Friday, September 22, 2017

The Entrepreneur's Disease

Once you get IT, IT stays with you. Either you ended your last venture with a great success, then you go and unwind for a while until... IT gets you again and you have to try to grab another shooting star. 
Or your dream ended in failure, then you go and unwind, mourn the untimely death, and study why/how.... then IT gets you again and phoenix-like you have to chase another shooting star.  
Or, neither success or failure intervened, while you were doing something that feels less than dream-like, you imagine a shooting star, another opportunity to change the world, or just the neighborhood, or just a business, or a cause, or...

Well, you get the idea.  If you ever got this disease, even when you thought it was gone, it was still dormant in you, an addiction to the sense of purpose you get from chasing stars. Victor Frankl, the great psychiatrist, and philosopher called it Man's Search for Meaning. If you are blessed and cursed by entrepreneurship in your blood you'll feel it, just by reading this account. I am sure of it.

Investing is fine, teaching is fine, mentoring is fine, real estate deals are fine. But nothing compares with starting a new venture: the unknown, the hope, the ideas, the team, all pointing up to the sky. We'll fly high, perhaps close to the sun, but not too close. 

So, my blog is going to change. I am on the verge of a new business consulting and software development venture. It all started by accident and reawakened my fascination with software development to improve the efficiency of business processes.  That disease got in me in 1979 and kept me in the arena, with some success until 1995. Then curiosity and other opportunities took me away from it, but, at any available occasion, my mind always jumped back to the thought experiments that always precede system development.

Last year an acquaintance of mine baited me with a thought experiment regarding his logistics business. Could operations be improved by a mobile app that his drivers could access via tablets? Of course, it could. I imagined the system, the use-cases, the potential efficiencies, the agile process, the lean startup model, and before I realized it, I had swallowed the bait.  

In my mind, I committed to single-handedly develop a prototype that could be handed over to a development shop for final deliverables. When I got done, however, it was clear that the prototype was good enough an app near-ready for rollout. With a little additional work it went into beta test, and before I could realize what was happening, I had become process analyst, workflow designer, database architect, developer, coder, end-user trainer, tech support, and back to analyst for further developments. 

Then I found a support team to increase my bandwidth and suddenly I had gone back to the mid 80's to mid 90's when my company, with a full team, provided all those services. Now, with the right platform and tools I could do it all, as the one-man-shop I had started in the late 70's. And in addition, now, I also managed all the cloud-related functions and services that did not exist in the past.

In less than six months all paper-based processes had been eliminated, the time needed for weekly and monthly customers billing was reduced 85%, the time to process payroll was reduced 85%, new cities/markets were opened. Similar customers are asking to use the same system in contiguous states.

I could easily turn over the system to my well-qualified colleague consultants, which was my plan all along. BUT the disease of entrepreneurship is flaring up again. There is more for me to do, albeit in conflict with my wife's retirement-life expectations.

But, I ask, what is a sick entrepreneur to do?  Stay tuned.

Do you have a project? Call me.

September 2, 2017

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