The DatoCMS Blog

"How can you be eight people?"

Posted on November 23rd, 2022 by Stefano Verna

This is the most frequent question we get, when we talk to our clients (or potential ones). Well, they do have a point.

  • Thousands of paying customers plus 80+ partner agencies, scattered all over the world, of all kind and sizes;

  • Billions of API requests handled each month with excellent uptime;

  • Fast support times and fanatical customer care;

  • About a dozen new features and improvements released every month.

The conversation usually goes like this:

"8 people? How? Your competitors have 100 times your employees. You will be wracked with stress. Do you work all day guys? Night and weekends included?"

No, about 35-40h a week. We are very serene (and happy).

"Ok, but does the product work? It must be way behind the others."

"Ok, but is it secure?"

We continuously carry out extensive third-party security audits, we run a bounty program, and we're in the process of being certified as ISO/IEC 27001. You're safe.

"No way."

Yes way.

Building large, complex organizations is a choice, not an obligation.

We deliberately chose to run a tight ship, and built our business around this choice. We chose to dedicate all our efforts to what matters to us — an awesome product with excellent customer care — and to ignore everything else. This is what allows us to be small in number.

What did we choose to ignore?

Marketing. In the last 8 years, we have spent literally zero energy on marketing. Believe it or not, we still mainly function through word of mouth. Are we leaving huge amounts of money on the table? Absolutely. But it allows us to be few.

Sales. We have built a company designed for small businesses and self-service purchasing, with our focus on usability and documentation. Our sales team consists of 2-3 people. This means far less enterprise clients than we could have. But it allows us to be few.

Insourcing. We delegate everything that's non-core outside of our company. Billing system, servers, CDNs, database management, you name it. We pick best-of-breed external services, and we pay them what they deserve, without reinventing the wheel. Again, we're probably loosing some money, but it allows us to be few, and only focused on what really matters.

Finance. Our company balance sheet is terribly boring, and that's by design. We only offer one product, our revenues and costs are 100% predictable, cash flow is (extremely) good. We're an LLC and we take profits because that's simpler. You really don't need a finance team to handle this kind of structure.

Venture capital. By rejecting the usual venture capital rush to a steroid program, we can be few, and go with our pace and our ethos, based on sustainable thinking of profitability.

In general, maximization as a concept is not that interesting to us. We don’t care about maximization. Not maximization of profit, people, reach, productivity, etc. We don't mind leaving a little water in the cloth, a few drips in the glass.

To squeeze something so tight that you get every last drop, requires massive amounts of people. And, for us, it's ultimately boring.

Are we interested in increasing profits? Yes. Revenues? Yes. Making our product easier, faster, and more useful? Most definitely. Will we grow our team? We already are, and we'll continue to do so!

But it is entirely possible to provide excellent products, offer top-notch customer service, and have outstanding uptime with a small, high-quality team working reasonable hours, if you're deliberate in what you choose to ignore.