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A Challenge to IT Companies

Dear Reader,
[Note: This blog post should in no way reflect poorly on my current employer. I love my job and am not talking about any one company in particular but about IT companies in general.]

The Problem

Something has been bugging me for a while now. I’ve been a member of more IT companies than I care to remember. Outside of cube farms, one thing seems to remain constant throughout, a contract that was written in the 1800s. Most (not all) of the employment contracts I have been handed to sign have contained a clause that states something to the effect:

While you are working for us, if you invent something we like, we can claim ownership of it.

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Tales of Entreprenureship

Dear Reader,

I am embarking on a new journey that scares the crap out of me. Those that know me know that I always have a lot of ideas floating around in my head. My problem has never been lack of ideas, my problem has always been execution. I’m an awesome idea man but I really suck at making them happen. Honestly, in all my years, I’ve only successfully executed one business idea. (and it worked pretty dang good)

So today I’m jumping out of my comfort zone and I’m going to drag you along for the ride. Just so you know, this blog post and the others that follow it are not about pimping my idea, they are about the struggles I face trying to make the idea into a reality. If you are not into watching someone inflict pain on themselves, this series is probably not going to be of interest to you. However, if you are an entrepreneur, or like me a “wanna be”, follow along and by all means, comment!

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. The money is in the execution.”

One of my friends I’ve never met, Kyle Chowning posted on his blog back in February a post titled “Quit Being Stingy & Give Your Ideas Away”. In it he talked about Seth Godwin’s “Six Month MBA program. One of the off-shoots of that program was that the participants posted 999 idea that they had for new businesses. The concept was simple, if you like one of the ideas, take it and do it. You don’t make money from ideas, you make money from making ideas into a business.

Kyle took that to heart and has a page on his blog dedicated to his “Free Ideas“. I may have to start me a page like that, but that’s a project for another day. After rolling this around in my head for a month it really started to sink in, nobody cares how great your ideas are, people want to see you do something.

No, seriously—that’s all it takes.

Back in December a friend of mine that I have met, Keith Casey, wrote for the PHP Advent Calendar 2008. His post was titled “Getting Started the Right Way“. It really started me thinking, if it’s so easy to get a project started, why haven’t I been able to do it. I’ve read his post more than 10 times now to reinforce the message, find the first step, one that you can do yourself, without help from anyone else, and do it.

I looking at my history of ideas, doing is not my problem, it’s figuring out what to do.

Ok, so if ideas are cheap and plentiful but action is rare and valuable, I’m going to take the first step. I’ve started a new venture. (No, I’m not leaving Ibuildings till they toss me out) This is not a “part time” venture either though; it’s a serious endeavor to build something that adds value to the lives of others as well as myself.

I can’t talk about the venture without mentioning the name and it’s stupid not to give a link if I do that. The new project is called Box Lunch Training, there is a logo over on the left sidebar. The idea is simple, provide team based training for PHP development teams. The execution is turning out to be a bit more difficult. :)

My First Step

My first step was to write a business plan. Being a “cowboy coder” I usually skip the planning phase of any coding project and just start coding, so writing a business plan kinda went against the grain for me. However, I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to see the next steps. So I wrote my business plan.

Writing it naturally let me to my next step, actually creating a product. Since the training is episodic, I wrote the first two episodes. Originally, my thought was that after an episode, I would know what it will take to write others. Writing the first episode was eye-opening, writing the second was so much more difficult that it almost convinced me the idea wasn’t viable. However, after I finished it and assessed everything, I think I’m back on track.

I have to adjust my expectations a bit; writing training isn’t as easy as sitting down and writing an opinionated blog post. (For some reason, people want training to be accurate) :) So there is a LOT of research that goes into an episode. I was prepared for research but not to the extent I am doing.

The upside is I’m researching PHP so it’s fun. :)

My Next Step

I think my next step will be to get 2 more episodes under my belt. The lovely and talented Kathy is working on building out a web site for the project and we are shooting for a July 1 launch. I want to keep about 4 episodes in the can at all times in case of emergencies. That is a lesson I learned from podcasting, never wait until the week the episode is due to create it.

Future steps

As I see them at the moment these are the things I need to do.

  • Build out website
  • Start contacting likely affiliates
  • Finish the first four episodes
  • Refine and prioritize the list of topics. (I’ve got a list of about 60 episode topics that I need to prioritize.)
  • Find a way to sell the idea to businesses. This is really my weak point, I can code, manage and build but for the life of me, I can’t sell. I’m really hoping that I can attract a few top-notch affiliate sites and outsource the selling to them. (I’m open to other ideas if you have them)

More to come

This blog post and the others that will follow are more for my sake than anything else. I do encourage you to comment if you’ve got something to say that will help. Mainly though, I just need a place to gather my thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)

=C=