Joe Quadara - From Fighting Fires to Lighting the Way: How Expertise Creates Leverage in Consulting
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Joe Quadara - From Fighting Fires to Lighting the Way: How Expertise Creates Leverage in Consulting

Jonathan Stark:

Hello, and welcome to ditching hourly. I'm Jonathan Stark. Today, I am joined by guest, Joe Cuadara. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Quadara:

Hey. Thank you.

Jonathan Stark:

So, folks, today, we are gonna talk about Joe's experience with indie game consulting and finding a sweet spot Where in your own words, the work almost became too easy. So I was really interested when you sent me that message, but first, Could you tell folks a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Maybe the short version is let's see. It's been 20 Plus years was making video games. I was in college for, graphic design and electronic music. And then it turned out that I realized video games is a career.

Joe Quadara:

While I was in college, I was playing video games in the arcade, met some game designers, and Asked them how they got started, and they all said it was QA or quality assurance AKA testing. Yep. And one of them said, you know, Joe, you'd be really good at it based on the way that you play the game. Like, it's, it was fighting games. It's, It's, Street Fighter, Tekken.

Joe Quadara:

And there were things that I was doing in the game that really had nothing to do with Winning, they had everything to do with breaking the game and turning the character in the wrong direction and fighting away from the other players and just Just doing wacky things and, Yeah. I I like I already had done a lot of 3 d work and 3ds Max in high school and Illustrator in in in high school. And then when I was in college, I was looking for, access to the like, they had Silicon Graphics machines. So this was, like, 98, 99 Mhmm. At 2000.

Joe Quadara:

And it was so funny. They they I I remember peeking in through the doors of the classroom. This is this would be 3rd year classes and, into this program, and They were literally just, like, writing their names and, just typing them in some font and then extruding it into 3 d. And it it's like, it was so basic in terms of what I could already

Jonathan Stark:

do. Wow.

Joe Quadara:

And I I was just like, can I get at least into these classes? And And they were like, oh, no, no, no. You gotta and the the one thing, like, the the I I did I don't remember what their role is, like counselor or whatever. They they said you can propose your own Curriculum. So I proposed it, and they just flat out denied it.

Joe Quadara:

Oh, jeez.

Jonathan Stark:

They got your role set.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Yeah. It was a it was a whole, like, confluence events, and I'm not gonna get too into, like, the the the darkness or the sadness of it, but, I found myself without financial aid and without, ability to, like, continue school. And I just remembered this one guy that would show up on Wednesdays at Sunnyvale Golfland and playing Tekken and saying, yeah, you could do it. And I found him.

Joe Quadara:

I was like, okay. You said it. I'm here. I gave him my resume, and 4 months later, I got a call from the QA manager. Wow.

Joe Quadara:

For slide dynamics that they it was like, I I I think it was $11 an hour to test video games, but the the glory and the beauty of it was it was a small company That nobody cared who you were or how you got there. It was just like, you're here. Great. What what can you do? We always need more work and they were happy that I knew fighting games and Eventually, I learned how to beat them all in Counter Strike.

Joe Quadara:

So they respected me for that too. So Oh, in fact. They may be the the combat and gateway designer at some point.

Jonathan Stark:

Of course.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Like, it was on so it was designer, project mold. I I one last bit is I I did make a, Faustian Deel was a producer that was just really good at managing everybody and on time. And I, and he said, be a producer for me and I'll make you A designer later and I did that and I'm glad I did because it taught me how to like be efficient with time and think about like when to make decisions I wanted to make big decisions, like, make them early and not make them late. And Right.

Joe Quadara:

That carried me forward for a long time.

Jonathan Stark:

Wild. Okay. So that's a a big timeline. So you said Yep. The that is re re story.

Jonathan Stark:

So, like

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. It really is. Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. So so from the Sunnyvale video game parlor, that was you said that was, like, late nineties? And and then so in the when you started to when you felt like you kind of had the producer role under your belt, like, what year would that have been?

Joe Quadara:

I'd say Brain's Your Role was about, like, 2006, and then, and then I crafted what we now call gameplay designer On, like, the Tomb Raider, titles, but, like, we didn't have that role before. That wasn't a title, so it was sort of like self directed A thing I could do. And then it segued that into, like, lead combat, lead gameplay, design director, etcetera. It was, It's a funny thing to be able to be in an industry and navigate Through it. And I I have plenty of peers that have done the same thing, so it's not I'm not unique in this, but now there are people like going to school and getting and reading books It's about what I learned on the job.

