Solution Ram Rod

Today I want to share with you something that happened recently, that quite frankly has left me angered. It is a practice that my team coined the “Solution Ram Rod”. It is the practice many underhanded technology companies use when they want to sell their client on a specific solution, regardless of the viability for their needs.

To give you some background, last week I was contacted by a technology company, asking if I was available to help them with a short term eCommerce project. As you know, we often do work for other technology companies, so I set up a call to discuss their needs. They have a client here in Delaware that is looking at eCommerce solutions, and retained the services of this group to help them complete their business analysis, prepare solution reviews, make a solid recommendation based upon their needs, and help with the implementation.

Since my company has worked with numerous eCommerce solutions, this was a project that was right up our alley. After a lengthy discussion, they asked if they could schedule a call with their “evaluator” to make sure this would be a good fit for the project. So, later on that day, this lady calls me from India to conduct her “evaluation”. Well, after 10 minutes on the phone with her, and all of the questions she was asking with regards to Magento Enterprise, I stopped her and asked if she was going to discuss other solutions. Her response was “I understand there are other solutions, though we want to recommend Magento Enterprise for this client, and want to make sure you know enough about the platform to make it stand out.”

I was stunned. Here is a company with a new client that has not conducted business on the internet before, and they want to recommend a solution that will cost the client a minimum of $15,550 in licensing fees right out of the gate.

I got off the phone with her, immediately called the project manager, and asked him if he could disclose some information, just to make sure we were on the same page. He said it depended on the questions, so I told him the primary one was “How many products does the client have?” He said “I believe a few hundred, though we haven’t gotten that far in the analysis.” So next came the obvious question: “Then why are you pushing Magento Enterprise?” His response was “They have both client and business facing needs, and Magento is what our people know.” At this point I was a little dumbfounded, so I asked the question that stood out in my head “If you have a staff that knows the system, why do you need me?”

Readers, the answer he gave me is one that drove home what I have preached about with regards to working with a company half a world away. He said “To be blunt, they are hesitant to work with an India based company, so we wanted a local American face there to work with them, and set their mind at ease about buying the solution we want to offer them.”

I said thanks for the info and hung up. The realization burning in my mind that all they cared about was selling the client exactly what they wanted to sell them at any cost, and in the process take more jobs away from Americans. It made me sick thinking about it.

If your company is getting ready to become a victim of these type of ram rod practices, stop before it is to late. I have seen way to many companies get sucked into this type of situation, and in the end it winds up costing them more than they ever imagined or budgeted for.

If you need help making a decision on a solution that is right for your business, we here at Delaware 302 can help. We will offer you honest unbiased advice, and help you choose the right solution that will not only fit your needs now, but one that can grow with your business.

Let’s build the future together.

 

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Up-charge aka Price Gouging

For those of you that know me, you know that I believe in being very open and honest with people, in both my personal life and in business. I am also not afraid to speak my mind, especially when it comes to something I am very passionate about.

The same belief is carried over to my business. Delaware 302 is built on both honesty, and offering affordable solutions to our clients. We set our prices lower than the competition because our business is about helping businesses grow, not how much money we can make. We also never charge our clients something they don’t need. Not every technology company has these same beliefs though.

What many people don’t know, is that my company is also the development arm for numerous technology companies here in Delaware. To date, we have 4 that we work with on a fairly regular basis to build web sites and applications, host, and create graphic designs for. This is actually a fairly common practice when a technology company doesn’t have the staff or resources to handle the work.

This has led to numerous challenges that we have had to address, the primary of which is maintaining the illusion of being the technology company that the contract was signed under. The other one, which is the focus of this post, is pricing.

As I said in my opening, not every technology company has the same beliefs as we do. We have watched in disbelief as companies we did business with in the past took our project scopes and quotes, and up-charged the work as much as 115%. I will point out I did say DID work with. We no longer do business with these companies because of their practices, and insane price gouging to make as much money as they can from each bid.

