How to make the most of your assets while starting a small business
We are a small gaming studio of 16 people based in Ireland, and we are working on two labels at the moment, "Lingolish" and "BrainTrain". We certainly have come a long way, but we have a longer way to go on. We started this gaming company in 2015. It was just me, my partner and my cousin as a designer, but now we are a gaming studio of 16 people, and we are still expanding. So I thought it would be good to share our initial thoughts when starting this journey and our general mistakes.
1) Know what your final goal is
You have to remember your aim and purpose of creating your start-up and not get distracted along the way. Ours was to remain in the game. With my partner and I being in the development and data analysis business for more than 10 years, we realised that our knowledge is about to expire soon. So it is either now or never to start acting on our ideas. So we are clear that our goal is to build what we always wanted to build and to progress. It is not money! We need it, but it is not the goal. It impacts too many decisions!
2) Grow individually as your company grows
You have to be open-minded to the fact there is always something to learn and expand your knowledge and expertise. So we started training ourselves as we moved along on the subjects we thought we would need along the way. e.g. SEO, ASO, and mobile app development, of course. We have been into the IT business beforehand, so we have friends and connections, so as we gained new expertise, it opened up new opportunities for us.
3) Find ways to fund your work
Funding is an integral part of this. First, you must find sponsors or side jobs to be able to afford to do what you love, especially at the beginning. Although originally we wanted to develop games full time, this requires time and patience as this is a very competitive field, and we would need a way to fund our project. As mentioned before, we trained ourselves on other related topics such as SEO and ASO. At the moment, we have two ongoing large SEO projects and two app development projects. One is completed, but we still got the maintenance contract. On any new contract, we are able to hire, and not all of the time of the new recruit is required on the SEO project, for instance. The SEO project covers the costs, and we have 2-3 days of the new recruit time to spare on our game. My partner and I also work a minimum of 10 hours a day, six days a week, on minimum wage. This allows us to invest all we earn in wages. We also save on costs; we have no office, everyone works from home, and we use the most cost-effective apps, VPS (contabo), and you name it. We save from anything we can. So, I think it is fair to say we are a very cost-effective distributed company.
4) Hire the right people
One of the ways that allowed us to grow is working with young talents. Students and those who recently graduated from college. They are very motivated and agree to participate in an exciting project on the wage we afford to offer. Not all of our employees are from Ireland, so we save a lot through long term outsourcing contracts with individual freelancers.
5) Optimise your workflow
At first, everybody was working on everything, but now we have a UX department of 2, UI of 2, marketing of 5 and development of 10 (a few people are working in more than one department) and still growing. We communicate with each other using efficient methods and colour coding techniques to organise and prioritise tasks.
6) Be realistic
In 2017, we started our work on the first game title with the naive idea of it being a 6-month part-time project. It was just the two of us initially, both programmers with experience in data analytics, and we were outsourcing the graphic designs to my cousin. Well, it did not work out as planned. At the end of year one and after the release of the first version, we learned the hard lesson that you can't have the best of both worlds, and it was time to either commit or give up. It is a full-time job requiring our full-time attention.
In general, in our experience, you should have realistic views, plan everything out, and know that this is a long and challenging journey. Still, in the end, it is worth it as you get to work on something that you love and genuinely are passionate about. Back to point one, when your main goal is to challenge yourself, learn and progress, the journey will be an enjoyable one, as long as you can afford it :)