After a few years of failed partnerships and general unhappiness, THECar finally made it to the shelves of local hobby shops around the world. But only after a new company was started by myself, in Finland, and a lot of money was borrowed. All in, Against THE Odds, that’s the only way to do it! THECar was released at the end of 2010, and now it is time to look back and report on the
first second half of 2011, THE End of the 1st Year of JQ Products.
After THE Fixes Comes Handling
After all the hype surrounding the release of THECar, and the problems we faced with the first batch, we worked hard on solving all issues as I wrote in the first 6 month report HERE.
Around the halfway mark of the year, we were able to release THEUpdate, that solved all the urgent problems with THECar, and so within 6-7 months from the release, we were able to make THECar one of the strongest and most durable on the market. This is no marketing speak, I feel like we really did it, I drive other cars too, so I know. Of course there were still a lot of old parts in circulation, so it took another few months for people to realise the large increase in performance of the new plastics, hingepins, etc, and finally switch over.
We don’t just say we fixed something, we prove it.
To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy all the work solving problems and improving quality and durability. It is a necessary evil, like having to sit on a plane for a decade to be able to feel warmth in January. I was extremely relieved when reports came in from around the world that THEUpdated Car was staying in one piece, even in cold weather, and that all was good again in the world of JQ Products.
Due to THECar now being strong enough to match the other top brands out there, the main focus for the second part of 2011 was switched to improving the handling of THECar, the part of the development process I enjoy most, along with designing the actual parts. We knew we wanted to improve on the handling a lot, making THECar easier to drive, and more consistent from track to track.
For us, the main areas we wanted to improve on, were making THECar, so it is easier to do really fast laps, and push it hard. With THECar, I felt like it was great when driving at an average pace, but when really having to push hard, it was too hard to do for a long time, consistently. The fastest laptime was really fast, but to duplicate that, your driving had to be perfect, it was too precise. I also felt like THECar needed to be improved a lot for novice drivers. Actually, average racers, the largest masses of RC, were doing the best with THECar, countless people commented on how they moved up a final or two after picking up THECar, and I found that interesting. Novice, and Highest level needed work, but average level was mostly happy! Of course, any improvements we would be able to make for top level racers, or novices, would surely improve THECar for average racers as well. After thinking about it, the only explanation we could come up with, was that at the speed that an average driver drives, and at the skill level he or she is, THECar is very good, because it is a fast car, it carries cornerspeed, it accelerates fast, has good steering, so the same input on THECar can create faster laptimes than with some other brands, this is why the average racer was having success, driving the same but going faster!
Working on Handling in Malaysia
As for novice drivers, the problems were twofold, first of all, THECar is sensitive to setup, so it needs to be built right, and many times, a novice driver may have many small things wrong with the build, which affects the performance. Also, at the halfway point of 2011, most set ups were still too aggressive, and we knew we needed to tame it down so beginners would like it more.
As for the very top drivers, we felt like where THECar worked extremely well for the average driver, top drivers would push it harder, and drive faster, to a point where the set up and design of THECar did not work as well anymore in some conditions. It was very fast, but you also had to be very precise, almost like you were pushing it past the comfortable limit of the vehicle.
So a lot to think about and work on as you can see!
What We Tried and Why
We tested alot during the second half of 2011, and alot of the testing had to do with the shocks. They really make or break a car I think. Some things that changed setup wise from early on, was how we started running the rear hub in the lower hole, and middle in the arm. This made the rear of the car have more consistent traction, although a bit less overall, and made it smoother over bumps. Another change was springs, after testing all kinds of springs, we found that the Kyosho springs really worked well on our car, maybe most commonly the orange ones. We also made 1 piece CNC shock caps, and soft shock bladders, that further improved the suspension, and gave THECar more traction.
We also tested different gearing in THECar. We ended up producing a smooth gearing set, named ”Smooth”, because of how it smooths out the initial acceleration, and deceleration of THECar, and thus maintains better traction. Most people loved this upgrade. We went from stock, 43/11 in the gearboxes, and 44/15 centre, to 43/13 in the gearboxers, and 45/13 in the centre. You may not believe it, but it made a huge difference! Also, running an overdrive gear in the front, 41, instead of 43, is a popular option. It makes the front pull more when accelerating, and most drivers feel it makes it easier to drive.
One thing that stands out in my mind, is the work we did with pistons. I wrote an article about it here. It was interesting to see a completely new piston company start manufacturing new pistons, very similar to our idea, just a few months later. Could be just a coincidence, but makes you think!
At the end of 2011, we had managed to improve the basic car a lot. It stayed in one piece, it went together better, and it was easier to drive for everyone. However there was still a lot to improve. We want to improve an pretty much every aspect, design, packaging, build quality, and overall performance, eventhough they are now all good.
As for handling, we pinpointed a number of areas that needed improvement, but unfortunately most of these things took too long to get done, and tested, and customers will only see these beginning of 2012. Sometimes things just don’t pan out the way you want them to, but at least, at the time of writing this, I can say we made good improvements, more on those later in a separate report.
Swamped With Work
All the stuff I wrote about above, was the fun stuff, making THECar faster. But that is just a small part of what needs to happen, for JQ Products to be here, and specially for us to be able to grow and improve. It is incredible how much time is taken up by hundreds and thousands of small issues and things to do, emails, phonecalls, orders, invoices, shipments, this document that document, book keeping, payments, bills, keeping track of everything, it is just a huge mess, and will ultimately be the end of you, if not taken care of properly! At one point in 2011 things were really getting to a point where my head was about to self destruct. Also, it was so frustrating, because we were not moving forward, just maintaining what we had. And that gets old quick! Luckily, my friend from Greece, Ilias Arkoudaris was able to start working for JQ Products last year, and he took over most of JQ Products sales, and later also Team Manager duties.