Jonathan Stark:

Just totally cutting edge brand new stuff. Yep. Just Before we move into the the sort of business aspects of the the consulting, how would you quantify the size of The market. Video games seem like like there's a million of them, but compared to, say, like, the number of Hollywood movies that come out in a year, how many video games come Funny year. Is it, like, way more, way less?

Joe Quadara:

It's getting more every year. I think there was and that's a large part of the, like, I'm gonna mess up this quarter. I think the the democratization of just tools for it it it It's easier and easier for younger and younger people to make and fewer and fewer fewer people to make games, where Smaller smaller teams. Yeah. Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

Like, once it took, like, you know, like, there was, like, the like, we're literally inventing the technology, and then at some point, Technology becomes sort of like there's a winning version of it, and there's an easier use or data pattern, and, like, it's ubiquitous Pushed out forward.

Jonathan Stark:

Mhmm. Would you categorize things like you know, I've got, like, still pretty young kids. Would you categorize things like Roblox In game stuff as games or no?

Joe Quadara:

Oh, totally. Yeah. Yeah. Like, and Roblox is amazing because it actually like exposes The players to the ability to change things and write their own, which is exactly what Being a game designer or a game developer is. It's like being able to see the thing and saying, I wish it was a little bit different and being able to go in there and change it.

Joe Quadara:

I think that's, like, really important is, like, not to take, software as face value. It's being able to, like, see it as, like, how I can If I can dream it to be a little bit different, I can potentially change it.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. I don't have to just be a consumer. I can be a creator.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Yeah. That's very important.

Jonathan Stark:

Love that. Yeah. Cool. Okay. So is there, like, is it a a $1,000,000,000 market?

Jonathan Stark:

Is it a $100,000,000 market?

Joe Quadara:

I think we're beyond the value of Hollywood at this point. So, I don't know the number. It's certainly over a 1000000000 because There are entire franchises that are $1,000,000,000 franchise. Amazing. And like like Grand Theft Auto, for instance, is An outlier, but is easily a $1,000,000,000 franchise in itself.

Joe Quadara:

And there are, of course, you know, like 6 of them or whatever, like the 6 that's coming out Probably in the next year or so, but, we're talking multi billions. And, and It's and if you look at games across the demographics of it, it's actually Fairly even across like genders as well, which is great. It's it's but the it's when we we have to open our minds in terms of games. It's not just all like Fighting games and shooters and sports games. There's like the Sims and there's animal crossing and there's Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

A lot of and there's Games on the phone and, like, mobile games has really taken off, in the last 10 years to the point where, there's Entirely new models, essentially, like in terms of, like, pricing and business models of it's all based on platform and usage really. But it's a it's highly lucrative. My, personal gripe is that a lot of the time the developers Do not really get to partake in the success of the games?

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. So that's a perfect segue into the consulting bit. What is indie game consult? So, like, what how do you define the like, they're gonna be on probably most people are even if they're familiar with playing CS GO or whatever, they're not familiar with the industry. So, like, what is an indie game studio in the first Place and what it versus what?

Jonathan Stark:

Like

Joe Quadara:

Right.

Jonathan Stark:

Person in their basement versus EA.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. We we We, for a long time, talked in the industry of, the the big game that we all know. Right? The, The counter strikes, the, beyond counter strike. Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

That's why it's, we're gonna the Call of Duties, The Fortnite.

Jonathan Stark:

Fortnite. Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

All the big ones that you know, we call those AAA. And The triple a, it's not really very easily definable, but if you really look at all of them, it's About some marketing budget and the budget of the development budget. Right? So if you're talking about World of Warcraft or anything that Blizzard makes, Overwatch, League of Legends. These are all games that are somewhere at I'd say Minimum of 60,000,000 and that's like really a stretch because most of them probably touch, A $100,000,000 to make.

Joe Quadara:

And then if they're, say, taking a $100,000,000 to make, they're probably they're spending a lot of money in Marketing and just getting their, name out there. Right? So that's that tends to be AAA. And then Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

It's like a blockbuster, Hollywood blockbuster.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Yeah. There there tends every now and then we have the, the darlings that kinda come out That are not quite AAA, like the Elden Rings, the Demon's Souls, these games that come out of Japan that are don't quite have the same budget, but They certainly crunch their developers to the bones and make it, and then and the players love it. And then and I have no problem with those Games in terms of, like, the playability of it, I'd certainly have a problem with the, the development method of, like, well, should people be working 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. Sure.

