Helping Charities For The Right Reasons

Today I wanted to take a step back from discussions of technology, and the day to day life of a small business owner, and talk about something that is a core belief of mine, helping charities. For those of you that know me and my family, you know that we help raise money for the Delaware Breast Cancer Collation, help with food collections for the Delaware Food Bank, support Relay for Life, and participate in multiple MS Society walks. We have had friends and family that these organizations have helped over the years, so it is only right that we do what we can to help them reach out and help more people.

In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, our eyes were opened to a larger community of organizations and charities we never knew about. We also came to learn quickly that many of them struggle on a daily basis to not just help others, but to keep their doors open. The realization hit while we were talking to them, that while many people are quick to help in the event of a large natural disaster, many of these groups get forgotten in the normal day to day lives of people.

Given the philanthropic spirit that we embrace, we set out to figure out a way to help raise awareness for these organizations and charities. Then the idea came, quite by accident, on a call with my brother. He literally gave me the foundation to build a system tied together with an awareness campaign, that can help charities and organizations of any size.

Now of course the argument that immediately got put on the table was that there are companies out there already that do this. After some in-depth research, and discussions with groups that these companies help, we learned that the charities get very little of the money these companies raise. For example, less than 20 cents of every dollar raised by the fundraising company for the US Veterans Association actually goes to help our Veterans, they keep the rest for “administration and operating expenses”.  The very people that put their lives on the line to help keep our country free see almost nothing. This very practice is why many people have been turned off to making donations to these organizations.

So what makes what we are getting ready to launch any different from these other companies? The answer is simple, the new business we are launching, will to do this as a non-profit entity itself.

We firmly believe that charity is just that, charity. We set out to help others, and wanted everything done for the right reasons, not for monetary reasons.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our launch. Let’s build the future together.

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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.

 

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.

Adventures of Youth

Today I wanted to depart from the normal discussions with regards to business, technology, and growth, and share a story with you. It was part of a discussion I had with a friend of mine who I refer to as my little sister, and she looks up to me like a big brother.

To give you some background, after taking a number of years off after high school, she went back to school, and is finishing up her degree in college. She is also planning her wedding this summer, and working full time hours. She has an extremely positive outlook in life, is very adventurous, and her bubbly personality is almost infectious.

A few weeks ago she was offered to opportunity to go to St. John’s with a few friends. She immediately jumped on the opportunity, since the trip fell during spring break from school. The plans were set, and off they went. There we almost daily pictures posted to FaceBook, and she tweeted the entire time she was down there. She did this more for her fiancee than anyone else, since he couldn’t go on the trip because of work.

I dropped her a line after she got back and asked how the trip was. She said she had a good time, and wanted to go back with her fiancee so he could experience it with her. That gave me a momentary pause, so I asked her this: “Then why didn’t you wait, and go down as a couple?”

Her answer was not quite what I expected, though gave me a lot to think about. She said “To be honest, I am not sure when that trip would be. With the wedding coming, our honeymoon already planed, and his limited vacation time and insane work schedule, it may be a ways off. See, we discussed this trip in depth, and he told me to go since this was an opportunity to go away with my friends that may never come around again. He said we have a lifetime to plan to go ourselves.”

As I reflected on what he told her, I knew those words rang very true. I see it happen when my own wife tries to plan a girl’s weekend with her friends that are scattered across the country. It is a long process to find a time that works for everyone, and a location that fits for making travel plans.

The sad part though, is that many times the adventure of youth fades away as you get older. As career and responsibility assert itself into your life, the spontaneous fire starts to dim and fade. The “let’s pack a bag and go somewhere” transforms into careful planning and budgeting. The get away weekends become farther and fewer between, and we allow ourselves to get caught up in life without any reprieve.

That spontaneous fire never truly goes away though. It sits like an ember inside, waiting to be stoked again. The key is you have to want to ignite it again.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Never give up your sense of youthful adventure. No matter what road life takes you down, or where you wind up, never let your sense of adventure fade. Even if it is something simple like a spur of the moment day trip, the benefits to boost your spirit and let you soar are well worth it.

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

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.

What Is Success?

Today I want to touch on a subject that is one of those that has led to many hours of controversial debate and conversation, no matter what circle you travel in. It is the subject of what makes a person or business successful.

The reason why it has the potential to be one of the most controversial topics to discuss, is for the simple fact that it is driven by what a person’s personal idea of success is. Every person has their own viewpoint, and many times it is influenced by the way their were raised.

So what exactly is success? According to the dictionary, success is: “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals”. It also says that it is: “the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.” Again, even with the definitions, it is not a cut and dry answer.

So, now I want to tell you a story about my great grandfather. He owned a bakery in Philadelphia in the early 1900’s, near the Germantown area of the city.  It was not a huge bakery, though he provided bread and rolls to most of the restaurants in the area, and everyone in the local community went to him for their baked goods. He was an energetic person, and very involved in the community.

During the depression, when many people found themselves out of work, and families were scraping what little they had together to eat, my great grandfather opened the back door of his bakery and proceeded to hand out hundreds of loaves of bread to these families on a daily basis. He encouraged other businesses in the area to do the same, and became the voice of the community to unite them “as one family”.

When he passed away in the 1950’s, the entire community was in mourning. The church was standing room only for the funeral, and hundreds of people stood outside during the service. The procession from the church to the cemetery afterwards stretched for at least a mile.

My great grandfather was not a rich man when he passed away, nor was he some high ranking dignitary. He was an immigrant that came to this country, started a family, built a business, and loved and cared for his neighbors. His success can be measured by the good he did for others.

As small business owners, we can learn a valuable lesson from this. The foundation of what makes us successful starts in our own community. From the way we treat our customers, to giving back to help out a cause, to how we are involved in making our community a better place.

At Delaware 302, we firmly believe in giving back to the community. We are currently supporters of 2 Delaware charities, and are always looking for ways to help out where and when we can. We also have something great in the works to be able to extend that reach and do more.

Is your business ready for success?

Let’s build the future together.