Thursday, December 12, 2013

7 years and counting

In a moment of reflection, I have decided to look back on the last 7 years of being self-employed and take a look into the future.

Why take on running your own business?

The reasons why any of is take on the task of running our own business (or as people like to say 'being your own boss') is pretty wide.
I guess because my father ran his own business(s) up until a few years ago is probably the biggest factor. I remember there were times that we just didn't see much of him as he was either down at his workshop (he was a panel beater/car restorer) or in the garage at home working on cars, he did this to keep our family fed, clothed and all that stuff.
But after speaking to him I think there was an ulterior motive, and sub consciously its the same reason why I do what I do..... we love what we do.
For my dad it was cars, bikes, anything with a motor in it, he was always tinkering with something, tweaking suspension setups, fuel mixes, there was always something that could be done better.

For me its not;
  • the freedom of working for myself
  • the millions of pounds I haven't made yet (although .....)
  • the easy hours I dreamt about
  • the long holidays between projects
However there is one part that falls into every aspect of what I do, that is I like to solve problems and make things work better.

I left the 9-5 after watching a fairly successful business self implode because of one mans greed(albeit out of the ashes I helped shape the IT for a company that is one hundred times better in every way Visalogic).
I should have seen it coming, at the Christmas party the year before the 'evil' director said of the 'good' director, "well it's been 10 years, if I did it all again, I might do it with ???".
Having a front row seat to this debacle (I am amazed no one went to jail over some of the underhanded crap that happened), gave me an insight and something to aim for and it definitely wasn't to be involved in this sort of thing again.

How to do it?

I was amazingly lucky that my wife understood my dream of starting my own business (we did set some ground rules about how long I had to do it, no use flogging a dead horse and all that).
The day I handed my notice in was possibly the most amazing day of my IT career, I had already lined up a few very small projects (all of them were under priced and not worth my time, but I had something, my idea worked) and a regular retainer at a new visa services company I was set.
With a couple of successful projects out of the way and nearly no money in the bank I started to get more work in through word of mouth and nearly all of these clients I still have today, so I must have done something right.

Fast forward

7 years on and I am ticking along, I haven't found the winning million pound project yet, but it is early days and projects like mylearningworx, wemoot, yomeformo still out there gathering no moss and a some great core clients I am really happy with how it has gone so far, but there is no time to take my foot of the pedal.

Economic crisis?

So far I have been lucky as I have not been directly affected by the economic down turn, I have always tried to not rely on any one client/industry for projects, this I think has been the saving grace for my little company and I feel very fortunate to have been able to keep going.
Saying that I know a lot of other developers in the .Net world who have not been affected either, maybe the surge of technology has saved us the hassle of having to deal with it.
Indirectly the downturn has affected everyone who run s a business, the cost of doing stuff is a lot higher, travel, utilities, etc really has an affect on the bottom line and it does make it difficult to try to negotiate rates etc as every company is affected the same way.

Where to next? 

2013 has been  a big year for me, start-ups like mylearningworx lauching at Learning Technologies in January and then going into the b2b market a month ago (with some pretty amazing possibilities on the horizon I might add) and cool projects like my CTO role at TheGivingLab it has been a year of learning how to mix technology, business and innovation properly.

There are some great ideas flying around for 2014, if any one of them come to fruition it will be a busy year...

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