurs ask me are fear-based, right? There's a whole black box in front of you, and you don't know what's on the other end. And the only way to get past that is to start taking small steps towards it and kind of, like, act despite the fear because everybody has fear. And then you figure out like once you get a little bit of base knowledge, if you consistently persist, that you can get over that. And actually, that base will help you become much more efficient at learning from that point on. So yes, there's so many pivotal moments in my career, that I said yes to opportunities where I had no idea what I was getting into, and, you know, simply by saying yes, and then taking steps and persevering, that was what led me to success today, I guess.

Tim Bornholdt 8:27
Well, and I would imagine too putting yourself into the role of being a CTO, you know, you mentioned that there's so many stories that you have of being in those uncomfortable positions, and then kind of, you know, sink or swim, like just jump in and do it and you'll figure it out. How was that like learning curve for you? Because I'm sure that there was a curve for you going from learning just the technical side of it, the computer science part of it, but then also, being a CTO, there's so much more into it that we're going to unpack in a little bit. Are there any stories that stand out of, like, where you were able to like jump in and do it and figure it out and grow from there?

Nelly Yusupova 9:06
Yeah, absolutely. So this is another funny story, because I got a job at this company called Web Girls. This is in the early 90s, again, around 97. I was still in school. This was my first professional job in tech. I worked with two other guys. And within a year and a half, both of them left. And because we were in this startup, I was the default person who had to basically take everything on. And so before I even finished school, I was literally running the tech department there. Because I knew everything that needed to be done simply because I was in this small company, I got that opportunity to learn. And if you're open to it, right, sink or swim, you figure things out.

And I went away to work at a big company, briefly, because I had to test it out. And I always say like I lasted there 11 months because coming from a startup environment, going into corporate was such a big culture shock for me. And so 11 months later, I got the opportunity again to come back and become a CTO at this company Wep Girls. And I was in my early 20s, obviously, not as experienced as I am now. And I comparatively knew nothing. But I said, Yes. I rose up to the challenge, and then, oh my gosh, so many things that I learned. I evolved with the company. I figured out how to manage teams, how to, you know, build that process that we're going to talk about that Tech Speak is based on, and making the mistakes and learning on the fly, and just being okay in uncertain situation, and learning from wherever I could. I mean, we have Google, we have experts, we have all these communities that you can tap into. And that was, you know, just saying, yes, and then figuring out along the way is how I kind of function. Right.

But if you are in startups, if you are running your own company, that's what you have to do. You have to be okay with uncertainty. And oftentimes just taking small steps, which is why I love the lean methodology so much is that it allows you to take those small, small, small steps learn and iterate to success, rather than trying to figure out like, Am I going to be okay with this big decision? And should we go in this direction? And over agonizing on making the perfect choice, rather than just taking action and informing yourself all along the way. And that's kind of naturally how I was doing things. And then when I discovered the lean startup methodology, I was just like, Wow, this is awesome. So I adopted it immediately. And that was, you know, I use it in my everyday life, I use it in my professional life, I use it everywhere.

Tim Bornholdt 11:56
It's such a powerful mental model to have when you can like view the world because you can't do everything lean, like, you know, you can't have nine women make a baby in a month, that whole thing. But there are like so many areas of life that you can apply lean to. It's such a tremendous tool to have. Moving back to Tech Speak for entrepreneurs, what stage of growth do you usually see companies start to be like, Yeah, we should come on board and start using your program?

Nelly Yusupova 12:26
We've had entrepreneurs at every stage take Tech Speak. So there's been even experienced technologists and software and product developers and founders of successful companies with exits. Simply, if you don't know the lean and agile way of managing teams and projects, Tech Speak is for you. I intentionally market it to early stage entrepreneurs, even before they start, simply because if you start the process from the beginning, before you have a process, it's so much easier to implement it than if you already have a process, and you have to change it. And so my goal is to get people as early as possible, even before you have an idea, because the first two steps of my 10 step process is all about validating your idea and refining your solution. Both of those two things non-technical entrepreneurs can do without any development help, without writing any code, and actually, before they commit 1000s of dollars to building the product, it'll give them the confidence to know that, Hey, if I do this, I already know I have customers. I've even had people who pre-sold their solutions, just doing these two steps before they wrote a line of code. And so that's really powerful for me to teach for non-technical entrepreneurs.

