Author Topic: Proposing a new business idea to boss  (Read 1287 times)

Bearblastbeats

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Proposing a new business idea to boss
« on: November 03, 2017, 11:25:23 PM »
Hey folks,

I currently am a project engineer/manager for a material handling firm. We are an integrated systems company that specializes in conveyors, fork trucks, pallet racking, and any other warehouse fulfillment concepts.

We are pushing into the new world of robotics and we have only one in-house electrical engineer/programmer. The engineering department is made up of six engineers total and we have limited robotics and programming skills as a whole. Mainly conveyor and pallet racking knowledge.

Before my boss retires in 3 years he wants to grow our department to more robotics. Doing so he plans to take in more sales and potentially hire another engineer at doing that. Knowing sales won't grow over night, will it not be wise for them to hire internally and train someone to do such while growing that side of the business?

I elect myself.

I have some knowledge of coding and have been able to break programs and rewrite codes before. I want to propose the idea to my boss and see if he bites.

Proposed idea:

- Send me to software school or equivalent for programming.

- Hire cheap intern at $12 hr. for entry level CAD.

- I oversee our current drafter and intern on Core relations. (Pallet racking and other CAD)

- I become well versed in robotics and programming to assist and learn aside current electrical engineer. Grow that side of the department.


How could I sell this to a salesmen (the boss) and the future of our company?

crimwell

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Re: Proposing a new business idea to boss
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2017, 01:20:54 AM »
I don't know anything about this industry but honestly the plan itself sounds inherently very sellable to your boss. You've already articulated it in a way that sounds like it's a totally logical choice.

The thing that I think could make this stronger is to make it more concrete.

Two thing I can think of here. One, do the research yourself of what exactly training you would need, how long it would take, what places you could get this from (ie what University classes etc), what outside help you would need, etc. That's the big part of your plan that sounds really fuzzy. "Software school or equivalent for programming" - software is a huge field, most "coding schools" or "boot camps" or whatever are focused on making you a web developer, not robotics. So maybe you could figure out the path that would make the most sense for robotics specifically.

Then two, (I think this part is maybe actually more important) do what you can do on your own with minimal investment: join a local robotics club, start reading up on robotics theory and practice with library books or a few cheaper choices from Amazon, learn everything you can currently from the current robotics guy, etc.

These actions will show you are talking the initiative and give the sense that you can be trusted to be interested in this new area before he has to invest a bunch of money into your training or doing a new hire or whatever. Be prepared to discuss all of that in concrete terms when you pitch it to your boss.

That doesn't mean you have to wait to bring it up, you can mention it to your boss, tell him the actions you intend to take (research necessary training to see if it would make sense, try to gain basic knowledge etc,). Then you report back every time you have progressed farther on your path: "hey boss, just sending you this email to let you know after talking with Current Robotics Guy and doing my own research I think I'd need classes in these areas BLAH BLAH BLAH. I can get that training from the following 3 sources Blah blah blah"
"Hey I talked with Robotics professor at Local College and found out blah blah blah"
"Hey, I wrote a basic program in whatever language the industry uses for robotics programming, see, it turns the light on whenever the sensor is obscured. This isn't so hard for a highly trained and intelligent engineer like me"
Stuff like that. As you follow through with your promise, it will hopefully give the impression that your proposal is basically inevitable and that your boss doesn't have to do any thinking whatsoever to make it happen. Besides, if your plan fails and your boss doesn't go for it, or starts going for it then disappoints you by cutting you out and hiring someone new with more experience, you will have still learned some valuable skills and increased your human capital. You can't lose!

Bearblastbeats

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Re: Proposing a new business idea to boss
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2017, 06:37:37 AM »
Thank you so much for all that insite. I'm going to talk with our robotics guy and see what things I need or what he may have to help me out.

After reading your response I remembered that my nephew is 16 and does robotics for his school. I can even start going to more of his competitions, and even get him hired at my Company fresh out of college.


Bearblastbeats

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Re: Proposing a new business idea to boss
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2017, 06:42:29 AM »
Also, after which I obtain more knowledge and really start getting into the thick of things, how do I propose this to them?

Drafted letter proposal in a meeting?
Or just a simple chat?

Edit: I forgot to mention, my boss and I have a pretty good relationship. He knows that I'm well versed in computers and  has trusted me to install his floors at his house. I used to install professionally with my brother before and after college. My boss also hires me for company parties because I play drums and currently do a cover band with our IT guy.

I mention this because the relationship is open and I could simply send him a text and we can meet up for drinks and talk about this.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2017, 07:09:10 AM by Bearblastbeats »

topshot

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Re: Proposing a new business idea to boss
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2017, 07:10:47 AM »
Most warehouse material automation I've seen (worked in auto electronics & steering plants) aren't using robotics per se (i.e., an actual robot picking up a box and placing it somewhere else), but a PLC to control everything on that particular cell. Totally different kind of programming, but I'd think that would be easier to learn since it's more niche. You just need to learn how to deal with whatever brand PLC your company uses (e.g., Allen-Bradley, GE, Siemens). When I went through my EE degree (early 90s) at one of the best engineering schools in the nation they didn't even bother teaching us to program PLCs because they said we'd learn whatever system we had on the job.

If you ARE using robotics (the BMW plant I visited had several), then you'll likely need to learn something C-based. IMO, that will take much more on your part.

Ironically, I didn't get into PLC programming at all (that was a tech level job). My job quickly turned into Visual Basic programming to do the interface between the PLC, scanners, printers, the operators and our backend systems.

crimwell

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Re: Proposing a new business idea to boss
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2017, 01:01:37 AM »
Also, after which I obtain more knowledge and really start getting into the thick of things, how do I propose this to them?

Drafted letter proposal in a meeting?
Or just a simple chat?


I'd recommend bringing it up informally first, no matter what. That way it's not brand new and it reduces commitment levels for both of you -you don't want your boss to feel pressured to make a decision right then, the first time he hears about this, because that's not even your aim.

Again, not sure exactly how things are usually done in this industry, but you will likely eventually have to do a formal proposal of some sort, if nothing else to show numbers needed for investment in your training, etc.

But if it were me doing it, it would be an informal conversation first: "hey boss, I've been thinking [problem statement, proposed solution]." This might get you a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or a maybe. My guess is he will probably tell you what he wants you to do next if it's a yes or a maybe. If it's a definite no, I'm not sure what to do about that. You will have to regroup and find a new angle of some sort, or there may be a really good reason it's a definite no, and that may change your plans as well.

 If it's a yes or a maybe but you don't get any direction as a result of the conversation, you can end with "I'm going to do some research on this and write up what I find" and then that will be your lead in to a more formal write up in whatever format is standard in your industry.

Not knowing the industry I feel like my advice is possibly  worthless so I hope it's somewhat useful!

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Proposing a new business idea to boss
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2017, 02:30:25 PM »
When I've asked for more training to grow into another role/add skill sets, I set up a formal meeting with my boss.  At that point, I laid it all out like a business proposal - here's the class(es) I want to take, here's what it will cost, here's my proposal on cost sharing (one time, I asked for the company to pay it all, once I just asked for time out with pay and I would pay for the class - that time, they offered to pay the class too), here's what I think this means for my current role.

I did this even when the boss was my friend, because I wanted to show him I was very serious and had thought it ought.

I do not think it is necessary for you to start learning robotics on your own yet, but you do need to have a plan in place.

If you have a formal annual review coming up, you can discuss your interest in growing in this direction.  I would then follow that up with a formal meeting.