Family business in IT. Time to make money
At the end of 2012, a sales manager left us. In January 2013, the programmer quit; in March, the layout designer. Everything seemed to collapse. But how so? After all, we just created a team and set up work. The current situation was depressing ...
I could deceive myself and blame our former colleagues for irresponsibility and ingratitude. But let's face it: if in less than six months three of the four employees quit, the problem is clearly in the company and its leaders.
How did we work
Perhaps, for starters, I should talk in more detail about how the company’s work was built in 2012. By the summer, we formed a staff of four employees: manager, designer, layout designer, programmer.
The main activity was the development of sites. We tried to take complex and interesting orders: unusual online stores, programming a user's personal account, creating beautiful panoramas with the parallax effect, online furniture designer, etc. The harder the better.
Trouble with the deadlines
The team was formed gradually, and, of course, there weren’t enough hands. Sasha often had to do layout and programming, and in addition to accounting and SEO, I also had the development of TK and content.
Usually we conducted 2-3 projects at the same time, and ideally, the development of one site should not take more than 1.5 months. At the stage of concluding the contract, we estimated how long the work would take. Moreover, the timing seemed to us quite real. However, always something went wrong. Someone got sick, the client did not agree on the design on time, they got out some unexpected errors in the code. In general, the deadlines were disrupted just constantly and had to blush in front of the client.
I had a “project manager” on my business card, the position obliged me to put things in order. Therefore, I decided to deal with the deadlines. In the course of the project, I tried to see in advance bottlenecks and prevent the problem. For example, anticipating that the client might not provide the photo the designer needs in time, I kicked the manager so that he kicked the client. And if the designer was hanging with the rendering of icons, when the layout designer was waiting for the design layout, I had to kick the designer. And of course, perfectionist programmers got the most kicks. It was important to stop them in time, otherwise the search for the most elegant solution took an unforgivably long time.
Gradually, the situation began to level off and now we only needed one or two weeks to meet the deadline. Once, secretly from everyone (even my husband), I increased the deadline for the completion of the project in the contract. Everyone knew that the work needed to be passed on the 15th, and only I understood that it was possible to reach the 26th. So we met the deadline for the first time.
Later, the work was adjusted, each performed its function, deviations from the plan occurred less and less. However, now, just in case, we always set a deadline for the completion of the project a week earlier than the deadline. And then, even in case of unforeseen situations, the conditions of the contract were always complied with.
It is very difficult to determine the real value of the project at the stage of concluding the contract. We were eyeing the price so that it was not too expensive for the client and acceptable for us. As a result, sometimes after putting the site in, they realized that the work cost at least 2 times more.
It was even more difficult with the improvements, often customers thought that if we made them a site a year ago, now they have a life-time subscription for its maintenance. And it was somehow embarrassing for us to take money for every little thing.
Over time, the understanding came that any, even seemingly insignificant, work should be paid. Nevertheless, we are distracted from the main tasks and spend our time.
And we must determine the cost based on time costs. Therefore, we calculated the average cost of an hour of specialist work, taking into account salary, taxes, rent, manager's percentage and profit. It turned out 800 rubles. This figure has become our minimum unit of measure.
- Please add a product photo to our site!
- Good, 800 rubles.
- Oh, is it possible for the client to indicate his middle name in the feedback form?
- No problem, 1600 rubles.
- We have a partner and we want to add a banner with its logo on all pages of the site.
- Wonderful! 4800 rubles.
Realizing that for every little thing you need to pay, customers are less likely to tug on us for nothing. Some understood that it was more profitable to conclude a contract with a monthly service charge. Or for website promotion, because the client paying for website promotion provided content support for free.
There was clarity and with the determination of the cost of developing the site. How much will Masha need to develop a design layout? Somewhere 5 business days. I will make the statement of work in a day, 4 days for Andrei for layout, 3 for Kosta for transfer to the control system, another 2 days for filling and 2 days in reserve. Total 17 days, i.e. the cost of 108 800 rubles.
The work was in full swing, we got tremendous experience not only in the development of complex projects, but also in working with complex clients. However, there are difficult clients to which you just need to find an approach. And there are clients with whom you don’t try to work. And here it is important to turn around and leave, otherwise the headache and wasted time are guaranteed.
Once we were approached by a company that is engaged in the construction of fountains. They needed a portfolio site that showed the company's skill in all its glory. Representatives of the client were a little versed in the basics of html and considered themselves to be a web design guru. They were not looking for professionals, they needed a performer who would make a selection of ready-made flash effects, and then they would say which of these effects and how to apply on the site.
Previously, we would fight to the last, explaining that flash is not supported by tablets and smartphones, and that the essence of web design is not in effects and bright colors. However, by that time we had already realized that there are customers who are better off saying: “No!”
You know, in time to recognize your type of client and not to cooperate with him is just as important as concluding an agreement with an interesting customer. Refusing to work with a potential client is a difficult decision. But it's worth it. And telling customers “no” should certainly be learned! Then it will be pleasant for you to realize that the decision made has allowed you to avoid wasted nerves and time.
So why did the team run away?
