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Contract Renewal – Ong Jiin Joo

Contract Renewal

格物而后知至。

Normally, I would have moved on.

Shouldn’t come as a surprise, since I’ve never stayed at a position for more than 4 years before running our own shop. Discounting for the first 2 years for learning, I have now peaked at my ability to mentor and retain people.

The motivation to move on is not job hopping, but a heightened sense of plateauing, and a deep need to feel fresh and start again.

Some manage to do it within an organisation. I’ve done it before, twice (to be promoted laterally in an org). Being the CTO of Garuda Robotics is my 7th designation since graduation.

I want to do it again. The question is, how can I move forward in a way that’s meaningful to both me and my team?

In fact, by February, I will be faced with a completely new team from when we started (except my co-founder himself). Throughout all these new year reflection and work planning, one thought that keep coming back was to organise a get together for our alumni (full timer and interns). I want to see how everyone is doing, even more than I want to see my high school / JC / uni friends this CNY.

I want to know that everyone is doing well, that their time at Garuda Robotics was well spent, and their investment of time and energy has already started paying dividends in their current pursuit.

And I know I will get an onslaught of advise from them – the great thing about deeply connecting with every person that comes your way is the forming of a bond that will last a lifetime. This will be the last team I’m able to have 100% coverage.

All of them wished for the company to punch above its weight, till the last day they spent here.

But if do organise a get together, what I really want to know, is how I can renew myself.

I want to know how I can renew my relationship with my key stakeholders, my trusting investors, my superman co-founder, and my key customers some of whom I have served once, then failed, then succeed again, then failed again, and succeed again.

I need a new terms of reference. TOR. Even as the mission of the company does not change, I need a better way to super charge it using my limited time. I cannot act like it was 2015.

Just like my last reflection on my role as the CTO, I want to know if I should be the CTO in the first place, or I should find a better person to take my place. My ego wants to know how to balance between humility, and suck-it-up-and-do-it-better.

As the company grows, the possible directions it could take grows exponentially. I find my work planning more skewed towards pruning these days than expanding, killing 9 potential products before finding 1 that has legs.

Therefore, it’s important to get the contract right. A contract with myself, and its terms, before I complete the contract with my guys. Here are some highlights:

First is timeline: Some questioned my horizon in this venture: I told them as I told my wife, “give me 10 years to build something that lasts, instead of just attending to a hype.” Year 7 begins. Before year 10, we must hit the proverbial hockey stick growth, if not at least positive Free Cash Flow (FCF).

Second is SOW (Scope of Work): Given what I was doing at the start and now, I’ve essentially changed my role once from a purely engineering leader into now 95% a people manager both internal and external. I need to step up to find, train, and mentor people managers to help the company grow.

Third is termination clause: Every contract has a termination clause that allows signatories to escape. Your job offer has one. Everyone expects entrepreneurs to “cash out” when they “make it”, but I don’t believe this to be the kind of satisfying termination. My termination clause hasn’t changed since the beginning – impact, and survival. Only when I’ve delivered a dent in the universe, or I bleed to the point when I have to sell my house and live on the streets, would I consider the possibility of quitting. The cashing out is a consequence of the work (if we designed it right) not an end.

Turns out, defining that point where the dent in the universe is observable is the hard part. Just looking at the last 3 months, we have had customers from 7 countries traveling to Singapore to see what we are cooking and requesting for the technology to be delivered. I spoke to so many international entities, including NASA (!), on our work in Singapore, not just our company the entire Future Flight consortium. And yet we are still so far from seeing a thousand commercial drone flights a day in this country.

If the clauses in the contract isn’t clear, then we will always feel like we’re chasing the end of a rainbow. Waking up full of hope, falling asleep disappointed, repeat. We will feel like KPIs are arbitrarily set, promotions are just invitation for more stress, and money, well, when is that ever enough?

In this season of renewal, I hope you find meaning in learning about my own re-contracting. It’s common sense for start-ups, to build biz cases and exit clauses, it should be the same for one self.

#workplanning is #selfplanning

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