- Rob’s email marketing web app, Drip
- Mike’s security auditing app, AuditShark
- Laura Roeder
- oDesk – for hiring contractors, VAs
- Double Double (book by Cameron Herold, mentioned by Laura)
- Authentic Jobs – a good job board
- Fiverr – Hire people for small gigs for $5
- Rob’s Growth Hacker Internship
[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 143.
[00:10] Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[000:19] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week Rob?
[00:24] Rob: It’s been a good week. The very first dollar came through for Drip this week.
[00:30] Mike: Congratulations. We should have like applause music or something like that.
[00:32] Rob: I know, yeah. It feels good. It feels like another milestone. I think there are 15-16 users in the system now and there’s about a third of them that are really super engaged and have already paid. So revenue is in the – I don’t know, it’s about $250 to $300 right now. That feels really good to have that down.
[00:50] And then another third is still getting setup, probably just got them onboarded in the last couple of days so they’re working on it. And then there’s another third that I’m working with. They’ve been on for a week or two but they’re still struggling to get their mini-course setup and kind of getting the time for their team to create it.
[01:06] But it’s as always been a fantastic learning experience and I love hitting milestones like this because it just keeps me and Derrick motivated to move forward because it feels like we’re making progress.
[01:18] Mike: Now are you billing people as soon as they sign up or you got like a 14 day trial period for them?
[01:22] Rob: Yeah. At this point, everything is manual and so it’s still early access. I haven’t even emailed the main list and so I’m basically working one on one with people via email and sometimes via video Skype. And once they get setup, then I monitor their account and I email them and say they are you happy with the results? Are you happy with the conversions?
[01:43] Like one guy’s been setup for three or four weeks but he’s not getting the conversions he’s looking for so he and I are kind of working out how he can improve that and it’s not until he sees value in it that I am going to bill. I email everyone before I bill them and I say hey are you getting enough value out of it to pay $49 and then I get their credit card info and do it from there.
[02:02] So it’s totally one off, totally manual. At this point I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Before we email, I have 100 or 200 people I’ll be emailing. Before we do that, that’s when I’ll need to get a trial in place and I won’t bill them upfront at least to start. I have to. I really think that they need to see some value in it before they get billed.
[02:20] Mike: Yeah. I’m working through some of the sign up code for auto-shark right now. Last week I was complaining about how everything just seemed like it fell apart and over the past seven days I’ve really gotten things – so everything’s back together again. And it actually is solid now so I don’t think things will fall apart in the way they did before.
[02:39] Part of it had to do with code merges. I found there were some code that have been merged and it broke some things so I’ve got most of that straightened out. There’s a few last minute tweaks that I need to get straightened out in terms of a sign up for the early access. I’m really close to having that all squared away and then touching base with a few people and have them sign on.
[02:58] And when to bill them is actually a question I kind of had in my mind. I was kicking it around a little bit trying to figure out do I bill them upfront or do I wait a little bit? I think I’m going to hold off of it. I’ll take their credit card information stuff as part of the sign up process because that’s already in there. But I probably won’t bill them for a couple of weeks. I’ll just kind of give them some time and let them see what they’re getting out of it, get some of the feedback that I need to make the tweaks and then touch base with them just the way you did in terms of saying hey, is it alright if we switch over starting to bill you.
[03:27] Rob: Right and that was the cool part is when I emailed folks. Most of the people who I emailed I only emailed because I knew that Drip was working for them and if they’re actively using it and they’re getting subscribers and conversions and all that. It still feels weird. It still feels weird to email someone say hey can I bill you $49 or one guy’s actually on a mid tier plan so can I bill you $149 for the next month of usage?
[03:51] And all of them, when they came back, it felt really good. They were like absolutely. This is definitely worth it. It’s like it gives you that rush of adrenalin of like we’re really doing something that works here. I’ve enjoyed this approach. I think trying to make an arbitrary trial length this early in the game or to bill people upfront when they’re basically – if they’re not doing you a favor per se but kind of. Its going to take a little more time than just signing up for a traditional service. I think that’s probably pretty mature right now.
[04:21] Today we’re going to be talking how to hire like a bootstrapper and we actually have a guest Laura Roeder. So today, Mike and I have the pleasure of having Laura Roeder on the show. She’s calling in all the way from London. So Laura we appreciate the last minute scheduling and the fact that you’re 8 or 10 hours off of us.
