March 24, 2022

Episode #18: Michael Dowden – Andromeda Galactic Solutions

Michael is an international keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and technology leader with almost 30 years in the technology industry. He has worked alongside more than 100 companies to build human-centered solutions. Michael is a Google Developer Expert and Microsoft MVP, and is the author of Programming Languages ABC++, Approachable Accessibility, and Architecting CSS.

Michael is an owner of Andromeda Galactic Solutions, where he helps product-driven organizations get more impact, revenue, and results with their products. They are experts in Firebase, CSS, Accessibility, UX, Design, and Product Management, and help by offering full-service software product development and management. They also build their products using the same methodologies and expertise they use on client projects.


hello this is coach Tim Campsall and i’m your host for self-made as a myth making a difference together show where we’re talking with successful business owners about their journey to building their business and because we know that achieving success in business is not something that we can do on our own we’re recognizing the people who have come along that journey with us and helped us to excel today i’m excited to have a fellow business owner from the indianapolis area with us today my guest has spoken at technology conferences in all seven continents wow that is cool he enjoys playing tabletop games like board games card games and rpgs and he’s most proud of having an outstanding group of friends that have been together for more than 25 years that is amazing please join me in welcoming michael to the show thank you thank you happy to be here fantastic michael wall it’s a pleasure to have you on today and let’s start by having you introduce yourself tell us a little bit of your backstory your personal story you know where you’re born where you live your family all that fun stuff absolutely so i was born in illinois i grew up visiting family in indianapolis when i was growing up and ended up moving here as an adult i really love being in this area i live just outside of indianapolis with my partner and our two kids we enjoy traveling like we said games hiking camping that sort of thing and my partner and i have started this business together so it’s been really exciting as well fantastic and uh tell us the names of your of your family members sure my partner is martine and our kids are brooke and alexander awesome so michael would you be willing to tell us a funny story that your family likes to tell about you so my my parents favorite story to tell about me is when i was really little so i don’t know exactly maybe two or three they took me to a friend’s house for the first time to have dinner and they had spaghetti and apparently i ate it all

