We talked to David Galownia of Slingshot about software development during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Galownia: Great, thank you for asking! The isolation can be tough at times, but we enjoy each other’s company and have gotten out more now (of course, with masks and social distancing).
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Slingshot.
David Galownia: I am the founder and owner of Slingshot. We started developing software way back in January of 2005.
In the early days, I was just a guy out of college and didn’t know what I was doing. I made mistakes and learned along the way. I’m very much a ‘throw myself into the fire and figure it out’ kind of guy.
After graduation, I knew I wanted to start a company; I was good at software development and had fooled around with some product ideas (never really getting anywhere). Along the way, we did consulting to pay our bills and realized we were quite good at it. About 2 years in, we decided to see what would happen if we focused just on custom software development. We created our vision: to hire the best people, build a culture where we would want to work, and focus only on development. From there, we grew over the years and evolved as we went.
Today, that original vision still remains, but it’s manifested in different ways. We call ourselves big kids and daredevils because we are all very curious and imaginative, yet serious about what we do. We have a culture that values integrity over making a buck, and everyone knows to speak the truth (even when that’s hard to hear). We carry that same mentality to our clients. We’re not going to be a yes-man. When you hire us, be prepared to hear the truth.
How does Slingshot innovate?
David Galownia: Innovation starts with hiring folks who have the passion and want to improve; it continues by creating a culture where challenging the way things are done is the norm, and people feel free to speak their truth and share their ideas. When we build software, our process is geared towards getting our work in the hands of users early. That way, we can pivot easily, or even in some cases, decide to kill a project. There have been several times in our history where we’ve turned down six-figure work because we didn’t feel it was the right way to go. At the end of the day, when someone brings an idea to us, we care about the person and their success, not just building ‘something cool and expensive.’
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David Galownia: For us, transitioning to work remotely was easy because we were already set up to do that. However, not seeing faces in person is tough. Video calls can help, but fatigue sets in, and they get old. Lately, we’ve held socially distant lunches and produced videos where people come to the office to film their part. We are also very active in our Slack channel and try to connect personally there.
From a business perspective, when everything closed down, people temporarily stopped investing in tech projects. Ongoing projects continued, but the pipeline of new work started to dry up. Fortunately for us, after a few months, work started coming back. Ultimately, people are resilient and can’t be held down for a sustained period. Some industries, without a doubt, have it tougher than others; we feel for those industries.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Galownia: For a brief time, we had to seriously consider drastic measures if the economy continued to stay “on hold.” We held firm, however, and that paid off as work has started to come back. I think the lesson as an owner is cash is king, and don’t take anything for granted.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Slingshot in the future?
David Galownia: Stress is very real and was tough for a bit. As an owner, there’s no great way to deal other than focus on what you can control and get to work. Also, lean on your support group. As an owner, talk to other owners. We’re all going through it in one way or another, and knowing you’re not alone is a big help.
For employees, I think allowing for independence and encouraging people to take time off is incredibly important. Acknowledge that the time we’re in is unprecedented, and everyone is under stress. Parents have kids at home; they may have to homeschool; those without family members or spouses have to deal with extreme isolation. Lower expectations to meet the time we’re in.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Galownia: Our competitors are other development firms and companies that want to do all tech in-house. We also work against the status quo. In a saturated market like we’re in, being different as much as possible is the key. That comes from brand and culture. Do what your competitors won’t: be bolder than them, be approachable, and show who you are. Tech can be intimidating for those not in it. Make yourself real and don’t hide the human aspect.
Your final thoughts?
David Galownia: I think the takeaway with COVID is to give yourself a break. You’re human, and this is tough. Beyond that, though, you have to get real. This is the situation we’re in, and you have to deal with it. Waiting until it’s over won’t cut it as a business. Making hard decisions is a must, and people will learn, and they are resilient. Can you pivot? You’ve got to give that some thought. Try things quickly and get in the weeds. You may have to work harder now than you ever have for likely less reward, but if you do, I think you’ll make it.
- Brand Descriptions
o For Big Kids and Daredevils
o Slingshot is a software and app development company specializing in taking your vision from idea to launch. Whether you’re a small company or Fortune 50, our unique blend of strategy, design, and development allow us to deliver solutions that are impactful, elegant and built to last.
- Why we call ourselves Big kids
o We are big kids because We explore, imagine, are curious, eager to learn, and creative. We are “big” because we understand responsibility. We are “kids” because we have a passion and joy about what we do and don’t take things too seriously.
- Why we call ourselves daredevils
o We are daredevils because We like to try new things, we crave adventure. We deliver bold solutions and take joy in working with those who push initiatives forward that can change their company, an industry, and develop new products.