Background315 Machine Design was hired as a subcontractor to Global Controls — the original company contracted to produce the laser marking system.
The funny thing is, I didn’t go looking for, nor promote that I was capable of, designing products for laser marking systems. Originally, I had contacted Global Controls with respect to another project I was working on regarding safety components they represent.
When I called, I was given to the owner. We began a conversation about what 315 Machine Design is all about.
Later that day, we met to get to know each other better to see if developing a strategic partnership would be appropriate.
Since this was a new type of project for me, I thought I would share 5 things that learned during this short project.
As a contract engineering firm, you never know when you are going to meet your next client.
After our initial meeting, I asked, the owner, “why he chose to work with me on this project?”
He said, “It wasn’t because I was extremely knowledgeable about laser systems, but because I was able to concisely tell him what we are passionate about doing at 315 Machine Design.”
In other words, I had practiced my “elevator pitch” in my head so many times that I didn’t have to fumble to use the right words. It came naturally to me. It was conversational.
Our main tenant is to actively listen to our customer’s needs and desires, and then design a product that is easy to use and maintain.
Since I was working as a subcontractor, I had to rely on how well my client had gathered the necessary requirements from the end customer.
After sketching out some ideas of what I thought they were looking for, we had the chance to present them to the end customer.
We weren’t far off!
But, there were a few details that didn’t translate sufficiently from the end customer through my client.
Listen to your client’s needs, but ask clarifying questions to make sure both are on the same page.
This is an Feature List Item that is part of an Feature List. Notice the connector between the three graphics to show that they are related.
You know you can’t know everything, so ask for assistance from subject-matter experts.
As I stated earlier, I didn’t know very much about laser marking systems and their safety requirements, but from my years of experience in industry, I do know a few people within that industry that could help me.
I explained a project and wanted to build my knowledto them; I was working on knowledge base. They were happy to guide me through the general concepts of how a low-powered marking laser works.
Yes, I know I could have used my favorite online resources, but it gave me a chance to keep in touch with people and let them know what I was doing.
Don’t be afraid to try new concepts.
In order to finish the project by the given deadline, I had to use some “new-to-me” concepts within SolidWorks®.
The guarding was to be a mixture of sheet metal and specialized plastic panels to provide visibility into the machine while protecting machine operators from laser light exposure.
Using this newly discovered process — changing a solid model to a sheet metal part and then creating a flat — within Solidworks reduced the amount of time it took to develop the guarding. A quick tour of tutorials online got me up to speed quickly.
Time management is key to gaining new business.
Even though I try to learn something new every day, the last thing that I will talk about with this project that I learned is more about personal time management.
When I received this contract I was in the middle of multiple projects, and really didn’t know if I should or could take it on. I also knew that I could not pass up the opportunity to stretch my knowledge for future work.
Even though I hesitated for just a moment I said ‘YES.’
I knew that this new client needed the work turned around quickly to meet their client’s deadline, so I decided to re-employ some time management techniques I learned back in my corporate days.
Blocking out time in my calendar used to be second nature, but had slipped out of practice while trying to get my company up and running.
Looking at, and responding to, email three times per day removes the ‘Pavlovian response’ of that email notification. It also allows you to be more mindful of the response.
Reducing meetings with your clients to the bare essentials can save hours per month, but you still need to make sure that they know that you care by including a ‘warm-up’ session at the beginning.
From these five things you should
- be prepared at all times to meet new clients;
- actively listen so that you can better provide your clients what they really want;
- realize that you need to build your network of subject matter experts;
- stretch yourself within your business; and
- manage your time wisely as your business grows.
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