Posts tagged lessons learned
My background is in IT. I’ve been creating websites since the web was initially opened to the public. I even know why HTML is scripting not programming, what the initials mean and where it came from. (HyperText Markup Language was a subset/supraset of Standard Graphics Markup Language. SGML was a statndardized set of codes which controlled the big printing presses. Think typsetters marks).
In fact, my consulting business is in IT. Most of the training we do is in IT (or management skills).
But in this business I am first and foremost a business manager. An entrepreneur.
And at some point I need to decide. Is the work that needs to be done worth my time to do it? Would I be better off hiring someone and letting them do the work for me? Even though I can do it, it may not be worth my time. Better to throw $$$ at it than the one asset I can’t replace or increase – my time.
Lesson Learned #9:
Money or Time
If you want to play, you’ve got to pay. Your time is always more valuable than the guy beside you. The key to success is to know what you need to do, what you shouldn’t do and who to hire to do it instead. The corolllary is that hiring the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best way to get the job done. Sometimes, paying more is a better investment.
Cancer is a terrible disease. Your own body eats you from the inside out causing great pain and suffering both to yourself and to those around you.
My father-in-law died 1 week ago (Oct 16th). I would like to say suddenly but it wasn’t. You see 4 years ago or so ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer. After horrendous bouts of chemo and radiation therapy he was declared cleared. But in the meantime, his throat was damaged by excess radiation due to a power flux. For the last 4 years he has been surviving on liquid meal suppliments because the damage meant he couldn’t swallow proper food. A terrible thing for a man who loved to cook.
For the last 2 years we were unable to visit him. The money wasn’t there for the trip. I was out of work, a second business I had gone into had failed and hotels and gas cost money. We asked him to come down to us but he refused. Phone calls were all there was.
In July, the cancer came back. I don’t know the why he didn’t tell his doctor. Why he avoided the appointments. Why he lied to his family. Why he waited until the last moment. Why he chose to sit in his basement apartment and drink – chasing away anyone who asked after his well being. But I can guess. After all, I watched my own mother taking the maximum doses of morphine while we waited for the cancer to eat her.
When he finally collapsed from dehydration, no one realized his children hadn’t been contacted. We learned of the return of his disease an hour after he died. In some ways, it was best that way. I would not want my wife to remember him as he must have been at the end.
Last week, my wife Lisa and her sister Debbie, said goodbye to their father. A series of phone calls, visits to priests, bankers, lawyers, crematoriums and the dump. Plans for this week and finishing the undone tasks – too painful to complete. Plans to return and clean out the last of his meager belongings. A poor meager pile of belongings, pictures and memories. All that remains of a long life. All except the memories of my son, daughter, and neices. And those of his daughters, remaining sisters and brother.
So goodbye Gerry. You did your best. That’s all anyone could have asked.
In my last “post”, such as it was, I said that I would finish off the lessons learned today. As it turns out I have two more lessons. (Hey, I was an accountant – I can’t do that higher math thing add, subtract – too much for me!) So I’ll finish off the two lessons on Wed/Fri of this week and start talking about writing next Monday. Back to the Writing How To Books and away from business for a bit.
Following on the last two lessons … there’s only so much work that one person can get done. After all, you got into this business to give yourself a little extra income or to be able to spend time with your family, not to spend 20 hours a day working.
At some point you need to decide what has to be done by you. And what you can give up and let someone else do.
Then you need to give the latter away. Let someone else do it. Yeah, it might cost you a few bucks but if you’re careful, it will cost you less than trying to do it all yourself.
Outsourcing is the micro-entrepreneur’s friend.
Lesson Learned #8:
You’re only one person! Get Help When You Need it.
Sometimes, there is too much work for one person. Sometimes, it’s work that you’re just not good at.
Learn to recognize when you’re not the best person to do the work. Then outsource it.
You’ll be happier and more efficient. The job will be done better. And your company will be stronger.
Whenever you start a major project there is a tendency to want to concentrate on it. Especially when it’s running behind!
But remember your reasons for getting into the IM eBiz. Words like freedom, spending time with the family, money probably will come up. Words like working all night long probably don’t.
Don’t forget to schedule time for the important things in life. Your family. Relaxation. Giving back.
Don’t lose sight of the important things in life while rushing to resolve the immediate things.
Lesson Learned #7:
You’ve got other things to do too!
Don’t spend all your time on work. Remember when creating (and recreating) the schedule that you need to spend time on other things. Things that are more important.
When you start planning to do something like this there is a tendency to think you can spend all your time on the project.
And a tendency to think that the business is going to stop while your are converting.
But that’s just not true. Unless you can get the the changeover done in one day, you still need to release blog entries. You still need to drive traffic. You still need to deal with work not yet complete.
All the little things that continue to need your time while you’re busy doing something else.
And don’t try to hold up the blog. Remember it is a key source of traffic and without traffic you don’t have a business. So keep the blog going.
