Transcript: Anthony Armendariz from Funsize

by Tim Wright

This is the transcript for The Dirt episode: Anthony Armendariz from Funsize

Mark Grambau: My week started out jazztastic.

Steve Hickey: I’m sorry. Hold on. Is jazztastic good or bad? I’m really not clear. [music].

Tim Wright: Hello, and welcome to The Dirt. I am your host, Tim Wright. Today, I’m here with Mark Grambau.

Mark Grambau: Hello.

Tim Wright: Steve Hickey.

Steve Hickey: Hello.

Tim Wright: And special guest, a partner, experienced director, fellow podcaster, Anthony Armendariz, from Funsize. Anthony, welcome to the show.

Anthony Armendariz: Hey, guys. Thanks for having me.

Tim Wright: How are you doing today?

Anthony Armendariz: Doing good.

Tim Wright: You guys are pretty mental down there from South By Southwest. Huh?

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. Yesterday was the first day I didn’t have a drink in over a week and a half.

[Laughing].

Anthony Armendariz: I’m trying to stay home and get some rest.

Tim Wright: How about that– What was that thing that just happened? Was it yesterday down there? Somebody jump a curb?

Mark Grambau: Oh. Yeah. There was a pretty bad accident, I heard.

Tim Wright: Yeah. Was that anywhere near your office?

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. About two, two and a half blocks away.

Tim Wright: That’s crazy.

Mark Grambau: Jeez.

Anthony Armendariz: Last I heard, he had a stolen car, and he was just plowing through crowds and hitting people.

Tim Wright: Oh, my God.

Mark Grambau: Oh, my God.

Tim Wright: So, I mean, I really like starting the show off on a downer– [Laughing].

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Tim.

Steve Hickey: Well, it’s South By Southwest. It’s quite a–

Tim Wright: No. I wasn’t mocking.

Steve Hickey: It sounds like to me, all the very best and the very worst–

Tim Wright: [inaudible [00:01:24] One can impersonate without mockery. Can you? Probably not.

Steve Hickey: — of like, Mardi Gras, the Olympics, a New Year’s Eve party, all the best parts of that and the worst parts of it all squished together into one.

Anthony Armendariz: I think that should be their new tag line.

[Laughing].

Mark Grambau: We’ll send that to them.

Tim Wright: It’s such a huge conference. I mean, I went there once, and we had [inaudible 00:01:42].

Steve Hickey: [inaudible 00:01:42]. Now, I’m trying too hard.

[Multiple Speakers].

Tim Wright: [inaudible 00:01:44] hotel across the street. They didn’t group the sessions to my liking.

Mark Grambau: Nobody called Tim.

Tim Wright: They would have one session, like a CSS session on one end of the conference center.

Anthony Armendariz: So now, they have nine venues total.

Tim Wright: Oh, man.

Mark Grambau: Oh, my God.

Tim Wright: Are they at least in the same neighborhood?

Anthony Armendariz: No.

Steve Hickey: So, festival really is the operative word. It’s really–

Mark Grambau: Wow.

Tim Wright: Oh, man.

Steve Hickey: What an extravaganza.

Tim Wright: Anyway. So, the reason that we were going to have a conversation today is that we’re, as an agency and freelancers, a lot of times when we’re working with clients, we need to work with them and– What am I trying to say?

Steve Hickey: Understand their expectations for what the engagement is going to be like.

Tim Wright: Yeah. We have ways that we want to bill. Some people bill hourly, and some people bill by project and their other chunks of work.

Steve Hickey: By usage.

Tim Wright: The companies, the clients that we work with often are agile in nature and sometimes, our methodologies don’t mix well with them. Anthony, you came up with something called “flexible scope retainers”, that we wanted to get into. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. So, our company, Funsize, pretty much from day one, we started the company, was working exclusively with product companies. Product companies don’t think in terms of amounts or revisions and limitations. In fact, when they shop around bids for project proposals, and you respond back with a 20 page proposal, that gives them limitations on how many revisions they’re going to get. Their first reaction is to freak out, because they have no idea whether you’re going to ship something that they’re even going to be able to use or like at all. So, because these companies, a lot of these product companies are working in two to four week windows of time, they don’t see any further past that.

We decided that we would just try to find a way to break down all those barriers of the typical agency proposal, and create statements of work that basically just provide and give the client full control over what we work on at every moment in time.

