31 Dec 2016 Was a Great Year
I know that for many people 2016 was a terrible year. Aside from the abnormal amount of high profile celebrity deaths, and the reality TV host / President debacle, I’ve known others who 2016 saw personal misfortune, and my heart grieves with them. But I also have to be thankful for this year, because it was actually a fantastic year for me and my company.
3 years ago, I left Dell to start my own business. It was a daunting challenge, a big leap and personal stretch. I had gotten a lucky break because Dell was going through some upheaval at that time (Michael Dell was in a fight to take his company private) and as part of their change they offered a voluntary package. I can’t discuss the terms of it, but after being there for 14 years, it was enough to help augment my existing savings and serve as a good runway to get my company going. And I needed the time that it bought me.
I had assumed that I would only need a year to really get going, but as everyone else told me, it took longer. I needed time to learn from customers what aspects of my past experience were valuable enough to turn into services. I needed to learn which customers were ideal to share this experience with. I needed to learn how to get my services to them, how to package them, and how to price them in a way that was reasonably affordable to customers, and lucrative enough to me to keep me interested in serving them. As you can expect, this took some trial and error.
By the middle of last year, I hadn’t really hit my stride yet. But there were some early indicators that my company might be on to something, but the revenue wasn’t coming in fast enough and the runway I had built up would end soon. I had that entrepreneur moment where one sees themselves driving to the edge of cliff, and hoping that there’s enough momentum to carry them across the chasm. I had to make a go, no go decision as to whether to keep my foot on the gas, or start turning in another direction. It was after a long fireside conversation with my wife, where I laid out all my alternatives, and with her encouragement I decided to keep pressing forward.
I’m glad I did. The work I did last year, paid off this year. The learning that I did in the first couple of years clicked. I figured out and ideal service package. I learned I was able to package and price it in a way that drove enough revenue for me, and was still valuable. I started getting clients that could afford to pay more. I started doing educational workshops for startups at MaRS, which raised the profile of my company and brought in better clients.
I also started to hear a very common refrain from many of my clients, that they needed more help executing on their story and marketing strategies that I was building for them. With a few customers I started to build a new service where my company, in effect, acts as a virtual marketing department. I secured a client under this arrangement, where I’m now managing a marketing coordinator who will be executing on their behalf. That also meant that I had to hire my first employee, which was an exciting step for me. This new service will allow my company to grow from a small consultancy to an agency over the next few years. Because of these changes, I could see my company reaching 5 to 10 employees by the end of 2017.
And this is just the start. The goal for my company is to build it into an organization that can provide technology and services that advance and enhance humanity. I see it growing into a larger organization that has the resources to tackle some of our biggest challenges. One of the things that drove me to starting my own company in the first place was the desire to have an impact on big challenges like climate change, global poverty, & sustainability, and to not benefit companies that would do people or the planet harm. I loved working for technology companies, but for the most part they didn’t care who they sold tech to or what they would use it for. My company’s goal is to only sell technology and services that provide a net benefit.
I expect that it will take time to get my company to the place that I want. Maybe 10 to 20 years. But I will always look back at 2016 as the year that it really started to take off. And so, even despite the tough year it’s been for many I can’t help but see 2016 as the start of something great.