How to Pick Who You Build Products With

This is a post by Phil Coburn, Designli’s summertime marketing intern straight from his freshman year of college. Join Phil as he explores the ins-and-outs of the software industry and the world of startups, small business, and marketing.


Building is a central activity of human life. We build legacies, relationships, products, all manner of things large and small. At the end of the day, who does the building is just as important as what gets built.


It’s possible to take a cynical view on this and say that who builds something is important because people tend to build things that will benefit people like them. Critiques of the tech industry have often taken up this line of thinking, especially when it comes to diversity. To a large extent, this is true. One merely needs to look at our nation’s history to find examples of this.


Another view, and one I prefer, is that the things you build are a reflection of you. You are inextricably bound up with anything however large or small you build, from that Lego statue to a relationship to a company. It has your stamp on it. It’s one of the reasons that we get so emotionally involved with what we build.


Who Builds?


Who builds things is important. Great products don’t exist without great people. Great things don’t exist without great people.


Looking at some of the most high-profile companies in tech, we can see examples of this. Steve Jobs left an extremely large impression on Apple. His focus on design has pushed the direction that Apple has taken ever since, and resulted in the sleek, minimalistic exterior style common to every Apple device developed during his reign at the company and since. Jobs’ willingness to give features the axe has also stayed with the company, if the rumors of the disappearance of the headphone jack in the next iteration of the iPhone are true.


To give another example, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has a history of being somewhat quirky, occasionally making mistakes, but learning from them and changing for the better. Facebook’s experiments with their newsfeed algorithm mirror this process of sometimes odd changes, but leaning towards improvement rather than devolving into an unstable mess.


So What?


The traits of the people doing the building of a product, the mind and personality behind that person, often leaves a long-term imprint on the product.


When your company needs something done (an app, a website, whatever), it’s important to keep this in mind. Rather than looking just for who can do it most cheaply, look for partners who demonstrate traits you want reflected in your product ; if the company helping you build that product has them, odds are they’ll be present in that product as well. If you need something flexible and adaptable, look for a company or people with a history of adapting to change and moving with it. In the long run, you will benefit, your customers will benefit, and your product will be all the better for it.