KNOW WHEN TO QUIT: DRONES PART I – #80
As we entered a new decade 2010-2012, I was teaching Business 101 at Harper College and as usual the requirement to come-up with a new and innovative idea or product, and make a presentation to the class as a term project. In checking the backgrounds and the past/current work experience of the students, I noticed that I had a handicapped student who would require special services in taking tests and notes throughout the whole semester. When I approached him as to how we should handle the matter, he indicated that he wouldn’t require any special support services due to the fact that he played baseball on Harper’s team and if he did succumb to ADA challenges, he just wanted me to know that he had ADA challenges once in a great while. I was glad to hear that, and during class introductions he indicated that he was very interested in learning more about starting a business utilizing DRONES to provide a wide variety of services.
He started having conversations about these Drones before and after class – (to think Gruntstyle.com was born in another Bus 101 Class. Today it is a $75 million company, employing 90% Veterans from various services, in a firm that employs 500+people.) Two weeks of consultation, and the student was averaging $2000 per week on a part-time basis which resulted in 20 surprised fellow students who got down to seriously working on their innovative project. I had to be in France on business during the spring holidays, and while I was sitting on the runway at the airport waiting to take off, I thought of my father-in-law telling me about snow laying on roofs of buildings and providing a clear indication of where the heat was leaking. Since it started to snow while on the runway, I called my student before taking off and told him the story. In addition, I instructed him to stay in a specific zip code territory and to stay in One Zip Code at a time. I only had one more instruction for my student, and that was to bring the go-pro pictures to one or more Roofers and auction them off as hot leads with definite proof that would make the sale easy for the Roofer. I even remember working on a cost proposal weighing the benefits of using a drone to lower heating costs significantly that a roofer could use. That would provide another source of revenue for my Student.
When I got back from France, he made a presentation to the class on how he had developed a zip code lead- generating program which had resulted in identifying large (auto-dealership) as well as small roofs that were leaking heat. So we met for two weeks which resulted in him making more money from this part-time gig. It was then that greed had taken over, in that he called me from his car and told me that he was on his way to upper Wisconsin to close a deal for 17 Drones, parts, plus 17 pilot and 2 technician training programs which had specific and contractual completion dates. I warned him of my original ground-rules that if he couldn’t make it in Chicago his part-time status would change. All he saw was a contract for $40M+ dollars – I indicated that I would see him before class and that he should up-date the folks on his innovative approach. They were congratulating him, but at the same time they were asking the hard questions of how could he do the contract and focus on school; how much time would he require to accomplish the work in Wisconsin; what were the Profit margins after all the costs associated with the project were included; was he over-reaching his capabilities? There was no one page plan in existence that would have sufficed in letting him know where the boundaries would exist. No, the greed had gotten him already, and he no longer needed help from me! To think I wasn’t charging him a dime, due to Harper’s Ethics Code for Faculty involvement in student businesses. We only had two classes left and he attended both obtaining an A for the paper, the actual presentation, and for homework plus individual class assignments. He received an A for the course.
I have no idea of how his business is going, but he never called, nor did he stop-by because I was around until mid-year 2017-2018. It would have been nice to find out what became of his business, but we will never know. All I know, is that it was a wonderful semester that resulted in numerous innovative uses of products and ideas such as Hemp, Drones and a Water Jug that could handle several types of liquids. Here a student was making money with Drones at a time it was only being used by hobby persons and very huge usage was adopted by our defense department. There was almost no commercial use except for limited applications such as flown by my student.
Our College Consulting Services only advised businesses that were willing to listen to us and implement our recommendations, if only on a test basis. We don’t have the resources to provide support to marginal efforts by individuals who are not totally committed to investing a total 24/7 effort or that march to a different drummer.