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New Business and IT Contracting

“Surround yourself with like minds and you will do great things”

This November makes it 6 months after the initial vendor meetings pre Maolte’s launch. It also is 4 months after Maolte’s incorporation and nearly 1 month after the last of the critical cards on my company setup (kanban) board was completed. In reflection over this transitional stage in my company’s journey, the heavy payload of problems dogging efficient set up and launch led me think about the learned lessons from this stage. This has yielded the following insights for all those who are new to contracting like myself and are as follows:

Start with the end in mind

Decide what you want from your contracting venture and break down into real detail. Is it technological advancement without the permanent employee distractions? Do you have a great idea for a digital product and want to develop it? Are there other pursuits you want the freedom to pursue like writing books, or maybe teaching part time? Keeping your goals real is the first successful step you will take. 

Sole Trading, Umbrella Company or Limited Company

Sole trading provides a streamlined vehicle for any activity that does not expose you to much risk (e.g. novel writing), nor perform a repetitive and/or existing task that would emulate a permanent employee role. For contractors with a ready pool of clients, maybe the temporary nature and expediency of an ‘umbrella company’ would suffice for short to medium term work requirements e.g. IT projects or service provision. If you see a longer term future subject to a successful launch, then investing in a limited company to ‘build your business’ like I am doing maybe a better fit for you.

Fund your start up phase

Money is a big concern for us all, so detailed financial planning on your business outlay and your personal outlay is required. Be prepared to fund your business for a defined period of time to allow you to achieve a milestone where your business will generate revenue from its activities. You need to be able to pay yourself before this project phase/stage ends.

Structure your start up professionally

Evaluate the best project management methodology (Kanban/Waterfall) to use in your project launch and use an effective project management system like Jira or Trello to manage your progress. Staying on top of numerous moving parts as a sole member company is difficult. Automated tools are a true aid in staying afloat of your work schedule during your start up project. They also help with management of a work life balance in this hugely pressured and busy phase of your professional life.

Vendor selection should reduce risk, choose your vendors wisely

Smooth talking sales pitches are great, but they also exposure you to missing details of why you need your vendor onboarded for your new business. Think about the key aspects of what you want any vendor to do in terms of the service components they provide, along with how they provide it in technology and human terms. Its a mistake to ignore culture. Deliver to a candidate that you have invited into your tender process the type of interfacing business practices you expect as a client in terms of communication, service levels, etc. A template of points/questions to cover on each vendor selection process is a good idea to set the agenda for discussion. Its also useful to rank your candidates based on the interactive points you raised. In your ranking structure, the addition of a cultural point based on your ‘feeling’ of compatibility will increase your chances of success with your vendor. Like minded vendors are crucial to your success in setting up as a new business.

Set up business plans and processes for marketing, business & technology development

As a technologist and engineer, I totally understand the position of my fellow engineers who see contracting as a vehicle for their existing skillsets been sold for a set term. There is nothing wrong with this position, which is one of the reasons why Umbrella companies exist. If you want to build something with the potential for a longer term view like I am doing, the setting up of processes to get your name, brand and reputation out there is very important. Also as important, is the development of that position you have gained in the marketplace by maintaining and developing on the quality of your work.

The biggest change after leaving permanent employment as an engineer is the loss of that daily, weekly and monthly structure. Its important to continue to manage stress levels via good living, exercise, etc. It won’t be long before a huge payload of work will need to be structured that will replace what you lost. Your decision to move into contracting may succeed or fail but if you don’t try, you will never know. Good luck to all who dare to try and respect to all who do. Stay tuned for more on writing in this blog along with articles on other areas of interest in the DevOps and Cloud Infrastructure arenas. To not miss out on any updates on my availability, tips on related areas or anything of interest to all, sign up for one of my newsletters in the footer of any page on Maolte. I look forward to us becoming pen pals!

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