I have dedicated 2 years of my life (and my wife’s life, supporting me) into building this IT system that I reckon will make a difference in the world. We have invested heavily financially, and recently my wife and I have been blessed with our first beautiful healthy baby boy.
Up until now something I haven’t mentioned is how supportive my wife has been and how amazing she is in general as a human being. Throughout this journey, she has supported me, believed in me, stuck her head down, and done her part. All without complaining or doubting me ever. It is something that I hugely appreciate but don’t recognise enough. So this is a perfect opportunity,
Thank you, Amy Kathleen Hunt, for your commitment and encouragement in this journey through and through, I love you!
I am at a cross roads now…
I have skills built up that are quite sought after where finding a good job is definitely an option over continuing forward in the unknown path. This is the time for me to decide and I am certain that my wife will support me regardless of the route I choose to take.
A quick recap on where we are at the moment:
- we have a problem we want to solve
- we no longer have a client who wants the problem solved
- our solution works and I have enough technical knowledge to salvage it
One of the things I have been very intentional about in my life and something that comes across to business as well is, maintaining healthy relationships. This means to the best of my ability not letting emotions sour relationships as it can very easily close doors on opportunities.
A new opportunity
Amidst this decision-making process, I am presented with a new opportunity. The client who had just decided to go in a different direction comes back to me. He says to me that it looks like we are all going in the same direction and whether it makes any sense to do it separately.
He makes some great points:
- They have a dev team and are looking to expand it
- They need someone who understands the bigger picture to interface with the team
- The goal they are shooting for is in-line with what we want to achieve
This seems interesting. I decide to go ahead and have a meeting with the CEO of the MSP. A nice guy, really compelling, has a huge dream for the business and what it can do. This meeting goes well and he essentially offers me a job.
Now this brings up a whole bunch of REALLY BIG questions.
What does this mean to my vision?
What does it mean if I’m not in charge?
Does this mean that I’m a failure?
Am I just giving up and taking the easy route?
Am I being stubborn and controlling by not taking a sensible partnership?
I wrestle with them all for a few days. I remember sitting on my deck, in front of the pool, looking out over the view making the final decision….
Do I take the job?
From talking to them the equation is pretty much this:
- Same role as I am doing now; directing the product and what it needs to achieve
- More dedicated dev resources
- More oversight and support
- Not having to worry about where the money is coming from
While I am sitting there, all of the thinking from the previous few days come into alignment with the realisation that for me it is really a choice as simple as this.
Do I want to be at the top of the tree and in charge of my own destiny?
Do I want the best chance of getting to the goal that I want to achieve even if that means I’m not in charge?
I have to suppress my ego a bit and realise that when push comes to shove, I would much prefer to get to the goal than be 100% in charge. So I humbly accept the position working with the MSP of my clients.
I am ready for the change, and I throw myself into the new world we are building 100%.
A new experience
I turn up on my first day and I am ready to be the best I can and adjust to the new normal. Doesn’t turn out as expected though. I am made to start with a different part of the MSP business to learn the ropes, which seems a bit odd but I am up for it.
In about 2 weeks I start to get into the role I am committed to and straight off the bat, it isn’t going smoothly. The software dev manager and I keep butting heads. Even though I am promised the ability to steer the direction of the project by the CEO, it is clear that this understanding hasn’t made it down to the software dev manager.
Soon the politics game begins. We have a disagreement, we talk it through and come to an agreement and in spite of that, he does just as he pleases. He approaches the CEO and gets him to override the agreement. It is a really frustrating process over the next few weeks. It becomes clearer and clearer to me that what I THOUGHT I had signed up for is not the reality of what I had signed up for.
In hindsight, I can totally see how neither he nor I have been set up for success. We are, in reality, two pawns in a proxy struggle. One one side, we have the CEO of the MSP I work for and on the other side, the CEO of one of their biggest clients (my previous client). The software dev manager has the support of one and I have the support of the other.
Yet another bump in the road
The sales pitch (I have sold myself) that we are totally aligned with is not true anymore. The software dev manager has a vision for what he sees the system doing and even though the CEO wants this alignment, they are fundamentally different.
I realise much earlier that this isn’t going to work, but as I mentioned above I don’t want to burn relationships by bailing without trying everything I can to make it work. This includes having to not only step back from being the Product Owner of the software but to the extent of being totally removed from the team and going across and working on totally disconnected client work.
