A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: 7/19/13

Lemons to Lemonade

Perspectives on our website rebuild
Last week, AIE did an emergency website rebuild when our old site was lost in a backup error. Ben and Jeremy offer their thoughts and lessons from the situation.

Benjamin Wills

Well, I single-handedly destroyed our new website that had been up for only 3 months. Not bad for a veteran IT engineer. I won't bore anyone with the details — let’s just say labeling the live Drupal database “DRP_TEST1” is not a best practice nomenclature. Our second best practice should have been assigning the job of backing up the site to someone in our company.

Forget the sunk cost.

In the end, after the crying was done, we were faced with getting a website back up quickly and efficiently. The previous site took 6 months of working with the intern and our administrator to create an appealing, informational and cohesive site. The first thing in my mind was to forget the sunk cost! Too many business leaders still fall prey to this problem.

Second, evaluate opportunity costs.

How much money are we losing because we don’t have a good site up immediately? This is another common fault of the typical IT business decisions I see. I knew that as an IT company, our website was going to be a critical “cover of a book” experience for new clients. We have good engineers, but if we don’t have a great initial look, we may never get the follow-up call from potential clients.

Third, my gut said to go better than the last site.

I did not know the cost, but if I were going to make lemonade from these lemons, I wanted to explore what we really wanted in our website.  I came to find out that the destroyed website was good, but was not completely what our team was looking to do.

We did get lemonade, and the fresh kind at that! We found a local, Chicago-based website host that pointed us to a cutting-edge product, making it a 5-day process to get to a website that is so much better than the last.  Everyone smiles about the new site, and we actually got what we wanted from the get-go.

Did we spend money to get the good stuff?  Yes, but not crazy money — just money we would have NOT spent unless we were in the clutch.  Would I spend that money again in a normal situation and not the fire drill? Probably not. 

But, I am now fully aware of how our money-saving-centric decisions during normal operations have probably been holding us back from becoming a great company.

Saving money is not a bad thing, but if it is your first priority in choosing technologies to leverage, you are already relegating your business to the greater mediocrity.

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Jeremy Wills

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

In some ironic way, I find it fitting that this is the first “perspective” blog post I am writing. I say this because the birth of our company came from the unexpected death of two jobs at the same time — mine and Ben’s.

I started my technical career back in the late 90’s working alongside Ben at an IT company. One evening, after a rather difficult time at the office, Ben and I sat down at a coffee shop and scripted out a rough draft of an IT company we wanted to start. We felt like we would have all of the founding pieces between us to make a go at it. The problem was that our livelihoods could never align just right. So, the dream fizzled and life went on.

Until, a decade later, we both lost our jobs in the same month.

Talk about alignment! Needless to say, we decided it was the perfect time to get the band back together. 

Last week, we found ourselves in panic mode again.

With the fortuitous deletion of our website last week, we were scrambling to rebuild our online presence. In many respects, there was reason to be discouraged. We lost our immediate presence, rolled back our (rather laughable) predecessor of a website, and lost our SEO rankings we had worked so hard to build. Not pretty.

And here we are, one week later, with almost our entire site back online. 

As we reflect back on this short week, we have much to be thankful for throughout this process. We found a local partner, in our same town, whom we can trust. We now have a platform that is much more easy for us to build upon. Our site is now fully compatible and friendly regardless of who is browsing and on what device.  And, we thankfully still retained all of our individual page content, allowing us to erect the site much more quickly. In fact, since we had just completed our former “new” site back in March, we were very adept at navigating through a site build-out, which proved very useful for this round. 

So, in the end, what appeared to be a tragic experience turned out to be yet another life lesson in making lemonade.

This phrase, “lemons to lemonade,” found its origin in 1915, as it was appropriately penned in an obituary for the dwarf actor, Marshall Pinckney Wilder. In spite of the fact that fate handed Wilder his disabilities, he embraced them with an infectious positive outlook and achieved much with his gifts of humor and acting.

It's fascinating to reflect back on what has taken place in just this short week, now looking at our beautiful (opinion) lemonade-stand