So like, if you're at the beginnings, and you're considering jumping into this field, you should just do validation and prototyping and start there. And of course, if you're an experienced entrepreneur, and you have a team of even 10 or 15, developers, you know, you can save 1000s of dollars simply by implementing lean and agile in your process. And you'll end up not building too much technology just for the sake of building technology and actually find by integrating customer feedback into your process, you will build products that are much more likely to be adopted by users. And if you are charging for your products, they're going to be much more willing to pay you for those products for the use of the product, because you're solving problems for them, instead of just assuming what their problems are.

Tim Bornholdt 14:42
No, that makes sense to me. One thing that I often hear people asking, cause you hear, you know, lean and agile and there's all these kind of terms that get thrown around. What do you see as the difference between like lean and agile? Is it one in the same or is it just kind of the same word for the same thing? Or how do you like separate those two thoughts in your head?

Nelly Yusupova 15:05
Yeah. So they very much work well together, but they're different concepts. So lean is all about this concept of fail early, fail often, fail cheap, which I actually, because to me, I reframe failure as a learning opportunity. So I actually say learn early, learn often, learn cheap. To me, lean is a mindset and a philosophy of functioning in a way that anything that you're doing, you are going to try to figure out how to do it in the cheapest way possible, in the fastest way possible, so that you can learn as quickly as possible. So that to me is a mindset.

And agile is a way of taking big projects, right? It's an actual project management philosophy. And you can ensure that you get working code or working something, right, if you're not applying it to software, you need to get something working in at most two weeks, what we call like, predefined sprints, right, predefined periods. And there's been different flavors of agile. You can actually launch and release code every day, or sometimes a couple of times a day, right? It all depends on how efficient your team is. And so lean and agile work really, really well together because the philosophies are so similar, right? And agile is more in practice, how do you manage the project in taking big projects, breaking them into smaller pieces, and releasing early and often? And lean is much, much more philosophy of like how you work, how you think. And it's something that you should incorporate into your company culture. Because everyone that you're going to hire needs to function with that mindset and not just in tech.

Tim Bornholdt 17:00
Right. That's awesome. Because I get confused sometimes, even though I've been in this space for so long. It's like sometimes you hear so many buzzwords being thrown around, and you're like, which ones do I glob on to and which ones can I just let slip, you know, into the ether. And it's like, agile and lean are two that have definitely had staying power and for good reason. It's a smart way to build a business and a smart way to get an idea from just something that's going on in your head to something that you can practically use in your hands or, you know, however you end up, like you said, doesn't have to be an app, you can apply agile to virtually anything.

Nelly Yusupova 17:35
Right. And so like, I think another distinction, really, if you want to kind of build a mental model for it, is agile is something that you use to execute. And lean is a way of really incorporating this learning methodology onto something that you're doing. So most people can practice agile, but if they're approaching product development in a non lean way, they're still building the product, and then finding the market. Versus in the lean methodology, you're finding the market first. You're identifying the pain points first. You're almost writing your marketing copy first. It's just like the CEO of Amazon, right? He starts with the PR newsletter, right, with the product. That's essentially what lean allows you to do is to figure out the problem first and then build the solutions based on those problems, rather than building in a vacuum.

Tim Bornholdt 18:43
That makes sense. Thank you for sharing that. Because it's again, one thing I get confused about sometimes. So I'm glad that you're also not only helping non technical people, but you're helping technical people too. So thank you for that. One thing, so we work with non technical founders all the time who are building app based businesses and I've found that as we work with them, you know, building the technical and the actual product doesn't end up being the challenging part. It's actually building the team and managing everything that's going on. So we've been kind of talking about managing through agile and lean already, but I want to dig a little bit deeper into that. So starting right off, you know, how do you recommend a startup actually goes about building their technical team?

Nelly Yusupova 19:29
So I think it really depends on where you are, and what base do you have. So in general, you have to build a team strategically. And depending on how you're going to build your product, and what you're going to build, the structure of the team might differ. So in the 10 step process that I teach, so the first two steps are validate and prototype. We already talked about that. And then steps three to seven is all about planning and preparing for development. And this is where you're going to decide.

