WordPress Sales and Project Management Advice

Highlights

00:32 – Managing Several Client Requests
02:56 – Distributing Hours for Cloud Development
04:36 – Handling Delays In Client Feedback
06:56 – Charging Clients and Pre-Establishing Payment Calendar
10:55 – Working With Local vs International Clients

Transcript

Hey guys, it’s Mario Peshev here. I’d like to share some thoughts based on questions in my mentorship group. Essentially we do have a bunch of people who have signed up for my group available at devwp.eu. (now https://advice.mariopeshev.com/) And asking various questions about WordPress, freelancing, running a business, lead generation, so forth.

One of the folks has asked a bunch of nice questions related to the way that we do business at DevriX, and asking for some advice for consulting freelance and running other forms of business as well, in terms of selling services.

Managing Several Client Requests

So with that in mind, the first question is how do you manage several client requests in a specific timeframe? This is a valid question and a lot of people do have problems with that. Now, it’s complicated when you get to fixed-fee projects with specific time frames that don’t really get executed at the end. Let me put it this way: essentially, there’s a lot of back and forth. They’re dragging projects down.

There are some delays that are caused by waiting for assets and things like that with one-off projects, especially the smaller ones. For those projects, we have established a process where we can get 100% for all requirements and all dependencies upfront so that we don’t have to wait for the client at the end. Sometimes there may be a thing or two that are having to wait on or so forth, but that’s usually not the case.

Additionally, we do have a lot of clauses in our contracts that state what’s the acceptable response time for customers, and how soon do we have to go through iterations and through milestones and so on in order to avoid those kinds of delays.

Even if customers do have a specific reason for a delay, we usually have some clauses that let us expand the project or charge an additional fee for these changes and whatnot, simply because we cannot afford to drag them for too long.

Moreover, our main business model revolves around WordPress retainers. So we do have retainers from 30 hours a month up to 150 hours a month, usually dealing with back end development, front end development, some creative, every now and then some dev ops, system administration, even marketing, and business development.

But through these retainers, we can actually afford to work on specific projects with an allocated amount of time every single month. So this kind of lets us establish a ballpark of hours that we have to invest on a monthly basis and say, “Okay, we have, for example, 600 hours every month that we have to invest. We have that amount of manpower, so this is how we are going to distribute our resources.”

Again, it’s worth noting that our retainers do provide different types of services, which means that different people may be working on the same project different months depending on their requirements. And we also get specific feature requests every single month depending on what the customer really needs.

Distributing Hours for Cloud Development

The second question is how do you distribute hours for cloud development through the workday? And that’s also a great one. We do try to keep the focus of our developers in one place.

This means that we don’t want them to work on 50 projects at the same time. But simultaneously, with that in mind, we do have specific projects that really require a certain set of expertise and we do charge them 30 or 40 or 60 hours a month.

So if you do the math, 30 hours a month is roughly one day a week, or four days a month or whatever it is. And the 60-hour retainer again is just two days a week. But having that math in place doesn’t necessarily mean that one person can have a specific day allocated because sometimes there’s maintenance. Sometimes there are specific features that need to be done the next day or the day after, or so forth.

Sometimes the work has to be implemented by different people, which means a back end developer, a designer, a QA going through all this, a front end developer applying those, a marketing person helping with the copy and so forth. So in practice, we do have people working on average two projects a day.

Sometimes it’s only one, sometimes it’s a little bit more, especially if they’re minor fixes or front end issues, or something else that could be fixed easily right away without too many distractions and without the need for too much context. So essentially working this way also lets us allocate resources in cases of emergency or in case something else needs to be handled as well.

Handling Delays In Client Feedback

The third question is how do you manage client feedback delay? Now client feedback may be interpreted in two different ways. The first one is you not being able to comply with sending feedback to a client early enough.

The second one is essentially waiting for the client to respond in a long amount of time, in a matter of weeks or a month. So the first case shouldn’t happen that often. Simply because you have to be responsive and you have to reply to all of your clients and so forth.

We do try to respond to every single request or email over the course of 24 hours, or one business day in case we are talking about weekends. Most of the time it’s in a matter of few hours, but we do try to have some visibility and some transparency and also have internal conversations with the team sometimes before getting back to the customer.

But other than that when we are waiting for feedback from the client, again, there are two different cases that we discuss. The first one is the one-off projects, the single time product and so on. For those projects, we do have clauses in the contract.

For example, customers should respond in three days or five days, taking a look and reviewing a specific milestone. And we don’t really let them take a longer amount of time simply because it’s postponing our projects. And again, this is set in our contract, and it’s there for a reason.

The second case is with our retainers, so with them usually we do try to, again, solve all of our clients’ problems within the number of hours that we do have allocated per month, which also includes emergencies, maintenance, specific fixes or something else that needs taking care of.

Moreover, we do have a list of features and ideas and improvements and whatnot that we have put in specific labels in our project management system. We do have feedback, we do have good ideas for the future, we do have icebox for features that have been started but we haven’t really gone through them.

And we also do have a bunch of other activities such as maintenance, refactoring, cleaning technical debt, performance optimization, security reviews and so on that we can invest every single month. This helps us fill out the buffers and at the same time provide additional quality for our customers.

Charging Clients and Pre-Establishing Payment Calendar

The fourth question is how do you charge clients after, before, during development or pre-establish payment calendar before starting work? As I said, the vast majority of our work is essentially retainers, and that’s what we believe in. We do believe in agile development. We do believe that the project changes multiple times across its development and implementation cycle.

With that in mind, we can’t really work on large projects with a lot of features and expect the end result to be exactly what the client imagined with every single feature that they asked for. That doesn’t really work in practice. We’ve had several of those projects and almost exclusively they have at least doubled the number of features or changes that they want to get implemented after the delivery. And it’s all out of scope. It’s not the fixes.

It’s not, ““`this isn’t working or something.” It’s, “Hey, I wanted the project to also do this.” Or, “It would be great if it does this.” Or, “Our competitors do have this feature now. What should we do?” And it’s all out of scope. It’s all scope creep. It’s all additional features.

And we’ve actually had some clients that came with us with a $15,000 project which turned out to be a $50,000 project at the end simply because they thought about so many other features that are missing. And the moment they had a chance to play with the product, to test it out, to check specific features, it became apparent that it simply needs more work that hadn’t been planned upfront.

This is something that we prevent by working on WordPress retainers and agile, simply because on a month by month we have iterations, we have progress. We work toward MVPs, minimum viable products, something that has the core essential feature for the product without having all of the other bells and whistles, right?

So this is really helping us out with charging clients simply because we do have monthly installments and monthly payments that occur, again, on the first of the month or middle of the month or so on. For fixed-fee projects. It really depends because we don’t do many of these, but when we do, we usually have something like 30% upfront, 40% somewhere after a major milestone, and the remaining 30% before the delivery.

Before handing off the code base, before deploying everything on a customer server, that’s what we usually do. Again, it may depend on different cases, but we do think it’s fair, and we do want to get the incentive to actually work with the client even if we have a contract without having to stalk them and ask for what we claim is ours.

Additionally, when it’s broken down into specific payment installments, be three or four different sections, it helps you get some bootstrap budget, which gets your client committed to working with you. Because essentially your client may be working with five or 10 freelancers at a time.

In fact, we have done it ourselves. Back in the day when we were outsourcing some R&D features, we were hiring at least three or four freelancers for the same job, simply because we weren’t sure of the quality. Now we had paid all of those freelancers, but again you know that some clients are not really feeling this way and so forth, which is why getting an upfront payment is fine.

Receiving the last payment right before the actual deployment to production and handing over the code base is also fine. Again, it’s simply a showcase of your work, everything that you have done for the client. And you say, “I’m done here. I have everything. You had the chance to test it, yada yada.”

So simply let’s finalize the payment before just shipping everything to your hosting account. Right? And then in the middle, you may have one or two different payment iterations for different milestones that you may want to deliver.

Working With Local vs International Clients

And the fifth question is, should you emphasize on your location country or is it better to aim for a more global service? Now, I assume that the question actually states: Should you focus on your own country, and should you say that you are living in a specific country? Or you would rather sell something internationally?

Now, ideally working with local clients is great, right? You have the opportunity to have meetings. You can actually exchange ideas, speak in your local language, understand the local culture, and pretty much everything else in the local business and economical environment.

Because again, selling digital goods online in the States and in Nigeria are two different things. Selling clothes in Bulgaria, in Pakistan or Bangladesh, and in Russia, it works in a completely different manner. And I say that as someone who has seen different ways of working in different cultures.

So working with local clients is great and it’s something that may help you out as well. Now the problem is in certain cases you may not find the best clients for your type of services or your business on a local level. It may be too expensive, it may be something that doesn’t have a lot of demand on the local level, or you may profile in a specific niche or in a specific type of services that, again, are not that needed on a local level.

For example, our headquarters are in Bulgaria. We do have people in seven different countries or so, but the vast majority of our clients are in the States. Or we also do have clients in Switzerland, in the UK, Netherlands, India, Thailand, and other countries as well. Right?

