For the past 21 years, my sole income has been from the company I co-founded in 1991: Terraine, Inc. Originally created (pre-Internet days) as an environmental consulting firm, I?ve seen my firm morph into several lines of business as opportunities arose, others dried up, and as I became interested in other things.

Even though the bulk of our work has always been traditional environmental consulting projects, we moved into garbage collection and ran a few routes, most notably the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, for 10 years. If you ever visited that park from 1998 – 2008, odds were good that we picked up the garbage you tossed into one of those bear-proof dumpsters. We also did a lot of Navy work?a lot! At one facility in Orlando, we would low-flow sample about 150 groundwater monitoring wells every 3 months…for 5 years! We collected reams of data. We even did some Army Corps of Engineers work, conducting over 50 Environmental Condition of Property reports in a span of 4 months at Army Reserve sites in Texas and Oklahoma scheduled for closure during one of the latest Base Realignment and Closures.

And now we?re doing software. Fun stuff. Challenging stuff. Stuff that I believe actually makes a difference in the lives of others. Health and Safety applications for American Electric Power that are used every single day. Mission-critical Commissioning Procedures applications for Duke Energy. And others.

Throughout these 21 years of my life at Terraine, I?ve seen my share of good and bad times. During good times, the bonuses and end-of-year parties were pretty nice. During bad times…well, besides the obvious of severely reduced pay, I?ve also had to take out loans against my 401K and borrow money from my dad and father-in-law to make payroll. Throughout it all, however, even during the bad times, Terraine has always been my primary source of income.

Diversification via Co-Owned Projects
But for me this is now changing, and while somewhat frightening, it is also very exciting. What I am learning is that diversity in income is a good thing (it only took me 21 years to learn this simple idea). I am learning that putting all my eggs in one basket?in my case, Terraine?is not a smart thing to do. So I am investing in projects:

Remember ezCoC, the electronic chain of custody application that my firm created a couple of years ago? Late last year, I sold it to a new firm, co-owned 50/50 by me and the CEO of a LIMS software provider. We are hard at work making that tool better. If successful, a portion of the revenue generated by that product will come back to me.

BernieSez, an application that I am building to handle traffic tickets, happens to be the intellectual property of a brand new LLC co-owned 51/49 by my attorney partner and me. One day (I hope), revenue generated from that product will come back to me.

And there will be other projects and opportunities to come. I gladly welcome it!

Am I spreading myself too thin and not focusing enough on one thing? Maybe. But I did that for 21 years, so now I?m trying something different, spreading seeds out a bit, and seeing what will sprout. Only time will tell.

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