This is probably one of the posts I’d like to have translated into Spanish because I am so grateful for the experience.

I joined Clevernet in January, 2005. For the first 9 months, Uli and I basically worked as independed consultants helping each other out with proposals, but billing independently.

About 9 months later (September, 2005), I wrote a business “vision” document (PDF, 88 KB) to try and provide us with some guidance and direction as a team rather than just thrashing about trying to keep our heads above water and not really getting anywhere. Yes, we’re posting something many companies would consider sacred. We don’t believe it contains much more than common sense, though, so I don’t believe we’re giving away the farm by doing this.

In December, 2005 (one year ago) I saw an ad on TV for something called Gran Canaria Emprende. It’s a free training program for entrepeneurs. In fact, it’s better than free: at least one of the participants ends up 5,000€ richer and the rest at least 1,000 through government subsidies. Add to that the fact that you can learn as much as you want (for the following 2 years) and it seems like a bit of a dream come true.

Not much of a difference between “earn” and “learn”

Participantes y Efrén

The program was run by a small team of specialists out of an office by the same name (Gran Canaria Emprende) and run by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, a government office with jurisdiction over the island of Gran Canaria (the “Cabildo” corresponds approximately to a county government). Each island has its own Cabildo.

Lots of participants

The program starts around the end of January and runs for about 4 months. It consists of about 9 hours of class per week plus 2 hours of private consultation. There are two “modules” to the program:

  • Módulo de creación (“Start-up” module for businesses that have not yet incorporated)
  • Módulo de consolidación (“Consolidation” module for businesses that have incorporated but within the last two years)

We signed up for the Consolidation module having incorporated just short of 2 years prior. Each week, roughly, we studied a different topic related to consolidating a business:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Legal Questions
  • Technology
  • Accounting (wonderful)
  • Environmental Issues
  • More…

And the final paper was a Consolidation Plan (in Spanish, PDF 464 KB). Yes, we’re posting a mildly edited version of our consolidation plan. Please don’t laugh too hard.

At the end of the program, the consultants (the trainers) are all available for free consultation for the next two years. I even have their cell phone numbers. Wow!

Search Engine Optimization

More participants

During the course there was one week where we didn’t have a class planned and we weren’t on vacation. I offered to give a talk on Search Engine Optimization. It met with some success. I was then asked to give the same talk at the Día del Emprendedor event organized by the Consejería de Economía y Hacienda del Gobierno de Canarias. That too appeared to be successful but I’m waiting for an opportunity to do it again. Any takers?

Día del emprendedor

I was also fortunate enough to have been invited to a start-up mash-up held at the University of Las Palmas and organized by the Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias, S.A.. It was a good exercise, a bit like speed-dating for entrepreneurs, which forced me to “hone” my sales pitch (which is difficult when you don’t have a specific product you’re selling) but hasn’t, as yet, led to any sales. My (empty) chair is on the right-hand side of the picture, with my laptop open on the table.

Encuentro empresarial

The end of an era

We’re now nearing the end of the execution of the consolidation plan. Things have definitely improved inside Clevernet. We have a clearer division of labor and some standard business processes are in place, but we’re struggling with the creation/sales and marketing of our products, and we also still struggle with time-management (we spend too much time talking things out rather than doing a quick analysis and drawing a conclusion, right or wrong).

In spite of the risk involved, we’ve decided to post the vision document, the consolidation plan, and a candid view inside the company for two reasons:

  1. Link bait (to help drive traffic to our sites – generates business leads)
  2. Community building (we’d like input from people in similar situations, including our clients, we really, really want to succeed)

At present we have more work than we can do alone (so we’re doing something right) and are actively recuiting an experienced Web Developer (which would bring the total staff to 4 – 100% increase in just one year). However, the consulting business seems to max out at around 20 people and we’d like to turn the corner to selling products as soon as possible. Your input, especially if you’ve read the vision document and consolidation plan, may be very helpful.