But the types of services that we offer are not something that the Bulgarian market needs. Simply because we scale large websites, and we build high scale platforms. Some of our customers do serve 15 million page views a month or 20 million page views a month and so on. And that’s not the amount of traffic that most websites locally get.

So that type of expertise requires us to work on a global level because there aren’t many service providers specializing in profiling and performance or security. And at the same time, there aren’t many clients who want that on a local level. So again, depending on the type of services that you offer, depending on the type of economical environment that you have locally and so forth, you can decide what works best and what doesn’t.

So again, thanks for the questions. I’m going to post that video on YouTube and to my mentorship group. And if you do have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Send me an email and also follow me on Quora.

What Does A Digital Consultant Do?

When I mention that “I’m the CEO of DevriX and I’m a Digital Consultant”, I often get asked, “What does a Digital Consultant do”?

In a nutshell, Digital Consulting is an activity that connects business strategy to implementation across different digital fields (think web design and development, marketing, PR, server scaling, branding).

How are digital consultants helpful in your business?

For starters:

  1. They bring a diverse and broad industry expertise
  2. Combined with a cost-effective mentorship (the “one man army” approach)
  3. They provide and set the high-end strategy
  4. They pave the marketing road for your business
  5. And amplify your brand through their own network

It really entails a broad set of activities.

Digital Consulting Resources

Learn more about the art of digital consulting

How to build an effective marketing strategy – the difference between inbound and outbound marketing and when to incorporate them.

How to market yourself as a public speaker – great digital consultants and entrepreneurs build their brand and speaking is the #1 step.

How to consistently produce great content – high-quality content is a source of training materials, internal guides, and lead generation (plus more).

My strong suit is tech. Some come with a design background. Or marketers who became growth hackers on the way.

As a result, you can achieve better results and speed up the growth acceleration of the business with just a few hours a month which is super lucrative.

Here’s a more refined overview in this video.

Highlights

00:01:54 -How A Digital Consultant Can Help Businesses
00:03:49 – Types of Businesses That Need Digital Consultants
00:04:37 – They Bring a Diverse and Broad Industry Expertise
00:05:31 – The “One Man Army” Approach
00:06:00 – High-End Digital Strategy
00:07:01 – Paving the Marketing Road for Your Business
00:08:11 – Amplifying Your Brand Through Their Network

Transcript

What is a digital consultant? Now, when I present myself in front of an audience during a talk, networking events, I say that I’m the CEO of DevriX and a Digital Consultant. Lots of people come and ask me, “What is this digital consultant for? What do you do for a living and all that jazz?”

In fact, when I was looking for the type of service that I go through on an ongoing basis with consulting with clients, I did some research, trying to figure out what is the right entity and what is the right name for that position. I went through a similar effort back when I established myself as a WordPress architect several years ago. Because it’s a little bit more special, it involves a few additional specialties, so to speak. Therefore, I needed a designation type in order to do that.

Once I kept reading and looking for different people dealing with what I do for a living as well, I found out that digital consultancy is precisely what I’m actually entitled to do, when doing consulting activities with different clients.

Mario Peshev

Set up a monthly advisory strategy today.

What is Digital Consultancy

Now, in a nutshell, digital consultancy is an activity that really helps in connecting business strategy to implementation across different digital fields. Meaning that when you think about web projects, something that happens in the digital space, it usually involves a wide set of activities. This could be web development, design, marketing, branding, strategy, monetization, memberships and a bunch of other things that happen on an ongoing basis.

Most businesses, especially those that are not large corporations with thousands of people, they always have missing pieces of the puzzle. They may have departments dealing with development, with design, with marketing but often times, there are small departments where they can’t really figure out what is the right link and what’s the right symbiosis in order to make it work.

How A Digital Consultant Can Help A Business

Digital consultants do unify the corporate brand or business. We can’t assess and gauge what really needs to be improved. Are there any discrepancies between what you can see online and offline and across different outlets of a business? This means to assess the design assets and picking the right technological solutions for a given platform, such as picking the right solution for an e-commerce and their website and the backend system and the POS terminal and a bunch of other things, helping with building the short-term and the long-term marketing strategies.

This means hitting short-term goals and also how this aligns with the long-term development of the strategy is nutshell, helping out with inbound marketing efforts or outbound depending on the specialty of the consultant, suggesting different tools and services that could be used for automation such as, I don’t know, let’s say Buffer or Zapier or whatever it is for a business because different businesses, some need ERPs or CRMs or marketing automating softwares, helping out with PR, marketing and networking activities because we are quite active online.

We do have a network of journalists, PR experts, editors of different magazines and essentially just bundling all that together is something that we do, more or less, for a living in our capacity as a digital consultant.

I can recollect a bunch of onsite meetings, where we do sit on a specific table, meeting a client in a consulting capacity and then, you have people from different departments. A designer, a developer, devops guy, a PR, a marketer, whatever it is, a bunch of different people discussing their goals and their strategy but being unable to find the right fit for how to connect a bunch of different pieces of what is the right symbiosis between their ideas and which ideas could be implemented properly within their organization and how to actually make it work together as a whole, as a team.

That’s in a nutshell what a digital consultant does.

Types of Businesses That Need Digital Consultants

There are, especially for small and medium sized businesses, talking a business of 50 people, 100 people. 200 people and sometimes, we actually work with some small enterprises of about 50 people who generate 8 figures of revenue. This could be a very successful business, just bootstrapping a specific vertical and trying to differentiate trying to scale horizontally, aiming for a new niche or trying to penetrate a new market space.

Sometimes we do have successful businesses, for example, outside of the WordPress field, meaning that they’ve been wildly successful in eCommerce or with another CMS or hosting solutions, but they can’t really enter the WordPress market.

Monthly Strategy Session

Initial strategy + monthly review and consulting.

Those are just some of the ideas of types of businesses where digital consultants can be applicable and can be really helpful for.

They Bring a Diverse and Broad Industry Expertise

The first reason why digital consultants are helpful, without aiming to do any sort of self-promotion – I’m talking about the field as a whole is the broad industry experience. The whole idea of offering digital consultancy means that people dealing with that, they have wide expertise across several different verticals.

You can get a marketing guy or a gal, who’s very prolific in design as well. They also know the technical foundations of different things and have worked in several tech corporations where they can use their marketing knowhow and know how to sell it, how to promote it intertwined with PR activities and whatnot.

Or, you can get a system of guys, someone dealing with networks or servers, who happens to be a great speaker, so they have this event management skills and they also have a large network of people in different industries. You get the drill. The point is that you get one person with several specialties, understanding the white space.

The “One Man Army” Approach

Second one is cost-effective mentorship. Like I said, most meetings that I tend to attend, they have 5, 6, 7, up to 10 people on the different end, meaning on the client’s end from people with different specialties. I’m fairly comfortable conducting meetings myself because I can comfortably talk about a bunch of different topics and put the pieces together since I’ve dealt with most of them myself with the exception of design and a few other activities where I don’t feel that comfortable myself.

High-End Digital Strategy

Then, there’s is the high-end digital strategy. Whenever you’re suggesting high-end strategy in the first place, again, you need to put all the pieces together. You say, “Okay, we need a web platform but this platform probably needs to go with a underline layer that deals with this.

This all has to be aligned with the corporate branding strategy. They need to do this. We need to connect it to the marketing automation software that’s used by other department in this industry.” Basically, putting the pieces together. Sometimes, it’s web design and development advice.

Again, this depends on the core skill sets of a digital consultant because some people have strengths in certain areas, others have in others. This kind of complement one another. With that matter, you may say, “Well, this is a great platform,” or, “This trend is outdated,” or, “This trend is actually better because your customers, your buyer personas, your target audience is actually more outdated, so the sites they visit look like this, so we don’t want to look too differently from them because it’s going to be confusing.” Probably you’re talking to a different audience if you’re branding yourself in that manner.

Paving the Marketing Road for Your Business

This is also touches on marketing road. As digital consultants, what we normally do is we work with a large set of clients in different industries, in different niches. We gather ideas, we educate ourselves from different fields of study and this helps us apply ideas from one field to another field.

Just as an example, one of the fields of artificial intelligence that’s really popular in strength to get more up to speed is transferable knowledge or transferable learning, which is understanding something from one industry and being able to apply it to other industries or niches. Right now, robots simply cannot do that very well because they need a training set of data for industry and a vertical.

There’s also the ongoing strategy review. I do have some clients that call me once a month or once a couple of month. We set the strategy, we do some KPIs, we do some reviews and once the business keeps scaling, we just measure those, see what went well, what went wrong, what are the fields that will have to be pushed forward with additional resources. Where do we need to realign the strategy work, what work, what is the feedback and the customer support and a bunch of other things.

Amplifying Your Brand Through Their Network

The last bit which is something that I called amplified influence. Again, digital consultants, we get all of our business online, meaning that we need to maintain a reputable online presence. As a result, we have grown a network of, like I said earlier, journalists, editors, just media participating in some form of a community and growing our network organically.

Sometimes and some of the things that our clients and my own clients really enjoy is the ability to have partnerships in place or just contacts of people who are very, more or less, influential in the industry. For example, let’s say in the WordPress space, it could be plugin authors or owners of hosting companies or other pieces of the puzzle that you can really help with. You can make an intro, you can probably get some priority support or something else that’s kind of really helpful for the business.

