You may have noticed that our domain name has changed and we are now branding ourselves as SAS Workshops. Rest assured we are still the same people (ie right now primarily just me, Sam Taggart) We are still doing the same thing we have been doing recently which is helping LabVIEW Teams be even more productive through our Mastermind groups and a variety of workshops, and personal coaching. We are just realigning our brand with what we are actually doing. We are also trying to make our name and website more memorable.
When I first started in business, like most business owners I had no clue how tu run a business. I had been building test systems and writing test software for Westinghouse Electric Company. I became very good at LabVIEW. When my wife decided to move to Colorado, I thought “Oh I can do this contracting thing. No big deal. Who needs to learn about sales and marketing? People will be amazed by my LabVIEW skills and find me and hire me.” Some of you might be laughing right now because you don’t need me to tell you where this attitude got me. Nowhere.
While I didn’t know anything about business, I did know 2 things that really helped me out. One thing was that I needed help. So I got a business coach and joined a business owners group and have been working that angle. I’ve learned a ton from that. The other thing I knew was that software development was an iterative process. You come up with something, you show it to the customer, get feedback and then repeat. Applying this same process to business has helped immensely.
It’s an iterative process
I started out as a LabVIEW Gun for hire. If you needed LabVIEW code you could just hire me and I would knock it out for you and do a great job. And I did. However, that market is crowded and it is hard to stand out. I thought that doing a high-quality job would help, but that market tends to go to the lowest bidder and not value quality, which was really important to me. The other problem I ran into is that work was very unpredictable. One month I would be swamped and the next month, I would have nothing in the pipeline. So I knew I had to change something.
I began to notice a lot of companies that had outsourced their LabVIEW Development to some third party and they weren’t very satisfied with the results. That’s typically why they called me. I started my second iteration simply by trying to convince managers to keep their LabVIEW Development in house and build up their internal LabVIEW capabilities. I would still do some coding, but I would work alongside their engineers and teach them LabVIEW and write some scripting tools for them and help them implement some better processes. By building them up they could avoid outsourcing and if they got overwhelmed and had to outsource, they would at least have someone who knew LabVIEW who could evaluate the quality of what they got and possibly maintain it. That track worked better, but it was still unpredictable.
The current iteration
About a year or two ago I started teaching classes for NI. It reminded me of how much I like to teach. Teaching for NI, I realized a couple gaps in what NI teaches, particularly at the high end. The software engineering class touches a bunch of topics, but didn’t really go very deep into them. There was a need for some advanced classes, particularly on unit testing and continuous integration. Around the sametime I became a DQMH Trusted Advisor.
In January I ran both a DQMH and a Unit Testing Workshop.They both went well. I learned a few lessons which I will apply the next time I offer them in April. I also started a LabVIEW Mastermind group in January and it has been going well as well. I am super excited about the way things are going right now. The business model also works really well for me. It’s a little more predictable and I don’t have to deal with such long sales cycles and contract negotiations.
Pay attention to the signs
Even though right now with the Corona Virus, running a training business is a little harder, I’ve seen some signs recently that I am on the right track. I’ve got a great group in the Mastermind. Currently we are at 6 members and it is going very well. I had one guy from India show up for a Mastermind group at 2am his time. That is some dedication. The Unit Testing and DQMH workshops in January went well. They weren’t as well attended as I would have liked. We had 7 people for the Unit testing workshop and only 3 for the DQMH Workshop. For the Unit Testing Workshop I had a LabVIEW Champion show up and bring a couple colleagues. For the DQMH class I had a guy travel from Alabama. He was talking about sending some of his coworkers to the next workshop. There are definitely signs that I am filling a need.