It is the client that ultimately suffers from this practice that has no rules or regulations in place to stop it. Web site solutions, and the prices charged, seem to be at the complete whim of the company quoting the build. The type of client, and the perceived revenue stream they have also comes into play. Many technology companies charge more if the potential client is a well know store, law firm, or financial company, compared to a local mom and pop shop or a start up.

To drive my point home on this, I will share with you a recent project we quoted for another technology company. The client is a fairly well known company with locations in both Delaware and Maryland, and they wanted a new web site. I was invited to attend the meeting with the client’s marketing person, and she came to the meeting prepared with research she had done on their competitor’s web sites, and a wish list for the new site based upon this.

Armed with her research and wish list, we scoped out the project, calculated in the needed custom development, and wrote up a quote. We then sent the quote over to the technology company we were working with, so they could work it into their proposal. About 2 weeks later the owner of the technology company called and said the client had some sticker shock, and asked if we could cut our prices on the project. I came to find out shortly after that call, that they tacked on almost $11,000 to my quote.

I was in shock when I found this out. Who in their right mind would up-charge 115% on a site build when they are doing absolutely nothing, except generating a contract. Then have the brass ones to call me and ask me to cut my prices on top of it.

No wonder companies have such a bad taste left in their mouth when dealing with technology companies like this.

At Delaware 302, we strive to be different. We charge the same for our solutions no matter who the client is, without any up-charges. We also offer the same level of exceptional service to all of our clients.

If you are ready for a change, contact us and let us help you build a solution that works for you.

Let’s build the future together.

The Business Whirlwind

After an action packed week of meetings, finalizing a new application module for our system, and the general day to day operation of the business, I decided to take a moment to reflect on the whirlwind of activity that goes hand in hand with owning your own business. As most business owners will tell you, there are times when it seems like it can be never ending, and makes for very long days.

Of course there are the inevitable questions that people almost always seem to ask. The big one I get asked the most is: “Is it all worth it?” The answer is always “Yes, because I am doing what I love to do, and the feeling of accomplishment is very rewarding.”

That is one of the major keys when you own your own business, you have to love what you are doing. It drives your passion to keep moving forward, and infuses everything you do. It is the same with any profession. Take a chef for example. Many times they work 12 or 14 hour days at the restaurant. Most people would say that is crazy, and they could never do it. For the chef though, it is their love and passion for cooking that gives them that extra energy to work those long shifts. They thrive on the accomplishment of serving a perfect dish for each and every customer.

Another major key is balance. The ability to separate yourself from your business, and spend quality time doing other things. This is very important to any business owner, and even as an employee, because you can become consumed with the “business only” aspect of your life, and run the risk of getting burnt out. When that happens, your drive and passion suffer, and you start to lose your love for what you are doing. I know this from personal experience, because I have been there. I was the lead development manager for a large consulting company, and our clients were some of the top names in the financial industry. At times I felt like I lived my life in the financial district of New York City, and never had any time to do anything else. After 9 long years, I had nothing left to give.

It took me taking a risk and starting my own business to re-ignite my passion and love for what I do. I turned my focus towards helping small businesses with their solutions, and helping them grow through the use of technology. Armed with the motto of “Fortune 500 solutions do not need to come with a Fortune 500 price tag” my company, Delaware 302, was born.

Are things still a whirlwind? Most definitely. Am I loving every minute of it? That is a resounding YES.

Forward Momentum

Last week I took some much needed time off from work, to spend time with my family. If you are a small business owner, having time off is a luxury that many of us never get much of a chance to experience. Our lives almost seem to be dedicated to building our business, making our mark, and keeping that forward momentum going as we strive towards our goal. Even though I was “on vacation”, I found that I was still checking and responding to emails, reviewing design drafts, checking programming development, and keeping an eye on my business.

A friend of mine chucked when I was telling them this, and said: “That doesn’t sound like a vacation to me.” The truth of it is though, is that this is what people that own businesses do, at least all of the business owners that I have met and talked to. It is the entrepreneurial spirit that drives us to get up earlier, stay up later, and never loose focus.

