Agreements: Fuel for the Engine of Business

Note: This is an old post. I no longer offer this service.

The first person I watched run a company was Bly, the owner of a computer sales and service shop in Athens, Georgia. She gave me, a painfully young and skinny townie kid, a steady job troubleshooting PCs. I hung around her store for a few shifts each week and watched her go about the business of business, which as the child of university folk I had never seen up close.

A moment that sticks with me happened on the day that she landed a contract to install a network of PCs for a dentist. She returned from the closing meeting with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. She'd landed a big fish and now the company would be strong for another couple of months. I understood for the first time that a business is an engine fueled by agreements between people. Until that moment, I thought that money alone kept her business from going under.

A few years ago, I made an agreement with a gifted designer to cofound a design and engineering company. We made a variety of agreements with startups around Seattle to create prototypes and V1s. We made a lot of fuel for business and I'm proud of our work. Last month I made an agreement to sell my half of the company to my cofounder.

So, starting today I'm offering a new kind of agreement that I call a "Freeze Dried Argument."

Startup CTOs often have two very smart people tell them to take divergent paths. Sometimes it's two excellent engineers, each promoting a different web stack. Sometimes their two best designers fight over whether to use Illustrator or Sketch. If the CTO had enough time, they would dig deep into each option to determine the health of its community, the strength of its technology, and the training cost of each choice.

No startup CTO has enough time.

What happens instead is the CTO takes a quick look for red flags and then hurriedly tells one employee that their recommendation is rejected. With the market for designers and engineers being what it is, the rejected employee often takes one of their many standing job offers from competitors and then the CTO has even less time because they're recruiting again.

Enter Freed Dried Arguments.

I use my 20+ years of experience with technology and startup people to smooth the way for an amicable decision. I do the work that the CTO doesn't have time to do: I create a comprehensive survey of the community health of each choice. I create a quality rating and guide to each choice's documentation. To further clarify, I provide example work implemented with both choices, complete with commentary comparing their worldview.

However, gathering the information and making the decision is actually the least important part of a Freeze Dried Argument.

After the CTO and I review the information, I make sure that everyone involved understands that the decision wasn't take lightly. I first meet with the engineer whose choice is not chosen so that they're not caught off guard in front of their peers. Finally, I run a group summary meeting with an information-rich report that explains the decision and what it brings to the business.

I've mentioned Freeze Dried Arguments to almost a dozen CTOs and each time they have looked a little stunned that such a service could exist. Then, they start asking questions about how quickly I can turn them around and how many I can do each month.

Freeze Dried Arguments seem like a good agreement, perhaps even one that Bly would appreciate.

More posts

Recent posts

  • PotassiumES Devlog #3

    Using Three.js to build a reusable border geometry for spatial UIs!

  • PotassiumES Devlog #2

    🌸 Updated potassium style system (KSS), now with margins!
    🌸 The path to the vNext
    🌸 A couple of new spatial controls

  • PotassiumES Devlog #1

    🌸 A brief intro to the existing samples
    🌸 Building UI components that work in flat, portal, and immersive display modes

  • What is PotassiumES?

    Update: This is still a handy reference but you might be interested in the new PotassiumES site.


    This is a post about PotassiumES, an ECMAScript library that enables browser-side development for the wider web. If you're not sure about the wider web, click that ...

  • Wider Web Lingo

    Update: This is still a handy reference but you might be interested in the new wider web section of the PotassiumES site.


    People sling around a lot of lingo when talking about the wider web, and even the term "wider web" is lingo!

  • Wider Web Lingo: Voice

    There's a lot of lingo around the wider web so this is one of a series of short definition posts.

    Voice: Phrases or other vocal noises that can be recognized and used as input

    Computers are getting pretty good at understanding ...

  • Wider Web Lingo: Gesture

    There's a lot of lingo around the wider web so this is one of a series of short definition posts.

    Gesture: A body motion that can be recognized and used as input

    Computers are getting better at watching how we position ...

  • Wider Web Lingo: More Hugs, Fewer Thugs

    There's a lot of lingo around the wider web so this is one of a series of short definition posts.

    More hugs, fewer thugs

    The wider web is inherently more intimate than the flat web that you hold in your hand ...

  • Wider Web Lingo: Spatial Controls

    There's a lot of lingo around the wider web so this is one of a series of short definition posts.

    Spatial controls: Interactive visual elements that are placed in the real or virtual environment

    Unlike page controls or overlay controls (the ...

  • Wider Web Lingo: Overlay Controls

    There's a lot of lingo around the wider web so this is one of a series of short definition posts.

    Overlay controls: Visual elements that seem to sit on top of a portal display

    Overlay controls on the wider web float ...