19 Nov

We’re hiring! Senior LAMP Software Engineer, remote or Lancashire

Salary: 35-45k, based remotely or at our office in Burnley, Lancashire

What you are looking for:

  • you want more control over your work, and to see the value you add to customers
  • you want to work on a variety of systems, languages, applications
  • you’re able to learn new languages and frameworks quickly
  • you want a job with purpose, a career path and a schedule that fits your life

What we do for you:

  • Career options – there will be opportunities in the next few years for an architect, project manager, dev-ops engineer and development team manager as the business grows
  • Flexible working – whether you need a 4-day week or time for the school run, we can plan your working hours around your life
  • Weekly gym session with our favourite trainer (or equivalent, for remote workers)

What we do for our customers:

  • Architecture – we help agencies and direct clients get from rough ideas to clearly defined technical solutions
  • Difficult problems – we take on problems that need empathy, resilience, and technical  aptitude to solve interesting and difficult problems
  • B2B e-commerce – pricing matricies, integrating with unusual ERP systems, and tricky tax calculations are everyday occurences
  • Integration – connecting systems together takes a lot of forethought, talking to customers, and interpreting specifications that might not quite match reality. It’s a real test of solid code, quality engineering and the odd moment of genius.
  • Data migration – people often end up in a pickle with data, having a ton of information which might not be fully accurate, useful, complete, or up to date.  We often write scripts or processes to help clients get their product, order and stock information up to scratch

How we do it:

  • Follow our mantra, “Zero Bugs” – we’ll analyse anything that goes wrong, stops us being effective, or causes extra work. We try to figure out how it happened, what we need to do now, and what we can do better in future.
  • Listen – we’re open to fresh ideas and new ways of doing things
  • Schedule – interruptions are the enemy of productivity, so we plan blocks of quiet, uninterrupted time in advance
  • Automate – habits automate people, code automates procedures

You must have four of the following:

  • Demonstrable knowledge from a Degree or similar level qualification with a strong maths element – eg. computer science, physics, engineering, economics or maths
  • Knowledge of several modern development tools – eg. git, grunt, unit testing
  • Two or more PHP frameworks/apps eg. Zend, Laravel, Magento, WordPress, Drupal
  • Familiarity with Unix command line tools
  • Experience with a low level language like C or assembler
  • Good working knowledge of at least two popular programming languages
  • Thorough knowledge of Linux server setup for LAMP apps

Email john at getjohn . co . uk describing how you meet the above, why you believe the job is right for you, and either attach a CV or include a link to your LinkedIn profile, if it covers everything you’d put on a CV.


18 Jul

Case Study: Supermarket Shopping Cart Integration with a Magento Online Store

All of the supermarket giants allow a select few suppliers to provide an external website to supply goods and services, linked from the main website of the retailer. My customer, a web design and development agency, needed a specialist to build an ecommerce storefront that would integrate with a particular supermarket giant’s shopping cart system, both for sending customers to their website to take payment, and then to receive and process orders.

My task: build the online shop using their designs, integrate it with a 3D personalisation system, integrate it with the supermarket’s ecommerce shopping cart, allow orders to be received electronically from the supermarket, and then dispatch those orders electronically to multiple suppliers.  Simple!  Read More

20 Apr

Case Study: Global Transport Company Linking Peoplesoft and Tivoli to Online Store

This US based transportation giant had just signed up with my customer – let’s call them “Acme Inc” – a large wholesaler in the US, for all of their requirements world-wide of a particular range of products. In order to fulfil this contract, Acme needed their ecommerce stores integrated with several of the customer’s internal systems to allow seamless access to the stores for tens of thousands of staff all over the world. I linked the store to Peoplesoft eProcurement and Tivoli Access Manager.
Read More

25 Sep

Communicating Your Worth to Customers for Small Business Owners

I recently read a superb article about communicating your value by Carrie Foster.  Carrie is a management development coach and writes insightful articles about how to get the best out of individuals in an organisation, and this article was aimed at employees who want to get more out of their jobs.

I got thinking about how the same principles apply to small business owners, skilled people who are learning how to turn a skill into a steady, healthy income.

“Surely that’s just called sales?” I hear you saying…

The most striking thing about Carrie’s article is that it doesn’t mention the S word. This is important because you are not a sales person – you’re a designer, a programmer, engineer, teacher, consultant, plumber, joiner. Read More

13 Jul

Three Dirty Secrets of Pricing for Web Design, Graphic Design and Software Development

There is some risk in writing an article like this.  It discusses pricing for professional services; getting it wrong in either direction can cause problems for the supplier, customer or both, and the risk is that the problems and solutions outlined are misunderstood.  However, the principles I’ll describe below ultimately benefits the end customer, and so I hope it will educate and inform, and so in turn benefit more end customers.

This all starts with a few assumptions.  Based on 8 years of quoting for and delivering fixed-price creative work, I have found that customers who buy design (eg. web design, graphic design) or development (software development, web development) work for a fixed price think that most or all of the following are true:

  • the quote reflects a specific number of hours work
  • reducing the requirements will reduce the price
  • all of the hours charged for are spent actually doing the graphic design, programming, or whatever skilled work is being charged for
  • the price is equal to number of hours multiplied by a fixed hourly rate

Many web designers, graphic designers, developers and consultants start out in their business also believing that these things are true.  However, within 1-2 years it becomes obvious (usually when the bank account is empty) that these things are not true.