kept coming back for seconds until it was all gone and it uh yeah they were a little bit surprised by this nice well um let’s let’s talk a little bit about how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business wow so i’ve been dabbling with entrepreneurship for a long time i mean even as a kid i was always doing some sort of project to to make money to do things i wrote and sold software when i was in middle school um i did a lot of different ventures i even worked as a magician one summer just for fun in college i had a lot of like little tiny micro business things that i did i was in college right around the time that ethernet was becoming a thing in universities so people would get connected to to the internet that way and most students came in they didn’t have a network card they didn’t have ethernet cables or any of that sort of thing so i started up a business providing all that for people i just lots of different side businesses like that that i did i did you know tutoring and and whatnot while i was there in in college a couple friends and i and we’re gonna talk about them a little bit later i think but they started their their film business they started doing film and videography work and ended up running that as a business at that point in time and so i kind of looked up to them a lot for that inspiration and motivation that hey if i just do this thing i can do it and i ended up starting my first business in 2003. ran that for a number of years as a side business and for a couple years full-time at that point in time that was shortly after i got married during that time period my partner each had our own different separate businesses we decided that was maybe not a really great decision because the things we were working on started to converge a lot more so we started a completely separate company together in uh 20 i want to see 2014 or 2015 and right around that time we had this idea for a parking company and ended up starting what ended up becoming flexi park but in the interim we started andromeda which in drama today is is our company this is what we do full-time it’s been quite a journey as for when i decided i could really do this i’m not sure right starting the older company it was called tekken so starting tekken in 2003 and eventually making that my full-time job i think that was the moment and that that finally happened shortly after i got my mba so i went through that whole process of getting that degree it helped fill in some of the gaps things that i guess i lacked confidence in and that was the moment when i’m like you know what i think i can do this so i ended up branching out shortly after that fantastic so lots of different uh experiences and and uh market research as you were uh absolutely experimenting going through schools uh with your part-time gig so tell us more about uh your current company so today andromeda is a software products company what we do is help companies build a digital product build an app mobile app web app that sort of thing and we also have some of our own applications i mentioned flexi park in the parking company well that is a business we started here in indianapolis we’re now branching out across indiana with that parking company and it’s again primarily software project product to help people manage their parking we’re in the process right now of launching two new products later this year one is a brand management platform and the other is a gaming platform to help people run tabletop games so we’re really excited about both of those very cool so um is the in those cases those examples like software as a service is that the right way to describe it exactly we’re providing software for other people to be able to do things that they want to do awesome and um you’ve when did you start this andromeda again so we started andromeda in 2015 uh we we launched it and then almost immediately got into development on flexi park and then in 2017 we finally spun off flexpark as its own company and i jumped into the business full-time at that point so i’ve been doing this full time for the last five years fantastic awesome so um michael tell us the story of where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it and totally what was the impact that that had on you so the the the big one like i mentioned earlier two two close friends from college started a film video business we were still in school together they did kind of some college movies and stuff like that but then right after we graduated they organized the business as a company and started doing that uh the two thomas and nate nate has been doing it full-time ever since then thomas had some other jobs for a while and for the last 13 years though he’s been doing that full-time and we have we’ve been friends that whole time we have kept in touch with it and that has honestly been an inspiration because that’s it’s a lot to just kind of jump out of college and start this thing and really the amount of effort and energy and dedication commitment they put into it has really been an inspiration because they’ve been they’ve been really successful in doing that and didn’t matter when things got hard it didn’t matter when there were questions they just kept doing it and that kind of stick-to-itiveness is something that i’ve always i guess it’s been hard sometimes to do that and so seeing that model that it doesn’t matter things get tough you just find new ways to do it and you keep do going at it that’s been really fantastic that that persistence been a really big inspiration awesome and uh this is part of your group that you’ve been friends with forever yeah 25 years tell us more about that that’s just it blows my mind so it just a lot a lot of and it’s actually a couple different groups of people a lot of us have kind of connected around tabletop gaming and that’s been like a hobby that we’ve shared it’s been some sort of of geekdom uh you know going to gen con together or movies and films just that that whole nerd culture thing has been a big part of our lives and something that we’ve really connected around for this whole time and at some point in time i’ve ended up working with so many of these people either either working together at a company or doing projects together through our businesses or whatever but just lots of opportunities to keep connected it’s been pretty great so cool michael what’s the biggest learning that you’ve had over the years as a business owner sales how to sell how to sell myself how to present myself but but also how to have conversations that yield desired result without necessarily feeling like i’m taking advantage of somebody or being taken advantage of or it’s really it’s really uncomfortable to talk about yourself a lot of times and it’s it can be really uncomfortable sometimes to take a conversation from getting to know each other to okay i think we can work together here’s my suggestion what do you think of that because you’re kind of putting yourself out there it’s an opportunity for rejection and all that and it’s learning techniques to deal with that has been a big part of what i’ve had to learn to be able to do this yes yeah my coach um helped me with that by saying you know tim you’re not selling you’re just coaching people to make a decision that’s right for them and that really helped to take off that stress right of oh i’m not pushing people i’m not that door-to-door sales person right it’s just if it’s right it’s right if it’s not it’s not and we’ll move on totally so michael we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so tell us about a um one of your biggest challenges that you had over the years and a fellow business owner who helped you through that and you know how they how they help you and who who is that person so there have been a number of people i mentioned thomas nate earlier who provided a lot of inspiration and encouragement over the years to keep kind of keep going and keep at it another friend of mine christina is a business owner who has really helped provide a good solid foundation for some some principles to to follow honestly you tim you helped me out a lot with putting together a sales plan and accounting process and things that i needed to be able to do but beyond that a lot of the people that have really been instrumental some of them haven’t even been business owners um the friend andrew rhoden he fellow software developer we’ve worked together for a while we’ve been friends ever since and he’s really helped kind of challenge me on things that where i either got i don’t know didn’t think about things really clearly or got too arrogant about something always always there to help out with that another friend chase o’coin he really helped me build out some of those sales skills that i really needed to develop and kind of understand how to how to have some of those conversations and and how to deal with pricing conversations and those things that get kind of uncomfortable sometimes another key supporter james hanshu he he was involved in the early days of flexi park he helped us get that product built off the ground and despite the fact that he’s not working with us on it today he’s launched himself into a successful career and has stayed in touch and has helped us help provide leads and guidance and encouragement has been really a great person to keep in touch with and there’s so so many more uh through being able to to speak at all the tech conferences and be really involved in the tech industry so many people that i meet there are either really advanced in their career or they are themselves small business owners or entrepreneurs and it’s just been a great community within the the tech industry this great community people have been able to meet and interact with there it’s been pretty amazing so that reminds me how does somebody have the opportunity to speak in all continents

