A few years back, my team decided to get a custom meeting room table. In our search for something great, we were referred to a small studio that does great work: East Vancouver’s Union Wood Co.
The team there met with us, showed us various samples, and asked thoughtful questions about what we needed. When I asked if a table could be made to a custom shape – a superelliptical rectangle – they were all for it and totally pulled it off.
Afterward, sitting at this delightful table, I reflected on why it came together so well. Getting something custom-built can often be the path of frustration and expensive surprises, yet our experience was a delight. Was it because the furniture makers were experts? No. Was it because they charged a lot of money? No.
It was because they gave a shit.
In some ways, that’s the fundamental value proposition of a small boutique, whether it be a furniture shop or a software studio. Giving a shit as a service. Sure, you can always get a commodity good from off the shelf – when you’re selling soybean oil by the 100-ton lot, nobody wants to have a conversation with you about the subtle flavour profiles of different bean oils. But sometimes, you want to buy from someone that’s obsessed about the final product.
I used to puzzle over why potential clients who reached out to me always seemed to get more interested in hiring us if I tried to dissuade them by asking challenging questions. I think the biggest reason is that pushing back demonstrated that I care. If you email 4 software studios for a quote and 3 say “Sure, here’s a quote” but the 4th says “Hm, we certainly could build it but we can’t be sure about cost without knowing X and Y, and here are some other concerns we’d have” then the 4th is going to seem like they give a shit.
So, I suppose the moral of the story is: find yourself work you can give a shit about. And work with people who give a shit. It’ll make shit a lot more pleasant – I guarantee it.