The Startup Journey: Carelessness Or Ignorance? Which Is Worse?

Written by: Josh Christy

Photo courtesy of “The Startup Journey”

Your client is looking for you to be the expert. They want you to tell them what to do and why.

I’m pissed.

I’m so frustrated by companies that have the power to drastically change the direction of another company and don’t do their part to educate their client.

Let me explain.

Recently, one of our clients emailed me and asked if we could help with the transition of their website to one that a vendor had created for them.

We were contacted by the vendor’s account manager asking if we had the password to the site to get it live, and after a little clarification, we sorted out what was needed. It was a bit strange that they didn’t know what needed to happen to launch the site, but I just chalked it up to a non-technical team member doing what they could to keep the ball moving forward.

Fast-forward 24 hours.

We get the OK from the vendor to update on our end and launch the site. We throw the switch and begin to look at the new site they’ve created.

I’ll spare the technical details. All I can say is that it left me upset.

In short, it would torpedo months of dedicated work and a site that had been in place for over a decade.

Our client had been working hard for the past 18 months to grow their online presence:

  • They created content and drove good organic traffic to their site.
  • They had hundreds of pages indexed in Google.
  • The site had good structure, and technical details were all in place.

The new site was completely devoid of any of these technical details. Google would surely remove the indexed pages shortly after the site launch. Any links that previously existed would show up as broken or say the content didn’t exist. In short, it would torpedo months of dedicated work and a site that had been in place for over a decade.

All of this was about to be thrown away because …

  • … they were under a deadline to get the project up?
  • … they were over budget and weren’t willing to stick it out?
  • … they didn’t know the impact of what was happening?
  • … they didn’t care?

What I do know is that I got an email forwarded from the CEO with a series of excuses about how this was expected to happen and that they hadn’t completed things yet but that they would. This was followed up with a multiple-page email about how we were disgruntled and how our site is terrible. Honestly, it was comical to read, but I feel sad about it at the same time.

Our job as a consultant goes far beyond just creating something; the website or the app is part of it.

The core of everything we do is to manage expectations. Imagine if everyone is on the same page with what a project will cost, how long it will take and who needs to do what. What is left to do at that point? I’ll tell you: Just get the work done. It’s not rocket science.

If the expectations aren’t communicated, it immediately begins to erode trust.

Being in the Upper Midwest, sometimes, I think we confuse having an opinion with being arrogant. That shouldn’t be the case at all. If you need it, I’m giving you permission to be opinionated. You can have an opinion, respect others’ input and collaborate. Your client is looking to you for direction. You need to lead with your experience.

I use this as a cautionary tale. Our client didn’t know the right questions to ask. They didn’t fully understand the impact of the changes the vendor was recommending. They just … trusted.

And that is the key when someone puts their trust in you as an expert: They are trusting your expertise, sometimes, even blindly.

Being in the Upper Midwest, sometimes, I think we confuse having an opinion with being arrogant.

This isn’t meant to be a holier-than-thou speech. I’ve had my fair share of mistakes and missteps. I know I’ve dropped the ball and caused frustrations or even setbacks because of a lack of communication over the past decade.

But at the end of the day, which is worse: carelessness or ignorance?

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Josh Christy is the founder of "The Startup Journey" blog, which he started to help fellow founders step around some of the holes he's fallen into.