Going Out On My Own?

posted on 2004-07-15 at 00:15:25 by Joel Ross

That's what I was approached with this week. Not right now, but the possibility of that in the next year or so. Take some time, and work on a plan. Then, when the time is right, make the jump from my current employer to my own partnership with an old buddy of mine.

Scary. That was my first reaction. I have a wife and kid to take care of. I'm the sole provider for my family, so I don't have another income to fall back on. Tourney Logic isn't quite a "quit your job" type of company (yet), so I don't have that either. And, being young (and a little stupid), I haven't built a great amount of savings. But the thought of working for myself is desirable. Right now, if I put in 40 hours or 60 hours, I get the same benefit from the work (other than personal satisfaction).

First, am I considering this? While I wish I could, I can't take the risk right now. I just can't afford to not have income for a month or two. Not to mention health insurance. If it was just me, then this would be a different situation, but it's not. It's my family.

But I at least entertained the thought, and heard out the offer. The idea is to use services as a means to an end. What does that mean? Get clients to service while always keeping an eye open for an opportunity to productize something we do. Once we get to that point, we back off of the servicing a little (just enough to pay the bills), and focus on building the product. That's how Tourney Logic came to be, actually. But we'd need something more marketable than Pool Management software. Once the software side took off, the services side would taper off, and eventually probably go away.

How do you start a consulting practice, big or small? And which is better? I've worked at two companies. The first had a consulting arm of about 400 people throughout 7 offices. The second is at 60 people in 4 offices. And the second is doing much better than the first. Why? Well, I'm not sure. I have some ideas, though. First, the larger company had many more internal issues - each office had a quota, and that created tension between the sales crew. They would angle to put a less talented team (from their office) on a project, rather than throw it over the fence to the more seasoned team at another office. I was there two and a half years, and they restructured the delivery team five times. And as far as the customer was concerned, nothing changed. Out facing, we were exactly the same.

My current company doesn't seem to suffer from those types of issues - yet. I'm already starting to see the conditions for this. Too much management, and not enough delivery. Recipe for disaster.

Anyway, back to the startup. I think the pairing we would have would be ideal. He can sell, and I can deliver. He can get his foot in the door, get me in there, and I can open the door wider. You see, he can talk the talk, and I can walk the walk. Honestly, he can walk the walk too, but he's a great salesman. I can do sales, but in a different capacity. I'm better at letting my actions sell me. So ideally, I would be fully chargeable, while he is part time chargeable (at first) and part time focused on sales. That's why our skill sets are so complimentary. And obviously, we both would eventually focus on whatever application we came up with full time, but that would be a ways off.

The worst part of all this? I know I can't take the risk right now, but he's going to do it anyway. He hasn't said so, but I know him. I had him pegged from day one as someone who would (and could) run his own business someday. And he'd be fun to work with. He and I get along very well. But it's not going to happen. At least not for me. Maybe he'll start it up, get stable, and I can jump in down the line.

Man. Reading this over again, I jumped all over the place. Guess that's what happens when you can't focus. Too much going on, I guess. Oh well, I don't have time to go back and fix it!

Categories: Consulting