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.
I am not saying to weed out all people that aren't local from working here or that there is something wrong with working in other markets. I am simply saying that its wrong to misrepresent yourself as local to get business and for the businesses that choose to BUY LOCAL they should have some way to assure that is what they are getting. This is the case with lots of other products like produce and clothing as well. Many local businesses sell clothes made in India, but the people who truly commit to local products know what to look for.
It is sad this is even a discussion, 5 years ago it was a different market, more professional and less of this kind of thing happening. I feel that the web design business is going on a bad direction now with so many people jumping in that are trying to make a fast buck acting like used car salesman that have no web design or programming experience at all.
As far as if you ran a local business with project managers and outsourced to India, well that happens and is common there are a lot of people here doing that already, and a badge program wouldn't catch that, but the word of mouth will. For those who manage this well, its not an issue and I don't even have a problem with that so much as long as the product they are producing is decent. But I from what I am seeing, this isn't working out for most, clients are coming to us a lot now to fix the issues of these companies. The client eventually figures it out when its not being managed well when it is taking a long time to get things done or the person they were dealing with could never seem to answer questions. Then there is issues like phone numbers not being formatted right, or the language and spelling issues and other things that made it obvious.
What this seems to boil down to is Fraud Deterrence, and as mentioned before, I'm not convinced a Badge Program would serve well. Again, there's nothing that really stops the posers from posing.
In fact, you bring up one of the UNIQUE qualities of Hawaii: word-of-mouth referrals are POWERFUL here because this place is so small. Shady operations don't last long; and the higher-quality vendors have established reputations for their particular niche.
This is where TechHui shines, as we in the Industry get an opportunity to know each other, learn each others' skill-sets, and collect a short-list of valuable resources we can call upon in a time of need. For example, as a back-end guy, I'm always looking out for good web artists and designers, and they likewise seek me out for server and back-end work.
As far as fraud goes.. things have always been bad -- especially with IT work. I recall while working in Las Vegas, my team put out a job posting and received a resume that was an *exact copy* of a coworker's resume from Monster.com that he forgot to take down some time ago -- just a name change and formatting differences. What's worse, when we interviewed this candidate for grins, we found out the resume was copied and submitted to us by his recruiter.
Then there are other "Locals Being Passed Up" horror stories (was it GB Hajim?) -- of perfectly capable local companies passed up for more expensive Mainland companies, only to wind up as a subcontractor to do the actual work anyway.
I'm curious to see what kinds of certification ideas are brought to light from this effort, but I'd put much more stock into a company's reputation and history than I would about their status as a Local company. In fact, I've rescued a fair share of projects "started" by local companies that just didn't have the technical resources to get the back-end working right.
The Hawaii Better Business Bureau has the mechanisms to both rate and do basic fact checks on companies operating in Hawaii. But, I think they are underutilized here as well.
Two weeks ago I met with a potential client who wanted me to create a commercial and product visualization for their software product. I asked the guy for a business card, he didn't have one. I asked for their website address, they didn't have one. I asked for a product demonstration. It wasn't ready. I asked for a copy of their company or product logo, they didn't have one and he didn't know what a vector graphic was. I asked for a basic script of features and benefits they wanted to showcase. He had no idea what I was talking about.
My Spidey sense were tingling so I immediately fired him as a client.
Nothing will stop fly by night operations, but leveraging the BBB, Chamber of Commerce and asking a few well pointed questions can weed these people out pretty fast.
Perhaps pitching the BBB with your idea might be a good start.
@sunny For some of my clients like Kailua/Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, Malama Hawaii or North Shore Eco Tours whose mission and business goals completely center around supporting Hawaii, Hawaiian Culture and sustainability, local business and commerce, local art etc. it would not be a good representation of that message, if they used a mainland company to design their website. I find that most of our local clients felt very strongly about finding and working with a local web designer for this reason.
Not to mention that it is very obvious when a non local business designs a website that is supposed to have a Polynesian feel. The designs look hokey or stereotypical, inappropriate. If a Kaneohe business wants a website that is appropriate for their business and Windward customer, how will a mainland company interpret that, how will they know what colors, angles of the Koolau, even flowers, will give that Kanoehe feel? You can research it but that does not always translate well to someone who isn't from here. We had a client come to us recently to redo a site because they asked for the site to have a tropical/polynesian look and the company literally used the pattern of some upholstery fabric because it had, what they thought, a tropical feel. It was actually Cuban and looked really bad, they made several attempts and just couldn't pull it off.
Now a days, yes you can do most anything via email and phone and never meet in real life. I have a programmer that has worked for me for 3 years that I have never met in person. But for clients, it is a risk legally to hire anyone who is not in our state. A smart local business owner knows that if they hire a local business they can easily (and affordabley) enforce contractual agreements. And with a mainland company it gets tricky, most of their contracts specify that their state laws apply, and that means if you have a dispute you have to fly out there and fight it in their state. Using an out of country company is a huge risk because you have no recourse to recover money, you are pretty much SOL if someone skates out on you.
Another thing to consider is optimization. You can tell when a non local company is optimizing a local website by the keywords they use ( or don't know to use ). Its just simply about terminology and cultural aspects that a non local company just can't know.
There are more benefits, I actually wrote a blog about it.