[0:04:40] Laura: Yes, super happy to be here. You even recorded it during the daytime for me instead of the middle of the night which is very nice.
[04:46] Rob: So Laura is an expert. She’s social media and personal brand building person. She was a 2012 MicroComf attendee and she is here today to talk about how to hire like a bootstrapper? And in typical startups that the rest of us fashion, this will be much less of an interview and more of a panel discussion as Mike and I pipe in with our experiences as well.
[0:05:07] Laura brings a unique viewpoint on this topic because she’s a non-technical person who has hired technical people. So we’re going to look at elements of how that was difficult or challenging for her. Laura has been on – she’s appeared on Mixergy twice. She’s all over the press, forbes.com, CNet, L.A. Times, fast company. She’s had a course on AppSumo. She also runs…
[05:30] Laura, correct me if I’m wrong this is where you kind of got your experience of hiring is you have a membership website called Social Media Marketer and then you have a course on its called Creating Fame which is more of a personal branding course. Is that where you got your initial experience hiring folks?
[05:47] Laura: Yeah. I have a team that helps me run the business and the business is those two courses.
[05:52] Rob: Very cool. Alright, so we have an outline that Laura’s graciously provided. We’re going to start popping through a few of these points. The first item we’re going to talk about is how hiring or outsourcing is different for a bootstrap startup versus a funded one. You want to talk a little bit about that?
[06:08] Laura: Yeah. I mean I think a lot of bootstrappers are completely and totally overwhelmed especially with how to do their first hire because traditionally when you look at hiring you look at the team you need and then you look at your budget, how much can we afford for everybody and a bootstrapper, your budget is zero.
[06:27] And you’re often thinking I know, I thought this in the beginning “well I can’t afford $60,000. I can’t even afford $30,000 to pay someone a yearly salary.” So how can I have and be one? I think the bootstrappers have to get a lot more creative in how they hire because you don’t have that. You never have $500,000 in the bank that you can just use to pay people huge salaries. You often never get to that point as a boot strap business. You’re just going a little bit by a little bit.
[06:57] Rob: Right. What’s interesting about that, I remember hearing Peldi talk about it early. He said he was questioning when to hire that first person and he said he waited until he had six months of that person’s salary in the bank before he would hire them because it just made him feel more comfortable that he wasn’t basically going to have to let somebody go so quick. So you can imagine how much slower his growth was than someone who as you said half a million or a million dollars in the bank to do it.
[07:24] Laura: I think that’s great if you can get there. I certainly have not been at that point for most my business and also if you’re starting out hiring freelancers they kind of know and it could be good motivation. We need this work to work out so we can keep the business growing and so we can keep paying more. You know?
[07:42] Rob: Right. So what? Have you had a rule of thumb for yourself or do you just – when you need to help if you have $1 more than the project then you’ll hire like freelancer?
[07:52] Laura: Yeah. I guess my only rule of thumb is just always to put money towards hiring first. I think a lot of people are willing to do things like spend a bunch of money going to conferences or buying like training various sorts but they won’t actually spend the money hiring people to do the things they’re learning at the conferences. They get so stuck in learning mode and not doing mode.
[08:16] So I haven’t had a certain amount of money in the bank or anything but I do try to say okay if I have an idea, there’s such cheap ways to get things done. If I have an idea that I know is going to grow my business, what’s the most down and dirty way that I can spend $100 even to get this idea started going?
[08:33] Rob: Right. You know the way I’ve done it for the past several years was to start by hiring essentially freelancers or contractors because there’s not such a commitment and you can hire them for a few hours a week and you can slowly ramp them up and then bring them on full time if needed. Is that how you’ve done it as well or did you kind of just plunk down and said I’m hiring someone full time from the start?
[08:54] Laura: Now I have people full time, now that I’ve been doing this for about four years but I definitely started with everyone as a part time freelancer because I couldn’t afford anymore than that. So I’ve had a few people that started part time and then have become fulltime. Now I try to hire out fulltime roles unless it truly is a onetime project. But even – we just added someone new for customer service. My company customer service is not a full time job. There’s not enough emails for eight hours a day every day.
