Where It all went wrong

When I was working at a corporate job, all I could think about was getting the hell out and doing my own thing. OK,so I lied a little. This idea has been in my head since I was little, but it didn’t become a really high priority for me until I worked corporately.  I quit that job as a full time salaried position last August.

This was when I started this process of screwing up, because it meant that we stopped having regular income and put a strain on us financially. While my official stance for leaving was that I was ready to move on, the reason was that my anxiety and stomach could not handle the job any further.

This original entrepreneurial leaning that I had ultimately lead to forming Spotted Koi, my company with Tony Kimberly, in February 2010.  For over a year, Tony and I have been growing and learning about running a business. It has been great so far.  I finally quit contracting with my last job last week (contracted for 6 months after quitting, to keep my income up).

So, for 6 months I have been helping to push our company “to the next level”.  We have been growing our customer base, growing our staff, and doing everything we can to make sure that our company can support the income requirements for both Tony and I.  We have had some problems as well: staffing problems that set us back with customers or that just generally caused us heartache and troubles that we could never have predicted.

I have been involved with Startup Weekend for the last 2 years and was asked to help organize the 2011 Boulder Startup Weekend.  I made a promise with one of other organizers that I would with out a doubt, 100% be at Startup Weekend for every minute that there were people working on site.  I made this promise with every intention of keeping it. I am not someone who screws up promises, I don’t make them unless I fully intend to keep them.

At Spotted Koi, we have some great customers. Some freaking amazing customers, who have done more for us than just provide websites for us to build and be willing to help us learn about running our business as we go.  We have customers that we can trace back our relationship to the beginning of Spotted Koi, to the roots of most of the work we do, and who have led to us meeting most of our other customers.

While not relevant to the story just yet, this will make more sense in a bit.  I have a great friend from college who asked if he could come and visit in late February. Of course, I agreed.  I haven’t taken the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with him and was looking forward to a weekend of hanging out and showing off this amazing state that I live in.

The reason I am writing this post at all is to try to help myself to figure out how things got out of hand, to self-analyze and to find a way to prevent the mistakes that arose out of all these great things from ever happening again.  I single handedly managed to let down two friends, let down an amazing friend and customer, and add extra stress and frustration to my wife’s life all while trying to grow my business and do the right things with myself.  “The best laid plans go to waste” would apply, if I had more plans than “sure I can do that”.

At Spotted Koi we made one of our dear friends and customers feel like she was no longer important to us.  This happened because we made a couple of small mistakes in scheduling and staffing that got us to the point of having 3 projects due on the same day as my business partner’s oral surgery, one of our key contractors getting extremely sick, and our developers not completing their tasks or completing them without the eye to quality that we have come to assume from them.

First, we trusted our people to be able to self-manage, we trusted them when they promised that they would be done with their tasks, we trusted that the tasks would be done on time, and we trusted that they would be done to the standard of excellence that we have required for ourselves and for every past project these people have worked with us on.  We didn’t have the scheduling or process in place to manage these projects properly, and as such as one little thing happened, it propogated to a lot of little things happening, which turned out to mean that we didn’t get the projects completed on time. Which in turn, meant our customer felt like we didn’t care any more.

This is absolutely not the position we ever wanted Spotted Koi to be in.  We definitely never wanted any customer to be aware of us being in a situation like this, it should be completely transparent to them.  Let alone this customer, who is extremely near and dear to Tony, myself, and Spotted Koi.

As a result of our chain of mistakes, Tony and I have literally spent the last week doing everything we can to try to fix this problem.  We are late, very late on these projects and we know it. However, we have been making sure that we deliver quality and not push ourselves to rush through and deliver garbage.

In the last week, between the two of us, we have tag-teamed over 140 hours trying to get them these projects to 100% while getting the rest of our work done as well.  I have been running on Cherry Coke (3-4 a day), Coffee (3-4 cups/shots a day) and no sleep (4-5 hours max per night). I am writing this in a fog. I can feel my body shutting down, ready for me to take one extra long blink and just not wake up till tomorrow. I have been sleeping so hard that I don’t move all nights and my arms fall asleep.

Tony and I have done some investigative thinking during this whole process, looking at our team, looking at ourselves and trying to identify the weaknesses that have caused us to get to this point.  We now have a development plan including all the steps we will take for a project, a proper minimum time line, a proper QA process, we have identified holes in our process and we are finalizing who from our team will be responsible for each step of a project.  All of this will make things better for both us and our customers and allow us to know who we need and for what reasons on each project.

These project culminated in this weekend (Feb 24, 25, 26th) when both Startup Weekend happened and my college friend came to town.  With my one scheduling snafu, I was able to miss out on keeping my promise to the organizers and attendees of Startup Weekend and I imposed what parts of Startup Weekend I was required to be at upon my out of town guest.  Neither situation is ideal, but both parties have been very gracious and kind to me about my mistake.  All the while, I have nearly completely abandoned Tony to work on the tail end of these projects with our contractors.  Between doing my duties with Startup Weekend, spending time with my friend, and attempting to get any sleep at all I have not been able to put in nearly the time that I want or need to put into helping with these projects.

To add insult to injury while taking a nod at what’s left of our bank account since I left my job and stopped doing contract work for them as well, I managed to test the longevity of my iPhone on Alameda’s road surface as traffic whizzed by.  I set my phone down on my truck before getting in, drove off and realized that my phone was missing. By the time I found it, nearly 50 cars had driven over or past it on the corner of Kalamath and Alameda in Denver. The screen was not only smashed…it was destroyed.

The reason for writing this post has now become for me to explain and then apologize for what has happened, with the hope that those people who I have let down will understand and at least give me one more small chance to earn their trust and respect back.

I am so very very sorry for how I have allowed things to become.

I am sorry that I have broken promises to you.

I am organizing my calendar in a more efficient manner so that I make sure everything is written down in one place and that I don’t double book again.

I am attempting to assure you that I am taking steps to improve the way I personally work and to improve how we work to run Spotted Koi as a company. We are completely changing how we manage our projects from start to finish, including QA, progress checks and a request for 2 different customer-verification steps along the way.  We are also working to build in safe guards to Spotted Koi to make sure that we never let you down or let down another customer in the future.

I know that it is hard to take the word of someone who has so recently and forcefully let you down, but my hope is that to you who I have ruined my trust with, that you will give me one more chance to make things right and solve these problems.

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