The SUMO Heavy Industries Blog

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Hourly Consulting Fees are Dead

September 11, 2014 by Bart Mroz

hourly consulting fees are dead

For the better part of 4 years we’ve been continually adjusting how we work with our clients and how we price our services. Like any consulting business, we started with hourly billing. That quickly became a frustration point for our clients, as they would have no idea as to what their bill would look like at months end. It also became a pain point within the company. Our strategy and production teams weren’t fond of having to log every minute spent on work, calls, meetings and other tasks.

Hourly billing also puts a big strain on the consulting firm as it has to pay its employees before it receives payment from a client. We began to feel like a law firm – chasing billable hours.

We’ve also tried project-based planning. Everything is great during the discovery and planning sessions. We’d work out a detailed plan for the 6 months of a project and put a price on it. But then the client requests a feature change and we then have to tell them that change will either extend the length of the project, or they’ll need to remove something from scope. This happened again and again.

We were spending too much time working on change orders and renegotiating price, instead of working on the actual project. This was not an efficient use of ours or the client’s time and resources.

Our successful clients work with us on a full retainer engagement. Our retainers are month-to-month and a flat rate for each month. We become an extension of  their business, working with the client day-in and day-out to make their business successful. We’re able to focus on strategy, planning, and production without the worry of every minute being clocked and the client being billed for it.

There are many upsides for the client. They get to have a fixed expense for their technology consulting. The client also has a full team of professionals at a fraction of what it would take to hire a whole internal team. On our side, we can predict revenue, meaning better hiring on our part and in turn providing clients with the best consultants possible.

We’ve heard the argument that clients need to control their costs and they’d prefer to go hourly or on a project basis. In our experience, retainer or monthly-based engagements have had the biggest benefit to our clients. The client has the benefit of converting their consulting dollars into a predictable fixed cost, while gaining better control of the project.

How can I run a referral program for affiliate website?

May 30, 2014 by Bob Brodie

Before you can know the how, there are a few things that should be done. First, you should formally evaluate your business needs. Once you’ve done that, you can seek a solution to the problem.

Before jumping into any type of program, whether it be marketing, affiliates, segmentation, you should be able to formulate a reasonable return on that program. By planning ahead, it will help you fully understand the costs involved. New programs are great, and can really help a business get to a new place, but doing it in an uninformed manner can be devastating.

Let’s say you wanted to implement customer segmentation. You will gather information from your customers and use it to change the frontend of your website for those shoppers and others similar to them in behavior as well as send those segments email campaigns. If you do something like this as you go along rather than research first, you could find out that once you have this data you need five or six people to implement and manage it on an ongoing basis. If you have five customer segments and you send an email every week, you go from four emails per month to 20 – that is a lot to handle!

Once you’ve done your research and have chosen a path, you will generally decide between a few methods, such as:

  1. Choosing a third-party service
  2. Purchasing a third-party module for your platform
  3. Develop a custom solution for your platform

All of these solutions work, and your research will guide you in the right direction.

Third-party Service
There are many third-party services around to handle affiliate referrals, but they all have pricing models that may not fit your budget or business model.

Third-party Module
Magento, X-Cart, Spree, and others all have plugins and modules available from third-parties. These can fit your business perfectly or can come with issues such as bad development practices, unfriendly licensing, or poor support. Others are open source with thriving communities.

Custom Module
This is a great way to go if you have the resources. You can have a well-engineered extension for the platform your website runs on and it will meet your needs exactly as your business grows.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is: A program should fit your business model, and you shouldn’t have to build an existing business around a program.

How We Work: The New Client Tango

November 7, 2013 by Bart Mroz

Over the past few months we’ve been refining our process as to how we begin new projects and engage new clients. We’d like to share some of that insight. (If you’re a potential new client, or a developer/shop looking to see how other companies operate, this post is for you).

As a collective, we’ve been involved with web development and eCommerce projects for about 15 years. We’ve been through the painful process of estimating jobs: the RFP process, vague client-written requirements, loose estimates that are taken as real numbers, and everything in between.