[09:26] So we’re starting someone hourly. We’ll probably move her to flat rate part time assuming that all goes well. So if I can think that there’s going to be enough work for them, now I do full time but if its anything short of that which it often is, yeah I think starting with a smaller project is the way to go.
[09:44] Mike: I think the one thing that I hate about taking the leap from going directly to not having somebody work for you at all to hiring somebody full time for a position is that you don’t necessarily know how well that person is going to work out because you’re in the position where you’re on occasion you have to hire people who are technical and that obviously creates some challenges but it doesn’t really matter whether you’re technical or not.
[10:07] Hiring other people is just difficult. I mean you can look at all the studies and research you want and even Google has tons and tons of research which basically shows that nobody in Google knows how to really hire good people. And I’m serious about that. I mean if you look at the things that Google has published, they say flat out we don’t know how to hire good people.
[10:24] They have all these statistics that they’ve done and tried to identify who’s hired good people? Who hasn’t? And across the board, everyone is mediocre which basically you can translate that out to everybody else in the planet and say well if nobody’s good at hiring, how do you go about making sure that you do hire good people? I think the only way to really do it is to try people out. I mean you have to go down that contractor consultant route first and work with people in order to figure out whether you work well with them or not.
[10:52] Rob: I think we live in a time where this is possible and 15 years ago, I didn’t know of anyone anywhere who was trying to start a business like we have, the location independent business with a single founder who was able to find someone skilled who was willing to basically freelance and work part time. And so I just think it’s critical that people keep in mind as you’re getting started you don’t just think the old mindset of I need to hire someone 40 hours a week to do something.
[11:22] Because Laura the point you brought up about it as someone doing customer service, I agree. Even with all the businesses that I run, I still don’t have a full time customer service person. It’s been years that I’ve had these things running. So I think that’s a main takeaway of kind of this first discussion point. If someone’s not already thinking about the two benefits of being able to hire someone part time is 1) you don’t have the major commitment and 2) that you do get to try them out like Mike said, those would be the things I would try to take away from this.
[11:50] Laura: I think a little side bonus to what you’re saying that’s really interesting is that you often get more entrepreneurial people which I think is really essential for running a small lean startup. I need everyone to be entrepreneurial thinkers and the way to tap into this location, independent more freedom lifestyle without starting your own business is working for another company that has that lifestyle already. Everyone who works for me works from their own home.
[12:19] Yes they still have a somewhat boring normal job that they have to do but they can do it on their own hours. They can travel and do it from wherever so I think you attract the type of people that you want in your company too.
[12:33] Mike: Something else I found with contractors and consultants is that they’re very much the type of person who looks at specific problems and tries to find ways to solve those problems as opposed to when you get out – I’ll say it in a corporate world where people get hired and they know that they’re getting paid to be a butt in a chair and they will sit there and whether they’re being productive or not, that you’re getting paid for it.
[13:00] So they see it as basically they’re just trading off their time versus a contractor who’s brought in to actually solve a problem and that’s what they’re paid to do is they’re paid to solve the problem and yes they’re getting paid for the time that they put into that problem. But their primary goal, their primary motivation is to solve those problems.
[13:17] Rob: Let’s move on to point 2 which is to talk about the first folks that we each added to our teams, our first hires so to speak. Laura you want to kick this off?
[13:26] Laura: Yeah. When I started the business that I do now, it was just making online courses which is a very homemade thing and I didn’t need to hire a developer anything like that. It’s all very DIY. So the first person I hired was really a VA, a virtual assistant type of person who kind of helped with a little bit of everything.
[13:48] Customer service is something that I’m especially terrible at so I knew I needed someone doing that. So she did customer service. She also put on emails into our email marketing program to basic tweets and edits on wordpress website just kind of general admin help. And she was part time. She’s a stay at home mom. I found that there’s this huge un-tapped workforce. There’s all these parents out there that want part time jobs because they want to spend time with their kids.
[14:15] And that’s not a thing in the normal workforce to have any kind of part time job where you get to use your brain so she was a mom looking for a part time job and I’ll talk numbers because I know everyone always really, really wants to know. I’m pretty sure I started her out at $1,000 a month. 20 hours a week-ish flat rate.
[14:34] Rob: Nice.