The key though is balance. While I was on vacation, I took my family to Hershey Park, and we went on just about every roller coaster in the park. We also visited Zoo America, Chocolate World, and spent a day shopping in Lancaster. I made sure that my business did not supersede my time with my family.

I also consider myself very lucky. I am blessed with a wonderful wife that understands my drive and ambitious, and takes an active part in my business and the decision making process. My kids are also very good, and understand daddy needs to take care of “business stuff”.

One thing I found that taking time off accomplished, was that it helped me to focus on the direction of my business, clarify where I want to be, and define what I want to achieve. It helped me decide where to apply the energy to give us that forward momentum to achieve our goal.

This is something very important that any business owner should do. Take a step back from the day to day of running their business, and see if they are moving in the direction they want to be.

We here at Delaware 302 have some great things in the works. Stay tuned, because we will be sharing them very soon.

When Free Doesn’t Mean Free

Today I wanted to relay a story to you of a recent interaction I had with the owner of a young and growing business. He asked me to come in and do a discovery session with him, to find out how he could better utilize social media for his business, and to look at his site to see how it could be optimized better for the search engines.

Now as you all probably know, these are 2 separate pieces to doing business, and usually fall at the opposite ends of the discussion board. I was up for the challenge though, since it showed that he had isolated these areas as “needs” for his business. Yes, I referred to it as a challenge, since it can be difficult at times to keep these specific topics separated, and blocked into their own discussion. I have found from years of experience, that most business owners have been told by other companies that SEO and Social Media are almost the same.

The truth of the matter is that they work hand in hand, yet only to a point. Your social media outlets are the extension of your reach to your intended audience (customers) that would find your products and services beneficial to their needs. SEO is the optimization of your web site to “qualify” and “validate” it with the search engines, and there are necessary steps that need to be taken with regards to this. I will be posting on both of these topics in-depth in the very near future.

So, back to our business owner. I sat down with him and one of the ladies from his staff, and told him I had a few questions to ask up front to get a better understanding of his business, the day to day processes, his audience, and where he saw his business evolving and going. I will tell you right now, that if you are a business without a business plan, some of these questions are probably some of the hardest ones to answer.

About 30 minutes into our discussion one thing became very evident and clear. This business was struggling with a time management problem, and was spending an enormous amount of time on their web site. So, I stopped the discussion, and said I wanted to switch gears for a few minutes. He was very agreeable, so I asked him to walk me through their web site updating process. What ensued was a mesmerizing experience as I watched him click on all of these favorite tabs at the top of his browser, and log into site after site. After about 5 minutes he was logged into 7 different sites and sitting on the control panel pages of these site.

So I asked the obvious question: What are all of these?

The response was: This is a free tool that does this for our site. This one is a free tool that manages this part of our site. This is a free platform that we got for our web site. This went on for all 7 sites: “This is a free…”.

So I asked the next question that came to mind: Do you log into these every day to manage all of your site processes, and how long do you spend?

His response made it hard for me not to let loose a low whistle. He said “Yes, we log into these every day and spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on how much we need to do. Probably about 6 to 7 hours a week.”

As you can probably guess the next question that came was: Why not purchase a bundled solution that does all of this for you from 1 interface?

He told me: “Why pay for something that I can get free?”

What I told him next is a lesson that I learned through trial and error over the years, and something all business owners need to consider when it comes to doing business. The lesson is the valuation of your time. If you are spending hours of your time each week managing an aspect of your business that could be done fairly quickly and easily with the right tools and solutions, then these are hours that you are not dedicating to your customers, building your brand, or dedicating to helping your business grow. Your time as a business owner has a price tag attached to it, and it is not free.

We here at Delaware 302 understand this, and are here to help our clients not only with our technology and social media solutions, but also with helping them better understand and use the tools available to them, thus saving them time that can be used to build their business.

How much is your time worth?

