This article was based upon Episode #9: Josh Silverbauer’s s roller-coaster client journey that dazzled both our audience and Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!
“They just paid $120,000 for a blog.” – Josh Silverbauer
When you are in the business industry, it is convenient to grab all the opportunities you can get before it turns into your biggest regret. This quote is more effective, especially when you are the CEO or the business owner of your company. Saying yes will create opportunities, experiences, and lessons vital for growth as a business person.
However, saying yes can put you into situations that you wish you had said no. This mistake is common to small business owners and those still looking for a big breakthrough. They tend to say yes to all the opportunities without thinking if they can handle the job or not. They are just full of energy and positivity, and by the time they realize that they can’t manage anymore, it’s already too late to back out.
However, some said yes to a project because they are confident in handling the job but failed because of their clients’ attitudes and other unfortunate circumstances. This is due to the lack of rapport and time to get to know the client’s personality because of the rush. This is precisely what happened to today’s sharer, Josh Silverbauer, who said yes to what he believes is an easy job but failed to complete it due to his three egoistic clients and lack of experience.
This narrative is jam-packed with lessons and red flags, so sit back, take notes, and let’s listen to Josh Silverbauer’s experience.
Josh owns a business, and at the very beginning, they don’t exactly know what they wanted to focus on as a business. They provided many different services and acted like they were the “everything agency,” because they accepted all digital marketing projects. Josh wanted their company to become a savior for those who are struggling in digital marketing. He stated, “The philosophy behind it is like if somebody came to us and said they have a problem, we’re like we’ll solve it and we’ll figure it out.” Josh and his team lived for those words, and they swore that they would fix every problem that they can.
One day, Josh’s co-worker told Josh that his parents knew a business associate who needed their company’s help. To avoid any confusion, let’s name the business associate as Mr. Lopez. So Mr. Lopez happens to be famous in the holistic company and has been around there for 25 years. They were relatively notable because they developed a type of practice admired by all members of the holistic companies.
Yellow Flag #1
This was the first yellow flag that Josh overlooked. Working with a famous person is somehow a yellow flag because famous people become more self-centered and prideful. Before you even begin working with them, you already have that gut that they are hard to deal with and prioritize their opinions instead of others.
Mr. Lopez developed a website back in the 90s, and they wanted to modernize that particular website and its brand. This is where Josh’s company will come in; Mr. Lopez needed help from Josh to develop their vintage website.
Yellow Flag #2
Again, Mr. Lopez being famous is another yellow flag for Josh. Mr. Lopez was famous back in the days, and now he is climbing back to the trend of society. He needs to do this because his fame is fading, and when you are in that state, your ego starts to shatter. For him, he isn’t relevant anymore, and his new goal is to become relevant again. So, Josh has to expect that these kinds of people are tough to deal with, especially when brainstorming and sharing opinions.
Now back to the story. Mr. Lopez wanted a new website, and Josh’s company was recommended because they were pretty known for website development. Josh and his team were already building WordPress websites and other stuff. Even though they are still a small agency, their team is filled with experienced developers that know how to create and beautify a website. Take note that Josh’s company was still a small company during that time. For them, Mr. Lopez could potentially become the most extensive project they will have, and the turning point of their business career, plus their client is famous, so they are excited to work for Mr. Lopez.
Josh and Mr. Lopez started to meet, and they talked about the budget for the project. Mr. Lopez said to Josh that they could offer $180,000 funding for the project. Josh was genuinely surprised by the huge amount. The team was composed of only four people, and $180,000 is big enough for them. This is where the first lesson comes in.
1. Don’t let external factors affect your decision.
After Mr. Lopez told them about the budget, Josh immediately said yes to the project without thinking it through. Although they know that they can manage website development, they should have spent some time thinking about the other factors such as the attitude of their client, time limit, and many more. Josh didn’t even notice the mini yellow flags because of their client being crazy rich and famous.
When Josh said yes to Mr. Lopez, he said they would build his website and take care of anything that goes along with that website. Josh added that they would do some marketing, and they will also refine the website’s brand. So basically, Josh told Mr. Lopez that they would do everything to make the project work.
2.Have an overview of what you’re working on first.
Another lesson from this story is to have a high-level point of view of what you are working with before accepting the project. Josh’s company knows how to develop a website, but they have no experience transforming an old website into a modern one that fits the current generation’s taste. Josh said yes to the project without knowing that the website was in absolute chaos. The website has five different verticals, and Mr. Lopez wanted Josh to fuse all the verticals. There was also a 20-year-old database that was storing the entire website’s data. The website was prehistoric, and Mr. Lopez wanted Josh to modernize everything.
Instead of asking for these critical notes for the project, Josh was surprised and blinded by the money they would have and didn’t ask any questions. They just told Mr. Lopez the scope of their work and gave basic information about the process of how they would modernize the website.
