Mid 1994 I started with a small developer/manufacturer of add-on cards, data switching and cabling products, tele selling to PC retailers. Catapulted into the sales directors shoes shortly after he left, I needed a new marketing strategy able to run on a very lean budget.
I used product development unashamedly as a way to get free reviews in Computer Magazines, in a time before the formal internet, Google, trending or Facebook. My initial offerings certainly got the company noticed, the second of which could extend a Parallel Data Cable from an industry accepted 10m to 305m+
Working with minimal budgets and needing to increase my odds of success, my products then and now are based upon existing knowledge and available parts. Developing a perspective that sees innovation as a better alternative to full invention.
Able to view the market from the salesman’s/technicians point of view and equally that of design/manufacturing, enabled me to present the case for some very innovative and profitable products. That often included my own unique twist benefiting the customer through improved features, cost reductions or both.
In answer to a custom short order for 4/8 Port Multi-User Serial Card (@£520/ea) in 1994, I proposed a new simplified design that would replace the 26cm long interface card and its 105 operating address selection switches, with a single plug-in programmable EPROM and 1 dip switch.
Dropped into the Project Management role rather than introduced to it, this new product would need to meet budget/resources limitations, a relatively short delivery schedule and be able to convince the customer that this untried product was for them. A guarantee of functionality and significant cost saving, proved acceptable.
Although reducing pricing from £525 to a mere £135, the reduction in component costs, manufacturing and testing resulted in a far more profitable product for us. Adding “design fluff” to improve the products aesthetics could have raised it’s pricing but I did not explore this option.
Completing the initial order on-time and with 6 units spare for evaluation. These were sent to those who had show an interest while doing early market research. However it was pure chance that I dropped upon a requirement for an immediate 160 pieces with 160+ to follow. Making OCTOBUS the companies largest and most profitable new product.
Product Development & Project Management - In at the deep end again
In 2004 I was asked to prepare a Smart Home summary for a housing development that would convert the buildings surrounding the farms large courtyard into seven prestigious executive homes. the contract would include multiple product development and project management goals on our side to mesh seamlessly with the builders construction schedules. Offered the opportunity to work with the developers, architects and planners. This would refine my project management skills and raise my inter-company planning experience.
On a project with so many different facets, I learned how to appear to be everywhere at once and know everything. As the on-site installation dictated what was needed from the supporting technology, I took charge of this and the materials ordering personally. While supervising the office development via status meetings and regular reports. Just short of 15 miles of CAT5/Audio.Video/Sat.TV were laid.
Product Development - Printing over distance 1992
I had already released a RS232/Serial to Parallel converter allowing 150m cable runs to bulk Parallel Port Laser & Chain Printers, that were restricted normally by 10m cable runs. The trade off however was lower data transmit speeds that were jamming up multiple print jobs and printer sharing hardware due to lack of device RAM/Buffering.
Fast Printing was needed and I was unconvinced at the industries reasons why Parallel Cabling was limited to just 10m. How my technology circumvented this is my personal secret, but when I ordered a 1000ft reel of printer cable and requested the relevant connectors place on either end the disbelief and ridicule was expected. I let the news of my mad purchase circulate around the industry grapevine, before sending out my evaluation products. It became the marketing success I had planned it to be.
Project Management - OCTOBUS
When the order came in for Multi-User Serial cards, I asked “why are these so complicated, why not…” With technical on-board. All I needed to do was cover our development & production costs, fulfill the order, work in evaluation stock, make the same profit plus 10% and lower our clients buy in price. The key factor in accepting the new design.
Introduced to the complexities of project management and the importance of people skills. IE convincing our Production Manager that fulfilling an order with an unproven product was actually a good idea.
OCTOBUS took the circuit board from 13″ to 6″, removed 104 Switches, simplified manufacture, lowered trade pricing from £395 to £135 and made us more profit. I Secured the companies biggest order some weeks later for 360 units.
Project Management - Pluto Home 2004 - 2006
An evolving project intertwined with our Smart Home wiring solutions. Pluto’s US Developers learned of a presentation we made to JVC Professional in 2003 of our unique DVD to HD 720 up-scaling and video over CAT5 technologies. Invited to join the development team, the aim to create a Home automation, media, security & comms Hub/Server.
The would mean synchronising our development with their global Linux/Ubuntu open source community. The use of Message Boards, Forums and VOIP around time zones introduced me multi-site Global co-working. Sadly the project crashed spectacularly when Ubuntu#6 moved to version 7 and continued to fail through 8, 9 and 10. I did gain invaluable experience and a job offer from SunSeaker Yatchs, how I wish I had accepted.