NOTE: This post is part of Wendy Week, where I talk about my personal experience of outsourcing and the "behind the scenes" stuff involving finding, hiring, motivating, and working with a key person...which in this case is my key person, Wendy.
Hiring somebody to run your business, especially if you or your family are counting on that business, is much like trusting somebody with your life. Somebody with that much control can make you or break you.
If you look at various online message boards for entrepreneurs, such as Warrior Forum, you'll often see new business owners giving out advice for hiring your first employees. Many of these people suggest using a service like oDesk, where you'll not only be able to work with non-US workers, some for as little as $3/hour*. I think this is good advice.
However, one of the reasons people love oDesk is that you're able to monitor workers via a built-in "big brother" style software that takes screen captures of workers' computers, to make sure they're on task when they say they are. That, I think, is bad advice.
For one, the reason you hire people is so you don't have to do the work yourself. Although you may be handing work over when you hire somebody, you're adding to your workload by constantly watching them do it.
Secondly, if you can't trust somebody, why are you working with them at all?
I'm all for verifying work, but monitoring employees to make sure they're working every single minute they're on the clock is a waste of time, especially when you're paying them as little as $3/hour. And you can't scale it.
On the flip side though, a mistake I've made is to give employees too much responsibility too soon...
A great example of this is when I was doing some live event production. It's a "cash" business, so within days after hiring a worker, without doing any kind of verification of references, I had her dealing with thousands of dollars in cash.
Big mistake... She ran off with it and I never heard from her again.
So needless to say, when I brought on Wendy, I had reason to be a bit nervous about trusting people with sensitive and valuable information, such as passwords and bank account numbers.
Because she came on as a customer service person, the only thing Wendy had access to was the support desk. If somebody needed a refund or there was a billing issue, I would take care of that work myself.
That's a pain in the ass! Again, why hire somebody if it's going to mean you still have to do work?
So I eventually gave her limited access to the merchant account. She could refund people and stop billing, but nothing else.
That wasn't enough though! I still had "work" coming through.
Eventually, I gave her full access to the merchant account. And then, one site at a time, full access to everything else.
If she wanted to, she could...
- withdrawal all my money
- change payment information, so money is routed to somebody other than me
- cancel client billing
- email all my customers and tell them to fuck off
- delete products from the database, so nobody can buy them
- change what we charge for products, so we lose money on each sale
Or any number of really nasty things...
Bottom line is that she could really do some damage, if she wanted to. Yes, I could protect myself from that happening, but as I mentioned, I didn't hire her so I'd have more work for myself.
So far, so good. Almost five years and no problems.
If you've been burned in the past, I encourage you to "get back on the bike" and try it again. For the most part, when you trust people, they'll show you that they're trustworthy. That doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it happens 99% of the time. Having been ripped off, I can tell you that losing a little money is much better than living a life of paranoia, so I encourage you to err on the side of trust.
*NOTE ABOUT $3/HOUR WORKERS - In some places, this is a very comfortable salary and workers being paid this have a very nice, middle class standard of living.