[14:35] Mike: Yeah, I think one of the first people I hired came on as a contractor. I think it was hiring him at $1500 a week. He actually came to me through an agency and it was more because I needed somebody there who could do scripting at the time. I kind of got away from bringing people in like that just because it was so expensive compared to what he was getting paid from the agency. So having that middle man in there really ramped up the cost but then I switch over to using contractors.
[15:00] And the first contractors I found were through Odesk. I think I was only paying $10 or $11 an hour and I was able to essentially afford having them 30-40 hours a week and that seemed to work out pretty well but you do have to go through interviewing process to make sure that you’re getting the right people. And you need to be able to cut people loose and know that you’re making the right decision because it’s more important to have the right people than it is to just have people working for you.
[15:28] Rob: Yeah and for me it was a virtual assistant. This was probably 2007 I think after I read The Four Hour Workweek and I just had a couple small products that were ramping up and I realized that doing all the support myself and all the admin tasks just wasn’t the right way to go. I haven’t even realized that you could get hire people for a few hours a week around the world and it was a big light that came on for me after reading that book.
[15:53] Hourly rate was probably $5 or $6 an hour. I think they were in the Philippines. I don’t even remember at this point. I worked with them for a year or two and they’ve moved on and I’ve since found a number of virtual assistants and developers and designers like Mike said mostly on Odesk these days.
[16:09] I think something for folks to think about, if you’re at the point where I guess I feel like people wait a little too long to hire that first VA. I mean I wished I had done it earlier. I think there’s a longer learning curve than a lot of people think when you hire someone because you have to learn how to be a good delegator not to micromanage, not to throw a fit if someone doesn’t do it exactly the way you want it or how well you want it to be done.
[16:35] And so that takes time and if you want until the very last minute and you’re totally overwhelmed that then you hire someone then you now have this 1-3 month kind of learning period that is tough to do if you have this crunch time going on. But I think that hiring a virtual assistant earlier especially if its variable. I didn’t hire someone for 20 or 30 hours a week. It was more of an as needed basis which can be real benefit for you if you don’t have the money. I was in a situation where I didn’t have much money that I wanted to spend on someone on a monthly basis.
[17:06] Laura: I agree that people wait way, way,way too long and people get really overwhelmed by what the training process is going to be like but it’s one of those things that you’re just putting off the inevitable. I mean if you want to grow your business you’re going to have to do it sooner or later and I think it’s one of the top shortcuts for making a business more successful adding on other people.
[17:29] The training is really not – all the tools for screen sharing and recording what you’re doing and Google docs, I mean just the basic stuff, it actually makes I think a lot easier once you just force yourself to do it.
[17:43] Mike: I think sometimes it’s just a mental hurdle of trying to figure out what source of things you can hand off to somebody or hire somebody for. And there’s lots of things that people do on a daily basis or a weekly basis that they don’t even think about sending that off to somebody else or hiring somebody to do that for them. They don’t do the mental calculations of how much time it takes them to do X when they could pay somebody $10 an hour to do it for them. And they’re saving themselves that much time to either spend with their family or to do other things that are going to move their business forward.
[18:13] I think that’s a main thing that I see people doing or the main mistake that I see is people aren’t doing those calculations to figure out where they’re actually adding value to the business and where they’re basically just spending time building themselves a job.
[18:28] Laura: You know, something that really hit me on that topic, this guy Cameron Herold who I really admire, he has a business book called Double Double. He said go through all of your tasks and weight yourself at how good you are at them and the highest is let’s say E for excellence. And he said the lowest is I for incompetent and for some reason that really got me.
[18:51] I’m like I went through and I said where am I actually incompetent at doing something because we do tasks that we actually are literally incompetent at. We could just barely figure out how to do them and it really illuminates like why am I spending my time doing something that I’m actually incompetent at? I’m going to screw up my business.
[19:10] Rob: Something that I’ve taken to do is about a couple times a month I would go through my to-do list and I look at items that I’ve continued to push off that I have kind of a mental block against doing and I try to figure out if I have someone on my team who can do that or if I can hire someone to do that group of tasks?
[19:29] Because if I have a big chunk of them that I’m continually kind of skipping over then know that it’s just not ideal that I actually handle them. And whether it’s because I feel I’m incompetent at them like you said or whether I just don’t really have the desire to do them, those things sticking around on the list and not getting done typically isn’t advantageous. I either hire someone or I just mark them off the list and I say these don’t need to be done. They’re not important enough and that’s why I’ve been skipping.