Digital Consulting In A Nutshell

That’s, in a nutshell, digital consulting.

It really entails a broad set of activities. Some people do often compare it to entrepreneurship simply because it’s really diverse. It means that you need to understand how businesses work.

You need to understand business strategy and digital consulting and a few other fields like marketing or design or development – not necessarily all of them, but a bunch of them. As a result, again, you can achieve better results and you can speed up the growth strategy of a business with just a few hours a month, which again is super lucrative.

Need Digital Consulting Services?

If you look for digital consulting strategy and advisory services, set up a call and we’ll prepare a monthly plan to be revised and coordinated internally.

Sharing A Known Problem With Your Boss

If you are a proactive team player, sharing problems and concerns should be a common practice.

Sometimes, your manager or the CEO of the company is fully aware of the problem. The logical question is: Why do we have to deal with it?

It may seem trivial, but recognizing a problem is different from finding a reasonable solution. Different factors come into play. Sometimes, it’s not sustainable. Or there is no one who can handle the process – or define the strategy itself.

There are business dynamics worth reviewing and opportunities to step up – as discussed in the video.

Sharing A Known Problem With Your Boss

Highlight

00:00:34 – The Hiring Process is Very Complicated
00:01:25 – Developing Every Individual Is Expensive
00:02:42 – Proactive But Stuck?
00:03:39 – Figure Out The Actual Problem
00:05:30 – Who Is Going To Solve The Problem
00:07:05 – Find A Workaround
00:08:08 – The Bottom Line

Transcript

Hey, guys. Mario Peshev from DevriX here, and this is Mara.

Today’s topic is, what do you do when you share a work problem with your boss, or a set of problems, or something that’s more generically a problem, and they do agree with you 100%? Right? It doesn’t make sense. You share a problem, and the problem is out there, and your boss agrees with you. Then you’re, like, “Well, how come this is not fixed yet?”

The Hiring Process is Very Complicated

The reason I want to tackle this topic is the hiring process is very complicated, and building the right company culture is also extremely complicated as well. Most organizations do try to define some sort of protocols, guidelines, regulations, the company pillars] that are important to the team, and so on and so on.

Most people are generally not highly motivated to work in a team, by definition. So, motivation is something that you can either have it, or not have it, or be somewhere in the middle, and the middle may be a very broad, vast area, an abyss even, I would say.

So, it’s kind of a combination between an interesting job, and great colleagues, and great leadership that motivates you, the right pace of deadlines that would keep you exploring things that are of interest to you, and so on and so on.

Developing Every Individual Is Expensive

But, at some extent, this becomes … Developing every single individual is a very expensive effort, so people should meet somewhere in the middle. To some extent, like even for someone who is a mid-level skill, be it technician, manager, designer, so forth.

Being able to assign someone as a mentor, as a coach, as a leader, may be five times or even more expensive than retaining that particular person. Because you need someone who’s, like, five times more experienced than you, someone with interpersonal skills, with soft skills, communication skills, psychology background, leadership training, Six Sigma probably, and so on. So, you can see why most organizations can’t do that because it’s just completely not sustainable.

So, what they try to do is they hire a manager, some low-level manager working with a mid-level or a senior manager, who’s kind of in charge of the entire team of several people, could be three, could be 15 or 20 even, and that’s kind of how it works.

You usually have access to that leadership, but you need some sort of self-driven approach if you want to persist and succeed and so on.

Proactive But Stuck?

Sometimes when you work in an organization, you’re kind of the procreative, well, proactive type, not procreative, that’s weird in the workplace. So, if you’re working in that sort of organization, you want to be in charge of things. You come up with ideas, you want to overcome challenges and obstacles and so on.

What happens, though, is you explain the problem and say, “Hey, that’s ABC, but we are using that, too. That’s really shitty, and it’s taking three times longer to complete a basic task.” Or, “This is something that doesn’t support those things, but the other two does and so on.” Then your manager or your boss says, “Yeah, I know that. It’s really a problem,” and you’re kind of stuck.

You’ve shared a problem and not only nothing happens, but they don’t even disagree with you. They don’t even give you kind of a point of why does that happen in the first place. There are a lot of reasons for that to be happening.

Figure Out The Actual Problem

When we work with new people in our marketing or business development department or senior project managers when we are kind of discussing that during interviews or during the trial phase, many of them come up with some great ideas that we’ve been through seven times or 10 times they didn’t work. They seem like common sense at first, except that they don’t really work in our particular case. Sometimes they are very valid reasons to do something, but it’s just too expensive, the onboarding will take months, or they do have a pros and cons list, so we are going to lose on some specific features.

That’s kind of a tricky moment, right? So, ideally, if you fall into that sort of situation, you need to figure out what the actual problem is. You shouldn’t lose your motivation. You have to discuss a specific problem with your manager and say, “Okay. So, let’s say we do that, what’s going to happen?” or “Is there any reason why this is not happening?” or “What can I do in order to prevent those concerns or so on from actually happening?” Those kind of things are actually extremely important in order for you to get the context.

Obviously, great leaders, great managers and so on, they will try to explain that. But it’s not always possible, or it’s too complicated, or sometimes there are some proprietary information or something else that also takes place. But anyway, just try to be, first off, proactive. Try to be motivated. Try to be self-driven when discussing that sort of approaches, and when trying to understand the problem.

Who Is Going To Solve The Problem?

The second thing is it also depends on who’s going to solve that problem. For example, our new marketing hire, during a marketing meeting a month ago, said, “Hey, we should really get into producing tutorials and educational videos from our DevriX account, and so on and so on.”

I was like, “That’s a great idea. Who is going to do that?” She was, like, “Well, someone can probably handle that,” and I was like, “Yeah, but we don’t have a video producer and so on and so on.” I asked her to join and start preparing videos, but she was hesitant because she doesn’t have experience, and she doesn’t feel like that’s something that she can undertake.

That’s fine. That’s completely okay. But when you suggest an idea, there’s got to be a way to kind of reduce the number of steps until you reach into a conclusion or to a decision.

So, you should either kind of volunteer to do that yourself in order to step up in the organization, and to undertake a specific sort of activity. Or you should try to figure out, is there anyone on your team that can potentially help with that, or try to look, for example, for freelancers or suggest agencies, or something else so that it can bring you closer.

Because a lot of times, they’re kind of 15 to 20 steps to solve a problem, but at the same time, most people just say, “Well, yeah, let’s do X,” and they can probably do at least 10 steps ahead in order to give you some advantage, in order to have something to review, say yes, no, and move forward.

Find A Workaround

For example, one of our businesses assistants, we were discussing company culture again and so on. She said, “Well, okay. I found that, too, that’s kind of measuring mood sending kind of a daily email and just ask people, how do you feel, rank from terrible to excellent?” Instead of just asking us, “Hey, should we implement it, should we do it, should we this and that,” she just said, “I signed up for this account, I invited you, you are going to receive those emails. In a week from now, I’m going to share the results from you.”

So, it’s a problem, we know it’s a problem, we don’t have the resources to do that. They’re just far too many things, but someone can potentially find a workaround, at least for the time being.

For videos, for example, even if you can’t record videos yourself and so on, I found Lumen5 or there is Content Samurai, I think another tool for kind of video building based on content, that you can use at least to create some sort of video. So, you can use a script and, again, kind of show up for just five seconds and then show slides onward. There a lot of different activities that could be done.

The Bottom Line

But, again, the fact that you share a problem, and your boss agrees with you, which is again the main point of the video, doesn’t mean that your boss is stupid, or that they are unaware and don’t care about the problem. Most often, they’re not.

There is another reason that leads to actually having that problem in the first place. Or it’s clear that it will take time that the team doesn’t have right now. It’s not a high priority. But if someone steps in, they can potentially help solving the problem.

So, if you’re that person, if you’re proactive, especially if you’re new in the organization, spend the time, take the initiative, just work hard in order to prove yourself, undertake something, and become a valuable member in that team.

The first few months in an organization are crucial. People have to like each other, both the company liking the employee and the other way around. So, finding some sort of a bond, finding some sort of a kind of mutually group exercise in order to conduct, is a great way to make that happen and to make the next step into your kind of evolutionary career progress towards senior position or management or something else over the next few years.

How To Pick The Right Candidate For The Job

Would you hire a slacker or a slow worker?

Imagine someone who leaves early and slacks a lot but tackles emergencies once they come up. And then the obedient worker arriving at 8 am who stays late in the evening but can’t help with #priority tickets, outages, or other forms of critical tasks.

I know a lot of new managers willing to bet on the gal who puts in long hours. While I’m definitely a proponent of hard work, solving important problems sure has to happen in a timely manner.

This is why I gave a few examples of why I’ve interviewed 20+ people for the job of a personal assistant. Logical thinking, sifting through data, finding results in a timely manner matters. When I’m in a cab and need a 10min research before calling a lead, I need this done ASAP, regardless of whether the PA is in a coffee shop or on their laptop day and night.

The same goes for engineers, managers, designers, marketers — everyone else on my team.