One of those steps is picking the right tools and technologies. So there's so many different ways to build a product. And custom building everything is not the only option. It actually is probably the most expensive option. But there's so many tools today, in the 21st century, no code tools, low code tools, different API's, different third party tools. And you can use a combination of them to actually figure out what's the best and fastest way to build your technology, right. And based on the combination that you choose, the structure of the team will vary.

So if you use a lot of no code tools, you might just need to find the specific developers who are experts in those. If you are building on native mobile applications, the types of developers you will need will be people who work with those specific platforms. But then there's cross platform applications as well, where you can build an entire, this is where you can build for two different platforms at the same time. And so the point is there's so many different ways to build technology. The team structure will depend on what you pick. And that's where I would start, and then from there, you can determine what's the right solution for you.

Tim Bornholdt 21:35
How do you advise, like, especially for non technical founders, you know, picking what technologies to build with is kind of a daunting challenge, especially if you are non technical, how do you advise people go through and make those choices?

Nelly Yusupova 21:53
So the first thing I do, you know, in the Tech Speak course that I teach are all of the options. And I think it's really, really important to know the options, because I don't expect you to actually know the differences between all the different technologies, right. But if you know high level of what all the different options are, and how to think about this, right, then when you're working with tech people, you can ask them, Hey, what is the best way to do this? And if they're telling you that custom building is the only option, you can actually push back and say, Well, can we think about it this way? Right? This is where taking control back comes into play. This is where you can negotiate and actually have conversations. But in order to be able to do that you have to be confident about the process. You have to understand what you're talking about. And then you will have enough confidence to have those conversations. And again, it's a conversation, and you're able to leverage the experts, but also challenge them if necessary. Because not every expert, as we just talked about, understands lean and agile. They are not necessarily thinking about, Hey, how can I cut development costs for you? Especially if you're working with an agency, right? The agency models are really about getting you to write as much custom code as possible, because the more code they write for you, the more they get paid. And so those alignments are not there. And that's why it's important for entrepreneurs to have this knowledge. And then they can control the costs. They can have those conversations and be a part of the discussions. And when the certain tools are being recommended, don't just say" yes." It's like going to a mechanic when you don't know anything about cars. You literally believe everything they tell you, right? And the same thing happens when an expert says, Well, you should be using this and this and this and this. And if you blindly just accept it, and the reason why I know this is because when I rescue a project, and I ask the entrepreneur, Eell, why did you pick dot net? When nobody on the planet here in the United States is using dot net except big corporations? And they would say, Well, because my developer said it. And if they had known, you know, and were confident enough to be able to ask that question, then they wouldn't be in that situation.

Tim Bornholdt 24:17
No, that makes sense. And yeah, I felt the heat when you said that not every developer understands lean and agile. I caught that dig real, real good. But I agree. From the flip side, like as an agency owner, I don't want to take on a customer that a custom native mobile app would not best serve. Because I think a lot of times people approach me with ideas for apps. And what we focus in at our agency is custom iOS and Android apps, and we build native. We don't use cross platform solutions. And you know, we could talk about the bevy of reasons why they're good or bad. Like you said, there's so many pros and cons to it, but I think it really comes down to understanding what your problem is, and there are plenty of problems out there that can be solved with a really basic, you know, cross platform Xamarin or React Native powered mobile app. But depending on what you're trying to build, you know, you might actually need, you'd be better served building a custom mobile app. And so I think you're absolutely right, that there's so many options out there. And the more that you can get educated on what your particular needs are, the better served then you would be going to developers and not getting fleeced by somebody that makes you write your app in dot net. Oh, my goodness. That's no good.

Nelly Yusupova 25:35
Absolutely. And I think with agencies, especially, you know, there's different types of developers. And then there's different types of agencies that specialize in certain things. And when you know what you need, you can actually select the better type of agency or the better type of developer, right. If you're building an app, you don't want to hire a WordPress developer to be able to build an app for you. And you won't know that unless you know all the different types of developers that exist, right. So knowing the options, and knowing and getting educated about what the options are, will help you make better hires, will help you make better decisions, and also, not just blindly accepting advice, but questioning, right, asking those follow up questions when it's time and when you know you need it.

