Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Lets Do the Painful Balance in Engineering
It was painful to discover that my portfolio did not even beat the TASE 25 Index, that the 28% increase in its value compares badly with most KESEM (Index) funds. Since I hate it so much, I'll now proceed to do a similar balance of my performance in this first year of independent (aka unemployed) consulting engineer.
I started this blog a year ago, with a book almost finished and ready to be sold to a Spanish editor, and teaching in Ariel and the Ministry of F.A. At the end of the year, I have 20 plus unfinished orders for private house design, supermarkets, factories, an occupational safety book and the same technical manual a day work away from being completed. I am overwhelmed by work, I procrastinate and I lie (tomorrow it will be ready). My services - I am not sure what they actually are - are in great demand. That is a strange and unexplicable fact. The market continues to show eagerness to take and even pay for any quantity of work I can or want to do. According to what I hear, this should not be so, this is an anomaly, but that is my life experience and I see it confirmed day after day. I would not hire myself, but other people - probably out of alternatives - keep doing it.
I feel unsatisfied in the following aspects:
(a) Disorganization of my work and the administrative aspect (signing of contracts before starting, sending out the bills and the follow up). I am giving high priority to actual work and forgetting to bill it! I cant make time to myself to organize the whole mess of what I had been doing and so on. I am neglecting to submit tax reports, and that is not good!
(b) Lack of focus. given the uncertainty at the beginning of what and if there was going to do, I acceted every kind of engineering design work and asked about 60 - 70% of the going market price. The consequence is that I am flooded with work. People seems to find valuable my sevices and ready to pay and keep occupying me. They say I am affable and friend, honest and never leave them down, even if my timetables are good as useless. The lack of focus makes me work on the things that are urgent and whose clients call me every 10 minutes, and let the other projects - like the almost finished book - to sleep undefinitely.
(c) Overwork. I am flooded by work, have no private life and hours. The sad fact is that actually I am not doing more than 60 hs a week of effective design work, but if we compound it with my wife's crazy working hours, we almost have no time for friends and family.
(d) Going after better projects. My resolution for 2007 is that I clean up the table of all the ongoing projects and start looking for better quality big league projects, like those of the Min. of Defense and hi-tech fabs. I have done a few good projects but I didnt follow up.
(e) No exclusive product. I am surrounded by suppliers that proudly announce: Founded in 1996. I am looking for an air compressor and found that the best, more complete company is a representative of the S&R Spanish Co, and it is less than 5 years in business. It seems someone felt that the Ministry of Environment is requiring air purification systems, and made a business of providing that service. In a few years became a big business, they could start making original designs and have some patents and go to TASE. This could be my business model: ideas I have. 40 years ago I invented a pH stabilizer + fertilizer supplier stick for planters, and then air pollution collector stickers, and so on. Never had the time nor the persistance to develop the product. Odor neutralization seems a nice growing field, that could be entered with a small low cost product, which I could sell within the framework of my consulting service. I could buy that 30,000 $ shop on Rothschild Strasse and hire an old lady in the mornings. I have just put in writing my business plan.
I have to make an overall evaluation as against the alternative of a small desk job at the Municipality (Ina is leaving and her position has been advertised already twice !). My impression is that in 2006 I made maybe 70% of a regular low tech municipal employee income. The perspectives are that in 2007 I can double it. That is not such a deal if considered that I have no stability, insurance, pension, etc. and at my prodigious age, people is retiring or are already enjoying retirement, taking their grandchildren to the swimming training. No one I know or heard of is starting a new career and investing in self promotion and so on at my age. I am exceptionally fat and healthy and optimistic, but there is a basic chasm between my chronological age (which I do look and more), the life-cycle situation of people of that age in our society, and what I am doing and trying to do. You dont start a new life after sixty something! But you see, dear reader and dear me, here I am. No one is encouraging me, on the contrary, yet I am at it. It is not destiny, I could certainly do other things.
My first project as private design engineer was Kondituria Glick, of Weitzmann Avenue, in Netanya. The person who brought me in was Mr Dov (Bernat) Friedmann. He had been Netanya's City Engineer for ages and he taught me the municipal consulting engineer's trade. One day he asked me, blushing like a virgin: Do you know how old I am? No, who cares. Today I am 84. Mazltov, till 120. We went on completing the Glick project without ever signing a contract, and naturally, we never got paid. What proves that you can get very old and very experienced, and still stay the same fool you were at the start.