David Kullmann – Partner at Citrusbyte

Thinking critically about what actions to take and what not to take. I call this “right action, right time.” Just because an action has some potential positive impact doesn’t mean it’s the right time to take it. You have to always strive to focus on the highest value activities.

David Kullmann is a partner at Citrusbyte, a full-stack design and development firm that specializes in helping companies build software users love. Citrusbyte helps their clients transform industries, such as AT&T M2X for the Internet of Things. David is a self-starter who left his university to pursue a career in technology. He believes that natural sciences and technology are closely linked, and he hopes to combine both worlds in his current endeavors.

Presently, David’s mission and Citrusbyte’s mission is to help clients define, design, and build products that delight their users and owners. They work with customers to build their startups, modernize and rebuild their technology, and help companies introduce new products into new markets. Citrusbyte advises its clients in all facets of their product — from engineering to marketing — to help them make better-informed decisions.

Where did the idea for Citrusbyte come from?

I had successfully built software and saw others were struggling. I wanted to create a company that could help the world make better software. Our team enjoys helping others realize their goals through innovation and technology and focusing on software that is valuable for users. It wasn’t enough to only have software engineers. For any product to be successful, you need to think holistically about delivering value, design, and engineering, so I built a full-stack company.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

As the needs of my business grow and change along with the business itself, I am always assessing long- and short-term priorities. I do daily planning on a digital to-do list to capture and work on the highest value tasks I have, and I also do monthly and quarterly strategy planning to keep driving the direction of the company. I use the longer-term planning to set desired outcomes and the shorter-term to-dos to create outputs that support those outcomes.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Ideas usually go through a process of strategy, design, and implementation — just like building software. The strategy phase should identify and prioritize the most valuable action to support an outcome. The design phase defines the tasks required to execute and how to go about them. Then comes time to focus and do the work to implement (the idea).

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you do all these steps yourself for every project; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When I was the only person at my company, I was doing all of these steps myself for every initiative. Now that we’ve grown, I have to think about how to empower others to work intelligently and get things done.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Virtual reality is exciting because it has the potential to give many people access to information and experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Its applications aren’t just for entertainment. They could extend to education, healthcare, and maybe even for checking out a nice virtual beach (though I’m not sure that will ever compete with the real thing!).

What is one habit that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Thinking critically about what actions to take and what not to take. I call this “right action, right time.” Just because an action has some potential positive impact doesn’t mean it’s the right time to take it. You have to always strive to focus on the highest value activities.

I’m constantly reassessing the most strategic / impactful initiatives we have, tweaking their implementation, and driving toward outcomes we want for the business.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I had was at a retail store in an economically struggling shopping center during high school. I learned to turn my work into a place where I could achieve flow ) by making each day a game with attainable goals for me to do. Even though it wasn’t my favorite place to work, I was able to become the top grosser in sales in the district. I set small challenges for myself to help customers find what they needed. Inside my head, I was hearing “Achievement unlocked!” each time I accomplished one of my goals, which made my experience there more enjoyable and productive.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would skip high school and go straight to college. (My parents thwarted my attempt to skip high school.) I also would start my own company either during or straight out of college instead of working for someone else. I would start my own company earlier, even knowing I am likely to fail, but also knowing I would have learned more about failing sooner.

In a nutshell: I would take more (calculated) risks.

As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you do repeatedly and recommend others do, too?

Spend time modeling out the mechanics of your business, even if it’s a very simple, high-level exercise. Understanding the mechanics of your business allows you to make informed choices and take control of your success. If you want to learn more I recommend reading “How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business.”

Another great resource is “Pirate Metrics” from Dave McClure, which highlights the starting points for any new business to its highest level funnel.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Business development via local networking.

We had been cruising along just fine for years and, as we grew, we started wondering, “What would happen if one of our larger clients cancelled?” And, of course, eventually one did. We had plenty of other work to make up for it, but we realized we needed to create a system of predictable lead generation instead of relying solely on referrals.

I analyzed all of our lead sources for the previous three years, tracing them back to the root cause. If someone was a referral, who referred him? How did we meet the person who referred him? Did we shake his hand, did he hear us speak, or did he find us online?

We answered all of these questions for each lead and found the predictable, repeatable strategy for us to get new leads was local business development via events. We’ve been able to apply this strategy to grow our lead pipeline and keep a stable customer base.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve built companies that have completely failed. When my second company was in the process of failing, I took it upon myself to heavily research how to run and manage software companies and startups. That’s how I found “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.

I was able to apply what I learned from “The Lean Startup” to my business, and I saw tangible results immediately. I had the epiphany that I could massively accelerate my own aptitude for business management by going out of my way to learn from others, even if my business was a new product in a new market. Since then, I’ve invested heavily in personal development alongside my day-to-day tasks for work. Whenever I encounter a new discipline, I also strive to bootstrap my understanding of that discipline by reading a book or two and heavily researching online.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Reverse (real estate) brokers for Manhattan apartments. You find an apartment, and brokers offer to be your broker. Whoever has the lowest fee wins and you take a set fee from the transaction.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I play more video games than a 12-year-old junior high dropout. I am tone deaf but secretly want to be a singer.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

•Google Apps suite – Love having it all in the cloud and simple integrations among apps.
•Invision – See and interact with software before it’s built and share your thoughts and ideas.
•Github – A wonderful way to collaborate in a complex, creative discipline.
•Amazon – Please take my money and send me things in an extremely convenient fashion. They are basically teleporting products into my living room at this point.

What is the one book you recommend our community read, and why?

It’s a toss-up between “How To Measure Anything” and “The Lean Startup.” However, I will assume most of you have read “The Lean Startup,” so I’ll make my official answer “How To Measure Anything,” which does just what it says: teaches you to measure anything. That includes abstract concepts such as “employee happiness” or “cultural alignment.”

It also introduces some ideas about how to approach things that are deemed un-measureable by others to find common ground to move forward.

Which people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Nick Ganju, CTO of ZocDoc
Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup”
David Lambert, founder of Right Side Capital Management VC
Brady Brim-DeForest, partner at Citrusbyte.com


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