Spamming Social Media

Recently I received an email from a company that was offering to help push and promote my site in the search engines, specifically Google. The email was very straight forward with the opening of “You should be on the FIRST page of Google”. Then it went into detail explaining how in order to do that you need backlinks to your site, and how their service can help.

While having backlinks (links from other web sites to your site or social media) are valid as a way to promote your site, it was the packages that they offered that left me scratching my head. Their “Bookmarking” package offered “400 social bookmarking backlinks from different websites”, and the “Blog Comments” package offered “We will deliver 5,000-15,000 blog comments with anchor text.” Every package they offered had obscene numbers next to it, that in a normal business world just isn’t possible without spamming these outlets in an effort to try to manipulate the search engines.

So with the red flag raised, I decided to do a little digging into this company. I came up with some very interesting information: The company is in Jaipur India. It is also one that has a notorious reputation as an ad farm, meaning that they own hundreds of web sites that do nothing but display ad pages, in most cases nothing but Google ads, in an attempt to make money. They have over 750 FaceBook pages registered, and have over 100 employees that do nothing all day but click Like buttons, add links into Wiki pages, and post useless comments on Blogs.

While companies like Google, FaceBook, and WordPress are working hard to combat this type type of practice, the fact remains that these companies are working full tilt to make as much money as possible doing these type of things before the plug gets pulled.

If you look at the steps taken so far, like the change over by FaceBook to the Timeline, which started with the business pages, it is a huge leap forward with not forcing people to click the “Like” button on a splash pages in order to see what is posted. Google with the cleaning process of removing these ad only sites from their index, and WordPress tightening the leash on known post spammers to stop the comments from getting posted. This is all being done in an effort to make the web and social media a better place for the end users.

So what does this mean to the business owners? In a nut shell, it comes down to making your content as rich and informative as possible for your potential clients, and keeping it updated and fresh. It means that when you tag keywords, or post to social media, it should be relevant to your content, and lastly, it means that your website should be compliant and search engine friendly. This is the most effective way to not only get on the first page of of the search engines for searches related to your business, but also to help you stay there.

If you need help in accomplishing this, please feel free to contact me. I have over 14 years of experience in designing and building web sites, and helping companies build and define their message. It is the dawn of the new era of the internet, is your business ready to embrace it and grow?

Spring Festivals

For those of you that live in our great state of Delaware, you know that spring time in our state is not just a time for planting, it is also a time for the dozens of festivals that are held across the state. April and May are filled with great events stretching all the way from Wilmington down to Dewey Beach. It is a time of celebration prior to summer stretching our its arms and embracing us with that beach going weather.

The festival committees have been hard at work planning the events, the vendors are all lined up to take their place behind their tables, the flyers and advertisements are being posted, and the people are starting to plan their days to make the most of the festivities. Like the flowers that bloom, and the buds that start to open on the trees, it is the new life that spring brings that breathes its energy into the towns.

A few of these great events that are coming up include:

There are also spring sidewalk sales, music festivals, NASCAR and Grand Prix races, bridal shows, nature-fests, wine tastings, cook-offs, and so much more.

For businesses, this is a time to get out there and meet the community. It is the chance to interact with people, and make contact with potential clients and customers in a way that advertising can never do. These festivals allow vendors to bring a personal touch and interaction into the products and services that they offer, on a higher level helps to grow that sense of community we all seek.

My company will have a table at the Bud and Bug Festival right here in our hometown of Milford, DE. We will be bringing out our 302 clothing and merchandise and showing our pride in our Small Wonder state of Delaware that we live in. We will also have our new 302 Graffiti shirts that are hot off the printing presses.

Delaware 302 Graffiti Shirt

We are looking forward to the opportunity to meet so many of our fellow Kent and Sussex residents, and share in the unique and wonderful experience of this annual tradition. We hope you will take the opportunity to visit events such as this one as well, and explore all that the local businesses have to offer.  If you get the chance, stop by and say “hi” in your travels.  Spring is upon us Delaware, are you ready to get out there and have some fun?