Here at Itomic we love helping people and companies achieve new or improved business success. It’s a given in business these days that good looking, highly functional, integrated, and well-marketed websites and associated services are key – if not critical – business success enablers.
Most websites we provide consultancy, design, development and hosting services for are in support of existing ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses. Sometimes we provide services for new, fully online (‘virtual’) businesses. They might be original ideas, or they might be copy-cat versions, or variations, of existing websites.
What if we think your idea isn’t commercially viable*?
(*My septuagenarian Dad just read this article and didn’t approve of the work “sucks”, so I changed it to “commercially viable”. Thanks Dad!)
Is it our ethical or moral obligation to advise you of this – and if so, how forcibly, and when? Should we decline to work on your project because we don’t think it’ll be a success? If a big, overweight bloke goes into a top mountaineering supplies store and announces “I want to climb Everest, and I want you guys to kit me out with the best gear for the job”, should they refuse to serve him because you think his chances of summiting are low to zero?
Or perhaps what we think about the commercial viability of your project is irrelevant? Our #1 responsibility is always to do everything we can, using the skills and experiences we have available, to give your project the very best chance of success, irrespective of our own personal evaluation of commercial viability. So if we truly believe that we are a great service provider (we do!), then surely it’s better that we give it our very best shot at helping you achieve business success, than throwing in the towel and encouraging you to choose a potentially less capable, less experienced provider of web services?
Here’s a supporting argument in favour of the second approach: unless explicitly stated and (better still!) suitably qualified, website consultants/designers/developers are not business advisers/consultants. Neither are we angel investors who would comprehensively evaluate your idea before risking their investment dollars. In short, your website developer is not qualified to give you a truly holistic assessment of the likelihood of the success of your online venture, and it’s a healthy sign when they recognise this in themselves!
It’s our opinion and recommendation that all owners/shareholders of online business ventures recognise that *they* are the primary entrepreneurs / risk takers in their ventures, and not the persons or companies who provide services towards (hopefully!) making their ventures a great success. By all means ask the opinions of multiple service providers in terms of the commercial viability of your venture. But it’s essential that you give appropriate weight to the opinions you receive based on the skills, experience, specialities, track record – and biases – of those giving it. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the euphoria of entrepreneurship and opportunity, thereby losing commercial perspective. At the end of the day, the decision on whether or not to “screw it, let’s do it” (in the words of Richard Branson!) is yours to make. You wear the costs, you reap the rewards.
To this end, we’re very happy to share our clause on this issue in our standard terms and conditions document. Feel free to use in yours:
“Itomic builds websites with a view to maximising the likelihood of successful outcomes. However we make no predictions or guarantees about the commercial viability of a website venture. Success is the result of multiple factors, a great website being one of them. In the event that our opinion on the commercial viability of a website venture is asked for, then our opinion should be obtained in written form and authorised by a company representative. This opinion should be weighed against advice from other expert consultants such as accountants, business advisers, entrepreneurs, marketing firms, etc.”
Final thought: whenever I catch myself “judging” the commercial viability of project pitched to me, I always remind myself that when I first saw Google, I thought to myself “No chance! Too little, too late.”. Need I say more?
P.s. I just read on Wikipedia that “early in 1999, while still graduate student, [Larry] Page and [Sergey] Brin decided that the search engine they had developed [Google] was taking up too much of their time from academic pursuits. They went to Excite CEO George Bell and offered to sell it to him for $1 million. He rejected the offer“. That makes me feel much better!