Tim Wright: That’s good. I love this shit. We don’t talk about business stuff often, because it’s just like taboo to talk about money and billing.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. What’s that point that–

Tim Wright: It’s super important though.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. What was that point Mike Minter makes in his book? It’s like, “Designers are scared of money, but your clients aren’t.” Which is kind of a huge disadvantage if you go into it that way.

Tim Wright: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Tim Wright: Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Anthony Armendariz: I was saying. Well, the other part or reason why we fell into that was that it’s really hard to estimate work.

Tim Wright: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: And on fixed bid projects, fixed bid, fixed scope, the client and the agency or the freelancer are, by default, at that kind of retainer or engagement, they’re at heads with each other, and one of those two parties is going to get screwed. So, instead of treating each other like partners, each party tends to treat each other like an opponent. So, if you take all of that stuff out of the equation, no change orders, no hourly billing, none of those things, it’s pretty amazing what you can do. Our S.O.W.s are a one pager, and they say– They just simply list the products that we’re going to work on, how much resources we’re going to commit to it, what the monthly cost is, and when the engagement ends, and that’s it.

Tim Wright: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: So, every month, we just plan what we’re going to do for that two or four week window of time, and repeat that over and over again, and let the client control it.

Mark Grambau: That sounds glorious.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. I think it’s really nice, though. It sounds like it does. It better aligns, obviously, the needs and desires and motivations, as you said, instead of being adversarial partners. But, the issue you have when you don’t do this kind of work is that you’re sort of setting up for failure with expectations. Right? Setting a really hard deadline and these monstrous agreements, you can end up with something where you’re over promising and under delivering, almost by default, especially as you work.

Expectations of the finish line might move because you’re– Especially, if you’re developing a product from scratch. Especially, let’s say, a startup. They have an idea of what they want, but it’s still sort of amorphous. As you’re working on the project, that product that you’re developing together changes and grows, and all of a sudden, the finish line is moving. Or, the finish line stays, but what the expectation of what a finish means has moved.

Anthony Armendariz: yeah.

Steve Hickey: So, all of a sudden, you’re getting squeezed and squeezed and squeezed until that last week, and what you expected upfront and what they expected are now completely dissonant. Unless you really actively stay on top of it, it’s just a recipe for disaster.

Anthony Armendariz: That’s absolutely right. With products, after doing the first round of user testing, you may find that users don’t want it like this. They want it in a completely different flavor. It’s too hard to put rounds or revisions on shipping something new like that.

Tim Wright: Yeah. It sounds like you’re actually more integrated with the client than a normal contractor would be.

Anthony Armendariz: I think that’s fair. When we create these S.O.W.s, there’s usually levels of pricing, and it depends. It’s usually dependent on a few factors: how integrated we want to be, to what sort of sprint release cycle are we going to be agreeing to here. If it’s at like a half capacity sort of commitment, we’ll agree to like a four to six week sprint cycle. But if the client is committing to us fully or a large engagement, we’ll commit to one week or two week iteration cycles. So basically, the client is paying for speed. If they want to ship something fast or ship product often, that’s the value that they’re paying for, or the team that’s on that engagement. Whereas–

The one struggle that we have had with that, though, is with early stage startups, trying to bucket them into the same kind of retainers, because we’ve had pretty much transparent black and white pricing. But, I think the simple answer to that is just be flexible on the cost. Don’t take a small client and give them fewer hours or fewer effort just because they’re smaller. I think, for our team anyway, to get interesting work like that, we just had to lower the cost.

Tim Wright: How long have you all been writing S.O.W.s like that?

Anthony Armendariz: I’ve been writing S.O.W.s, specifically like this, for about a year and a half or so. It came from my first client, which is a huge product company. They were like, “Let’s just get started. Let us know what the commitment your team is going to want to put into this. Don’t worry about the estimate or anything. Let’s just agree to work together and get started.” Then, the light bulb went off after we had several clients asking for that.

Tim Wright: Did you experience any push back initially from clients when you tried? Or was it all just like, “I totally get this. This works for us.”?

