Crossing the threshold 2

FWP logo
About 2 weeks ago I wrote about how I managed to “cross the threshold” and become a social entrepreneur. With the urgings of my fellow comrades at SG Entrepreneurs, I’ve decided to blog my experiences during my 3rd go at entrepreneurship. Strangely this time I’m doing it out of love and need rather than for profit. I plan to perhaps turn this post into a series of reflections on the trials and tribulations of The Firmwareproject.
Before we go, I’ll give you my “elevator pitch” of my design cum social-entrepreneurship venture the Firmwareproject.
The Firmwareproject (FWP) leads a non-profit focused collective of Designers that are the best in the emerging local Singaporean Industrial Design Talent. In a creative director role, FWP will foster and nurture these talents by collaborating with them to create a range of simple, clever and edgy products with the ultimate aim of exhibiting the products at renowned Design fairs world wide. We eventually hope to be one of the pioneers to help stamp Singapore as one of the new leaders in international Industrial Design circles.
Now on to my reflections.
The day job feeds the stomach, this feeds the soul.
Many people advise to be a truly successful entrepreneur you need to quit your day job and focus on your business. This is so that you will have no safety net to fall back on and you will be determined to make the business succeed.
I humbly disagree, especially if an entrepreneurship venture feeds the soul. To me I am drawn to this somehow. The energy rises up from the bottom of my heart and I push on.
Really the venture must be something you feel passionate about and that you doing it for the right reasons. Truly a successful entrepreneur needs to be sure that what he does has to have a greater good in mind. I recently watched Guy Kawasaki’s interview of ebay founder Pierre Omidyar and found that I really can relate to Pierre’s experiences. His vision was simple, he wanted to create a means where by the consumer can get to the manufacturer of goods and bypass all the excesses caused by marketing etc. He wanted to create an “efficient market” where the seller is also the producer. Furthermore he created and coded ebay while he was still at his day job, very similar to my circumstances.
However one thing, you really need great discipline and professionalism here so that your day job and entrepreneurial effort do not clash or mix. This is easier said than done. With emails and internet access easily available in the workplace, its too easy to leave behind your responsibilities of your day job especially if the venture is what you love and rather be doing. The great thing for me is I also love my day job.
Some tips, do not use office related equipment for anything related to the venture. It’s simple respect. You respect your workplace and it comes back around to you. Next, compartmentalize your time, so that from 9am to 6pm its work related, and everything else is open season. This timing block is important as it means work comes first and you need to remember your responsibilities to your day job. This is so your work will not suffer and thus cannot give your organization a reason to probe, as what you do in your own time is your own business, no pun intended. Finally, please ensure your business is not reducing the business of your day job. Conflict of interests is a “firing” offense; if this is the case you are better off leaving your day job and run your business full time.
Business plans are only just that, plans.
All I can say is that it has been very messy after the kick-off meeting last Thursday night. Basically the objectives and goals of what I thought were clear to me were not at all to my participants. I am currently all over the place and I actually need to re-write my business plan! Furthermore the weaknesses I thought my venture had were not what I had imagined it to be!
So this leads me to advise all of you sitting on your business plan or idea, to get out there and DO it. Talk is cheap and is really theory until proven right or wrong after you do it. Also I feel the trick is to get out there and prototype your business plan and then communicate to as many people as possible to obtain feedback and see how you are going in the eyes of others. To the people who gave me feedback, you know who you are and thank you.
Wow, can I also tell you, if you need focus in your business write a one paragraph elevator pitch, like I did above. Nothing forces you to focus on the important issues faster than an elevator pitch. If you cannot reduce your business plan to a 3 minute blurb or paragraph, it’s just too complicated.
Doubt Management
This is to me a big one. Will my effort go to waste? Will it fail? Will people subscribe to my vision? I think of all my reflections this to me is the biggest one, and I like to say to prepare for it as this IS a real issue that no entrepreneur talks about.
“Doubt” and its close cousin “Fear”, are strange animals, if you let it run wild it could lead to your downfall. For me I have a tendency to let it run too easily and as the result I tend to exert too much energy in managing it. Doubt and fear can also be a good thing as it drives people to action, at least for me it does.
As a result, I have never felt matured enough to start a business when I was younger as I still had troubles mastering my emotions. To this day I still have some trouble but this is what I do to manage it.
Build your team of supporters: People talk about the importance of creating a management team in you business, I like to add the further importance of creating a personal support team. From family, friends you can trust, business associates and mentors, rally them and turn to them for support. I know it sounds wimpy, but it helps to have many independent and non-independent eyes looking out for you. This is really because when people focus on the job at hand they tend to suffer from tunnel vision, and your support team will set you straight as they have your best interests at heart.
Plan for the worst hope for the best: I tend to be an eternal optimist, and even considering the worst, I secretly harbor thoughts of the best case scenario. But this is important in to include in your business plans and also consider if you truly can accept the worst case scenario and plan for it. For example, in my venture the start-up capital is minimal as its all in the “melon”, so if it fails I guess I have more time with my wife and son!
Enjoy the process: I feel as always everything in life is a project. There is a start point and an appropriate end point. Thus its always a good idea to not dwell too much on, “what ifs” or even the glorious end goal, but to enjoy the process and journy taken.
As I have often said I still consider myself as an amateur entrepreneur and on a life long learning path. I have also a tendency to do things just for the experience of it. So please do take what I say with a pinch of salt.
My road is still long and a lot of work still needs to be done. At least though I expect to have loades of fun in the process. Our first major milestone product exhibition and the showcase of the actual fruits of our labor will be in early December.
Therefore tonight I better take a break, get some sleep, spend some time with the family so at least I don’t burnt out so soon. So stay tuned for the next installment of crossing the threshold!

  • Design Translator

    July 6, 2006 at 9:49 am Reply

    Hi Gwen,
    Thanks for the kind support. The good thing is the business is non-profit and all the people involved know I’m doing it part time so they are a little more forgiving!
    Do keep in touch and visit often!

  • Gwen

    July 6, 2006 at 7:44 am Reply

    DT, I like the sincere way in which you try to put across your experiences as an entrepreneur. And I also applaude your ability to separate your day job from your business – takes a certain amount of discipline (actually, A LOT)! Good luck in your latest and all future projects. =)

  • Design Translator

    June 29, 2006 at 6:14 pm Reply

    Dear Justin,
    Thanks for your comment and do keep in touch.

  • Justin Lee

    June 28, 2006 at 1:32 pm Reply

    nice article… yes i agree.. with all the new emerging technologies available new businesses can now be incubated on the side without having to quit your day job. it’s a much more sensible approach, especially if you have a family to support.
    good luck with the firmware project. do let us know if any of our experiences with E27 can be helpful to your project.

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