Summer Coming to a Close

The weather finally decided to cooperate last weekend where I could get outside and take a machete to the lawn. It had been three weeks since I’d been able to mow our half-acre, and had I had a hay baler, I probably could have made some extra money selling the output to local farmers. The forces of work and weather prevented me from getting out there any sooner. This has been a theme of this summer – there has either been a downpour of work (not a bad problem to have) or a downpour of rain the occasional times I do have a break between tasks. Then, when I do have a short break while the sun is out, it’s felt like a rain forest outside for much of the season.

At least things are forecast to cool off and dry out over the next couple of weeks. That’s welcome news, as everything begins the transition into fall from summer around the house and in my work. My older daughter started back to preschool this week. She’s in the 5 day pre-kindergarten program this year. It’s a big step forward from 2-day preschool last year, but I could tell she was ready to start a program like this. What this also means is that her dance class has to be on Saturday morning instead of a weekday morning. My daughter really seems to like the routine of going to school each day, and it will be nice to also get out of the house on the weekend, since my wife is working most Saturdays until her residency wraps up in mid-November. Then, she will be able to take my daughter to dance class. I suggested that they make a mother-daughter day out of it, since the kids spend so much time with me.

(It’s secretly my way of getting everyone out of the house one morning a week so that I can drink my coffee and read the news online for an hour in peace.)

I’m nearly ready to deploy two large Web site projects. I’ve been fitting in a bit of coding here and there as I’ve had time. I wanted to get both projects done before now, but something always ends up going awry somewhere in the code. Missing semicolons are my enemy. I have a couple of other site updates that need to get done in the next week or so. This should be easier with the time I’m gaining during the next three weeks.

Time gained, you ask? As I’ve mentioned before, the QuickScore project has had a very difficult time finding people that are willing to help with customer discovery. Each week, we’ve been brainstorming why we have had such a difficult time connecting with school administrators and experts in progress assessments. What we decided as a team was that in launching the QuickScore project in tandem with the Iowa Startup Accelerator, we inadvertently caught teachers, principals, and other school officials at the worst possible time to set up meetings – just before the start of the academic year. Originally, we didn’t think that this would be a problem… we were wrong. Several of the key interviewees who actually responded to our e-mails refused to put us on their calendars until late September or early October. This was not possible with our original project timeline.

Therefore, we decided to edit our project timeline. Several weeks ago, we “decoupled” from many of the accelerator activities. Our project was focused on customer discovery and competition research, not offer testing, social media, and financial planning. I had attended the workshops that were most important for our project, but skipped the ones that did not pertain directly to QuickScore. We then, as a team, threw around the idea that we “pause” the project for a few weeks and pick up again in early October, when some of our potential interviewees would have time to sit down and give us their full attention. So, with minimal progress made in obtaining more customer discovery interviews this week, we decided to take “The Pause.”

The Pause is scheduled to last three weeks. We are freezing anything to do with QuickScore until then (with the exception of the newsletter I’ve already written and placed in the MailChimp funnel for delivery on September 14.) We are “unpausing” on October 1 and picking up exactly where we would have been on Monday, with the advantage of merely sliding the project schedule back three weeks. I have a follow-up call list of over 200 phone numbers that will be called the first week of October. I’m really hoping that school administrators will be more receptive mid-semester than they were a week before classes started.

During The Pause, I’ll be able to devote a bit more time to Sexy Life. David and I are starting to write up all of the governing documents for the company, and even with a template, it’s no small task. We have identified over a dozen positions that we hope eventually will be filled by people we know and trust, as we scale the business. We’re also starting to reach out to some of our friends and colleagues to populate our board and for key positions in the company where David and I feel we have weaknesses (we’re looking at you, finances.)

We are drawing inspiration from a book that David had suggested, called The E-Myth Revisited. I also worked through another book called Good to Great over the Labor Day weekend, and these books along with the work by Steve Blank all independently come to the same conclusions about startups and small businesses. It’s been interesting getting these different points of view on the topic, and really fun to see how everything interlocks – and none of it was really on purpose! After reading through all of this, it seems like we are starting to get a grasp on what needs to happen before we launch, and how we need to change the ways we look at starting and running a small business. I suggest reading both books, if you can get your hands on copies of each.

I feel as though I’ve been neglecting my own freelancing firm while I’ve been so busy with client projects. Another goal I have during The Pause is to get some internal work done on my Web site and get some of the blog posts finished out that don’t follow my usual “personal journal” style of posts. I had started that before business picked up, and I’d like to finish that out as soon as I can. I don’t want to set too many goals – The Pause is only three weeks long, so I need to be realistic.

First things first: get major projects done. Then, finish other small projects. This is tough, because it’s so much easier to pick off the low-hanging fruit and leave the bigger, harder-to-reach stuff behind. During the next three weeks, let’s get the ladder out and get the big stuff down from the tree. It will rot if I leave it up there too much longer.