Do you have an idea for a new product, service or business? Today, with all the tools available and so many of them free, you no longer have an excuse. If it’s something you really want and the only thing standing in your way is fear, just try!
Mark R. LePage is talking with someone who’s been doing just that ever since he discovered a need in grad school and couldn’t find the solution, so he decided to create the solution himself. Learn how he started his many companies, how he’s managing each project, and the tools he uses to communicate with his virtual teams.
Born and raised in Chicago, Robert was the son of Chinese immigrants who played with legos, imagined building and creating things. He took drafting and architectural classes in high school and competed city-wide in various contests. He had a great mentor teacher who helped steer him in the path of architecture to use his passion and abilities in design. He went to the University of Illinois Chicago, where he won a traveling fellowship and spent a year backpacking around 20+ countries. Upon his return, he worked small, high-end residential before he decided to attend grad school at the University of Michigan. With a heavy focus on technology, Robert started to figure out exactly what focus he wanted to have. Most recently he’s gone full time with his many projects as an entrepreneur.
After realizing a lack in the profession during both in school and out of school, he asked himself how he could most effectively save the things that were valuable to him in a way that was easy for him to find again. As an answer to that question, SectionCut.com was created as a platform for a collective of designers and architects to share what’s going on in today’s practice.
Through back and forth conversations between Robert and a few freelancers, they decided to try out an agency model. Dixon & Moe was established to provide tech design and software consulting to large firms. Their current location in San Fransisco gives them the opportunity provide support from up-and-coming startups to big companies.
Monograph.io started as more of a blogging platform for makers. It was critiqued and reborn to be a simple, portfolio-building website for architects. Architects want to be found, and since Monograph is so focused on architects, they can design their own technology and SEO algorithms to allow an architect of a specific type or region to get connected easily. Coming soon may be a simple, technology-based RFP plugin, project management and staff management, and accounting plugins.
During Robert’s earlier days in the industry, he did a lot of computer-intensive, heavy 3D modeling and renderings, where he noticed most of his time was spent not working, but waiting for the computer to produce what he needed. BigFluffy.io is an idea to solve that problem: a computer on the web. Here you can have access to your machine through a browser that you can rent as often as you want and increase or decrease your power to speed up what you need to do.
How are you getting all this done?
- Not all projects are going on at the same time.
- He heavily values his co-founders and partners. Robert doesn’t believe in starting businesses solo because of all the moving parts and the need for a team that you trust to to get the project off the ground. Having a team means each person brings their own strengths and weaknesses
Do you manage employees for any of your projects?
- For SectionCut.com, a virtual assistant who assists with day-to-day tasks.
- In the area of partners, he worked to find people who would be the best fit to build on his skill sets.
What are some of the tools you’re using for communication?
- Slack // Almost no emailing, all team communication is primarily via Slack
- Appear.In // Video conferencing weekly meetings whether there’s issues or not; Appear.In is easy because you don’t need an account, you just need the right url for the meeting
- Trello // Used as a simple to-do list for company-wide items for Monograph.io
- Google Docs // All documentation, spreadsheets, etc. are on Google Drive, and anything outside of that is on Dropbox
Robert’s final prompt: Try! If you don’t try, there’s a 100% guarantee that nothing will succeed. Even if it’s a 1% success, that’s better than zero. Keep your priorities straight and work on the things that are a few steps ahead of you.
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