9 things about one Offbeat year

One year and a couple of days ago we kicked off Offbeat Solutions, our consulting company of four people. We are still the same four, but far bigger four: we know more, we’ve done more, we’ve seen more. Here are a few insights from the first year.

3 things we nailed

Customer satisfaction. We took deliberate risks in picking our projects, but didn’t overdo it. We managed to deliver challenging things with a positive attitude, and people around us seem quite happy. We wanted to become trusted advisors to our clients, and for most, we did.

Not hiring anyone. It would have been easy (and even profitable) to get new people along; we had exactly the right cases for that, and we could have done so with acceptable costs. But had we done that, we wouldn’t have this strong unity, the ability to take on future incertainty with extreme trust in ourselves. There will be time for new hires, but it is not yet.

imageSetting up the office late enough. We discussed this office thing early on, but executed right at the 12-month mark. And damn, am I happy about it. Having worked together for a year, we had a reasonably good idea on what we’ll need to be productive (and have fun). Had we gone for the place instantly, we would not have had the resources to make it good. We probably still wouldn’t have moved out, simply because of the effort it takes. We could’ve been cheaper on this, but probably not much more efficient. More on the office thing in a later post.

3 things we sucked at

Teamwork rigor. This may come as a surprise to you, particularly if you worked with us. Still, internally, we feel that we haven’t been at the top of our game in working together. Sure, we beat the average organization hands down, but we find ourselves insufficiently seeking support from our each other – even when we obviously have a great chance. One of our 2011-2012 goals is to kill all procrastination by not only allowing, but demanding requests of assistance when things seem to slow down.

Technology breadth. We wanted to focus in working with the Microsoft stack, but take in the best parts from other technology families. Sure, we leverage lots of open source and external tools, but we’re nowhere near good enough. We write great ASP.NET MVC apps, but after our second year, we should have zero problem writing the same with Node.js, Rails, Akka or whatnot. And even inside the Microsoft stack, there’s plenty to learn.

Sharing with the community. We had the vision of being a storyteller, a company whose experiences would be publicly shared. We did some of that (first and foremost, our posts on valio.fi), but we were nowhere near as loud as we wanted to be. Given that we consider the year a great learning experience, it’s simply a shame that we haven’t found the time to share more.

3 things that made the year worth living

imageWork/life balance. Can’t say it was perfect, and we certainly worked too much at one time. Still, we have exploited our freedom of choosing where and when we work. There were frustrations, but few of them were really caused by too many hours.

Sufficient diversity. We did quite a few things. We worked on CRM strategies and security reviews. We wrote code and helped manage projects. We tackled SharePoint, Azure and PHP all alike. We worked with startups, SMBs, large enterprises, NGOs and the government. All great learning experiences.

The fun of it. We developed a culture – of course, not really intentionally. We developed a (bad) taste of office music, we printed out big pictures of legendary artists on the walls – and naturally, we started wearing military uniforms made of rubber during code reviews. We were supposed to be offbeat, right?


It’s been a blast, but we’ve grown rather critical about ourselves. Our start was way smoother than we expected, and that gave us a somewhat false feeling of security.

We’ve been fighting it for months now. It would be easy to bury ourselves into a few big customers, learn to understand their business deeply and become irreplaceable. But then, a few years down the line, we’d find ourselves fat, lazy and unlearned. Pretty much the opposite we planned originally.

Plan for 2011-2012: Work on the most difficult and ugly things we can find. Win ourselves every day. We’ll be back to tell you how we’re doing.

September 2, 2011 · Jouni Heikniemi · 2 Comments
Posted in: Entrepreneurship

2 Responses

  1. Michael Wasser - September 2, 2011

    That's really great to read! Congratulations on the year — really quite an accomplishment!

  2. Angel17 - February 28, 2023

    I like those words that we win ourselves every day. Google

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