How I Work: Flip Sasser, cofounder of Back Forty

This is Baltimore's "How I Work" series, a look at the tools and tips that local startup founders and creative leaders are using to get through the day.

Flip Sasser with the office dog, in Back Forty's then-Fells Point offices. The consultancy was later acquired by OrderUp.

(Photo courtesy of Flip Sasser)

Last week, we introduced you to Back Forty, the Fells Point tech consulting firm.

Flip Sasser, the cofounder of the two-year-old firm, took some time to talk to us in more detail about how he works, what keeps him going and how he clears his head.

Here’s how.


What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any startup-related work?

Drink two cups of coffee and get some exercise. Usually that’s just walking to work, but anything to get the blood moving helps.

How often do you check your e-mail, and do you use any program to get to inbox zero?

I use my email as a to-do list, so the goal is inbox zero but I rarely hit it. I’ll go through every actionable item in the morning and try to knock it out; then I leave whatever I’m waiting on in the inbox, close my email, and get to work. I’ll open it back up around lunchtime and again around 3-ish.

How do you keep track of your revenues and expenses?

I use Quickbooks and PNC’s online tools. I also keep a month-by-month, pro-forma income statement in Google Docs and update it with our revenue and savings numbers on the first of every month, which helps me both to keep my finger on the company’s pulse, and to pay the right taxes. Gotta pay taxes.

When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?

I go for a walk along the water. Our office is on Broadway Square, so the water is less than a block from our front door. I like to see how the harbor is doing on a given day. I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting bad water days (hint: it’s usually two days after it rains). It also helps me clear my head.


Where do you turn to for founder’s inspiration when you’re feeling low?

I reel off our list of clients in my head. It’s a sure-fire way to make me feel proud of what we’ve accomplished and to keep me from sinking too low when it seems like we’re hitting a brick wall. Hell, a wall is just a 90-degree turn waiting to happen anyway.

What’s your gear?

2011 Macbook Air, iPhone 5S, messenger bag. I’m the quintessential stereotypical web-designer-in-coffee-shop dork. I wish I wasn’t but here I am. Don’t try and change me.

What’s one time-saving tip you have?

Pomodoros. Spend 25 minutes focusing exclusively on one thing. Any interruption is ignorable if you tell yourself, “I’ll address that in 25 minutes.” It dramatically reduces the amount of context switching you have to do, which in turn makes you way, way more productive. And like all systems, you can bend the rules, so if you need to break for 15 minutes instead of 5, no one’s going to tell.

Companies: Back Forty
People: Flip Sasser
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