Robert Moore | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Robert Moore

Background:  

RJMetrics is a software firm that works to help its clients gather relevant data and put it to strategic use. The Philadelphia-based company counts Hootsuite, MeUndies and Bevel as its clients, among others.

The Mistake:

When we first started the company, I was the only engineer. I built the first version of our software in my attic. But as we grew, every one of our new hires was an engineer, and while we were recruiting, I was committed to the idea that I was not going to hire anybody who wasn't a better engineer than me. I consider myself a passable hacker, but I'm not a world-class hacker. Eventually, the moment arrived — maybe too late — when I realized that I was the single worst engineer on our team. Yet here I was, still spending 80 to 90 percent of my time writing code, even though by definition everyone on our staff was a better coder than me.

What constitutes the best lever of your time as a founder of the company? 

The Lesson:

In the early days of the company, coding was the best use of my time. But at some point I had to put down the keyboard and start running the business. So in January of 2013, I started spending a lot more of my time focused on growing the company and looking at the long-term vision. By May of that year, we had landed a $5 million venture round, which was our first. When I look at the link between those two things, it's really quite something. And I wonder where we would be if I had chosen to do that a year later.

I think there is definitely a learning curve for me and my co-founder, Jake Stein. The question is, what constitutes the best lever of your time as a founder of the company? We've moved our offices a bunch of times in the past couple of years because we just keep growing, and I remember the first time we did it, even though we had a broker who was great, we got ourselves intimately familiar with how build-outs happen, how to work with contractors, how to be appropriately considerate of union labor in this city — you can imagine the list of things that you can ultimately spend your time on in trying to become an expert in something. It may be a fun thing to do, but it may not necessarily be the best thing for growing the business.

We're very curious people and we love geeking out on the weird, quirky intricacies of the business world. It's been an interesting journey, but once in a while I have to convince myself that maybe it isn't the best use of my time to spend two hours trying to figure out why the printer isn't working.

Follow Robert Moore on Twitter at @robertjmoore.