This summer, we are celebrating our 7th birthday. You could say that we’ve reached school age, where you have to hunker down and get a little bit more serious – or so they say. They also say that now we belong to the big kids. A perfect opportunity, in short, to look back at everything we’ve experienced so far and how we actually made it this far.
If you ask the bosses, Claus and Stefan, CodeFlügel is their baby and it will always remain one in their eyes – that’s just how it is with parents. In their first few years of life, babies strongly depend on their parents, of course – for basic survival at the very least. With time, they also rely on their parents for personality development and (ideally) learn how to be good and treat others fairly and with respect. They continuously grow and learn new things every day – still, always under the watchful eyes of their parents. At that age, there’s a lot you would like to be able to do, but you’re often limited by the many things you still have to learn.
Looking at our company, the comparison holds true. In the first two years, we had to work hard for every new client and project – and our bosses still did a lot of the actual coding back then, even as our team slowly grew to three, four and five staff members. We also learned new things daily, maybe even hourly. Of course, everyone had degrees in software development, but some skills and programming languages were still often learned shortly before or (to be quite honest) during a project. Stories of night-time programming sessions and sudden strikes of inspiration on the way home, which made us return to our desks at even more impossible hours have by now become the stuff of legend and are told as amusing anecdotes at office parties. No, that’s not us anymore, we’ve learned to sleep through the night and we’re proud of it.
We’re social people
When they turn three, many kids will go to kindergarten, where whole new challenges await. Suddenly, you can’t only think about yourself anymore. Instead, you have to learn to fit in with a larger group of people and interact nicely with them. Ours was a similar process. Since the number of our team members doubled every year for the first three years, we didn’t only have to move office constantly. Also in terms of the company structure, there’s a big difference between having five, twelve or sixteen employees. We had to formalize many things and get some new collaborative tools to boot – while also taking care not to get too bureaucratic about the whole thing. Claus and Stefan faced this important task expertly – at that point they were no longer coding anyway, because our team had to be kept in projects. On occasion, that turned out to be quite challenging, because we knew two things from the beginning: we wanted to finance ourselves solely and completely via customer projects and we wanted these projects to be mainly Augmented Reality based. The problem was, that many of our prospective clients didn’t know what Augmented Reality was back then. With time and a little bit of persuading, however, we managed to change that eventually.
Working together, on the other hand, was never a problem. We have always been a social bunch – yes, even as avowed nerds. So, the grade for our general conduct should be fine, not to mention our team spirit. Even though these sorts of things went off without a hitch for us, we didn’t simply lean back and congratulate ourselves. Spending time together, company trips or simply laughing our heads off about stupid jokes over lunch or during coffee break is always necessary – not only when it’s “time for a scheduled team building activity” again. Once a year, for example, we go „fishing“ in Hungary (yes, definitely including quotation marks, definitely not including fishing) and there are always some spontaneous activities in between. Not often enough, according to most of our team members – we do actually enjoy spending time together “off the clock” as well. Nobody views this as ‘just a job‘ and we know that we are extremely lucky in this respect and definitely don’t take it for granted.
The First „Half-Decade“
At five, you’ve managed to gain already a tiny bit of life experience. You know who you want to be friends with and can thus start to create an environment for yourself in which you feel happy. The same goes for our company. We had managed to cultivate a strong base of customers and partners and our team was about 20 members strong. Therefore, this milestone needed to be celebrated in style with all our customers, partners and staff members (who were free at the scheduled date ;)).
Of course, things can’t always run completely smoothly – there will always be some hiccups (or childhood diseases). In hindsight, we grew too fast at some stages and thus had to really scramble sometimes in terms of our structure and organization, so that our communication could remain just as good as we had gotten accustomed to. At other times, we probably relied too much on the strength of our communication and didn’t provide enough of a formal structure. However, these are certainly topics which we have been working on continuously over the past two years and we are still and always will be aiming to provide a workplace in which everyone can develop and grow, personally as well as professionally.
Another issue we tackled during this time was that while now, our potential customers had heard of Augmented Reality, they had not really heard of us. Thus, a real grown-up Marketing plan had to be devised. So, we also learned to open ourselves up to others and to give our company a memorable personality. Whether on Facebook, on YouTube, at various types of events or in the media, we did many things to get your attention. Obviously, it worked, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading these lines right now 😉
All in all, we are happy with the way we are. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’ve reached our goal – most of us have probably changed a lot since our seventh birthday. Like every year, we are facing new adventures and challenges, which we are looking forward to. With our petrol blue schoolbags on our shoulders, we stand with the other first-graders and are ready to continue learning and trying out new things. We are ready to fail from time to time, but also to get back up and to try again. After all, that’s the wonderful thing about childhood – even though our parents are letting us stand on our own two feet, they will always be there to catch us if we should fall.
Happy Birthday, CodeFlügel!