For the past 8 years, I’ve run my own company. A digital product consulting company. Across those 8 years, I’ve launched 3 products of my own that I’m very proud of – while doing interesting client work, that I’m also very proud of.
I’ve also become a father of 3.
As I write this, my third child is nearly a year old. Experience has told me – a newborn in the house is demanding enough – there’s no reason to purposefully add more. Whether that be the demands of launching a startup or anything else. It just makes everything that much more difficult and everyone that much more unhappy. I want more happiness – not less.
Thankfully – I’m able to work in a way that I’m most productive. On projects I’m interested in and still be there when the 5 yr old finds his first toad in the backyard.
Once or twice a semester, I’m invited to speak to a group of students at one of the many universities in this area. Sometimes I’m asked to talk about a project like Kernest, sometimes I’m asked about web design / information architecture / etc. Tonight, I was asked to talk about my business – not the work. A refreshing distinction.
One of the most insightful questions asked by a student was: Why don’t I have more employees…why am I not focused on growing my business bigger and faster?
It comes down to question of horizon and longevity.
Wal-mart is nearly 50 years old. It was 25 years old when I first stepped into one. Same for Target and Best Buy. My top-of-the-head calculations, it takes 20 years to build a retail business of any lasting significance.
People smarter at urban planning than myself have described public transit as a ‘100 year problem’.
The United States of America is only 234 years old.
Based on my lineage, I can count on another 4 decades – and with even modest advances in quality of life technologies – 2 more decades on top of that. That’s a lot of time to build and grow something to improve lots of people lives and persists beyond my direct involvement.
PREFACE: This post was sitting in my drafts since July, and it seemed to go nicely with the co-working post, so I hit publish.
After we returned from a refreshing holiday weekend1 at the in-laws, Cooper asked why we came home.
“Grandma, Grandpa, and Papa all have to go to work on Monday.”
“Where is Grandma’s office?”, he replies.
“Remember we drove past her office on the way to the petting zoo and car show?”
“Why isn’t her office in her house?”
I’ve worked at home since before the kids were born. I prefer it to an office outside of the home for a number of reasons. Primarily, I have greater control over my personal comfort (temperature, lighting, chair/desk/table heights) in my home office than I do elsewhere. Secondarily, considering how abstract my work is, having a home office makes me feel like the kids have some notion of what I do2 (even if that notion is limited to ‘drawing on whiteboards’).
Earlier this week, I had a fairly thorough conversation with a St. Paul-based serial entrepreneur exploring starting a co-working business.
I’ve been writing about the “co-working” / “work club” concept off and on for a while now (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Bonus) and there hasn’t been any blips on my radar for more than a year. So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him.
The notion of having access a low-cost office-y space with some of the amenities of ‘bigger’ offices is attractive. Unfortunately – like flying cars and carbon trading markets – there are a number of reasons why it hasn’t caught on. Some of those reasons are obvious (Herman Miller decor) others are less so (How is it different than Kopplin’s?).
In one of my earlier posts, I talked about these third places as transitional places.
Must be something in the warm Janurary in MN air. A lunch earlier this week – unfortunately without Steve (need to remedy that) – was all about the need and value in increasing the visibility of expertise, availability, and reputation.
In a very primitive, rudimentary, and analog form – the barometer Steve asks about already exists; participation in peer communities like forums, professional organizations, and generally impressing people with how hard your rock – are all reputation builders and indicators. Primitive, because it’s still pretty hard to find people that can vouch for you. Google, LinkedIn, eBay, and the comments on your own blog, are all ways to others gauge your status.
For better or worse – all the measurement systems listed thus far are isolated and non-portable (pointing your eBay rating at a potential consulting client means little). Maybe I should dust off my Identity XML thinking. Managing access to a bunch of Identity.xml files sounds far more useful than YAIS (Yet Another Identity Silo).
Many of the attributes Steve lists in his question above are most accurately declared by others – verses self. The world…er…marketplace…creates my identity as much as I do.
So, Steve, I’ll declare what I know of you, if you declare what you know of me. 🙂
Re-reading this, I think RSS is the microformat in question.
I continually struggle with the notion of an office outside of the house. It alway feels like so much overhead, separation, and duplication (internet, plumbing, etc). I’m wishing Best Buy the best in this experiment.