We don’t believe that anyone can truly give a realistic estimate right off the bat for eCommerce projects. ECommerce is inherently complex and expensive to get right. We don’t like to give false hope to clients but would rather be realistic about what the actual investment must be to get it right.

A client wants to know exactly what they’re getting into. Ecommerce projects require significant financial investment, but also an investment in human resources. For that reason we perform a collaborative engagement at the beginning of each relationship. The ‘Discovery and Strategy’ engagement consist of an extensive review of the client’s business. This includes: interviews with the stakeholders of the project, interviews with client employees directly involved with the project, and a review of the client’s internal processes. We do this to basically see how the business operates (and to possibly uncover any hidden ‘duct taped’ practices). Many times we discover planning procedures and execution strategies that are often overlooked by other agencies, which is why we pride ourselves on the level of detail we give to each assignment.

We start with a small engagement, then scale up. We want to make sure that we can work as a team with our clients. As a smaller firm we’re always battling the bigger companies coming in to try and get the whole job. We feel that the easiest way to get past that is to work with a client on a smaller engagement to start. This lets each side know if the ‘relationship’ is going to work. Once we know that we’re able to work together in a harmonious fashion, we move on to tackle bigger chunks of the project(s). This does 2 things: it creates trust in us with the client, and it doesn’t allow either side to over-commit (or for us to under-deliver).

Additional requirements for different types of clients. We get new clients a few different ways. Clients might come directly to us for a full site. We also work with creative agencies that may use us as a development resource. One of the bigger things that we’ve been working on lately is rescue/salvage projects. Each one of these types of projects requires a slight variation of our general process.

We have additional requirements for these scenarios:

The Creative Agency Client – We have a specific set of requirement that we ask the creative agencies or designers to provide. They include branding guidelines, CSS style guidelines, annotated PDFs, and we prefer separate annotated PSDs, not just layered files, as things may be missed. We want to produce the best product that is as close as possible to what the designer envisioned. This level of detail also prevents changes at the end of the project that kill budgets.

The Rescue/Salvage Client – In this case we’ll do a full code review, standards compliant, documentation review. This gives us a great starting point of where the whole site stands. Usually our first step in this scenario will be to get the site up to standards.

Our typical starter engagement will last two to three weeks. This includes a written deliverable that describes the process, project tasks, project plan, and a realistic overall cost of the project. We sit with the client at the end of this process and review all the tasks and let the client choose what should or should not be included in the first phase of the build. This allows the client to be in charge of everything on the project.

We start projects this way to see if we’re a good match. It’s the first date, we need to know if ‘like’ each other. We know there is going to be good times, bad times, and some really bad times (yes, we’ve yelled at our clients and they’ve yelled back at us). Through experience we know that there’s going to be times that you need to be at odds to get the best work, then go grab a beer and laugh about it. Our best clients understand that.

We ask a lot from out clients, but in the end it produces the best possible outcome. The process is intense and we ask a lot from the client but it makes sure that there are realistic expectations on everyone’s part. Our job is to help build successful businesses. We don’t consider ourself just eCommerce developers but a full strategy firm that helps companies accomplish what they set out to do.

If you’ve found this article helpful, please share or leave a comment below. If you’re looking to engage SUMO Heavy, send an email to, and we’ll get started.

Selling Online: Brooklyn Borough President’s Breakfast Seminar

September 11, 2013 by John Suder brooklyn logoJoin us on Monday, September 16, 2013 for a web-focused Small Business Improvement Breakfast and Seminar from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Brooklyn editor Christopher Wink will moderate one of the day’s panel discussions on selling online.

