Actual strategies that I used to hire people to make my awesome prototype
I’ve been in the game of hiring people for about 3 years. It seemed like an impossible task at first, but after a while it just became part of who I was. I’d go out and chat with people and immediately think if I could use their skills. One of the most popular intro’s is to tell people what you do for a living. So how did I start to find people with the right skills? Here it is a layout of who I hired, and how I found the
Finalizing my @Kickstarter pre-applicaton text for future use
I’m planning to launch my product with a kickstarter campaign and my gut tells me that you can’t be too prepared. In addition, while I’m finalizing my prototype, hiring a product & fashion photographer, and nailing down the producer of my product’s accessory I need something to do that moves my project forward. So, in preparation for the kickstarter pre-application I have answered the following questions so once everything is complete the pre-application process will be a simple matter of copying and pasting.
Everyone posting a project on kickstarter first needs to answer the following questions:
What is your project? - Kickstarter projects are creative, focused, and well-defined with a clear beginning and end. Please be clear and concise.
What rewards would you offer? - Rewards are what backers receive in exchange for pledging to a project. Every project’s primary rewards should be things made by the project itself. Other than that, what you offer and how you price it is up to you, but a series of creative and engaging backer rewards is essential. Having a few reasonably priced rewards will help incorporate everybody who’s interested in your project, even those only able to contribute $1-$20.
Where can we find out more about you and your project? - We don’t need a resume or anything, just some relevant links like a website where we might find out more information on you, your work, and/or this project.
Which category fits your project?
How much money would you like to raise?
How did you hear about us?
This process is fun and I’m merely hoping that kickstarter agrees to let me post the project!
It’s been a long time. My engineer is taking too much time to complete the project, it’s over a year over-due. BUT it feels as if I will have the prototype fully complete in about 2 weeks! Thus I must push forward. Once I have the prototype, I will do a kickstarter campaign for 3 specific goals:
Raise funds for my business
Get an initial user base to get feedback from, and leverage when drumming up excitement for the product
Prove (or disprove) my products concept
#3 is most important and is tied strongly to #1. If my product sells and generates interest then my life will change. If not, I will wallow is self misery and dream up my next big idea.
To reach this goal I am preparing. In my mind I answered the question, “What do I need for a successful kickstarter campaign?”. For me, for my project, I decided that I wanted to blow it out. I have to go bigger than just a camera pointed at me in a smelly room with no background. NO! That’s not for me, and that takes a metaphorical shit on my product. I will do better, I am going to go balls out. I’m going to put on a show and be fully prepared. Therefore I came up with the following list of things I need to create my kick-ass kickstarter campaign:
(1) My complete product
My core prototype (in progress, should be in my hands in 2-4 weeks)
Settle on the material and process used to create the prototype “covers” (in progress, will close on this this week)
Get initial cover designs (complete, but may add a few more)
(2) Marketing materials
Explainer video (complete)
Product photos (identifying person/company to take this on once we have everything)
Fashion-type photos ( identifying person/company to take this on once we have everything)
(3) Kickstarter specific materials
Choose rewards levels and rewards! (In progress, it’s fun to think of what I can give back)
The writing for the kickstarter campaign - the core page (Need to work on this)
The video for the kickstarter campaign - (Explainer video + me talking with product photos/fashion photos. * Need to hire a professional to help me with this)
The writing for “requesting permission” to post my project on kickstarter (Need to work on this)
Finalize my welcome page, and kickstarter link page (nearly complete - awaiting images for finalization)
I want to complete this in by the end of July, however I am considering the best time to launch the kickstarter project. The olympics start in mid-July and end mid-August. So.. when do I launch it? I’m not worrying about this now, but it’s good to keep it in mind.
This is going to be fun! I will post updates on my progress on this blog and via twitter.
Am I missing something? tweet me, or leave a comment below and I’ll consider adding it!
I’ve worked with a number of contractors on a number of pieces of my prototype and propaganda material - oh excuse me, I mean advertisements. Each contractor was different, some were dependable, others were… not. Regardless there were a couple of things that made my contractors work better and some things that just made them work worse.
Usually you would read an article like this and have a laundry list of things written out that was maybe 50% good and 50% crap and it is up to you to determine what is crap. I’m not doing that here. For the bulk of hiring contractors you can do the research and choose the contractor that you think will be best for your job and how you choose will influence how the job is completed. The randomness of quality, accuracy, price and the ability to deliver is entirely in your court.
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That said, there is really only one thing that you need to do when you are hiring a contractor from the business side: Write out very specific requirements!
Yes, very specific requirements.
Think about this. You start a new job. On day one, the company has no work for you to do. You’re bored. You sit around, you surf the web, but that doesn’t help you get through the day. You think about the interview process, and you think how can I contribute while I’m here.
