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  • 2017: Choosing my metrics

    Before writing this, I penned a long, lamenting post on the seemingly pointless year 2016 seemed to be. It’s so rare for me to concentrate on the negative, I felt guilty proofreading it and, in the end, couldn’t bring myself to publish. Surely something good came out of 2016?

    Select all. Delete. Start again.

    2016 wasn’t at all uneventful. In January I found what would become my second home; from April to July I was hard at work renovating; in November I turned 30 and finally got the dog I always dreamed of; and in December my business turned six. It was therefore strange to me that as the New Year approached, I felt empty inside.

    I decided to dedicate the first week of 2017 to discovering why I felt the way I did about the last year, a year, on paper at least, that contained some fairly major milestones. And that’s when it hit me. On paper, the year was fairly successful. But who decides what is deemed successful or not? I certainly have never measured someone’s success on their ability to get a mortgage, so there is little wonder why 2016 seems void of any great achievement to me.

    To avoid a repeat of the same, I think it’s important to ask what a good year actually looks like. What is the end-game? Most importantly, what will I be like, how will I have grown, what will have made me happy? The metrics by which we judge ourselves are important, not the metrics society inflicts on us unwittingly.

    I sat down with a piece of paper to work out what a good day looks like, in the hope that a series of good days would eventually add up to a good year. It quickly became clear what motivates me the most, with just a few common themes among all my favourite or most-desired activities.

    With these themes now written, it became easy to see what I deem a successful year. And hopefully end the year feeling like I’ve achieved something, rather than feeling flat.

    Here are my key metrics:

    • Time spent Learning
      Be it inside a classroom or from the people and environment around me. At the end of 2017, I want to be able to ask myself, what did I learn this year?.
    • Time spent Being Present
      Screen-free time, time in nature, quality time with friends and family, but also rest time, down time, relax time. How often did I do something without distraction?
    • Number of new Experiences
      There’s nothing to be gained from staying in your comfort zone all the time. What new experiences did I have this year?
    • My Impact
      If I’m not of any benefit to the world around me, why bother. Whose life did I improve or make easier?, Which communities did I contribute to and help grow?.

    Over a year ago I decided I would return to the UK after years of travelling and do the normal thing of settling down, getting an office and buying a new place to live. So much effort went into these things that, without realising, I suddenly stopped doing what I love. If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that if I don’t keep track of what’s important to me, another year will go by feeling unfulfilled.

    I’m yet to choose my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017, but at least now I have a framework on which to base them.

  • Hack Month – October 2011

    Applingua HQ is moving! From Tuesday 27th September, I will be based out of Amelia, Italy along with partner in crime, Joe Westhead. We both started our own companies 9 months ago (Applingua, and felt it was time to really put the pedal to the metal on a few ideas we have for 2012.

    Our aim is to power through a backlog of tasks, helping each other out where we can. I’ve got a wall in mind that will make a pretty good Scrum-board and I know the coffee is good enough in Italy to keep me working 12 hour days. At the moment we’re looking at between 4-6 weeks to produce some really great things.

    Why Amelia? Well my parents have a flat there so rent-free is pretty much always a winner. I know the town very well having spent pretty much every summer there since I was 18. It’s a little sleepy, but the internet speed is good, the ice cream is great and the pizza is even better. The town is on a hill so morning walks will really stretch my legs before settling down to a day of work. It’s also still 25 degrees sunny. What more could you want?

    I’ll keep you all updated on what we’re working on. Exciting times ahead!

    Amelia, Terni

    Amelia, Terni, Umbria, Italy, Europe, Earth, Sol, Milky Way… You get the picture

  • An app, perchance to dream

    I recently made a small app to speed up the invoicing process at Applingua. As the majority of our customers are European, I must validate their EU tax number before zero-rating their VAT invoices. The EU provide a portal to do this validation, but anyone who has used it will know just how frustrating it is. It’s a problem, so this is my solution.

    The app is pretty basic, and pretty ugly too. It’s a v.1 that does the job – a “minimum viable product” for want of a better phrase. Currently you can enter the tax number, choose the member state it belongs to and Europa VAT will tell you if it’s valid and, if available, the address and company name. This saves considerable time over the EU portal that makes you enter considerably more data to get the same information.

    Making apps is certainly not Applingua’s main business, nor will it ever be. Europa VAT won’t even break-even with the time spent on it (a few days in total). However Applingua can profit from it in many other ways.

    Having an app on the app store gives Applingua a little street cred. I’ve dealt with iTunes Connect before, but now I can guide developers right through every step of managing localizations on Apple’s (awkward) platform. There’s definitely going to be a DevZone post on that soon. Additionally, I can now freely add localizations, screenshot code and fiddle with Cocoa Autolayout for new tutorials at my whim.

