Monday, April 10, 2006

Things Change, Once Again . . .(Part #6)

We were very busy after the COMDEX trip, we’d met, and hooked up with several SBT dealers who’d liked our enhancements and were beginning to buy, sell and install them. It was looking like we might finally turn the corner and have a growing profitable dealer based business on our hands.

I remember getting the latest release of SBT, and how finding every one of our top selling enhancements as a part of this version, just sucked the wind from my sails, and Greg’s as well. We’d labored for several years, struggled to build a repeatable process we could employ to merge them into new releases of the core product… had finally actually begun to make a profit from our efforts, and now, there in front of us was a killing blow.

You see, during the show, SBT had attempted to ‘buy’ the code from us, for $5,000… a fairly laughable sum considering we were grossing at leas that every week or so with it then. We talked, argued and debated the price, and who would actually ‘own’ the code, but never reached agreement. I remember leaving that meeting wishing we’d never installed our code on their servers… but, what was done, was done.

Greg and I discussed suing the company, but we neither had the funds, nor the stomach for a long protracted ‘copyright’ battle with a company who could certainly wait us out financially. Maybe, they’d had the stuff in the ‘works’, and were attempting to ‘cover their bases’ when they made a thin offer to buy our code, maybe give what they were paying an offshore operation, they thought the offer was generous, besides, we had no real proof they’d grabbed our stuff, just our suspicions, and in the end, regardless, what we’d built, was gone.

We looked for new ‘gaps’, places into which we could build useful features for their new product, but when all was said and done, the sad fact was, we (maybe mostly “I”) simply didn’t have the heart for it any longer. The same folks who had created our market, had now, effectively ended it as well.

We continued to build complex, custom systems for our ‘retail’ customers, but the volume and the profit was simply not there, at the time, to sustain us, in and of itself.

I returned home for the Holidays in 1994, Greg and I discussed many options, none of which looked especially promising, and we were both wondering what direction we should take next.

I’d closed up the actual ‘office’ over on Goguen Drive, and remodeled a section of the Liverpool house into an office for the business. I’d installed multiple phone lines, pulled in the extra electrical and lighting (Greg actually finished the design for me) and had moved in. I was preparing to ramp back up, and figure it out as I went….

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I got a phone call. It was John, (the client in Burlington) and he told me there was an ‘open’ plane ticket waiting for me at the airport, that as soon as I could ‘clear my calendar’, he’d like me to come to Burlington, and talk about taking a position with the Company.
I told him I’d think about it.

Eventually, a few days later, I agreed to fly down and we’d discuss things….

That meeting changed the course of my life, for more than a decade.

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6 comments:

Flash said...

Seems like it's a big pain in the ass. Here's my thought. Just steal the code back. Or give them a bogus code or something.

I deal with thes on every film job I do. For some reason, people always want to buy the raw footage. Now if I sold it, the can just take it and make anything they want with it. Then it gets into copyright infringement. It's mine, because I filmed it, but at the same time, it's just as much theirs because they hired me. So what I did was make the raw footage price so high that nobody wants to buy it.

That also insures future business. They need a copy or a reedit, it's more cash for me.

Fight it for the code. Don't let them win. And if all else fail, break some thumbs.

Jay said...

That's a good reminder of how quickly we have the power to change our own lives. Sometimes we don't even realize how our decisions will affect us - and that's probably a good thing.

Lorna said...

sorry I missed your birthday, and thanks for your comment about my post on adopting Chris; April 9 was indeed a good day!

Bill said...

Flash - Well.. thruth is, they're gone now, swallowed up a couple of years later by a much bigger firm... It might have been a good thing as we got out, before we got in any deeper! We set the price on the code so high, it actually made the guy in the meeting do a 'double take'...

I know it was worth more to us than it was to them.

Jay - We have all the power... it's unfortunate that most folks just don't know it. Guys like Tony Robbins have made a ton of money, just telling folks they have the power they already had!

Lorna - I was truly touched by the story... and when I discovered we shared a birthday... it became even more special!

You and he are truly blessed.

Greg said...

I suspected they already had our stuff...well I know they did.

But the "code" wasn't the real theft; it was the concepts that the code was written for.

hey a floods a flood a fire a fire and we are still alive! so there!

Bill said...

Greg - Checkin in from the road... I hopw the trip is going well.

In the end... we're here, they're gone... he sad fact is, even with all they had... they never "got it", nor has CA... however, The 'window' for that accounting stuff has passed, but, you'll be pleased to know.. I'm wrapping up an new text processing engine tonight... Takes emailed reports, pases the contents and produces industry repair reports.. The concept, the process does live!

As do we bro, as do we.