You’re a real company when…

Ever since I started Smart Bear, there’s been a running question of “When do you know you’re a real company?”

Which of these are true: You’re a real company when…

  • You have a domain name that isn’t weird.
  • Your business cards don’t say “VistaPrint” on the back.
  • You take PO’s in addition to credit cards, and you’ve gotten over the fact that, yes, you have to actually ship the product before they give you money.
  • You have to switch from Quicken to Quickbooks.
  • You hire the first real employee.
  • You pay someone else to print pay stubs and pay your monthly employment taxes because you’re just tired of doing it yourself.
  • You have a sign on the building.
  • A real artist does your website and handouts.
  • You have a 256-page color glossy hard-backed book chronicling your ascent in the world (Saw this at Adobe. Gorgeous. I asked everyone I met there about it and no one but the receptionist had ever seen it. It’s sitting in the lobby. The receptionist, by the way, knew exactly what their branch of Adobe (Ottawa) did and could articulate why people bought it in about 15 seconds. Her elevator pitch was better than the 10 minute diatribe I got from a senior manager later that day.)

I made one of those bold because that’s the one I think has always stuck with me. We got the sign about a year ago, and it really was a proud moment.

Currently Smart Bear has everything but the glossy book (but we do have a book with a glossy cover with over 7000 copies in circulation). The 8000’th user of our various software products just came on-line. That makes me feel like a real company.  [2009 Update: now 45,000 books and 30,000 paying users]