SUMO Heavy’s CEO Bart Mroz will be on the panel “Selling Online: How to Engage the Online Marketplace”

Monday, September 16, 2013
8:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza
209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY



Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President
Robert Walsh, Commissioner of NYC Dept of Small Business Services
Carlo A. Scissura, President & CEO of Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

Kyle Kimball, President of New York City Economic Development Corporation

A) Selling Online: How to Engage the Online Marketplace
Featuring: SUMO Heavy Industries, Tattly, Brooklyn

B) Social Media & Websites: How YOU can Boost your Business’s Online Profile
Featuring: Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Highbrid Media, Nextdoor, Squarespace

A) Handling the Rush: Are Flash-Sales Right for your Business?
Featuring: Gilt City, Grady’s Cold Brew, Lifebooker

B) Consumer Engagement: Making Sure Their First Visit Isn’t Their Last
Featuring: HUGE, Red Antler, Shopkeep POS, Super Wings

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

This event is free and open to the public.

Things We Like: The Friday Five for August 30, 2013

August 30, 2013 by John Suder

Throne of Nerds

Artist Mike DeWolfe melted and warped over 20 black computer keyboards to create his “Throne of Nerds,” a tribute to the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones.

throne of nerds 1

throne of nerds 2

throne of nerds 3


The Kids’ Guide to the Internet (1997)

Surfs up, kids! Join “The Jamisons” As They Learn How Computers Make Learning Fun! 1997 was so adorable.


The Timeline of Colors in Breaking Bad

via FastCo Design:”TDYLF’s John LaRue painstakingly broke down five seasonsof Breaking Bad, noting what the characters were wearing in every scene (via recorded and found screengrabs), and charting the colors onto these massive, revealing timelines that highlight an aspect of character progression that you might otherwise miss.”
[TDYLF via FastCo Design]


[Larger version at TDYLF]


Hot Dog Legs

Legs, or Hot Dog selfies?
[Hot Dog Legs]






97-Year Old Man Creates Beautiful Art in MS Paint

Hal ‘Grandpa’ Lasko, a retired graphic designer was introduced to MS Paint on Windows 95 by his family. He spends up to ten hours a day creating his digital artworks. His art is for sale on his website.






The Friday Five is curated and written by John Suder, SUMO Heavy’s Head of User Experience and Minister of Propaganda. If you’ve got a story idea or see something feature-worthy for the Friday Five, contact John at

Things We Like: The Friday Five for August 23, 2013

August 23, 2013 by John Suder

What’s In Play-Doh?

A short film about what’s inside Play-Doh. Interestingly enough, the film was not done using claymation, but instead with 3D rendering.


This Charming Charlie

Smiths lyrics inserted into Charlie Brown comic strips.
[This Charming Charlie]





Every Second on the Internet

In one second on the internet there are…(visit the site and keep scrolling)
[Every Second on the Internet]

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 6.43.48 AM

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 6.43.58 AM

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 6.44.06 AM



Before Smartphones and handheld games, what did a person while ‘taking care of business’ on the loo? You read the labels on the shampoo bottle or toothpaste, right? Backlabel randomly generates the backside of a near infinite number of products and bottles, so you’ll never grow tired of reading pointless labels while on the potty.



Jony Ive’s Inspiration for OS7


The Friday Five is curated and written by John Suder, SUMO Heavy’s Head of User Experience and Minister of Propaganda. If you’ve got a story idea or see something feature-worthy for the Friday Five, contact John at

Things We Like: The Friday Five for August 16, 2013

August 16, 2013 by John Suder

Brooklyn Hipster Designs Dumpster Apartment

Designer/builder/artist Gregory Kloehn has decided to repurpose a dumpster into an actual home.It’s got a toilet, stove, and sink, as well as a sloped roof that can be levered up to reveal windows and doubles as a deck for seating. Quick test
[via Curbed]





Hairy Chest Sweater

Bring out your inner Alpha-male with the luxurious 70′s Hairy Chest sweater. The ladies will love you and it’s sure to increase your testosterone count.
[$61.49 at Firebox]



Ad Agencies: This Is What Your Ads For Women Look Like


Devs Do Art

No comment, I’ll let the work speak for itself.
[Devs Do Art]





Bubble-wrap Bicycle

The most fun you’ll ever have riding a bicycle.
[via Design Taxi]


The Friday Five is curated and written by John Suder, SUMO Heavy’s Head of User Experience and Minister of Propaganda. If you’ve got a story idea or see something feature-worthy for the Friday Five, contact John at



Things We Like: The Friday Five for August 9, 2013

August 9, 2013 by John Suder

The Breaking Bad School Musical

If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, then this is probably the greatest thing ever. The kids are awesome and the character impersonations are spot on.


