My Fort Collins-based business, CodeGeek.net, is a distributed company of loosely affiliated collaborators. We have just one employee at the moment, that would be me, and about fifteen or so highly-skilled experts who contribute to our work on a regular basis. Regina is our main project manager, operations consultant, and Search Engine Optimizer. She lives in San Francisco (and happens to be my sister). Dionne is our lead designer, she lives in Seattle. Many of my team members live in Colorado, but many do not. This may surprise you: We have team members with critical roles I haven’t even met in person. On a large web application we are working on right now, Jae, the lead programmer, lives in Ohio, and I’ve never met him. Four other programmers have contributed to the project, and of those four, I’ve met only one.
I grew the business this way because it just worked for us, and because I enjoy collaborating. This distributed approach allows me to bring in very skilled professionals in their niche on a project basis. The result is that we produce very high quality work, we can get it done quickly, and we can handle a fairly wide range of web technologies and programming languages for a small company. And the more we do the more our network grows, making it even more likely that I know the perfect person for each project. Our quality and capabilities increase.
From the customer side of the equation, we have happy clients from California to New York City. We have customers I haven’t met too.
This is all possible because the Internet now allows for this type of remote collaboration, and I enjoy networking with other people. It also takes a certain amount of trust.
As I said, for me, this just emerged naturally. So when I finished reading “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, I got very excited. This book explains why the business world is the way it is today. It explains how the world got to be this way, and where it is going. I highly recommend this book.
The world has changed a lot since the turn of the century, far more than I had realized. They way I’m running my company is just a scratch on the surface of what’s going on out there. The stories Mr. Friedman tells of the ways companies and individuals are collaborating are awesome. I mean, I’m right in the middle of this revolution, I’m participating in it, and I had no idea how much like this and more is going on.
“The World is Flat” has opened my eyes and my mind to how to think and act to find even more success in this drastically different world.
There is much in this book that excites me, and that I want to write about, but here are just a couple of small points. One is how prevalent collaboration is. Collaboration is pervasive among companies and individuals and reaches through and to many nations. Yes, this is shifting things, and outsourcing sits right in the middle of this revolution. But in reading the book, I can now start to see that outsourcing isn’t all bad. That may sound nuts, but wait until you hear the story about the state of Indiana needing some software. There are times when we hurt ourselves by not outsourcing. As our landscape shifts and evolves, we have to adapt to survive. This book explains how to do just that. More than that actually, it explains how we can thrive.
What I’m going to talk about next isn’t from the book, but is my own observation inspired by the book. I was wondering how the unemployment rate looks, given all this outsourcing that is going on. Interestingly, not badly. Since the early 1980’s when the unemployment rate was over 9%, the rate declined steadily to 4% in 2000. After the combined effects of the dot-com bubble bursting and September 11, unemployment grew to about 6% in 2003 and has been declining steadily again, now down in the 4% to 5% range. Despite those economy-disrupting events and all the outsourcing going on and closures of major American manufacturing companies, unemployment rates are still generally declining. How is this possible? It is because the World is Flat. The flattening of the world has allowed us to adapt more quickly and more creatively and we are finding our way. To me, this is very exciting.
One last statistic for you: Did you know that of all countries in the world, we are 19th when it comes to adoption of broadband internet? 19th! (Ref: Countries with Highest Broadband Penetration Rate in 2007, which is the second table found here: http://www.internetworldstats.com/dsl.htm). And did you know that we are the only industrialized country without a national plan promoting adoption of broadband internet?
This is a big deal. The Internet is one of the biggest factors that has flattened the world and enabled us to respond creatively to the changing job market, and to reach new markets with U.S. products and services. We need to do better in order to stay competitive in the new world.
In closing, I’ll say that I love what I do. My job running a web site development company is a lot of fun. Part of that fun for me is learning new things, and being in the web industry where things change so fast, there is always more to learn and that keeps me happy. I learned a lot from this book, and it has already changed how we do business at CodeGeek.net for the better.
Ron Zasadzinski is owner of CodeGeek.net, a Fort Collins, Colorado web site design agency. Design – Code – Optimize. Simple or fancy, we do web sites right.