Like all “older” business owners, especially in the tech-savvy San Francisco Bay Area, I had to adapt to the ever growing influence of the Internet.
I’ve been running Fast Haul, my trash removal and junk hauling business for 20 years and in the past, all you had to do was making sure you were in the Yellow pages and maybe a couple of other local business publications, then drop a few print ads (or flyers as they are called these days) in mailboxes and on windshields. You were pretty much fine with only that.
Since then, things have radically changed, and especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area as I mentioned; I am now getting over 90% of my business through my website and online ads. I am definitely not a computer person, but if I wanted my business to survive, I had to adapt: get a website and a solid online advertising strategy. It has been a learning curve, and I thought the latest issue I had would serve as a cautionary tale for other small business owners trying to make an honest living out of their website.

After several bad experiences (which will probably be the topic of a future Eco blog post), I hired dots Web Marketing in 2009 for a complete re-design of my site and implementation of an online marketing campaign. Because the re-design process was done step by step, with a lot of back and forth and several iterations of the design I know for a fact that it is a 100% original design.
Here is what it looks like:

Fast Haul original design

I really like this design and at the time I’m writing this entry, we are still using it; so it’s not a surprise that others like it too. What came as a surprise though is when a few months ago a friend forwarded me the url of another junk hauling website, which at the time looked like this:

Stolen Fast Haul design

Even though these guys are in completely different part of the country and not at all competitors of mine, I still felt robbed and was immediately very upset and very angry. I started researching right away what legal action I could take. While investigating though, I found out that the best course of action before involving lawyers is to simply get in touch with the site’s owner and basically send them a Cease and desist notification. If they ignore this, then that’s when you should get an attorney; there are actually several laws protecting you from this and the offender might end up giving you a lot of money for using your intellectual property.
In this case though, the email notification was enough and helped clear the situation: the owner of the other company didn’t even know that’s what happened. It was now his turn to be upset at the so-called web designer who charged him a lot of money to create an original website design but basically stole someone else’s work instead!
He temporarily reverted back to his old website and has had a brand new one designed since then.

This experience probably taught him a lesson I’ve learned a while ago and he will hopefully be more cautious of who he’s hiring in the future for his online needs. My past misfortune in this field also makes for a good story, but as I said above, it will be the topic of another post!