Cash Rules Everything Around Me



Are you running your business strictly for the money?

Let me put it this way: If we’re building a business for financial freedom that affords us the opportunity to enjoy life — should we focus on the money?

Why not, right?

Money pays off the mortgage, which in turn allows us to spend more money on travel. While we’re traveling we need money to eat, so I better start making more money. Oh and also, we’ll need money to buy new clothes or flip flops for all of these vacations we’re going on. Maybe a new laptop bag?

More money.

It’s an honest way of looking at things and it’s fairly black and white to me.

Until I met “Suzanne.” (That’s the name I’ll give her for the rest of this post).

See, Suzanne does it strictly for the money. Like, “I’m in this market because I can exploit the high margins and they don’t know any better” kind of scenario. Her words, not mine.

5 minutes into my chat with her I knew my “doing it for the money” was different than hers.

That moment when you meet someone you can’t stand

From time to time, I’ll stumble upon other “tech startups” in my small hometown.

When I do it’s exciting to find someone else living the dream. I’ll reach out to them to talk shop, see if there’s anyway we can align services and generally get to know my fellow colleague. The game isn’t easy, so let’s see how we can help one another.

Heck, it’s what I do all day long on the Matt Report right?

I usually find like minded entrepreneurs, but meeting Suzanne was a whole new experience.

You would think I would be decencitized to this behavior coming from the car industry. I guess I perceive tech entrepreneurs as people who are out there trying to make a difference and change the world with their product/service. Doing it for the passion that fuels the creative engine of our industry.

I guess I was wrong.

One day a colleague sent me a link, “Hey, did you know about this place?” Linking me to the website that Suzanne operates.

Never did, so I did my normal introduction e-mail, that went like this:

Hi Suzanne,

I operate a WordPress design and development shop just down the road from you. Nice to find someone else in the same relative “space” in our hometown!

Wondering if you would be interested in chatting over coffee sometime? Hope to talk to you soon.

That’s it.

The response I received:

“Can you explain what you mean?”

I should have hit the eject button here.

1. I thought I was pretty clear with my opening e-mail. If you think I’m out to pitch you some ridiculous service, think how many cold calls you get from Premium WordPress agencies. Not many right?
2. You’re a startup. I assume you consider yourself an entrepreneur. Have you never reached out to someone to aide in developing your business or to discover new opportunity?
3. Really?

Maybe I’m overreacting, but at any rate, I respond with my intents and a bit more about me. We schedule a meeting for the following week at her business because “she’s really busy during the day” — so am I and the rest of the world.

The meeting

She’s located in your typical commercial space with many offices, floors and doors to knock on.

Couldn’t find a clear sign so I had e-mailed her 5 minutes before the meeting and received a response about 15 minutes later. Don’t worry, I found it.

I walk in and there’s folks moving about the offices. The place is busy. Legit I’d say, good for her.

I arrive at her office door and knock but she’s meeting with someone. I get the half smile and index finger to the sky as to instruct me to hold my position.

Roger that.

They’re discussing what seems to be some employee issue, so I wait. I wait some more and then a bit more.

Finally she flags me in.

“Hey Matt, sorry I totally forgot about our meeting.”

She’s in her yoga outfit and sipping on what looks to be a freshly squeezed cucumber and kale juice mix. It’s 10:45 AM. Yummy.

Hey you’re the boss, that’s a perfectly respectable time to get your day started!

The meeting begins.

The exploitable business

So I’ll save you the boring details of our talk that lasted 30 minutes and I won’t expose her industry to save any reverse social engineering one could do to pinpoint her.

Either way, she explained her super fast growth in this space because it’s a high margin business and her client’s don’t know any better.

We went into other specifics of the products and services she offers and it was clear she had no intention of doing things “right” — because she didn’t care and apparenty neither did the customers.


I couldn’t help but think she really doesn’t care like I care.

We put a lot of effort into our work and we want client’s to succeed. I don’t know if I should have been offended or scared of the blatant unconcern she had for her customers and her reputation.

Again, I come from the auto industry where I saw some places with some serious lack in customer relations.

But as I looked around and listened to her story, I couldn’t help but think, “It’s working for her.”

Is money freedom?

Maybe I could do things differently with my business?

Perhaps I shouldn’t go that extra mile because it doesn’t pay. Maybe we shouldn’t offer consulting to businesses that need web marketing help. I should just spin up a WordPress assembly line whipping together website after website.

More customers, higher volume, faster growth.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Not every client fits our perfect mold of the service process. They ask questions, they can’t produce content, miss evaluation milestones and pay invoices late.

It’s the nature of the beast.

On this very podcast, we talk about how to manage these scenarios and prepare for the ebbs and flows of the business.

So at the end of the day, are we limited in our growth because of this?

Is the WordPress service industry always going to drag the proverbial anchor. Ultimately, can you build your WordPress business to the scale of Suzanne’s and her 10AM arrival after yoga class?

Do you want to?

The realization

I had those thoughts, just like we all have.

“I could just outsource this stuff and charge my client’s US rates.”


But I enjoy my client’s as hard as it is for some of them to fully embrace technology. I love the tight-knit team I’ve recruited over the years all working with the passion to be the best and produce awesome software.

I enjoy organic growth because it allows me to make mistakes I can recover from, learn from and ultimately become a more well rounded human being.

“Those who die with the most toys still die.”

…as my friend Brian Gardner reminded me.

So maybe this post was just one big rant and I probably lost most readers at the headline, but if you’re still with me, why do you do what you do?