[19:54] So we’ve talked about why someone should hire perhaps a virtual assistant earlier than they think and lets talk about some of the best ways to find help. And whether that is a virtual assistant or a developer or designer, we know that traditional job boards are not going to be the source for what we’re looking for because as bootstrappers we tend to just have to grow it slowly, organically, find people to work hourly and be flexible and work with us.
[20:17] So Laura maybe you can give us some insights on how you’ve done in the past? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?
[20:23] Laura: Odesk has already been mentioned. That’s the really obvious one but I actually don’t realize I kind of had it in my head that Odesk was for people overseas like a lot of people in the Philippines and in India. I was a little behind the times on my Odesk. For this customer service role, we wanted someone in America and there are tons of Americans on Odesk working for $8 to $20 an hour and there’s plenty of Americans that are super psyched to get a work from home job, a few extra hours a week $10 or $15 an hour.
[20:57] Odesk goes way beyond even what I realized it was great for, beyond just developers but admin people, customer service people so I definitely love Odesk. If you’re going for a true fulltime person or even a true part time person, authentic jobs has been amazing for me. I found really, really good talent there and just posting to my own network always gets good people. So posting on my social media accounts, posting to my email newsletter, we always get people that way as well.
[21:24] Rob: Very nice. I have not had heard of authentic jobs. I’m looking at it now. I will be referring this later. Yeah, I’ve been n Odesk. I mean everyone on this podcast knows that Mike and I hire a lot of people through Odesk. I actually put together a course on hiring VA’s if anyone’s curious. That’s at startupvacourse.com but I recommend Odesk throughout that.
[21:42] I had tried bestjobs.ph I was on the Manila Craigslist, eLance, rentacoder, guru.com and there were all these sites and this is back really before Odesk came into the picture. And I tried all those and I had mixed results and you’ll still get mixed results even with Odesk there’s still a large hiring process that has to take place but in general I just haven’t found a better source of people especially the kind of hires we’re looking for which is kind of not a lot of hours per week and maybe some flexibility in how much they’re working as well as I love Odesk’s project management stuff – maybe not project management but kind of the time tracking, the work diary aspect of it.
[22:24] Mike: I mean like you I’m still a big fan of what you can get off Odesk and its primarily because you can see what people are working on and making sure especially if you’ve never met them or talked to them on the phone, you can see what they’re working on and making sure that they’re on track.
[22:40] Lately I’ve actually gone down the road of hiring people through my personal network. I’ve got two different people right now who are working for me. One of them’s putting in about 20 to 25 hours a week. The other one is putting in between 10 and 20 and both of them are hired through people I knew or a friend of a friend type of thing. And they’re both working out extremely well so I think that those personal introductions or if you know somebody, even if you just reached out to people you’ve worked with in the past, it seems to me like that is an exceptional way to get really, really talented people because you already have people who are essentially vouching for their skills and vouching for their abilities as somebody who gets things done.
[23:23] Laura: I just remembered. I also have actually used Fiverr which is kind of weird but I found people to do just really random tasks. Fiverr has a lot of really scary scammy stuff on it but one that I did – I wanted a list of all the Facebook pages for local chamber of commerce’s to do Facebook ads on. I paid someone $5. They gave me a really good list and the recently for a blog because design has been a hard thing for me to hire. It’s one of those where we have intermittent need. We don’t have ongoing need but when we need it, we need it. So we don’t have a designer on the team.
[24:00] And we have a blog post and our editor for our blogs are like “oh it would be really cool if we had a graphic that looked exactly like this to illustrate what we’re saying in this post.” So we went to Fiverr to have someone make a graphic and that worked out really well.
[24:14] Rob: Yeah, that’s a good one. I’ve actually used Fiverr quite a bit as well. I really like the thought of using your personal network. I don’t know that I’ve really done that much. I think I’ve done it with one hire but I have an item right now on my to-do list. I’m basically going to start looking for a marketing intern for Drip and HitTail, someone to help out with a lot of the tasks that are kind of sitting on my plate right now.
[24:36] My first points that I’m going to look at before I post to authentic jobs or go to Odesk is I’ll probably tweet it out. I’ll mention on the podcast and see what I get from there because Mike as you said, it seems like not only do you get people who maybe understand your situation a little more but you just have a higher likelihood even if you only get a couple of people who are interested, such a higher likelyhood that they’re actually going to be a fit for the position.
