Hire People Smarter Than You
In Decypher’s early years, I was developing desktop “applications” using Microsoft Access. I was developing out of an attic bedroom in our Berkley, Michigan bungalow. I was one guy and a computer working to support my young family. My background was finance and economics and besides a weekend MS Access course, I had no formal IT training. Fortunately, my little Access databases suited a lot of my client’s lower level needs and I was able to pay the bills. However, to quote Clint Eastwood, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” I was not very strong at database design, my coding skills were limited, the technology I was using had serious limitations and my hair was starting to prematurely grey.
My strengths were listening to clients’ needs, understanding their desired outcomes and designing creative solutions. I would collaborate, share ideas and then come up with prototypes that addressed critical business needs. The prototype approach was essential because it allowed people to visualize the solution before work began. This is an approach we still use today. These attributes allowed Decypher to enjoy early growth but I knew there was a ceiling to how far I could go. I understood the limitations of my development skills and I also realized the limitations of MS Access as the core of an IT company. With these realizations in mind, I knew I had to upgrade Decypher’s skill set. I knew I had to bring in smarter people with greater knowledge of more powerful solutions. With this realization in my pocket, I began the search for a smart person to help shift the direction of Decypher. My long search brought me into contact with Prem Chintapalli.
I placed my first help wanted poster on the Monster.com forum and after months of interviewing, Prem became Decypher’s first hired hand. Prem hails from India but I was lucky enough to find him a little closer as he was living and working in Peoria, Illinois. Our interviews were all via phone. Facetime and Skype were not yet ready for prime-time so we leveraged A. Graham Bell’s invention to complete the interview process and begin a business relationship. On a sunny autumn day, Prem loaded up his truck and he moved to Berkley.
The new office was in the basement of an old church on Twelve Mile Road across from the greatest hand-dipped ice cream shop around. We were very happy with the old cobblestone structure. However, I was not happy that the computers, server and hardware I ordered were placed on back-order. As a result, Prem’s first day was met with an office consisting of two desks, two chairs and a small kitchen. I chuckled thinking what was going through Prem’s mind….”I left Peoria for this?” Fortunately, Prem had his laptop, he leveraged my landlord’s internet access and we were off and running. The year was 2005 and a new era in Decypher began. I quickly learned the benefits of the old adage, “hire people smarter than you”. These benefits kicked off on a fateful day in October and we’ve been making use of that old adage ever since.
– Andrew Agbay
Founder of Decypher Corporation