Direct Leap Anecdote

Last time I posted a job that Direct Leap was offering, I got some feedback that implied that any interested parties should be wary.  Someone else has contacted me recently with the same warning.  Both have offered specific details, some of which I’ve been asked not to get into, and, in fact, since I’m only hearing one side of the argument, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to present a viewpoint that I haven’t corroborated in detail.

That said, I think it’s fair to say that when you hear a number of troubling stories from different people about the same company, it’s troubling sign.  Anyone considering taking a job or doing some work with Direct Leap would do well to do your research, talk to people who’ve worked with or for them, reach out to your networks or search LinkedIn, or whatever it takes to get more information.  For that matter, if you really can’t find anything and you’re desperate to learn more, get in touch with me and I’ll try and put you in touch with people who might be willing to talk to you from both sides.

If you think about it, that’s good advice for any company.  I’m only emphasizing that advice here because, as I say, I’ve had two cautions passed on to me.  You could simply play it safe and avoid the whole situation, but that’s really your call.

Anyone who’s worked with or for Direct Leap and wants to share their story, whether that’s positive or negative, do feel free.  It’s up to you how explicit or anonymous you wish to remain.

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4 Responses to Direct Leap Anecdote

  1. Anonymous says:

    While I am not going to go into any detail on what happened, here are the lessons I learned.

    * Don’t give credit. Credit is the bank’s business, not yours. Have the client go to the bank for a loan and pay you on a schedule.
    * Get a deposit, and work only until that runs out. Then get more money. If they can’t pay, then pause the project until they can. Then you’re never owed any money, and you’ll never need to collect.
    * Formalize all relationships, ESPECIALLY IF YOU TRUST THEM. It’s easy to give slack in these relationships. The best way to preserve a trusted relationship is to ensure it is spelled out clearly in writing – scope, terms, termination. This means family members, friends, referrals, past clients, etc.

    Pay attention to what’s happened before you arrive:
    * If the client fires the previous development team, investigate. Get both sides of the story. Proceed cautiously.
    * If the client fires two previous teams in succession, avoid. It’s probably not the team.
    * If the client fires the previous three teams and has bad-mouthed all of them, run like the plague. You’re next!

    I trusted this company, and I didn’t follow my own rules because I thought they were trust-worthy. It turned out that people do their best to hide their dirty laundry, as I was on team #3. So be sure you are following your own rules, and consider some of the lessons above.

    I’m curious, what other lessons have people learned from this and/or other projects?

  2. Simon says:

    I’m the CEO of Direct Leap. We have had a mix of good and bad experiences with software developers — mostly good work delivered by likeable people who we have worked with for years. Obviously, we have built several commercial products, and have completed a lot of development work. Inevitably, there have been a few disappointments in there.

    Few things hurt more than to invest time, money, and committed coaching into a promising developer and discover after six weeks (“Anonymous” contractor) or three months (other solo contractor mentioned) that it is simply not working out. Unfortunately, not every contractor placement is successful. The more you put in, the harder it stings on both sides.

    One software CEO, a friend of mine, had to hire people to write *six* different versions of his application before getting his current, maintainable and overall excellent Java-based product. In ASP. Starting again in ASP. This time in PHP. Now in Java. Again in Java. Six times. At this point, they have by far the best product in their space, and his firm has doubled in size in the last year, for the third year in a row.

    Not fun, but if you want to build a great company then you take the hits and keep plugging away.

    “Anonymous” is a contractor we hired briefly who was fairly new to freelancing, and was paid $22,000 for some work with a six-week hard deadline. In the end, despite lots of promises that sounded awesome, we were left stranded with real problems when these advance payments produced nothing we could use. Predictably, he was not awarded a comparatively small final payment.

    So, we trusted a remote contractor who seemed great with $22,000, and the output was not usable or fixable. I can go into details, but suffice it to say: Our mistake. We now engage new contractors on a fixed-bid rather than hourly retainer.

    We stand behind our work, and while we have navigated most of the typical growing pains over the years, you can’t win them all. We go out of our way to pay decently, to expose staff to new skills and great technologies, and to be good to people. Our social mission of developing advanced communication tools for the non-profit sector speaks for itself.

    I’m the CEO and can be reached at 416.405.8073 x221. If you have any questions, please feel welcome to direct them to me personally by email or phone. Our website is directleap.com.

  3. Glad to hear a little something from the other side; that will help give people a sense of both sides of the story. Thanks for being direct and giving people a chance to talk to you to clarify.

    Some people may choose not to do so — once things get messy, it’s hard to ferret out the ‘truth’ (and, to be honest, I’m not sure these things come down to an objective truth anyway). But if they’re interested in talking it out, then I’m sure they’ll be glad to know you’re ready to talk.

  4. Simon says:

    In response to your post, “Anonymous”, issuing credit isn’t a black or white matter. During your engagement, we didn’t go above NET 7 terms, which is pretty darned good. On the other side, we extended 90-120 days credit for the client organization we delivered our project to.

    The solution isn’t in providing 7 days of credit, or if it should have been 14 days or 3 days. The solution is in doing absolutely whatever is required to deliver on the projects you commit to. Without having busted my ass, working day and night where necessary, issuing our customer 120 days credit could have been a problem for us. However, we did absolutely whatever it took to deliver, and we did deliver, despite the failure of your part of the overall project.

    The solution to being able to bill your final payment, and get payments on future projects, is simple — commit within yourself to deliver what you promise, in a form the people paying you can use, every single time. If this takes you more effort, budget for this and do it anyway. Pure and simple.

    By the way, firing the “other source”, (the three-month solo contractor who you met when you were brought on) was not optional for us, in fact it was undesirable and expensive. We were very polite, we explained the foundational parameters that are necessary for any contractor engagement, and we gave chances.

    Also, please don’t generalize. Firing you does not constitute firing a team.

    Regardless, we’re not born knowing everything, and I’m sure we both found lots to learn from that will serve us well. Intense and ambitious undertakings are, I’d hope, always a nourishing, nuanced learning experience. As a founder, I know I’ve learned a lot with, and from, all the talented people I’ve worked with, yourself included, and I wish you well.

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