All three retired employees said that working with us was great. “You guys are very cool, I like the friendly and pleasant atmosphere, but I want to ...
... start our own business, my friends and I have already thought out everything!”
... specialize in Ruby on Rails and work in freelance. ”
... try yourself in some new sphere, but for now I’ll rest for a year and will not work at all. ”
Well, it seems that all three have decided to try themselves in something new. And also, they wanted freedom. After all, your own business, and freelance, and a year of rest imply the absence of any leaders.
I think an experienced psychologist would quickly find the root of evil and put everything in its place. I do not know. Neither my husband nor I, unfortunately (or fortunately?), Are strong in psychology. And the mass of read books on personnel management did not clarify the situation. However, I have a theory.
To begin with, for all three, this was the first job. And from the very beginning, they saw it as temporary. As a place where you can pump skills, gain experience, get an entry in the resume. And this is fair. How else to relate to working in a web studio that has only been on the market for a couple of years?
In addition, the guys saw that we are far from shark business. Indeed, where is the guarantee that tomorrow this couple will not get tired of playing entrepreneurs and they will not disperse this whole business?
I think the staff did not believe in us. And they cannot be blamed for this, since initially even the closest people did not believe in us. It was time for us to become a serious company. And by the word “serious” I mean not an office for 1000 people and a strict address code for staff, but stability, a good reputation and fame in the market.
Well, the task was clear. And we saw only one way to achieve the desired: to continue to develop the company.
New scheme of work
Talk about the numbers. In 2012, our income amounted to approximately 2.1 million rubles, profit - a little more than 200 thousand. Of course, the main expense item is salary. At the same time, my husband and I could already afford to pay a salary to ourselves. Although less than the employees, it was already possible to live on that money.
About 40% of the proceeds came from the promotion and content support of sites. Moreover, all 6 employees were involved in the development of sites. And only two people managed SEO and maintenance: I (in the role of a content manager) and manager.
Clearly, SEO was much more profitable. Moreover, almost all the sites that we promoted, we developed. By that time, a small revolution had occurred in the minds of Internet users. Or this revolution took place only in our heads ... In general, over time, we began to understand that the fashion for complex sites is going on. Sites became simple, the main focus was on the content and its proper presentation. And such sites worked with maximum return for the client.
So, we made some important decisions, thanks to which our family freelance turned into a business.
1. We abandon the development of complex sites: no more personal accounts, unique modules, intricate calculators. Of course, it was interesting to implement such projects. But we never learned how to make money on it. Therefore, we decided to focus only on simple sites.
To translate this idea into reality, we needed the simplest CMS possible, with which we do not need to train new employees. But it was very important to be able to create sites with a unique design. No, no, we did not develop our own cms. We began to study cloud solutions.
By that time, many so-called site designers had already been launched. But they were all terribly primitive, it was just a shame to sell such sites to customers.
And then Sasha found Squarespace. This cloud-based CMS allowed you to create your own design, using all the built-in functions of the system. For those gaining popularity, the landing page is simply the perfect solution.
This scheme has greatly simplified the process. The launch of the site took only one week. Moreover, we did almost all the work together with Masha, and Sasha sometimes spent a couple of hours to finish the layout and fit the template to the design. Having shortened the period of website development, we accelerated the process of making a profit.
2. We focus on SEO. We take orders for website development only if the client is ready to conclude a contract for promotion.
3. We change the scheme of the contract for website promotion.
Previously, for 4 months we brought the site to the TOP and stopped working on this. Now the term for withdrawal to the TOP has increased to six months. And after that, the process cannot be stopped, otherwise in two to three months the site will lose all the positions it has achieved. Therefore, the promotion agreement has now become unlimited.
4. We take a seoshnik.
If the transition to the development of simple sites unloaded Sasha, the new employee took off a very large load from me.
5. We move to a new office.
And this was necessary to improve working conditions. Not that the previous office was uncomfortable, but we did not have enough space. Now we have an additional room for relaxation.
Firstly, my husband almost 100% ceased to be an employee in his company and I also threw off a lot of things. We had a weekend, and on working days we stopped lingering and no longer worked at home in the evenings.
Secondly, in 2013 we earned 3.5 million rubles. Compared to last year, profit increased 5 times and amounted to 1.2 million.
We earned our first million and it was insanely cool!
Thirdly, we have become noticeable in the market. Once, a client called Sasha and told a funny story.
They sat with a friend in a bar and discussed pressing issues. Our client took out a tablet to show his site to a friend. And a friend in response began to show his site.
In general, they sat, boasted to each other, argued whose site is cooler. And then we discovered that both sites were made by us. Great, right? I love this story!
Money should not be idle
In a previous article, I talked about my first golden rule: money should not be idle.
Well, now we had money. And remembering the mistakes of the past, we decided to make this money work. There were a lot of options and ideas. Where did we leave off? Find out in a week! And I warn you right away: in the next article I will be PR!
To be continued ...
PS Continue reading:
Family IT business. Time to make money.
Family IT business. How we launched our first
Family IT business service. The first six months of our startup’s life.
Family business in IT. How we put together a team