Is the skills shortage hindering growth?

Every business has a skills shortage – especially in the startup and small business spheres. To identify the need for a skill that they do not have seems to be the easy part. A technology partner is the one skill/person that comes to mind, as this enables businesses to build, scale, and grow.

Build, scale and grow

When looking for a tech partner to build our dream, many people have issues with trust. Even with non-disclosure agreements, we find people stealing ideas. I recently saw someone post on Twitter that their pitch deck was used as is by the venture capitalist he pitched to!  

I often quote Eric Ries who said: 

“if your idea can be stolen that quickly, it wasn’t a great idea to start off with” 

When it comes to scaling and growing, the established business is already there, making it easier to hire an employee or contracting a technology partner to do the needed work.

The founder skills shortage

Many founders find themselves in the following dilemma: they have neither the cash nor the skills to get the idea off the ground. This makes it challenging not only for seeking a software developer willing to trade his time and code for equity but for the founder who finds himself obsolete.

In my opinion, what differentiates a founder with ideas from a co-founder of action is one that is able to innovate in learning, testing, and growing an idea outside of the normal paradigm. 

For example, one of my clients was able to build a fully functional minimum viable product using WordPress and WooComerce. I will not deny that I was surprised at the brilliance of getting that off the ground! 

Using innovation to solve skill shortages

Having previously written about validating your idea before coding, I want to build on this: we need to find innovative ways to solve our problems. For example:

  • Display an Excel mockup of what your product or dashboard will look like.
  • Use a (WordPress?) website rather than a mobile app to display functionality on a phone.
  • Do mockups for all emails of your solution before implementing the solution.

Though I am not against the idea of coding to display your idea (and I do this), I know that the founder is able to learn certain things from the outcomes and position himself as an irreplaceable expert. 

Filling the skills shortage

We know that we have a skill shortage, especially in the technology sphere. It is not surprising that it happens almost daily on the Dev ZA Slack group that people ask for developers to work for equity. 

But the founders need the skills – even companies with funding struggle to get the staff! 

When you have a skills shortage, as a founder you have the following options:

  • Ask a developer to work for free (equity).
    • Please have a 10-year business plan, 5-year marketing plan, and projections on when the developer will have a return on investment (ROI) ready!
  • Hiring a developer to develop an MVP or prototype
    • As mentioned, this might be something as simple as a WordPress site
  • Find funding: there are options available for startups and small businesses
    • Effectify has an article here.
    • FrugalLocal (my influencer page) wrote an article with options here.
  • Outsource
    • It might not be necessary to hire the skill that you need. There might be software as a service options available to you.  

As in property investment, it makes sense to have friends in the right places – lawyers, handymen, and estate agents. In the same way, it would make sense to connect with skills that would be needed when knowing that you have an interest in startups.

Will my hired help convert to sales?

Consider how long it will take to get a return on investment for filling the gap in your company.

As in the above situation – we want to say that a certain profession or job will convert into money. In most cases, we find that IT is a cost centre that enables other parts of the business to make money. 


Every business has too much work and too few people/skills. To overcome this we need to consider the return on investment and value the new hire or partner will add. 

Timing is vital for the success of your business, as cash flow and time to market are of the essence. 

Enjoy your business!

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