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About Us

Perfidious Albert is a relatively new name, but the crow logo has a lot of history with me. I have been a software developer and mostly self-employed since the millennium bug was a thing. Over the last 25 or so years I have worked on e-commerce and financial solutions for companies as diverse as Microsoft, General Electric, The Irish Stock Exchange, St. Michael’s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Evercam, and An Garda Siochana.

In January of 2023, after a couple of years working in consulting, management, and our own food business I returned to the coal face of software development. I built a world class e-commerce ticketing and passenger management system for Rathlin Ferry. As part of the undertaking, I went back to the drawing board and relearned my trade from scratch. I purged my bad habits, updated my skillset, used the latest technologies, and took my time in making it excellent. I released a very large and complex business application in phases with the first and main phase live in under 4 months. In January of 2024 I released a minor update to the software, and it has been running without any updates or patches since then. The system is fast and stable, and passengers love it. The ticketing software was the best work I have done in my career as a software developer and in terms of bespoke commercial projects for clients (as opposed to my own projects) it was probably my swan song.

If I look at negative reasons (the push) for moving away from bespoke software development, then I am not sure if they are all that strong. I think at the end of the day my core strengths are analysis, abstraction, and problem solving. Those are the pillars of software development, but the actual coding and a lot of other bits and pieces account for 70% of the work. For a company like Rathlin Ferry there is also the not inconsiderable responsibility than comes with a maintaining an application that is at its absolute busiest on bank holiday weekends in July and August. The downsides of that are obvious.

If I look at the positive reasons (the pull) for moving away from writing code, then it is a lot clearer to me. I have really fallen in love with e-commerce. It is the best of everything I have enjoyed about my career. It has a lot of psychology, a lot of analysis, endless problems to solve, and plenty of abstraction. Abstraction is essentially seeing the wood for the trees. It usually comes after analysis which is when you count the trees and maybe even how many leaves they have! Abstraction is what separates the problem solvers from the micromanagers. When you abstract a problem, you fundamentally understand it, realise the extent of it, and begin to solve it. It’s my strongest soft skill and my favourite to use.

I have been working on Shopify for a few years now. It has been a side hustle and a cash-flow generator. It has also been unbelievably frustrating to watch beautiful and functional Shopify websites go live and then see a dearth of sales from them. I tried explaining to clients that they need to get stuck in, learn the ropes, and learn how to sell online. At a networking event in Dublin a retailer who was using Shopify said to me by way of a challenge and to start a “robust conversation” that his Shopify website “just doesn’t work”. I was suitably irritated and replied, “Websites don’t do work, people do, you are the problem here not Shopify”. I am not a great networker.

That was my first moment of awakening. I realised that churning out websites for companies that didn’t have the skill, interest, or time to build an e-commerce business was never going to be a good fit for me.

I ripped apart PerfidiousAlbert.com and took out the section on software development. If I was doing this then I was doing it. I will always develop software, I love it, but its not what we the company do any more. I republished the website with lots of information about how we would build you a Shopify website.

That lasted about 48 hours before I realised, I had changed nothing. So, I ripped apart the website again and made it all about e-commerce strategy. I put in a footnote advising that we can build you a Shopify website if you need one, but everything else I wrote was about the science and skill of selling online. If I am going to admit that building Shopify websites is the easy part and selling online is very hard then I need to be honest about that in everything I do from the sales pitch forward.

So now the company has been repositioned. We are no longer a software development company or a builder of Shopify websites. We are an e-commerce consultancy. But something very important was about to happen to test my mettle*. As Summer 2024 approached our sales funnel was looking a little dribbly. That’s not unusual, I have never had a busy August in my 25 years of software development. However, a prospect came to us through word of mouth. They were looking for a big Shopify website and they had a large budget. It was a couple of months work and a nice summer pay day.

Conversations were had and proposals were sent. The owner of the company passed us down to his finance director who “knows more about this kind of stuff than I do”. The questions about where the company would appear on Google search started. Let me talk about that for a minute. SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is hard, specialist, and takes time, effort, and money. It is also often a sign that you have been assigned a “mentor” by some local government agency as they are for some reason utterly obsessed with SEO. But thinking your website is going to be number 1 on Google straight away is like buying a labrador puppy and expecting it to be able to lead a blind person across the road. A good website is only the basis for SEO and the clue is in the name – the optimisation part – “the process of making something as good or effective as possible” according to the dictionary. Furthermore, SEO is an ongoing process. Its actually not that hard for most businesses, but asking this question as a sort of box ticker question is a big red flag that a company expects everything to happen automagically.

I became uneasy and realised I was about to build another Shopify website that probably wouldn’t “work” for a company that had no interest in learning about e-commerce and would never see the value in paying someone else to do their e-commerce for them. They just expected magic sales from magic customers, both appearing from magic thin air. But euro notes are shinier than red flags, so I smiled and went through the hoops.

Then the negotiating started. I don’t negotiate. It is hard to price a website at the best of times, and when I do I give a fair price that allows me to do some really good work without cutting corners. Take it or leave it. But to be fair they compromised on their side (they dropped one or two requirements) I managed to bring the quote down a little. I presented the new price on a phone call to the client’s self-appointed website expert and her response was a pause for dramatic silence followed by the words “I presume that price includes VAT?”.

That was my second moment of awakening. I hung up the phone and wrote a draft email with only the words “f*ck you”. I then sensibly left it for my wife and business partner to rewrite and send to them. She changed it to “Dear…. we are no longer the best fit for this project…good luck finding a partner…. yours, etc”. They never replied.

The awakening wasn’t that interaction with a bad client. It was the word “fit” again. I realised that churning out websites for companies that don’t have a respect and appreciation for what it takes to thrive in e-commerce was never going to be a good fit for me. I remember business advice I heard once that if you open a new gym, you shouldn’t hand out flyers to the dad bods. They might need your service, but they are not your customer. It’s the gym bunnies you want to attract. Hand out the flyers to the people who don’t look like they need your service.

For the next few weeks, I worked LinkedIn and my email contacts to push our e-commerce expertise. I wouldn’t have had time to do this if I was working hard on the website we just refused. I got a call from a business that had a very nice conversion rate on Shopify and a very healthy average order value. Over 50% of their business was from repeat customers. They were running KPIs that most e-commerce businesses would jump at. But they knew they were underperforming, and they wanted help. I had found my gym bunny.

I am writing this just a few weeks shy of August 2024. It looks like it will be our busiest month ever in the business. I had to say no to a 25-year coding career and to 25 years of “survival instinct” and “pay the mortgage” mentality to get us here. I have never been more aware of the power of saying no, and how doing so leaves room and space to go out and find the clients that you want to say yes to.

This might well be the strangest and longest “about us” you have ever read and by the end of it you might be scratching your head and wondering is this guy a bit mad. Yeah probably, but I think if we are a good fit for each other, you probably know it now. You also know that if you get an email from us telling you that we are not a good fit, that what I really meant was….

*To save the curious among you from following me to Google to check the spelling of metal and make sure I used the cliché correctly, apparently mettle is an alternative older spelling of metal. Mettle is used when you are referring to the strength of one’s character rather than the stuff cars are made of.

TL;DR

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Perfidious Albert is an e-commerce consultancy. We mostly work from home in Dundalk and occasionally in our office in Dublin. It was just Albert (aka Ruairi), but this year it has gotten a little larger. We are now a husband-and-wife team with a small team of contract staff that we have known for years.

Between us we have a lot of experience working with and in small businesses. We work hard to create beautiful websites and e-commerce strategies for small to medium business owners. We are extremely good at what we do, and we have left a lot of very happy clients in our wake. Talk to us.