This is the reason we support flexible hours. We count on sticking to deadlines and tackling emergencies. As long as we’re on the right track, office presence is not as relevant.

But being able to react quickly and apply the right type of “life hack” for every case is an art. Agree?

pick the right candidate for the job

Highlights

00:01:14 – Critical Situations Bring Out The People You Need
00:2:29 – It’s Easy To Find People Who Stay On The Slow Route
00:04:24 – Over-Communication Is Much Better
00:05:59 – Emergency Situations That Require Quick Action
00:06:53 – It’s A Two-Step Question
00:07:52 – Slacking Is Rarely A Problem

Transcript

What would you do if you can pick between two candidates?

One of them is working extremely hard for 10 hours a day, like every single moment, but they’re really slow. They can’t deliver high quality within a short amount of time, they can’t react to emergencies, and whatnot.

The other one is around for say eight hours a day, or whatnot, and probably spends a couple hours a day just slacking, and browsing around, and chatting with colleagues, but they are fairly fast, and they can react whenever needed, and they can move a task and they can solve problems.

What I’m trying to allude to is that most people are aiming for the type of workers who are completely obedient to the process. These are people who completely respect the concept of working hours, and spend all their time in front of the screen doing nothing. But, for example, they are reading code, or documentation, or whatever it is. Or, just browsing and sending emails. And, actually ignore the people who maybe spending fewer hours, technically speaking, but can keep their mind, and their brain capacity on sync with everything that the business needs as an organization.

Critical Situations Bring Out The People You Need

Just to give you an example, we’re talking about different forms of businesses. Every single business needs to survive whenever there’s a critical situation. Critical situations happen, and that’s kind of the best time you can identify your managers. That’s the best time where you can find the people you need, and the roles that you really need for your business.

As a business professional myself, I always pick someone who maybe spending an hour, even two, over the course of the business day just doing whatever stuff they want to, but people who are reliable enough to solve a business problem within a short amount of time.

These are people who may be around after hours, people who may be able to take home and react upon a client emergency or something else that may happen across the business. That’s extremely important.

The reason I’m bringing this up is actually not my own team, even though we’ve had some interviews, and people who we’ve considered whether we can offer them a position of taskers, or simply ignore their application and just decline our offer because we don’t believe that they can tackle scenarios, or they’re not interested in investing extra time, or whatever it is.

It’s Easy To Find People Who Stay On The Slow Route

I’ve been looking for an assistant for a while, and while I’ve been on the hunt, I have one or two tasks that are fairly easy to figure out whether someone is a good candidate or not, and those tasks are related to quick thinking.

For example, I may ask them to compile a quick biographical profile of me, just tell them, “Spend 30 minutes looking around me and sum up all of the information that you can find.” Or, “Spend, again, one hour just browsing my core profile, and figure out what are the main topics I talk about,” or, “What are the five top topics that we can build video collections on top of, or create a new playlist of videos?” Or, something like that. Basic things that don’t require any skills or knowhow; basic skills that you can easily ask someone who’s smart enough, even though they don’t have specific skills in business development, or management, or whatnot, and just ask them to do something like that.

It’s a really easy way to find people who always stay the slow route. The reason I’m mentioning that is for all those scenarios that I’ve been using to interview assistants, for all of those scenarios, I have recorded videos within usually three to five minutes, and it usually takes them up to four hours to prepare something like that.

Just as an example, I have a podcast on WordPress, and I ask them, “Do you have experience with WordPress?” They say, “Of course, we’ve built some websites, they’ve installed thing, and whatnot.”

Most assistants have, because WordPress is used by professionals, and lots of amateurs and hobbyists, which is completely fine. I don’t mind it for the moment, but I say, “I need to discover like three or four topics for the next episode of my podcast. Based on what you know about me, you’ve already spent a day exploring me, and researching me, and whatnot, based on what you know about me, and based on the topic of my podcast, look up and try to find additional topic ideas for my podcast.”

Over-Communication Is Much Better

I give them a profile, “This is the audience, this is the type of user, these are the types of topics that we don’t cover there.” I also give them a rough recap of how they can come up with ideas, like, “Google, ‘What are the problems that complex … large websites face?’, something like that. Or look up other WordPress podcasts, or podcasts on web development, or podcasts on other relevant topics, or look up other, again, topics concerning the type of audience that we have, or search on Quora. Just look up the WordPress topic or something else.”

I pretty much give them the entire framework of how they can figure out the information they need, and just come up with some topics. I also tell them, “Be fast, make sure that you communicate really proactively.

Over-communication is much better than under-communication, right? Just come up with some suggestions, with some ideas as soon as freaking possible. We can communicate, we can bounce some ideas back and forth, and that’s completely fine.”

Just this week I think there were about four people. None of them took less than four hours to come up with something that’s pretty much a basic search, opening two links, and just compiling some topics. Because if you open WordPress podcast, and if you Google that online, you’re going to find two lists, two lists goes on top, listing about 10 different WordPress doing a podcast.

When you open them, you see a list of the episodes, and you can basically just copy paste five titles, or even 10 if you want, from that specific list, that covers the requirements, and you’re good to go. It really takes three minutes. I have a video recording for that. So that’s just one example.

Emergency Situations That Require Quick Action

Of course, this is really not that mission-critical, but when you need most of the things, you really need them to happen within the corresponding timeframes, and normally when you assign the tasks to a specific professional on your team, you know what sort of pace they work with, right? You know that a given type of task takes them X amount of hours, and you do your project management process depending on those estimations, which again, is completely fine.

When shit hits the fan, or roughly speaking, when something happens, there’s an outage, downtime, and a typo in a campaign, there’s something else that happens. You need people to react quickly, identify the problem, find the shortcut to restore the problem as soon as possible, and then you can do all the due diligence that you want once the problem has been solved. Those types of emergency situations are the types of tasks that we try to assign to our people.

It’s A Two-Step Question

First off, during interviews, we ask them a lot of logical questions. Most are behavioral-driven, as you can imagine, for different sorts of situations that our clients would come up with.

So, we try to assess the thinking process of those individuals. How would they react in those cases? How would they pick different solutions? This measures two things. The first one is what’s their skillset and their experience, of course, like whether they’ve dealt with those problems already, or the second one is for the problems that they don’t know, how would they tackle those particular problems?

Are they going to look up on Stack Overflow, or Quora, or just Google somewhere else? Are they going to ask a colleague, or a manager, or whatnot? Would they indicate a problem to their managers in the meantime, so that it’s clear that there’s an actual business problem they have to deal with?

Those are different ways to assess candidates over an interview in order to see whether they have any experience, and how would they catch up with the necessary experience for the role.

Slacking Is Rarely A Problem

The second more important thing is how would they act in emergencies. When they have a task that they need to do within the next two hours, and this task is usually a 10-minute task, how long would it take?

Now, we know that if it’s a fairly unknown project or a weird problem, it won’t take them 10 minutes, it probably will take 20, 30, 45, up to an hour, but if people pretty much leave for the day without having the task completed, without having indicated that there’s a problem, we know for a fact that those people are hardly reliable.

So we need to train them, we need to indicate the problem to them, and also we need to let them know that for a leadership position, like a senior developer, project owner, technical lead, something like that, they won’t really be able to step up and take the next level if they won’t resolve that specific problem, and that’s extremely important.

So again, when hiring people, slacking is rarely a problem.

Slacking is a problem only if there’s a critical emergency, and people still refuse to step up and support the business needs in that particular time, but aside from that, if you have someone who spends all day and all night at the office, but can’t react to an emergency and causes a problems, for the most part, those people are more problematic that does that. Maybe come in late, and maybe leaving earlier, but whenever there is a problem, they can step up and make sure that everything is working.

People who can still commit to deadlines, and work upon kind of stressful situations, even if you have one of those once a month. Once a month is enough to lose a couple of clients if you have two outages at the same day for just some insane reason, like AWS has been down, and being able to communicate that to your clients.

That’s it in a nutshell. If you’re applying to a specific job, again, make sure that you are dependable, you’re reliable, you’re trustworthy, if you want to step up in the hierarchy. Otherwise, you’re just looking to occupy a specific seat at the office, and that’s not extremely helpful to most organizations.

How To Maintain Your Clientele

Instead of doubling down on marketing and sales, never neglect your existing customer base.

A happy customer is your best investment to date. After successfully closing a deal, the best you can do is discovering ongoing opportunities to grow their business.

That’s what helped us grow to 45 folks at DevriX and generate 95% of our revenue through different recurring revenue plans.

My Top 5 looks like this:

1. Retainers
2. Maintenance and support plans
3. Tackling seasonal verticals and balancing high and low seasons
4. Repetitive batches of work, i.e. initiatives applicable to everyone
5. Productizing services

Going through each of these in the video. What’s your favorite recurring revenue technique?

how to maintain your clientele

Highlights

00:01:08 – What we do at Devrix
00:02:51 – What you can do with most clients
00:04:01 – Different Seasons, Different Offers
00:05:34 – How you can leverage trends
00:06:54 – Mix it up!