it takes some time i bet i’ve been speaking at conferences since 2012 and it really the the hard one was done in 2020 so and it was planned for almost a year and a half a couple conference organizers and and friends that we’ve met at tech conferences decided that they wanted to put together a conference that would take them to the end of the world and see how many people would be interested and as soon as they said they wanted to take a conference to antarctica i’m like how do i get in on this i want to do this and so we ended up doing a conference on a cruise ship because that was the the really the only way to organize this thing and so we we did a cruise we did a cruise all the way to antarctica we had the conference right there in antarctic waters while we were you know touching distance of the continent it was just an amazing experience it was a great kind of a mastermind style conference we got a lot out of that we got to just experience so much amazingness there in antarctica and while we were on that trip we had the opportunity to to speak in in argentina and since then i’ve been able to get accepted to conferences throughout the world so last year both australia which i had previously visited but never spoken for i did a virtual event there in australia and i also did one for a it was a live event the attendees were live i was virtual unfortunately in singapore last year uh to be my last uh my last continent so asia’s the only continent that i have spoken at and never visited

i’ll get there eventually yes so michael if you had to pick three people in your business owner journey that have you’re most grateful for being there for you and helping you with your business growth who are they and how they help you i i’m gonna cheat and i’m gonna do four but christina aldan has been really really instrumental for the last two years she’s been working with me in my team very closely helping us develop and build not only good marketing strategy but i think leadership strategy has been really really helpful thomas and nate again i’m going to lump them together that’s how i’m cheating they’ve been really great for that inspiration and on ongoing inspiration and encouragement and then as i mentioned before chase o’coin who really instrumental in helping me develop those sales skills that i really needed and we’ve worked together in tech projects and things just been a great friend and ally it’s awesome so as you you think to the next three to five years michael and and the you know the the goals that you want to achieve what do you think are the the biggest challenges that are going to stand in your way to get there and who are the types of people you’re going to need to overcome those challenges sure i think the the hopefully the biggest challenge i’m going to run into is scaling the business right and and even in the near term continuing to reduce my day-to-day heads-down involvement so that i can spend a lot more of my time very strategically working on the business and helping kind of improve and grow the business itself i think that i’m going to need somebody that’s good at finance and accounting at some point in time that’s going to be somebody that i really need to have to depend on and somebody really good to help with operations uh maybe even a build out a small sales team eventually but i think a good a really good people and business manager to help take over the operational range to some extent would be pretty valuable there yeah you mentioned um the the common phrase of you know working on the business more and less in and and obviously that a lot of us you know help business owners with that but it it it’s very hard right to to stop the day-to-day you know fires and and things that come up from just taking away all of our time right so right when you say that it’s it’s not as easy as it sounds right no it is not it’s it’s something i work on all the time and i’ve been really i feel like over the last year year and a half i’ve gotten a lot better at it that’s something you were able to help with me with a lot something i’ve been able to keep at is really carving out that time every single week to to do things that are just fundamentally important for growing and building the business without getting you know bogged down in the day-to-day things yeah and to that point just for everyone listening is you know when the when the email pings or the you know the cell phone dings and and you’re supposed to be in your head down time you’ve got to be disciplined to ignore that stuff it’s so hard yes because you know all of us right we our minds will be like okay but what if that’s a problem that i have to solve so i tell folks just turn off you know shut down your email and put your phone on mute so you can’t even hear that that ping happened and that way it’s easier to ignore that is my solution right there awesome so jim rohn one of my favorite authors says that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so michael as you think about that is that something that you find exciting something that makes you nervous from a business standpoint

