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An interesting business opportunity

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Amy RaeAn interesting business opportunity
by on May 3, 2010 at 12:48:24 am

Hi everyone,
I'd like some opinions on a unique situation. I'm an editor at a small post house and am a salaried employee. The other night I was having drinks with a close family friend who works in academia. She got to talking about researching methods of showing stereoscopic 3D to wide audiences to see if the 3D experience might render better data from her test subjects. Since I've been looking into 3D tech from a production standpoint, I threw out some ideas, one thing led to another, and she asked if I wanted to help with her research as a paid consultant.
Here's my dilemma: I can be a decent consultant for her on my own time from home, but I'd be a far better consultant if I had the resources of my company's editing gear at my fingertips (testing compression schemes, new software, gear, etc.). Using my company's gear on the side for my own personal gain is simply not an option I'm willing to entertain, so what would you folks do?

A. Bring this "client" to my company, use company time and resources to solve her problems and get a huge pat on the back from management for bringing in new work, but no additional cash in my pocket. (I'm fairly compensated, and management at my company is good people, by the way.)

B. Freelance consult on my own time to make my own cash, but not do as much as I think I could for my friend.

C. Try to negotiate with management for a high commission on this project since I would be the sole contact to the "client," and the only employee involved in the project.

Is there a better option I haven't thought of? I'm interested in hearing from business owners as well as employees.

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Mark SuszkoRe: An interesting business opportunity
by on May 3, 2010 at 2:48:01 pm

A and C are the best options among what you suggest. We don't know your company culture or how your bosses would react to you bringing in the friend as a new customer, so advising about that would just be a guess. Is your shop and management culture there very regimented and compartmentalized, or more loosey-goosey, go-with-the-flow, everybody does a little of everything kind of deal?

One consideration when talking bonuses or commissions may be that right now, everybody is on board with a stable scheme of compensation, everybody knows their place. The shop makes the profit, everybody gets a more or less equal taste as agreed upon. If you start bucking to get a commission on top of your regular compensation, you may sow discord with your co-workers, and you might start to feel put-upon as well because they are getting a piece of your "action" wthout doing any of the work for it. And they may start feeling pressured to go do sales to keep up. Without ever realizing it, suddenly bringing in a new aspect of compensation wth every good intention could have a destabilzing effect on the organization far out of proportion to what you'd expect.

Typically, you would want to have a conversation about such ideas as bringing in your friend as a client when they are still hypotheticals, and then get some consensus and agreement down in memo form, before you bring your friend around on the house tour. Hitting the boss up for the deal as a fait accompli with your friend figuratively or literally standing there puts the boss into a corner and doesn't give you much time to work on them with your best sales pitch.

I suggest you start two projects: number one would be to run the numbers on renting comparable gear and doing the project completely off-site on your own time. Think this over; the profit margin would be lower, but you own the project and all of whatever it brings in, and you answer only to the gal in the mirror. Number two would be to start on that sales pitch to the boss, asking what company policy is, then if there is none, suggesting a policy that works for both of you, and negotiating onwards from there.

I have been where you are, sorta, in that I have one of those "the cobbler's kid's run around shoeless" situations where I own all my expertise, but very little of my own broadcast quality gear that I'm free to freelance with outside of the day job. So many folks I would love to help and work with, I can't do much for, since I don't own an equivalent studio at home, and can't bring them to the office. It can be frustrating to be moral.

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grinner hesterRe: An interesting business opportunity
by on May 3, 2010 at 5:05:23 pm

Just tell the boss man what's up and ask him this question. He'll tell ya.

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Mark SuszkoRe: An interesting business opportunity
by on May 3, 2010 at 6:44:20 pm

That's easier when your name is Hester and you're your own boss:-)

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grinner hesterRe: An interesting business opportunity
by on May 4, 2010 at 3:01:51 am

If you can't call yer boss dude and share cool goings on with em, man yer workin' for the wrong dude.
I in no way and fool enough to think I'm my own boss. At 40, I'm now trained. I call home if I'm gonna be late like a good boy.

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Amy RaeRe: An interesting business opportunity
by on May 5, 2010 at 3:07:39 am

Thanks for your insight, guys. I'm fortunate to have a pretty cool boss, so it can't hurt to at least discuss the matter with him and see where it goes from there.

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