The StreetSmart ‘Law of Business’

eCommerce Puzzle Pieces

“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make

a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider

price alone are that person’s lawful prey.

It is unwise to pay too much, but it is also unwise to pay too little.

When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all.

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because

 the thing you bought is incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot…

It can’t be done. 

If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run.

And if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

(The ‘Law of Business’ by John Ruskin, 1819 – 1900)


Written over 100 years ago, John Ruskin’s ‘Law of Business’ may be debatable with eCommerce business systems.  With today’s technology and global labor pools, it is definitely possible to pay a little, and get a lot.    It’s also possible to totally waste your money by paying too little – or get ripped off by paying too much.

It’s tricky…   With eCommerce websites costing anything from “Free” to a low monthly fee and upwards to millions of dollars, it is easy for potential customers to get confused when trying to compare different systems and solutions from different suppliers.

These days an eCommerce site needs to be easily found, quick to load, graphically attractive, easy to navigate and search, and easy to use for pre-sales research, purchasing and for post-sales customer service and support. But it goes further than that. In addition to value in your products and pricing, your eCommerce system needs to offer additional value to users to enable and empower them to DO the things that are of value to them.

What do your customers value from you? How can you ADD VALUE to each customer? How can you meet and ideally exceed their wants and expectations? What do your customers require from you? How do you know what they want today and how will you know what they want in months and years to come?

And of course, your eCommerce system must meet your own business requirements too. Every business on their eCommerce journey faces the challenges to work out what their own business requirements are – and then to find the best, most cost-effective solution for today and for tomorrow.

It’s not about paying the least money or the most money. In the world of eCommerce, you are not guaranteed to get a better solution if you pay more, and the cheapest solution may not be the wisest.

There are many ways you can save money, especially if you’re streetsmart.  But being streetsmart is about getting GOOD VALUE, not cheap prices.

StreetSmart Approach

The digital world allows you to get the benefit of proven technology products at low prices delivered at little cost at huge global scale. This almost defies John Ruskin’s Law of Business, when high value solutions can be provided at low cost – and sometimes zero cost.

The price you pay for technology systems is often not a reflection on the value of the technology to you as a customer, but rather the price of technology comes from the location and cost-base of the technology vendor and developers, and the size and scale of the customer base of the business.

In the digital world, Ruskin’s Law is more applicable to the services that go along with the deployment of the technology. Whatever the price of  the technology, you must expect to pay a reasonable price for ‘the services’ from humans who help you implement and use the technology.

Yes, you can find low cost human services, especially if you use off-shore humans who are located in low-cost countries. And this is where, as John Ruskin says, you must remember to add on something for the risks you run.   Communication risks, project management risks, interpretation risks, re-working risks, time-delay risks…   And risks associated with virtual human resources that disappear or get better offers during or after your project development phases. Cheap human services who provide bad services or no service at all can kill your business.

Paying too much isn’t smart either. Not being able to afford to continually pay overly expensive fees from local eCommerce service providers can also kill your business, especially when you are locked into a painful and non-productive relationship with the provider.

It’s about balance. You need to be able to rely on the help, guidance and advice from affordable consultants and developers you can trust. And you need to get what you pay for, when you need it.

Price will always be one consideration, but for the sake of the future of your business, the streetsmart approach is to not let price be your main consideration when choosing your eCommerce consultants and developers.

As John Ruskin has written, if you pay too little, it is possible that what you bought will not work for you at all. It is often worth paying a little more to make sure you are able to get what need. 

This is especially true when it comes to setting up a business on the Internet.  


By Richard Keeves.

September 8, 2014

Comments Please Note: Comments are reviewed and may be edited before publication.

Leave a Reply

2 + 5 =