26 Feb 2010

Compete or Die!

4 Comments finance and economics, Stand Up for the Little Guy

One of our new clients was held hostage by a programmer that built a custom CMS, when WordPress would have done just fine.  This programmer also did his own hosting, which failed quite often, allowing him to bill the client for time to fix things.  The client was complaining about being held hostage and here is my response to him.  If you are a business owner, consider whether you have chosen folks who are world class in what they do.  If you service clients, consider if parts of the service you offer are available today elsewhere for free– painful as that may be to admit:

Let’s just say this– your site gets so little traffic that there is no reason for this sort of thing to EVER happen. You should not be in the business of hosting, nor should this fellow.  That’s why there are the GoDaddys, The Planets, and Amazons of the world, who have invested significantly to solve generic issues like this.  It would be akin to you want to get a ride to the airport and the cabby saying that he has to stop to fix his custom-made car.  

That cabby should just buy a car from one of the big auto manufacturers and drive that.  Yet, if he really is a car hobbyist, he should do that on the weekend in his garage, not charge his paying customers.  This is something we see quite frequently in our space– engineers that prefer the fun of building your own when off-the-shelf works great and costs almost nothing.  That’s why this fellow decided to build his own CMS when WordPress does almost everything you need, is the world’s most popular CMS, and is free.

However, it’s more fun to learn how to build your own, you get paid for it, and you can hold your customers captive if you make mistakes along the way.  The problem of custom software is that when only one customer uses it, it’s likely to be VERY buggy, as it hasn’t been time tested by millions of customers. And when there’s only one developer, you’re limited by the time and knowledge of one guy, who is unlikely to be world class in PHP, content management systems, hosting, and whatever other topics.

In our world of website stuff, we see one man shows all the time on a suicide mission to try to beat the world in multiple ultra-competitive niches.  Me, I like to make sure we do a few things world class where we have a unique advantage (such as Facebook advertising and local lead gen) and leave the rest to where we can buy off-the-shelf software or partner with the other companies that are #1 in the space.

hat do you think?  It will be pretty hard to argue this– to say that because of one of two particular requirements for your site, that it justifies doing something completely from scratch versus using something free and easy.  But we see this all the time.

Jack Welch, who used to run General Electric, talked out being #1 in every area they compete or to get out. If you’re not winning or have a unique advantage, you’ll eventually get crushed.

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4 Responses to “Compete or Die!”

  1. Reply Keith Wilcox says:

    A client was held hostage? Hosting that failed often? What dumb dumb would put all their eggs in that basket in the first place? hmmmm.

  2. Reply PPC Icon says:

    Feel sorry for the client, its hardly his fault the programmer fed him a load of crap :(

    • Reply Dennis Yu says:

      Hi PPC Icon. It happens all the time– what’s worse is that most programmers who do this to their clients aren’t even aware they’re doing it. They might not be aware of how times have changed and how much things should cost for given jobs.

  3. Reply Tina says:

    You’re absolutely right – so often I run into programmer that say they do “everything” only to find out that they are terrible at most of it. Luckily, I know enough to ask the right questions to figure out whether or not I’m talking to a pro or someone who hopes they might be some day (and little enough to know that I’m better off hiring a pro than spending an epic amount of time doing it myself), but I know plenty of people in various businesses who have been similarly para-scammed.

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