Transcript

Hey guys! Mario Peshev from DevriX here. Today’s question is, “how to maintain your clientele or how to take your existing customers and make them returning customers, repeat customers or even ongoing customers?”

Question: How to Maintain Your Clientele?

Now it’s a very common question especially among freelancers, startups, starting businesses, entrepreneurs, and people who don’t really have existing customers already or just have a couple of clients and want to really scale to dozens, hundreds, thousands, depending on the type of industry.

And, if you think about it, almost all tutorials out there and books and video courses are actually related to lead generation and sales and things like that for new customers. While statistics show that your existing customers are your best clients simply because they already trust you, you’ve done some job for them, they are happy, they’ve probably given you review, a testimonial, and they would most likely be willing to work with you again in the long run.

Different Techniques for Specific Customers

Now, this is not necessarily the case for every single type of business and every single type of client, which is why there are different techniques that you can apply as a service-oriented professional to those specific customers.

Technique #1 Retainers

Now, number one – technique number one is retainers.

Retainers is what we do at DevriX for a living. It accounts for about 95 percent of our revenue right now and it means that we are signing long-term contracts with our customers on a kind of month to month basis for a prolonged period of time. So our clients have been with us for over three years.

We work with them on kind of semi-implementation, semi-consulting basis with some support included in order to make sure that they have, they kind of hit goals on a month to month basis with new features, new expectations and kind of reviews, reports, optimization, everything that we can actually deliver as a business. So that’s kind of our preferred approach. This is the best thing that we kind of came up as the best practice. But of course, there are pros and cons.

The pros: It’s kind of high revenue operation. It could be scaled easily if you have kind of a larger number of clients but at the same time, you can scale it as easily simply because it accounts for a larger number of followers. Meaning that you can’t really work with hundreds or thousands of clients if you want to, you need to work with a limited number of customers because you need to pay more attention.

You need to spend more time – there is a lot more consultancy and other things involved in that process and not every specific customer is happy to do an ongoing basis thing unless tied to an ROI thing. Meaning that you can ensure that emergencies are being taken care of and you can also provide some additional value. From a marketing sales commercial rate optimization, experts’ perspective or anything else that helps them scale and may make more money as a result. So that’s kind of the first thing.

Technique #2 Maintenance

The second thing is maintenance.

And, of course, maintenance means that you can potentially work with a customer, you can do something for them, and at the same time you can tell them, “hey, if you can pay me X dollars a month, I’m going to do ABC for you.” Now, that’s not necessarily ideal but sometimes it’s a pretty cool deal especially if you kind of package it in some form of a bundle, like for example, say you’re not paying and making sure that their hosting is in place and they are then taking care of ABC. There are actually external services that you manage like their ads, or their SEO, or their Content Marketing or something like that.

So, you can really package a great deal. And throughout this deal, you can work with a bunch of different clients, doing one of the projects and at the same time making sure that maintenance is being taken care of as well. So again, that’s kind of the second tip. It’s something that you can do with most of your clients. It’s cheaper to retain or it’s something that’s kind of less urgent for the most part so most of the time you can do it in your own spare time. So again, there are some pros from picking these packages or this type of service offering as well.

Technique #3 Seasonality

Number three is seasonality.

Now some forms of businesses do really well throughout certain seasons. So, you as a specific kind of expert in your industry, you can try to tap into different seasons for different types of industries and nag your clients to kind of repeat ongoing campaigns or something like that throughout those specific seasons.

And if you’re smart and you can do it early enough prior to the holiday itself in order to take on a longer period of time before a holiday instead of having tons of overlap over the course of several days or just a couple weeks. Meaning that like, for example, we have two or three months before Christmas we can start in preparation with some plans now. Do the work by the end of say, I don’t know, September, October, November and have plenty of time before the actual holiday arrives so that we can take on other emergencies. Or, you can just plan your work upfront. And then, you can do the same thing for those clients on Christmas and you can kind of mix it in with Black Friday or Thanksgiving or Easter or on the Fourth of July, things like that. That sort of seasonality.

Or if you work with businesses that happen to be busy throughout the winter season, try to find something during the summer season so that you can take advantage of say, February through the end of April or even May to do some campaigns for them. So this way, you’re kind of distributing responsibility and allocating budget across the entire year instead of sticking to a specific, very limited, narrow kind of time interval.

Technique #4 One-Off Activities

Number four is just doing regular one-off activities.

That works well for specific types of plans like if you do SEO or if you do designs, if you do UX, some other things or ad ops, you have certain trends and most of your clients can potentially leverage those trends. Meaning that without actually imposing competition, you can more or less apply the same type of work for different clients. Like, if there’s a new trend for SEO or your performance optimization or migrations or a new tool that you’ve adopted or something else, you can slowly create batches of migrations and deployments and optimization procedures for all of your clients.

So if you actually plan your business model in a similar way, you can come up with a new idea every month or every other month for those specific customers and it works pretty well because again, if you have 10 customers and each of those batches takes say, 20 hours of your work, this means that closing eight of your customers is 160 hours of work for those customers even if you do it over the course of two months. It’s still about 80 hours a month or kind of working half-time applying those batches, those integrations for those clients. Do you know what I’m saying?

Technique #5 Productized Service

And also number five is trying to do some form of a mix between these by doing something like a productized service.

Like, you can build a platform or you can hire someone to build a platform for reporting or custom dashboards or you can integrate something like, I don’t know, newsletters and so on that comes with the latest referrals or you can actually record courses and other things that you don’t necessarily have to do as a service but you can productize your knowledge in a certain way.

Again, through courses, through software, through some form of a reseller approach, through hosting or anything else that helps you deliver value on an ongoing basis without having to spend a ton of time for every single iteration. So again, you can sell that as a separate thing. You can sell it in addition to your maintenance packages. You can sell it in an upsell to your one-off product but regardless, this is something else that you can do.

So those are more or less the five things that you can apply as a strategy for maintaining and continuously working with your clientele.

You can do retainers. You can focus on maintenance packages. You can do the seasonality thing and take leverage of those seasons. You can do your own seasons through different iterations with regular one-off activities or you can productize your service.

If you have any other ideas, definitely let me know in the comments. I’m happy to get back to you.

Project Managers vs Software Engineers?

Try to attend a geek conference and check the heartbeat of developers in the breaks. You’ll inevitably hear at least a few battle stories from projects gone wrong due to mismanagement or interpersonal conflicts within a project. 👊

At least the engineering’s perspective.

As engineers are in demand, opportunities are available at all times. The work itself is mostly “behind the scenes”, paying “technical debt” is hard to understand, and scaling is supposed to work out-of-the-box with a product that “already works.”

Makes you question why top tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook have been founded by engineers. 🤔

Here’s my take on the common disconnect and how to prevent it.

If you’ve been there, what worked for your organization?

project managersCheck out the video above for useful insights.

Highlights

00:00:07 – Are software engineers, spoiled?
00:01:07 – When managers aren’t technical people
00:03:11 – It’s pretty poor symbiosis
00:06:17 – A “Steve Wozniak” exists
00:07:53 – The need for mediation

TRANSCRIPT

Now, I know hundreds of software engineers, probably even in the thousands, because we’ve met at different conferences. We’ve worked on projects. I’ve studied with some of them in high school and universities and you know, there are common complaints by software engineers that they feel underappreciated at work or they have boring projects, their managers suck and stuff like that.

Are Software Engineers Spoiled?

Now there’s another contradictory opinion that states that software engineers are spoiled because they have lots of different opportunities from tons of different companies.

They’re in demand, meaning that they have lots of stuff that they can do, lots of companies they can go to and so on which also leads to low retention rate for most companies when it comes to software engineers simply because again, demand is high. Lots of different opportunities, tons of different perks, companies like Google and the like having their headquarters and lots of goodies basically being offered for those engineers, which isn’t something that you’re going to see normally for other types of businesses.

Like, you just imagine, I don’t know a store clerk or someone like this one, an accountant in a general company, just receiving that kind of benefits and those opportunities and perks and I know business travels or whatever it is for their business. But again, that’s another story.

When Managers Are Not Technical People

And everyone who is a software engineer, they know how complicated it actually may maybe, how many challenges there are, how continuous learning takes place and things like that. But indeed, there is sometimes a disconnect between managers and technical people, especially the managers aren’t real technical people.

Now, the thing is that the kind of the main reason is happening, for the most part, is the lack of background for most of those managers. And as I said, almost every single industry that’s not software engineering or something that’s in the high tech like Data Scientist, dev ops, system administrators – almost everything else happens in a more outdated conservative corporate environment which is a lot more hostile to people as compared to software engineers especially when it comes to startups and you know, fast-growing companies or some of those tech giants looking for the top engineers out there.

So it’s, it’s just a different game, it’s a different type of perception for different types of people.

Software Engineers, by Default, Are Passionate About Their Job

Another thing that’s worth noting is that software engineers by default – at least the vast majority of them, are actually passionate about their craft which isn’t something that you can normally say for most jobs because according to different stats over 70 percent of the people aren’t really satisfied with their jobs or they are just working a regular day job because they need to, to live somehow. But it’s not like they love their job.

