“Don’t worry man, I won’t stiff you,” and that’s like you know the kiss of death. – Artur Maklyarevsky
If you’re working with old friends or colleagues, you should be extra careful. As they say, running a business with a friend is more troublesome than working with strangers. Being an entrepreneur attracts many risks, and with a friend in the industry, you are also risking your friendship.
The abstract of Artur’s nightmare is that they were assigned to make an application requested by their client. Their client was a bit ambitious, and he asked Artur’s team an impossible task. Artur never agreed to the job, but his friend, who happens to be the CTO of the project, always agrees with the CEO and doesn’t listen to Artur’s concern for the project. There were many red flags before they realized the problem, and we will go through them one by one.
1. Separate personal relationships when you talk about business.
It would be best if you always disregarded personal relationships when you are talking about business. Why? Because it will cloud your judgment, and the things that are already considered a red flag will be overlooked because you and the other person had a relationship. That was what happened to Artur’s story.
His friend, Josh, talked about a project that would be a hit for this pandemic, where everyone is trying to do things to get out of boredom during the mandatory lockdown. Josh told him that they are going to create something like an online live party.
Artur immediately agreed to the project even though he was only given minor details about it. Also, he didn’t bother to ask for more information because he trusted his friend that much. It was a red flag that he just overlooked in the name of friendship.
2. Have a clean and detailed contract approved by a lawyer before starting the project.
Josh was the CTO of the project, so he was the leader. This is where Artur got confused. Josh was the CTO, but his name wasn’t completely indicated as the CTO of the project in the contract. Artur and his team’s names were not indicated as well that they were the team of software designers that will create the client’s project.
Because everyone was in a rush, Artur just overlooked the contract and signed it. He presumed that, as long as Josh is the CTO, he will undoubtedly testify that my team is the one who helped in creating the client’s software. A major red flag and a terrible decision that he made.
Before signing any contract, make sure to ask your attorney and let him take a look at the contract. Having an attorney beforehand will save you from a lot of legal troubles whenever things go wrong.
The CEO planned to let Artur and his team sign the same contract that he used for all of his workers for the project. Arthur had a little conversation with the CEO regarding his concerns and his instincts are always telling him to converse with the CEO. But he was not listening to any concerns, so he decided to stop before they started to have bad blood between them.
3. A leader that never listens to suggestions is most likely to end up as bad news.
One day, the CEO wanted to reach a milestone and do a dry-run on the software that they are making. As the CTO, it was his job to ask Artur’s team about some concerns regarding the CEO’s request. Artur was ready to tell the CEO about his sentiments, but Josh did not give that opportunity and told the CEO that he would make the dry-run possible.
After the meeting, he talked to Josh and said that the software is not ready to be tested yet and told the CEO that it is not possible. Josh agreed and reassured the team that he would let the CEO know about it. After the weekend, he was shocked when he heard that the CEO was angry with the team because the event that he requested did not happen.
He has no idea why the CEO got pissed even if they already told him that it was impossible and the software was not ready. But then he remembered, he told Josh, the CTO, to relay the message to the CEO, which clearly he did not do.
Josh was the leader and the CTO of the group. He did not listen to any concerns and suggestions from Artur’s team, which is why there was a little bit of misunderstanding between Artur and the CEO. If you ever come across a client like that, raise the concern immediately or leave. It won’t end well, I promise. It is just a waste of time and effort if the client continues to behave like this.
4. If the head of the team is too high above his head, reach out to him respectfully.
The team and the CEO came into a dilemma. The CEO’s concern was that both the prototype and the zoom app could hold the same amount of people. The CEO wanted to make sure that their project is better than the zoom app, and he wanted the software to be the main sale on the market. Artur’s team raised their concerns because, for them, it was impossible to accomplish given the short amount of time.
Josh was not on the same page as Artur’s team, and he wanted to be close to his client, so he immediately agreed without thinking of the consequences. He also suggested that for the MVP to outplay the zoom application, our software should hold more than a hundred people in the software.