Anthony Armendariz: Well, for most of our clients, they’re looking for this. They just don’t know how to ask for it. They shop proposals around at other agencies, and then they have a conversation with us and I can usually close them in a day, because it’s a simple conversation. Like, we’re going to do whatever you want us to do. We’re working with your tools. If you use JIRA Pivotal Tracker or Trillo, or whatever you use, we’re going to use that. We’re going to put ideas into the backlog. We’re going to do stand-ups with your team or go to your office and meet with your engineers. I mean, we work directly with the engineers and product managers. I mean, we’re basically a team that’s not a team, a permanent part of the team. The price is transparent.

The only push back that we have had on that has happened maybe once or twice. It was with client partners who had never been through a process of hiring a freelancer or an agency at all. So, they were kind of curious. “Okay. Well, I’m paying for this fee for you to do what’s in my backlog, but how do I know how fast you’re going to work, or how much we’re going to get done, or what the quality of the work is going to look like?” That really just boils down to trust. In most states, I don’t know about Massachusetts, but in Texas, teams can stop working with each other whenever they want. So, if you let the contract– If you think too hard about that, it can be too difficult to get started working on something.

Tim Wright: Yeah. It sounds like it lends really well to the agile environment of a product company.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. And it sounds like the kind of conflicts, as you said, that may have come up with a client who hadn’t hired a freelancer before, or as you said, some limitations with smaller companies and trying to get the model to fit for that. It sounds like the model itself is sort of self-selecting. Right? It might not also work for a large company that, let’s say, is a government contract, and it’s on a very fixed budget or fixed schedule.

Anthony Armendariz: Right.

Steve Hickey: They have a certain amount in their budget from the federal government or from whatever it may be. That self-selects like, alright, well, that’s not the right kind of client for us to work with, potentially. Does that sound about right?

Anthony Armendariz: That’s right. We’re open. We make exceptions occasionally, when there’s something that comes across the table that we really love, and we know we need to put something specific together. But, yeah. I think that’s right. The designers love it too because they’re not asked to work against a project schedule. We don’t ever do project schedules, at all, for any– When we do these ground planning meetings, all we have to do is commit every two or four weeks to what we’re going to do in the next two to four weeks. Then, once the work is done, the designer’s time is done. If they get the sprint work done in two days, they don’t even have to come to work. As long as they get it done, and the client accepts it, they’re done. So, no late nights, no crazy deadlines.

But, however, designers, a lot of young designers have a really hard time working in an agile, lean way. They’re not used to it. It’s been a little hard to get the team on board. But once they see the fruits of it, they turn. But, it is difficult.

Tim Wright: How big of a team do you have over at Funsize?

Anthony Armendariz: There’s ten of us.

Tim Wright: Okay. You think that model lends really well to a team that size?

Anthony Armendariz: Well, for us, it’s working pretty good. I’ve been telling my wife, who is my business partner, and members on our team that this may not scale if we choose to grow our company. But, I actually think it would scale, because our projects right now are usually like one designer half-time or one designer full-time. The easy way to scale that is one and a half designers, two designers, two and a half designers. So, moving to that same kind of pricing but thinking about it more like a price per person per month, or price per person per week kind of thing might make sense, because I’m realizing these days, as the company gets bigger, that I’m not necessarily needed in every small project. So, if a small retainer project is X, then I can still monitor. I don’t necessarily have to be involved. I think a lot of companies that are budget conscious understand that and are cool if you just tell them, “The partner–” You might only be working with one person on this project.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. Back to what you said about the young designers. You mean to sometimes have trouble with a sprint base model.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Mark Grambau: Do you ever get the impression that designers are coming out of school kind of broken in their expectations of what the working world and their working life is going to be?

Anthony Armendariz: Yes. I do, for a lot of various reasons. A lot of the young students that I’ve talked to and hung out with or interviewed, I think they’re expecting like the world. They almost don’t expect to– At least– I don’t know what it is. They’re just more confident, and they’re more aggressive.

Tim Wright: Arrogant.

Anthony Armendariz: Arrogant. Yeah.

Tim Wright: [inaudible 00:13:43].

Mark Grambau: It’s actually funny that you put it that way, because I’d say like 50% of the designers we encounter coming out of school are like that, but the others, they’re the exact opposite. They expect to be crushed by whatever agency they go to work for. It’s sort of sad.

