Sunday, December 28, 2008

Work to Live, or Live to Work?

It is noted that wisdom is the ability to use knowledge and understanding successfully to solve problems, avoid or avert dangers, attain certain goals, or counsel others in doing so. Therefore, it is important to apply wisdom when addressing the question of whether you want to 'work to live, or live to work' ? In other words, "How do you balance personal and family life with the commitment to a business?"
An article that appeared in The Watchtower of 4/15/2002 provides valuable insight into these questions. The article shared a "story that has been told thousands of times with many variations. A senior villager in Benin, West Africa, related the following version to some younger ones.
The fisherman returns home in his pirogue and is met by a foreign expert serving in this developing country. The expert asks the fisherman why he is back so early. He replies that he could have stayed out longer but that he had caught enough to care for his family.
"And now, what do you do with all your time anyway?" the expert asks.
The fisherman responds: "Well, I do a little fishing. I play with my children. We all have a siesta when it gets hot. In the evening, we have supper together. Later, I get together with my friends for some music, and so on."
The expert interrupts: "Look! I have a university degree and have studied these matters. I want to help you. You should stay out fishing longer. You would earn more and soon be able to purchase a bigger boat than this pirogue. With a bigger boat, you would earn still more and soon be able to build up a fleet of trawlers."
"And then?" the fisherman inquires.
"Then, instead of selling fish through a middleman, you could negotiate directly with the factory or even start your own fish-processing plant. You would be able to leave your village and move to Cotonou, or Paris, or New York and run the whole thing from there! You could even consider putting your business on the stock market and earn millions!"
"How long would that all take?" the fisherman asks.
"Perhaps 15 to 20 years," the expert answers.
"And then?" the fisherman continues.
"That is when life gets interesting! the expert explains. "Then you could retire. You could move away from the hustle and bustle of it all to some remote village."
"And then what? asks the fisherman.
"Then you have time to do a little fishing, play with your children, have a siesta when it gets hot, have supper with your family, and get together with friends for some music.""
Yes, a synopsis of life's ambition in a very effective story. While taking business initiatives seriously, it is wise to consider to what degree, and to count the cost.
Having a good routine is always beneficial when one must allocate time to various endeavors. Understandably then, extending time in one area will always come at a cost from another.

For time designated specific to a home-based business, many prefer a structured day-time routine geared around a typical business day schedule. After all, consider that most of your contacts will be local.

Additionally, flexibility is an obvious asset that you can then tailor to properly suit your needs. Some might choose to extend their working hours, as needed whether in the morning, evening, or weekends, and doing so on a limited basis.

I personally recommend that one build a business model with the goal of sustainability, thereby achieving balance in life for the equally if not more important things. Recognizing that your CAD reputation and quality of work determines whether you have work, it is easy to become unbalanced or consumed by it. Endeavor to remain confident that your CAD reputation and quality of work are also the very same factors that will allow you to achieve a sustainable business with clients that will be pleased to work with you time and again.

It may be an old adage, but it certainly rings true that no one has ever had written on their tombstone: "I wish I had spent more time in the office". With that in mind, time and experience will serve well in being able to exercise wisdom to properly balance your family and personal life with the responsibilities of managing your CAD business. In this way, you can achieve the goal of 'working to live'.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Basic Steps to Starting a CAD Business

Establishing any business requires basic precepts. For the sake of this article, we will entertain that you already have an idea as to a business plan and goals, along with the desire to follow through on your commitment.

Your thoughts should then extend to the following areas:
  • Legal Registration
  • Equipment
  • Maintenance
  • Marketing
Legal Registration:
Most states, if not all, now accommodate on-line business creation wizards that can walk you through the process. With on-line registration, one can select a suitable business structure or organization (i.e.: 'limited liability company') and complete the steps typically involved including naming your company, providing ownership information, and arranging registration payment.

As regards the most basic CAD equipment requirements, access to a SolidWorks-friendly computer and the Internet are obvious. Your monetary resources will then be a factor as to 'if' or 'how' you further build your equipment overhead. Such additional factors to consider might include purchasing a printer or having access to a local print shop; purchasing 'legal' CAD software; and having reliable transportation whether public or private. With such decisions, many may choose to start lean and then make further investments in equipment as the company develops.