i don’t know that it makes me excited or nervous it it definitely establishes a very specific vibe

and because if i look at the five people i spend most time with i think that the the number one thing that that says is that i am going to be scum someone and build a business that is okay just kind of being enough and that’s something that i think that as i get as i get older as i do this more i’m less and less interested in making it big i’m not looking for a big quick exit i’m not looking for anything like that i want a business i want a lifestyle that will just help me be happy healthy be able to provide really great work environment for the people i work with do the things that i want to do i’m not i like working i’m not i’m not trying to not work i’m not trying to get rich quick none of that i and so i think that the people that i surround me with have already kind of helped with that being contented and maintained really being really passionate about things and really pursuing big goals and dreams but not necessarily the same thing other people are going for yeah what i love about that answer is that you’ve got clarity on what you want right you’ve you’ve done the work to say this is my end game and you know and who cares if it’s different than someone else’s end game because we’re all programmed differently and have different wants and needs and you know what yours are and you know what’s healthy and and satisfying and fulfilling for you and now you’re building that life which is awesome sure trying for it it’s it’s so easy to be in a position where you say when when this thing happens or when i have this much money or whatever then i’m going to pursue all these things i’m interested in nah nah nah find a way to do the things you want to do right now how do you remove those barriers to to happiness and enjoyment fulfillment yeah we’ve all heard too many stories of people who you know do that weight right and retire and then shortly die after retiring so i mean it’s it’s right it’s it’s all for not in that case yes totally let’s carve out the time to enjoy the journey and and not just save it up for afterwards and and maybe even speak at a conference on a cruise ship in antarctica yeah like just something like that could be a start all right that that was that was a bucket list item that i didn’t even realize was on the on the list until it just came up i’m like that’s gotta happen

yes and i got to take the whole family like we all got to do it and and my son xander who was eight at the time he actually spoke at the conference he got to go up there and do the thing it was fantastic it was such a great experience you mentioned bucket list i i love that principle i’d have let’s let’s collect all the things on a list that we want to accomplish before we die and what’s the thing we can do this week or you know this month let’s start checking them off and as we check them off we can add more things and keep keep enjoying the journey right absolutely so michael last question here is if there was something catastrophic that happened in the business who’s the first person you’d call and what would that conversation look like

so you probably won’t ever have another person answer this way but the first call i would make would probably be my father-in-law um he actually flexi park the parking business was his idea okay and that’s the thing that we we kicked off and he has been involved in the business ever since he is an investor in andromeda and

my partner and i would get on the phone with him and we would start talking about it right martina and i and and her dad we would have a conversation we would figure out okay he he would be the level heads okay what do we need to know what do we need to do what’s the situation and and he’s really good at providing a level-headed bird’s-eye perspective of what’s going on he’s really great at doing data analysis and you know what are the things we need to do right now so that would be my first call awesome and what’s his name mark mark awesome so michael it’s it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some incredible people in your journey and absolutely in your business if they were all here today on the show what would you want to say to them uh first of all thank you for putting up with me it’s it’s it’s not an easy journey to go on sometimes um but it’s been really rewarding and i feel like it’s been rewarding for a lot of us and hopefully i can help all of you be successful the way you’ve helped me that’s awesome thank you for sharing that so michael it’s been a pleasure having you on the show today uh thank you so much for sharing your insights and and most importantly recognizing all of those folks who have been part of your journey totally thank you for the opportunity to do that you are most welcome so for everyone listening uh this is self-made is a myth with your host coach tim camsell please help us spread the movement by liking us and sharing us on your social channels to join our movement go to be mad okay folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and i’ll see you all next time take care