What Happens If Your Web Developer Dies? And Other Such Musings.

Listen to this episode.

I’D Like To Ask You A Series Of Questions.

Do you have a child? If so, can you produce your child’s birth certificate within a reasonable amount of time?

Do you own a vehicle? Is so, can you produce the registration for that vehicle in a reasonable amount of time?

Do you own a home or a condo? Can you produce your deed or governing documents in a reasonable about of time?

Are you married? Do you have a degree? Can you produce your marriage certificate or diploma in a reasonable amount of time?

Do you run a business? It’s doesn’t have to be a 50 person operation. Answer “yes” even if you run a single person business. Can you produce your articles of incorporation within a reasonable amount of time? How about your tax paperwork? Can you produce that in a reasonable amount of time?

Ok. So that’s my set up and here’s what I’m getting to. Life, both business and personal, requires us to maintain official stuff. That stuff is important to the preservation and growth or our personal and business lives. For example, in the event of a hurricane that damages your home, you should be able to produce your homeowner’s insurance. In the event of an IRS audit of your business, the same applies to your tax work.

While we may disagree on what a reasonable amount of time is, we can agree that having access to these documents is important.

Let’s go further. What if someone took your deed or tax papers or birth certificates and you no longer had access to them? Would you be happy about that? Would you think it a prudent personal or business decision?

The Flood

Let me share story. Many years ago, the water heater in my house blew. My wife and I woke up the next morning to a flood that ended up reducing our entire first floor to the bare studs. To make matters worse, because I live in a townhouse, there was a dispute over whose insurance policy covered what aspect of the disaster. Did my personal insurance cover the rugs? Did the townhouse association insurance cover the floor boards?

It was a big mess.

But my wife and I were methodical. We keep a fire and water proof safe with all of our important documents. We tore through our documentation and made sure to understand every line of our insurance and our governing documents. As a result, we ended up correcting both my personal insurance company as well as the association insurance company on what was and was not covered and what we were entitled to.

That’s a big deal.

If we hadn’t been that methodical, we wouldn’t have been covered properly.

Documentation Is Important

I’ve shared these analogies with businesses that I’ve come into contact with and almost universally they agree with the sentiment that having proper documentation and an understanding of your rights and obligations is important.

Up until the discussion shifts to marketing.

Almost every business I came in contact with in 2014 had no idea where or how their business domain name was registered. In fact, we gained a few clients by virtue of the fact that their domain expired and they had no contact information or understanding of how to get it renewed.

Another subset of relationships I built in 2014 was with people who were paying vendors such as web developers or marketers but had no contract or work agreement. They simply paid and had no expectation of what they were to get in return.

In one case, a prospect of ours was paying three different companies for email services even though they owned their own mail server.

This was the theme of 2014.

Businesses were smart about their insurance, taxes and paperwork up until it came to their marketing. When it came to marketing, writing checks without a hint of understanding what that money was for was just another day at the office. When disaster struck, no one knew anything about anything.

And then came the anger. The fury.

Every business that I saw go through a catastrophe in 2014 took the same posture.

“I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Whose fault is this?”

So? Whose fault is it?

There is a very short and blunt answer. It’s your fault.

You can’t blame anyone for not having contracts or receipts or certificates or documentation. Your business is your obligation. When you abandon that obligation and things turn out poorly, you can blame someone else all you want, but ultimately it was a fate of your making.

So what now? How can businesses make 2015 different? Here’s a short list of things that you should do before the end of January to assure business continuity and peace of mind in the new year.

Audit your domain name. Your domain name should be registered to you. Period. No one should ever tell you that it’s easier for your domain name to be registered to them. It’s simply a lie.

Also, make sure that the routing of your domain name is under your control. You can give outside vendors access to make modifications, but in the event of a falling out, you should not be beholden to them for how your domain routes. This means taking control of your name server. It’s technical, but here’s the part that matters. If your vendor tells you that your name server needs to reside with them, they are either lying or don’t know better.

We talked about this on our podcast and it’s worth a listen if this is you.

Get a contract. A lot of times when I ask, “What does your contract say?” I hear, “We don’t have one.”

Here’s the fact: Just because you didn’t have a contract in the beginning doesn’t mean you can’t have a contract now. If your vendor balks at the suggestion, thank them and tell them that you won’t be paying any more fees until you have a clear agreement in writing. You’ll be surprised how quickly that happens.

While we’re on the subject, your contract shouldn’t have line items like “maintenance” or “SEO.” That doesn’t mean anything to you. Your agreements should be clear to you as well as to your vendor.

Get insured. What happens if your vendor screws up and you get sued? What then?

Understand that most marketing professionals whether they are web developers, search marketers or marketing and sales coaches do not need to have certifications or insurance. It’s simply not mandated by law. That’s why so many people can say “I’m a web designer” without the slightest bit of experience to back that up.

We provide our clients with a certificate of insurance to prove to them that we are formally in business, but more importantly that we mean business.

And by the way, if you are reading this and you run a business and you don’t have insurance: change that. Immediately. There are countless ways for you to be sued or stolen from and harmed. If you have no protection, then… well, you have no protection.

Create a business continuity plan. What happens if your web developer dies or goes out of business? What if your web developer is arrested and all of their assets including the server with all your data is seized? What if your web developer is a jerk? What’s your plan when things go south?

Don’t have one? Well that’s just dumb.

In our Marketing Game Changer Kit, we have a downloadable business continuity plan that will help get you started. You should download that now. It won’t cost you money. Just subscribe and it’s yours.

Beyond this, there’s probably lots more you can do for your business, but I don’t know your specific needs.

If you need help or think you can’t perform this kind of audit on your own, contact me. My business offers auditing services. You keep your vendor, but we work as your advocate to make sure that everything you are paying for is truly operating in your best interest.

Ralph M. Rivera
Hi, I'm Ralph! I'm a web developer at Rahvalor Interactive, a creative marketing services company that I founded in 1999 with my wife and business partner Carol Lynn. In January 2012 we created Web.Search.Social as a branded service offering that brings enterprise-level services to small businesses in an affordable way. I'm also founder and CTO of Podcaster's Toolbox, a SaaS platform designed to help podcasters plan, produce and promote their shows. I teach web development at Manhattan College in New York City. Carol Lynn and I are home based near the Jersey shore but we're currently location independent and traveling the country for a year, working and podcasting. I'm also trying to build a flux capacitor, but that's not going as well as the other stuff I do.
Ralph M. Rivera
Ralph M. Rivera
  • A refreshing take on insurance (not to selfishly promote my current industry). As a person who peddles insurance, it always says a lot about a potential client when he or she understands that having insurance isn’t simply a necessity (and not just a necessity when someone forces their hand with a contractual insurance requirement). It’s also a sign that risk management, being circumspect, having a plan, and generally being professional are high priorities. The potential for accidental negligence around libel, slander, copyright infringement, etc. seems like it would be a huge exposure in any vendor/client relationship in the marketing world.