Confession time: I’ve been messing around on TikTok this year after COVID crashed my business networking plans.
Gary Vaynerchuk is completely to blame. For a while he’s been pushing business owners to use TikTok as a way to get amazingly wide and free content reach.
I finally caved when I had to admit I had some free time open up. Thanks, Global Shutdown. PFFT.
I started a personal account and a business account but didn’t really do much with either for the first several months.
More recently, I began using the app more and I saw how many niche content creators were building strong, focused audiences.
Below is a TikTok I made about…this TikTok phenomenon. Oh, we’re getting meta now.
After noticing other successful users of this app — some even with super strange niches — I decided to give it more attention. I started posting more regularly on my personal account.
And then one of the videos took off.
No, not with 5 million views, or even 500k, but this video below now has over 115,000 views, and hey — I think that’s more reach than for any other single piece of content I’ve ever produced. And I write for 2 magazines!
If you’re involved in the engineering of products manufactured globally, chances are you’ve been personally affected by SNAFU’s on an epic scale. Despite your best efforts, you probably had to sacrifice some weekends, or late nights, or quality time with your kiddos, or at the very least, your blood pressure.
Hey, it happens to the best of us, especially if that global manufacturing involves China in any way . . . but before you give up on your blood pressure entirely, let me ask you this: have your best efforts involvedTELEPORTATION?
Before we go over the modern magic of teleportation possible in R&D today, let’s get clear on the process that’s supposed to happen in an ideal world.
First, some socially inept nerds virtually dream up how a physical design should theoretically work in their engineering cave. (It’s OK, maybe you can’t say that, but I can. I used to be that guy.)
They might not ever touch a physical component in their design work! To the layman onlooker, it might all appear to be math and video games. That’s mostly because it is.
Usually, there are several disciplines involved in this theoretical design stage. The discipline that dictates the other requirements for the system often begins and then hands off specs to the other departments. In electro-optical systems, usually, the optical design is the thing you do first. Then the optical engineer (that was me) would tell the mechanical nerds about the size and location needed for the optics. Also, the optics guys often would tell the electrical engineers about how much juice they need running to an LED, or how much light will turn on a sensor. Then, after those informational batons were passed, the ME’s (mechanical engineers) and EE’s (electrical engineers) would go to work in their own engineering caves to design their respective pieces of the system. Those caves might be down the hall from each other, or they might be on different continents. I’ve lived both scenarios.
Once those circuit designs, mechanical designs, and optical designs are all finished, detailed prints (“blueprints”, but no one actually says that) are often handed over to a factory in some country where stuff is really cheap to manufacture. This might be Mexico, or China, or Thailand, or somewhere else that isn’t the place where the parts were engineered.
Then, everyone waits a while for those parts to be physically made on a different part of the globe and then shipped half-way around the world. Hopefully, it’s not MF Chinese New Year at the time. It usually is Chinese New Year, though. It just seems to work out that way. So, your 6-week lead time might turn into 8-10 weeks in that case.
After the parts arrive back where either the assembly happens or where one of the engineering disciplines live or both, all the pieces are put together physically for the first time! Fingers are crossed. Everyone hopes that when all the parts are connected up and the switch is flipped, the thing a.) does not catch fire, and b.) works like it was intended to.
Of course, everything all working together seamlessly on the first try and on time is a laughable fairytale of a dream.
Maybe the components you used had lousy, inaccurate info on the manufacturer’s spec sheet. Maybe the system ran hotter than your thermal simulations predicted (if you even ran those) and consequently, your LED’s aren’t as bright as they need to be. Maybe your mechanical drafter was working in the wrong units when he created some component and it’s totally in the wrong place in the system. Maybe China put the wrong color LED’s on the circuit board. (Come on, automobile turn signals are not green, China. THEY ARE NEVER GREEN.) Maybe China used the wrong material. Maybe China used the wrong resistors. Maybe China mislabeled a driver. Maybe . . . China.
And maybe . . . maybe on that slow boat from whatever country your components were manufactured in . . . maybe the things just fell off the boat. Like, literally fell off the boat and sank to the bottom of the ocean. That also seriously happens.
Here is a PowerPoint slide I created to illustrate the real-life global R&D process to a bunch of high school mechatronics students in Silicon Valley I lectured to recently. Pretty accurate, and I think they got it:
What happens then, after all those hiccups? Hopefully, the project managers involved had the foresight enough to factor in both multiple design iterations and random China screw-ups. Yet, sometimes, when all the things go wrong at once, even if your Gantt chart had some cushion in it, your project ends up months behind. Then what?!
Well, if your product is low-tech and not timing-critical, maybe you just push out that anticipated release date.
