Beyonce is a superstar. Everyone knows and wants Beyonce. She’s the kind of entertainer that only needs one name…Elvis, Prince, Cher, Madonna, Liberace…the short list.
Beyonce can name her price these days. Got $2 million dollars for a one off show? You can probably book Beyonce for your next big party.
That’s why she’s Beyonce. It’s what makes her a superstar. She’s a scarce resource that is beautiful, dynamic, beloved, and hard-working. She brings it. When she was younger she toiled in obscurity and sacrificed as necessary to become the world-class performer she is today. Now she reaps the profit of all that practice, and there’s really no stopping her.
She’s on automatic awesome, and she’s appropriately expensive. All she has to do is show up for the gig, prepared and on time, and just be Beyonce. It’s all her fans care about…that 5 minute or 2 hour segment where she does what she does best and earns a small fortune.
Ever wonder what her job is like between performances? Probably not very exciting right? More practicing, taking meetings, signing deals, getting rest, working out, vocal exercises, recording, writing, choreographing, collaborating with other artists, charity work, managing her business. Yawn. It’s Beyonce up on stage (or screen) that makes the people happy.
When you think of Beyonce performing live at the Grammys, you think of her singing and dancing and the crowd going wild. You don’t think of all the work that goes into making that happen. You’re just consuming it. But somebody must be producing it…and at a high level.
What about the team behind Beyonce? You don’t stop to think of all the handlers Beyonce surely has that allow her to sustain her career and schedule.
There’s the agent, the business manager, the bodyguard, the choreographer, the stylist, the personal assistant, the assistant to the personal assistant, the driver, the shopper, the spiritual advisor, the personal trainer, the nutritionist… These people are not stars and no promoter ever hires them to entertain a room of thousands. They might even be ugly and poor dancers. Whatever. They come with Beyonce, help her be ready to rock, set her up for success…great. Take them for granted because they are behind the scenes if you wish. So what if they are good at their jobs and Beyonce likes working with them between, during, and after the gig…there’s only one Beyonce. She’s the star!
But she’s not the show.
Beyonce could not be Beyonce without a lot of help. She wouldn’t be able to be nearly as effective nor as focused without the worker bees she employs to make her job easy.
And she needs to pay these people. That big fee she charges for 2 hours of work? Does that mean her rate is $500,000 an hour? No. She’s got to share that with those that enable her, the ones who have spent hundreds of hours doing trivial and non-trivial tasks that are just as necessary, really, as her singing the right words to her song up in the spotlight. All the way down to the bodyguard making “only” five figures. He’s not sexy and he’s not expensive, but he’s playing an important role in the show, too.
In our business, Beyonce is the lead web developer. The lead web developer is what the people crave. He’s the star performer. He’s the scarce resource that folks don’t mind paying for. He can charge a high hourly rate and our clients don’t argue.
Unfortunately, some clients only budget for the development work and forget to save a little outlay for the other hours that they will need to get the development work ready to work with.
Just like Beyonce’s support team, the lead developer is dependent on the efforts of others to really succeed. Without a well planned project with fully vetted user stories and functionality requirements, a prioritized task list, and a client who has been well-educated as to the nature of web development projects (to name only a few necessary support jobs) he is adrift and likely to fail. His talent and time will be wasted, at least by some percentage. And since his talents are hired out at such a high rate, a lot of money is wasted when his time is wasted, too.
Don’t waste your lead web developer…it’s like wasting your Beyonce! You wouldn’t waste your Beyonce, would you? Of course you wouldn’t.
Think about it. Do you really want Beyonce answering phone calls from the worried venue manager when he thinks an email has not been responded to sufficiently? No, you want someone else to smooth out that situation.
Do you need Beyonce to personally inspect the legal documents pertaining to insuring the show or fulfilling the show contract? Of course, she should be briefed but she should not have to read every line of small print either. She’s got better things to do more germane to her skill set.
And it’s the same way with the web developer. He doesn’t need to manage client expectations or make sure the checks are in the mail. But somebody has to.
He doesn’t need to make sure the designer has time tomorrow to go over client feedback, and he doesn’t need to populate the content in the FAQs section. He shouldn’t worry about uploading the right SEO modules. Other, less scarce resources that can’t handle writing a custom hook that integrates with Sales Force and accomplishes X, Y, Z unique use cases can handle the more mundane stuff. But just because it’s mundane doesn’t mean it’s not important…it’s only less scarce. So you have to put the right person on the right job.
It’s essentially a matter of a team dividing and conquering the myriad of details that go into making a complex system look simple and work elegantly…each and every time it’s on display. That takes teamwork and team commitment.
If Beyonce was your lead web developer, you’d be happy to pay her for her time and you’d be right to expect a knockout performance. But you’d still be really dependent on her support team setting her up to succeed in her moment. Otherwise, it’d be kind of a waste.
So all this is to say to clients: appreciate and enable the efforts of the team, not just the web developer. Pay a little for the personal assistant, the agent, the stylist, the legal counsel…pay the star her higher rate so she can happily do her thing…and you’ll get your money’s worth when it counts.