    Visit the app’s website:

    Get the app directly hereClick Me

  • Q2: ROI on Time and Other Goodies

    Applingua Ltd’s second ever quarter ended on 30th June 2011 and, as promised in my Q1 ROI post, I’ve got some numbers to report.

    Q2 was incredibly different from Q1. Clients, developers and friends started referring to Applingua as an organisation in its own right and not as “Rob’s new project”. Revenue also increased and my client base tripled on Q1. The average number number of projects per client was and encouraging 2.5. 

    In my previous blog post I discussed how ROI  and ROI on Time tells only part of a much bigger story for new small businesses and “start-ups”. Return on Investment  alone can be used to decide whether a company is successful or not, it’s a superficial metric which assumes the sole purpose of a company is to produce maximum revenue. While Applingua could not exist without revenue, nor I without a salary, Applingua was not started as some get-rich quick scheme. Despite this, I still get that age old question from friends who hear I’m going at it alone, “so how much money you making then?”. If only it were as easy as incorporating and drawing a six figure salary over night.

    There’s so much more at stake. Learning opportunities, partnerships, networking. Even personal social life is affected by starting your own business. All things you can’t particularly quantify, but important nonetheless.

    At the end of Q1 I decided to compare 4 ROI metrics: ROI, ROI on Time, ROI (Social Life) and ROI (Learning). I wanted to take two solid financial equations and represent them alongside two of factors I deem important: Learning, because all I ever seek to do is learn new skills, and Social Life, because I’m fully aware no social life will eventually stop me from going at it alone and force me to return to an office environment where I can waste company time bond with colleagues over tea.

    I’m going to continue with these four metrics for Q2 to make a fairer comparison with Q1. If you would like to see how these percentages were worked out, see the original post.

    The big winner this quarter is clearly my return on monetary investment. Remember, however, that 3900% figure is 3900% ROI on initial investment (and I haven’t disclosed how much, or how little, initial investment was). The percentage shows gross profit, not revenue. ROI on time has also increased and I am now edging slowly back to my previous salary. I hope next quarter it will look more like 85%. Remember the bar is raised every month that goes by and is not simply my salary now vs before, but rather foregone salary over the last 6 months vs salary earned during the quarter at Applingua.

    Social life still takes a back seat again compared to my life pre-Applingua, but has improved considerably since being able to afford myself a fixed monthly salary and learning to say no at weekends unless absolutely necessary. I also set up @CardiffTweetup to meet new tech tweeps in my home town. Our second TweetUp is this week! Learning hasn’t particularly slowed down on Q1. I attended some great workshops (like this one), I learned a lot from new clients and from running a business. I also learned from my mistakes, I made a few which did cost me big on my margins, but we all live and learn.

    So there you have it. Applingua and my personal stats from Q2, April – June 2011. It’s been fun and things are definitely looking up for the future. Come back in 3 months and catch up!

  • Goodbye CDs. You won’t be missed.

    I have never been that collector person. I don’t care for having the real album case, or the DVD. I want everything digital so I don’t have to buy new bookcases every year to house CDs like Britney’s In The Zone, an album bought for me when I was 14 (but rather secretly enjoyed). Let’s face it, if there’s a nuclear meltdown and my 3 backup solutions are no longer attainable, I doubt I’ll be wanting to watch The Hangover just one more time before I finally lay down to be overtaken by scorpions and cockroaches.

    This rule hasn’t always applied to software though. I grew up through a time when software was a special thing. You didn’t just download $0.99 apps from a store, you went to a proper retail store, held the relatively huge cardboard box in your hands and experienced a sense of elation when each of the check marks under System Requirements met your exact setup. Software had real value, which also meant it had resale value.

    For that reason I’ve tended to keep a lot of software I’ve bought over the years. From OS X install disks, to Birth of the Federation to Visual Basic 6.0. As the years have passed I’ve slowly archived the older software into a CD wallet and got rid of their epic packaging.

    Today I’ve decided to cut the cord completely and get rid of all CDs. I must have used my CD drive twice in the last 3 years, I even install new OS X iterations via a USB flash drive these days as it’s ostensibly faster. Fortunately my speedy new iMac is ripping through all the important ones in no time at all, archiving them digitally should I ever need to use them again.

    There are those of you out there who may still hold a candle for physical media. I warn you however, I’m sure your children and especially your children’s children will laugh at you pitilessly if you’re still installing Office 2008 from a CD in several years time. Until then, I offer you a selection of mostly old Apple and MS software, should you want it:

    Just mail me with your shipping address (worldwide) and they are yours…