Tim Bornholdt 26:26
Completely agreed. Well, while we're talking about agencies, and I'm more than happy to be the the scapegoat on these questions, too, you know. It's no skin off my back. But when an entrepreneur is considering an agency, what do you advise that they look for in addition, I think you kind of hit on it already a little bit of like, you know, look for specific expertise. But are there any other things like if somebody is like, Yeah, I'm just, I'd rather throw money. I have money, and I want to throw it at this problem. And I'll pick an agency. How do you advise people pick the right agency for them?

Nelly Yusupova 27:01
So I think we talked about the lean and agile process. And that, to me, is the process that saves a lot of time and money. So when you're picking an agency, just like when you're hiring your own internal team, you want to hire for those DNA qualities. And if you are deciding that you're going to be using lean and agile, you want to interview agencies that use lean and agile. You want to be able to be involved in the planning process. So I teach every entrepreneur how to be a product manager and a project manager, even though the agency may have their own product managers and whatever else, I believe in order for the process to work, if you're truly are using lean and agile, you moving really quickly. And you have to have someone on your side who is going to be that product manager slash project manager, and you're working very closely with the agency as though they are your team. Right? I don't actually say like, This is my agency. I say this is my team. And that's how you need to think about it. And so the hiring process that I use for agencies and for internal developers is exactly the same. Because there's no difference in my mind. And if you approach it that way, and you are looking for an actual team member, that's when you're going to be successful in finding the agency. You want to be able to have someone who supports your viewpoints, who works just like you, who is incentivized just on the same things that you are. And then you can find a good partner.

Tim Bornholdt 28:40
Yeah, I always tell people when they come and interview us to make sure that they interview, I have a list of other agencies around town and around the country where it's like, you really need to find who is the right fit for you. And like you said, I think that the DNA part of it is so important, because if you have a development team that doesn't quite mesh up with what you're trying to do, then you're just constantly going to be butting heads. And ultimately, it's kind of like you're trying to pull the cart in two different directions. So I couldn't agree more with really making sure that, you would kind of assume that most agencies if they put out there that they can do something like you don't obviously, you know, you want to make sure you check references and look at their work and everything. But more importantly to me is like you're gonna be working with these people, and they're gonna be the ones that really need to own your vision and be able to execute on that. And so having that chemistry is one of the most underrated parts, I think, of trying to find the right agency for you.

Nelly Yusupova 29:42
Absolutely. I mean, I have two people now going through the program who came from an agency perspective, and one of them had to make a really, really painful decision of switching agencies in mid project, which is, you know, the advice is, you never want to do that because you're going to lose so much time and money. And I mean, the key learning there is, you know, you could be doing such an amazing job interviewing. But if you see red flags, because once you start working with the person or the team, right, you start to actually see them in action. And if there any red flags for you that are coming when you're working with them that you couldn't catch in the interview process, the only advice that I have is that you have to address that really, really early. And if necessary, make the painful decision early rather than later. Because that problem, the problem will always compound and gets worse and more complicated the more you actually go in this direction. So she, this woman, specifically that I'm thinking about, saw those red flags early on, got advice, and everybody told her, Hey, don't switch, because nobody switches in the middle of a project. And eventually, she's like, 90% there, and the team couldn't finish 10% of the project. And so, you know, she had to make the switch. So it's really important when you're hiring and interviewing to do your best, but then also watch the red flags and continue to kind of evaluate the situation and the relationship. And if it's not working out, make the hard decision to, I always say, Hire slow, fire fast.

Tim Bornholdt 31:29
And that's phenomenal advice. It's just like having like, a crazy boyfriend or girlfriend, you know, like, it doesn't get easier if you just delay dumping them. You sometimes just have to rip the band aid off and say, All right, like this isn't working for either of us. And we need to move on. So I appreciate that advice. Switching gears a little bit. So what if you're considering like hiring in house developers? What would you say? Are there any differences like in how you would go about trying to find the right in house developers and when would bringing full time development help and end up being a more cost effective way of doing things?

