There have been quite a few companies marketing in Hawaii, that are claiming to be local or implying it with vague websites. I see them advertising with google ads, craigslist or cold calling. But now its become an issue of concern, some of our new clients have already been ripped off or have expressed concern about it.
SO I have been thinking that maybe TechHui could come up with a "100% Local" badge that local companies can put on their websites? To get the seal, you have to be a techHui member with a local address, be registered for business in Hawaii and have at least 5 local companies as clients. Each company can market this themselves, saying "We are TECHHUI certified as a 100% local company. Remember, if a company doesn't have the seal, they do not meet the requirements of being a local company in good standing." Something like that.
Here is why I think its important. We recently were bidding on a job that we lost to another company. That doesn't bother me, I am a good sport and if a client feels another company is better suited for the job that is cool with me. However I happen to know this company specifically wanted a local company. They told us who they chose and at first look I assumed they were just a new company because there are new ones springing up everyday. Several weeks later I was hearing clients tell me they were getting cold calls from this same company who was trying to sell them their services, I even received a call myself. Then the Kailua Chamber asked me about them as well because some members had been receiving calls. So I looked into them and found that they are in fact not a local company. The address they showed on their site is a well know office building downtown that I happen to know someone who leases there. And when I called to see if they really had an office there I found out they don't. The are not registered in Hawaii and the person cold calling is a local sales guy. The site shows 5 clients all mainland clients and the only 1 Hawaii client, the website doesn't appear to exist. No last names on the people who work there, not history....just really vague.
That is awkward for us because we want to warn the company but since we lost the bid, it would just make us look like soar sports. At the same time I think its wrong that they sold themselves as local to get the job.
As someone who gets probably 40% of their clientele from people who have been burned by other companies I have become really skeptical and very annoyed with anyone who appears to be falsely representing themselves. I sit on several boards that supports local commerce and I hate seeing small businesses and non profits getting ripped off or mislead. Especially from companies who aren't from here.
I am a big supporter of buying local, we all work hard to establish ourselves here and support our community. Anyone trying to come in here and take work from local businesses, at the very least, should be doing so honestly. So I think its important that as professionals we should think about coming up with a way to protect our market and our businesses from encroaching companies.
What makes TechHui so special as to be the provider of a "100% Local" badge? At best, this place is a loosely-knit group of Technology Enthusiasts. At worst, it's a seriously questionable conflict of interest as Ikayzo (the company underwriting TechHui's existence) actively competes in the space you seek to "protect". Aside from their high morals and ethics, absolutely nothing would block them from denying such a badge from being granted to a competing company.
Much of what you're seeking to provide, as far as Local Authenticity is concerned, is already maintained in the DBEDT database. If your customers view local vendors as important, they should be seeking face-time and references within DBEDT, BBB, and local clients.
Understood. It doesn't have to be techHui perse maybe some kind of adhoc committee to a local business group like the Chamber or SBH. If I wasn't already sitting on 4 boards I would look into it myself.
TechHui (Ikayso) does do business here and are providing a forum for others to discuss important issues in the tech industry, and are aware of that is going on in the local market. And if specific guidelines are put into place for the badge, then they can't just arbitrarily deny someone.
And at some point we need to trust eachother a bit for the common good wouldn't you agree?
The state is limited in their regulatory agencies and tools, lumping businesses into broad categories. This is where the clubs and groups come into play. And most of them are started by the people in the business they seek to protect. After all what is the Chamber of Commerce but a volunteer effort made up of other businesses, combining efforts to support local commerce.
I am just saying, it might be a good idea to come up with some kind of industry specific and controlled regulation that assists our consumers. Yes anyone can go to BREG and search, but lets be honest. Most people here are trusting and if they see a local number and address listed on a website or listing, most wont check to see if that is valid. I have had people steal our work and put it into their portfolio, or have items in their portfolio that don't even exist, and get away with it for a long time. No one really checks. People are trusting, especially in the tech industry where people are overwhelmed, and depending so heavily on the people they hire.
And these companies are getting local sales people to attend meetings. The company I referred to in my last post is doing that.
This kind of thing doesn't happen as easily in other markets because people are super pro active. I went to college and worked in Denver, and if a company came in trying to pull that crap there, they wouldn't make it a month.
Which is why I think its important to come up with something that protects the consumers and keeps the market in check so the scammers will stay out.
@Laurence TechHui is a community that a lot of people both inside and outside of Ikayzo, Superb, UH, HTDC and the other early contributors worked hard to build over the past few years. We work very hard to remain unbiased, feature good jobs posted by any company, promote local startups working on interesting projects, feature execs from many companies, facilitate partnerships, connect the education and commercial spheres, etc. We also frequently send people asking for work to local companies and freelance members including you on several occasions. Given all this hard work and good will, I'm not sure why you would characterize the TechHui community as "At best a loosely-knit group of Technology Enthusiasts. At worst, it's a seriously questionable conflict of interest..." Companies who pay to support the site, including Ikayzo, get their logos displayed. The sponsorship packages are open to any organization. Given all the money we've spent over the past three years and time invested in moderation, contribution, etc. that seems like a pretty reasonable arrangement. With the exception of a little promotional value (which is open to any company), we run TechHui and all the associated events at a loss as a service to the community.