Starting lean may mean that initially you don't have the CAD software that you specialize in. However, you can still provide your services by offering to work at an employers location.

Keep in mind regarding equipment purchases, that many retailers today carry 'rewards' cards that provide a discount for using their services. As with anything business related, it is important for documentation purposes to keep business purchases separate from any personal purchases.

As with any trade, the quality of your work will be directly related to the quality of your tools. Therefore it is vital that your equipment resources be properly maintained. It should go without saying that this involves protecting your computer and using it intelligently to avoid unnecessary risks. Parents are probably well aware of the dangers that younger ones present when 'playing' on the home computer!

Apart from physical maintenance, there is intellectual maintenance as well. Not to be overlooked are the many opportunities for free training to keep your CAD skills up-to-date. Many SolidWorks VARS (value added resellers) serving local areas (i.e.: Graphics/Systems which serves Wisconsin & Illinois) have regular free on-line webinars that highlight a particular topic, or they may host 'what's new' presentations for annual new releases. There are also numerous CAD user groups (i.e.: Madison Area SolidWorks User's Group) located in major metropolitan areas which serve as another means to stay active in the CAD community.

Similar to the need to balance start-up equipment decisions with available money, resourcefulness can go a long way in electronically marketing your business with little to no expense but for your time. For instance, you may choose to avail yourself of the many free features that reputable internet search companies provide. Creating a searchable website, e-mail accounts, business documents, and searchable business listings are all possible with companies such as Google and Yahoo. And all of these aspects can be created without the need for an IT degree or paying any additional expense apart from the cost you would normally pay to your internet service provider (ISP).

Your business cards or promotional items such as pens & shirts with your name and logo can all come later when you may have more capital available.

Not to be overlooked are the networking ties you may have generated with others. Periodic e-mail contact with peers will go a long way in promoting your availablity and act as a fresh reminder of your services to such ones. User groups too allow one to network with others in the field and may, with professional and tactful discernment, provide you with the opportunity to respectfully promote your business.

So with addressing some basic areas as noted above, it is possible to create a legal CAD business entity that is positioned for sustainablity, with very little start-up expense.

Are You Considering Starting a CAD Business?

So you realize your need for secular employment and have a passion for CAD but are unsure where to start so as to make it a personal or business endeavor? And with the world economic situation being uncertain at best, how can one continue in the field of CAD following... say a layoff? Well, a few options lay before you, and as with any decision there are pro's and con's for each.

An obvious option is to pursue an advertised job opportunity. The clear advantages are relative job stability and the intrinsic fiscal and insurance benefits that are afforded to company employees. Many enjoy a predictable routine, a professional office environment, in-house manufacturing, and training opportunities that larger companys may support. Disadvantages might include, ...yes, a predictable routine, or being limited to specific product design. Afterall, you've got this great imagination for design and your CAD software capability encourages you to look at all that it can do for you, and well... now you're stuck designing widget accessories... everyday!

A second option might simply be to offer your CAD services as yourself. In other words, pursue part-time or temporary work through reputable temporary work agencies or job ads. The advantages to this option are having little to no overhead or business maintenance concerns, along with workplace flexibility. Initial disadvantages may include having a limited reputation on which to build from. Since one could be pursuing jobs through temporary work agencies, each application would be essentially similar to a job interview. Over time however, the agencies along with the companies you might work with will gain knowledge of your CAD abilities and reputation and that could do much to ensure your future employment prospects.

A third option would be to establish a CAD business entity with yourself as the owner and operator. This is the option that enabled the establishment of CAD Graphics, LLC . Very similar in some regards to the second option of working as yourself, it also significantly promotes the seriousness of your intent to work in the field of CAD, and in this way expands on potential job opportunities. Perceived disadvantages, albeit inherent to a business, include the efforts one must expend to establish the legal arrangement, supporting the structure, and marketing the business. These aspects may initially seem impossing, however with forethought and moderate ambition, things can come together relatively easily.