Steve Hickey: Well, I think we’re hearing at the same– In one ear, we’re hearing horror stories of both old world working all through the night, crazy hours, because that’s what startup means. Kids are being told startup means–

Mark Grambau: Well, it’s not even just startup. That’s what agency means.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. And that’s what agency means. But at the same time, we’re in a gold rush. You get this any time that the technology booms like this, and everyone’s like, “Oh, man. I want to make a mobile app and make a texting helicopter that talks to babies and gets my groceries for me.” This is when you’re in a world where everything is this crazy magic thing, and you can sell your company after a few years for $5 billion. Everyone wants to get in. Everyone wants to be a hot big shot, and it sort of poisons the well from the start. It’s almost ’80’s Wall Street. You got these people coming out of business school, wearing their suits, saying, “Alright. Let’s go. Where’s the cocaine and the million dollars? I want to–” That’s the industry.

Mark Grambau: It’s more like they come out of school, and they’re like, “Well, if I don’t make the young designer of the year category in Dot Net Magazine my first year out of college, I’m a dismal failure.”

Steve Hickey: I failed. That’s the problem with things like 30 Under 30 and things like that.

Mark Grambau: Yeah.

Steve Hickey: I just remember being told in school, and it was one of the best lessons I heard, which was from some of my professors and guest illustrators who came in saying, “I got my first really big illustration project, my first big editorial project, book, whatever it was, when I was like 38, when I was like 45,” or whatever it was, because it takes a while to build slowly. So, I’ve had this notion in my head the whole time, like, “I don’t need to hit it big right away.” It’s going to be frustrating sometimes. I want to be working on big amazing projects, but it’s OK to scale and work and get really good at your craft. The growth and the career you idealize will come, but I think a lot of folks are not getting that kind of message, that it’s explode in year one, or you’re dead.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Tim Wright: Well, that certainly was long winded. [Laughing]. [Multiple speakers].

Anthony Armendariz: It’s all true. Related to our topic and related to students, the biggest issue that I’ve seen is that no one knows how to price themselves at all.

Tim Wright: No.

Mark Grambau: Oh. Yeah. I get people asking me about it all the time. They’re terrified of saying what they’re worth.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. And I also think that any of us, even the four of us, when we hear an hourly rate, I just think there’s something psychological about that. We’re thinking that we’re– We’re stressing out about what the end cost is going to be, not what the value is.

Tim Wright: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: I’ve encouraged– The way that we scaled our team and grew our team was, we would bring on contractors that had the same type of agreement that we had with the client. The reason why this was good for us is because my business partner and I could predict every single penny that was coming in the door for three to six months. We could say, “Okay. Well, clients committing to this kind of flexible scope retainer for three months. We can give this same retainer to a designer, and we don’t have to worry. We know that there’s a 30% to 50% profit margin baked in.” I’ve been advocating for young people to think that way because you have to think about what your sales are annually, not weekly.

Tim Wright: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: And if you’re saying, “Well, my rate is $100 an hour,” it’s true. You’re going to be focused on who’s going to pay for that. But if you’re thinking more about like what would I charge in order to secure three months of work, six months of work, 12 months of work, then you can take fewer projects. Focus more on it and guarantee an X amount of income annually.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. It’s healthier for the relationship with the client. It’s certainly healthier for your work/life balance too.

Steve Hickey: And hourly charging. This stuff comes out of a lot of old factory pay. It doesn’t work. In a world like what we do– I know. You’re looking–

Tim Wright: Old factory.

Steve Hickey: Old factory pay.

Tim Wright: There are currently hourly paid jobs right now.

Steve Hickey: No. I’m just saying that that’s–

Mark Grambau: Industrial Revolution.

Steve Hickey: I’m saying it came out of the Industrial Revolution. It came out of unions. It came out of labor, and it spread down to service based industries. In a service based industry, like what we do, where it’s not, “I spend an hour, and I’m squeezing as much efficiency out of that hour to make as many widgets as I can,” but you’re in a creative field and design and development. It doesn’t add up. What it does is it punishes efficiency as well.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. When I’m talking with freelance clients, that’s how I always end up describing it. I said, “I prefer not to charge hourly because it either punishes me for being efficient, or it punishes you if I take a little extra time to get to the ideal solution. It’s not a good way for me to work, and it’s not good for you.”

Steve Hickey: I’m so glad to see the industry moving away from hourly. Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. Me too.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Tim Wright: I mean, you brought up– Anthony, you brought up an interesting point, of if somebody gets their two weeks of work done in two days, they don’t have to come into the office. Do you see that happening?

