Archive for the ‘Outsourcing’ Category

Five reasons to start delegating more today

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

It is a simple fact that I am terrible at delegating.

I have a very hard time giving work to someone else to complete. Even when I’m trying to think of tasks to delegate, when I am purposely trying to trim down my workload, I have trouble delegating.

But now I have a secret weapon.

Last week, on my company’s anniversary, I hired my first full-time employee. Cara doesn’t have an official job title yet, she is a jack-of-all-trades. I hired her because she is smart, flexible, likes variety, and because she is the best delegator I have ever met in my life.

Pointing finger delegatesCara takes delegating to a whole new level, not because she is lazy, but because she is efficient. She is willing to do anything if it has a purpose, but if it is useless busy work, she’ll be happy to explain why. If she’s working on a project that can be outsourced to someone else who is not fully occupied with work, she’ll demonstrate how that makes sense. She is also excellent at training other people (which is a big part of delegating). Cara is a master delegator.

In the one week since Cara’s worked with me, her delegation skills have already begun to transform my business. And watching her thought-processes has given me some really good insight into why every person in every business should start delegating more today.

1. Teaching a job to someone else shows you where there are holes in your logic or where you’re taking too many steps. As I’ve begun to explain process-oriented work to Cara, she asks me questions that point out unnecessary steps or reveal a better way to do things. Today I was explaining how to check something from the admin section of a Web site. To do so involves a separate URL, login information and instructions on how to access the data. That process works, but Cara asked why we couldn’t just find the information from the public Website. Turns out we could, and that saved us about 10 unnecessary steps. Just by explaining the steps and having someone ask a question, we saved time and streamlined a lengthy process.

2. Feeling like you have to do something is a lot of pressure; it’s easier to think more creatively when you aren’t stressed with looming projects. I have a to do list that stretches for pages in my notebook. There are many items on that list that have been there for months. They are always on that list, always in the back of my mind; projects that I need to tackle but haven’t been able to get to. If there is a project that has been on your to do list for more than two months, think about delegating it. You aren’t getting it done, so at least some progress will be made if you give it to someone else.

3. Giving away something old and established makes way for something new and innovative. I have a number of repetitive projects that take up a portion of my week every week. These things are always there; kind of like during college on the weekends when I could not ever relax because I knew that there was a book to read or a paper to write. By delegating those kinds of projects, your mind has more room to be creative and to spend time on less process-oriented problems.

4. Establishing processes allows you to delegate and to increase your output in multiples. It’s fairly obvious that it is much easier to outsource something if there is a process for how it gets done. By creating processes around work, and figuring out how to get other people to help do the work, there is another benefit – the total amount of work that you can get done increases exponentially. An good example is the human powered search engine Mahalo. The site employs Guides who help to create pages that can be searched. There is a process to creating those Mahalo pages, and by making sure that everyone who works on the site knows the process, the site can grow faster as new Guides are added.

5. Freeing up extra time will allow you to write that blog post that you’ve been putting off for a week (or longer). More time for other work is the most obvious reason to delegate.

(BONUS) 6. Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work. And in most cases, it’s better to get 80% of the work done at 80% skill level than 40% of the work done at 100% skill level. On top of this, it’s usually not true that no one else could do the work.

When this article first came out, I printed it out and tacked it to my bulletin board at work because of this section:

“Moving into any new position requires that you get rid of the stuff from your old position. This means delegating. It means getting over the idea that you were indispensable on any of your old teams. You can’t do you new job well if you’re still doing your old job.

Delegating your old job should take three days. You find people who are taking a step up when they accept pieces of your old job so that they are excited. You give them an explanation of how to do it and tell them where to go when they have questions.

You are going to tell me that one day is not enough, that you have a very complicated job. But think of it this way: If you died today, your job would be delegated in a couple of days.

Delegating is not enough, though. You have to stop caring. If you are no longer on a project because you got a promotion, then you have to stop obsessing about how the project is doing.”

I try to keep that advice in mind, but I’ve already admitted that it’s a challenge for me. If you’re bad at delegating, try these seven tips to becoming a better delegator. But whatever you do, start delegating more today.