3.Always have a plan before starting the project.
Because of the rush and the excitement, Josh said yes to the project without making an initial plan. Josh didn’t explain every detail about the whole process to Mr. Lopez, but rather, he just told him that they would handle everything. Josh was confident that they could handle the job because it was their field of expertise, but even so, they still needed a plan to achieve their goal. After their meeting, Josh then signed a contract stating that he and his team will develop the website of Mr. Lopez in 1 year. This was the beginning of their client-horror story.
There was an initial misunderstanding at the beginning of what they would do, which caused many issues along the road. Not only did Josh say that they will build the website, but they also told Mr. Lopez that they would also do marketing rebranding and other stuff related to digital marketing. This was a mistake because Josh and his team didn’t have an actual plan yet.
So right off the bat, Josh felt that the project had already gone wrong. But the problems kept coming and coming because when Josh was about to begin the project, Mr. Lopez introduced two people to him. Mr. Lopez introduced his wife to Josh, and his wife was the manager of the brand. His wife did all the branding from then on up to the present, but she lacks understanding about the digital process and couldn’t continue her branding right. She also has many opinions in mind, which is a potential disaster on Josh’s part. We will explain why later on as we go into the story.
Mr. Lopez introduced two more people to Josh; one was the wife, and the other was the person who built all the technical parts of the website. This person was in charge of the hard part of the website, but like the wife, he doesn’t understand the new digital stuff that Josh must do to develop the website, such as digital marketing and advertising.
Josh was really in a tight spot because he is dealing with three decision-makers. He has to listen to three different opinions. Josh must follow each of them because number one, Mr. Lopez is well-known, number two, the wife is the website’s manager and has been working hard on beautifying the website. Number three, the person in charge of the complicated job worked tirelessly to bring the website to where it is now. Mr. Lopez didn’t have a problem at all. He was so busy regaining his popularity that he somehow doesn’t care what Josh does as long as he can develop the website.
Mr. Lopez just wanted to be called if the meeting had something to do with his popularity and fame. The wife and the other person are the ones to deal with because they have firm opinions on everything that needs to be done. It was as if Josh was an intern, and he needed to follow them, even if they hired him for his expertise.
4.Voice out if you know better than the rest.
Josh’s lack of experience in dealing with such people cost him his career. Working with people with firm opinions is another risk factor and is a lesson worth mentioning. When you are inexperienced, you tend to agree and say yes to people who think highly of themselves even if you know that you are more capable of doing the appropriate measures needed for the job.
Being inexperienced leads to a loss of confidence. If Josh just had enough experience two years ago, he would have handled that situation easily by saying that “Hey, you hired me to do the job, right? Let me do my thing and just sit there and relax, I can develop your website in no time.” But Josh had other plans in mind and didn’t voice out, so he had to expect the worst out of this experience.
Now back to the story, because Josh had no initial plan, there was a miscommunication right before they started working on the project. After receiving the different opinions from the wife and the tech guy, Josh isn’t sure what they want him to do. Do they want something new for their website based on their opinions, or do they want Josh to develop the website independently? Josh just assumed that they wanted both to happen, and he thought he could handle it.
But the strong opinions coming from the two are not relevant to what Josh is planning for the website because they both don’t have any idea how digital marketing works. Josh went with the flow of what his clients wanted to happen. The wife even wanted Josh to redo the logo of their brand.
The task is simple for Josh if he only has the freedom to do so, but the fact that the wife is the brand’s designer makes it hard for Josh to make his suggestions come true. Josh wanted to please the wife by creating two different versions of the logo. But the wife was not pleased, so they created four more, so they were now holding six different versions of the logo. Then again, the wife was still not satisfied, so they added six more, and now there were 12 versions of the logo.
The wife was hard to please, and the remodeling of the logo went for weeks until it reached 25 different versions of the logo. They were only given one year to develop the website, and the remodeling of the logo slowed Josh’s team down. The recreation of the logo already took a bit of the $180,000 budget because of the designers, so it hindered them from building the website.
Josh felt they have pulled away from their primary task and pushed towards the brand and design, which isn’t part of the deal. The remodeling of the logo was finally done, and the wife has over 25 different versions to choose from. Josh finally began designing the site, but they need to go through the wife for any changes, which is causing a hindrance in finishing the site as soon as possible.
Josh kept on calling for a meeting because the wife kept telling them that many things weren’t working from Josh and his team’s changes on the site. After tons of meetings, Josh and the wife finally get to some level of compromise with the direction of the homepage and a couple of other pages. It took a lot of months to work just on the website’s design. In fact, they already spent 4-5 months redesigning the website, which was a waste of time for Josh. It could have been quicker if the wife wasn’t a print artist because Josh could have freely made his changes without the wife’s opinions.