@Daniela I've also heard about the companies using fake local addresses to create a sense of comfort and I agree that these misrepresentations are an issue. The solution is a bit tricky because as Laurence and Alex pointed out, it may be hard to agree on what constitutes a local company. Bills such as Act 221 and the R&D tax credits had their definitions which included criteria such as having more than 50% of your people in the state. Your definition also sounds reasonable.
The Hawaii Better Business Bureau could be helpful.
You are looking for a variation of the Hawaii Seal of Quality: http://hawaii.gov/hdoa/add/soq
You may wish to contact them and learn how they want about doing this and emulate it.
Ultimately, for a "seal of quality" program to work well, it needs to be backed by somebody with deep pockets. The seals are protected by laws governing trademarks, copyright, and deceptive trade practices.
If there's no attorney going after the infringers, there's nothing stopping the scammers from using the seal without permission.
I'm not questioning the hard work and contributions of the community to make TechHui the place that it is today, nor am I questioning Ikayzo's integrity. I simply disagree that TechHui is the appropriate body to administer any form of Certification Program, as there is an obvious conflict of interest. Despite all the community contributions, TechHui is still the Intellectual Property of Dan Leuck and/or Ikayzo.
I know you run an honest operation and forward leads to help local businesses out (my company being one of them), but if any of this "100% Local" certification idea moves forward, I'm sure you'll agree that a discussion about conflicts of interest must take place.
@alex As one of the creators of the I love Windward program, buy local program, We defined a local businesses as a business who is legally registered here, and is being operated here under a valid local address and who is owed and operated by a legal resident. We followed the rules the government suggested for buy local programs based on the statistics for what benefits the community. So does someone like Target, who has a location here constitute as local? No. Because the dollar does not stay here, and even though they are employing local workers, the economy is not being improved because of the local businesses that cannot compete, the fact that every $100 spent at a Target only $14 goes back into the community as opposed to $47 if it was a local business. Not to mention most mainland companies doing business here, tend to keep more part time employees, resulting in little to no benefits.
@Daniel The reason I suggested TechHui is for the very reasons you mentioned. You are supporting the community with little personal gain, and its just like I mentioned about the Chamber etc. People start clubs and groups to discuss common interests, industries and issues affecting our businesses. And in some cases some of us are competitors, this is common with any board or club. Usually the fact that you belong to the group is proof enough you are a credible and professional person. The scammers do not contribute at all, and tend to stay far away from others in the business. They don't want to open themselves up or draw attention by anyone in the community they are trying to scam.
I don't think it would be tricky for the seal. It doesn't have to be an official state thing, just simply a WATCHDOG type effort by a group like yours that supports the community and that is meant for education and awareness. The seal could have a link on it and then link to a page that lists the members and then explains what the person has to do to get it, and that makes the consumer aware of the issues and why it is necessary. Just something that simply says "Hey I am an approved member of the TechHui 100% local group, no need to worry"
As an unofficial seal, the criteria could be defined about what constitutes local by the person managing the program. And I think that is a very easy thing to define in this case. Just like the things I mentioned. If they are not registered here and have not been doing business for at least a year, don't have at least a few local clients or a local address than you aren't qualified. Simple.
What that does is offer the consumer assurance that the business has some roots here while at the same time making them aware about those other companies which will hopefully eventually run them off.
And as far as people using the seal, well that is always an issue with any official logo or seal. We have that issue with the Kailua Chamber all the time, people say they are members and post the logo and if we catch them we send them a cease and desist. But we have a list of all members on the site and we always encourage people to check the list for active members.
I just found out that that same company submitted their proposal in response to an RFP that we also submitted for. The business clearly outlined wanting a local business. It is frustrating because I know they are representing themselves that way and there is nothing I can do about it. I don't mind not winning jobs if I know I am losing to someone worthy of losing to. Its just sad and it just shows how much this business is changing and how cut throat people are willing to be.
I've no problem with creating a "Local" certification per se, but to be brutally honest, I have to wonder if the underlying motivation is to weed out the Scam Operations, or to create an artificial "Locals Only" Barrier-to-Entry.
There will always be shady operations, and I'm not convinced a simple Badge program would do much to stop them from posing. It is a cut-throat market; but with advances in Teleconferencing, the gap between in-person meetings and Video Conferencing is closing all the time.
In fact, that works to my favor, as I've the opposite problem -- I pursue Mainland projects, and demonstrating effective communication via Video Conferencing is the most effective tool I have to remain competitive with their "local" competition. Perhaps this is why I don't see Mainland competition as a threat, but I do understand your frustration with the scam operations posing.
If the motivation is to create a "Locals Only" barrier to entry, we're going to need further refining about what constitutes a "Local" company. I've a registered local business, been in business for several years, and have a collection of local clients. Am I still considered "local" if I farm out 80% of the work to the Mainland or India when I can't hire enough local talent for an emergency gig? How about if I simply ran a High-Tech Temp Agency with local Project Managers, but use all India talent to get the job done?