Let’s work through a few examples and find out where this model breaks down, and why so many creative professionals struggle to build a viable business.

Why Price is not related to Time

Meet Danny.  He’s a graphic designer who’s just bought a shiny Mac, picked up a 2nd hand copy of Photoshop from eBay, printed some business cards, and built himself a flashy website.  Let’s walk through a few example customers at various stages in the life of Danny’s small graphic design business. Read More

27 May

Get Your Spark Back; Do Something Completely Different

A very perceptive lady once told me, at a difficult time in my life, “If things aren’t going the way you want them to, change something.” It sounds obvious, but those words stuck with me – the key point being that I needed to change something, not just mope around hoping something would change.

I recently had, thanks to that wedding and a few bank holidays, an 11 day break from work. It was great to stop and relax for a while, but I hadn’t properly planned for it work-wise. Although I was able to keep my customers happy, I still ended up with a mountain of overdue tasks. Worse still, I felt unable to tackle the mountain and completely lacking in inspiration and drive, despite being in the most rewarding and exciting time ever in my career. Read More

18 May

Speak Your Customer’s Love Language

Or, How to Fail at IT Service Delivery

I recently read a book aimed at improving relationships and began to wonder how the same theory could be applied to business.  I’ll briefly summarise the book, and then examine how the theory (I will call it a theory even though it’s reasonably well proven and makes a lot of sense) could benefit a typical relationship between an IT services company and one of its customers.

After getting over some skepticism, I read “The Five Love Languages“.  It’s aimed at improving long term relationships and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  In essence, the author boils down his years of marriage counseling into the theory that there are five primary “languages” that humans use to demonstrate love for another human:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Giving Gifts
  • Physical Contact

The premise of the book is that most people prefer to “speak” one, perhaps two of these languages, and that in a relationship, if you are speaking a language the other party doesn’t understand, you’re wasting your time.  It’s wonderfully practical, easy to implement, and gives rapid, measurable results, which is exactly the kind of technique that appeals to a busy person looking for an easy way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Business relationships are often jokingly likened to marriage, but behind the jokes are more than a grain of truth – “people buy from people”.  Any business relationship involves a human customer making a decision to purchase something from a person or company they can identify with in some way.  Several studies have shown that adding a “human touch” or otherwise personalising a product or service can boost sales.  For an ongoing relationship, after the initial “spark” has passed, there needs to be a mutual need and appreciation in order for the relationship to continue; in business, the initial spark is the first purchase a customer makes, and then later in the relationship, we see customer services issues, complaints, new products, upgrades, contract renewals and all the other day-to-day running of a business relationship. Read More

21 Apr

Get Off Benefits and Get Back To Work

That title is likely to evoke strong feelings in almost anyone.  Don’t judge yet, just read!

I think I understand both sides of this based on a variety of experiences; being brought up in a regular middle class family, then meeting a new set of people for whom working was unusual, then going through a year or two of depression and finally becoming an employer.

I’m inspired to write because this morning the news is focussing on the two million incapacity benefit claimants and how the government wants to get as many of them back to work as possible.  I thought “surely there are paying jobs that anyone with a basic grasp of maths and english, a computer and an Internet connection can do?”  I’m writing this to help me explore that idea and to inspire me to come up with solutions (so really, I don’t care if nobody reads it).

So why aren’t more people working?  Here are some examples that, if you have never known any of these people, should open your eyes: Read More

17 Apr

Web Designers, Marketers and Software Developers, how efficient is your business?

In this article, I’ll have a go at explaining a measure of business efficiency which I heard described by Nic Rixon (if you ever get a chance to see this guy, do it) in a business growth seminar, which he calls a “Run Rate”.  The term Run Rate is normally used to describe a company’s revenue extrapolated over time, but as I can’t find another term for this measure I’ll use Run Rate for now.

Imagine if everything was running at maximum efficiency.  If you charge by the hour, this means every employee who does chargeable hours is working all day every day.  Enough sales are being made to keep everyone busy, client expectations are managed so they don’t keep calling, maintenance is low because quality is high, cash flow is easy because prices are right, and staff are productive because they know what needs doing, and have the tools to do it.  Perhaps you’re purely selling time, in which case imagine you could work chargeable hours every day. What would your sales figure be?  Put a realistic number on it.

Now, what are your sales currently?  Take the past 6 months, for example.  Perhaps discount any abnormal windfalls or writeoffs, unless they happen regularly.  Divide that by the previous figure for the same time period.  For example, if you did £50,000 in the past 6 months, but you could potentially be doing £15,000 per month, then you could potentially have done £90,000 in the same time period.  £50,000 / £90,000 is 0.55, or 55%.

Read More

12 Apr

Small-scale Web Hosting Reliability and Add-On Services

I have several customers for whom I maintain Linux servers providing small-scale web hosting, simply because they provide services such as application management, SEO and web design, where the customer will assume that they are also able to provide web hosting.

Generally the setup is simple – a single rented server running one of the popular web hosting control panels – Plesk, cPanel, VirtualMin and the like.  Having managed web hosting services in various capacities for 15 years, I believe this is a perfectly acceptable setup, but it has a few flaws that will catch out the unwary: Read More