|The Stay-at-Home CEO™|
The Floppy Clock Story
Why the heck did I make clocks out of diskettes???
Here is the story of the Floppy Clock... there is a lesson here for everyone!
I was in the software business; I had developed a software product for large mainframe computers. Those are the computers used by large corporations to handle huge volumes of data. The sales process involved sending the software to the prospective customer, who then had to install it in their system so the programmers could work with it to see if it met their needs. Installing it was often a huge undertaking, involving bureaucracy, security, etc. How could I ease this process, or at least give them a better understanding of the software before they went through the installation headache?
Enter the “Demo Diskette”. This was a program that ran on the PC that simulated the mainframe product, sort of an electronic brochure of the 1980's. Running the PC program was easy; just pop in the diskette and go. This was an inexpensive and painless way to give the customer a better idea what the product did, which lowered their resistance to installing it. This was developed when PC’s were just coming into their own, and 5 ¼” diskettes were standard.
Soon after the demo diskette came out, PC makers started changing to the 3 ½” diskette and the larger drives began getting pretty scarce. What am I going to do with thousands of 5 ¼” demo diskettes?
I came up with a great idea: I’ll make clocks out of them! I can then offer the clocks as an incentive for responding to a mailing, and I’ll accomplish a number of things:
I jumped into this project with both feet. I researched clock parts such as motors, hands, faces, hangers/desk stands, etc. I had to come up with a way to ship them safely and assemble them efficiently. I was immediately immersed in the project and so far, I’m right on track: this is definitely related to my business.
Then I made a sharp left turn.
“Gee," I mused. "I can probably sell these things for, oh, $15 each.” So I came up with a logo, order forms, price lists, shipping information, etc. Then I thought that somebody might steal my idea, so I had it patented. I rented space at a local computer faire and spent several days manning my booth. Then I thought “I could make clocks out of the platters from hard disk drives. As capacities increase rapidly, many drives will be going into the trash and I can remove the platters.” (They look like CD’s, except they are covered in a dull brown oxide.)
I was WAAAAAAAAY out there. I probably spent 2 or 3 months on this project. Then a consultant with whom I was working slapped me upside the head (figuratively speaking!) and said “Listen. You are spending all your time and energy trying to manufacture and sell clocks for $15 dollars each, when you could be spending that same time and energy selling copies of your software for $10,000 each.
That was the end of the floppy clock. (Until now!!!)
I had forgotten what business I was in. I got distracted, off course; lost in a side business that took me away from my main business.