Advice Needed: Do I pay this Contractors full invoice even though he spent his time doing work I specifically asked him not to do?

(Carina read ) #1

I am building a product, and product is 80% complete, and I have a very clear list of things that need doing.

I hired a full stack mid level developer to complete the work over an estimated 6 week time scale, but realised I didn’t have the skillset myself to manage him.

So I met through my networking a Senior Tech guy, more a COO type figure who had worked in the tech industry for 25+ years and said he had managed 8 developers in his last role in a. Fintech business.

So, I hired him to manage my Developer doing the work and to make sure the following:
a) interview and test the developer and manage his work to make sure he is right for the role; and
b) oversee his work day to day; and
c) Manage an Agile Build process and weekly sprints.

I shared a Trello board detailing the work to be done (as noted from testing / bugs) and in that, included a Bug List that I was told was around 10 man days of dev work. Some front end, some back end work.

I made it clear to the Senior Dev that I needed space for investor meetings so I wanted he and the new junior guy to focus on the bug list that was clear and self explanatory until I had “head space” to work on the things that needed my direct input.

So I asked the Senior guy to get the bug list done first, so I could have investors I am talking with test the site during talks and not get hit by some big bugs such as the Facebook SOO not working!

Assuming the first 2 weeks of work was clear and concise, I went and got busy in fundraising meetings.

Both Developer were working remotely.

I asked for daily Standup calls but these were not happening and I would ask the Senior Dev, “How is it all going is there anything for me to test or see?” and I was assured the new guy was really good and all was fine.

Into week 2, I felt disconnected, I didn’t see any new commits on the site, and I had no visibility of the work done and we were not have a Daily Standup call. So I pushed for these myself and announced that the next morning at 9am would be a Skype standup call.

The senior Dev then asked could he come and meet me for a coffee, and I agreed and that same afternoon, he sits me down and says the following:

“I know you asked us not to start any new work without your input, but I started X on building a coursel product recommender and on a new ratings idea I came up for Users favourite products.”

I BLEW A FUSE there and then in the coffee shop. I was shocked.

My first reply was "How can you be designing part of our product without consulting me? It is a product about beauty and women, and these were 2 blokes who had gone off piste. I said to him “I explicitly said no new design work until I was able to sit down with you both in a team meeting and discuss the needs of the new feature based in our User Testing results”.

It turned out that what had been designed and built without my consultation, was useless and would need to be ditched. They had made huge flaws in the design (not understanding the meta data involved in beauty products). The senior guy had designed it and had the junior build it into the UI ready to push to production and I had never even seen the design ideas.

So then I ask “Has the bug list been done?” and he looks unsure and says “I think [Jnr Dev] has done some of them”.

So I ask to be told which bugs are now fixed and completed, and nearly 2 weeks into the project, NONE of the bugs were done.

So I tried to work with this Senior guy for 1 more week, and then had to fire him as again, he was chaotic and went off piste and didn’t focus on the basic bug list.

So here is my dilemma - he has issued me an invoice for the days he worked and expects full payment. He did indeed do some actual work, but he didn’t do the work I asked him to do in the first 2 weeks and he repeatedly went off piste (on our very precious dollars) and the following week he went and wrote code to do something we didn’t need done, again because he decided it was needed, all the time the bug list wasn’t completed.

The work he got excited about and went off piste building and designing - cannot be used by us.

The other issue is I had to fire the Junior Dev he was meant to be managing daily after he invoiced me 3 working days to build 1 single “Coming Soon” page that was pre designed and handed to him by a graphic designer. This was now week 3 into the new phase of our build.

I confronted the Junior and suggested he may not be skilled enough for us (as a FE focused role) and he admitted that he had padded his invoice and had really only worked 1.5 days, BUT the senior guy was meant to be managing him?

So I have 2 issues I want to get advice on:

a) Do I pay the Senior guy for ANY days billed for work I EXPLICITLY in verbal and written ways, asked not to be done without my input, and given he didn’t do the damn bug list? In effect his poor mgmt has wasted 3 weeks of Senior and Junior consulting fees.

b) The Senior guy was hired to manage the Junior, and protect me, a non tech person, that we had the right resources doing the work. But he didn’t pull the Junior up on the 3 day coding of a single page. When I raised it 4-5 days later, the Senior guy said “I didn’t manage him, I dropped the ball. All I can say is I am sorry”. When I asked the Senior guy how he wasn’t managing the junior (his role) he replied “I got distracted on X feature” but X feature was another feature that was NOT needed now. In fact, we probably won’t need it for 3-4 months, but he went off piste and says he got lost in thinking about a future need.

So it was nice of him to apologise BUT it all costs me money?

What is the right thing to do in this situation?

I have two invoices, the Junior Dev (who was padding his invoice but I have knocked those padded days off and fired him for lack of integrity) and the Senior guy who a) didn’t stick to the agreed agenda and b) didn’t manage the junior.

I know think the Junior should never have been hired but the Senior guy knew if we didn’t have a Junior then he had no role, so I think there was a conflict of interest. It didn’t suit his needs (to earn consulting fees) to admit the Junior wasn’t up to the job or was dishonest.

My current thinking is this:
a) I pay the Junior guys invoice (net the padded days we know he added) as he was being managed by a senior so its not his fault he went off piste and did work I cannot now use.

b) I take the view that its my fault for not micro managing the Senior guy early on - and share the responsibility and pay half his invoice. After all, I should have insisted on the Stand Ups (if we had done the standup, I could have caught the off piste actions early on but I deferred to trusting the senior guy with 23 years expertise to manage a bug list being done).

Any thoughts on the right thing to do here would be hugely welcomed?


(Brahman) #2

What is written in your contract with both parties? Did you have a clear written list of deliverables? If YES, and they did not accomplish those deliverables, then I would not pay them. But it really depends on what is written in the contract.

(Pierre Chapuis) #3

Given what you wrote:

  • I would pay the Junior developer for the days they actually worked, like you said.
  • I would lean towards not paying the Senior guy but it all depends on the contract, but also how much a bad relationship with them could hurt you later on.

Next time you should probably go with a single, more experienced freelance developer. This kind of “I hire someone and someone else to manage them” setup is a recipe for disaster.

(Carina read ) #4

Thanks. I totally agree with your advice. It is a dilemma as a non tech founder how to oversee more junior staff. I heard the junior was excellent and also very cheap so I stupidly thought I could save money by hiring him but the senior guy who told me he would manage him was himself incompetent and had the junior doing the wrong work. Hey ho. We live and learn.

(Carina read ) #5

Yes, I created a detailed list of deliverables on a Kan Ban board in Trello with cards for every task. Which is why 10 days in I couldn’t see any “completed” tasks and worried what was going on and then the Senior guy asked to meet me for coffee during which he informed me of the work they had done which was NOT on the To Do list on the Kan Ban board.

I had a contract with both but the senior guy never signed his contract. The email sending him his contract stipulated his role was to manage the Junior doing 10 days of Bugs as detailed in the Kan Ban board.

so I will pay the junior as it wasn’t his fault he was badly managed and directed and not pay the senior guy.