Ok, now imagine that one day one of your job you are given a document that outlines everything in the project that has to get done for your first project. Including details on the goals of the project, an overview of the functionality of the project, and finally very detailed documentation on how the dam thing is supposed to function. Now on day one of your new job you can… get to work!
As a business owner, many times you are in a rush to hire someone because you want to get moving on the project. But you must stop, think, plan, then hire. Otherwise you have a worker at a desk with nothing to do except start working on your project - with no direction. Think, plan, hire, guide.
A little over a month or ago I began searching for a video company to make an “explainer video” for my upcoming company. I was excited about the idea, but I wasn’t sure that I was willing to put the money into it. Therefore I did what any entrepeneur would do, I researched the hell out of it! What I found was that the price of an explainer video and the quality of the explainer video (and the process leading to the video creation) fluctuated dramatically.
I found that the explainer video industry is entirely in it’s infancy. There are many companies creating them, some professional, some less professional. The sheer number of companies available to choose from is interesting in and of itself. With a landscape such as this price and quality varies IMMENSELY.
Strategically, companies with higher prices tend to try to romance you a bit more on your initial contacts. They want to spend more time discussing your project understanding what your goals are so that they can “get a better idea as to what you’re looking for”. But, in reality you don’t need the companies to know what you’re looking for. You need to know what they can deliver. So a simple perusing of their portfolio - small or large, is a great indication on their typical style of explainer video. Use their sites to understand what they can deliver well before contacting them.
There are many great explainer videos that appear to be easy to create - but are better at communicating your points to the watcher - keep that in mind as you browse. I great animation is no substitute for a video that explains what your product or service is well.
Note: These prices are a stamp in time, and are VERY likely to change. To the explainer video companies reading this, you’re great, and now you have a competetive analysis. to the entrepeneurs reading this - happy researching!
These companies produce videos of varying quality. When getting them to help create a video for you be sure to ask questions, assess their ability to deliver the product that you want, in the style that you want, and assess their professionalism - it could mean the difference between having a video at the end of the process and just having thrown money away,
Personally I wound up using broadcast2world.com. They produced a highly professional animation for me, meeting my objectives precisely. I provided the script to ensure that the video matched my needs, however they were equally willing to write it. i will post the video in the next few weeks on this blog. Below are sample explainer videos from each company listed above.
Posted from: NY, USAToday I received the internal portion of my prototype. I was really excited, potentially I might sign off on the functionality and have my final prototype in my hands within a week.
If you haven’t gathered by the title, the dam thing didn’t work! The entire functionality is simple, however the engineer in china didn’t follow the flow diagram when making the software.
I wish I could say that was the first time I saw how sucky work was from china. In actuality it was the second. Previous to this, engineers were designing the exterior of my product and I wound up firing them because they designed a box rather than a product design.
At this pint I don’t know who was wrong, china or my American engineer who I hired to make this device work.
I guess that means I’m working for another 3 to 6 months at least…
Tonight, I trademarked my product logo! (it’s not “VideoTagger)
I’ve actually done this once before, however the last time it was for “VideoTagger” VideoTagger was a great application and if it went somewhere it would have been work trademarking it for $325 dollars. Look it up here. This time, I registered a new trademark for a new term, but it’s not on the teas website yet.
Today I trademark my company logo as “intent to use”, which generally means that I’m protecting it prior to actually using it in commerce, but I need to be diligent in following up on it’s status within the TEAS system.
