Searching \ for '[OT]: Starting up as a small design shop' in subject line. ()
Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure! Help us get a faster server
FAQ page: www.piclist.com/techref/index.htm?key=starting+small+design
Search entire site for: 'Starting up as a small design shop'.

Exact match. Not showing close matches.
PICList Thread
'[OT]: Starting up as a small design shop'
2003\12\08@173151 by jsand

flavicon
face
Hello Steve & PIC.ers,

I could write books and bore y'all to death with my business background.
20 years of it, pleased as can be, these days.
In days gone it was a different story...

Be prepared for `upsets', like customers with endless promises of
1.    Repeat orders of product (never comes).
2.    We owe you, but you're a small outfit so it can't hurt you to wait.
3.    Sure, you've finished this fandangle the way we asked, but it's
       no use to us if it doesn't have these mods done first.

As others have said, I suppose the best insurance is to have committed
customers in whom you have confidence.

That's to start off with, then ask yourself
`Does this customer expect me to work exclusively on their behalf,
on products meant for them alone?'
`What will their attitude be if I find others who would like to buy the
finished item from me?'   (naturally, these folks are their competitors).

I've concluded there are two extremes in financing the development
of a new product.
Case    Alpha.
   Customer pays the lot up front, no questions. He's confident of a return.
Case    Omega.
   Developer funds the project, hopes to sell end product & make profit.

In case Alpha., customer owns everything & scores providing the product
takes off.
In case Omega., developer owns the product and wants only to sell it a price
point that gives him the maximum return over a chosen period, life-of-product
or suchlike. Down the list of priorities comes the welfare of the original
client.

Judge your customer carefully, see where they fit in this spectrum.
Do *they* have a proper understanding of these issues?
Both of you can easily be in a cuckoo-land of misunderstandings before
you even start.

nuff said,  enjoy

       best regards,  John


email from the desk of John Sanderson.
JS Controls, PO Box 1887, Boksburg 1460, Rep. of S. Africa.
Tel/Fax 011 893 4154,
Cell 082 741 6275,
web    http://www.jscontrols.co.za
Manufacturer & purveyor of laboratory force testing apparatus &
related products & services.

--
http://www.piclist.com hint: PICList Posts must start with ONE topic:
[PIC]:,[SX]:,[AVR]: ->uP ONLY! [EE]:,[OT]: ->Other [BUY]:,[AD]: ->Ads

2003\12\08@181548 by llile

flavicon
face
Once you have customers (your first priority) you will need contracts
(your second priority IMHO).

Many consultants work without contracts, figuring that if they are gonna
screw you they will do it anyway.  Other people call these types fools,
but there are proponents of each method.  I won't argue about it but I
have a standard contract.  In any case you need a clearly stated written
scope of work for each project that outlines the deliverables, the fee,
when the fee will be paid, and what happens if it is not paid on time, and
which deliverables will be withheld against payment.

A great place to start is NOLO.COM.  They have a lot of info on standard
contracts.  They have a standard cotnract book, available for less then
$25, that has standard contradcts for consultants and so on.  I won't send
you mine, becuase you are better off starting off with NOLO.  Get their
book, read it, get a standard contract started.

Then pass the contract by your barrister (since you are in Britain, and
the NOLO site is really written under US law)  and tell him to tailor it
to British law.

Way down the list is the fun stuff, setting up your office and shop.  Do
that later.

You may need Professional Liability insurance jsut to operate at all.  In
electronics, this is often not done in the US.  But Professional engineers
that work on public buildings, such as structural engineers, absolutely
must have liability insurance or their clients run away screaming.

Health insurance, a no-brainer in Britain, is a huge headache for small
business owners int he US.  Some small businesses have other forms of
insurance, such as key man insurance or liability for outside personnel
who might be on your premises.


-- Lawrence Lile





jsand <spam_OUTjohnTakeThisOuTspamJSCONTROLS.CO.ZA>
Sent by: pic microcontroller discussion list <.....PICLISTKILLspamspam@spam@MITVMA.MIT.EDU>
12/08/2003 04:20 PM
Please respond to pic microcontroller discussion list


       To:     PICLISTspamKILLspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU
       cc:
       Subject:        [OT]: Starting up as a small design shop


Hello Steve & PIC.ers,

I could write books and bore y'all to death with my business background.
20 years of it, pleased as can be, these days.
In days gone it was a different story...

