This won’t be a typical post. There’s nothing new to see here, just a reflection of our progress.
We posted a short year end summary after 2010, at which time I drafted a few goals for 2011. The year turned out nothing like I’d planned…
Between the day job and JDS Labs, I found myself working well over 100 hours/week by spring. Working 40 hours/week during college had been tough, but 60 hours on top of a full-time job? It was enough to drive anyone (and their wife) insane. On June 2, 2011, I took my boss into a private conference room and verbally resigned effective July 1st.
He stared at me in disbelief. “You have an excellent career here,” he said. This moment was unreal. I heard myself expressing thanks, and assuring him that I was saddened to ditch an excellent team of engineers, but that it was something I had to do. I had customers, circuits, and an array of plans for which there were not enough hours in the day.
Six months have passed and I can say without a doubt that taking a full-time job in 2009 was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made. JDS Labs sales soared as soon as I began working from home in July. What recession?!
Nick and I now run a typical startup. One hour we think we have the day under control. The next, we’re a week behind on production, and will work 12-18 hour shifts to catch up.
I wake up at 7am to find 40-something unread e-mails, even though the box was at zero just six hours prior. By noon, we crank out a pile of amplifiers and another fifty e-mails. We head to lunch and try to ship 30-60 orders afterwards, squeezing into the post office around 4:58pm.
So, 2011 was nothing short of a success. Sales grew by 300%, we expanded our product lineup from nine items to 30+, released two fantastic amplifiers, doubled our staff (from 1 to 2!), and have definitely outgrown my home office. 18-wheel tractor trailer/truck drivers don’t like to back into residential areas; there’s a seriously unusual DIY fume exhaust system taped to a window at the front of the house; the basement contains three workstations and enough shelves of electronics to be mistaken for a sweat shop; UPS delivers daily. I’m sure our neighbors are pleased.
Startup Lessons Learned in 2011
- Have no reluctance to fire. Taxes will be done in June? Fired. This aluminum sample looks like a train wreck? Fired.
- Recognize the time to hire. If critical tasks are piling up, you might have missed the opportunity.
- Automate! Make your website work for you, not the other way around, and run a webhosting test to make sure your site has enough support.
- Establish Net 30 credit. Purchase orders aren’t complicated. Why don’t they teach this stuff in school?
- Select contractors based on sample work: Pay more, and you’ll actually spend less.
- Network and talk to customers! It’s free insight.
- Invest in a document scanner and a thermal printer. 95% of paper/scanning/faxing/shipping inefficiencies will disappear.
- The USPS has these clever things called SCAN forms. Our post office was shocked by their efficiency.