The last ice man standing makes a killing

I’ve been doing a lot of reading during my recent trans-continental flights and during that reading, I was introduced to the concept of the last ice man.  (I think it was through an article on the inflight magazine for the airline, but I didn’t steal the magazine so I can’t be certain.)

Basically, the idea is that back in the early 1900’s there were a LOT of ice men who delivered ice on a regular basis to provide refrigeration to turn of the century households.  Then came  electricity and the electrically powered refrigerator… and many of the ice men went out of business.  However, in every town  one ice man survived because there were still people who needed ice delivered on a regular basis.  It was truly an example of survival of the fittest and the ice man who found himself the last one standing, found himself in a lucrative position.

I ‘m beginning to see a similar situation when it comes to “web developers”.  In the past two weeks, I’ve been contacted by several businesses both big and small in desperate need of a web developer.   When Amber called from a local ad agency last week, she told a story I’ve heard multiple times before.  They contracted with a web developer to develop a site.  No, she didn’t know what language the site was being used and she didn’t know the functionalities that the web site was supposed to provide.  What she did know was her company had promised the client a launch date of tomorrow (this call took place exactly a week ago yesterday) and they needed something done quickly.  They thought their contracted web developer was working on the site, but apparently he had not done anything on the project.

I’m getting a lot more of these types of contact.  “Help!  My web developer has quit doing web sites!”  “Help!  My web site is down and no one is answering their phones!”

If I were a wet behind the ears kind of developer with a Pollyanna attitude, I could launch into the “That dastardly doer!  That poor innocent ad agency hired him to do a job and he isn’t doing it.”  However, experience tells me that there’s more to the story.  Amber’s inability to give me pertinent information about the web site tells me a LOT about what the developer was given to do the job.  If she knows NOTHING about the web site, why is she scheduling the meetings and asking for quotes?

To paint a word picture, her call to me was as if I called a car dealer and said, “I need a car.”  If I were asked what type of car I needed, I would answer that I didn’t know.  Did I need a van, a car, or a truck?  Again, I don’t know.  How many people would this car be transporting?  Oh, the average number of people.

Sure, there are flaky so called “web developers” out there… and they have provided a nice flow of incoming work for me.   However, I’ve been in business long enough to know that the client who arrives at my door crying, “My last web developer was so MEAN!  He/she/it just quit working on my site for NO REASON!” is a client who soon will be telling someone else how horrid I am because I finally said, “ENOUGH!”

Did the ad agency’s developer quit because the job was too big and the pay too small?  Did he quit because his emails requesting vital information went unanswered?  Or did he quit working on the project because he didn’t posses the skills needed to build the site?   I wish I had gotten his name from Amber so I could ask him myself.