Why Deliberate exists
We were never meant to be just another consultancy
Build it. They will come. Profit. When Chris and I first started Deliberate, that was our business plan. We had grown tired of the consulting life and wanted to build a product company. We’d spent so long advising clients on how to build and ship software products faster that we had grown frustrated at not being able to execute at the pace we wanted to. Striking out on our own would give us the opportunity to build the things we wanted, in the way we wanted and be responsible and rewarded for the product we created.
In October 2014, we did just that. We left our comfortable, rewarding jobs and started our product company. The trouble was that there were just too many problems that piqued our interest. Having an idea for a startup isn’t a problem and in our case building a solution wasn’t a problem either, Chris and I both love to code and see working software in the hands of end users. Creating a product company is so much more than that though. It requires a variety of skill-sets, passions and experience that we discovered we had no idea where to start. Deliberate was never meant to be another consultancy. But in order for us to continue to build products we made the decision to take on consulting gigs as a day job so that we could extend our runway until we identified a problem that we passionately wanted to solve. So for a while we went back to consulting and we enjoyed it. I like to think that we’re not too bad at it; helping our clients build and ship software products faster. It certainly helped that we could select the companies that we wanted to work with and if we felt that we couldn’t add value or we weren’t aligned we could walk away, we didn’t have a boss to answer to other than ourselves.
There was still that itch though. We still wanted to build a product. Deliberate was never meant to be another consultancy. Consulting is a very intensive business, it can often feel hand to mouth and it only ever really scales linearly: more consultants, more revenue. Building a product has always felt more sustainable, more flexible and more impactful than solely being a consultancy. To do that we recognised that we needed a critical mass of people with a variety of other skills that could help us be successful on the consultancy side and that we could also focus on building out our products. People whose passions include sales, marketing, design, accessibility, SEO and all the other weird and wonderful things that go into building a successful product. So we set out to find other like-minded people who might be interested in helping us build out this little idea and see where it could take us.
It turns out that it’s quite hard to convince people to join a product company for a product that doesn’t even exist and with no tangible progress into products we might want to build. We had to all intents and purposes become another consultancy. We also had, however, a vision. Part of that vision was what I described above, building products, solving problems. So far, so very tech focussed but when Chris and I sat down and talked about what we wanted to build not just as a product but as a company we had a clear idea of a place where we wanted to work and where other people would want to work too. When I reflect on my career to date, the most enjoyable times have not necessarily coincided with the most technically challenging projects, complex domains or intense delivery pressure but rather with the people that I’ve worked with. People that have surprised me with their insight, people that have at times made me laugh, grind my teeth, gasp with admiration and be awed by their ingenuity. It’s people that make work worthwhile. Ultimately we wanted to work with our mates and create a place where our mates would want to work. To figure out what that looked like we talked. a lot. Read more, and picked out ideas that we liked and tried to distil them into guiding principles:
- People shouldn’t serve a company. A company should serve its people. I like to also think of this as: don’t live to work but work to live. We asked ourselves: how could we create a company that allowed people to most easily achieve this? The fun part about this is that as founders, if we think that it’s better to have a four day work week and we can sustain it long-term, we can make it happen. I’m particularly proud of our employee handbook, our policies around maternity leave, paternity leave, bereavement, mental health and more. It helps that we’re a small company, that we don’t have baggage and we can ask ourselves what feels right, rather than what’s the bare minimum. We may be wrong. I hope we’re not.
- Attitude, aptitude, integrity is a phrase that really resonates with me (it’s not something I coined, I’ve stolen it from my previous employer) but I think it neatly encapsulates what we value about who we work with regardless of whether that’s as employees or even as clients. We want to work with people who have a great attitude, are good at what they do and who have the courage to do what they believe is right.
- Make the world a better place. There are problems today that are too big for any individual to solve and it’s all too easy as a company to make a meaningless commitment to “improve” the world. I also believe that making the world a better place often feels like a luxury that we can’t afford when at times we just want to get through the day, the week, the year. That luxury becomes more affordable when you work at a company that pays fairly, that looks after your needs and allows you the time and space to make the improvements you care most passionately about. It’s one of the reasons we’re working towards becoming B-Corp certified, why we’re partnering with ecologi to address problems that are most important to us.
Deliberate was never meant to be another consultancy. We exist to serve our people and the world around us, provide well compensated jobs and the opportunity to work on challenging, enjoyable products and projects. We might always be a consultancy searching for a product to build but we won’t be just another one.
We are by no means the finished article but we’d like to think we’ve made a good start. It’s been nine years in the making…