Joe Quadara:

Probably not. But these are amazing people. It's like the the it's like the Miyazaki's kinda like, studios of the the world. So but when you really kinda hearken back, then there's oh, in the last, I'd say, decade, There's been a lot of games that have come out that are made for 20,000,000 or less and often 5,000,000 or less. Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

And these are games that kind of, like, touch on they're they're unique. They're weird. They're strange. They don't, They don't have realistic graphics. They tend to be stylized.

Joe Quadara:

They tend to, ignore The affordances in design that we normally expect and they have, they they a smaller market, but Who they connect with and how they connect tends to be really strong. And

Jonathan Stark:

Right.

Joe Quadara:

If you know film I mean, I'm gonna, like, Speak to myself for a second. Like, David Lynch. I love David Lynch. He's weird, and I don't recommend David Lynch to anybody, but David Lynch And I will for whatever reason, I love his films. Right?

Joe Quadara:

And I love Jemaine Clement and, like, And I go with TT and there are weird films every now and then. And and and these kind of like strange little small films that sometimes get pulled into them. Herbal For whatever reason or Mandalorian, you know, it's like Yeah. I I applaud it. You know?

Joe Quadara:

I was like Kevin Smith and and Clark, These small budget films, it's similar with the indie world, and, it's where I want change to go. I don't want Games to be all about combat and all about selling a, a power fantasy.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. Yeah. That's funny. I never thought of it like that, don't know exactly what you mean.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So it's like, if you think of it, you go all the way back to, like, you know, Galaga and, these arcade games. They The reason they work, I could I'm I'm like, I wanna stop myself for a second just to because I can I can go on a rant right now?

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. Let me okay. So I'll ask you some I guess this is I'm not sure if this is relevant to the listener, but it's relevant to me, so I'm gonna ask anyway. So what when you look at a game like Granny or 5 Nights at Freddy or Slay the Princess that are arguably ugly

Joe Quadara:

And it's

Jonathan Stark:

overly simplistic. Like, that doesn't bother you.

Joe Quadara:

It used to. Mhmm. It used to. I really wanted games to be The best that they could be. And now I'm realizing there's a charm to the weirdness.

Joe Quadara:

And And weirdness is like, and if and if we love the weird Elliot, if I There was a moment and there's it was actually you can see it now. Even you will look at, like, any game commercial or game trailer, you know, for best games of 2023 or best games 2024 on YouTube. I guarantee you, you're gonna see a lot of games that look really similar. Yeah. Because all that money is going into, realism and a sense and a sense of a zeitgeist of even if it's not Pure realism, there's a zeitgeist of style that is pushing on technology and pushing on, Well, just the the the, like, the expense essentially.

Joe Quadara:

Yep. Like, not just like avatar or anything else. And and there's a moment where you just sit back and you're like, these games all look the same. And then, like, 10 minutes ago, it was like, they were all desat, Like desaturated art and with, and, gears of war was the big one, which happened to be epic games, which now makes Fortnite. And I sold it off Microsoft, the, the, the point is like, well, dirty, gritty, textures was the thing in back in the day.

Joe Quadara:

And now it's, We're moving so far into realism and, that if you aren't looking So amazing. And and, like, I hate this word, but stalemate, maybe cinematic. Yep. Then Then are you really, like, is is your dollar worth it? You're spending 60, 70, $80 plus DLC and Battle pass.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

As the customer. Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Then like, are you getting your money's worth really? And that's kind of the question there. And Right. But if you look at indie games, they have to compete on a different scale because if you compete on realism, then I call it it's an arms race, and you you just Can't compete with these big dogs.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. So you need to go in the other direction almost and just be like, yeah, we're obviously not playing that game because, like, look at Bendy and the Ink Machine or Little Nightmares Or something. It's like

Joe Quadara:

Play the spy. It's like it it like, it's a it's a beautiful game, but it's weird and strange and it's not Done by a traditional artist. It's almost outsider art and but the game is so beautifully crafted.

Jonathan Stark:

What's that one called?

Joe Quadara:

Slay the Spires. Oh, the, it's like it's a card game. It's like a it's a there's a whole genre now called rogue Likes and rogue lights. And it's it's, you you will die every time you play. And that's the point.

Joe Quadara:

And the point is but every time you play, you are earning something that will make your next run, Easier or more interesting. And it's, for indie game developers, it happens to be An efficient way of making games because you can keep adding on content as you and and have a live product.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. So you can kind of build as you can lay the tracks in front of the train, so to speak.

Joe Quadara:

Yes. It it ends in players. Don't they just, if I make a Tomb Raider, I'm doing level 1, level 2, level 3, and there's an sequential narrative. And if I happen to update the game and say, oh, Hey. You beat the game or you're in level 3.