[25:00] Laura: I think especially for an intern, it’s so great to go to your network because a fan would actually do a really great job as an intern. My old project manager for my business, when I first hired her, I actually could not wrap my head around hiring a project manager for my business. It just seemed like an insane idea so I kind of talked myself down and thought okay maybe I could get a project management intern which doesn’t really make sense for project management.
[25:25] But I put the listing out there and I got an email back from someone who had taken my courses, was working on starting her own business and my community and she said well I have a lot of experience in production and project management. I’m not really a typical intern but I’d really love to learn from you and work with your company and then she ended up becoming fulltime and playing a huge role in the growth of the company.
[25:47] Rob: Yeah and that’s great because she already kind of knew your deal. She’d taken your courses. She knows how you work and knows the kind of projects that you work on and I think that’s a big benefit. I think I’m going to take it in stages of I’m going to work the network first and then only if that doesn’t work then I’ll explore everything else. And kind of go too to the masses so to speak.
[26:07] I’m interested to hear and I’m sure the listeners are too. Just a brief description of what your team looks like. How many folks do you have working for you? Is everybody part time, full time? Are they distributed around the world?
[26:18] Laura: Yeah. So they are distributed around the U.S. and Buenos Aires currently. So we have a full time project manager and that’s what someone would call operations, basically runs the day to day of the business. We have a full time content manager and she also does social media because content marketing is how I market my business. So she managers our newsletter and our blog and our internal newsletter and managers our social media posting and our social media schedule, basically our content marketing strategy.
[26:51] We also have a full time developer/tech admin so he does everything from writing custom wordpress plug-ins to the really boring stuff like loading up our emails in Infusion Soft and doing all the super boring Infusion Soft technical stuff. We also have the newest person on the team is a full time copy writer/data person which is a bit of an odd combo but it’s all under that marketing umbrella.
[27:20] So she writes copy for a blog posts, also marketing copy of emails and stuff like that ad she also does data analysis of which promotions are working. She does Facebook ads, analyzes which Facebook ads are working. Definitely a small team. You end up with those positions where people do a random mish-mash of stuff. And then we have part time customer service and next we’ll be adding on an SEO intern to help with some of our kind of overflow ground work type of SEO tasks.
[27:51] Rob: Nice. What I like about your description is you have the copywriter/data person and you’re right, that is such a random assortment but I found the exact same thing that when you’re working on such a small team that if you find someone who is good at something and you hired them for a specific thing and you start giving them more random odds and ends and they’re good at it and they execute it and they enjoy it, you want to put these kind of bizarre job titles that you never have in a big corporate environment.
[28:18] But if the person is happy, they’re doing good work and it works for you and helps the company then it’s like why not? There has to be that flexibility.
[28:26] Laura: Yeah and I’m a huge believer in the idea that whatever people love the most is where they’re going to do their best work. So I’m constantly looking at what people enjoy and what they don’t and trying to give them more tasks they enjoy and see if it makes sense to move around the stuff that’s not as much fun for them.
[28:44] Rob: Let’s talk a little bit about your hiring process, writing a job description, that kind of stuff.
[28:50] Laura: The best tip in the world, I learned this from Ramit Sethi is to do a form the people have to fill out instead of sending in a resume. So in that form you ask them questions related to the job. So when I was hiring a project manager I asked her questions like two people have this conflict, how do you handle it? You need to mange scheduling this. Like what’s your strategy? What’s your plan of attack?
[29:15] Don’t let people send in resumes. Don’t let people send in cover letters. They can link to a resume as one of your questions, that puts the onus on the applicant instead of putting the onus on you to dig through hundreds of thousands of resumes that which is definitely the worst and most painful part of hiring. So most people will never make it through your initial survey. So you filter out tons of people there.
[29:40] And then just reading the survey answers, you actually get a really good idea of who you want to talk to. So by the time you get to the interview stage, it’s very few people. I’ve even have positions where I’ve only interviewed – this is a bit unorthodox I guess but I’ve had positions where I’ve read the answers, interviewed just one person, felt like they were it and then I just went ahead and hire them.