The wife called them to her office to discuss the website’s final design, so Josh and his team went to the wife’s office. They thought that there would already be a final decision for the website and could move forward, but when Josh entered the office, he saw many printed papers all over the wall. All of the website design pages were posted on the office walls so that they could see how long the pages are.
This was the time where Josh realized that the wife was never going to understand web design. For Josh, the wife was looking at the web design as if it was a magazine, and it was impossible to teach them the concept of web design given that they already lost 4-5 months on the design. There was no time to educate, so they just went with the flow again and moved forward.
It is challenging to work with someone who fundamentally doesn’t understand the new way of marketing. The basics of marketing are now more complex than how they did it back in the ’90s. For instance, SEO is a type of digital marketing strategy that allows your website to be at the top of google searches every time people ask a specific type of question. Some people underestimate the difficulty of search engine optimization, and some even think that they could call Google and pay them to put their website at the top of the search results.
As difficult as it may seem, Josh had no other choice but to continue working on the project. Josh also signed a contract with Mr. Lopez stating that the work would be finished once Josh already has developed the website, so he doesn’t have a choice but to push through with the project.
Going back to the website’s brand, Josh wasn’t sure who was their target audience. The decision for the brand design and the logo could have been quicker if they had a target audience, which they don’t. For Josh, it would be best to target the people in this generation because that is what digital marketing is all about.
But Mr. Lopez and his wife wanted to target the older people from their generation to raise their fame and popularity. It was beneficial for both of them. After all, the wife wants people from her generation to see how their website is growing, but Mr. Lopez intends to target the elderly since they are familiar with him. Once they remember who Mr. Lopez was, his popularity wouldn’t fade anymore. Josh didn’t have the confidence to tell both of them that it would be wiser to target the new generation because they are more active in social media. The website needs these new people because they are the ones who can determine if a website will fail or succeed.
Josh just let it slip for a while because he had another problem to deal with, and this time, it came from Mr. Lopez. He didn’t quite understand what would happen once he went out into the world of social media. But despite that thought, he still introduced himself to everyone, which was not a wise idea. Mr. Lopez was anti-vax, and he shared his opinions with the people on social media.
He wanted to share his sentiments that vaccines are not ideal and that your own body can cure anything. It was not a good idea because, during that time, John Oliver was quite trending because of his sentiment about vaccines. After that trend, Mr. Lopez shared his opinion about vaccines and said that John Oliver was wrong. He proudly shared that sentiment with many people who supported John Oliver and the importance of vaccines.
Mr. Lopez wreaked havoc on social media at that time, and many people were angry at him. There were young educated people who called him out, and we’re sharing their sentiments about how wrong Mr. Lopez was. The whole scenario was a complete setback to Josh’s goal of developing the website. Mr. Lopez just made it more difficult for them to market the website and develop it because people will no longer support Mr. Lopez’s website. However, that’s not even the worst part. Josh warned Mr. Lopez that it would evoke a lot of anger, and he would get bashed by a lot of people on social media.
But he still did it because, for him, a good controversy will make him famous again. That was how egotistical this person was. Mr. Lopez didn’t care if the hate would project onto his website, which would become more difficult for Josh to develop the website. Mr. Lopez even made it worse than it already is by commenting back to every person giving him negative comments. It came to the point where people started to look for his Google My Business and give it bad reviews.
Mr. Lopez’s Google My business went from 4 and a half stars down to 1.5 stars in just minutes. I mean, if that happened to Mr. Lopez’s Google My business, it could also happen to the website that they are still developing. If the people knew that the website is owned by Mr. Lopez, no matter how hard Josh and his team try to create the website, it would never be achievable because many people on the internet are mad at him, and they will never support the website.
It doesn’t end there. The problem with Mr. Lopez wasn’t even solved yet, and another problem came in. This time, the problem is from the tech guy. Josh discovered that there were systems upon systems that are connected to the website made by the tech guy. Josh still has to update all of the connected systems to the website before updating the website. Also, every single time somebody signs up for a seminar on the website, it will be processed first into a backend system.
Too many systems are attached to the website, and each system takes too much time to update. If only Josh did his research first and studied the website before agreeing to the project, he would have anticipated it already and possibly came up with a solution before they even started working. Another mistake that Josh made was that he lacked assumptions. So Josh, for the last time, explained to the three of them the process of developing a website. That conversation kept on happening, and it started to build a sense of distrust towards Josh and Mr. Lopez.
Next, the wife and Mr. Lopez wanted to have videos about them posted on their website.