And if you look around yourself you probably have coffee shops or restaurants or you order food from delivery places, you go to the store – all sorts of activities run by people who are not necessarily passionate about what they do. There is not that much of a career growth or career opportunities, shifts are weird, managers are weird as well. So it’s, it’s a pretty poor symbiosis of what’s going on.

For some people, they do have their kind of creative perks which are not that well paid such as sicking painters, actors, some singers, kind of enjoying what they do, but it’s really a poorly paid job so they’re not fully satisfied by themselves either.

So, looking at this as a general problem means that most managers coming from different backgrounds, they come with a different perception of their teams and that different perception of the game means that those people are mostly ready to fight fights at work as compared to actually pushing people forward to deliver a greater good.

Why the Disconnect Happens

And that’s why the disconnect happens at some places. Of course, that’s not a rule of thumb. It’s just statistically speaking if there is a manager who is working again, in a store or a supermarket in a bar or some someplace that for eight years or even ten years joining the I.T. industry, they will have a different background. They would be used to different types of problems and world, different types of dynamics, different types of communication which aren’t necessarily present in a kind of software engineering company or a tech company that relies heavily on software engineering as a business.

So, a disconnect may happen and it’s something that should definitely be handled prior to the interview itself. So, those people may actually not be hired even or there should be a decent conversation that states the importance of kind of the I.T. department and the people and staff and career and everything else as a whole so that managers can actually take place and step up as leaders, as someone who’s helping out and not someone who’s kind of just yelling at people and trying to micromanage them and do, you know, other stuff.

How a Technical Person Is Expected to Manage

Another theory that I have is actually in the fact that like some of the companies who have problems and also hire software engineers, they don’t have that sort of mentality simply because the owners and the founders aren’t used to working with software engineers.

If you think about some of the best companies out there to work for, those are companies like Google, like Facebook, like Microsoft and others that are actually founded by technical people. Now, that’s not to say that, “oh great companies are found by technical people or anything like that.” But it means that a technical person is best suited to know what does it going to work with other technical people. What are the challenges? What are the common misconceptions and problems?

So it’s… it almost comes naturally to just hire other technical people and also ensure that management is in place for those technical people, meaning that if you’re an accountant, you need to hire accountants who know exactly what they’re dealing with, what are the common problems, what are the common tools to use with them and so on.

And if you are managing those people, you know how to do it in the most efficient manner. And if you’re hiring managers for those people you can again, kind of transfer your knowledge to those folks so that they are most efficiently taken care of.

Most Popular Technical Co-Founders

Now there are other companies with technical co-founders like even Apple. You know you may have Steve Jobs, but then you have Steve Wozniak who’s also someone who’s been kind of one of the founding members and someone who’s capable enough to lead the technical people. So, with that in mind, managers can definitely be suited.

Technical managers are usually better suited to work with technical people but not always. Great managers can take care of other aspects of the management work that is not necessarily related to working day to day with the team. Because as you know, there is resource management, team management, customer management, project management as just handling the product specifics and other areas of management itself. So just working with those people is not necessarily what needs to be done.

And also, if you’re a great manager on your own, then it means that dealing with software engineers shouldn’t be a problem by itself.

Is There Any Guarantee of Ease When the Manager Has MBA?

And then there’s another last problem that I can point out. This is a fight at universities that occasionally tend to teach business administration, MBA and other programs which are designed for managers to people who don’t have a career background though. So, there are lots of people who enter into management without actually having worked as a regular employee. So, they have to be tricky because first off, they don’t really have any management experience in practice, they don’t have a team management experience, they don’t have any work experience, just working on a project. They don’t have industry experience because they haven’t worked in a specific organization.

So, it gets a lot trickier when you kind of start a job as a manager without actually knowing what you manage, who you manage, how to manage work specifics of the business, business cases, how you sell, how you market and everything else which is related to actually managing your team.

Again, that’s not to say that some people are better suited than others or whatnot or some people simply don’t have the opportunity to kind of start working on management job with software engineers but it’s a different dynamics and it requires being adjusted to that specific environment.

The Bottom Line

So, if software engineers sometimes work in companies where they aren’t well understood or things like that, it could be the mismatch between the responsibilities of a manager and the responsibilities of a software engineer and how the symbiosis works.

With that in mind, of course, there should be mediation, there should be work with upper management, senior management, and even the C-suites and those managers and kind of deciding how to take it further. But otherwise, if you are a developer who is wondering or if you’re a manager who’s kind of starting a new job or whatnot, feel free to again, watch the video once again see what may work for you, what are kind of the pros and cons, what are the benefits what are some of the required traits to do that and take it from there.

If you have any other tips, let me know in the comments. I’m happy to share some recap in the coming videos.

Startup Considerations While Doubling Your Headcount

Growing rapidly sounds exciting – but is it really?

I was recently asked, “What happens when your business doubles?” 💯 We’ve managed to pull a 2x growth a couple of years in a row, and aiming to grow by about 60% or so this year alone.

And I’ve always viewed recruitment as a strategic endeavor aimed to accomplish specific goals over time. This means several things:

1. Hiring people for short-term jobs is often a failing decision, excluding freelancers or consultants.
2. Recruiting without a long-term vision will drop retention rates. Career growth matters.
3. Hiring only when demand is high is poor planning. Not enough time to shortlist, interview, hire, onboard people.
4. Keeping plenty of staff members slacking is poor management and an expensive venture.

🎥 Here’s what else matters when your team is scaling, troubles that companies face while hiring at large, and creative techniques to keep growing predictably over time.

startup considerations

Highlights

00:00:31 – The challenge, headcount wise
00:02:20 – The slow way VS the other way
00:04:30 – Do you have an employer brand?
00:07:36 – Not everyone is a great manager
00:08:31 – Why most companies are not trying to be the fastest growing startup

Transcript

So, what happens when your team doubles? Now, in terms of building a company, people pick different kinds of priorities and different types of choices.

What Type of Entrepreneur Do You Want to Be?

Some want to take it as “solopreneurs” or just entrepreneurs who work almost again by themselves, with probably some freelancers or consultants or some vendors or deal with something like drop shipping that doesn’t really require you to have so many resources or use some marketplace instead of dealing with marketing and basically pick different choices to keep scaling and keep growing.

Like just today I actually met someone, I’ve been knowing for a bunch of years. He has a super successful business. It’s probably as high as seven figures or so and he’s pretty much working a lot. He’s a broker. He is an agent’s broker – has tons of experience in some very high transaction costs industries. He’s a great professional and like, we just met today and he told me that he’s working alone which is again pretty admirable. I really love it and he manages to deal with everything by himself which is pretty awesome.

On the other hand, you have some other businesses like construction work or some warehouses where your budget or your revenue may be pretty low but you have a high staff, high headcount simply because the nature of the business requires lots of manual labor. And, often this labor means that those are people who are not necessarily super highly qualified but they need to move things around and package goods and a bunch of other things which again requires you to just hire the fast pace.

How It Was like to Start Doubling

Of course, you can imagine startups and we can imagine high growth tech companies or other types of agencies that land clients to a pretty high pace or land some partnerships and grow their customer base. And with that, of course, comes the challenge of growing the business in terms of headcount.

Now, we used to have about a couple of years when we grow. When we grew about double, it was when we were fewer people – of course, it was easier. Now for about a calendar year, we were going to be up with about 65% or so headcount wise, which is still something about 50%.

It’s not nearly double but again, it’s just a major expansion that we’re dealing with nowadays. So, a bunch of things happens when your headcount kind of grows exponentially.

What to Consider When Hiring Additional Staff

Now, first off you need to consider the experience of those people. Now, of course, if you’re hiring juniors or interns for something like that, you need to have people assigned for them.

For example, if you have a boutique agency of 10 people and you decide to create an internship campaign, you may have five people who actually start with little to no experience which isn’t necessarily super productive.

So, we need to decide how exactly to involve those people in the process.

The Internship Campaign: The “Slow” Way and the “Other” Way

There is the “slow way”. You know, you can do a kind of internship campaign that takes six to nine months. You give them tasks. You give them some responsibility and some ownership and expect them to do most of the heavy lifting by only allocating a couple of hours a week or so with them.

Now, this isn’t super-efficient. It only works to people who are really self-driven people – people who are self-motivated who can do that by themselves. And by definition, not everyone is like this, regardless of their motivation and potential.

It’s just temporary, it’s just psychology, it’s just mindset, mentality, working environment, their close circle of friends and a bunch of other things. So that’s kind of ruling out one of the groups.

You have the other way to just bond someone shadowing one person from your team. But this may get exhausting. Now, first off, not everyone from your team is necessarily a great trainer, leader, teacher or whatever you want to call it, right? Some people are just built for that.

Some people or their mentality is all about education and leadership and training which is super awesome. But, that doesn’t make the other people who don’t enjoy doing that any bad right? They are just as awesome as well just in a different way, more or less.

You can also do a kind of hiring a full-time person who’s a coach, a mentor. You know, a business guru or of itself just training those people we have now. That’s another way to deal with it.