Lesson Learned #6:
Don’t Forget That The Business Is Going Ahead Without You
Even though you’re busy trying to change some element of the business you need to allocate time to the business.
You need to keep up blogs and other traffic sources. You need to keep your new courses and continuity programs going.
So don’t forget to allocate time for ongoing operations. And don’t try to shut down anything.
One of the problems with being a Project Manager is that I’m supposed to know how to organize tasks so that they get done. That includes a healthy dose of “”what happens if”. Known formally as Risk Management. Known informally as, “How am I going to get myself out of it when the effluvium hits the rotary air handling device?”
Of course, for a client I would never dream of doing even the smallest project without at least a minimal bit of project management.
For myself it’s another story entirely.
Which is what went wrong with this project.
Now, I admit that this project was struck by a somewhat excessive number of shizzle floods (movements ???? Or is that too obvious?). My partner became unavailable just when I needed him. I got sick. My entire family got sick. We ended up taking care of a friend who was recovering (poorly) from an operation. A large number of the templates ended up not working (including this one btw). Conversion was a problem. Things happened without warning and out of order.
As a result this took much longer than I would have expected. Even given that it was a learning experience and with all the problems encountered.
Mind you I might be just expecting too much…..
(BTW … risk is often misunderstood to be a negative. It isn’t. That’s a threat or a potential loss. A risk is the potential for an unexpected situation to occur. The situation could be negative BUT it could also be positive. So finding the perfect solution right off the bat was also a risk. In fact, I discovered the perfect themes right away … except that it wouldn’t work for what we were trying to do. If I could have used them I wouldn’t be writing this series at all! Now I need to figure out how to use them later…)
Lesson Learned #5:
Be Prepared … aka Shizzle happens!
No matter how small the project, it is important to spend some time doing risk management. What could go wrong? How will it impact the project? What can be done to overcome or avoid it? How likely is it to occur?
There are four risk events that appeared in this project:
- What if key people aren’t available, have their time severly restricted or aren’t functioning at peak?
- What happens if secondary people aren’t available, have their time severly restricted or aren’t functioning at peak?
- What happens if software doesn’t work as expected?
- What happens if things occur out of order or sooner than expected?
Learn & Earn!
Due to reasons beyond our control, much of this conversion ended up on my shoulders.
Ignore the amount of work involved. Yes, it would have been nice and we would have been up sooner with less pain. But that’s not the big advantage of working with a partner.
The big advantage is having a second pair of eyes.
You’ll notice that I’ve said several times that there are a lot of very talented web designers out there. Yeah, well they’re all producing multiple great designs.
Quite frankly, there is an embarassment of riches out there for free or almost free! The problem is choosing which design(s) to use as the base – and how to tweak the design. That’s where a partner is most useful.
Start by creating a list of designs that you like. Let your partner go through the list and select out the designs that they like. Then repeat until you are down to one design. One trick is to drop 1/3 of the designs each time. So let’s say you start with 12 designs. Your partner would pick the 8 designs they like the best. Then you would pick the 6 designs you like best. And so on.
There are also a number of other decisions that are helped by a second point of view — from structure to widgets to other software. Having a partner to discuss problems, and arbitrary decisions is invaluable.
A business partner is best, but even if you don’t have a business partner, a spouse or trusted friend is better than trying to go it alone.
Lesson Learned #4:
Two Heads Are Better Than One
Don’t overestimate the value of a second point of view.
There will be many times that you will become overwhelmed with the number of choices available to you.
Some of those choices are mostly arbitrary or esthetic in nature.
And yet, you still need to make the best choice you can.
That’s when a partner is invaluable. Someone to argue with you over a solution. To make choices based on their esthetics. To just be someone other than yourself.
The obvious solution if you want to tweak WordPress themes (looking like everyone else is kind of cheesy) is to buy a software package that generates themes.
Sounds great. And there are some out there that do it.
But again there’s a big variation in the quality of both the artistic and programming sides.
So that means you are going to have to spend some time evaluating the packages. Do they meet your needs? Can you select all the different formats you need? Can you add new formats? Do the menus work? Does the display work for all browsers?
And once again you’ll need to evaluate. Am I better spending programmer and artist time cross checking the package. Or would I be better developing a package myself?
Lesson Learned #3:
Custom – Package; Custom – Package; Only your developer will know for sure
There are a lot of tool packages out there to design WordPress (and other) themes. And a lot of tool packages to design.
Unfortunately, a lot of them are pretty pathetic. Both in flexibility and quality – technical and artistic.
But for $100 or so it may just make sense.
Unfortunately, you will still need to evaluate the quality of the theme. So be prepared to spend money to have a developer evaluate the package output for you.
Also don’t forget to review your requirements. Specifically can the package be customized (either through plug-ins or widgets) to implement your requirements. If you need 3 sidebars and the package only allows two you are going to have a problem!
And be sure to check the price of doing it according to Lesson Learned #2. You may find that getting it done once professionally may be cheaper than modifying the package output.