Photo by Mykl Roventine

My greatest weakness

Monday, July 21st, 2008

WeaknessAnyone who tried to visit any page on this site since last Wednesday already knows what I am about to tell you – my blog has been down for five days. It’s back up now, working just fine, but it appears that the damage has been done. My good SEO ranking on some good terms has been lost, 1/4 of my readers have unsubscribed.

I just wanted to send a quick note out to all of you who have stuck with me through the downtime – thank you! And I’m sorry for the technical difficulties. The short explanation is that this blog is using a technology that one of my new businesses/applications is also using, and when the developers made a change to that application, they managed to take down my blog at the same time. It appears that everything is now fixed and working like it should, hopefully there won’t be any more issues.

This outage really brings to light what I think is my biggest weakness as an entrepreneur - I am not technical enough. I know a bit about technology, definitely enough to talk about it and to understand the concepts, a smattering of HTML. But I am not a “do-er” – and so, when things like this happen, I am at the mercy of others. This fact is hard to take.

I am honestly not sure what the solution to the problem is, either. As the president of my company, I shouldn’t be the one who is doing all the nitty gritty work – that would be a waste of time and resources. I also don’t have the time to go back to school and to take classes to learn all this stuff that I wish I already knew. I could regret my college major (maybe computer science would have been a better choice than English, no matter how much I loved reading those books), but then again, if I had majored in computer science, who knows where I would be now. Maybe the influences of Maya Angelou (On The Pulse of the Morning), Sylvia Plath and Ralph Ellison are part of what has inspired me to be the person I am today, to do what I am doing right now. And regrets aren’t helpful, anyway.

So I put my lack of technical expertise in the category of unavoidable things that suck. At least for now. And I try to use this weakness as a reminder that I can’t build this business on my own, that I need help and input from a wide variety of other people to be successful. And I breathe. Slowly.

Photo by solidstate

Outsourcing rocks!

Friday, April 25th, 2008

That was my alternate title for the story I just wrote for The Industry Standard – up now on the site: 10 reasons that start-ups absolutely should outsource (almost) everything.

From the titles I’ve chosen, it’s pretty clear that I am a huge fan of outsourcing. Since I am the only full-time employee of my company, I am a big outsourcer. Outsourcing has been a great way for me to scale quickly without breaking the bank. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t rehash everything here, but if you want to read about my experiences with outsourcing, here are some choice selections:

Globalization, outsourcing and Pure Incubation
How to hire a Web designer using eLance
How to prepare for the globalization of your Internet business

And I found out today that all this outsourcing has had a positive impact on my business – for the first time (March 2008), I was in the black.

Celebration

I am a fan of celebrating the small victories (and believe me, it was small), so I’ll be celebrating this weekend. Have a good one.

Photo by bfick

Globalization, oursourcing and Pure Incubation

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

As I mentioned in my last post, I just finished my first board meeting for Pure Incubation, and I thought I would share my favorite statistic and slide from the meeting. One of the things that I like the best about this business is that, by design, I am working with people from all over the world. Currently, I am working with 17 different writers, designers, developers, marketing people and consultants, in 6 countries on 4 continents. To illustrate this, I put together a world map with the locations of my various consultants and contractors. I’m not a designer so forgive the bad graphics!

World Map with contractors

Good + Fast + Cheap

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

There are so many good things about starting a company. The freedom. The independence. The creativity that it brings out in me. The amazing things that I’m learning. But the one thing that is so incredibly frustrating is that I have to rely on part-time contractors to get anything done.

The last job that I was at, I worked with an incredible team of people. Technically, I guess they worked for me, but each of them was so good at what they all did that I really considered us to be a team with myself at the helm, giving directions and making sure that the company, the development, the product – that everything was moving in the right direction. Quickly. Efficiently. FAST.

Now, I am a solo act. I am still working as quickly as I ever have – probably more so because I’ve upped the amount I’m working to approximately 15 hours per day (all the statistics about how much you work when you’re self-employed are right, it turns out). But no matter how quickly I work, I am always waiting for someone else to get something done.

