of company: Provides businesses with market research
capabilities through Internet surveys and other online tools.
beginning of 1998, I had just received my share as a partner in the sale
of Communications Workshop, a full-service market research firm in
Chicago. I was single, in my late 30s, and the Internet was already hot.
I was willing to take some business risks because working for other
people and companies had already become tedious.
I knew that I had a good idea, which was to provide companies of all
sizes with the ability to do market research online. I planned to take
conventional market-research methods and make them easy to use and
affordable for most companies, using Internet technologies. The
centerpiece of this plan was the Web survey engine, which was intended
to handle sophisticated market-research surveys over the Internet.
To start, I hired a consulting firm to develop the survey engine.
Unfortunately, I constantly ran into problems because the software
designers I hired didn't understand the nuances of market research. I
kept expecting them to know things that seemed completely obvious to me,
the market research professional. And I wanted them to anticipate where
we needed to be with the program.
A project we had scheduled for two months to complete stretched into
four months without tangible results.
By the time the programmers were done, I had spent most of my original
money, and I had an application that didn't work for the market that I
wanted to reach. I was out of work, out of the $85,000 I had exhausted
during the development process, and really had no viable product to show
The consulting company added insult to injury by eventually billing me
an additional $6,000 for their work. My relationship with the owner of
the consulting firm, a longtime friend of mine, was beginning to fray.
Eventually, I had to dip into my retirement account to handle living
expenses and continue this "dream" of starting my own company.
My big mistake was not clearly defining for the people that I had hired
exactly what I wanted them to do. I wasn't able to do this because I
hadn't clearly resolved these issues in my own mind.
What I've learned is that the execution of my business ideas is solely
my responsibility. I've also learned that the inability to clearly
articulate my vision and my plans is not the fault of other people.
It's something that I must work on every day, so that people around me
understand my goals for my business. As an entrepreneur, I neither have
the time nor the resources to rely on other people to figure out what is
going on in my mind.
When I was able to secure additional funds, I started the development
process over. This time around, it went markedly smoother because I was
able to define and articulate, up front, the subtleties of market
research that I wanted to include in the application. I made sure doing
so was a priority and not an afterthought.
It's a costly lesson that took a long time to learn: If I am not clear
about what I want to accomplish, I do not invest the money and effort to
let someone else do that disciplined thinking for me.