Back in May, I was talking to my brother, Jim. In his daytime job, Jim is a controller. That’s basically a business management guy who checks a business and then tells what’s going wrong and where resources and money are being wasted.
One day earlier this year, Jim asked me how this little children’s book was coming along. I told him that it was going well, but that things took longer than I had planned – which was starting to piss me off. It was Jim’s idea to meet later on and check my project plan – in terms of project management. So, one day, the conversation went something like this:
Jim: “Hey, John, do you have something written down, a document or something where we can see what this whole crazy idea with this children’s book thing is about?”
John: “No. Not yet.”
Jim: “Can you write it down? I’m a controller, you know. I can check it for you. And I got a friend who might be interested in helping us, too.”
“Yes, of course.”
“I’ve never noticed that.”
“I didn’t know I could stick a cable into you. Where is it?”
“John, what the… are you high or….?”
Suddenly, Jimmy realised what his brother was talking about.
“Haha, very funny, John. And no, you cannot connect me to a Playstation.”
“How about a Nintendo?”
“I’m serious, John.”
“…a Super Ninten…?”
Just in case you are wondering now, this is what a Super Nintendo controller looked like. If I remember it right, they were around in the 90ies.
Well, I had reached the point where I had to stop bugging my little brother. Having had the questionable pleasure of growing up with a brother like me and having been hardened the way little brothers are, not even his patience is endless. 🙂
Actually, I had my stuff worked out (the master plan and the marketing plan) months ago already, but I just could not resist the temptation of teasing my brother. But now I had to lay my cards on the table.
“Ok. The marketing plan and the work packages are laid out on a cardboard. That way I see at one glance where I am at the moment. I can write it down, but it would take at least three or four hours. But I have all the costs, market data and some other factors worked out on data sheets. The rest is in my notebooks.”
“Oh, yeah, your notebooks. No, don’t write down the cardboard stuff. That takes too long. Just bring your master plan with you.”
A week later, Jim, a friend of his and I met at the University. It was Stefan Bauer, who is a lecturer at the University of Economics and who is specialised, among other things, in project management. Stefan not only offered his time, he also arranged for a seminar room so we could go through the project idea.
Among several other things, we went through my project plan and I was happy to see that it seemed to be quite good. Among other things, Stefan asked me which my milestones were. I had not set them yet. So he fired up a project management programme and put in all the steps I needed to get done in order to publish the book. He asked me about the amount of time I estimated for each task and put everything into the right order. In no time I had a first rough schedule for the things I still have to do – and when. Cool thing, as whenever I was asked when the book will finally come out, I tended to give just an overall estimate – which was always very vague.
I always thought that only fools are the ones to believe to know everything. There are always people who are better trained, have more experience, or have a different point of view in certain fields and it would be stupid not to listen to them. So I was very grateful for Stefan’s input.
In the meantime, Jim was checking the numbers and putting together the costs of publishing my books and calculating things such as when break even is reached. Before that, I just had a rough estimate how much this project had cost me so far.
That’s one of the disavantages of self publishing: You carry all the risk and all the costs – of course. But in no undertaking there is ever a guarantee that you will reach your goals, whatever the project is that you are doing. And if you are not a person who likes to take risks and prefer to have the security of a fulltime job, that is fine, too. As long as you are content with your life. 🙂
We talked a lot about the project, and Jim and Stefan gave me a lot of very valuable feedback. I was very happy that they both gave me their time. So, thank you very much, Jimmy & Stefan! 🙂
Wow, that was quite informative. It was nice of them to provide some support in terms of management, since every project has to be managed in a way that you don’t drown in the intake of tasks, time scale and whatnot.
Yeah, setting milestones definitely helps a lot 🙂
Definitely, especially since then you know how you’re doing and how much time you have left if anything.
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