[30:00] Rob: Yeah. That’s a really good tip. That isn’t something I’ve done and I’ll probably think of doing it on this round as I look for this intern. Something related and I think I don’t remember who I took this from. I think it’s probably Dan Andrews from the lifestyle of business podcast. I asked for a two minute video of them explaining – I’ll explain the job and say why you’re a fit or I have a couple questions they should answer.
[30:23] And it’s like you said, that eliminates a lot of people in a good way because I want someone who’s willing to – depending on the job of course. If it’s a developer I may not ask for that. But if its someone who I’m going to be interacting with and who I need maybe to be a good writer or to have certain skills, then I will absolutely ask them to sit in front of your webcam and just give me a two minute spiel.
[30:45] I will also record typically in my job descriptions, I will link out to a video of me like a one minute video of me talking about here’s who I am getting an idea of a little bit of personality and here are some projects that I’m working on and stuff that you’ll probably be involved in. I found that that some people don’t like that. Some people are kind of like whatever. They’re put off by that but they’re not a good fit for what I’m looking for.
[31:09] Mike: One of the things that I find is a lot more important than the skill set is just the ability to work with somebody. The survey questions that you talked about, the video that Rob you talked about, those tend to be really good for filtering out people who aren’t going to be a good – for lack of a better way to put it, a cultural fit. I don’t think that’s quite the term that I would probably use most of the time.
[31:31] But you really want to be able to find people who are going to follow directions and do exactly what it is that you want them to do rather than go off in the left field and just kind of do their own thing or do things that they think are going to be helpful but are not really in line with the vision of what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. And just finding those people who can do the right is a lot more important than people who may spend the least amount of time doing something but if they’re not doing the things that are right or that need to be done then it’s not nearly as helpful.
[32:02] Because then they’ve gotta go back and do it over again or you’ve got to fix it for them and those types of things just create problems and friction and if you can avoid those types of frictions even if you’re paying a little bit more to have somebody spend more time on it, I think you’re in a much better position than to have somebody who’s fantastic in a particular job that doesn’t quite always do the things that are need to be done or do the error checking that needs to be handled and those types of things.
[32:27] Laura: Well I find it interesting that you bring up – why don’t you like that word culture?
[32:31] Mike: I don’t like the world culture because its kind of hard I think to have a culture when you don’t really have an office or nobody’s meeting each other. I think that’s more than anything else. It’s not that culture is the wrong word. It feels awkward when you’re not in an office with people. Culture is not the word that I think of as a way to describe it.
[32:51] Laura: I bring that up because I actually had a huge mindset shifts in believing that my company does have a culture. Because I used to feel like you did and I thought well a culture – because when you read those articles, how to improve your company culture they say put a ping pong table and a break room. That’s going to be so much fun.
[33:11] And I never felt like it applied to a virtual company but I kind of realized whatever word you like to use for it, every company does have their own – your philosophy, your beliefs, how you do business, how you interact your personality, my company does have a culture. And like you said finding people who fit in with that culture is really, really important. I totally agree. It’s even more important than their skills.
[33:36] And I actually took my business a lot more seriously when I thought yeah, I do have a culture and my culture is awesome and my company is a great place to work and there are a lot of people that are working jobs they don’t like that would love to work for an awesome company like mine where people are nice to each other which is a lot more than you can say than a lot of jobs. So I actually love the idea of having a company culture and thinking about how that applies for a virtual company.
[33:59] Mike: I don’t think that it’s wrong. it’s just that the word feels awkward to me and maybe it’s just the stage that I’m at and you’re a little bit ahead of where I am mentally in that respect.
[34:08] Rob: What I like about what Laura just said is basically to find the best people you’re going to need to actually do a reasonable job of selling your company in the job description. You can’t just be like the old guard. You see the big whatever, the big banks or credit card companies and they have these job descriptions that are just horrendous.
[34:28] You read the job posting and its like I feel like I’m applying to work for the government or like I’m signing up to go to prison. It just really doesn’t sound like fun. That’s something I typically – if you’ve never written a job description before, I would say forget everything you have ever learned about any job you ever applied for. Throw them out because that is not the way that you as a bootstrapper want to hire your first, second or third employee or freelancer.
[34:54] You want to convey a sense of something that what you’re doing is exciting. It’s interesting because that’s how you’re going to find the people that are going to jive with kind of the small company culture whatever word you want to use for it. So yeah, I think that’s something that the people should take away from this. Let’s look at our last point which is micromanaging. Laura you want to talk to us about why micro managing makes hiring pointless?
