A conversation with Thomas Fuchs about working with us

Thijs van der Vossen

On our rather lengthy sales page, a few clients share what it’s like to work with us. These stories were done by Kelly Parkinson of Copylicious. We’d ask the client and she would schedule a phone call to talk about their experiences, have everything typed up, and then edit it down.

The conversation she had with Thomas Fuchs was done over instant messaging. I recently came across the transcript and noticed that it contained a lot of interesting stuff that didn’t make it into the final story. Even though it’s almost a year old I’d like to share it here to, well, make it easier for you to decide whether or not you should hire us.

Here’s the full interview:

So you and Amy know a lot of developers. Why did you choose to work with Fingertips in particular?

Well, besides that we know them personally, they’re really awesome. They have an almost anal attention to detail.

I would think that everyone in that line of work would have an almost anal attention to detail. Is that not actually the case?

No. Most design and most code is actually pretty bad.

Is it that most people don’t know what they’re doing, or that they don’t put much thought into it?

Most consultants are just in it for the money and don’t really like the work they’re doing.

Fingertips is different, as you can tell by them making their own products and doing open source projects to scratch itches. I’d place them in the upper 1% percentile of development and design shops. Plus, they’re not pretentious or artsy-fartsy.

Follow-up question: If you didn’t know each other, what signs would you look for, secret signs that “these guys get it?”

So what I like most is that all of them can get to the technical nitty-gritty details and have insanely in-depth knowledge.

They release a ton of open source software; that is actually highly polished (which is very rare for open source). It’s just stuff they needed for development and decided to share, but in a polished way.

They write amazingly detailed and well-reasoned tests when writing code, even for the OSS stuff they do. And they share their knowledge with blog posts etc.

Most companies don’t do any of these things, and Fingertips are just 3 people. I think this shows just how dedicated they are to create amazing software.

So if you could put a value on tons of in-depth knowledge combined with being insanely anal about details, and you took the project they’ve helped you with, what range of numbers would you come up with? So, for example, if you didn’t have them, how much more would you have spent? How much more can you earn?

That’s hard to say. The main thing is that I don’t need to explain stuff in the last detail and they still come up with a perfect solution. And then it turns out to be really robust as well, requiring little or no changes or bugfixes later. They’re also quite fast, which helps.

Are you able to say what that project was?

Sure, they implemented the freelancer feature for freckle. This feature might look easy on the outside, but it required a complete overhaul of our permissions structure and new features in the API. So it basically touched all really important guts of the app.

And they where able to pull it off really easily, without any hand-holding, not only the technical solution but also including the UI design.

Will this save you from cancellations of people who needed a team but didn’t consider themselves a team, so they didn’t want to upgrade?

Yes, this was one of the most requested features in Freckle. Definitely gives us and edge.

How much time would it have taken you to develop it yourself? Given your current workload etc.

Forever. :)

We really have better things to do, like coming up with new applications.

Right, and you seem pretty entrepreneurial, like you want to keep moving, and maybe it’s not the best use of your time to keep making improvements to the stuff you’ve already built.

If you were starting Freckle from scratch today, do you think you would have involved them? Or in what ways do you think you could see them becoming involved?

No, because we wouldn’t have had the money. We will however hire them to implement a specific complex component for our next product, Charm. Because they are so great with the details and knowledgeable, they’ll implement a very important part of our backend for us there too.

If you could dream up the ideal client for Fingertips, what would that be like? What would be their situation, at what point would they say, “okay, we definitely need to bring Fingertips in right now?”

They’d have some software product where they have a really difficult problem (either technical or with the UI) and/or want to be on the cutting edge technology-wise (like with all the fancy new HTML5 web stuff or native iOS development).

And they want someone who’s really into this stuff but at the same time is serious about business and is not fooling around.

At what stage in development is that? Is it already partly built, or is it just a gleam in their eye?

That depends, I think. I guess it can be at any stage. It’s certainly good that we hired them for the freelancer feature, because we now have a super-solid base for permissions in freckle.

There’s probably a lot of anxiety that comes up when people are thinking of hiring someone, because you never really know what’s going to happen until you’ve worked together. If your friend/colleague was thinking of hiring Fingertips and they voiced some fears or objections, what do you think the objections would be, and what would you say in response?

I think the most common fear people have, besides technical skills, is that work will be too late, too unprofessional or over budget; or that one person doesn’t know what the other person is doing. We’ve not had a single of those issues with Fingertips.

They’re really, really good at what they do, they’re timely, professional, and punctual. They’re also the only development company that we’ve referred our clients to.

We completely trust them, and would refer them to anyone, putting our reputation at stake.

What were you able to do with your business as a result of working with Fingertips that you wouldn’t have been able to do working with another firm or developer?

I think being worry-free is the best answer to this question. Like I gave them a job to mess with the internals of our most important product, and wouldn’t even have to check twice what they’ve delivered; plus we haven’t had any issues afterwards.

I also didn’t have to explain to them everything twenty times, and what they delivered was exactly what we wanted.

You said you considered them to be in the top 1% of firms. What percentage of projects would you say has bugs afterwards, typically? Not their projects, but other projects.

Well, all software has bugs.

But there are other factors, like how cleanly code is written, how understandable it is for other developers and how we can move on and support future feature with it.

At the same time, development environments and languages are always improving, and they are on the ball with that.

For example, they know what the latest browsers can do, and how to use these features to your advantage. But they also know what’s still too experimental, and then they’d recommend against it.