Be prepared for `upsets', like customers with endless promises of
1.    Repeat orders of product (never comes).
2.    We owe you, but you're a small outfit so it can't hurt you to wait.
3.    Sure, you've finished this fandangle the way we asked, but it's
       no use to us if it doesn't have these mods done first.

As others have said, I suppose the best insurance is to have committed
customers in whom you have confidence.

That's to start off with, then ask yourself
`Does this customer expect me to work exclusively on their behalf,
on products meant for them alone?'
`What will their attitude be if I find others who would like to buy the
finished item from me?'   (naturally, these folks are their competitors).

I've concluded there are two extremes in financing the development
of a new product.
Case    Alpha.
   Customer pays the lot up front, no questions. He's confident of a
return.
Case    Omega.
   Developer funds the project, hopes to sell end product & make profit.

In case Alpha., customer owns everything & scores providing the product
takes off.
In case Omega., developer owns the product and wants only to sell it a
price
point that gives him the maximum return over a chosen period,
life-of-product
or suchlike. Down the list of priorities comes the welfare of the original
client.

Judge your customer carefully, see where they fit in this spectrum.
Do *they* have a proper understanding of these issues?
Both of you can easily be in a cuckoo-land of misunderstandings before
you even start.

nuff said,  enjoy

       best regards,  John


email from the desk of John Sanderson.
JS Controls, PO Box 1887, Boksburg 1460, Rep. of S. Africa.
Tel/Fax 011 893 4154,
Cell 082 741 6275,
web    http://www.jscontrols.co.za
Manufacturer & purveyor of laboratory force testing apparatus &
related products & services.

--
http://www.piclist.com hint: PICList Posts must start with ONE topic:
[PIC]:,[SX]:,[AVR]: ->uP ONLY! [EE]:,[OT]: ->Other [BUY]:,[AD]: ->Ads



--
http://www.piclist.com hint: PICList Posts must start with ONE topic:
[PIC]:,[SX]:,[AVR]: ->uP ONLY! [EE]:,[OT]: ->Other [BUY]:,[AD]: ->Ads

2003\12\08@184418 by Mike Harrison

flavicon
face
On Mon, 8 Dec 2003 17:14:35 -0600, you wrote:

>Once you have customers (your first priority) you will need contracts
>(your second priority IMHO).
>
>Many consultants work without contracts, figuring that if they are gonna
>screw you they will do it anyway.  Other people call these types fools,
>but there are proponents of each method.  I won't argue about it but I
>have a standard contract.  In any case you need a clearly stated written
>scope of work for each project that outlines the deliverables, the fee,
>when the fee will be paid, and what happens if it is not paid on time, and
>which deliverables will be withheld against payment.

Contracts can work both ways. It can be hard for them to pin any liability down to you if there
isn't  a formal contract specifying exactly what your responsibilities were....  
I usually state something like "I reserve the right to withold design files (source.object code, PCB
artwork etc.) and/or support if any invoices are overdue". Where possible, supply code-protected devices for testing, invoice when the customer has approved
them, and hand over code when invoice is paid. This can also be a good way to speed up payments.
>You may need Professional Liability insurance jsut to operate at all.  In
>electronics, this is often not done in the US.  But Professional engineers
>that work on public buildings, such as structural engineers, absolutely
>must have liability insurance or their clients run away screaming.
My answer to this is something like :
"The customer is responsible for testing the (code/hardware etc.), and determining its suitability
for purpose. Significant time spent fixing bugs discovered after customer has approved prototypes
etc. may be chargeable."

--
http://www.piclist.com hint: PICList Posts must start with ONE topic:
[PIC]:,[SX]:,[AVR]: ->uP ONLY! [EE]:,[OT]: ->Other [BUY]:,[AD]: ->Ads

2003\12\08@210942 by Jonathan Johnson

flavicon
face
another way of speeding payments is have pre-established milestones and
payment dates for each of them. be explicit with terms and include late
penalties, you can enforce these only if you get them to sign a document
agreeing to them, you can get quite harsh with these too, so long as they
explicitly agree to them (no that doesnt mean "yes I'll F$&*#@g agree to
them" ;-) in writing.

{Original Message removed}

2003\12\09@100913 by llile

flavicon
face
I started asking for 2/3 of my fee in advance, 1/3 on delivery of final
product, tech support thereafter at an hourly rate.  It weeds out the
garage inventor crowd.