Bass Dogs

People who play bass with their fingers look like they’re tickling hairy dogs.
[Bass Dogs]





Weather Kitty

Two of the things the internet is good for: Cats and the Weather – together in one app! The kitty images change to coincide with the time and conditions outside. Grumpy cat is not pleased.
[Weather Kitty via Mashable]


Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.14.08 PM



Portraits of Faces Pasted with Magazine Features

France-based photographers Metra Bruno and Laurence Jeason have created creepy portraits featuring people who look like they’ve had some cosmetic surgery done, but it’s actually pieces of magazines pasted on.
[Metra Bruno & Laurence Jeason via Feel Desain]





How Animals Eat Their Food


The Friday Five is curated and written by John Suder, SUMO Heavy’s Head of User Experience and Minister of Propaganda. If you’ve got a story idea or see something feature-worthy for the Friday Five, contact John at

Things We Like: The Friday Five for August 2, 2013

August 2, 2013 by John Suder

Rappers & Cereal

Where beats & breakfast meet.
[Rappers & Cereal]





New NYC Concentric Circles Subway Map

From The Gothamist: “Max Roberts, a psychologist who lectures at the University of Essex in the U.K., focuses his studies on schematic mapping and wayfinding information. He designs maps and conducts studies to see how usable they are (he’s consulted for Transport for London, the transit agency that runs the Underground). He created a London tube map based on concentric circles for fun earlier this year and has now created one for NYC.”
Not very usable, but a really nice graphic.
[Gothamist via @bartmroz]



Photoshop Cs5 Filters Animation

All the Cs5 filters demonstrated in one video. Test change.


Gin & Tonic Flavored Popcorn

Handmade in England using 5% real Gin and 5% real Tonic. Best served with Popcorn-flavored Vodka.
[via Firebox]



Famous First Landing Pages

A collection of first landing pages of famous startups. As Paul Graham recently wrote, “Think of some successful startups. How many of their launches do you remember?”
[Famous First Landing Pages at One Month Rails]





The Friday Five is curated and written by John Suder, SUMO Heavy’s Head of User Experience and Minister of Propaganda. If you’ve got a story idea or see something feature-worthy for the Friday Five, contact John at

Things We Like: The Friday Five for July 26, 2013

July 26, 2013 by John Suder

Flip Flask

Flip Flasks are Reef sandals that hold 3 oz. of the adult beverage of choice. Great for concerts or jury duty.
[Flip Flask]



Jay-Z’s Got 99 Problems

Even world-famous rappers have problems. Daily illustrations by Ali Graham.
[99 Problems]





Rainy Mood

Pretty simple: load the page and relax (or work) to the sounds of a rainy day. Rain makes everything better.
[Rainy Mood]

rainy mood

Fuel Your Libido with Sexcereal

Since the dawn of time, whether for recreation or procreation, we’ve all wanted to perform at our best when the lights are low. The body is an amazing machine, but it can only perform if it’s had the right fuel. Enter SEXCEREAL, the world’s first gender based breakfast cereal formulated by a cadre of sexy scientists in North America.
[Sexcereal at Firebox]



Google Glass Throughout History

Photoshops of historical/famous figures wearing Google Glass.
[The Verge]





The Friday Five is curated and written by John Suder, SUMO Heavy’s Head of User Experience and Minister of Propaganda. If you’ve got a story idea or see something feature-worthy for the Friday Five, contact John at