However, if your product is, say, a 2018 Cadillac Escalade, it needs to be ready to roll by 2018. Otherwise, if it comes out in 2019, it is not a 2018 Cadillac Escalade! So what then?
Well, then comes shouting, migraines, missed birthday parties of your children, high blood pressure, occasional heart attacks (no joke) and the tears of fully grown men (also not a joke). Seriously, I’ve seen more grown men cry than I’d like to recall. 98% of those instances were in professional engineering settings.
Or . . . or you can salvage some of that lost time with teleportation!
Yeah! Well, kind of. It’s more like the next best thing.
With the technology available today, we don’t have to wait on manufacturing in another part of the globe before we figure out if a design itself is valid! Your engineers in the USA and Europe and Timbuktoo can all (nearly) instantly have each other’s designs physically in-hand. Moments after a design iteration is figured out in Munich, the parts in that design can begin to be physically created in real reality in San Diego. Actually, those designs can be immediately made into tangible parts in more than one place. Today, you can teleport AND CLONE prototype parts, too!
How is this possible?! If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not really talking about teleportation (ORLY?) – – I’m talking about rapid prototyping of parts using 3D printers and PCB printers.
If several R&D facilities scattered across the globe have the same rapid prototyping equipment, they can shoot electronic blueprints of new part ideas to each other at the speed of light! Then, engineers can create and hold in their hands nearly identical copies of those parts and begin assembling and testing entire systems before China ever turns on injection molding or SMT machines.
3D printing along with the more general processes of additive manufacturing have been around for a while. It’s just now, though, that the quality of the parts possible and the variety of materials make so many of a design’s mechanical parts teleport-able. You can print metal parts! You can print optical quality lenses (https://www.luxexcel.com/)! You can print parts with carbon fiber or even Kevlar (http://impossible-objects.com)!
Printing circuit boards is a much newer thing to become easily accessible — especially if your design uses flex boards. If you’re not familiar, flex boards look like this, and they’re . . . well . . . flexible circuit boards:
Other older technologies are available to mill out circuit boards from rigid substrates, but they’re messy and can’t make these fancy flex boards which for many applications can’t be substituted in the prototyping stage.
BotFactory takes a unique approach to this in that their desktop PCB prototyping machines print conductive and insulating inks to build multiple conductive layers (like the wires of a circuit board). All their machines come standard with pick-and-place capability, too, so that means you could create the totally completed circuit board – with all your components on it – that France dreamed up and turned into a Gerber file minutes ago, right now from your desk in the USA . . . Or, Timbuktoo. (Whatever, you do you! I’m typing this from Bermuda, so hey.)
When I came across BotFactory’s technology, I thought back to all those migraines and man tears when China completely messed up a circuit board. I thought about all those weekends I lost when I had to make up for wasted time in the prototyping stages of electro-optic system design. And then I thought,
“engineers need this! Me from yesterday needs this!”
So now, I’m helping to spread the word about BotFactory‘s amazing tech. If you want to be able to print out and assemble multi-layer PCB boards, even flex boards, from your desktop and save gobs of development time in the iterative prototyping phase of R&D, shoot me an email. I’d be happy to learn about your current challenges and talk with you how teleportation technology can help:
Now, is this teleportation stuff a substitute for testing first production parts made in Asia? Unfortunately, no. You still have to make sure China didn’t swindle you on material quality and put the right parts on all the things, and etc, in the stuff they’ll ultimately make for you in mass production. But for the most time-consuming system design phases, especially within multi-national corporations, you could easily save months in a project. Literally months!
Plus, perhaps most importantly, for the optical enginerd near and dear to my heart, that’s less time proving a Chinese factory screw up was to blame for a system failure and not an optical design.
For those of you keeping tabs, I’m still alive, yes. Woohoo!
It might not still be so if not for the wild and wise character, John Stryker, of Strykermotors.com.
A couple months before the point of scraping my last pennies together, John approached me about potentially working together in the future. He told me how his successful Jeep parts side business was getting raped in eBay fees – as much as $1,500 per month.
My response: “Woah, wait, hold up. If that’s how much you’re paying in fees, you must be making some substantial profits. This is your side business, you say?!”
“Yeah. Yep. That’s right,” was something like his response.
John told me he’d like to get a snazzier website up and running where he could sell products directly and bypass most of the middle man fees. He knew I dicked around with random website building stuff and he’d guessed I could figure out how to make him an eCommerce site. Turns out he guessed correctly! We chatted and agreed it sounded like a good idea.
It was March at the time, and I was in the Florida Keys hoping the sun would somehow help me regain some strength after the latest battle in the war for my health. We talked about this work happening sometime in the hazy future.