Nelly Yusupova 32:11
I think it's as soon as you have the funding to do so because what a lot of people don't realize the agency provides so much cushion, right, in the things that you don't have to worry about, including providing insurance and all these other things for the people that you're working with, that you don't even consider, right. So knowing when is the right time is really comes down to funding and can you do it. So a lot of people who raise money can maybe do that off the bat. A lot of people who are bootstrapping need to find a partner that they outsource to. And I know, for example, an entrepreneur, who worked with an agency for five years, while they were working with an agency, she had an advisor who was working with her and loved the agency so much that she even gave them equity, which was another great incentive. And five years down the line, they decided to raise money. And that's when they built their team, brought on the CTO who was their advisor, right. So that they had five years of working together, really got that relationship and alignment in, right, after five years, you should know. So that worked out really well for her. And because she had such a good relationship with her agency, they really were an extension of her team, that she didn't feel like she needed to do it right away. So I think it's a decision that every business has to make for themselves, depending on what situation they're in.

Tim Bornholdt 33:55
Yeah, cause there's so many factors to hiring, like you said, with not only just, you know, once you find somebody, then it's the insurance and all of that stuff. And developers are super expensive these days. But then just finding a developer in the first place is super challenging. So I think that approach, we do that pretty frequently with our agency, like, if there's startup ideas that we're really into, we'll do that kind of cash plus equity sort of thing and help them build the team. And then once they raise money, and the time is right, then spin out into their own thing and help them staff up and transition the project over. It's like, if you find a good agency at the start, and also, you know, going back to our previous questions of like, you know, what kind of things should you be looking for in an agency? I think that's a really important question to ask is like, when the time does come that the project either, well, ends or it becomes so successful that you need full time people working on it, you know, how does that transition look?

Nelly Yusupova 34:52
I think, all along the way, you have to document knowledge. That's the one thing that a lot of startups don't do and a lot of startup founders don't really focus on when they work with agencies. When the project is finished, they now expect all the documentation, and it's very hard to get that information in such a short period of time, especially if you've been working for years, for example, with an agency. So it's important to ask for that information as you guys are working and even allocate the extra time necessary to do documentation, maybe like adding 5 to 10% of the time to give developers and the team the flexibility or the time to actually do the work. And that will make the transition easier. Because that knowledge transfer is the hardest piece of transitioning from one team to another. And I think you can't really avoid having two people kind of working together for a certain period of time. So you can hire your internal team, and then kind of have the agency overseeing that transition and transferring knowledge over maybe a month or two, and then eventually, you'll be able to be standalone.

Tim Bornholdt 36:18
Yeah, I think that's a great way to do it. And a great piece of advice as well, like, it is really hard sometimes as developers to document things because you're trying to get the thing done, you know, and get the thing built. But over the course of five years, if you have that long of a relationship with your tech team, it's like, you know, you just occasionally ask them, Hey, are you documenting any of this stuff anywhere? Because any any good agency should be, if they don't do it as part of their process from the initial build out, that's absolutely stuff that needs to be captured and organized going forward.

Nelly Yusupova 36:52
Yeah, a lot of people should be doing it. But a lot of people in practice, don't do it, so you have to insist.

Tim Bornholdt 37:03
So again, talking about building a tech team, you know, we've mentioned the CTO role, and you've served as a CTO before. When a non technical person wants to get an app built, we often see that they are looking for like a CTO type person or a technical person to help be a founder. What high level tips can you give for that search of trying to find someone that can help you, you know, if you wanted to get beyond having to have that basic tech literacy, like you talk about, having somebody just focusing on building that tech side of things? What advice do you have for finding that kind of a person?

Nelly Yusupova 37:44
So first of all, I say you can't find a technical co founder or CTO, you have to earn one. And simply because the reality of the situation is if you're in the idea stage of your product, and you don't have traction, the chances of you finding someone technical, who is willing to take a risk on you and your idea, are going to be so slim, which is why it's so hard to find a technical co founder for a lot of people. Tech people get lots of opportunities, not just requests, from other people to come join their teams. But also, they have cushy jobs. They can make lots of money working for big companies. And so you have to kind of convince them, right, with traction and present it from, Hey, this is a I need you to Here's an opportunity. And the way you do that is through three steps.

So the first step is to validate the idea and build a prototype. These are the first two steps in my process. And doing this will demonstrate that there is a need for your idea. And it will also show you that to the other person that you're not just an idea, right? There are people who really want this. There are people who are asking for this solution. The second thing is to build a community and a following. This again, will further demonstrate that there's a need for your idea and also show to the other person your marketing skills that you can use to sell the product, again, that you have value as a non technical person, that you have the skill to actually do your part of the work.

