Updated: Dec 9, 2019
The flat white tastes very good: right texture, the right temperature, right bitterness, and flavor; still I’d say about 6.5/10 (I’m a bit of a coffee snob). Today is a beautifully crisp day, sunny but not too bright, and refreshingly chilly as I walked down to the Waves coffee shop at Lynn Valley Village. Today is also Halloween; so, it was amusing to notice the spooky decorations along the way and now as I look up sitting comfortably on an armchair in the coffee shop, a skeletal doll in flowing white tatters hanging from the ceiling lamp stares right back at me.
It’s been just over a month since I left my previous job and subsequently decided that the best path forward would be entrepreneurial, to set-up our own shop. As you can imagine, these days are full of action-filled with the rigors and excitement of setting up a new firm while navigating the numerous obstacles that are lined along this path; some foreseen and a few unforeseen. And although I’ve experienced initiating a new consultancy eleven years ago in the form of Infinity Engineering, the situation was different and, in many ways, much simpler as it wasn’t a full-on entrepreneurial venture. It would benefit those entertaining the thought of walking the entrepreneurial if I shared some details on the setting up Infinity and now Spannovation. However, I will leave that for another time.
This is my first article along a regular practice I intend on inculcating. My motivation for writing is to share information, knowledge, and experience that you may find beneficial. Naturally, the majority of the topics will be linked directly or indirectly to bridge engineering as that has been my key area of focus and fascination over the past twenty years. Coming back to coffee, one of the things I miss about my previous workplace besides a few colleagues is the flat whites served at Rocanini; a specialty coffee shop across the street. I must admit those were better than one I’m sipping right now; a rating of 7.5/10 on Raj Singh’s coffee barometer.
This post is about why I’ve chosen to walk the entrepreneurial path instead of working for an established consulting firm. There are several reasons for this, but I’ll touch upon my top three: freedom, freedom, and freedom. Of course, this is purely from my perspective as many would argue that they have full autonomy working within the framework of a typical corporation; and that is cool as everyone is different and entitled to their own viewpoint. The time I’ve spent at other firms has been invaluable in my self-discovery; it’s made me realize that working on my own terms, schedule, pace and in pursuit of a vision that I can identify with is what draws the best out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to paint a negative picture of working for an established firm; all I mean is that being a person of strong convictions, despite best intentions and the success I’ve enjoyed in my career thus far, I’ve found corporate environments to be somewhat restrictive to entrepreneurial aspirations.
On the flip side, I can vouch that running your own gig does bring a whole slew of other issues that you otherwise don’t have to directly deal with. You now have the pleasure and pain of wearing multiple other hats: that of an accountant, lawyer, administrator, businessman, marketer and so on. Ah, how I miss the admin support at my previous firm…you only realize the value of something when you don’t have it! To make things even more exciting, you now carry the entire risk of failure; certainly not everyone’s cup of tea or coffee, shall I say. But it makes me feel livelier than ever. Anyone who has walked and stood by the edge of a deep cliff would know the feeling I’m talking about.
I will go on record to state that the real culprit behind founding Spannovation is my partner, Saqib Khan. I had quietly buried the desire to go solo in exchange for the perceived security that comes as an employee/partner in a private firm. He gently re-stoked the fire by making me realize that our respective skillsets crafted over our unique twenty-year careers in the bridge, seismic and erection engineering industry could be most beneficially combined and presented through a self-directed platform. Spannovation gives us the autonomy to define our purpose, pursue our work of choice and develop a collaborative work environment that accommodates flexible working styles. As an instance of flexibility that only a self-owned boutique firm can afford; an unforeseen obstacle early in Spannovation’s life has led us to quickly shift gear and direct most of our energies in the first year of operation towards educational endeavors, research, and development. We think of this as a fortunate twist of fate perfectly aligned with our inherent keenness to mentor, share and advance knowledge. More details on the courses we are developing and schedule would follow in due course.
It’s time for me to head back so I will wrap up this post. I must say that notwithstanding our enthusiasm, we are still very much in the early honeymoon phase optimistically addressing challenges as they arise. I will aim to keep you posted on our progress, offering nuggets of our experience we gather while traveling this path. I think of how much fun it’s been writing this post as I finish my last sip of coffee which is now a frigid 2/10 (Gosh! what happened to it?). Just then I happen to glance up to catch the white doll smirking back at me.
Raj Singh, October 31, 2019