In the very beginning, we originally started off with contracting our services full-time to clients for a lowballing monthly rate, but we made the fatal mistake of being too scared to negotiate set black and white goals before we were legally bound by contract.
There was nothing wrong with our business model in theory, except for the prices we would charge for the amount of services that we would render—which had no limit.
Consequentially, our work/life balance was quickly destroyed; it defied the laws of economics that an entire team would be contracted for what was too low of a flat monthly price, with no clear finish line for the client’s dreams and expectations within a single year. We would charge only $300 per month, but clients would often demand $15,000 worth of work, and hold us legally accountable.
This wasn’t their fault; it was completely ours, for being so inexperienced with contracts, as young college students with innocently benevolent will, naively believing that clients wouldn’t try to take advantage of us, simply because we weren’t trying to take advantage of them. We were so focused on being a trustworthy company, that we had forgotten that we too could (and would) be taken advantage of if we left ourselves vulnerable enough to be.
In our semi-annual and annual contracts, there were no clarified black and white lines defining success and failure for us within any given fiscal year; therefore, the client could have always argued, by technicality, that we had done a bad job—even if we had, in actuality, broken our backs for sleepless nights on end in order to achieve herculean tasks in unrealistic time frames that other Internet marketing firms would have laughably not accepted as possible, assigned by clients who either didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand what was pragmatic for the budget that they were providing us to work with.
For what some clients were demanding, we would have needed to charge thousands of dollars per month (or more) in order to maintain sustainability, with a controlled growth of client-to-teammate ratio…but we weren’t. The logic of our business plan lacked one critical premise: when there is no set goal in writing, there is no such thing as a fully satisfied client.
We learned the hard way, that if we didn’t negotiate the rules of a zero-sum game, tailor-made for each client, before the respective contract was signed, it would be impossible to fully satisfy and show them that we had in fact done a great job.
Our naïveté had led ourselves into situations that would drastically drain our morale; hypothetically, even if we had only charged the client $400 per month, but caused them a $5,000,000 spike in sales, we’d then be asked: why couldn’t we achieve $5,000,001 in sales?
“Failure!” they would claim, “We want our money back, and StrataGem should pay for all expenses!”
…we’d be slandered as incompetent, even if, in fact, we had done an amazing job that few others in the entire world could have pulled off with such little resources provided to us by the client.
Therefore, one client with deep enough ambition was essentially enough to tie up the entire team, yet we weren’t charging that client enough to maintain break-even sustainability, let alone fuel company growth. Essentially, we underestimated the needs and desires of our clients, how many would be attracted to what we were offering (which was indeed too good to be true, even if we had the best of intentions), and thus: the initial business model collapsed under the weight of the workload.
But we didn’t give up! We downsized to recover capital, and went back to the drawing board. Using our own skills to analyze our own business, and what mistakes we’d made: we leveled up, and re-designed the products and services we offered, along with the terms in which we offered them, tweaking our model so that we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes that nearly crushed us in the past.
We innovated our old business model into a new one that would be based on contracting clients by the individual project, with set working hours for attaining specific crystalline goals that would be mutually agreed upon during an initial exploratory meeting, which would then be solidified in a contract that was fair for both parties. By understanding each client’s individual ambitions, needs, strengths, and weaknesses—explaining to them what was tangibly possible within a given timeframe and budget—we became not only able to make guarantees, but to over-deliver on those guarantees.
So in a way, the harrowing situations of the past, that we had found ourselves in before, weren’t actually all bad, or a complete loss; they had inadvertently trained us to generate incredible results with very little resources, to respond to a higher level of demand. It was almost as if we had been playing a video-game on extreme mode and got used to it, and when we had readjusted the difficulty to normal mode instead—we came to realize just how skillful our harsh experiences had actually made us become. Our skills had become honed and hardened for an insane level of difficulty; therefore, by changing our business model to adequately sustain a work/life balance with a more manageable difficulty: we became highly respected, with returning clients that we were honored to make continually overjoyed.
Now, we work overtime only when absolutely necessary, to ensure that we fulfill practical guarantees within the preset understandable deadlines unique to each client, for which, we rightfully don’t charge the client any extra, because during the rare occasions that we would need to work more hours than we’d initially assessed in the beginning would therein have nothing to do with the client’s impractical expectations, but our own incompetence—which wouldn’t be the client’s fault whatsoever, regardless of their ambitions.
We no longer take just anyone for a client; read on to learn about the specifics of whom we serve.