And the third thing is to invest some of your own money to build the MVP. And maybe most likely outsource the building of the MVP, right? This will demonstrate that you believe in the potential of the idea, that you have skin in the game, that you will find a way to bring your idea into life no matter what. And again, having these three things shifts the conversation from I need you to Here's an opportunity. Because once you have a product you can actually onboard customers, you can show traction, you can show people using it, and then it becomes much more attractive, then it becomes an opportunity versus, Hey, I need you to build this product for me. And that has been very successful for a lot of the students that I teach, because it shifts the conversations. You'll be able to say, Hey, look what I've been able to achieve without you. Imagine what we can do together. And that's what I call earning a technical co founder and having all of these skills and doing the things that we've talked about so far will allow you to take steps every single day in the right direction versus waiting and risking possibly missing the market opportunity, right. That's the big risk of waiting.

And once you find someone, oh, so parallel to that, you need to go out and build your network of technical contacts. And once you find someone, hopefully, by the time you already have traction, the chances of them saying yes to you are much higher than totally ignoring you, right, or not answering you. So that's kind of the approach and the structure that I teach a lot of my students, and they found a lot of success in it. But also, I think it's so important to not just take that person on just skill set, because finding a co founder or CTO is not about skill set. It's about finding a person who aligns with you on vision, who aligns with you on how you want to build this company. This is a person you are adding to your cap table. This is a person you're going to hopefully want to sacrifice right, sees you not just as a means to make money, but as a means to make a difference in the world. So they have to be as passionate about your idea as you are. And that's why I always say you have to date your co founder for a while before you say yes to them. And when you do this, right, you actually have a way with, whether it's your agency or someone else, if you have a way to launch a product and build your products, you actually can take the time to evaluate this person, and maybe hire them to your company. And over time, they can graduate to become your CTO. So that's kind of how I would frame that conversation.

Tim Bornholdt 42:33
I love that. Because I can't tell you, like you said being a technical person, and on the other end of the conversation, people come up to me all the time, or like shoot me an email or LinkedIn or something where it's like, Hey, I've got this idea. Why don't you build it for me, and then I'll go out and sell it. And it's like, I've gotten to the point now where it's pretty easy to, you know, kind of sniff out who's legit and who's not. And the people that are legit are the ones that come with, you know, if they don't have a prototype or anything built, at the very least they've got, you know, wireframes or something that they've sketched out. They have kind of a flow of how money is going to come in the door. It's like, you know, the technical people, like you said, have cushy jobs and have things going on for them. So if you want to try to compete with, you know, a huge company that's going to hire them for a cushy six figure salary, you might not be able to do that right out of the gate. But I'm a lot more likely to join a company that the founder has put some thought into it and has sussed out a lot of the business side of things, which I think is way more underrated when you're building a tech company than the tech itself. It's so much easier to focus on, Oh, we got to have a really cool app. But how is it going to make money? How are you going to like sustain yourself?

Nelly Yusupova 43:50
I think a lot of non technical people think that building the product is the hardest thing. Because to them, that's the black box. But in fact, finding a market, finding a way to actually make money, solving a problem that people care about, those are the things that you actually proving with your product, right. The iteration of the MVP is really to prove that you have a business model. Building a product is actually the easy part. And if you focus and use lean and agile methodologies successfully and efficiently, you can actually find the problem. You can methodically de-risk all of the assumptions that you have into something and building a solution that somebody actually wants and needs and not have to focus solely on the product. Because the product is not what's going to make your company successful. You could have the best product on the planet, but if nobody cares about the solution, nobody's gonna pay for it. Then you don't have a business.

Tim Bornholdt 44:55
Right. On the same topic, often when I get approached by somebody with an idea, it often comes with a ironclad nondisclosure agreement that I have to sign before I even get to hear this wonderful, groundbreaking idea that they have. What are your thoughts for like non technical people listening to this, what are your thoughts on having them walk around with an idea and an NDA in both of their hands?