What about writing articles as a way of gaining clients?  I am sure that a
well placed article in some technical mag could stimulate people to call
about work along similar lines.  This would especially true if your bio at
the end says "Joe Smith is president of Smith Gigatronics, a consulting
firm specializing in RF applications" or some such.   Has anybody NOT
heard of Steve Ciarcia, the prototype for this model of outreach?  This is
also Don Lancaster's schtick.


-- Lawrence Lile





Jonathan Johnson <.....outeredgeKILLspamspam.....SMARTCHAT.NET.AU>
Sent by: pic microcontroller discussion list <EraseMEPICLISTspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTMITVMA.MIT.EDU>
12/08/2003 08:14 PM
Please respond to pic microcontroller discussion list


       To:     PICLISTspamspam_OUTMITVMA.MIT.EDU
       cc:
       Subject:        Re: [OT]: Starting up as a small design shop


another way of speeding payments is have pre-established milestones and
payment dates for each of them. be explicit with terms and include late
penalties, you can enforce these only if you get them to sign a document
agreeing to them, you can get quite harsh with these too, so long as they
explicitly agree to them (no that doesnt mean "yes I'll F$&*#@g agree to
them" ;-) in writing.

{Original Message removed}

2003\12\11@140730 by ed_b_pes

flavicon
face
One thing that I can't emphasize enough is to back up your files.  I'm not
as religious about it as I should be and it cost me.  I had nearly completed
the pcb layout, had done the schematic and calculations, etc., when my hard
drive crashed.  It costs less to recover the data, then to redo everything,
but you can't bill the client for either one.

I have some friends that have developed a backup system for doctor's and
lawyer's offices to help meet new federal standards on client data
confidentiality.  I've told them that developers and consultants are as good
a market because we don't need to be spoon fed - show us it works, ask a
fair price, and we'll buy one.  It has two ultra secure Ethernet ports, one
for Intranet and one for Internet, is smaller than a notebook, has no
display, redundant encrypted backup and can be set up for automatic
mirroring.  His demonstration is to pull the power dongle from the wall in
the middle of a save, then plug it back in - nothing lost - starts where it
left off.  When my delinquent customer pays up, I'll buy one, but hope
they'll give me a discount.  Anyway - backup, backup, Backup!

And organize your records as if you'll do a hundred projects, because
eventually you will and it's hell to go back to try to find something 4
years and/or 5 computers ago.

And always always read the fine print on the contract.  One client tried to
get me to sign a not compete for 7 years and to indemnify them if something
they've asked me to design infringes somebody's patent.  Obviously, you're
not going to try to use a patented design, but they should bear the cost of
the patent search and you can't know what's already in the queue.  If you
can, add in the contract that failure to pay reverts ownership to you and
nullifies the non-compete clause.  Customers that don't pay when you've got
those sorts of teeth are probably bad long-term customers anyway.

Good luck.

Ed

{Original Message removed}

2003\12\11@143153 by Mike Harrison

flavicon
face
On Thu, 11 Dec 2003 13:06:26 -0600, you wrote:

>One thing that I can't emphasize enough is to back up your files.  I'm not
>as religious about it as I should be and it cost me.  I had nearly completed
>the pcb layout, had done the schematic and calculations, etc., when my hard
>drive crashed.  It costs less to recover the data, then to redo everything,
>but you can't bill the client for either one.
>
>I have some friends that have developed a backup system for doctor's and
>lawyer's offices to help meet new federal standards on client data
>confidentiality.  I've told them that developers and consultants are as good
>a market because we don't need to be spoon fed - show us it works, ask a
>fair price, and we'll buy one.  It has two ultra secure Ethernet ports, one
>for Intranet and one for Internet, is smaller than a notebook, has no
>display, redundant encrypted backup and can be set up for automatic
>mirroring.  His demonstration is to pull the power dongle from the wall in
>the middle of a save, then plug it back in - nothing lost - starts where it
>left off.  When my delinquent customer pays up, I'll buy one, but hope
>they'll give me a discount.  Anyway - backup, backup, Backup!

I'd agree, but would add that it's more common to need to pull the odd file off a backup because you
accidentally overwrote it, or broke something by mistake & need to look at an earlier version, than
from hard disk failure.
Create frequent 'earlier versions'. In Windoze this is as easy as doing Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V to make Copy
(xxx) of....
Make sure you keep source files for EVERY version released to a customer.

