Subject: RE: towards a broader definition of an FSB
From: "Larry M. Augustin" <lma@lmaugustin.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 06:32:22 -0700

> From: Stephen J. Turnbull [mailto:steve@tleepslib.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp] On
> 
> >>>>> "David" == David Kaufman <david@gigawatt.com> writes:
> 
>     David> i object!  while i (can only *attempt* to) define
>     David> "lifestyle businesses" anecdotally here as the
>     David> self-employed, the freelance developers, the
>     David> sole-proprietors of their one-person businesses, and the
>     David> independent contractors who start, fund and operate their
>     David> own for-profit operations, and some small semi-profitable
>     David> or as-yet-unprofitable groups doing FS-related work,
> 
> This is quite different from my explicit definition and Larry
> Augustin's implicit definition as well, I believe.  A lifestyle
> business is one whose owners are unwilling to change their way of
> doing business to help the business grow.  Small, big, doesn't matter.

Exactly.  A great example is what I'll call the high-value consulting
space.  A half-dozen people who make up the core maintainers of a piece
of free software offer their consulting services to enhance, support,
integrate, etc. that piece of software.  They can make a very good
living at that business; enough so that part of their time can be spent
writing new free software.

However, there are only so many brilliant, core maintainers they can add
to the team.  Usually this is where the team has to make a decision: do
we continue as we are (making a good living for the team but unable to
grow), or do we do something lets us grow and employee non-core people.
For example, a common strategy is to create some proprietary software
around the free software and sell that.

Larry

--
Larry M. Augustin, lma@lmaugustin.com
Tel: +1.650.966.1759, Fax: +1.650.966.1753

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stephen J. Turnbull [mailto:steve@tleepslib.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp] On
> Behalf Of Stephen J. Turnbull
> Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2002 5:51 AM
> To: David Kaufman
> Cc: fsb@crynwr.com
> Subject: Re: towards a broader definition of an FSB
> 
> >>>>> "David" == David Kaufman <david@gigawatt.com> writes:
> 
>     David> i object!  while i (can only *attempt* to) define
>     David> "lifestyle businesses" anecdotally here as the
>     David> self-employed, the freelance developers, the
>     David> sole-proprietors of their one-person businesses, and the
>     David> independent contractors who start, fund and operate their
>     David> own for-profit operations, and some small semi-profitable
>     David> or as-yet-unprofitable groups doing FS-related work,
> 
> This is quite different from my explicit definition and Larry
> Augustin's implicit definition as well, I believe.  A lifestyle
> business is one whose owners are unwilling to change their way of
> doing business to help the business grow.  Small, big, doesn't matter.
> 
> It's just that if you stop growing when you're small, you never get
> big.  Lifestyle businesses are going to be heavily skewed toward
> small.  That doesn't mean small, or even micro, businesses are
> automatically lifestyle businesses.  (BTW, _I_ object to your implied
> description of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as "lifestyle businessmen."
> You're kidding, yes?)
> 
> It does pretty much automatically mean that publically held
> corporations are _not_ going to be lifestyle businesses, as normally
> the decisive share is owned by people whose lifestyle is entirely
> unaffected by changes in the company's business methods.
> 
>     David> i think to exclude these from the discussion would be a
>     David> mistake,
> 
> And so does everybody else.  The point of the lifestyle/non-lifestyle
> distinction is not to invalidate the lifestyle mode (and definitely
> not small businesses in general).  Rather, if that is the _only_
> generally viable mode, then the possibilities for overall growth of
> free software business, and especially employment of software
> engineers who prefer to be employees, not self-employed, in free
> software, are apparently severely restricted.
> 
> Indeed, Larry Augustin, who has been the most forceful advocate of
> the distinction, simply advocates the non-lifestyle mode as "more
> interesting" precisely because he believes it can support more FS
> developers overall.
> 
>     David> [M]any of us measure our success not so much by the amount
>     David> of money we acquire, but by whether we meet other goals,
>     David> like making enough money to meet our personal and family's
>     David> needs, without spending so much time as to not be able to
>     David> watch our kids grow up.  Success by meeting a combination
>     David> of modest monetary and other more altruistic goals is
>     David> success, too.
> 
> _That_ is an accurate definition of "lifestyle business."
> 
> Not all small businesses satisfy that definition, and the ones most
> likely to grow, get VC funding, produce world-dominating software,
> employ lots of developers who would rather not be independent, or who
> wish to work on projects bigger than feasible for typical lifestyle
> businesses, etc, are least likely to satisfy your definition of
> "success" (at least according to classical economic theory).  Speaking
> as one with a vested interest in the success of classical economic
> theory, I hope we're wrong in this case.  :-)  But I don't advise
> betting on it.  :-(
> 
> --
> Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
> http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
> University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba
305-8573
> JAPAN
>  My nostalgia for Icon makes me forget about any of the bad things.  I
> don't
> have much nostalgia for Perl, so its faults I remember.  Scott Gilbert
> c.l.py