Nelly Yusupova 45:24
That's a very controversial question. So personally, I believe that you shouldn't care about NDAs because it's not about the idea, it's about execution. Two people can have the same exact idea and execute it completely differently. And I actually advise my entrepreneurs to make an assumption that you have five other companies who are doing exactly the same thing. But you know you have this knowledge and the sense that you can win, whether that's your team, whether that's your specific expertise, whatever it is, you know that you can win. Because ultimately, if you guys are building exactly the same thing, and you know that they can do it better, you should just say thank you to them for saving years of your life doing something because ultimately, if they win, you wasted a lot of your time and money doing something, right.

And then at the same time, also having this perspective of why can't competition exist? Right? Why can't there be two of the same thing? Look at email marketing. There's probably 100 different tools that say, We can do email marketing better. And they all exist, they all have customers, and they all are solving it in slightly different ways. But, you know, the idea is the same. And so I think, if you think you have something innovative, like, I don't even believe that there's anything that people can bring to me that I haven't seen in other ways or another, right. So to assume that you have something that's so groundbreaking, that can't be copied, is silly. And oftentimes, some people will actually not show you the idea, if you don't sign it. I think that's a loss on their part. So yeah, I think it's something that entrepreneurs have to get comfortable with, and know that they don't care about competition. They don't care about someone stealing their idea. Of course, never share, right? Like I think it's also important to note that you don't want to share the secret sauce right off the bat to someone you don't know. Right? Tere's a difference between sharing the high level of the idea and actually diving in and deciding how we're going to build this thing. So NDAs are really at that initial conversation, where I'm going to share something on a high level. You should be able to be comfortable doing that. And then when you are deciding to take the next step of actually, let's say planning, diving in, then you have a contract. Then you have your independent agreement, independent contractors agreement that you're signing, and then that ensures that all of the IP or all the work, all the ideas that they have or created for you are yours. And that's how you protect yourself. And that's when you can share your secret sauce and all the secret information. But in the initial conversations where you share the NDA, I think that's a little bit premature.

Tim Bornholdt 48:42
I think it's like, you kind of mentioned this is sort of like a courtship, you know. Especially when you look for a CTO, it's essentially like you're getting married to this person. And the NDA to me would be like, if you show up to your first date with a prenuptial agreement.

Nelly Yusupova 48:59
I love that.

Tim Bornholdt 49:01
It's like, how are you going to build trust, when the first thing you do with somebody is like, Well, before I even look at you, you need to make sure that when we get married, you know, X, Y and Z, but like, how attractive would that be to you if somebody did that to you? You know, that's why I always like asking other tech people their thoughts around this because, like, you have enough conversations with non technical people about non disclosures and I totally get where they're coming from, you know, like, they're not in this space like we are. But it's hard for us being in this space to kind of be like, No, listen, like, you can at least tell me, you know, the very high level, like you said, of the idea without necessarily telling me how exactly how you're going to make money and who your first customers are going to be and all of that stuff. Like I don't need to know that to at least understand like, Yeah, this person's worth having like a second date with and seeing a movie next time or you know. It's just so baffling to me, but that's why I like bringing it up here just so more people that are not technical hear it from other technical people.

Nelly Yusupova 50:07
Yeah, I think that decision or that a lot of the things that non technical entrepreneurs do and say and ask are fear based, because they don't know. And they think that that's going to protect them. That's going to protect their idea from being stolen. But without understanding the groundwork of actually knowing like, what does it take to actually steal an idea and how your developer doesn't care about stealing your idea, right, like they have a lot, it takes so much to actually bring an idea to life, from execution on not just product, but also marketing and business development and sales. And all of it has to come at the perfect time and moment in time to actually work. Once you understand that, once you understand what it takes to make a company successful, then I don't think you stress the details like that of actually sharing the high level of your idea.

Tim Bornholdt 51:11
Yeah, couldn't agree more. Last topic. On your website, there's a stat that you posted that said 50% of established corporations are going to start leveraging lean startup techniques by this year. Obviously, a lot of these big companies and, you know, most companies that have established processes, they already have established processes, right? So how does some company that has a technical team in place use something like Tech Speak to pivot their processes? And why might they want to do that?