Let me be really quick to say that I am not blaming anyone for this situation – I am still working with an amazing group of people. It’s just that they are only contracted to work some (small) number of hours per month. I mean, I work more hours PER DAY than each of them work per month. This is the way it has to be, but it really tests my patience.

According to Chris, this situation is attributable to the Good Fast Cheap theory of business. OK, I don’t think that Good Fast Cheap is technically a business theory, I think it’s more a concept that designers use when working for clients to try to help them understand how they work, but it’s a reality with my company so far. Chris’ claim (and I think he’s right) is that you can pick two of the three – Good, Fast, Cheap – but you will have to forgo the third. In my case, I have picked good and cheap, but I have to let go of FAST.

This is really too bad, because fast is one of my favorites.

Start the process of globalization today

Thursday, September 27th, 2007


If you want to grow your business, I can’t think of a reason to put globalization off any longer. Pick a country, any country (other than the one in which you’re currently doing business), and take a step forward. There are ways to pick what country to start with, such as determining which countries already send a lot of visitors to your site, or finding a country that has a market in which your product has a lot of appeal. Then just start.

One of my clients is starting by re-writing all of the code for its primary application in Unicode, which has the “potential to cope with over one million unique characters.” Or you could start by examining how companies like Yahoo are managing their multilingual content. Or just subscribe to a blog that focuses on the day-to-day process of globalization. Or maybe your first step is simply trying to feel comfortable working on a project with someone in another country. My suggestion is to just try it. One site I’ve used in the past for outsourcing is eLance. The online service allows you to bid out projects of many types (including translation). All you have to do is register for an account (you’ll need an active credit card or bank account to qualify to use the service, although it’s free), then post your project. You’ll get bids from all over the world. This week, via eLance I’ve worked with contractors in Argentina, Russia and India (as well as my U.S.-based contractors – this isn’t a post about outsourcing all your work overseas!) This experience alone might open you up to the possibility of exploring other markets. Just start.

~Today’s view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1450092271/

How to prepare for the globalization of your Internet business

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

 

GlobalizationThis is not a comprehensive list of the things that you’ll need to do to prepare your Internet business for globalization, but you need to start somewhere. And if you haven’t started yet, now is the time. This quote in a recent press release from comScore says it all: “Internet users outside the U.S. now account for 80% of the world’s online population, with rapidly developing countries experiencing double-digit growth rates year-over-year.”

Let me repeat that – 80% of the world’s online population is made up of Internet users outside the U.S. Internet users are multinational. It’s time to get started on this. Here’s how.

1)      Make sure your tech people at every level of the organization know the strategic plan for globalization. You may or may not have a CIO or CTO who typically sits at the table for strategic technology planning, but do not leave even the lower-level tech folks out of the discussion on this issue. For globalization to even have a chance at working, the technology behind your site needs to support globalization. And that technology is fairly complicated. My (incredibly) simplified understanding of the issue is that you need to use Unicode. But trust me, there’s way more to it. Just take a look at Microsoft’s “Globalization Step-by-Step.” You need your tech people on this one.

2)      Get psyched up about hiring someone who lives and works outside of the country in which you operate. In order to effectively localize your site so that it really works for people in the country that you’re trying to reach, you’re going to need to hire someone who actually lives in that country. This is the only way that you’ll be able to avoid creating a site that – for the lack of a better way to describe it – feels weird to the local users 

3)      Pick your short list of target countries. Just because you’re starting to look into globalization, that doesn’t mean that you should tackle every country at once. One suggestion is to take a look at the international traffic that is already coming to your Web site by examining your site analytics or log files. Chances are that the countries that are sending you a lot of traffic before you’ve done anything to your site are going to continue to provide a good market for your products and services.

4)      Register your domain name with the appropriate country-code top-level domains. There are rules that apply to the registering of these domains – some countries require citizenship, for example – but it is always worth trying to get the country-appropriate domain name to support your site.

5)      Practice patience. Just like your original business wasn’t built in a day, neither will your international extensions. It will take time for the local versions of your site to take off and for your site to become established in the markets that you’re trying to penetrate. Stick with it.

~ Today’s view:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1439224573/