This time, it cost $625 as my product lives in two different classes. By the way, as a layman going through the trademark process is kind of easy except for when choosing the classes to register the mark in. I wish someone out there would create a better way to search through the data in the USPTO…. I’m often surprised at how old and antiquated our trademark system is. It’s like visiting a website made in the year 2000 - it’s functional, ugly and ripe for making problems for it’s users.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Contractors and How to Analyze Them Before Hiring Them
This officially marks one year of working with contractors. I’ve worked with them on getting my prototype made, getting my logo created, getting a legal document for my patent pending, and soon getting my “explainer” video created & initial full website made. Over the course of this time I really started to see the patterns of people that I hired and began to understand what thinking I need to do in order to choose someone/ some company that will (1) do a good job and (2) get the job done in an efficient time frame. Choose right, and you’ll have the deliverable in your hand in no time. Choose wrong and you can wind up frustrated and almost forever stuck in a waiting period. My experiences have taught me how to analyze a contractors initial behavior during the “conversation” period before you actually hire them. Below are some of my takeaways with examples. 1. Get at minimum 3 potential contractors and interview them This sounds simple. Find more than one person to interview for any deliverable. You need to do this. Being able to get a broad idea of the people available in a given field really gives you some perspective. First you learn a bit about the field, secondly you get the benefit of price comparisons for the same job and thirdly this gives you solid grounding in determining which which contractor is most capable of getting the job done in an efficient time period. Ask for specific examples and push back on any estimated time period and price that seems out of line. Example: In choosing my logo contractor (who I never spoke to on the phone), I went to “logopond.com”. The site showcases portfolios of people who create logos. Despite the fact that I really loved the work that my contractor did, I saw that the work was consistently high quality and in a style that I enjoyed. Then I found 4 other logo contractors and emailed them all a similar email. The email asked if they would be interested in making a logo for me, what they would charge, how long it would take to complete, and what I would get for my money (# revisions/etc). What I was looking for was a price comparison based on the complexity of their previous work, the speed at which they responded to the email, and whether they avoided giving me all of the information that I had asked for. This initial analysis gave a footing on the logo industry based on the type of output that I wanted and introduced me to 4 personality types that I could work with. 2. Hire people smarter than you As an entrepreneur I’ve heard this phrase time and time again. Hire people smarter than you. Fact of the matter is that nearly anyone in an industry role who does something different than you will have more knowledge in their given field. What I tend to keep in mind is more how people interact with me. Do they interact the way that i want them to interact? Giving me the information that I want without some bloated conversation that is meaningless to me? All of these signs point to the type of intelligence that i want. Moreover I want to see samples of their work, get use cases from them to understand what processes they like to use and expected turnover time. I judge people based on how they converse with me because I know that I will be working with them for a while. if their not sharp, their OUT! When I hired my patent attorney, I talked to 4 people. Each one told me that they had insane rates and that they charged by the 1/10th of an hour. Well, the analysis here was simple how long did it take them to explain to me what the process would be if I went with them. The price estimates were somewhat close, so it was all about how soon I could get through the useless information that they wanted to talk to me about and get to the meat of the discussion. One person talked to me for a half hour about the process, another well spoken individual summed it up in 5 minutes. He was hired. 3. Trust your gut If you’re talking to someone and you just get that weird feeling that something isn’t right, it ISN’T. RUN. This happened to me when I hired my engineers. Before I signed with them (they were the only ones I interviewed - they came recommended to me) it took them 5 months to give me a price estimate for the job. The price estimate was much higher than I expected. Should I mention the time it took to get it again? Also, they tried to get me to sign a contract before they had the price estimates! It felt like a bait and switch. Moreover, they estimated the prototype would take 5 weeks. I pushed back, they said it was realistic - which made me excited. I signed. My gut said it was going to be bad. I signed with them anyway, they were my only option. I told myself they were recommended. It’s been 8 months, I still don’t have my prototype - but it’s coming…. 4. Create a contract with benchmarks When actually signing with a contractor, make sure that approvals are required after the close of a phase and enforce them. This allows you additional leeway and transparency in the process. If one phase went poorly - fire them. Cut your loses, find someone else to continue the work. The headaches are not worth your time. You pay their salary, they work for you. If you’re spending too much time managing the process GET RID OF THEM. 5. Have strong passionate opinions At the end of the day, for you to succeed on successfully managing a contractor it is all about YOU. You need to be very solid on what you want from a contractor. The more solid you are, the better the end result will be. And if they stink, take it out on them not your loved ones. For me.. I’m not a yeller. I don’t scream at people. But something inside me tells me that if I screamed, more would get done. Instead when I want to yell i tell my contactor that I don’t yell at people but Im extremely frustrated with them and tell them why. Usually they come back with excuses, fact is I don’t want excuses I want results. Make yourself clear. Write your opinions down and document them - either in a requirements document or via email. Manage the people, be passionate about your product and what you want them to deliver and let it be known. At the end of the day, you own what they work on. You must be willing to take a risk and hire someone, but knowing how to analyze and work with contractors (and get rid of contractors) is key to creating any successful business.
Lessons learned from working alongside my engineers
Over time, I’ve been frustrated with the progress of my engineers. This caused me to seek an in person meeting, where I literally would sit in the background and wait for questions to arise as my engineers actually worked.
Spending a day with my engineers taught me many lessons. Some were more obvious than others, but all were extremely important points for me to learn.
When explaining my product to the new engineer, I found these items to be of amazing value
Product samples: These existing products harness at least one feature that belongs in my product. Whether it was the type of plastic, the type of button, or a specific design feature a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a sample product is worth 20 product design iterations
Evernote: As I browsed the web, I grabbed pictures of devices that I thought gave off the kind of look that I wanted for my device. I organized all the images into a single evernote page to show to my engineers. They got it.
