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CodeCrafters CEO Ellis Miller on building a stable operation in the early days of a business, managing the self, and valuing people

Ellis Miller is the co-founder and Managing Director of CodeCrafters International, a Dhaka-based international technology development company. Founded in 2007 by Ellis and Lynita Miller, CodeCrafters provides customized software solutions to businesses in the USA and other parts of the world. The company maintains a development team in Dhaka, Bangladesh with a U.S.-based sales and support team.

In an interview with FS published in 2021, Ellis shared some of the most important lessons he has learned from his journey so far on building a stable operation in the early days of a business, managing the self, and the importance of valuing people, we distill the lessons for you here. 

This is an excerpt from our interview with Ellis, you can read the full interview here

On building a stable operation in the early days 

Ellis Miller: I have had the privilege of having the right connections in this case. So it was the initial long-term contract based on which we funded the businesses. I think it’s possible to start a business part-time. It takes money to survive. So you can start your business besides your regular job and build it to the point where you can work full time. Because the first year after starting a business is critical, as it is hard to get that momentum going.

Some people have enough money or an investor for that. But working part-time on your business is also another way to grow your business in the early days. You can use practical strategies to reach your goal.

In the early days of Investortools, Dan Daniels went to work for a large client on a contract basis to keep the revenue stream going. He was living in a tiny apartment with his family. But it was part of what it took to make his own business work.

So in CodeCrafters, we are going to make hard choices to keep this business going.

But stay hungry, especially when we grow. Do not stop when you reach your goal. Always keep moving forward. When I first started, our office space was not this big. As the company grew, we started to get advantages. But I can never stop being hungry. We will always work hard, try to be smarter, push ahead and serve our clients better. Because the day you stop trying is the day you start dying.

On managing the self and others 

Ellis Miller: Managing myself is the hardest. As an entrepreneur, you always have to keep your vision in front of you — where you want to go. On the business level, I keep in mind the tasks I need to finish in a day, a week, a month, a quarter, and a year. Personally, I also maintain the goal as to who I want to be as a person.

If your personal and professional life gets out of sync, it’s not healthy for either side. These are not written in the business magazine. But there is no 80-year-old person who wishes they had invested more time in their business and less in their children. But there are thousands of businessmen who have done this exact thing. Though they didn't realize it, they traded what's most important for what's more urgent. I am not willing to make that trade. It’s not that I do not want to work hard. But you should keep in mind that everything you are seeing here will disappear one day. At some point every business changes. Thomas Cook & Son lasted 200 years and they are gone now.

There are things that are eternal and those are the things I value the most. Finally, investing in others means giving them what we wish others would offer us. This is one of my guiding principles. This is one of my core philosophies.

When you are looking for a financial investor, you are ideally looking for someone with fiduciary responsibility. In the US you can have someone invest in you and they are not obligated to be your best influence. If they cheat, that's a different thing. But if they choose something better for themselves, that’s okay. But if you want trust, then choose someone with fiduciary responsibility.

I truly believe I have an ethical and moral fiduciary obligation at CodeCraftersers. This isn't about me at all. There are other persons for whom I am responsible. Joel is a minority stakeholder and my wife and I share the rest of the business. We have a US partner, Investortools. We only see each other every few years, but I am responsible for them. My employees entrust me with one of their most valuable assets which is time. I am responsible for our clients. Most clients can not tell whether or not I am giving them something valuable. But I have a moral responsibility towards them.

I think when you realize that we are not owners, but stewards, who are managing for someone else, it changes the way we do business. That’s the core of my management philosophy. Of course one of the reasons I am doing business is that I want to build a legacy and earn money to retire on. But a part of me sees myself as a steward, operating this firm for the benefit of others rather than just myself.

On hard-earned lessons 

Ellis Miller: Always do the right thing no matter what. Because the cost is always higher when you don’t. Maybe the financial cost will be less. But the real cost will be higher.

Always value people. Because people are not to be used. Life is divine and when we mistreat people, we mistreat the creator. When we love people, we are loving the creator.

Work hard. Do not let your dreams turn into nightmares. Do the right things in the right way.

This is an excerpt from our interview with Ellis, you can read the full interview here

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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