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Overcoming One Man Company in proposals


#1

Twenty years ago I started a software company which I sold ten years later. I started my company in the wee hours of the night and moved from being an unknown to the number 2 company in the vertical I handled.

Fast forward twenty years…I made a decision to re-enter the same market. I know more, I have better tools, I have contacts. And, I missed writing code and being in the industry. Thus, I started developing a web-based app and am currently beta testing. I approached a supplier to the industry proposing to replace their existing 10 year old solution with my new product. They love it (I knew they would as I used to be their chief product officer).

I have a business plan with a viable model and am confident I can support, develop, and maintain to a certain level. I will add resources as needed and am not naive to support and help desk issues.

Yesterday the supplier said they want to move forward but are hesitant because I am a “one man shop”. Specifically, "Management is worried that you have a one man shop, so can you please provide us your go forward plan including staffing/programmers along with a timeline to have them in place? "

I have not proposed a contract, investment, or anything similar and regardless will move forward selling directly to the supplier’s customers. I am looking for advice on overcoming this issue. My initial response is we need to have a call and discuss in detail what their expectations are. In all honesty we are dealing with a chicken and an egg – I am not going to add people without customers.

Advice?


#2

I believe your supplier doesn’t really want programmers, but something else – a SLA on response time in case of an issue. You may be not available. I’d teach an Upwork contractor or two the application and kept them as a second line of support. Do not have to pay them when not using them, but they may be readily available when needed.

Then again, both you and the contractors may be not available. If you positively need to avoid that case, you’d have to pay some support company to have someone idle for you. Should be relatively cheap (do tell me the price if you go this route - I may need to do the same later).


#3

Depending on how critical to operations your software is I can understand their position.

Sounds like they are not asking you to add staff at this point though - they just want to see that you’ve a plan in place.

So is it feasible to write a convincing plan that you wouldn’t implement unless they actually became a customer?

Or did you want to stay a one man company?


#4

They might be worried about the hit by a bus problem.

In which case, a contract saying that if anything happens to you, or you go out of business, they will get all the source code to your product, so they can continue working as is. The code (and documentation) could be put in an escrow- is there such a service?


#5

I received word from them because I am a “one man shop.” I am going to assert the result was most likely predetermined based on several other items that had already come up.

I agree with everything here and that is how I handled similar objections in the past - we can contract SLAs, we can identify and mutually agree to support plans, and risk mitigation (the hit by the bus plan) can be handled via source code and key man insurance.

Demonstrations scheduled for tomorrow with an end user and another supplier demonstration Monday.

Still moving forward.
J


#6

Patrick wrote on the one-man shop issue here:
https://training.kalzumeus.com/newsletters/archive/enterprise_sales

A few useful paragraphs that mention exactly this issue, going down the page. The basic idea is to highlight the benefits of dealing with a small, very focused owner.


#7

There are benefits, nobody argues with that.

But when the application is missing-critical, all those benefits cannot overweight a simple fact that the one guy you’re dependent on can get hit by a bus every single day.

So the answer is to provide a contingency plan even for the worst case when the application owner is simply gone.