Ok now that you’ve listed your people resources, it’s time to get started. I’m going to honest here. I’ve done a lot of stuff for other people, but nothing like this for myself. Frankly that’s because the networks and tools just didn’t exist back in the day. There was also the risk of not having a secured and steady income. I wouldn’t let that stop you, and I’m not going to let that stop me, this time.
With that out of the way lets get started. The first thing to do is buy a couple of these:
This is going to be where you keep your sketches, your ideas, your notes and everything that isn’t in the computer. You should plan to do most of the stuff in ink and don’t be shy about carrying it around with you. Date everything. You will also want to put contacts, potential vendors, and similar information in the book. You can tape or staple stuff right into the book and it won’t get lost. Cross out, don’t tear pages out. That way, even it you discard an idea, it’s still there. You never know what you might need to go back to. Having kept the notes will also help with IP issues if they arise. This is a business, not a hobby. If you keep that in mind the path will go much easier.
Here’s some questions we will be needing to ask ourselves all the time:
Being a startup isn’t easy.
If this is going to be a business, we should start with a plan. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. The plan should have defined go/nogo points and time limes for certain activities. don’t let yourself get sucked in by an irrelevant detail. If something stalls keep other parts moving. Plus a spread sheet for expenses. Later on we are going to need to track vendors costs, time and delivery.
Scheduling is going to be more important than costs. That may be a surprise, but being able to ship on time is critical for a startup. We are also not going to be able to get priority at our vendors. They have established customers and those customers will have special cases or unexpected emergencies. You can expect to have your jobs bumped at least once. Build that into your plan. If delivery is six weeks, schedule for eight and plan for delays up to twelve if necessary. I’ve been on both sides of that equation. You need to plan for late deliveries. This is a startup and you
I expect that when it gets to that point it’s probably cash on delivery for everything, something that will be important in the business plan. If the business has volume we may be able to get terms, but credit will have to be established first. So for the time being we will be on a cash basis.
There’s also the pricing/ cost ratio. We want to get a handle on what the market is fairly quickly. We also have to plan for added costs. There’s a tendency to price things too low and then get into a sticky whicket when the inevitable gotchas come in, the trashed boards, the stupid mistakes, the extra shipping cost. With that in mind, you have to use a price estimate of at least twice your initial cost estimate when making the go/nogo decision. if it can’t be sold at that price, kill the idea for now.
Dave Jones covers electronics issues, but the issues are the same more or less for a something that is more or less mechanical. One fairly large cost adder for mechanical parts is minimum buys for parts. Standard parts won’t usually be a problem, but anything you make as a custom part is going to have cost tradeoffs. And you want to minimize excess inventory.
Find resources to help with this. Here’s some to get you started.
Even the smallest issues can screw you up:
It can pay to find an expert on shipping and logistics to help you if you don’t know how to do that. And that’s just one problem. Don’t let that discourage you, but plan for those tings as we go on.
So where do we start, finally. Well we can start with the wiki. That gives us some clue as to how things work and what we will need. Next, the hack.
The other posts in the series: