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