On Monday I had a chance to have a chat with Paul Vallee from Pythian. This was quite an enlightening talk, and I was very impressed by Paul openness and willing to share with me a lot of internal operations details. I wish there would be more people out where as open and helpful even when it comes to somewhat competing businesses. Though he is of course right – for small companies as we are there is much more business out where which is neither ours nor theirs and by being helpful to each other we can increase part of the pie to share.
Paul has significantly older (10 years) and larger (70 people) company so he has a lot to share. They have great internal systems and there is a lot we can learn from them in this area. We do fine with ours so far having just 7 active consultants but as we grow we need to get much better.
When I’m saying we’re somewhat competing businesses this is indeed only somewhat. Pythian focuses on Remote DBA with long term commitments while we do a lot of one time, emergency projects and only starting to get into 24/7 Support and Remote DBA offerings, We also do a lot of Architecture Design Scaling jobs and some custom MySQL Extensions/porting patches jobs. Paul can well deal with Fortune 500 companies dealing with all this statement of work, reporting etc while we’re more focused on startups, small/medium businesses and “light” web companies. Pythian is able to provide services for number of databases (Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL) while we provide services for number of full MySQL stacks and help people with implementing memcached caching, web layer, hardware selection etc. This is the reason there are few cases when we really run into each other on business side.
Besides internal systems approach I really liked approach of assigning customers to the Teams to deal. We usually have customer working with same engineer which works great for small projects but for longer projects you need to have a team as any single person can get sick or go on vacation.
Another difference is organization – we’re fully virtual company. At this point out of some 20 people we have (this includes not only MySQL Consultants but people busy with other projects as well) not a single of them works from the office. We do have office in Pleasanton,CA, which is part of my Visa requirements and we even got desks which previous renter did not want to take with them, though the only inhabitants in this office are some noisy servers we use for tests.
Pythian on other hand has most of employees in the offices in few places in the world though some people also work remotely. This is probably another thing which enterprise customers would appreciate.
Well anyway, I did not meant a lot to get into details comparing our companies but rather to publicly say thanks to Paul for what he shared with us and even more for showing the great leadership example in making word a better place.