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In Defence of Joel Spolsky

is the number of employees an indicator of success?

Joel Spolsky doesn't need my help in defending himself. But since he's my favorite blogger and a person I highly respect, I fill obligated to speak up.

Mr. Curt Monash has written an article implying that Joel overestimates his importance while not achieving that much since he was able to grow his company to "only" 25 people.

This article is written based on the wrong assumption that the number of employees is an indicator of success of the founders of the company. Joel's company has about twenty five employees, which is the border number when the company remains agile, manageable and doesn't require an overhead in the form of mid-tier management.

Besides, every founder of a company has his/her goals and priorities that may include (surprise, surprise!) having some spare time for  personal life too.

I have no doubts, if Joel will ever decide to open a consulting arm at Fog Creek he'll easily bring the number of employees to several hundreds or more.

Many business people in the US are turned into well trained zombies sharpened to achieving gross and ultimate profitability no matter what. These people can't understand that investing into spacious offices and good furniture for their employees makes any sense. Why bother? Just squeeze them into tiny cubes and make sure they work hard!

This narrow-minded author doesn't understand that there are small boutiques that just don't want to grow and prefer to enjoy running a business,  rather than turning themselves into money making machines.

Ten years ago, I've been vacationing in France with my family and friends. We've rented a car and were enjoying visiting small picturesque villages. One day, we were walking in a one horse town in Burgundy, where making wine is the main (if not the only) business. It was about noon when we noticed a small wine store and decided to purchase a case of good Burgundy to smuggle into the USA.

The store owner politely but firmly told us that he's closing his store for lunch. We were shocked. A group of tourists is about to purchase  his only product, we are the only people around, and he's closing for lunch! The only thing we were able to negotiate was letting us in the store and browse his wine cellar while he was eating. Real French people take their lunch time very seriously.

I wonder how the author of that article could explain the behavior of the owner of that wine store?  Most likely he'd say that French don't like Americans. Wrong. You just need to accept the fact that there are people with different culture, habits, values...There are people who make business and actually enjoy their lives.

Three years ago, I had a chance to meet Joel on one occasion. I've invited him to deliver a keynote at SOAWorld conference in New York City. Not everything went as smooth as we planned - I don't feel like going into details here. But I had a chance to see that Joel is not only a smart man and great speaker, but is also a person of high integrity.

No, Mr. Monash, bigger is not always better.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs ( and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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