Joe Quadara:

It doesn't matter where you're 6 months in. I've updated the game with this new, Content. A lot of players are just gonna see that content and see it. It's not for me. Maybe I've I've I've already I'm already I've already beat the game Or, that will only really affect level 2.

Joe Quadara:

I'm too far in To make that count, but if the game, as in default sort of standard, like the the idea is like I keep playing it over and over and it's my next I have more unlocks to earn, you know. It it kinda works. And so for indie game developers, it's it's just been like a growing genre. There's there's a lot of, like, ways to think about game development and what works for a small team It's completely different for what works for a large team.

Jonathan Stark:

So somebody that's in your sweet spot in terms of in indie game consulting, what does that shop usually look like?

Joe Quadara:

It's wild. It's, it's so much smaller than I ever imagined, to be honest. Like, these are themes of, like, 5 to 7 people. And they have a, a Rolodex Kind of like, which is I'm sure an outdated term, of course, but like

Jonathan Stark:

all of

Joe Quadara:

them, like another 10 to 12 people that You climb onto the team and become part. But what, what's great about the on track nature of these extra people is They don't feel like they are obligated to be, full time employees with, with with benefits, Beyond whatever their contracted sort of work is.

Jonathan Stark:

And are these usually, like, I'm just imagining they're pretty young. Like, are we talking about people in their Twenties normally or not necessarily?

Joe Quadara:

I've seen quite a lot of differences. I've seen teams that are working On with primarily South America, I've seen teams that are, are All hold into one location because that's what brings them together. I've seen, like, my own team is I have an separate team in Ohio and it's what's great about it is the team loves working together and being together. And that's what generates They're creativity. Right?

Jonathan Stark:

So

Joe Quadara:

and there's other teams that are, Yeah. They they're for whatever reason, they just gel even though they're remote, but they, it I I do think there's a time zone factor. They're in the same time zone usually. It's really hard to manage Game teams across multiple time zones. Not saying it's possible.

Joe Quadara:

The AAA big barrier teams, they do it all the time, but Getting collaboration across time zones is not the easiest thing. It's very multi disciplined. So it it requires a lot of, people coming together and saying, what is the problem? How do we solve it together rather than how do I solve it individually on my own?

Jonathan Stark:

What do you offer to these these sorts of studios in terms of consulting? Like, what is the issue that they're having? What stage of their business maturity or or artistic maturity are they at? You know, like, have they have they done 5 games For and then they would need someone like you, or is this their first rodeo? Like, what's the what's the problem that they're having that you could You're the best at helping them with.

Joe Quadara:

Jonathan, that's something great about it. I, I'm gonna give you a lot of credit on this one. I used to be a firefighter. Mhmm. I used to be called in To a game team that was, say, 6 months from release, and they had, We'll say there was one in particular that had something like 12, boss fight battles to do for their for their game and those are so the main thing about their game was combat.

Joe Quadara:

In in in games terms, it was 3rd person action. So kinda like a Fortnite kind of thing. Right. But, They hadn't done any any of their boss battles. They had a lot of, like, levels with enemies, but they needed the, you know, just like the, Complex, just moments to just capitalize on each level.

Joe Quadara:

And I heard that, and I just could not imagine getting that done because I like, In my mind, what they wanted to hit was the top level, again, AAA, big budget style boss battles. And And I looked at them, and I said, do you know the the God of War team that is known for boss battles? They have teams of, Let's say 12 people up to 20 people that are working for at minimum 4 months to a year Her boss battle. That's so

Jonathan Stark:

crazy. And

Joe Quadara:

you want me to come in

Jonathan Stark:

To do 3 of them in 6

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. To do, like, 12 of them in 6 months. And I was just like, it's not gonna happen. And I was getting these kind of blank stares of, like, Does not compute. Like, they they, they had already agreed to having this game done

Jonathan Stark:

You're right.

Joe Quadara:

By a certain time.

Jonathan Stark:

Who who they who's that agreement with? Well, they're,

Joe Quadara:

the investors, the people that are giving them money bay on a milestone basis to have the game done by a certain date.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. And are these are these just

Joe Quadara:

These would be pub be, publishers. Sure. Okay. Thanks. These are the, the yeah.

Joe Quadara:

The the structure is publishers typically fund the game Man, whole or in part and get to sort of like, they They offer marketing. They offer distribution. They offer, essentially, in in on top of that, all the other things that A developer won't even think about building. And in return, they get they recoup their costs at some Some ratio, like, maybe 70% of the dollar this trend or so.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Okay. Any game publishers that people listening might have heard of just to place it?