Josh tried to explain that they are running out of time and the website is taking a back seat. Mr. Lopez and his wife tried to argue that videos are essential, all the while the tech guy has some helpful opinions that might get them to move forward. The tech guy is the solution to Josh’s problem because he was the most logical person among the three of them. The problem is that the tech guy can’t voice out his opinions because Mr. Lopez and his wife always have something to say. In Josh’s mind, if the tech guy can’t voice out, all of them will be stuck and will go back to branding and designing the website.
All of them will focus on creating videos, designing, blogging, basically branding. The tech guy, throughout the meeting, was outvoted, and he wasn’t given a chance to talk, so Josh and his team had no choice but to focus on branding and designing the website. When they began the branding, Josh and his team said they needed more scope and time to continue. They were consuming about 120 hours or about five days to create the videos and other branding strategies. Josh realized that they weren’t doing the task that they’re supposed to be working on. They became an hourly contract retainer, which was far from their actual job to develop the website.
5.If there are changes in the scope of your work, revisit the contract.
Because Mr. Lopez and his wife are pretty famous and Josh was still inexperienced, he wasn’t confident enough to voice out and say that the job that Mr. Lopez asked them to work on isn’t part of the deal anymore. It’s vital that we, in the business, stay within the parameters of our contract, especially for the task, deadline, specific rules, and other terms indicated.
The one contained in the contract is crucial, and you should concentrate on it since your attorneys will always use the contract as the foundation of their defense if something goes wrong with your connection with your client. If Josh had confidence during that time and reminded Mr. Lopez about the actual job stated in the contract, the situation might have been controlled.
To recall, the contract that Josh signed stated that they would finish developing the website in 1 year, right? This time, Josh and his team already spent seven months, and the only progress they made was a bunch of marketing videos. They only have five months left, and they are still far from modernizing the website. Josh and his team became content managers rather than website developers since they focused on branding and design. Mr. Lopez and his wife continued to question Josh about the branding, the videos, and how they would be translated into their target audience, among other topics.
Essentially, they have just built a blog for the website in seven months. Besides, the seven months they already spent were for nothing, and they also had another problem: the budget. They only had $60,000 left from their 180k budget. Five months and a $60,000 budget aren’t enough to build and develop the website anymore. So what Josh did was that he thought of how many more months they need to finish the project and how much extra budget they required. He came up with a solution of an additional six months and an additional $60,000 to finish the project. Josh had no choice but to say this to Mr. Lopez to complete what was inside the contract.
Josh called a meeting and spoke to Mr. Lopez on his terms. He told him that he needed more time and an additional $60,000 budget to get the job done. Mr. Lopez was shocked, and he replied, “An additional $60k? That’s ridiculous!” Then, suddenly, they paused the project and told Josh that they wanted to end it. Mr. Lopez wished to end the relationship with Josh, and the only thing they achieved was a blog with some videos and some content. In terms of developing the website, Josh and his team only achieved placing partial systems on the website because they were too busy on the wife’s variety of tasks that are unrelated to work. Josh was also too busy solving the problem that Mr. Lopez caused.
Josh stated, “They just paid $120,000 for a blog.” Josh wasn’t happy with his performance because they weren’t able to get the job done. But Josh was hoping that Mr. Lopez would consider the situation because it wasn’t all Josh’s fault. There were far too many non-essential tasks, such as the hundreds of meetings held to remake and create 25 various versions of the logo, the resolution of Mr. Lopez’s PR stunt, the upgrading of the system, video creations, and content creations, and so on.
Josh and Mr. Lopez got to the end of their relationship, and suddenly Mr. Lopez told Josh that they wanted the $35,000 back to them. Josh was shocked after hearing this from Mr. Lopez because after everything they did, the videos, logo, and everything else, they wanted Josh to pay $35,000 back. Even if Mr. Lopez and his wife knew they were the ones who consumed most of the time and money, they still did the cruelest act to Josh. Mr. Lopez wanted to tell Josh that they don’t care about that and it was their problem.
“The contract states that you have to develop our website in a year but you failed, so give us our $35,000 back,” Mr. Lopez reasoned. Josh tried to settle their problem in court, but the time and money they will spend in court and to their lawyer is twice the amount of money they needed to pay, so they just thought about a solution to the problem. After Josh and his team had a meeting among themselves, Josh told Mr. Lopez, “Hey, you messed up and we also messed up, here’s $20,000 to pay, how’s that sound?” Instead of $35,000, Josh gave them $20k and finally ended their relationship with that client.
The client-horror tale for today came to a close with that. For me, the lesson that really stood out in this story is valuing your expertise and showing it to your clients. Flaunting your work efficiency and being upfront on what you expect from your client’s actions are vital steps when dealing with these types of clients. And of course, money shouldn’t blind you from the foreseeing trouble. Josh’s story has a lot of valuable lessons for us to learn. Make a mental note of the red signs and respond promptly if you notice them yourself.
This article was based upon episode #9, please watch the complete episode here.