I do this because I have been quite strategic in my negotiations with this company. I ensure that I have the ability to license the software they are building (at no cost). This will take me to the goal I want to get to. My involvement doesn’t really matter as long as I get the outcome I need at the end. I still have an ally in my previous client driving the solution forward.
In the next period, I learn so much within the company working internally and for its clients. Understanding about people, culture, change management, politics, and ESPECIALLY the power of visible data makes the experience truly enriching. It is an invaluable ‘detour’ on the journey. However, after six months and successful analytics automation and implementation, they no longer have the work to keep me on. I am made redundant.
The way forward
The redundancy doesn’t come as a surprise to me as I know I am on borrowed time with them. The proxy war has made it untenable for me to be in an internal position. I am certain that if/when the client work dries up they are going to have to let me go.
Days pass by and I am still in constant contact with my previous client (who is to this day a dear friend). We catch up often. He makes me do a sanity check on what is happening which keeps me up to date with what is going on with the software.
The plan hasn’t changed, I have the licensing agreement. I just have to be patient while they get the system to where it needs to be so I can use it to get my outcomes. The client work that I have been doing really opens my eyes to the world of Analytics and the power it has to take organisations and teams to the next level.
Time for evaluation
With this new learning, I start to evaluate my plan with the licensing agreement and the tech they have built. It starts to become abundantly clear that the paradigms aren’t as close together as I have led myself to believe.
The tech they have built keeps the information ‘available’ to clients but only on an ad-hoc, locked down fashion. It seems to be controlled very tightly by them and what they want to provide. So I do a bit of an alignment check of what the original idea was and what the product is doing now.
|Deeply integrated with Office 365||Yes||No – Loosely integrated|
|Clients have access to change what they need without a developer||Yes||No|
|Clients have access to their data to get the insight they need||Yes – Live||No – Manual exports|
|The Product is being designed generically to serve as a platform||Yes||No – Is MSP focused|
As I go down the list, it becomes very clear again that the licensing model even though I believe was going to wasn’t going to get me to where I want to go. And now, having worked with a proper dev team, I release that my dev skills are neither going to make the cut to get this to a scalable product nor to the version that we still have in the background that works but is WAY out of its depth.
So this is where we are:
- we have a problem we want to solve (which has just become so much bigger because the process has taught me about the people side of the problem rather than just the tech side)
- we no longer have a client who wants the problem solved
- our solution KINDA works and I have enough technical knowledge to salvage it (but I will die on the hill if I try and do it without any technical experts)
Another point of reflection is whether this is something I should just let die or bring it back to life again….
To be honest, I procrastinate this decision for quite a few months, but, in reality, I never let go of the goal. I take a few consulting gigs in analytics and software development. I look at the equation above and can’t reconcile how it is a good risk especially as I have just become a dad – to risk it all when I am really gambling on me knowing what people want without any external validation (a client willing to put their money behind it).
During this time, I work again with Ricky and an Australian developer whom we have outsourced the dev work to. We chat every day while delivering client work. We talk about how we would make the next version the best version, yet with all of the things we have learned from the first two versions. It is all talk at the moment and unless we find another client who believes in it, it is most likely going to stay that way.
A ray of hope
We are at the start of 2016, and I am not getting much traction. I keep my family fed nicely but the start-up is definitely still in mothballs when out of the blue an opportunity presents itself…
A contact of mine, from a previous client, decides to go out on his own. He has been looking to start his own development company. He is looking for someone to help him set it up and run it for him. I definitely have the skills to do that, but isn’t that a step backward?! I had left doing property development because I wanted a greater purpose in life. If I were to go back to it then wouldn’t this trip just be a big waste of time to get back to a similar spot.
I take the time to evaluate the situation even though on the surface it looks like maybe it isn’t the right direction. I decide to have a meeting about it.
It is during that meeting that everything falls into place nicely. He considers me to be a good fit for the opportunity not just based on my background in developments. That is a bonus, yes. However, he is much more interested in ensuring that robust, scalable systems and processes are put in place for business to run smoothly. Not just on my skills alone.
I pitch him the idea about the solution we have worked on. I also show him the existing solution. He loves it! He has interests in other businesses as well such as farming. He says he can see the software being used not just in the developments business.
This is a great deal for me and it looks like we have two out of three again!!!
- we have a problem we want to solve (scoped down to a specific context this time)
- we HAVE a client who wants the problem solved and CAN SEE the bigger picture
- our solution needs to be reengineered and I have enough technical knowledge to make this happen
The overarching learning that I had from this episode is not only that working with the right people is key to getting where you want to get to, but also and most importantly that..