For the last three months I have been on the hunt for any news, any indication of how the global economic situation will impact this industry. Everyone I talked to was doing the same and had the same conclusion: anyone involved in the Internet development game is going to be okay. If anything, many suggested, we’ll be busier than ever before as competitors and middleman collapse under the weight of their overhead and unwillingness to add in-house Internet expertise. Everything I have read about previous economic down turns suggests that these revelations appear to be historically accurate. Furthermore, we’ve seen a lot of good news lately: the ongoing hubbub about the sharp increase of Internet users, the inevitable online transition being made by several paper-based institutions to online mediums, and Obama’s determination to move America from the fifteenth most online nation to somewhere near number one.
With big stories like that, it’s hard not to get excited about what the future holds.
And then I started to receive news of friends and colleagues who were laid off in the days leading up to Christmas and the new year. It wasn’t their fault, they were simply collateral damage from an upper management campaign to save the company (or their own salary, benefits, and bonus—hard to tell these days). It’s one thing to lose your job because you weren’t meeting the exceptions of your employers. It’s another to come to work and find out that your position was considered expendable to day-to-day operations and overall success of the company you’ve worked so hard for.
Though I can not say this from personal experience (knock on wood), nothing is worse than being let go due to circumstances way, way beyond your control.
During Christmas season travel it occurred to me that the larger problems we, as an industry, have to work around right now are not all financial. More of our friends and colleagues may lose their jobs in the coming months, and it’s our shared responsibility to help them whenever possible. In this new year, it is simply not going to be enough to just meet your bottom line, but to help others who may not be in a position to be so entrepreneurial or carefree.
To those who own their own business: I challenge you to push harder. If you need $50k to keep your family under house and home then do everything you can to bring in $150k. Chances are you won’t make the larger goal, but you’ll do far better than selling yourself short and it’s likely that you’ll need extra resources to finish all the work, help from people who are looking to supplement lost income. I’m not talking about going through the process and stress of actually hiring more people (there is a good reason why the IRS created the 1099 form). Don’t turn away any work that comes through your door. Get it. Grab it. Take it—as much as you can— and network with the people who are ready and willing and have the skills you need. Team up, and conquer.
To the designers and developers, the employees and the freelancers, your challenge is to do your best to get work done in a speedy way that does not sacrifice quality. Time really is money, be smart about your efforts and spend it wisely. Don’t leave anything to chance or undone in a way that will cause further stress and anxiety for your employer as they are likely already significant pressure to keep the work coming through the door. Working smarter will not only make business more successful but ensure that clients are impressed, thankful, and very willing to sing your praises to everyone they know. Good teamwork means never letting anyone on the team fail. If you work by those mantras then nothing should ever get in your way to being very, very successful.
To the persons who support the entire team, make sure everyone (clients, management, workers, everyone) is communicating always. Poor communication causes anxiety which leads to uncertainty and eventually a breakdown in trust. It’s likely that you are on the frontline between an awkward alliance of those with money and those who need money—an amalgam of personalities who are trying to get work done on time, on budget without sacrificing quality and ingenuity. The best way to win the day is to ensure that everyone is speaking clearly and openly. Leave no phone call or email unanswered, no meeting or appointment unattended. Remember that the level of customer service is always remember by those who pay the bill.
To the vendors who support us all, don’t leave your customers and, ultimately, their clients waiting. Respond to sales calls and support tickets with gusto. Our symbiotic relationship requires a certain sense of urgency. One day waiting for a response is a production day lost forever. Just as important, be frank and let us know how we can improve our relationship and business practices. Too often the picture is clear from your viewpoint while we’re sitting inside the box.
Let’s not go into this next year with blind enthusiasm or crushing anxiety, but with a great sense of kinsmanship and and eager promise. Let us all work together to do what we can to grow our network into a future titan of industry. One that contributes to the community and the economy, global and local.
Good luck to all of us in this coming year. If you have any questions or concerns, or you’re looking for good people to do great work let me know. I’ll do what I can to help out.