I got an AIT-1 drive and some tapes off Ebay - this does up to  70gig on one tape. Ease of use and
getting everything on one tape is mure important than speed, because you can just start it off &
leave it to run. Multiple media (CDs etc.) are a pain, and anything that is a pain will not get
done. Incremental backups are more hassle than they are worth. Keep tapes off-site. I had one customer who
had their PC and all their backup tapes stolen.

I also keep a floppy/CD of PCB, source files etc. in the project folder (physical paper folder, that
is!).

>And organize your records as if you'll do a hundred projects, because
>eventually you will and it's hell to go back to try to find something 4
>years and/or 5 computers ago.

Totally agree - I now have a PCBs dir and a Software dir, some segregated by customer, some by
project - too much of a mess to clean up now. I would suggest a customer folder, containing poduct
folders, each having subfolders for PCB, Firmware, Test software etc.

Of course even this gets messy where your Test software covers several products......

Another thing I would add - keeping track of versions/variants can be hard, especially as things
like product names may not be known at the start of development. If your customer has an in-house drawing control system, get them to issue drawing numbers for
firmware variants right at the start. If they don't have a system, start your own and insist the
customer refers to parts by these numbers, so you both know exactly what you are taling about when
they ask you 4 years later  to send a copy of the code or PCB files for a "Mark 2 wibble-o-tron,
left-hand version, with the special kludge for the guy in Japan".....



--
http://www.piclist.com#nomail Going offline? Don't AutoReply us!
email @spam@listservKILLspamspammitvma.mit.edu with SET PICList DIGEST in the body

2003\12\11@172927 by Kenneth Lumia

picon face
Several thoughts on the subject, some from a bad experience.

A long time ago, I used tapes to backup my work.  They were
rather expensive, so I went into this routine of daily, weekly and
monthly tapes and then recycling them after quite a long period
of time.  I was working on a new software product for my
business, when, due to other more important issues coming up,
I had to set aside the development for an extended period.
Somewhere along the line this subdirectory was removed from the
list of directories being backed up.  Well, of course, eventually
the backups were overwritten.  Even worse, after my hardrive
failed and a new one was installed, all my files were reinstalled
and I thought I was good to go.  About 4 months later when
I had a chance to go back and work on the project, I finally
realized that it was lost.  Ouch!

It was at that point that I decided to partition a data drive (F:)
that contained all of "my" data and now do CDROM backups
making sure to set the flags to not allow aditional writes to the
CD - one time and that's it!

Multiple copies and offsite storage is required as Mike mentioned.

I should also add that you must keep track of which programs
(and versions) were used to create your "outputs".  As well as
going back to source code, you should also go back to the same
revisions of compilers, etc. as tool bugs can sometimes help or
hurt you.

Finally, make sure you can still read this stuff in the future.  Have you
ever seen 8" floppies or punch cards? How about more
current  5.25" floppies?



{Original Message removed}

2003\12\11@182335 by Tom Deutschman

flavicon
face
> Create frequent 'earlier versions'. In Windoze this is as
> easy as doing Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V to make Copy
> (xxx) of....
> Make sure you keep source files for EVERY version released to
> a customer.

I've been using CVS for revision control for some years. There is a
windows version that I now use at http://www.wincvs.org/. A couple of
things I like about this method is that you create (hopefully) a log
entry for every check-in and you can also check-in binary files such as
software tools, schematic, pcb, and other project files. Once you have
it set up, its as easy as pie to check-in often and show differences
between various versions of text files. Be sure to regularly backup your
repository.

Tom Deutschman

Wizbang Designs, Inc.
1629 W 8TH AVE
Spokane, WA  99204

Phone: (509) 251-4814
http://www.wizbangdesigns.com

--
http://www.piclist.com#nomail Going offline? Don't AutoReply us!
email KILLspamlistservKILLspamspammitvma.mit.edu with SET PICList DIGEST in the body

2003\12\11@193243 by Josh Koffman

flavicon
face
And be sure to verify those backups. And I don't mean just checking the
"verify after backup" box in your backup program. I do some work with a
smaller software company, and we recently had to reinstall some stuff
from backups. Lo and behold, when our IT department tried, the backups
weren't valid. It could have gotten really bad, but our team is really
talented. They now have a seperate machine, not living on the network
that they can use to try to restore from backups every once in a while
to double check that they work.

Josh
--
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something
completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete
fools.
       -Douglas Adams


Tom Deutschman wrote:
> Be sure to regularly backup your
> repository.

