With the apparent demise of yet another Oklahoma City web design company, I am once again reminded that running a successful web design business is a serious endeavor. One that involves a lot more than making pretty websites.
Maybe some of the following will sound harsh or directed at some “defunct” web design firms, but I know the following business plans do NOT work because in the past 12 years, I‘ve either been there or seen it up close.
Plan #1: I’ll sell and you design - let’s go!
This is not a solid plan. Partnerships can work well, but they need to be set up on strong foundations. Procedures on how business decisions are made need to be established before the decisions start happening fast and furious.
I was involved in a partnership before I started Back40. We didn’t plan for growth, failure or the issues in between - and within a few months that partnership vaporized. FYI, I was the one designing and the other guy was selling.
Plan #2: Starting a business out of a resentment
Hopefully it will all work out for you. It did for me, but that energy and resentment will not sustain a business. And when that energy runs out you’re left with the day-to-day business of taking care of your clients. Hopefully you’ve planned how to do that AND you’re cut out for that task.
Plan #3: Let’s play design firm
It’s fairly easy (and low cost) to start-up a web design business. Lease a nice space, create an awesome website, buy some IKEA furniture and a few Macs - and you can look like a viable business.
Fast forward a few months (or even a year or two) and some of these shops are in trouble because they didn’t understand business. Many over-capitalize and run up debt. Others grow themselves right out out of business. They become re-active rather than proactive and they are taking on jobs they shouldn’t, charging whatever they can get, missing payroll taxes and dodging creditors. If they can tame the beast and learn the applicable business skills, perhaps they will pull through. Sometimes the reckoning comes too late and they implode.