Artur knew Josh was going way over the top, so this time he reached out to him and told him Artur’s concerns, saying they should make sure to test the software rigorously. If they expect to do a big consumer-grade launch, they’re going to put all the time and energy into that launch.
They need to really be sure that they wouldn’t just wing it. It is essential to have proper multiple tests that replicate that launch situation as closely as possible before actually going and spending all that money on hiring talent and DJs.
Artur told him that what he decided was a gamble, a do or die gamble. If the software successfully held 300 people or more, then the project would be ready to be sold in the market. If it fails, all of our hard work will be wasted. Josh explained that he agreed with the CEO because he wanted to have a huge event before the election.
5.Trust your instinct
Artur constantly reminded Josh that before the event would happen, they should run tests that would have more than 100 people so that they would know how it performs. Josh agreed, and Artur thought he passed his concern to the CEO explicitly. The test day came, and he thought they would bring in a hundred people, but there were only 60 people on the test.
Obviously, the software was successful. The team, Josh, and the CEO were delighted because the test of 60 people was a success. On the other hand, Artur trusted his instinct and still told all of them that it wasn’t enough. Artur’s instinct was true; they expected an event with 300 people, yet the tests were only 50-60 people? Artur’s instinct told him that it would fail, and it did.
6.Expect a lot of difficulties when you want to become a startup entrepreneur.
Artur thought that the CEO had this value, and he was already expecting difficulties in the event. He assumed that the CEO wanted it to be a learning experience for them because they were already predicting a failure. Artur was relieved a little because of the thought that the CEO, the CTO, and the team had foreseen it to fail. No one will be responsible for the loss since all of them anticipated that it would happen.
Failures are typical for startups, and they should be taken as an improvement conjuncture for the whole team.
7. Do background research on your clients before signing a contract with them.
The event was a total disaster. It was okay for everyone since he thought all of them already expected that it would fail. But Artur’s expectation of the CEO was wrong. If he did a background check, Artur would find out that the CEO has no experience as an entrepreneur.
Their CEO was working with big companies. If Artur knew that, he wouldn’t have made the CEO experience that kind of failure. They anticipated that the CEO was already expecting that scenario to happen. Artur thought the CEO had the stomach for those kinds of situations such as drawbacks and all.
8. Choose who you trust
After the event, the CEO was silent about the failure, and Artur’s team did not hear from him for a week. After that week, Artur received an email from Josh saying that the CEO wanted to remove them from the group because the CEO blamed Artur for the event’s failure.
Josh included in the email that the CEO blames him because Artur did not give them enough information about the software. Artur also did not remind them of the lapses and the major issues they should have solved before pursuing the big event. This was a huge disrespect to Artur because he did everything and constantly reminded Josh about the technical problems. Artur wants Josh to explain the situation to the CEO that he did his part.
Basically, Artur wants Josh to tell the CEO that it was his fault why the team failed. Artur asked Josh for the contact number of the client, but Josh did not give Artur anything. At this moment, Artur knows that Josh will not tell anything to the CEO and that Josh will never trust him. It was survival of the fittest for Josh, and if he tells the CEO the right thing, he will lose his client and money.
After that incident, Artur knew that there was no way he would be paid because of the contracts and how the CEO and Josh could easily change the story so that there would be enough reason not to pay our team. Eventually, they settled things at court.
To end, Artur had made huge mistakes in the early parts of the project, such as lowering his guard because of his friend and not questioning the contract they signed. Early signs showed, and the consequences could be prevented. So as a lesson to everyone, it is vital to assess and carefully think things through before deciding.
Businesses can make dreams come true, but at the same time, it shatters dreams once it fails. It is an industry where people tend to be more selfish than you expected, so never let your guard down. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and continue to move forward.
This article was based upon episode #1, please watch the complete episode here.