Joe Quadara:

Yes. Yeah. Of course. So you've heard of EA. You've heard of so EA is a third party publisher.

Joe Quadara:

That means they are like on their own. They are not Owned by a platform. So Microsoft is a first party with they have their own hardware platform. They have the Xbox. Right?

Joe Quadara:

So whenever Microsoft is publishing a game that's their own, they probably Don't mind spending a little bit more because it's probably selling hardware also. Yep. Same thing with Sony, with the PlayStation, same thing with Nintendo. These are all first party platforms. Yay.

Joe Quadara:

2 k, Rockstar. Those are the 3rd party publishers. And then you From there, are you, what was the other one? Oh, Activision Blizzard. Right?

Joe Quadara:

So that's a novice.

Jonathan Stark:

Well, didn't Microsoft buy Blizzard?

Joe Quadara:

They did just buy yeah. They've been in I don't know. I think it may have just gone through. I think there was a, what is it called? A song.

Joe Quadara:

But anti dress, process to get through. So I don't know if they Totally got through that yet, but I think it's pretty much hit all the gates. So and Activision Blizzard was was the biggest third party up until Recently when Microsoft bought it.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. Yeah. Okay. That that's super helpful. Alright.

Jonathan Stark:

So the cliffhanger, what happened with the the 12 boss battles in in your

Joe Quadara:

Oh, eyes.

Jonathan Stark:

During the headlights team.

Joe Quadara:

Poor team. They like, they I I moved away. I I I like I I literally walked away and I we we just could not come to an agreement of working together. It was almost like we were talking speaking a different language. And so to answer your question, I changed my positioning because I didn't wanna be a firefighter anymore.

Joe Quadara:

Wanted to prevent fire. Mhmm. And so, excuse me, I'm taking sip of water here. Sure. I through talking to you, I realized what if I get, in on the the funding positioning?

Joe Quadara:

What if I help them get funding and when they're pitching the investors and asking for a certain amount of money, we will I can help them, developers and studios, ask for the right amount of money for the game that they're making. And, pitching the concept of this is the game we were this is the film or this is the game we wanna build. And if we wanna do Twelve boss battles, and we know what it's gonna cost and we know how we're gonna do it. So we're asking for the right amount of money. We're, Setting up the team in the right way to make sure that we have it done right.

Joe Quadara:

And we're, being pretty honest and Honest and authentic in what we're pitching.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Just realistic.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. So that's that's been my angle ever since, and it's been A lot of fun. I I I work with smaller teams, which is constraints are good, Jonathan.

Jonathan Stark:

Oh, yeah. You need him.

Joe Quadara:

It's like, wait a second. What if what if we don't do stealth and melee fight again, arranged fight again, all this other stuff. What if we just like sink it down to the core fantasy of the game And make it as unique as possible. So that's, that's been, that's been the way that we do it. And the teams, I think Generally, like, really enjoy the core, thrust of the vision that they end up with.

Joe Quadara:

And it's not my vision, it's They're a vision. Right.

Jonathan Stark:

So that kind of right sizing the budget and the vision Would happen before the the indie studio has it's when they're negotiating a deal with some publisher. Right?

Joe Quadara:

Yep.

Jonathan Stark:

Okay. And then would you hang around to kind of troubleshoot or oversee or or, maybe be a sounding board along the way, or is that the end?

Joe Quadara:

It's more like I'm a sounding board. I'm I'm not there's no overseeing by that point, I've Seth and, with their core constraints so well that we kind of just have an ongoing type of relationship. And then, there's one that he emailed. It's, it's I'll just call them Tim and John right now. They have a project called The Feast They've been working on it for gosh.

Joe Quadara:

Like, I I feel like it's 3 years, but they give me updates every few months in terms of like, Hey, Joe. This is where we're at. This is what we're doing. This is sort of the, core rest of our game, and we've Identified a publisher that is gonna work with us and and so forth. And, I think even right now they're putting together What they call the Joe build of the game?

Joe Quadara:

So they can, like, really update me on where it's gone from where they started.

Jonathan Stark:

Nice. And so is that a formal relationship, or is that is that just sort of a a post client?

