It has nearly been 10 years since my business partner and I decided to start our product development professional services firm. By all measures, Intelligent Product Solutions Inc. (IPS) has succeeded well beyond our initial vision. With this milestone approaching, it is worth recounting how and why we came to start IPS and some of the important “lessons learned” along the way.
How did we get here?
For most start-up and small business owners, there comes a moment of truth when the decision is made to start up. In many cases, a seminal event triggers the process. For me, the ball started rolling when I was released from my executive position at a large tech company. I had been there for more than 13 years culminating a product development career of nearly 30 years in the corporate world. There were a few things I knew. First, I no longer wanted to be directly employed in the corporate world, especially as an executive. Second, I needed time to soul search what I really wanted to do. After a few months, I decided to dabble in the consulting world using my dusty, but still intact, engineering skills at a small design consulting firm.
That experience led me to two insights. First, I found that I enjoyed being close to the technical work again. Second, I found that I had the ability to find, land, and satisfy new clients. After about two-and-a-half years of consulting through others, my business partner and I realized we could do this independently and left to start our firm, IPS. We also realized that, while risky, the client relationships we’d built and our former engineering team members would very likely join us if we struck out on our own. And so at the end of 2007, we did.
Why are we here?
Every startup may have a different motivation for striking out on their own. Certainly, there are those who start companies purely with the goal of getting rich. We see such founders every week here at IPS. For the majority, however, the focus is not on how wealthy they will be but rather, they have an underlying passion for what they are planning to do. For my partner and me, we really enjoyed the consulting world. The variety of projects, skills and relationships were exciting and motivating. We knew there was a market for the type of full service product development capabilities we could build and offer.
Furthermore, we knew there were gaps in the marketplace where we could thrive. This is crucial – it is not just a matter of can something be done. Where is the uniqueness? In product companies, this could be unique domain knowledge or better yet, strong and defensible intellectual property. In a services industry, there has to be a clear niche that is unserved or under-served. Hopefully, in either a product or services play, it helps if you have the knowledge, know-how or ability to do something that is very difficult to replicate and, as importantly, of high, compelling value to potential