But if you’re a 10 person agency or a company or whatever, it’s probably an expensive resource because this means that someone who is both experienced in your specific industry like a senior person and also a great trainer, a great teacher, a great educator who’s able to convey all that knowledge, is passionate enough, is patient enough to deal with people and passionate enough to do that as well. Right.

The Importance of Employer Branding

So again, that’s fair for interns. Hiring more senior people – it’s a little bit more challenging. It’s doable if you really have a very strong brand. Because I already kind of explained in a previous video that it’s really hard to keep growing unless you have an employer brand, so I’m going to link the video (Why Is Employer Branding So Crucial For Startups and Business Owners?) in the comments, in case you’ve missed it.

But, bottom line, like if you’re for example a 50 person team. Right. If you’re a 50-person team and you need to grow double driven by 50 percent, this means adding 25 people to your team or even 50 people, right? And adding those people like, unless you really want to be an army of entry-level force which is rarely a smart thing to do, then adding so many people means you need to find talent.

And almost all of that talent is already working somewhere or they are consultants, they’re freelancers, they have their own agencies and basically do the business on their own. And convincing them to join you means that you must have a pretty solid track star product that’s able to revolutionize the industry as some guys from Apple would normally say.

And again this takes time. It’s really hard. You need a brand, you need a perception, you need to be everywhere, you need to be a lot of things in order to be able to convince that many great people to join you. And then with great people, you face different challenges.

Now, great people, they’re used to their own process of work, right?

So unless you’re are like a major leadership guru in the industry and they use guru on purpose because you know, it’s funny. Like not everyone is a guru out there for obvious reasons. So unless you’re like the leadership expert in the universe, then it’s really hard for experienced people to trust you and follow you and just believe that your process is better than what they used to do for the past 5 or 10 years which is again more or less expected.

Moreover, when you ask more people it gets pretty interesting as to how exactly to scale business.

Internal Promotion vs External Hiring

Now again you have a kind of small team like a team of 20, 50, 100 people. You already have some hierarchy.

But if you suddenly rapidly grow the company it becomes a little bit harder to manage within the same old company because you either need to bring in external management, or you need to promote some of your own troops or some of the new hires you bring in have to step up as you know some tech leaders, project managers and things like that.

And now all these cases may bring different conflicts. Now if you bring someone external as a project manager or a product major situate or a director of something they rarely know exactly what you’re up to. They rarely understand your process better.

Almost no company is as transparent as possible so that everyone from the outside can join the company effectively in a short amount of time. Also, it’s really hard for people who have been around for years to just trust someone external.

I had that experience myself in a company. The previous CEO appointed someone else as a CEO. A great guy but like me, we really couldn’t work together because he was used to a different industry, different processes, different mentality. It just didn’t work out for me and a bunch of other people so all of us quit and the CEO was no longer working for the company a few months later. So sometimes it’s not really a great decision that I’m trying to say.

Promoting people on your team is often a smart thing to do. But again, not everyone is a great manager. So you could just expect the top 5 people on the team are just suddenly going to become a manager, that’s not necessarily the right thing to do.

Some of them may not be suitable for this. Some of them may not want to do this. Also, it becomes tricky like if you have a 5 person team and you just want to appoint someone to be the team leader like, why did you choose them, like why didn’t you pick someone else on the team? This may create interpersonal conflicts also.

Again if you bring new talent who does know the company and who hasn’t been as loyal yet because he just joined. How can you promote them to be on top of the food chain? Because again this is counterintuitive and doesn’t really make a lot of sense if you think about it.

So again those are some of the challenges for a growing high team.

Additional Challenges

Let alone the fact that you know payroll, with onboarding, with just making sure that culture fit is the right, with making sure that people can onboard the pretty much same pace so they can join different projects. You’re going to face some troubles there for sure.

Some things that you really need to keep in mind that’s why most companies aren’t trying to be the fastest growing startups because fastest growing disrupting startups through causing other problems or like you have an office space may actually face a challenge of finding enough room in your own office to accommodate everyone else joining on the team.

So that’s yet another thing you need to think of and moving to a new office space is hard. And trust me I know that because we just moved last weekend.

So yeah that’s pretty much it, companies dealing with fast headhunting. It’s really tricky to find the right people. Sometimes, you’re in a rush and you’re trying to find people and just trust them blindly which is not necessarily the great thing.

We are very cautious about culture but you know I know lots of people who are just hiring whoever comes in because they need to build teams rapidly.

Just finding the right mentors, building the right infrastructure, the right processes building the right culture with lots of new people joining in who are going to build the culture and there they may have to change the culture more or less.

Those are plenty of challenges that most companies doubling their headcount deal with. So if you think to do that thing twice, this may or may not be the thing for you.

Building And Managing a Web Agency — YouTube Live With Chris LaFay

So Chris LaFay and I connected on LinkedIn after interacting there for several months. We literally bumped into each other while texting on LinkedIn as our messages arrived within the same second.

So, for our first chat, we picked the video format, and discussing our background in starting, building, and running agencies, along with the corresponding challenges.

Seems like our backgrounds are quite similar — we both started hacking around 1997-1999 and kept coding for a continuous period of time, switching to freelance and scaling from there. Over the call, we’ve discussed delegation, company culture, leaderships, scaling processes, hiring people, and a bunch of other intriguing topics for people eager to start a web agency or transition from freelance to business ownership.

We touched on the migration from an engineer to a business owner, too. Both of us still code, but sometimes it’s just a couple hours a week while occasionally it’s almost full-time. It all depends on the current business priorities, and the ability to put on the engineering hack is definitely handy for various reason.

Check out the full video and let me know what your main concern is when it comes to agency growth. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

Full-Time Employees, Freelancers, Agencies – Pros and Cons

What are you supposed to do when you need special digital work whether it be marketing, web development, design or etc.?

There are three common options that you can pick from:

  • Hiring a full-time employee
  • Hiring a freelancer
  • Working with an agency

I have been a part of all three. I have been an employee, a freelancer and part of an agency. On the other hand, I have hired freelancers, employees and offloaded work to agencies.

There are different combinations that you can pick from. On top of that, it becomes more complicated depending on the type of skills you are looking for, expertise, the amount of time you want to be spent on a project and so on.  I am going to break them down to 3 different categories.

Hiring An Employee

First is hiring an employee. Let’s say you want some digital marketing work or web development and you want to build a project that is going to be work on an ongoing basis. You could be in one of the many possible situations.

For example, you may have another 50 marketers or developers already so your good to go you have processes, you have majors, you have team leaders and etc. Or you may be a very small team that essentially has 5 people only, looking to expand by hiring new people in-house or by reducing costs and offloading externally.

Those are different combinations but in a nutshell, if it is a small project that takes 5-10 hours it obliviously doesn’t make sense to outsource it to a full-time person that you have in-house because this person is going to get paid for a 40-hour work week while only being busy for 8 – 12 hours a week.

On the other end, if it is a large project then you are relying on a single person to handle that activity which is normally impossible.  You usually need 2 or 3 people for that, people that have different skill sets, with different expertise, with know-how in different areas to be able to take on that challenge. On top of that, you need someone to manage them.

Let’s look back at our previous examples.

For the marketing example, you will need a marketing director who is going to communicate with people that are dealing with branding, with creative and with development and to also handle other types of activities advertisement and PR activities that are not directly related to marketing.

For our web development example, they have to coordinate and also find people dealing with quality assurance, server management, deployment, infrastructure and a lot of other activities that you don’t really think of while working on the project.

Like I said, it gets more complicated. In a nutshell, hiring an employee makes sense if you want to develop the whole department yourself if you want to build a team of experts full time dealing with these activities. Hiring just one person, for the most part, isn’t that efficient. It isn’t the best solution and more often than not, there are more effective solutions like off-loading that work to someone else.

Hiring Freelancers

The second is freelancers. Freelancers share some commonalities with full-time employees in a way that they don’t posse all the skills that you need but they are available a few hours a week, a few hours a month or available on-call. So, it is a flexible agreement that works especially for small projects. But it gets a bit tricky as your project grows larger because you need more commitment and more time. A freelancer is normally working on numerous projects and they may not be available. Or they may be having a hard time on other projects and could be looking for a full-time job since you normally only cover around 20% of what they are looking for on a monthly basis.

That is something that has actually happened, I have worked with freelancers who have started full-time jobs because they couldn’t pay their expenses. Not all freelancers are successful. There are also freelancers that work part-time jobs. There are freelancers that freelance as a part-time job. Those are things that need to be considered along with skills.

For example, you want a web development platform, this platform may require back-end development, front-end development, creative, DevOps jobs and etc. Finding someone that is a full stack, being senior and also affordable isn’t trivial but you really need to consider the different options.

It’s an opportunity, it could be cheaper than hiring someone full time or using an agency but you have to be prepared to deal with their time frames, limitations of their skills, or hiring several different freelancers dealing with different activities.

Outsourcing to An Agency

The third option is agency, hiring an agency that handles everything. Even though I own an agency I am going to reveal a secret, most agencies don’t do a great job in what they do. The smaller agencies are trying to scale and deal with far too many things at the same time. The larger agencies often work with the systems, interns and assign people who are “on training” for different projects.

You need to make sure you work with a type of agency that is similarly sized or a little bit smaller than your company, an agency that you can familiarize yourself with the team and where you can explain your expectations. Otherwise, you may just get random people assigned to your project that incurs additional overhead and so forth.

Most agencies that we have vetted and agencies we get pitched for outsourcing our services don’t really have any legitimate processes for dealing with the type of work they are supposed to do. These agencies expect to receive a specification, deliver what they think is right and get paid. The process is a little different they need to invest in:

  • QA
  • understanding of business requirements
  • the business needs of the customer
  • what they actually want from that specific project
  • types of monetization strategies,
  • the needs of the project as it evolves
  • and a lot of other different things.

Professional agencies deal with these things by combining different people on their team and by introducing specific processes that work on specific cases.

This option is more of expensive, but not always we have had clients reduce their headcount in terms of technical staff and have hired our agency because we are more effective, faster, communicate better and etc.

With an agency, you receive the full package you receive different people with different capabilities and different skill sets. But this is not someone you can bring in-house as an employee sometimes it is going to be a little bit more expensive at times depending on your agreement.  It might be slightly slower because you have more comprehensive processes that ensure stability, security, and performance.

With an agency, you do receive a stable reliable solid working product, something that could grow and scale in time and most importantly you work with people who are fully qualified and fully professional in that particular type of business world or industry.

An agency works with dozens or hundreds of different clients and they have their process that they use to solve certain types of problems. Whereas with employees that is often a problem they simply don’t have enough background or they haven’t been exposed enough to those types of problems which could potentially slow them down or may lead to specific mistakes preventing them to complete.

So, there are three different options hiring a full-time employee, hiring a freelancer or outsourcing to an agency. Each has their pros and cons. Choose wisely.

Can You Sell Your Ideas As a Business Venture (Are Ideas Worth It At All?)

Let’s talk about ideas. A question on Quora that I saw today said, “Where can I post or probably sell ideas or some working ideas that I can’t develop on my own due to incapability to do so?” And that’s a good question.

To be honest, I know a lot of people who were more creative or you may say they are kind of dreamers they have lots of faith in some ideas they come up with and they say “Oh gosh if only I had the money and the team and you know the resource and the networks and I was going to make that idea a reality.”.

So, some of those people they want to kind of work as something that you know you may label it as idea generators you know people who come up with great ideas and just sell them and make a living out of that.

But in reality, ideas, you know don’t really matter that much and ideas aren’t worth as much as you can think unless you have the right procedures in place unless you have the right environment, the right context and the right ability to make consequences, pay for that idea and generate the right return on investment.

And I try to answer this question, so I came up with a list of the “10 main things that a startup needs in order to make an idea worth something.”.

10 Things A Startup Needs To Sell Ideas

  • Idea

So, the first line is obviously an idea.

  • Solid Founding Team

The second one is a solid founding team. So, which means that without the founders without the pushing forces moving the idea forward there’s not really much value in that right. You need to have the people running the ship you know the captains of the ship really trusting the idea really having the skills the potential the networks everything else in order to make it a reality.

  • Market validation

Number three is market validation. Market validation matters for various reasons. You need to know that your idea is worth something, you need to figure out who’s your ideal customer, your buyer persona if you want. You need to validate the fact that your solution is going to solve their problem and they are willing to pay for that.

And on top of that your price range is right on par with what kind of problem they have. What kind of problem they’re trying to solve and how your solution taps into that specific problem.

That’s extremely important because I’ve built some solutions that are niche solving a small problem to 10 customers across the entire universe. So, I can’t charge $50,000 a license right. It doesn’t make sense. And at the same time, it can sell $50 apiece. If I only have 10 plants in the world again it doesn’t. The math doesn’t really make sense. Or it may be a fix that just isn’t worth paying for. That’s also a problem.

  • Marketing Channels

Number four is having some at least a couple of decent channels to sell or could be a great sales team, marketing, PR, branding of the founding team. Anything else that lets you scale. For example, you’ve seen some young unbeknownst startups launching on Mashable or Tech Crunch and making millions out of it.

But in order to get featured from Tech Crunch, you have to have a pretty outstanding idea or know journalists to be able to do PR properly or have a Founder that has consecutive successful stories or anything along those lines.

So, without that, this may not work. A sales team is the same thing. If you don’t have the right people you’re not really going to generate to close the deal that you’re looking forward to. Same goes with marketing and so on.

  • Recruitment Strategy

Number five a strong recruitment strategy. If your business is successful, let’s assume that your idea is great. You have a product market fit and great founding team and so on. The next step what you need next really is being able to sell that idea and being able to make a lot of money out of it but you still need people whether they’re developers from the market or through sales support.

Anything else that needs to make the idea scalable in the long run. So unless you have a great recruitment strategy unless you know that you can get access to the people in your market to have the right onboarding plan for them, it’s not really going to work either.

  • Close Investment Opportunities

Number six is the ability to close investment opportunities. Now I’m going to admit that this is not necessarily important. You know you can bootstrap a business. It happens all the time. One of the Founders may put some money up front you can use credit cards, loans from friends and family. Those are different ways to make an idea worth something without an investment plan.

But, in the long run for a fast paced growing startup you still need some form of an investment and you need to make sure that you have the right skills and opportunities and contacts in your networks who can make that happen.

  • Robust Growth Plan

Number 7 is a robust growth plan which means that you can prevent crashes when your business starts growing and lots of businesses actually forget about it. I still remember when we were about five people or so, we had pretty much to Skype group channels for the entire communication in our company.

We had a project management system which was pretty much almost obsolete. We didn’t really pay that much attention to it. Now, you know about 30 people were added to that team. We can’t really live without a project management system, book tracking platform, a CRM and a lot of other tools, we work with HubSpot, we are an agency partner and we do marketing automation with HubSpot a bunch of other things.

We do have managers on site. We do have people leading canter initiatives. We do have QA team and so on because once you start scaling it doesn’t really mean adding more people just to the puzzle. You need more processes in place you need to management procedures in place you need some people who can stick around and so on. So, it gets a little bit trickier.

  • Automating Process and Technology Efficiently

Number eight is automating process and technology efficiently. If you run a technological product, of course, the more, you automate the better it gets like for a former client of ours. He had 30 writers of full-time editorial process. And he said, “Well, I really wish there was a way to save some time.” So we did some R&D and so on.

Long story short we ended up building something that saved two hours a week of each of their writers which means 30 people by two hours a week saving 60 hours a week or a total of about 240 hours a month every single month just by building one specific feature. That sort of automation helps you scale, helps you work more efficiently more effectively and generate more in a short amount of time.

  • Generating profit

Number nine is generating tons of profit. Of course, in the first 8 steps are a plus, you’re going to make a living and you’re going to grow steadily.

  • The Exit

Number ten it’s usually the eggs. So, I’m just going to sum them up once again. So, you have the idea you have the founding team you have a product market fit which is, of course, important, some selling mechanism sales marketing, PR, a strong recruitment strategy, the ability to claw some investment, a robust growth plan, automating process and tech efficiently, tons of profit and exit. So that’s kind of the story of most successful startups that were led to an exit. Right.

So if you think about it and when we get to the initial point of just having an idea the idea itself isn’t really worth anything, but if you have a lot of ideas so if you’re one of those people with tons of ideas you basically have two different ways to make it happen the first one is learning a lot about all the other aspects so you have an idea along but this idea hasn’t been validated with the market. You don’t really think about the founding team about recruitment about sales growth or anything of that list.

It’s not really going to be worth anything right. It’s just not going to work. And that’s extremely important. So, the more you know about the rest of the process the easier it is to create and spark ideas that are helpful and that can fit specific business needs and that’s super important.

Best case scenario, of course, you can just start a startup spend a sh*tload of time on it and make sure it works at the end of the day. So that’s of course number one but number two there is one other hack that kind of like and we do have a couple of clients maybe three clients that actually do that.

They have their own company, but they also do consulting on the side and they do consulting for different non-profits, for private equity firms, for companies acquiring other businesses, for business development firms and so on.

Those types of businesses they need some form of evaluation over an existing company in order to decide whether they need to invest in it, whether they can acquire it and so on. Or you can work directly with clients so if you can analyze the business you still need some extra skills, but if you can analyze the business and find a missing opportunity that can help monetization, that can help bring in more profit and more money on the table.

You may work in that specific ideation department who may be on some form of growth hacker or whatever they call it nowadays and just focus on that idea thing.

But again, you need to understand the business, so you need to go to a company, you need to understand more about their business goals, business development plans who works on what, what are their main problems, how are they trying to compete with their again competitors and selling that.

You can say “Okay, I see a niche opportunity here. You need to do a b c, you need to hire or allocate to people full time on that idea for six to 12 months, invest in this, this, this.”

Those are the opportunities for networking for generating extra revenue or would ever be. So, this is going to be a golden opportunity but if you come with an idea along that’s not really worth as much as you may think, and that idea should be applicable to a specific context.

So you need to find a company that has the same compatible culture, the team the founding members, everything else in order to make that business success.

Just keep it in mind if you’re an idea person, either start a startup yourself. Keep learning a lot about the other stages of the process or try to join an organization that really needs your specific type.