Joe Quadara:

That's a post client thing that I do. And then once they get funding, I imagine we'll be working together again. And that's kind of the intent I mean, like, my my goal of all of this is to sort of, like, have a sort of like a I don't know what the word is, but a a group of sustainable indie studios that Not necessarily are looking at me for advice, but are all sort of working together and Sharing their experience with each other. I've had so many studios I've worked with in the more AAA space that has, shut down Tabastrophically, we're like 400 people in the Boston, Rhode Island, and Baltimore areas lost their job.

Jonathan Stark:

I know the Rhode Island. Sorry.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Hit it. And there's and there's not enough game companies there to absorb the, new the employees that need hiring. Right? So that's That's probably ends up being, like, 300 people that kind of and that's 300 employees, which represents probably, like, You know, and it's like a easily a 1000 people have to move.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. It goes up and everything. And so it was just It it's not a sustainable way to, like, inflate the the pitch and the concept to, investors And then hire big. And then if it doesn't work, lay off people, especially once people start having families. So A large part of what I'm doing is trying to, like, model a better way of doing it.

Jonathan Stark:

Interesting. Very interesting. Okay. So what What is the model that you're using to sort of fund your whatever your lifestyle is? Like, how are you putting terriers in the bowl with this kind of, This kind of consulting business.

Joe Quadara:

What was the clue? How do I put Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

Like, Cheerios in the bowl. Like, how how do you

Joe Quadara:

Cheerios in the bowl. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. Where's your cash flow come from? Is the

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. So I was really fortunate because, when I made the decision to be a consultant, I was a director at a publisher, so I was part of the funding, apparatus. And I was able to convince my boss to well, actually he offered, he said, will you consult? Well, you work with us on a contract basis as a consultant. And it like literally asking me if I would Work for him on a contract basis as I'm trying trying this consulting venture out, which is amazing because now I've got access to AAA funding.

Joe Quadara:

And I I didn't know I wanted to do indie consulting at this time. And but I had my first client, Essentially, which was my former employer.

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah. That's actually kind of common. Not not maybe 50% of the time, but a lot of folks who get started in consulting their first client is their past Their last employer. It's not not totally rare for people listening like that. If you're still in house, that can be a really nice Sort of escape route.

Joe Quadara:

I and yeah. And I don't I did not expect that from my boss, but I really, I thank him very much. And, and even to this day, like, it was last year, he called me twice to like work on a couple projects. Cool. So I will always work on the larger projects or the people that I have these deeper relationships with.

Jonathan Stark:

Mhmm.

Joe Quadara:

Well, at this point now, I've I've really honed it into, a 2 week evaluation, and I will I will never make an exception at this point to that 2H evaluation because everybody says what they think they need. And well, I'm not saying they're wrong, but like, I have to make sure that I know what I'm getting into before I Start pricing things or say yes to things.

Jonathan Stark:

Yep.

Joe Quadara:

So I always, have a sliding scale based on, essentially what I perceive their budget to me, and really good now at this point is understanding, figuring out what their budget might be. And indie games are not big. They're like, like I said, 5,000,000 or less. They're like usually like 2,000,000 or less. So I don't got a whole lot of money, but I'll say, here's what it is.

Joe Quadara:

I'll do a 2 week evaluation. And in the 1st week, I will, speak with all your stakeholders. I'll look at all your materials, whether you've got a build of the game or not, or just pitch materials and documents. And then I will have a meeting at the end of the 1st week with the stakeholders and kind of give you my, verbal Take on the on the on assessment on how things are going. And it and it's really just to kinda like just see I'm on the right track.

Joe Quadara:

And and then maybe there's something we're missing. And it's happened a few times where we're like, oh, shit. Well, we I'm sorry. We forget we we forget that. Like, we forgot to, like, even show Joe, this entire, like, section of the documents or the game.

Joe Quadara:

And I go, oh, okay, great. Cool. I got that. And then at the end of the second week, I've got a written document and it's clean and it's, PDF and It essentially just boils it down to the really big things that they need to be aware of. And there's couple pages of Minor things, but I make sure there's it's usually about 3 to 5 really big things that if they're not Making these changes, they I don't know.

Joe Quadara:

They will the the reason they called me is for a reason. I don't know what it is, But these 5 things are, or 3 to 5 things are probably are, are, are affecting their, their products. And and they have to make that these changes. And I don't need to be there to make these changes. They this is for them to do.

Joe Quadara:

Mhmm. And I, I that's the main thing. And then I, go over that with them and come up usually after that. Here's Couple offerings on all the and those offerings have evolved into, essentially like a, Like, advisor, according to, like, a milestone, they may have a milestone that they're trying to hit in order to, get their next round of funding, Or maybe they've got a, specialist kind of gameplay thing that they need to hit and They don't have the leadership that they need, but they have got somebody interested in working on that space. And so I call it like design mentor.

