Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spinning the plates

Doctor Anonymous: March 2008‘back in the Netherlands after a good trip to Chicago.  Not without incident, but productive overall.

The work with the new company went well: they have made great progress on their device, there is a clear path to regulatory approval and a clinical study, and the investment required to get to market seems clear.  I’ve got a lot of confidence that they are on the right track.

My contribution seems equally clear: three major tasks to be done in the next quarter, a few minor ones.  We renewed the consulting contract, had some excellent conversations with the Board, and had a bit of encouraging third-party interest.

Still, it was an intense and tiring week, and I was pretty well done in by the time I arrived back in Amsterdam on Saturday, 6 am.  You could tell by the way I rode the train to Heerlen instead of Maastricht, if nothing else.

My computer suffered a breakdown on he last day, necessitating a night in Sony’s Backstage repair facility.  The diagnosis was “Hard Disk Crash, unrecoverable, probably a manufacturing defect.”  Lovely. I grabbed a half-terabyte removable drive and backed off the User partition before they reformatted (for which they charged $150), so I do have a current backup.  Thus, my problems did not become the client’s problems: the pitch slides were delivered as promised on a backup machine.

Still, there was an element of plate spinning to all of it.  I used to love watching these jugglers on TV when I was little: they could get dozens of plates going before some would start to fall.  There is, similarly, always the temptation to think I can keep one more task in the air, gracefully.  Most likely, there’s a limit.

So, I’ve reached out to establish my first subcontract, and I let go of a few tasks that I might have taken on myself in more ambitious times.  I deliberately took time to decide what not to do to get the computer fixed, shipping from the Netherlands rather than asking the client to ship from the US.  A backup system is assembled from spare components to keep me going for the next month. I’ve scheduled a planning day before I start the three new subprojects, and a day to meet with a marketing consultant.  Any day now, the response from the IND should arrive; I’m looking at a bunch of potential new apartments.

It still doesn’t feel easy, but I am filling the days more productively than I have in a year or so.

On the downside, there’s still an acute sense of having a slim margin for error and no net. It’s a lot more work than expected to set up home and shop in a new country, despite downsizing a lot to keep things simple and costs down.

Reversing John Lennon’s song, I hum ‘beneath me, only sky’ as I bike hither and yon.

On balance, though, no complaints, except for not having a dozen more hours to each day and twice the cash flow every month.  Every entrepreneur’s lament, I’m sure…

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