Then I got back to New York City, and the reality of my dwindling bank account came closing in at an accelerated pace. I would soon have absolutely nothing left. Not very little left – absolutely nothing. I pinged John Stryker.
“Oh hey, so . . . about the stuff and things you wanted me to do for you. How’s about now? Now would be good for me.”
We chatted more. On the phone, we discussed all his annoyances with the systems he has to work with now, and what his ideal working world was like. He told me what he envisioned and hoped for with the new website. As John has a lot of work to do on the back end of the business – including buying Jeeps, ripping Jeeps apart and creating new, individual listings for each used part for sale – a key focus of the new site’s capabilities would be automation. Automate, automate, automate everything we could.
So, everything from shipping label creation to social media posts would be connected and automated as much as possible. We would put a lot of extra work into the site up front so that machines could make life much easier for John and his workers in the future. We talked about Tim Ferriss and my love for Four Hour Work Week. . . multiple times. Like a good groupie, I suggested he read the book . . . multiple times. (Incidentally, if you haven’t read the book . . . check it out!)
I drew up a proposal encompassing all John’s needs and desires and estimated (with some padding included) that the site would take me about 2-3 weeks to build.
Of course, scope creep happened. But it was completely on my side. I added in a lot of apps and functionality and redid some things to make sure they were as spiffy as possible. Damnit, this thing was gonna work and work well! I also decided to import John’s used parts in addition to the new parts he sells and underestimated what a pain in the ass that would be. The guy’s got over 400 parts for sale! They’re all fucking different! Which, aside from being annoying for a web developer type person, is pretty astounding considering John and his team carefully procured each piece by hand!
Something like 2 months later, we’re finally finished!
Best of all (for me) each payment from John was super prompt and saved me from bankruptcy in the nick of time! It’s been a really wild last couple of months. Part terrifying. Part thrilling in a good way. And 100% elated that things are up and running!
By the way, I can’t take credit for the amazing Stryker Motors logo. That’s all John and his lovely lady who created that! It may not win a prize in modern art — and really, who would want one of those anyway — but it’s cute as hell and without a doubt, memorable, which is way more important.
If you’re a Jeep lover, driver, mudder, or love someone who is, check out:
P.S. John Stryker (who is also an engineer by trade) is starting to create How-To content in blog and video format. If you have any requests on learning how to repair or replace something on your Jeep, send a message to John here:
Over the past year and a half, I’ve helped business leaders in over a dozen industries. I’ve amped up companies in all sorts of ways — from market analyses to business development to direct sales, copywriting and more. Between various industries, companies, personalities of leaders, sexes, nationalities some issues and needs remained the same. Here, I’ll share some of the preliminary parts of the growth hacking process I lead business owners through to save you some pain and help you to increase your revenue.
I’ll also share some of the red flags I point out. When enough of them are ignored after I wave my hands wildly in their direction, light road flares, and sound bullhorns, they lead me to cut and run.
This blunt list may seem harsh, but would you rather have someone BS you than have a real confidant on your side who wants to see you succeed? ‘Cause I don’t BS. If you want that, you’re on the wrong site. I’ll love you tough-love style, and I’d rather you hate me than walk blindly off a cliff. It’s how I do.
Why Does Your Customer Give a Shit About Your Product/Service? This is the A-Number-One Question every business owner should be able to answer and repeatedly FAILS at over 80% of the time in my experience. I’ll hear things like “it’s the fastest/bestest/coolest/smartest product/service like it on the market!” If your answer sounds like this, it is almost always the wrong answer. I’m a big fan of the marketing guru, Jay Abraham, and one of his rules is, “be more in love with your customer than your product or service.” If I hear something like the example I used above, I know the business owner is getting off on the awesomeness of the thing he/she created rather than getting to caringly know his or her customer. Put the mirror down, stop thinking of your imaginary bank account for a second, and spare a thought for the people you should be serving. Another clue to me that you don’t have a clue is if you only have a single answer. Oftentimes, there will be several customer segments for the exact same product, and each will find a different #1 value in what you offer. For example, when I experimented in direct medical device sales, the customer was always the same, one might think: a doctor of a certain specialty. Yet, depending on if that doctor worked in a large or small private office or in an ER setting, there were 3 totally different top benefits that would be most effective to grab the potential customer in conversation. If you think you know your customer enough, ask yourself how you can go one level deeper. Then, ask again. The research I do in 2 days of direct, cold sales contact is often far more valuable than what full-time researchers unearth in 6 months’ of digging because I know how to ask the important questions and listen. LISTEN!
