The Hazards of Employees and Contractors

It’s a double-edged sword. You need to grow. To grow, you need to be able to spend more time finding new customers. When you grow, you need to spend more time doing the work. So the quick answer? Hire people!  Yes, I have had contractors and employees, depending on the roles needed, in the past. The problem with that, as any small business owner crossing over that line will tell you, is that they require training and motivation. The web world and to some degree, even the SEO world often makes use of a lot of contractors.

Do you need a “Once in a while” resource – or an actual body?

There are a number of things in the SEO world that are fairly specialized activities that many agencies just don’t have enough use for to require a full time person.  Writing press releases comes to mind. If you have 20 clients, odds are good they won’t all have a press release item every month. Maybe they will, depending on your strategy, but you probably don’t require a highly paid regular staff member as “Press Release Specialist.”  Same can be said for movies or videos. We often do videos for clients, but it’s not something that we can keep someone busy with every day. Certainly not at our price points. Anyway, point is, companies often need contractors that have specialized skills. To get the best use of contractors and employees in your small business, here are a few things that *I* have learned over the years…

You Need Help

Yup, you’ve made the plunge. Time to admit, and come to grips with the idea, that you’re going to need to spend more money to make your money and keep growing. This is not going to be a “How To Hire Help for YOUR Company” piece as I’ve apparently not quite got it down pat yet 🙂  As with most things, though, it comes down to money. Here’s what I can share in this area.

  1. You DO get what you pay for
    1. Hiring cheap – If you hire a bottom of the barrel priced contractor, there’s a reason – no experience, no confidence in their experience, no history to point to… There can be other reasons as well which actually DON’T present a problem, and if you catch these opportunities at the right time, it can be great. I know when we were in a growing mode, our prices were VERY low – that turned out to be it’s OWN double-edged sword that I will save for another day.In many cases though, pay low and you GET low. If you’re prepared to make up for shortcomings from that person, then go for it. If this is a student that you’re getting from a nearby college, they will NOT have years of business experience and can often make what will seem to be elementary mistakes.They also will likely not have 2 decades of web experience like I do.. or they would be a LOT pricier, which brings us to…
    2. Hiring and paying a pro – On the other hand, hiring a professional at 4 or 5 times that rate that can solve your problem quickly is often really cheaper. And you often get a MUCH better “warm fuzzy” when dealing with someone like that. Hiring someone to do the job for 400-500 that gives you nothing but problems, forcing you into going back OVER all their work, fixing a lot of it – and basically eating up YOUR time OR paying someone 800-1000 and NOT having to worry about the project AT ALL.  For US, it sometimes can be a mix of both, but often, I personally would rather the latter.

      1. CAVEAT – Some people think they are pros – but suck badly. SMH. I’ve hired a few of these in the past and it can frustrating to be spending top dollar only to realize that these self-assessed pros are barely able to do the most basic of things. If you get one of these, extricate yourself from the situation as soon as possible. The stories I could tell. And STILL have to contend with…
  2. No matter HOW good YOU are, your people will NOT automatically inherit your abilities. Rubbing shoulders with you will help. BUT, if you are like ME, and most of your people work remotely – even just across town – it’s difficult to get them to fully embrace and understand YOUR ways of doing things.
  3. The people that you hire will likely not have your drive. This is sort of a parallel to the above – but the point is that some people are entrepreneurs, owners, and leaders. And then others are employees and followers. The world needs both. And you don’t necessarily WANT yourself working for you. I can only imagine the hell that perhaps some of my managers have had to go through with me over the years. The world is a happier place with me in my own world LOL.
  4. “Hire slow – fire fast”  Sometimes this really is not applicable or gets knocked down in the face of urgency.  Particularly if you’re using a contractor.
    1. Hire slow – There are things that SHOULD be taken slow. If you’re hiring an employee that you are going to have to live next to? DO YOUR LEGWORK ON THEM.  In North Carolina, you can actually fire for anything which is not quite the way it is in other states, but there’s a lot of work in and ramifications when you put on an employee. You do NOT want to do it casually.  AFA contractors – due process is still needed with a contractor  – particularly depending on how FAR they need to get into your company. If they’re doing a logo for you – it really doesn’t matter if they ARE a complete sot – as long as they get the job done when you need it. However, if they’re a web developer and they have 2 weeks to get out a project, and a week and a half into the project, they have not started… Now you have a whole NEW problem. And direct from experience – if they are going to have access to all your customer records? CHECK THEM OUT.
    2. Fire fast – One of the hardest things I have had to learn over the years, if it feels like something’s wrong – end it. I can honestly say that has been one of the toughest things to get behind. I believe in giving people their chance to shine. And nixing them at the first sign of a problem can sometimes be harsh and even completely unfair to the person. HOWEVER, how much of your own money you are willing to throw into “being fair” is up to you. I have personally found a few scenarios that just require ending the situation.
      1. They don’t understand what you are asking of them – If you know you’re being pretty clear, it should be in their scope of work, and others can follow those directions, then this person is likely underqualified – or just obtuse. Perhaps they are doing the passive aggressive thing trying to push you into doing things THEIR way. Fire.
      2. Choose to do everything their own way – this one can be tough. If you’ve hired this person BECAUSE of their expertise in an area, you might just want to follow their direction. However, if “their way” is NOT leading to the results you need, then it needs to be addressed. Went through this with a server guy who fancied himself quite the genius. He thought considerably more of himself than I did. Every direction I gave him resulted in a debate and even when I put my foot down, I would find the job undone. If it doesn’t change to YOUR way – fired.
      3. Require the same instructions over and over again. When I had to tell the same person over and over again – “Please make a post a couple times per month for this Raleigh NC client.” and I kept finding it undone… Life is too short.  Even if these people are NOT you and aren’t finding new creative ways to help your company, they at LEAST could do what is asked of them – without having to treat them like a teenage son. “Please take out the trash”, “Please take out the trash”, “Please take out the trash” (I say this as a former irresponsible teenage son) over and over and over again. Noticing the trash is full and just automatically DOING it is the adult thing to do. In the above case, MAKE A POST. Don’t make me tell you twice each month. And when you realize it’s not going to change? Fired.
      4. Regularly misses deadlines – This one can be tough too. If you have a web contractor working for you, particularly a non-dedicated resource, they have to eat too. They need to do what they need to do.  If you ARE the low man on the totem pole, your projects are regularly late, balls are often dropped, or you are feeling “forgotten” in the shuffle, you probably need to make a move. Fire. Dealing with one man operations though can be tough. I had a partner giving me grief over the same thing once. I had the choice of meeting a deadline – or knocking out a virus that had cut loose on one of my servers and was threatening 20 client websites that lived on that server.  Sometimes it’s a tough call. This one was not. I’d rather disappoint ONE client than explain to 20 customers why their websites all said “Praise Allah” and “HaCkEd By L33tZ HaCkZ0rZ” when you visited with some vaguely middle eastern music playing in the background.

The long and short is that there are great things that CAN be accomplished with bringing new blood on board. New ideas, new thoughts, new skills, new energy – and more than anything, EXTRA TIME (ideally) that can be used to knock out projects.  It is not to be taken lightly though. You are going to be going from the security of knowing that which is done is BEING done EXACTLY the way YOU want it – to overseeing others who may or may not do things quite the same way.

If you’re a small business owner – welcome to your NEXT hat. For more information about small business digital marketing, feel free to check us out at the Raleigh Chamber for Search Engine Optimization!

Author: Eric Erickson

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