Joe Quadara:

And so I'll work with that person, like, twice a week, whatever cadence of, like, development that is in. And it's let's let's talk about what you're working on this week. I will give you all the advice that I can in order to make sure that you hit your milestones. And then next week, let's review your work. And it tends to be after 3 months, Whatever, like, lack of confidence that they had in this sort of junior person, they just, they they get it.

Joe Quadara:

I called the Eye of Sauron. Right? You know what I mean?

Jonathan Stark:

Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

Like, does that make sense? So it's like in development, there's like so many things that can go wrong and win like The area of, gameplay that I'm known for, does Goes wrong, but it's like everybody knows about it. Everybody's looking at about it. They're trying to fix it. And that's why I get called.

Joe Quadara:

And then 3 months later, they like, They they don't worry about it anymore. So they're just like, great. Joe, it's been great. We've hit our milestone. Everything's good.

Joe Quadara:

And, I've Creating relationship with some new designers and animators and programmers, and I don't know that I'm always available for them if they have future questions.

Jonathan Stark:

Cool. So so what in in your message or is that that kinda kicked this off, like, what you you mentioned finding the sweet spot where the work almost becomes easy. Like, is this, an ex is this the sweet spot? Like, this the eyesore on offering or the just sort of, like, giving them A clear eyed assessment of where they're currently at and what the challenges are probably gonna be getting from where they are to where they wanna go.

Joe Quadara:

I think so. I I think The I will still do the evaluation. I'm getting to the point now where I'm pretty com I've got 80% confidence of what the evaluation will result in, In the first 15 minutes of the conversation.

Jonathan Stark:

Yep. That is called a cold read and it comes from working with The same no. I shouldn't say the same kinds of kinds of but it's like being very specialized on a kind of client Allows you to to get past to graduate from having a Y conversation every single time into doing a cold read where you can you can take a look around just based on Obvious characteristics of the of the firm and take pretty good guess. Like you said, 80% guess of, like, let me guess. You've got this problem, this problem, this problem, and they're like, Oh my god.

Jonathan Stark:

What do you have? ESP?

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. Yeah. That's exactly it. And so and it's even the budget or they'll say, we've got a team in Sweden or whatever it is, and they'll mention something. And that's all I need to hear

Jonathan Stark:

Mhmm.

Joe Quadara:

To understand What it is that it you know, and also the relationship of who it is that's calling me.

Jonathan Stark:

Right?

Joe Quadara:

And that's all it takes. And I It's not I don't take any pride in, figuring it out fast. I don't want to, in fact. I would rather just be like, okay. I think I know where this is going, but keep it open because Every now and then I'm surprised

Jonathan Stark:

Sure.

Joe Quadara:

By what it is.

Jonathan Stark:

Yep.

Joe Quadara:

So it's it's kind of like having that kind of, Open minded curiosity of it, but where it becomes easy now is I don't have to overthink it. I don't I'm not Spending my spare cycles in between meetings, wondering and trying to figure it out.

Jonathan Stark:

Right. Yeah. Yeah. It makes total sense.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. I have I process. It doesn't take a few it doesn't take many hours. It's A few meetings that it takes and then and then it's done. And then I've got my even even the document that I give them, I, I, I almost am embarrassed to say that, like, it's starting to get to the point where I can copy and paste.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. A lot of the suggestions and, and, assessments and just Change a few words. And, like, I don't want it to be the case, but that is the case where I I could do that. And it is that easy.

Jonathan Stark:

That that a 100% comes from Focus. I had the same thing years ago. I I used to do a similar kind of thing where I would do these Roadmaps for freelancers and consultants who wanted to, who were, you know, they they're just like, I don't know what to do. I need someone to tell me what to do. And so I'd interview them, and then I'd write up this big report, and it got longer and longer and longer as I added things to it.

Jonathan Stark:

And it was and then over time, I was like, There's basically only 2 versions of this report that I create.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

You know? It's I'm giving all the same re you know, I ended up turning it into a book. I'm like, You just you don't have to and I canceled the road mapping thing. I'm like, if you're like this, a, b, and c, you're basically a new freelancer. Read this book.

Jonathan Stark:

And it's gonna be 90% of what you need to hear. So, you know, just for the for the listener, this is Purely from focusing, being really specific about who you work with. And over time, you know, you could I'm not saying you, Joe, but But you listener can say, oh, I I've kinda got this dialed. Maybe I'm gonna go, up And, you know, a size. And so maybe I'm gonna start handling bigger clients in the same vertical, or maybe I'm gonna go to an adjacent vertical, or maybe I'm gonna do something.