Masturbatory Monologuing Yeah, you read that right. Let me explain the term with a little story. Back many, many years before the days of Tinder, I liked to play a risky game when I went on business trips. Once I arrived in the new city, I’d post a Craigslist ad looking for someone to take me out for beer. Then, I’d go get ready while the responses piled in. Sometimes, I would ask a trusted friend to login to my email and remotely pick one for me while I applied my eyeliner. Then, I would ask that friend to call the cops if I didn’t tell them I got back to my hotel by XX:XX time. I never died. This is all to explain that I used to creep on Craigslist personals, and would see those CREEPTASTIC ads for guys who just wanted women to show up to a parking lot and watch them masturbate in their car. They didn’t need any verbal exchanges or even physical contact. They just wanted someone to watch them work their own magic on themselves. I think of this imagery every time a business owner, often male, will say they want to hire my services but will only want to talk to me about how amazing their business idea is and how rich they will get. Red Flag 1. Red Flag 2. I might bring up several glaring, grievous errors in their business plan and simple ways to remedy them. If they then hand-wave away my very obvious and grave concerns or refuse to fix them, then, “excuse me sir, but why in the fuck are you wasting my time asking for my advisement? Oh, I see, this was just some masturbatory monologuing.” And, Red Flag 3. Red Fla–. *POOF* I’m gone. How to fix this one? Be aware. Then, don’t do it. If the end of your speech doesn’t have a tangible possible outcome, besides me not working with you further, just stop.
Have you figured out what metric equals “success” and what it will take to get there? This one, most business owners tend to be better at, but still haven’t thought all the way through. Every new initiative or expenditure should be thought of as a test. A test is only worthwhile if you know how to categorize the outcome as a win or a fail. What would the extra $ spent on X marketing need to yield in additional revenue or number of new clients for it to be considered a win? Precisely how many more dollars should each hour of pounding the pavement bring in for it not to be a complete waste of time and blisters? How many clients/packages sold/projects awarded do you need per month/year to cover your expenses and be worth your time? Once you figure out the exact dollar amounts or number of new customers that classify a win, actually take a moment to tally up the score! This is something I do for myself when I’m working with business owners. It makes moving to the right opportunities from the time-wasting ones a lot easier and faster when you take your emotions out of it and base decisions on hard numbers.
“I Don’t Want To Tell Anyone Because They Will Steal My Idea” This one is kind of the opposite of #3, in that the business owners want to do in private what the #3 sin person wants to do on display. If the chances of someone else stealing your precious idea, and then funding and committing to the hard work of building the idea out into a viable business is higher than the chances of you doing the same, then you fucking deserve to have it stolen. The hard work is the hard part and seemingly novel, brilliant ideas are rarely novel or even brilliant. Whatever you do, don’t tell people you won’t tell them your idea without signing an NDA because you’ll just sound like an arrogant, ignorant, green prick. That’s exactly what they’re thinking even if they don’t tell you. Tough love, man.
These are more than just my personal red flags, peeves or means of judging a business leader. These are the top ways I reliably predict whether a business is screwed from the get-go, or has a shot at becoming viable. If I look back on the businesses I worked with, the owners who were able, with some coaching from me, to deeply understand their customers, collaborate widely and determine success metrics were the ones who succeeded. They saw their customer bases increase, their crowdfunding campaign succeed, their revenue increase, they dodged proverbial bullets like fucking superheroes . . .etc.
And the red flag wavers? What happened to them? Well sadly, after I ran from those opportunities like I’d run from a nutter waving a pinless grenade, they stagnated. Those businesses still don’t even have a working product today, long after they predicted they would have one. It’s too bad. Their ideas were pretty good. But like I said: that’s not the hard part.
It genuinely makes me sad, because I want to see these people and companies succeed. Yet, if I didn’t walk away from the time-wasters, I’d be making the same mistakes they do, harming my own bottom line. On the other hand, with those I continue working with, I become emotionally invested in their successes and rejoice when they hit targets as if they were my own!
If you’re at a point in your business where you need a leg-up, some honest feedback and the opportunity to bump up revenues and your customer base, feel free to get in touch via the Contact Form here. It starts with a free, no-obligation consultation where I intimately get to know what’s working for your company and what’s not before I propose action items in a custom-created package for you. Those items may include adding functionality to your website, focusing on more lucrative customer segments, getting more value out of everything you’re already doing, copywriting, or even making introductions to investigate partnership opportunities. And don’t worry, I’ll be gentle – to start.
If you’re in the New York City area, I’d be happy to come meet you, or otherwise, phone conference or Skype with you. I’d look forward to getting to know you and your business, and most importantly — to giving you the chance to bring in more revenue!