[35:19] Laura: Yes. Micromanaging is the worst spin of working with other people. It’s so bad because it really makes all that work that you’ve spent money on kind of useless because you’re just doing it again yourself. I think most of us have been micromanaged.
[35:38] I remember I used to work as a designer and I understand that attitude of why am I going to spend a lot of time on this? You’re just going to redo my work? Because that’s how I felt. I felt my boss would just come and redo everything I did her own way. And you really are training your employees not to try hard. Because they know that you’re going to come do their work over again and it’s just a huge waste of time.
[36:03] I’ve heard about people doing things like reading every email that one of their employees sends out before they’re allowed to actually send it live. It’s just a huge waste of time. Why would even hire someone to do it if you’re going to take your own time to read every single thing? Most of us have been micromanaged by others and they’ve trained us to be micro mangers so I think getting rid of this habit is a big key for success for running an effective team.
[36:29] Rob: Yeah there’s an expression. Its building a $10,000 fence around a $1,000 piece of property and the idea is you’re basically misusing resources. So if you’re going to hire someone and then you’re going to read all their emails before they’re sent out, you’re right. You shouldn’t hire them. I think that for the first week or two that I hire someone, I am vigilant about what they’re doing. I mean you have to make sure things are going right.
[36:53] It’s obvious that if you have that much of a need for control then either you’re not ready to hire someone or you have some really bad habits that you have to unlearn before you’re going to be ready to do.
[37:03] Laura: I think one of the biggest things is trust. A lot of people struggle with how much do you trust your employees? How much do you trust your freelancers? And it’s definitely something everyone has to figure out for themselves with what you feel comfortable with. I air on an immense amount of trust. I figure if people are going to steal from me or screw things up on purpose, I obviously did such a poor job of predicting that.
[37:31] It would be totally unexpected if that were to ever happen. So to base everything around hedging for that not happening, I would just rather give people full trust from the beginning and it allows them to do better work.
[37:42] Mike: Part of that is your trust in yourself that you made a good hiring decision because you have to just accept that you made this hiring decision and you’re putting them in charge of thing so that you don’t have to be that person making I totally agree with all of that. But what I mean by listening to people is that if you’re those decisions.
[37:57] I mean that’s what you hired them for. You hired somebody to make decisions on your behalf and you need to trust yourself that you made a good hiring decision that they’re going to make the right decisions. And there’s going to be occasions that they won’t make the same decisions that you would’ve. It doesn’t mean that its wrong or that you need to go through and redo their work.
[38:14] What you really need to do is make a conscious effort to never go back and redo somebody’s work because I think that just creates some sort of friction between you and the person you hired because they will get to a point where they say everything I do my managers is just going to redo it anyway so why should I bother to do a good job?
[38:31] Laura: Mike I think that is so important. I think that’s really the key what you said that they’re going to make different decisions than you’re going to make. I think that’s why a lot of good people go bad in hiring. That’s why a lot of good people micromanage because they say they’re willing to let go but they still want everything to be their preference.
[38:53] And your way is not the only right way. That’s why you hired someone else. So I think seeing that difference between okay what’s really important to you, what’s a real guiding value and philosophy and strategy of how you want to run your company versus what’s just your personal preference that actually doesn’t matter so much and someone else’s personal preference is just fine. Just let them do it.
[39:15] Rob: So to recap, we’ve covered how to hire like a bootstrapper for today. The first thing we talked about was how hiring and outsourcing is different for a bootstrap startup. Then we talked about the first folks we added to our team and next we talked about the best sources that we’ve used to find help, the websites that we’ve used. Fourth, we talked about the hiring process and a little bit about writing a job description and then lastly we touched on micromanaging.
[39:38] So Laura, if people want to get in touch with you, where would be the best place for that?
[39:43] Laura: You can find me on twitter as @lkr or find me @lkrsocialmedia.com.
[39:51] Rob: So yeah, Laura thanks again for taking the time to come to the podcast and help share your experience of hiring like a bootstrapper.
[39:57] Laura: That was fun. Thanks for having me as a guest.
[40:00] Rob: Yeah, absolutely.
[40:03] Rob: If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.