from Middle > Introduction to Technology > Mind Your Own Business

Many engineers go on to have businesses of their own or work at a small “start up” company where everyone has to do many different jobs to make the company a success. Developing business skills in communication, teamwork, information processing, planning and problem-solving can be a big help later.

Starting your own business is a lot of work, and it can be fun, too. Here are some stories about new companies.

  • 30,000 orders for a gadget not yet built. The Myo wristband, worn on the forearm, senses movements of hand and finger muscles and wirelessly transmits signals that can control games and apps on a computer or smartphone. Customers think this is a great product, but the company has a big problem if they can’t deliver what customers order. And, there’s a risk that a competitor who studies how the wristband works could rush a similar device onto the market.

This isn’t all you need to know to run a business but it is a start.

Starting a new business
You are now an entrepreneur and you are going to start your own business. Although your business could sell a service, for this example, your company will sell a product that your company designs and makes.

  • business application ?? components
  • first team business meeting – come up with a name for your company, a motto, address, phone number, and any other information important to a company.
  • design a business card and business advertisement. Remember design and graphics are important to marketing you company.
  • write the minutes for all team business meetings – keep minutes, record the date of the meeting and the members present. Include your objective for that day and a plan to meet that objective. Include responsibilities of each of the group members. At the close of each day, record whether or not your objective was met by each team member.

Begin researching the environmental impacts of starting, constructing, and operating your business. Discuss the different associated environmental impacts and what would be required to mitigate these impacts (i.e., permits, cost, treatment, modification, etc.).

  • investigate environmental and permitting requirements
  • summarize impacts, requirements and costs
  • make a determination of the viability of the venture

Market your product through a commercial. Create, compose and film your commercial.

  • brainstorm ideas for the commercial –
  • write the script
  • film and speak in the commercial
  • contribute to the creation of your commercial – bringing in props, writing script, filming, and directing

Questions correspond to the steps in the [/Engineering%20Design%20Process Engineering Design Process].

  • Ask (What? Ask questions, understand the need, identify the problem, define)
    You have some general ideas about your company’s product. Be more specific about the need this product fills and what the product does.
    Q: What is the product that your business makes to sell to customers? Who are the customers?
  • Imagine (So what? Imagine, brainstorm, explore, discover)
    Knowing more about the requirements, now think about the possibilities. These may not be practical at this time, but you might be surprised. Do some research. Find out what others are doing. Look beyond the industry your company is in. Sometimes the best new ideas come from somewhere totally unrelated.
    Q: What makes your company’s product special? What other similar products are already available?
  • Plan (Now what? Plan, design)
    Work out exactly what the product will be and how it will be made. This step is actually more complex than this. In real life, this is where prototypes and models are made to ensure that the product requirements will be met. Advertising and promoting your product are also important considerations.
    Q: How will you make the product? Where will you build it? How many people will you need? Do you need special equipment or training? How are potential customers going to know about your product? How will the order and pay for the product?
  • Create (Do it. Create, try it out)
    Manufacture your product. Make sure everything works as it should. Take orders and ship product to customers.
    Q: Can you make enough product to satisfy customer orders? Are customers ordering your products? Are your costs to make the product less than what the customer pays? Is there any money left over after every one has been paid? Do you have money to make more product?
  • Improve (If this then what? Improve, make it better)
    To stay in business, keep existing customers and attract new customers, businesses are continually improving their products.
    Q: What improvements can be made to the existing product? Are there new features that can be added? What would the customers like better than what you make now? Do your have money to spend developing the next new, better version of your product?

Engineering vocabulary, concepts

  • Income Tax, Benefits, Budgeting, Fixed Expenses, Variable Expenses, Deposits, Income, Profit, Payroll, Aptitude, Salary, Occupation, Career, References, Resume, School, Transcript, Application, Interview, Withholding Tax, Gross Pay, Wages, Take Home Pay, Entrepreneur

Show and Tell

Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Develop business skills in communication, teamwork, information processing, planning and problem-solving through prereading, reading, writing, engagement, math and science activities.
  • Words to know – In order to learn about starting a business, there are some vocabulary and basic concepts that you need to know. These will come up in articles and discussions, so start with the ones listed in the Engineering vocabulary, concepts section below. Use one of the dictionaries, or other
  • Jobs in Engineering and related occupations – There are 1000s of different jobs listed in the careers guides Occupational Outlook Handbook published by U.S. Department of Labor.
    Q: Where are the engineering jobs listed? What are some that sound interesting to you? What do you already know about specific engineering jobs? What would you like to learn more about related to this engineering job?
  • Cost of living – Once you are out working, you will be earning money. You will probably have expenses, too. Now is a good time to start thinking about your personal finances – income and spending. If you understand where the money goes, you won’t be surprised when you actually have to pay bills and buy groceries. Fill out the personal income and expenses worksheet and do the math!
    Q: How much will you earn? How will you spend your income? What will it cost for the basic things you will need? Will you have money left to save for big purchases in the future, like a vacation trip or even buying a new car or a house?

Learn more…

  • personal income and expenses planning worksheet