A word about my business partner, Ulrich Schlegel

In closing, I’d like to point out that Uli is one of the best Windows Administrators that I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with quite a few. I’m very confident in his abilities and if a team of technicians ever had a chance at success in this situation, it would have to be us.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this long post (and the documents) and we hope you find the information useful.

And thank you Spain (el Cabildo en particular) for giving us this opportunity to succeed!

My business partner, Ulrich Schlegel, is from Essen, Germany and when I joined the company in 2004, I was taking German at the State Language School of Spain. When practicing my German, I found myself saying “meine firma” quite frequently. Later on, when planning this blog, I thought that that might be a nice way to communicate the multi-cultural nature of running a company here in the Canary Islands (which has a fairly high number of foreigners, Germans in particular).

[English]

At Clevernet we set up a Google Custom Search Engine that only searches web sites run by the Spanish government. This can be very useful for finding “official” resources.

http://www.clevernet.biz/encontrar.htm

[Español]

Aquí en Clevernet, lanzamos un buscador personalizado de Google que restringe las búsquedas a las webs de las administraciones públicas del gobierno español (y las autonomías, provincias, etc.). El buscador facilita la búsqueda de recursos de fuentes “oficiales”.
http://www.clevernet.biz/encontrar.htm

From time to time I’ll be posting pictures and experiences of my life here on the island. The goal is to give you a sense of what it is like to live here, nearly 100 miles of the coast of Africa.

Don Pedro and one of his daughters, Carmelina

Don Pedro

Don Pedro passed away this year. He was 101 years old, on the brink of turning 102. He is survived by about 11 children. His wife passed away 30+ years ago. He was my neighbor for the first two years here and told me stories of swimming in rivers and riding bareback in Cuba in 1921. He was a veterinarian but, like most people living on the island, raised animals to help get by. With 11 children, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. He will be missed.

Pragmatism abounds

sweeping the street

One thing I’ve learned living here is to be far more conservative than I’ve ever been living in the U.S. Living on an island you’re much more aware of acute shortages, or potential shortages, than living on the mainland. This causes people to be very pragmatic. In this picture the woman is using a palm leaf to sweep the ground. In my personal life I’ve learned to turn the water off in the shower while I soap up, turn off the lights if I am not using them at that very moment, buy just enough food for the foreseeable future (so it doesn’t go to waste), and more (but I can’t remember at this time).

Yes, I’m right next to Africa

unusual bug

Having lunch at my in-laws one day we found this funny bug making a home on some flowers. I’ve seen bugs like this in magazines but never in person. He looks like a friendly fellow, but is clearly unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the U.S., which just reminds me the African continent is a mere 80 miles east.

Making do: funny translations

funny translation from spanish to englishchicken food to take away

A huge part of the economy is English-speaking tourism. I choose to believe that these signs are tongue-in-cheek, but they may also be another sign of people with limited resources doing the best they can to get by. After all, I think any native speaker gets the intent of the message…

Breakfast for Lunch at Dinner

breakfast for lunch at dinner

Mmmmmm…. The main meal in Spain is eaten between 2 and 3 PM. This meal, which seems more like breakfast to me, was served around lunch time, but since it is the main meal, it seems more like dinner. Thus, breakfast for lunch at dinner 😉

Bad Drivers 1: No Turn on Red

right on red is prohibited

In Spain it is illegal to turn right on red. It is also illegal to stop inside an intersection. Need I say more?

Bad Driver 2: Just leave it anywhere

parked in the intersection

This driver is parked in the intersection (illegal), but at least he’s not in the crosswalk!

Because there is no accord between Spain and Illinois, it turns out that I have to get a driver’s license from scratch. For most Americans this won’t seem like a big deal, but here it is. It costs at least $400 dollars, requires passing an exam with 40 questions (you can only miss 4) and taking a driver’s test. It also requires getting a certificate of health from a doctor, and the test questions are really, really hard; nothing like what we have in the U.S.

