Ben Ramsey

My First Month at ShootProof

It’s difficult to write a blog post about a new gig without coming across as sounding critical of past employers. That’s not my intent, but this first month I’ve spent at ShootProof has been one of the best months I’ve had in a long time, career-wise.

My first day at ShootProof was July 1st, and as I’ve come to my one-month anniversary with the company, I wanted to share some of the reasons that attracted me to ShootProof and why I’m still excited about it, after a month of working here.

The Team

The primary reason I joined ShootProof was for the team. I had worked with Robert Swarthout and Brian DeShong previously at Schematic (now POSSIBLE). We worked well together then, and the opportunity to work with them again was almost too good to be true. On top of that, ShootProof hires the best. With folks like Jenn Downs, Terry Allen, Kevin Bandy, Josh Davies, Colin Breece, and the rest of the ShootProof team, ShootProof really is a dream team.

At PHP Tek 2009, my friend Sean Coates gave me some awesome career advice. He said, “You need to work with people who know you.” At ShootProof, I am doing just that, and it’s a great working relationship.

Bootstrapped

Another thing that attracted me to ShootProof is its funding. As of today, it’s 100% bootstrapped. Ideologically, I’m not one of those who say your company must be bootstrapped or VC funded. There are pros and cons to both types of funding. But having experienced VC funding, a bootstrapped company had a certain appeal to me: all the investors have “skin in the game” in both the monetary investment sense, as well as the agile “pig” sense.

What this means for me is that I work on a daily basis with the primary decision makers in the company, and these decision makers answer only to themselves (and our customers). There’s a great deal of freedom and trust in this relationship.

Will we always remain bootstrapped? That’s not a question for me to answer or even to presume to know the answer. There are a variety of reasons we may or may not consider funding in the future, and that’s a question for our founders to tackle, but for now, the fact that we’re bootstrapped is important to me. It all comes back to the team. We’re intimate. We’re lean. We’re agile. We’re not tied down by VC money. We work only for our customers and ourselves.

Top-notch Support Team

After meeting with Colin, I realized that ShootProof not only prides itself in building a great product, but our special sauce is our customer support team. Our loyalty builders will do whatever it takes to ensure the happiness of our customers. I know this makes me sound rather dense and naïve, having worked in the industry for so many years, but after hearing about the work of our customer support team, I realized that customer support is just as much a part of our product as the code that makes up our web properties. I’m proud of the work they do, and I’m excited to be a part of their team.

User Experience

Along with customer support, ShootProof is working to ensure we have the best possible user experience for our customers. That’s why we have ace UX folks on our team.

User experience has always been an important cornerstone of software development to me. How users feel when they interact with your software interface determines whether they want to continue using it or not. Working at Schematic showed me how UX must be a discipline to any software company. I am more than thrilled that ShootProof feels the same way and has made it a crucial tenet of our process.

Product

As Brian said in his “Joining ShootProof” blog post, I also sought out ShootProof because I love to build products. I want to work for a company that is product-focused. Not only is ShootProof product-focused, they know their customer so well that they have been able to hone in on exactly what product to build for those customers. In fact, many of our team members are professional photographers themselves. That expertise and specificity is another reason I was attracted to ShootProof.

Revenue

ShootProof is a startup and a bootstrapped start-up at that. While I said earlier that the bootstrapped nature of the company attracted me, I would be lying if I said that revenue was not important. Many times, we hear “bootstrapped startup” and assume this means the company is not making any money. That is not the case with ShootProof. I can’t share numbers, but I can say that year-over-year growth has been sizable.

Culture

I’m not interested in joining a fly-by-night startup whose desire is to jump into a market, disrupt it, and get out quickly, making tons of money. Those get-rich schemes rarely succeed and don’t appeal to me. Money is nice, but not at the expense of my family, health, and relationships. ShootProof is a company with focus, a clear direction, and respect for its team members.

Recently, Cal Evans wrote a blog post entitled, “It’s All About Culture.” In it, he wrote:

The bedrock of a good developer culture is respect. Respect for the fact that you have developers to build things on which the company is based. Respect for the fact that without developers, the company most likely would not exist. Culture is not putting developers on a pedestal and offering them trinkets as tribute. Culture is understanding that developers aren’t cogs in a machine that can be replaced on a whim.

Culture is one of those things that’s difficult to define and hard to articulate, but I think Cal hits the nail on the head here. A good culture focuses on the people who make up the team. ShootProof’s culture is one of respect for each other. The focus is on people. One of the things Robert said to me when we were first discussing the possibility of me joining ShootProof is that he wants to build a first-class team that makes others say to themselves, “That’s a great team! I want to work with that team, too.”

The people and the focus on the people are what attracted me to ShootProof, and that’s why I’m still excited about ShootProof a month after joining them.

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