Being a Business Owner is Tough

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Some lawyers and professional services providers often use this quote to justify the fees for their services.  This is a response to a D-I-Y culture in which there are plethora of resources and forms available online or “cheap” services available and a lack of understanding of the true cost of not getting it done well or correctly.

You might be thinking this is a plug for our services at LayRoots.  It’s not.  It DOES correlate though (totally unintentional).

Some of you may know that I have this other business.  And this post relates to my role in that other business.  As a lawyer, we counsel our clients in an objective and skeptical manner.  As a business owner, though, I realize that sometimes you have to just get things done with often constrained budgets.  Sometimes it’s tough switching between the two mindsets.

So, even though I often preach that there are all these costs to hiring an amateur (or yourself) to do things that you should hire a professional for and even though I objectively know those costs, I don’t think I truly felt the sting of those costs until this last week.  I’m still upset and it’s still not resolved.  And I don’t know how much I should say on the public forum of the internet!  (Don’t want to give the asshole any ideas).

Background:

We needed a software developer for a small, but integral, piece of my dad’s (and the company’s) software.  He had a way of doing it manually.  We knew the steps, we had it all sketched out, but lacked the knowledge of programming.

We’ve been bootstrapping the company and the oil industry has not been so hot, so there was little-to-no budget available for this project.  Even with money coming down the pipeline.  

Aside: There always stuff to spend money on to move the business forward.  The problem with bootstrapping is that it can and does sometimes strangle your growth.  The benefit is that it makes you REALLY good at prioritizing and creating a lean operation.

We need a developer.  We have no money.  We’re in a highly competitive field where secrecy is imperative (so we need to trust the programmer).

So, what do we do?  Of course, we “hire” a family friend.  He did a great job.  We were happy.  Before he started the project we made the “small budget” thing abundantly clear.  He said “no problem”  he’s “not interested in the money”  he just wants continued involvement.

First sign of an issue happened after the first iteration.  “Not interested in the money” turned into “so, this is how many hours I worked and this is my rate.  Okay, cool.  We don’t want anyone to feel used so we all agreed to some flexible payment terms (60 day invoice payment).

Then the hounding started about 15 days later.  Phone calls and emails every week increased to every 3 days demanding his money.  Even though we had agreed in writing and verbally to 60 days.  I was going to fucking stick to 60 days.  I wasn’t about to visit a loan shark to pay this bastard when we had agreed otherwise.

This all culminated in a total bridge-burning meltdown on his part.  He insulted my father, me, and our company every which way ’til Sunday.  He copied his PARENTS on his demand emails.  It has been…crazy.  And, by the way, the 60 days are still not up.

So, what did it cost me?  It cost us a LOT Of headaches, emotional turmoil, and time.  It set our company back because we don’t have the source code so the future programmer that we hire (who will be a pro, not an amateur) will have to reinvent the wheel.  So, we’ll have to pay twice for the same damn thing.  And we lost a family friend and possible fruitful relationship.

I will remember this story every time I think about hiring an amateur, even when that amateur is myself.

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