Part of it was skill, part of it was attention to detail, and the rest, he said, was in his blood.
All were attributes that helped independent Visual Basic developer Rob Hajicek launch his own company back in 1994. Even though SevenStar Technologies today offers two successful shareware products, Object Briefcase and StarPrint/VB, Hajicek is still doing it all on his own.
SevenStar's primary offering, Object Briefcase 3.3, is an add-in for Visual Basic 5.0 and 6.0. It allows code and controls, as well as library or scrapbook images, to be stored and reused from within the development environment.
The Object Briefcase Explorer provides a visual environment where a programmer can select the code or control and add it to a Visual Basic project with a click of the mouse.
"One of the main things that was a frustration with Visual Basic was you could copy a control from one object to another but the corresponding code could not go with it," said Hajicek.
"It was just very hard to gather all that together to move anything around. Object Briefcase was to be more than just a code library, but to be a code and control library," he said.
The ideal user of Object Briefcase, according to Hajicek, is a project manager, or someone who can take the time to understand and work with the tools in the program prior to the start of a project.
"When you have an entire team of developers using common code and a tool like this, the time savings just multiply," he said.
StarPrint/VB is another Visual Basic add-in offering from SevenStar that allows easily formatted printing of VB source code from a single procedure or an entire project. The Standard Edition is offered free by SevenStar with any download of Object Briefcase, while a more enhanced Professional Edition is available for a fee.
"The Professional Edition gives you a very easy way to print out your source code," said Hajicek. "It has everything from procedure filtering, sorting, and colorizing our code if you have a color printer. If you don't, it can still define in bold and underlining."
Being a programmer himself, Hajicek says he recognized a need for programs like Object Briefcase and StarPrint/VB. He also realized early on that it takes a wide range of skills to put together your own product and your own company to sell it.
"You need to wear many different hats," Hajicek said. "You need to have people skills because you're working with many people, be able to manage your finances well, and be able to manage your time well."
The road to success
In fact, when the first version of Object Briefcase was released in 1994, Hajicek was in the process of moving from Minnesota to Missouri, starting a new job, and his wife was about to have a baby.
"I was trying not to sacrifice family time, because family time is critically important. I felt if I had a business, I was not going to have it at expense of my family," he said.
To meet all of his obligations, Hajicek began sacrificing sleep. It was not long before he landed in the hospital as a result of sleep deprivation.
"I realized I wasn't able to continue with that kind of effort, and I needed to scale back," he said. "In 1996, I quit my full-time consulting job, and I went into independent contracting, and that allowed me to work four days a week."
Since that time, the success of Object Briefcase and StarPrint/VB has allowed Hajicek the luxury of cutting back his independent contracting work to focus mainly on SevenStar, now based in Valley Park, Mo.
Hajicek said in learning how to balance a successful business with a family life, he has discovered he must make tough choices on where to focus his efforts.
"When producing a shareware product such as Object Briefcase, as an individual, it's hard to have the time to put into making the product the absolute best that's out there... it's difficult to beat out a large bankrolled company. It doesn't mean the features are poorly implemented, but you can't have every single feature" you would like to have, said Hajicek.
Even though the life of an independent developer is often not an easy one, Hajicek said the struggles have been worth the rewards.
"Taking everything else out of the equation, just being able to be home on Fridays, being near my family while I'm working... On top of that, it's very satisfying to see a product, something that you've created and babied, and have people really enjoy it and use it," Hajicek said.
Object Briefcase 3.3 is available through SevenStar Technologies for $49. A 30-day free evaluation version is also available. Free technical support is offered, and anyone dissatisfied with the product can return it within a year of purchase for a full refund.
If you have an independent developer story you want to share for a possible future article on SearchVB, send an e-mail to Asst. News Editor Eric B. Parizo