Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

ArchiveNovember 2018

A Life of Its Own

There comes a time in the growth of every startup when you overhear two employees (non-founders) talking about the business, or a procedure, or discussing the best way to do something and arriving at a solution… without you. To a first-time founder, this seems almost unreal. You think, ‘Wow. Work is happening without me.’ Real decisions are being made without founder input. And it’s fantastic. I...

Adjacent Possible

In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson talks about the “adjacent possible”. The adjacent possible, as the name suggest, entails all the near-collision ideas that might form with a simple, first-order combinations of previously existing concepts, ideas, products or services. Although important, the adjacent possible requires no monumental leaps...

From Engineering To Finance

After an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, a Master’s degree in acoustics (also engineering) and working as an engineer at General Electric for three and a half years, I realized I really didn’t enjoy engineering. While I learned a lot at my time at General Electric, especially in project management, engineering just didn’t excite me, at all. I was also discovering that I had an...

Flying Three Mistakes from Failure

As young adults, my brother and I bought my Dad a model airplane for Christmas one year. Included in our gift were lessons from an experienced instructor to help Dad learn to fly it. As it turns out, model airplanes are more difficult to maneuver than one might assume. Apparently, the instructor told my Dad a general rule of thumb for beginners is to fly at an altitude “three mistakes from...

Managing Risk

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa, I was at the computer lab writing my final paper for the semester. As was common, it was quite late in the evening and the computer lab was full of students cramming in that last assignment… just trying to get done. At one point, the football player a few seats over stood up to walk to the printer. On his way, he tripped over the power cord...

Looking for Opportunity

When I was working at GE Appliances (Dishwasher division) in Louisville, Kentucky as an engineer, we had an opportunity to potentially switch suppliers for the bag of insulation that covered the dishwasher. The bag served two purposes: (1) reduce noise, and (2) retain heat. At the time, the large corporation Owens Corning was the exclusive supplier. We were approached by a smaller, family-owned...

A Seat at the Table

There are challenging seasons in the life of every company. Nearly every entrepreneur who has been in business more than 10 years has at least one story about a time when they weren’t sure the company would make it. When times are difficult, the strategic conversations around the conference table sound like, “We are low on cash. We can do initiative X or Y, or neither, but not both. What should...

Scalable Businesses

Some businesses are easily scalable. Others are not. Any business that requires a linear (or near-linear) relationship between revenue-and-effort or revenue-and-capital expenditure (equipment) is not easily scalable. Low-Scalable Businesses With low-scalable businesses, you are effectively trading time for money. A sole proprietor consulting on an hourly basis can only scale by: Adding more...

Mission – Strategy – Execution

Mission. Strategy. Execution. In that order. For people who are hard-working by nature, it’s tempting to go straight to Execution without fully mapping the corporate Mission and the Strategy that accomplishes the Mission. The Mission describes the intended result. Without which, it is impossible to map a coherent Strategy to direct one’s efforts (Execution). Skipping straight to Execution...

Trade Skills

Business is competitive. We compete on price, skills, service, quality, speed, efficiency, demeanor and likability. Of these, one of the most fundamental ways to compete is on skills. Do you know your business, your market and, more importantly, your customer and their business and their end markets? There’s no substitute for actual time in the trenches doing the dirty work of learning your trade...

Business – Solving Problems & Creating Opportunities

All good business ideas must create something that people want. That is, there must be demand for what you intend to do. For this, your business concept must either: Solve a problem that customers are willing to pay to solve.Reduce the cost of a process or productIncrease the efficiency of a process by reducing the time or expense to make a product or to provide a service Create an opportunity...

Your Business Idea

Just as my experience with PEI was the culmination of applying an interest in databases with my experience in finance, your best ideas will likely come from your area of expertise. This is where you have the greatest chance of executing successfully. From within your area of expertise, your idea will either be a product/service/tool you wish you had, or it will be a more efficient way/process of...

Bear Endings

May 2002. London. After only 13 months with Bear Stearns, my desk phone rang. It was the corner office. The Assistant was calling to tell me that “Jeremy would like to meet with you in the conference room.”. Just minutes before, even though we all knew layoffs were on-going, I had been helping a more junior Analyst named Allen work through a financial model. Although work had all but ceased on...

The Farm to Bear

I worked on the 44th floor in the tallest building in London as an investment banker for the now-defunct Bear Stearns. It was 2001. I was 29 and making money in excess of my contribution, feeling like I was on my way to professional and financial success. Not as a Master of the Universe, but to an early retirement. Although the hours at Bear Stearns were long, the work was engaging, and the...

Entrepreneur vs Employee

Employees Employees sacrifice personal freedom and upside potential for more predictable income – or at least a mirage of it. The employee must balance this internal desire for stability and a slow-but-generally-upward career progression against the nagging what-if questions we ask ourselves as we begin to see life in the rear-view mirror and evaluate the decisions of our youth. What if I had...

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