Anthony Armendariz: With a couple of our guys, yes. But, most of the people that work for us, even though they know they have that flexibility, we have a very strong family-like environment. So, we all tend to come to work even if we don’t have work to do, just to be around each other and hang out. I hope that people will take advantage of that because at the end of the day, it’s the being punished for being efficient thing. Like, if you can get done what the client is expecting or meet or exceed the expectations of what was promised in that engagement, you shouldn’t have to overextend yourself any further, I think. Because you have to have ups and downs cycles, I think. I don’t think people can just operate on a–

Mark Grambau: Yeah. You’re absolutely right about that. I mean, I had a previous job where I pulled some numbers, and it turned out I was cranking out the equivalent of like 65 hours worth of work a week. Instead of having anything done about that, I was told, “Well, obviously, you can handle more,” and got more piled on top of me. It was bullshit. I was burning out really quickly.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. It can. Yeah. That kind of environment, it punishes the person who can do things well and quickly, compared to the average worker. Yeah. People are not tuned to perform at Olympian level 24/7. You need your breaks. It works out well to have internal projects. I like that here. I’ll work the time, my client time, but when I need to sort of shut my brain down a little bit or just change tasks, I can work on something for our website, work on something for the podcast, work on something for the mural in the office. I’m still working efficiently, but I’m just changing tasks. It makes the value driven, the client work you’re doing that much better.

Tim Wright: We had a– Before we did the show, we were talking to some people about the ideas of flexible scope retainers in the office. There was a question. Do you encounter clients who try and squeeze the absolute most amount of work out of those two weeks? Like, they just keep piling stuff on.

Anthony Armendariz: Well, just for some context, most of the engagements that we do, the duration is three to six months. So, what we’ll do is, we’ll do a three month contract with the client to test it, to make sure that they like us and make sure that we like them. If we love their product, if we work really well with their team, if they can prove to us that they can ship the things that we design, then we’ll extend that out to six months or more. Honestly, there’s really been almost no push back. Again, it’s usually with people that are working with the design team for their very first time that don’t know how long things take.

Now, the one issue that we did see come up this past month was, we used to have a clause in these retainers that offered the client a discounted hourly rate. Should we hit the retainer, and we want to keep working, a way built in for them to take advantage of an hourly. But, we had severely discounted that rate because we were trying to offer something to a partner that was committing to us. What we were finding was that one particular client saw that and knew that, “Okay. Well, if I exceed the retainer and use the hourly, that’s cheaper than signing a new statement of work.” So, we quickly fixed that.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. So, they could drag everything out until they get to the hourly rate. Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Mark Grambau: It’s weird too that you encounter people whose first thought is, “How can I take advantage of this relationship?”

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Mark Grambau: That’s too bad.

Anthony Armendariz: I don’t know if that is intentional. The other issue, which is not necessarily an issue, but it’s definitely taken some time to learn how to deal with this. Design teams want to focus, and clients want to focus because they’re trying to ship product. Some of these retainers that we have that are half capacity, the designer will hit that weekly quota, let’s say, Wednesday, but they don’t want to stop. They’re on a roll. They want to finish what they’re doing.

So, we’ve had designers and clients both ask, “Okay. Well, can we front load?” Right? Like, “Can we start pulling hours from our engagement from the end?” The big question is: what does that do to the S.O.W. end date? Does the end date move? Or does it stay the same? But then, you start hitting that hourly, and then you got to track hours again, which no one wants to do. Or what do you do? Right? So, that has kind of put us in a mind frame where we don’t really want to do half capacity projects anymore. We’ll use them as a tool to get to know a new client, but we’ve been trying to move everyone to relatively full commitment projects, even if they’re a lot cheaper. That way, both the client team and the design team both get to do what they want.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. I mean, you wind up with designers who have their heads wrapped entirely around that one problem at any given time, which is a really ideal way to work, I think.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Steve Hickey: We spoke before a little bit about growing the company too. Where if you get everyone into being full-time, and you’re maxing out the availability of all your designers, you run into a choice there where you can say, “We can either bring on new people, or we can keep the same number of people, but you can imagine our demand is growing, but raise our rate instead.”

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Steve Hickey: Where are you guys seeing your progress for the next– I don’t know what the frame would be, but the next year or so. You said sort of ambivalently about growth. What do you feel like you might take?

