I think I would like Paul Purdue. As executive of the startup company iFulfill, he decided to blog about family life and his company. But the blog really became popular only when the company started to unravel.
At one point a frustrated Purdue asked his marketing consultant, a blogger named B.L. Ochman, president of Whatsnextonline.com, how to attract readers. She recalls relaying a tip that long ago had been given to her: “Do something controversial.”
Purdue, it turned out, was well on his way to doing just that. Even before he began building his blog, his company was falling apart. The installation in February of a new wireless inventory system led to widespread confusion and missed orders. As chaos mounted, morale sank among iFulfill’s 38 employees. Customers defected. Debt soared.
Purdue, who had financed the startup on personal credit cards, saw the balance on his cards top $150,000. The company owed even more to shipping giant UPS (UPS ). Attempts to refinance fell through. So on the morning of July 25, the 43-year-old Purdue shuttered the seven-year-old iFulfill.com. “I went to work at about 5 a.m.,” he says, “and started firing people as they came in.”
And wouldn’t you know it? That’s when his blog took off. As bloggers spread the word about the drama at iFulfill.com, Purdue’s blog at last began to generate buzz — though hardly the kind he had envisioned. No, it became an online exhibit of a company’s demise, in real time. As Purdue explained why he was shutting the doors, customers weighed in with comments, many of them expressing fury. Competing shippers in the fulfillment industry popped up on the blog, offering their services.
But at least Purdue kept his perspective:
But already, his thoughts are drifting from iFulfill. For three days, while merchants were hiring trucks and hauling off their goods, he was on a Cub Scout trip with his son. Now he is preparing to file for personal bankruptcy. He says that when the warehouses are empty, he’ll stop blogging — at least until he has some new stories to share.
An ex-customer thinks he knows what went wrong:
Not all of his customers were amused. David Foy, president of Adox Fotowerke of Calgary, Alta., says that when he saw the blog go up, he worried. “Paul was turning into a philosopher,” he says. “It was about his ego.” Foy, who was already seeing performance glitches at iFulfill, began shifting shipments to a competitor in Idaho.