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How To Fail At Business Without Really Trying

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Anton Shepps

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User since: 24 Jan 2001

Articles written: 1

February 2000.

Me: Your site will cost $80,000.

Dot-com client: Fine. Do you want the last $20,000 in stock?

Me: We believe in you but... no, we only deal in cash.

Dot-com client: Ok, no problem. Here's the first check.

Me (thinking): (It seems to be easy to sell quality web development. Maybe it's time to expand!)

April 2000.

Me: Welcome to the company! I'm so glad we finally get this chance to work together. I know I have to overpay you a bit, but you're brilliant and I believe in us and I think it'll all work out great!

Brilliant new employee: I'm glad to be here! By the way, did you see the news this afternoon? Something about NASDAQ melting down...

July 2000.

Dot-com client: This design is awful.

Me: Well, you asked for Ebay-style primary colors, and then you asked for them muted, and then you asked for them brighter, and then you said you didn't like bright. The design firm had to re-do many graphics several times and this ate over half your design budget.

Dot-com client: Still, although we gave the orders to make those changes, knowing they would take a ton of time and go well over budget, and had our secretary deal with the design firm and treat them horribly, YOU were the one that brought in the design firm after I couldn't find one. So I hold you responsible.

Me (thinking): That's fine, as long as your final check clears.

August 2000.

Client: We'll need a full e-commerce system to sell all of our stuff, hooked into our back end, along with hooks into the front page; and we'll have to sell wildly varied items with no item numbers and a database of items developed by someone else and we don't know anything about merchant accounts.

Me: OK, It will cost about $15,000.

Client: What!? But a friend of mine did the e-commerce page for the Folk Festival in three days!

October 2000.

Salesperson: I called all 15 of our current leads and nobody wants any work.

Me: Ouch. Well we're out of money, so I have to lay you off.

Salesperson: You have just given me a lifetime of pain.

Me: I will accept any and all blame if it makes you feel better.

October 2000 the next day.

Client: You fired my salesperson and she is a friend of mine. I'm royally pissed, on her behalf. I'm going to try to use any flimsy excuse to scuttle the project.

Me: Just to let you know, your friend hasn't gotten her commission, and won't until the project is completed and paid for in full.

Client: I didn't say we wouldn't finish it and pay for it.

November 2000.

Brilliant employee: What should we do this week? Complete this $5000 site, or develop this proposal for this $100,000 site where there are 30 competitors for the job?

Me: If we don't bring in $5000 by the end of this month, we have to close.

Employee: Decision made.

November 2000.

Me: Here's the proposal for your custom e-commerce plan. At $30,000 it's exactly what you wanted, and that even includes re-designing parts of your site to make it work with our back-end code.

Long-time client: We love you, you've done so much for us over the last year and saved our ass and went above and beyond. But my boss made a secret deal with ATX when they wired his house, so we are going to use them to do our e-commerce and redesign. They'll also take over the hosting when our contract is up. Sorry.

December 2000.

Me: We're proposing you spend at least $6000 to make this site effective. It's important for your site to be highly usable yet good-looking and effective, because you're architects.

Potential client: We thought it would cost $3000. We thought you could just throw up a bunch of photos with a header. We don't really care if it looks bad. We'll get back to you.

January 2001.

Caller: Hi, I'm with ATX. I'll just take a moment of your time. I'm calling because I saw your web site and you guys are in the tech council just like us, and you seem really up and coming, maybe you'd want to be strategic partners. We can do your hosting and offer you cheap long distance service.

Me (stunned): Um, do potential strategic partners steal each others clients?

Caller: Don't you want to be a strategic partner?

Me: (click)

February 2001.

Me: You said that they would use us if the all six sites came in under $60,000 total. At first, we didn't even think it was possible, but we've managed to structure the project so that it would work at that rate, as long as you deliver all the content in electronic form. It's going to be a huge challenge, but we're really looking forward to it. I'll fax the proposal over for your final signature.

Potential client: Oh. Well it's changed, as of this morning they want to do it for under $10,000.

Me: OK, we'll just use the proposal to wipe our butts.

February 2001.

Me: I'm sorry, but we're out of money and leads and I'm in over $100,000 of personal debt. We have to close.

Team (collectively): Fuck.

March 2001.

Me: Acquaintance Ruthie, I would have charged about $2000 for a simple site like this with my business, but good news... now that it's just me working in my basement, I could do your site for $500.

Ruthie: That's way too much, don't you realize we have no money?

March 2001.

Me: Hi, I saw your posting looking for hourly web development. I'm a highly experienced developer with 16 years of IT experience, including 5 years of web development, and I'm accomplished in major scripting languages, database design and integration, and Unix and Linux system administration. I really need some income, so I'd be happy to do some development for you at $50/hour.

Job poster: There's no way I can afford that.

April 2001.

Me: I'm glad I could finally complete your site. You know, you got an awful lot for $20,000. It was a much more complex project than we thought when we started last October. It took twice that in person-hours.

Client: Well, that's OK, we underpay some vendors like you, but then we overpay other vendors, so for us it all works out in the end.

Me: (the sound of head slamming against wall)

Note: to see the calibre of work being referenced by the above, the now-defunct company site is still up at, along with a portfolio.

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