Reflecting on 2019 and Looking Ahead at 2020

| Personal

An Idea for a Company

I spent a lot of time in the fall of 2019 thinking through the idea of building a bespoke outsourcing company for startups. The idea was to eventually compete on the higher-end, aka not on cost, with highly trained and skilled knowledge workers while doing the work overseas and/or remotely from the US (Remote is such an attractive model btw!).

In the research process I spoke to a number of really experienced people who have all been involved in delivering, enhancing, or consuming support services. I probed for their experiences, asked about green/red flags, and learned what they look for in building/running/consuming support services.

As an example, a CX leader at a startup who uses an outsourced company cared a TON about the work environment for the team working for their company. The perks and great working conditions come at a cost, but they felt delivered a better product for their customers and was in-line with the work standards they have domestically. The best news is that it's going great for them with their current partner!

I took the time to spend almost a week in a possible Europen location for an outsourcing business. It was eye-opening to immerse myself in another country's culture, talk through regulations with lawyers, and really imagine the setup process for this business. Yes, every country would be different, but this was a very realistic look at what it would be like regardless of the location.

I also spoke in-depth with multiple people who are building or setup similar businesses in the same location. One is creating an outsourced engineering team of ~12 people and the other scaled-up outsources support to ~40 people before they were forced to stop for a variety of reasons. This gave me a ton of clues as to what I would personally face in this venture, especially around the lifestyle it would require from me.

In speaking with a few people who have run and scaled outsourcing companies I got a window into the business side of the venture. I'm aware that any company is likely hard in areas that you think will be easy, but there were consistent themes on what's tough: hiring, training, scaling (people/infrastructure), and sales.

The Decision Point

Following many hours of conversations, thinking, and site visits I have decided not to pursue the creation of an outsourced CX company. How did I arrive at this decision?

The single largest factor is that I don't (currently) have a trusted partner in a location where I could operate the business profitably. Absent this partner, the time required to set up the business in-country would be too great a stress on the relationship with my wife. It would require months of on-site building, a huge local learning curve, and ultimately trying to find a trusted local partner.

A (now obvious) realization that I had is that operating in Eastern Europe or Asia would mean that locally I would be working evenings/nights to match the US Timezone, which would be a recipe for disaster for my sleep and healthy habits that I've worked hard to build. The sacrifice and possible success wouldn't be worth the physical toll.

The bottom-line conclusion that I had was that this business would not yield a high level of personal happiness, which is key at this point in my life.

What's Next?

A reflection on time off

The time off that I've taken has confirmed a few things for me: 

Family life

My wife and I are getting a PUPPY named Frankie!!!! She's a 9 week old Cockapoo who we welcome into our lives on January 19. It's a bittersweet and emotional time for us as it's roughly the time that we were expecting a real baby, that is before the miscarriage over the summer. If you've been through this, or go through this in the future, I'm happy to talk with you about the experience. 

Related to this, I finally found a therapist in the city whom I've now seen several times and will remain committed to seeing. I don't know what the “end result” will be, but I'm hopeful that it includes a lot more joy in my life and confidence to keep pushing/building. Again, if you're looking for some inspiration in this area know that it ain't easy, but that it will be worth it to find someone to talk with. I would also highly recommend the content (podcast and writing) from the group called Evryman. They also host men's groups and retreats across the US.

Work Life

I intentionally put this after family life because I think that's the right order of operation. These are the threads of work that I'm pursuing:

  1. Getting a paying job!

I feel that it's important to find something steady, with amazing co-workers, and where I can learn and contribute a lot. I would like to stay in the Customer Experience space, ideally leading several functions: Support, Success, Operations, Community, Data Insights.

If there's a company that you love (their product, founders, team) and they need some help in one or more of those areas, I would love to meet them. I'm looking for a technical product that has current or future scale and fun problems to solve.

  1. Building and Learning

I bucket these together because I feel that to learn without building is fruitless. During my time off a lot of my learning has been reading books to re-center my beliefs on work. As an example, I loved Ray Dalio's book “Principles: Life and Work” as it helped center me on producing results and thinking a lot about how I want to work. The application here is a lot of reflection and personal writing so that I can create the application in my next role.

Additionally, I have been pushing myself to learn more technical skills - such as how to publish a blog, and hence this site! Part of the courage to publish came from a great friend's advice: “You're not allowed to call yourself non-technical." How cool is that advice?! I'm not allowed to be a downer about myself, only to promote my own skills and be awesome!

Part of this need to build is being expressed in what's currently a project with a few friends. Our concept is to make AWS a whole lot easier to use. The technical confidence that I have to pursue this is at an all-time high, which feels great! My contribution will be to document the complexity that we're abstracting away for the user and to give them confidence in the product. It's an idea and sketches right now and it's already fun to be building.

That's it for now! Get in touch via email or Twitter if you have job lead or want to talk about a fun project!