Anthony Armendariz: Well, everyone on our team has made the transition from contractor to full-time employee. Honest, my wife and I honestly couldn’t do this without the team taking risks on us.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: Being completely transparent, we can’t compete with the salaries that other companies have. We just finished our first year. So, right now, we’re in a growth period. We’re more focused on trying to increase the income of the people that work with us. So, we’re doing a number of things. Our rates have gone up, but the most important thing to everyone on the team is that there’s a good work/life balance that they love what they’re working on. Growth, we let that happen organically.

So, we put all this stuff up to a vote. If we’re looking at a new client, we’ll get a vote. If it’s not unanimous, we won’t take on the project. If we need to hire someone, it usually happens that a designer wants to work with another designer. So, it just kind of happens. I don’t know. Right now, I don’t think we really want to be bigger than the size that we are. But, it’s hard when you got a lot of interesting things knocking at your door. So, I don’t know. That’s what keeps me up at night. Because I don’t want it really– It’s too early for us to be a 20 person shop, but there’s so many cool things that everyone wants to work on. I don’t know how to do that.

Steve Hickey: It’s hard to say no. Yeah. I understand.

Tim Wright: I don’t know. I don’t have any problems saying no. I say no everyday.

Steve Hickey: Well, you’re just a terrible person.

Tim Wright: I am a terrible person. I know that.

Anthony Armendariz: You must be a developer.

Mark Grambau: He is. How did you know? [Laughing]. That’s an excellent guess.

Tim Wright: So, you guys started a podcast also a little while ago.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. We did. There’s no name for it. It’s at our website, Funsize.co/podcast. We started that for the same reasons you guys mentioned. We work Monday through Thursday, and we let everyone work on whatever they want on Fridays. We realized that no one was really talking specifically about native mobile product design. So, we took a stab at making a podcast. We’ve only recorded three episodes. We’re working on our fourth, but we’re just having fun with it, no real hopes to scale it or anything. We may not do more than eight or ten episodes. It’s just something for fun.

Tim Wright: You guys hear that? We need to do a show on mobile product design, native mobile product design.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Mark Grambau: Not really our area.

Steve Hickey: I’ll write that down right here.

Mark Grambau: It’s funny that you mentioned you’re not looking to scale. I mean, scaling is probably the most difficult problem we’ve had. So, hey, listeners. If you have friends, you should tell them about us. That would be pretty cool. Right?

Tim Wright: That was horrible.

Mark Grambau: Shut up, Tim.

Tim Wright: That was the worst.

Anthony Armendariz: [Laughing].

Mark Grambau: I tried.

Anthony Armendariz: How big is your company?

Tim Wright: We are about 26, 27 people.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. Around there.

Tim Wright: And 16 on the design or the U.I. team.

[Multiple speakers].

Mark Grambau: We’ve got three apprentices in the office right now.

Tim Wright: Oh. That’s right.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. I think 30 is sort of our magic number.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: That seems really big to me.

Steve Hickey: Yeah. It’s really, I think, where we sort of stopped growing. I think if we were to grow again, it may be– It’s in very, very deliberate ways. I think we’re not arbitrarily where we are in size. We sort of reached a really good, nice ecosystem here.

Mark Grambau: Nice balance.

Steve Hickey: Nice balance. Yeah.

Tim Wright: We’re still playing with a lot of the stuff that you guys are still playing with. We just implement some new project planning.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Tim Wright: How has the working with the retainer affected your project planning?

Anthony Armendariz: Well, we just don’t do schedules. What we do, it takes a little bit of effort, but we don’t have a title for this yet. We’re still trying to work on it. It’s not exactly a P.M. It’s not exactly a producer, not exactly a product manager, not exactly a scrum master, but it’s something like that. That person helps us. At the end of every spread, we get together, and we look at the ideas that we want to bake into the next two to four weeks. We vote on that. We get it ready. We write the user stories, in advance of going to the actual sprint planning meeting with our client.

Then, we just hash it out, an open table, about what do we have to do next. What are critical things? What are nice to haves? Then, we just use the Fibonacci Scale to estimate the stories. We have a velocity that we know we can meet, based on the amount of people that are on the project. Once we commit to that, that’s what we’ve committed to. So, that’s the extent of it.

