I don’t like our company’s process. How do I tell my boss?

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

A reader wrote in explaining their problem with the process at work. I’m posting the question and my response here, with permission.

I work for an online marketing company.

My boss (the founder) has a 4-week process for the sites we build:

Week 1) Collect information
Week 2) Build site
Week 3) Get feedback
Week 4) Launch

We use WordPress. He’s big on using themes we get from ThemeForest. He thinks that makes the process go faster. He’s pretty out of the loop. He has no idea how good websites are built. I’m the only one here who has more than a surface understanding of HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP. The other day he started an “Employee/Employer Relationship Evaluation”. He wants me to respond to him about my issues with the timeline, which I’ve voiced many times.

How can I respond to him?

He wants us to make sites in 4 weeks because it makes him money quickly. But it’s a drag to deal with in the long run. Do you have any statistics on how long people usually take to build sites, or how much productivity is lost when developers bite their nails all day long?

Hello ◼◼◼◼◼◼,

Let’s start with some stuff that I’m betting you don’t want to hear.

Your boss has started a company and, it sounds like, has run it at least somewhat successfully for years. He has employees, after all. He’s aware of your gripes with the process, and he specifically wants your feedback.

Kinda sounds like… a good boss.

It sounds like your gripe is that the process is too fast and produces poor websites. I can guess you’re not particularly happy with the work.

Something is at-odds here. We have a couple of missing details. Specifically:

  1. How’s the business doing?
  2. How happy are the clients?

If the answers are “Good” and “Very” – I’m afraid you’re the odd man out here. There is nothing inherently wrong about producing a website quickly for a client. If the business is doing well and the clients are happy, I don’t see a big need for change. It doesn’t mean the job is perfect for you, but you gotta admit if it works it works.

If the answers are anything else, it sounds like you could be just the remedy they need. Onto a more positive note!

Say the clients are happy but the business is struggling. Maybe the answer could be charging more money. A longer, more involved process, producing more custom, better websites. Maybe you could guide them there.

Say business is good the but the clients aren’t happy. Clients will become happy if the website you deliver delivers for them. Maybe a longer, more involved process, producing a more custom, better website will do that. Maybe you could guide them there.

If everything is bad… well, you can guess.

The really good news is that it sounds like you are very passionate about this stuff. Pumping out quick sites, as effective (or not) as it may be, doesn’t seem to be doing it for you. If this job doesn’t do it for you, that’s OK. Your passion will take you far. The market is pretty great for people with web skills.

A bit more on the pricing of websites.

Building websites as a business is a huge market. Here’s the kind of scope we’re dealing with:

  • Websites that cost millions of dollars and take years and hundreds of people to develop.
  • Websites that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars produced over months by a high profile agency.
  • Websites that cost tens of thousands of dollars produced by specialized industry-specific agencies.
  • Websites that cost a few thousand built by an agency with a 4-week process that delivers slightly customized WordPress themes.
  • Websites that cost a 12-pack and a couple of late nights with your buddy who builds them for a living.
  • Websites that build other websites for a low monthly fee.

There is lots of money at most of those slices of the market. It’s worth trying to get in on it. It’s absolutely doable. Here’s what you can’t do: serve all of them. You have to specialize. It’s too hard to operate when projects are unpredictable. Unpredictable timelines, unpredictable skillsets needs, unpredictable value, unpredictable billing periods. You make some of those things predictable, and you can operate a business.

This isn’t unique to the web at all. It’s probably more true in other businesses. Hamburger joints sell you hamburgers, not whatever meal you can dream up. Vinyl pressing shops have minimum and maximum runs. Print shops can do certain types of printing at certain scales and do certain bindery tasks. Chick-fil-a’s aren’t open on Sundays (wait, that one is just stupid).

You don’t like working at the burger shop, fine, go work at the four-star joint down the road. But they both deserve to exist.

As for what you tell your boss: honesty is the best policy. Do you have insight into the clients happiness with your work that he might not? Are you unhappy doing what you are doing? Do you have ideas that you think would be smart business moves? Any boss worth his salt wants to know stuff like that and will thank you for telling him.