When we were first building our business, we really, really hated the idea of outsourcing. Why? because we had so many failed projects. We were trying to get away with murder by hiring offshore programmers at incredibly low rates, as part of a 100- or 200-hour project, to build our first fully functioning website with an exciting ecommerce application integrated and shopping cart functionality so we could start generating some revenue and testing with real users who would actually be purchasing real product.
Several failed projects later, and with thousands of dollars (quite a bit of money for us as students who were still in college) down the drain, we finally brought on our first remote partner, Zeeshan Muhammad, who would become our CTO and would play THE integral part in launching Blank Label. Zee came on with equity, and worked as everyone else did – for free. It was the best deal we could have possibly had, realizing that our equity wasn’t worth much, and that our funds were limited, so we were more than happy to bring Zee on as a partner, which still undervalues his contributions to our business, but luckily, he loves us and the business so much that the money’s not important to him. 🙂
After doing everything in-house for the first 6 months, we started to realize how doing everything in-house was putting a ton of strain on ourselves. We tried hiring some more interns, and a few paid employees, all who never ended up working out. Instead, with lower expectations and salaries, with far more dedication, we hired a few more people to join the team off of Odesk, and found many efficiencies in working with them.
Since we weren’t giving them complicated tasks, that required review or much oversight, we were able to manage our time more effectively by not worrying about what they were doing, since we learned to trust them very quickly, and because we had passed on some simpler duties we didn’t want to do, freeing up our time to focus harder on our core competencies. The relationships worked great!
Ways for other small businesses to manage offshoring effectively and create efficiencies, is by:
– giving them simple (can a teenager do it?), repetitive tasks
– ensuring these tasks never need much amending
– making sure that if these tasks were to be done by someone else, your team could properly utilize that extra time to improve on other parts of the business
To grow, it was useful to hire offshore for several reasons including keeping costs low, and freeing up key team members’ times to really be effective in the things they do best.
At Blank Label Group, Danny Wong has worked with up to 5 offshore workers at a time, and highly advocates utilizing them for any growing business as he’s done with startups Blank Label, Thread Tradition and RE:custom. See a few of Danny’s other entrepreneurial musings at HuffingtonPost, TheNextWeb and ReadWriteWeb.