The former famous Greek goat farmer Ilias Arkoudaris
Another thing that had to be done, is to restore focus. There are endless opportunities, and things to do, but really, one has to take a step back, and see what is really important, and focus on the important stuff. It is better to be the best at one thing, and do one thing well, and 10 things badly. It is easy to agree with that statement, but hard to live by. It is a balancing act.
However, towards the end of 2011, I felt like things started improving and moving forward again, and we had figured out a way to work where it went relatively smoothly. We now had time to do new things, and not just maintain what we had. We for example started THE 60sec video series, figured out where we stand in the world with THESurvey, we released THE Engine, and released new option parts and upgrades for THECar such as CNC Rear Hubs, Soft Shock Bladders, etc.
Bringing back THESpeed! Short Stroke loveliness!
What do you mean you dont use THEOils?
Racing and THETeam
The second half of 2011 started bringing a fair amount of success for a first year operation! First off we had the Euros, where Miguel Matias made it to the A Main, finishing 8th. I qualified badly, and managed to bump 3 times? Ending up in the semi final, close to making the main, but unfortunately not making it happen.
Rayan Medjoubi, me, and Miguel Matias all did something right at the Euros.
JQ Products also won a few championships, Ari Heinonen won the Finnish Championship, Jorg van Leuken the Dutch Championship, and myself the Korean Championship. This was extremely satisfying, because no one wins any championship with a useless product, I don’t care what country is in question, it is always an achievement to be the best of your own country, /or someone elses)! There were also a lot of success stories from national and international races around the world. Congratulations, and thank you to everyone involved! Pictures here!
Korean Champions Baby!
So this one time, I went to Malaysia
As for THE Team, this is one area where we have a lot to improve upon. We are strong believers in the importance of the TEAM aspect of this hobby, and sport, and not only as far as top sponsored drivers go, but also anyone racing THECar at any given event. We have a lot of ideas, but nothing really happened during 2011, because we had to prioritise. We just did not have the resources to do what we had planned. Our goal is to start off, building our team presence, both online and at events, and also work a lot better as a team during 2012. As I said, we have a lot of ideas, and a clear goal, but it takes time and effort to make it happen. I am confident one day we will be where we want.
Some team presence, and Ari Heinonen winning the Finnish National Title
We also managed to get Skullcandy as a team sponsor for 2012, which is a start, and we hope to be able to work out more and better deals in the future! Ilias Arkoudaris and Robert Gustafsson will be working more with THETeam related things, and they will be in charge of getting things rolling.
Marketing Like a Boss
Marketing is something I never knew I enjoyed before starting JQ Products. I have never had a single class in marketing or business, but maybe that is a good thing. End of 2011, we did not manage to fullfill even 10% of all the ideas we had, but we did manage to get on Finnish National television, the biggest Newspaper, and largest Technology Magazine. We also continued our collaboration with Finnish Motocross rider Harri Kullas, and JQ Products was featured at races, and even in some magazines, as seen below. Our 60 second videos have become famous amongst racers, and we also started a picture contest on facebook. We didn’t really get to produce THEVideo this year, but we did get to produce this video here.
JQ Hats everywhere.
TV, Check, movies next.
One of the biggest hurdles, and one that is yet to be tackled, specially apparent during the second half of 2011, is that fact that like it or not, at JQ Products, I am THEBoss. This is something I do not really like being, and also something I am not very good at. I am supposed to be able to get people to do things, I am supposed to be able to motivate them, get them to take initiative, produce value, help JQ Products move forward, I am supposed to plan, and then follow up on everything, and make sure s#it gets done basically. Well, what I actually manage to do, is mainly, most of the time remember to ask someone to do something, then forget about it, until it should be done, then piss people off instead of inspire them, and finally just have a meltdown. I also have the ability to forget absolutely anything, in about 12 seconds, even important things that I care about, and furthermore, I possess a knack for convincing myself that I have told people something when I haven’t. Maybe because it is so obvious to me, because I have been thinking about it so much, I start beleiving that other people know it also. So obviously there is quite a bit of improving to do there.
It is all about communication, and as anyone that knows me will tell you, I am definitely not the best when it comes to communcating, be it in person, on the phone or by email. If I could do everything alone and on my own, I would, but the world doesn’t work that way, and if JQ Products is to be successful, we either need to hire a CEO who is able to lead, delegate and keep things on track, or I need to get with the program. Thankfully Ilias has proved to be an excellent Bossman, and has verbally assaulted me into my place on a number of occasions, like a boss, and after doing that, taken care of the issues at hand. Good job Ilias. No homo.
The best thing about the future, is actually that it is there. Going into 2011 we did not really know what to expect. Would THECar be a one hit wonder? There have been many of those. We hoped not, but how could we know? Luckily, it looks like we are good to go for at least a second year :-). We are still selling, and we have a bunch of new stuff in the pipeline, waiting to be released. We have had to learn many things the hard way, and honestly, I personally felt before starting this, and still do, that 2012 is more of a challenge than last year. So we aren’t safe yet! The 1st year is exciting and something new for everyone. The 2nd, we either have to deliver on every level, product, service, marketing and racing, or we are done. We need to give reasons for people to stick with our program! And we intend to do so.
With the first year in the books, we can look back and say, that overall it has been a success, it was far from perfect, but we are still here, we still have the same goals, and the company is growing, on our terms. We will continue to keep it real, and if we start acting corporate, remind us of who we are! Thank you for all the support! I can honestly and without any insincerity say that without it we wouldn’t be here. My mother doesn’t have the money to buy all those car kits!