Tell us in the comments, I look forward to the conversation.

image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP





13 responses to “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”

  1. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” That’s a motto I try and live by. Sure, she’s having success now, but how long will it last? Is she building a future, or a quick way to make a buck? It’s a funny thing about reputations, it takes a lifetime to build a good one, but only a day to destroy it.

    At the end of the day, we’ve all got to make a profit or we can’t continue to stay in business. But if you’re not serving the customer, and doing your very best for them, you won’t stay in business for long.

    Just my $0.02 worth!

  2. What a story! She sucks, and obviously has no respect for other people’s time, money or intelligence.

    Since particulars were rightfully omitted, it’s hard to say with 100% conviction, but I have to image that by attracting and working with “people that don’t know any better,” she’s probably getting some bad clients. People that other designers and devs turned down because they recognized the challenge ahead and didn’t want to increase rates to compensate for that extra attention they will require and the headaches. That may even help justify her rates.

    But the good clients that I enjoy working with are the ones that aren’t clueless about their business and how they want things done. If she’s just taking advantage of the clients that can’t see what she’s doing, that’s sowing a crop of serious hurt down the road. Personally, I enjoy working with people and companies I have respect for, and hopefully there is some mutuality with that. “One and done” is a hard business model to sustain, doing what we do.

  3. I’ve seen this play out in my home town as well. Some companies are around to turn and burn. I like to think of myself more of a craftsman even if I don’t deserve that title right now. I’m striving to build something I’m proud of and I believe that it’s possible to be profitable and build great stuff.

  4. Joan Boluda Avatar
    Joan Boluda

    Every single business sector has Suzannes. It’s a shame, but there is nothing we can do about it. Just keep doing our good work. What goes around comes around.

  5. Very good article, and supportive comments. I’ve seen very similar scenarios continue to develop in my geographic area as well, and get many potential clients with subsequent “horror stories” and “pain points” as a result of similar “developers.

    1. Thanks David, glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Matt, how do you work with customers/clients who have worked with unprofessional “developers,” gotten very bad results (cheap websites that no one can update and look bad) and are angry and resentful as a result? My biggest issue has been clients who have good intentions but no budget, don’t know how to value professional web development or have had negative experiences with unprofessional developers like the one you reference in the article. I know a “Suzanne” locally who’s very popular, and regularly hear from those who’d worked with her, want their websites fixed or redone, but are now angry over what happened and feel (justifiably) burned.

    I want to differentiate myself locally as a quality developer, focused on long-term usability, working with businesses focused on growth, and known for quality and integrity, but it’s tough when the “Suzannes” are getting patronage.


    How to break from the “Suzanne” popularity and her unhappy clients that increase in number?
    How to reach clients who value professional web design on limited marketing budgets?
    How to become known locally as a developer focused on business growth, quality, and integrity?

    1. I’ll offer my solution when I get a client that’s unhappy with previous developers/designers, for what it’s worth. Client education and very deliberate expectation-setting usually take me far. When I take the time to explain what I’m doing in simple terms, whether the client knows what I’m talking about or not, seems to make them feel a little more at ease. If they’re kept in the loop, it’s hard for them to freak out by sudden or major unpleasant surprises, if any. I don’t make them promises I can’t keep just to get business. And if they are REALLY unhappy with prior devs, and I can see that it’s because they are a high-maintenance client that is just impossible to make happy, I’l adjust my rates or recommend them to someone else.

      Some ways to reach clients with limited budgets would be to post your work on Envato’s Microlancer, write some great evergreen articles on your biz site and SEO them up to attract the sort of client you want. Then set up your evergreen articles on a plugin to tweet out every few hours. Articles like “How to get professional web design results on a budget” and similar content.

      The last part, to be known as a local dev that has a sharp focus on growth, quality and integrity, just takes time and diligent work. It takes actually getting out into the community and shaking hands and building your brand and reputation.

      All of this works best, incidentally, with a well-constructed and well-executed marketing plan. Without that to follow, it’s going to be a lot of frustration and going around in circles.

      1. First of all, thanks for your insightful comments. I think you hit the nail on the proverbial head.
        The marketing plan is the heart of it, ultimately, and I think focusing on great design and being able to do it all, leaves the marketing aspect lacking. This is key and I think why Matt’s podcast is so popular.
        I’m still building connections with local marketing agencies and other developers, which I think are part of most one-man shops’ marketing strategies.

  7. Matt I love the internal debate you have with yourself in this article. My partner and I have said so many times over the 15 years (!) we’ve been doing this, “we care too much!” wondering if our clients know the degree to which we toil over every little detail. In the end, that’s who we are – we can only do it one way and I guess that’s why so many of our clients are so loyal to us. We’ve had many clients for well over a decade and we truly care about their businesses. And it makes you a better marketer because you’re seeking out what will make the difference.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story here Kelly, I appreciate it! I was a bit torn wether or not I should post it as it could have been taken as just a rant. It’s resonated with a lot of folks in our field so it serves as a good indicator that we’re not alone.

  8. Rant or not, this was a great one and an important topic. We are a community of professionals. Unfortunately, some like Suzanne give us all a baf rap. I feel sorry for her clients – and for her, a bit – but if they’re hapoy with what they’re getting, then so be it, I guess. It’s more important to me to be happy witg the work I do and a huge part of that is having happy customers. I want them to be happy with the products and services I provide them, I want it to be tailored to their specific need (once we sit down and clearly define that need), and I want their endeavors to be successful – it continues to bring me business (that’s the practical, business thinking), but it also makes me feel good about the work I’m doing. If I’m not hapoy and excited to get up in the morning to do that work, then why am I doing it?

    1. Agreed Phil! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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