Jonathan Stark:

I'm gonna tackle a new area, but using my same process and skills and create the sort of new, You know, boilerplate is overstating it, but the same sort of product in another vertical. So it's a really it's not The reason I say that is because it's not really limiting. You can it doesn't limit you at all. It just makes it easier. You know, it frees up your time and creative energy just like you said in the message, And you can kind of, you know, you can be pretty confident.

Jonathan Stark:

You're gonna hit a double every time you get up to the. You know, at least it would be weird if you struck out. And it's a great feeling to have that sense of A high degree of competence when you walk into a situation like this, having that the confidence of the competence, kinda hard to say. It's a feeling that you do that you get addicted to. And and if you, again, not you, Joe, but in in historically speaking, It used to seem fun to me to, like, jump into a brand new situation with every client and, like, learn their industry and all that stuff.

Jonathan Stark:

But once you know an industry and once you don't have to go all of that learning curve, and you can just hit the ground running. You don't really I think most people don't wanna go back to that kind of, like, Noob. One zero one. Oh, how how do you how does money through flow through the business? How do you attract clients?

Joe Quadara:

It's Right.

Jonathan Stark:

If you have to ask all of those questions, sometimes sometimes from a consulting standpoint, it is the case that a client really needs an outsider To bring in fresh eyes. But a lot of times it's not the case. They just need someone that knows their industry or, you know, whatever the thing is about them that that is unique And can or not unique, but to their their space.

Joe Quadara:

Mhmm. And

Jonathan Stark:

come in and be like, let me guess. You've got these 5 problems. And they're like, Yeah. Not the 5th one, but the other 4. Yeah.

Jonathan Stark:

And then we've got this other one. It's really, really it's an example of creating leverage in your business, like an expertise business. That is one way to create leverage where you don't have to waste a ton of time doing research and getting up to speed. You can just Hit the ground running, but super important. I'm glad you called this out.

Jonathan Stark:

It's super important to keep an open mind because you don't know everything, and you might be surprised sometimes.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. And in every in every time, if I feel like I act like I know it and, say too much too early, I'm Probably cheating myself. That's good. Because no, it's like there's, there's just some, there's some nuance there that's a little bit like Unspoken. Whoever calls me, maybe it's sometimes it's like, I haven't dealt with companies that have, Three partners, you know, and and the dynamic of the 3 partners is such that There are things that can't be said in the presence of the 3.

Jonathan Stark:

Uh-huh.

Joe Quadara:

Like come out over the course of my evaluation. Right? Yeah. Eric. And for whatever and I and I have an ability because be by not saying anything early, I am able to say it later and it'd be more effective.

Jonathan Stark:

Totally. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm looking at the Clock in the wall. I know we both have to run to other things.

Jonathan Stark:

So, this has been super helpful. Thanks so much, Joe.

Joe Quadara:

Thank you for letting me just, like, Talk about my work over the last few years. Is that like, and then honestly, like when you, when you were first telling me about How consulting could be this way. I felt it was true, but it felt so weird and strange. And now I'm like, oh, yes. Okay.

Joe Quadara:

Great. I love it. It's true. And now I'm telling other people, but I feel like I'm I'm speaking in different language to them sometimes. Yeah.

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. So So it's great to talk to you and, like, reflect back. I'm like, okay. Yeah. I'm living it now.

Joe Quadara:

It's great.

Jonathan Stark:

That's awesome. Glad to hear it. Cool. Where can people go to find out more about you? What's your website, or do you have social media if people wanna have follow-up questions or if they know an indie studio that might need your help, something like that?

Joe Quadara:

Yeah. I wow. Really need to update my website. I'm gonna so it it's a recurver. It's a recurve With an r at the end and it's, based on archery and I'll just say it a quick, stint right there.

Joe Quadara:

It's you stand In the same location, you're shooting at a target and you're a little over or a little under, you adjust. And that's it's It's basically just a word for iteration, but recurver.com.

Jonathan Stark:

Awesome. Joe Q. Thanks again for joining me.

Joe Quadara:

Thank you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Stark:

Alright, folks. That's it for this week. I'm Jonathan Stark, and I hope you join me again next time on Ditching Hourly. Bye.

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Jonathan Stark
The Ditching Hourly Guy • Author of Hourly Billing Is Nuts • Former software developer on a mission to rid the world of hourly building