--
http://www.piclist.com#nomail Going offline? Don't AutoReply us!
email RemoveMElistservTakeThisOuTspammitvma.mit.edu with SET PICList DIGEST in the body

2003\12\12@040918 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> And be sure to verify those backups.

For everything I have on my website the rule is that I edit, check into
cvs, and a bunch of batch files and python scripts get everything from
cvs, create the website, and ftp the files that have changed. Now the
one little detail that has to be solved is that the cvs tree is on the
same HD as everything else :(

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products

--
http://www.piclist.com hint: To leave the PICList
spamBeGonepiclist-unsubscribe-requestspamBeGonespammitvma.mit.edu

2003\12\16@120526 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>Anyway - backup, backup, Backup!

And make sure you keep your backup real safe - preferably off site, and in a
fireproof container. Even in the garden shed or garage if working at home,
long term in a bank vault, or lawyers safe.

/story time/
I worked for a computer supply company in NZ at one stage. An engineer got a
call at around 4;30pm on Friday, to say a customers tape drive had failed
while doing the backup. Valiantly he sorted out spare parts and proceeded to
the customer site, repaired tape drive, and a backup was duly obtained. That
night a fire swept through the customer premises and destroyed everything.
The backup tapes were recovered from the on-site fire safe, and restored to
a machine on our company premises on the Sunday, and we had their office
staff working in our company premises on the Monday morning. We made good
advertising out of our customer support, and Chubb made good advertising for
it's fire safe, using pictures of the customer premises. The site of disk
packs sitting in a charred heap of ashes must have made many an IT manager
tremble, and everyone knew who the company was, as the fire made the news
because of its size - it was a paint factory IIRC.
/end story time/

>I'd agree, but would add that it's more common to need to
>pull the odd file off a backup because you accidentally
>overwrote it, or broke something by mistake & need to look
>at an earlier version, than from hard disk failure.

This is probably where a case should be made for some sort of CVS system to
keep track of the revision level of each file.

>Create frequent 'earlier versions'. In Windoze this is as easy
>as doing Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V to make Copy (xxx) of....
>Make sure you keep source files for EVERY version released to a customer.

Probably a good scheme. released versions are probably milestones to archive
to something like a CD-ROM which is suitably marked and stored at a separate
site.

>I got an AIT-1 drive and some tapes off Ebay - this does up
>to  70gig on one tape. Ease of use and getting everything on
>one tape is mure important than speed, because you can just
>start it off & leave it to run.

See my story above about fires. Do not make a habit of setting something to
run when you "go home" and then taking the backup media out next day. As a
minimum do incremental backups that you can store separately when you close
for the night.

>Multiple media (CDs etc.) are a pain, and anything that is a
>pain will not get done.

Agreed, but this is where you need to weigh up the backup time versus risk
of what you could loose. If you have to use multiple media items then do it.

>Incremental backups are more hassle than they are worth.

Well see my comments about completing things before stopping for the night,
and remember the fire story above. hey may be usable in the project folder
anyway (see your comment below)

>Keep tapes off-site. I had one customer
>who had their PC and all their backup tapes stolen.

Or in a suitable safe - see fire story above, but agreed, preferably off
site.

>I also keep a floppy/CD of PCB, source files etc. in the
>project folder (physical paper folder, that is!).

This can also be an incremental backup if need be.

Another comment I have not seen so far - make sure you can restore from the
backup media you are using. Just because the tape says it backed up and
verified, it may still have a problem. Can it really be read a week later,
or is the media that badly worn that you end up with read errors? Again
while working with the company mentioned in the fire story above, we had a
customer who had a machine that used 8 inch floppies for backup. Time came
to upgrade to a new machine, and problems were found reading the floppies.
Luckily the backup program had an option that allowed a "best read attempt"
on doing a restore, and would then carry on with the next block. Then many
report generator runs over the customer data weeded out most of the
resulting errors in the data, and the program files could be re-instated
from release tapes, so we were able to recover the situation. The floppies
had been claiming to do a backup/verify cycle without error, the just
"faded" over time.

--
http://www.piclist.com#nomail Going offline? Don't AutoReply us!
email TakeThisOuTlistservEraseMEspamspam_OUTmitvma.mit.edu with SET PICList DIGEST in the body

More... (looser matching)
- Last day of these posts
- In 2003 , 2004 only
- Today
- New search...