Over the past few weeks I have been trying to migrate some of the dozen or so small tools I have developed into an Enterprise SEO’s tool box that I could potentially license. Getting feedback from people on the tools and deciding if I want to continue that direction made me remember a number of things from my childhood and challenges I saw my father face with real physical tools he had developed.
When I was a kid I often went to work with my father on the weekends and during summer break. He worked at a large trucking company as a mechanic and welder fixing their trucks and large earth moving equipment. I was fascinated by his tool boxes and the assortment of tools and he treats them as a surgeon does laying them out for each job and then ensuring they were spotless before putting back into the box. In the top set of drawers of one of the large chests was a section that one of his co-workers had stenciled “Frankenstein’s tool box” as it was full of custom made tools.
One of these tools, he called the “knuckle breaker” was simply two different sized box end wrenches welded together with string with a loop and a strong magnet. When I was 14 I spent the whole summer with my Father in Detroit working on equipment and driving the loaders in the hold of the ship and got to experience first hand why he fabricated this tool.
Due to the dust that build up in the hold of the ship he had to change oil and air filters on the loaders at least once a week. To do it according to the manual, it would takeover an hour with 45 minutes of the time spent removing and replacing protective covers. Time is money when unloading a ship and an hour of downtime for each of 20 pieces of equipment is very expensive. While most of the mechanics did not care about the down time my father did. He found that if he contorted himself a certain way he could reach under the guards and remove the filters. This would save nearly 45 minutes but it was a pain in the ass. The filter, for no apparent reason, other than poor engineering, had two different sized bolts. This would require 2 different wrenches and when your bent like a yoga master switching wrenches was not easy and reduced the time servings. He made this wrench to all him to just flip it over to loosen each of the different bolts. The leash was in case he dropped it and the magnet – he would remove it and attached to the engine block to hold the bolts once removed. I was fascinated by this tool, the innovation in making one that solved his specific problem and the caring to save his company money.
I have realized that this is what I have done with my tools – I have built created my own Frankenstein Tool box with a dozen or so specialty applications that match my workflow but not necessarily that of others. In showing these to my peers many had not found the need for them as they may use another tool that is not an exact fit but with extra work will get the job done. When I explain the time savings some have not cared as they bill by the hour so being inefficient is not their problem.
This is one reason a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach makes sense for development as it may have a need or function to a small group but not necessarily be commercially viable which saved me time and resources to make these tools pretty and to add functions that did not make sense to me but would for others to make them want to use them.
My father was successful from time to time with Snap On tools adopting one or another tool into their collection. I don’t think he ever was paid for any of them in cash but I do know he would get a first edition of a tool in a frame and typically a new full set of tools so there was some level of compensation. For me, I am realizing that I too have a way of working and if a tool suits my needs then I will develop it but it may not be applicable to others.