This would lead one to believe that drivers here are extremely well qualified. Nevertheless, as these pictures show, this is not the case. Do I seem bitter? 😉

Llegué a Gran Canaria hace casi tres años ya. Desde entonce he estado trabajando principalmente para clientes en Estados Unidos. Bueno, en realidad, sólamente para clientes en Estados Unidos (hasta hace poco).

Hace un par de meses nos pidieron un presupuesto para una web para unos búngalows en el sur de la isla. La intención de los dueños era promover el alquiler de los búngalows con una web informativa y relativamente sencilla sin demasiada interactividad (pero sí un formulario para hacer “reservas”). Trabajamos un montón preparándoles un presupuesto; se revisó 5 veces, detallamos todas las condiciones y exenciones, etc. Le metimos un montón de horas…

Cuando finalmente les pasamos el presupuesto con una factura proforma, su reacción era: “Esto no es barato.” No solo era barato, sino venía con garantías de posicionamiento en Google y los demás buscadores; algo que puede costar facilmente 1.000 euros en sí. No sé con quién terminaron trabajando al final. Quizás nunca lo sabré.

Esta mañana me mandaron un artículo sobre un concurso público para llevar el “mantenimiento” de la web de la Consejería de Medioambiente del Gobierno de Canarias. El autor del artículo critica a la consejería diciendo que ofrecía demasiado dinero. Aquí les señalo el Boletín Oficial donde aparece publicado el concurso, el pliego de cláusulas administrativas particulares, y pliego de Prescripciones Técnicas.

Lo he leído todo con sumo interés ya que posiblemente me podría aprovechar, pero no podrá ser ya que las Prescripciones Técnicas superan la capacidad de nuestra empresa. De todas formas, hicimos unos cálculos para ver si realmente se pasaban con la oferta o no.

Las Prescripciones Técnicas requieren que 2 personas se dediquen 100% al proyecto y que el jefe del proyecto se dedique un 15%. 1700 horas por 2 (cada pesona puede trabajar aproximadamente 1700 horas en un año) = 3400 horas.

Una hora de un trabajador le cuesta a la empresa entre 15 y 25 euros por un profesional de formación normal (sumando el sueldo, impuestos, seguridad social, seguros anti-riesgos laborales, equipamiento, etc.).

Multiplica 20 euros por 3400 horas y te quedas en 68.000 euros. De los otros 12.000 euros que sobran, habría que pagar el 15% del sueldo del jefe del proyecto y “otros gastos” que se realizarían como consequencia de este contrato. O sea, no me parece a mí particularmente excesivo.
También hay que tener en cuenta las otras restricciones tecnológicas:

  • Programación en Java J2EE
  • Servidor controlado por terceras partes con acceso posiblmente muy limitado
  • Integración con sistemas totalmente desconocidos (por mí, por lo menos)
  • Cumplimiento automatizado con la LOPD
  • Hay que seguir un procedimiento muy estricto de publicación de contenidos, etc.

Vamos, poca cosa no es y la idea que los informáticos (webmasters en particular) no valen el dinero ofrecido es algo más que ofensivo.

Para contestar la pregunta original (¿Cuánto vale una web profesional?), hay que saber, y entender, las características requeridas por el cliente. Si el cliente no sabe qué está pidiendo, pues, haré lo que pueda para informarle pero no le voy a explicar cómo funciona el motor ya que su propósito es llegar a su destino (cogiendo la metáfora de la venta de un coche).

Le recomiendo al autor del artículo criticando la consejería que contrate a cualesquiera de las empresas indicadas más abajo si lo único que le interesa es una web barata. Encontré la primera de estas hojas bajo el limpiaparabrisas de nuestro coche y el otro en un bar.
Espíritu emprendedor
Mejor emprendedor, pero no sé...