Nelly Yusupova 51:45
Well, the reason why they might want to do it is because it's gonna save them 1000s of dollars, like no kidding, right? You're going to not only save money, but also be able to build products in a much more efficient way for the customers, and ensure that you're not just building a product that when you launch it, there's going to be crickets. And that's the big issue that the lean process solves. You already know, before you spend 1000s of dollars into development, that someone actually needs this, somebody actually wants this, somebody will benefit from this. And that's why we do the lean part of it.

And the challenge, especially in big organizations, besides everything else is, that they have layers, right? They have bureaucracy, they have to get approvals. And specifically in big organizations, there has to be somebody who might want to bring this on to a small team, they need to try it in a small way, just like we're talking about taking small steps, right. We are applying lean methodology to actually implementing this. If they try it and they show success, then they can start to affect other people around them to adopt this. But I think it's much more challenging to change a process that exists. And you have to do it in steps. You have to figure out the one thing that we're going to do today that's going to take us in the right direction. And then we're going to do another thing next week, or in a month, once we've perfected this one thing. And so you have to do it in stages, which is why I told you in the beginning, I actually want to target people who haven't started because it's so much easier to start off with a clean slate than to change something that you already have. But to change something you already have, you just have to commit to doing it, number one, and then figure out what's going to be the one thing that we can do right now that's going to make the biggest impact on this process that we have currently. And then doing that over and over and over again until you have transitioned fully.

Tim Bornholdt 54:11
I think that there was the guy who started like Keller Williams, that's one of his approaches is what's the one thing that you can do today that if you did that would have like an outset benefit to your company. And it doesn't have to be anything major, you know. It's just like steering the ship and pivoting it into tiny little directions and making little changes is going to ultimately steer you in the right direction. And I think that that's such a great way to do it is just, you know, if you have a company that already has a tech team that's doing things you know waterfall or any other kind of methodology, just take one part of it and start really small and see if it does anything good for you. You would think that there's enough smoke around this whole lean thing that it's not going anywhere. Right? So what's the harm of trying something new and seeing if it does actually have all the benefits that people proclaim that it does?

Nelly Yusupova 55:11
Yeah, absolutely. You have to start somewhere. And the challenge is actually on you to determine what is that one thing, because your business is going to be different than the business right next to you. So what works for them is not necessarily what's gonna work for you. And so once you understand the process, you can then make an intelligent decision and say, Well, for me, specifically, if I change this, this is our biggest bottleneck, this is our biggest problem right now. Taking some of the process from here, if I implement it here, then that's going to really free us up to do more. And I think it's a personal decision that's different from business to business.

Tim Bornholdt 55:58
Yeah, that's what I see, too. You know, we have so many different clients, and so many different ways of doing things that it's hard from our side sometimes to be like, you know, handing down an edict that now all of a sudden, all of our projects are going to be doing agile or whatever. It's like to make that big a change, and we're not even that big of a company, but just me imagining that in my head, it's like, Oh, it's way too much to comprehend. And that's kind of part of the point of lean and agile is like start small, do something little that you can then, you know, start to build a snowball, and then eventually that snowball is rolling down the hill, and you're seeing, you know, how it can improve places all around your company. And it ends up being a win win for everybody.

Nelly Yusupova 56:41
Absolutely agree.

Tim Bornholdt 56:42
So, Nelly, I really enjoyed this conversation, I would love for you to take a chance to share where people can get in touch with you if they have questions, or they want to actually get involved with Tech Speak for Entrepreneurs. How would people go about doing that?

Nelly Yusupova 56:55
Well, the first thing they can do is go to techspeakforentrepreneurs.com and check out the course. Al of the information is there. I also do free webinars every week to talk about these concepts that we talked about, earning a technical co founder, how to work with different agencies, the 10 step process that I have, so they can actually learn for free. And you know, I do Clubhouse rooms, lots of different places where I am providing value for free, so connect with me anywhere on social media as well.

Tim Bornholdt 57:31
I love it. Thank you so much for joining me today, Nelly.

Nelly Yusupova 57:34
It was a pleasure. Thanks for this amazing conversation.

Tim Bornholdt 57:38
Thanks to Nelly Yusupova for joining me on the podcast today. You can learn more about Nelly and Tech Speak at TechSpeakForEntrepreneurs.com.

Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constantvariables.co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the upbeat Jordan Daoust.

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