Business strategy / Product description: In addition to the above, I introduced my product idea by giving a quick sales pitch. Discussing the goals of the product from a functional perspective, intended audience, intended uses, and the things that tie it together. I knew my engineers got it when they said “its a fashion accessory”
Post it note product: Yes, I cut post-it notes to represent that actual size of my device. This oddly enough provided huge insight into the design for my team. They immediately understood the challenges associated with the product design, and as I held it on my belt, and on a purse strap they could see what we needed to accomplish.
Actually being in the room as they worked, caused them to actually do work. This is a huge note, as when you’re not in the room you can get the sense that they are only working when they start contacting you for questions or feedback.
New knowledge came to me as I sat there hearing them talk.
Example 1: When my product is being created, the direction of the molding units affect how the product can be designed
Example 2: In addition to the pieces within my product, we have to account for room for screws, etc.
Brainstorming alongside my engineers, allowed my ideas on the solution to be more integrated into the actual product design
Being there to answer questions while looking over their shoulder - priceless
If one engineer is working and another is trying to make conversation with them about a non-work topic, then you need to step in and stop the second engineer from talking
The big takeaway was (1) let the engineers work without distraction (2) Bring your laptop and work close to, but not on top of them. (3) Be available, close and within earshot to help answer any questions immediately and (4) never ever expect them to deliver on time
The only remaining mystery is why is there still such a delay for contractors? It’s as if they need to multiply their estimates by 2.5. I expected final drawings by EOD Friday (2 days) and low and behold it’s Saturday night and I aint got no solidworks drawing in my inbox.
Today I got to use my Tetris abilities to help build my new product.
After a long wait, my engineer contacted me with the revised smaller part list of my product. Since last time I was pissed that the product was so large, this time… the product was still a bit large…. But the pieces themselves were smaller.
Thus I did the only thing any 80s-90s child would do, I Tetris-ized it! I got the dimensions of all of the pieces, and I started playing with how they could be layered on top of each other. I was working only with paper, but I turned the pieces and at times, I clearly dropped the pieces into place where they would never be moved again. At one point I even heard the classic russian music that went along with the game and found myself humming it, and laughing inside my head like a little girl.
After 20 minutes of experimentation, I re-measured the internal size of the device that I Tetris-ized and found that it was much MUCH more acceptable. I immediately called back my engineer and sent off a detailed guide on how to fit the pieces together so that I would be sufficiently happy to sign off on the phase being complete. He said that there may be one issue with how I put the pieces together, but I believe that the problem is a minor one and can be overcome.
So…. That means that we are FINALLY nearing the end of the prototype phase. With the pieces fitting into the device, and the device actually functioning, now we only need to finish what the external view of the device is and we’re done!
To expedite the final phase of the process, instead of relying on a contractor of my contractor’s contractor (yes that’s three levels deep) I am forcing my engineer to NOT do any work until I am sitting beside him. Yes, this is micro-management but this is intended to help us finish the device as fast as possible rather than us going back and forth with China for the next few months.
Finally getting close to launching! Here’s a classic Tetris game for those who can’t seem to remember it…
After a week of feeling frustrated in the direction my prototype was taking, I had a face to face meeting with my engineer. I was prepared to the gills with things to talk about. I had printouts of emails, I had printouts of the deliverables that he gave me early on in the process, and I had my box of tricks (other products I kept as inspiration and comparison). I needed to talk to him and lost sleep for nights beforehand because I was unhappy with my product. Finally, I met him. It took me 2 hours to get to morristown nj from the city. We met for dinner. It started off casual, chatting about places we’ve been and crazy foreign adventures. Then as the meal was ending I took out the things that we really pissing me off so we could discuss them and get on the same page.
First was the simple thing. I showed him version one of the 3d drawing he sent me alongside my feedback. There were 8 items of feedback and only one change between the first and second versions. I showed him this same pattern between the 2nd and 3rd versions, and 3rd and 4th. I needed to show him this so that he understood my frustrations and I thought it would put him in a position where he would listen to me more closely for the remainder of the meeting. Then, I pulled out my box of tricks. First, I pulled out a modified packets of post it notes. I had cut them and taped them together to show the dimensions of my device as he was proposing it. It was too large. I then pulled out a purse and showed him how I wanted consumers to use it. He saw right away that the device was too big. Then I pulled out 2 similar, competing devices, which each were about half the size of my device. He got the message, the device had to be smaller.
We didn’t stop there though, we talked about all of the pieces of the device, how it was supposed to look, how the accessories were supposed to work. I pulled out our signed contract and showed him my thoughts on how things should be designed, as it was included in the contract with my own drawings. How it was supposed to be a little pretty device. He got the message clearly. Meeting in person was the most valuable thing that I’ve done. Throwing out the first version of the prototype is also hopefully going to be beneficial and not too costly. I’m crossing my fingers that the next iteration is a better one.