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Archive for March, 2010

Spend most of my time on non-billable items

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I find myself spending half the day on non-billable items.   Things I do a lot of are:

1) maintenance of my servers
2) researching and playing with new technologies that I may want to include into my business
3) evaluating the processes of past projects to see if I met my objectives
4) devising strategies to improve on item 3)
5) networking and communicating with talented individuals (like scouting out talent)
6) misc. stuff like updating my website, finances, invoices etc…

Written by John Lai

March 30th, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Engineers work with nature. Businessmen control nature.

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I posted this just now on redflagdeals, but will repost here:

I graduated from electrical engineering at U of T in 2004 and now I own and run my own business.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen a business program (with a couple of elective software dev courses) over an engineering program. The reason for this hind-sight decision is also the answer to a question I’m frequently asked, “Why did I start my own IT business”. The answer is as follows:

Imagine you’re an engineeer and this month, you have to design a house in Canada. You’d design it with a good heating system, good insulation, carpeted floors because it gets cold in Canada. Next month, you have to design a house in Iran. You’d design it with a good air-conditioning system, less insulation, stone floors because it gets hot in Iran. Each time you have to build a house in a new location, you have to re-evaluate your existing tools and technology to see if they are applicable.

A well trained engineer will eventually ask, “Isn’t there a way to design a one-size-fits all solution?” Regardless of whether it’s possible or not, a good engineer will ask the question in hopes of devising an efficient and re-useable solution. But of course, within the realm of engineering, a one-house-fits all for all geographies, terrains, seasons and weathers is impossible.

The solution to a one-size-fits all problem requires a business/finance/economic solution. That is, this engineering problem can only be solved with a non-engineering solution.

Through economics, you can drive up the property value in Canada so that no one wants to build there. You can also destroy the economy in Iran so that the builders can’t afford to build houses. Businesses can control the price of raw materials, making certain types of buildings feasible and others not feasible. With capital, you can eliminate all the competing variables that engineers need to deal with such that the word “all” in the phrase “one-size-fits all”  becomes “one”. Hence, making it possible for engineers to realize a one-size-fits all solution.

The reason I left working as an engineer for an engineering company is because I realized I can’t develop a one-size-fits all solution if the business people managing me don’t know what the hell they are doing. Everyday, I would create something, then the execs, sales, marketers change their mind, and back to the drawing board I go. I realized the only way to do things properly is to run my own show. So I started my own business, defined and simplified “problems” properly so that my engineers can have a better time.

Engineers build products. Businessmen control nature. Engineers can only build the products business people tell them to build.

So in the end, I went into business because engineering did not give me the skills to build what I want to build. If I had to do it all over again, I would have went straight into business.

Written by John Lai

March 16th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

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Hiring first employee

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I hired a full time developer for my company Evermight.  It’s a big deal for me because it’s the first person I’ve hired on a full-time basis.  It felt like a massive sports trade on the magnitude of buying a Roy Halladay.  Now everyone expects me to win it all!

In the past few months, I spent more than half my time meeting clients, writing emails, providing tech support, managing projects, trouble shooting faults, and administrating/deploying servers.   I had no time left to develop.  Things fell through the cracks.  I knew it was time to hire.

But of course, hiring requires money.  Will I have enough projects to fuel this new developer?   I’ve only been around for 1.5 years, is it too early to expand?  How do I manage my finances?

Anyway, wrote it all out on paper and decided to go with an investment.   Having a Roy Halladay doesn’t guarantee you’ll win the world series.  But it increases your chances significantly.    I liked the odds, so I did everything I could to secure my full time developer.

Written by John Lai

March 11th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized