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Five ways to secure talent for your start-up on a tiny budget

Five ways to secure talent for your start-up on a tiny budget

Imagine you’re managing a complex web project, requiring hundreds of new pages and serious coding and creative work, and you’re facing a tight deadline. Your in-house team is already at full capacity on other tasks. And, just to tie the other hand behind your back, you don’t have the budget to bring on more full-time staff. Would you know where to go, how to find the right people, the smartest approaches to vet them, and the best ways to get them started quickly?

If not–and if you knew her–you’d probably call Wendy Campanella. She’s been called a “Start-up Marine,” and entrepreneurs call on her regularly to help with tricky business problems. One of her secrets, which she’ll share with you below, is building top-quality “flex teams” quickly–even with a very limited budget and tight timeline.

Wendy has leveraged her flex-team strategy to launch the first all-online tradeshow for the semiconductor industry (back in the Internet’s pre-crash days) and the first in-flight Internet portal to let passengers access the web on a commercial flight. Currently she’s building another first-of-its-kind web service, ImpressMe.com, a video-centric product comparison site for consumers in the research phase of a purchase.

In each case, Wendy has managed to create a successful product, within the timeframe allotted, within or even under her budget. How the heck does she do that? Good question! Here is her first secret:

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WENDY CAMPANELLA: “I like to iterate between the high-level vision and the execution. I develop a concept of the execution strategy, then test the details, adjusting to what’s working and what’s not. This means that my talent requirements change a lot, especially at the start.

As I refine my strategy, I incorporate critical or exceptional talent into my core team, mating it with my ‘flex team,’ for which I place very descriptive requests for proposals on the right talent sites. The right resource is out there, but connecting with it can be a challenge.”

Here Wendy tells us the five resources she uses most often to build effective flex teams quickly.

1. GetFriday

This India-based outsourcing firm bills itself as a “remote executive assistant service.”

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WENDY CAMPANELLA: “I’ve had great luck using GetFriday for relatively simple ongoing processes like data mining and web research.

When a project involves tasks that need to be done over and over–such as tracking down product data sheets across many companies, when that information is entirely decentralized and takes real digital shoe-leather–GetFriday is an excellent resource.

They can help you with ongoing tasks, like gathering data on your customers or competitors, for example, and organizing that data into an actionable format. Once you’ve educated them on what you need, they’re very strong at executing–and also at training their own staff on what you need, if they need to assign new personnel to your account.”

2. oDesk

This freelance job site offers talent in a number of disciplines–coders, designers, writers and even virtual assistants similar to the service offered by GetFriday.

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WENDY CAMPANELLA: “I use oDesk primarily for their web-development talent, and I have had great experiences with them. You can search for talent by specific skills–Python or PHP, for example–and by geography, if language is a concern.

And here’s a useful tip: If you’re not a developer yourself, make sure you include your development team in the selection and management of this outside resource. They’ll get you to the best talent much faster.”

3. eLance

Like oDesk, eLance is a freelance job site, although with a broader range of freelance talent–including creatives and developers, but also financial, legal and customer service resources.

WENDY CAMPANELLA: “I’ve had a lot of luck finding writing talent on eLance. What I do is look for writers with a passion for the subject matter. With 250,000 freelance writers listed on the site, I can always find people who can write well and who really know and care about the topic on which I’m looking for content.”

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4. Fiverr

Describing itself as “the world’s largest marketplace for services, starting at five dollars,” Fiverr offers freelance talent that is extremely inexpensive.

WENDY CAMPANELLA: “Fiverr is a great testing resource. If I think I want to outsource some sort of content creation —  articles, video scripts, voice-over talent, info graphics and even icon development — I start here. I quickly learn what works and what doesn’t before I spend a lot of money acquiring ongoing talent. Sometimes I get a few useful gems in the process. And even if it falls short, it hasn’t cost me more than a few dollars to try.”

5. Interns

WENDY CAMPANELLA: “This is perhaps my favorite resource, particularly for the video talent I’m using to build our product-comparison service, ImpressMe. Here’s why.

If you have a business or project that requires creatives–especially video, but also other skills like writing or graphic design–it’s important to keep in mind that the colleges and universities that teach these skills often require internships to graduate.

Film schools, for example, often require hundreds of hours of interning at a business. These students have real video skills, and they come to you with high-end equipment from their schools that would cost you a small fortune to buy yourself. And the best part: They want to do a great job for you, because they’re graded in part on your review of their work. Everybody wins!”

Featured photo credit: Navy SEALS/Rennett Stowe via flickr.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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