Tim Wright: It sounds like you guys came to a methodology that seems to benefit the clients, and it benefits you guys pretty well. You came to it really quickly, which is impressive.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. It was just all on accident. A couple of big clients, and it worked, and we just kept doing it, kept doing it. The reaction to it has just been so positive. Selling it, being able to close a deal in a couple of days to weeks has been awesome. Just get all the negotiation out of the way. I don’t like proposals and contracts and all that kind of stuff. So, we sign an M.S.A. that’s like a ten page contract. But once that’s out of the way, all of these engagements are just like simple one-pagers, and it just says what we’re going to do. That’s been working for us for now. We’ll see what happens in the next year.

Tim Wright: That’s great.

Steve Hickey: Designers and developers are hard. Sounds like you get the structure that needs to be there done, but then get it out of the way and get down to brass tacks and do the stuff that you love. And the whole reason you start a company in the first place, do the work that you love.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah.

Steve Hickey: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: And this may not work if we ever hired engineers. We’re only a design crew.

Tim Wright: Yeah.

Anthony Armendariz: We don’t have engineering. There’s so many things that could change that. I’m not looking to change it for a while, just trying to make it better. I mean, fix what’s wrong.

Steve Hickey: Enjoy the happy accident.

Tim Wright: Well, that’s cool. Well, it sounds like everything is going well. We won’t keep you for much longer. We know things are probably busy and actually nice outside in Austin.

Anthony Armendariz: I think next year, I’m going to come visit you guys and get the hell out of here.

Tim Wright: [Laughing]. Well, hopefully, next time in March, it won’t be snowing still.

Mark Grambau: You say that now, but we have a 13 to 19 inch snow warning for Monday.

Tim Wright: No. We don’t.

Steve Hickey: What?

Tim Wright: Oh. Come on.

Steve Hickey: It was four to eight inches yesterday.

Mark Grambau: Yeah. Now, you’re going to suffer with me.

Anthony Armendariz: I’ll see you in the summer then.

Steve Hickey: Oh, my God. This winter has just been comical to me. I can’t be upset anymore. I just have to laugh. You just have to laugh. It’s a comedy. We’re living in a simulation. I don’t know what’s happening.

Tim Wright: So, Anthony, how can people get a hold of you if they want to harass you?

Anthony Armendariz: Oh, yeah. You can find me on Twitter, Mantwan, M-A-N-T-W-A-N, or our company, Funsize, F-U-N-S-I-Z-E, or Funsize.co.

Tim Wright: And be sure to check out the podcast while you’re there.

Anthony Armendariz: Yeah. Check it out.

Tim Wright: And you also have a program called, “Guest Desk”.

Anthony Armendariz: Oh, yeah. This is something I’m really excited about. So, we have a couple of desks in our office. On our website, there’s a link for Guest Desk application. We’re basically looking to find interesting people in any industry at all that can come and work in our office for a week, where we can learn about what they do, maybe learn about a different industry or help someone that’s working on a product. Just basically, meet new faces and drink beer and go to lunch and all that. So, if you’re interested in working in Austin for a week, check out the Guest Desk.

Tim Wright: I know some of us here have applied for it. Steve, specifically, has. We’re all looking forward to it. So, that should be awesome.

Anthony Armendariz: Thanks for applying.

Mark Grambau: Thanks for coming up with it.

Anthony Armendariz: Well, thanks for having me on the show, guys.

Tim Wright: Yeah. Thanks for coming.

Anthony Armendariz: It’s been fun talking with you guys.

Tim Wright: Thanks for coming. We look forward to catching up another time. Here at Fresh Tilled Soil, we have no in-office events, but in June, Steve and I will be in Vegas, speaking at Future Insights. That’ll be interesting.

Anthony Armendariz: It will be awesome.

Steve Hickey: And I look forward to the following three months, hearing this plugged in every single episode.

Tim Wright: Every single episode. That’s awesome. As usual, you can get us on Twitter, @TheDirtShow, and please review us on iTunes or your podcasting app of choice. That’s all we have for today. Thank you for listening, and we will try and do better next time. [music].

Steve Hickey: Alright. I trust you.

Tim Wright: Alright.

Steve Hickey: I trust your–

Tim Wright: You shouldn’t.

Steve Hickey: Broadcast legend, Tim Wright.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design