I help SMEs and fast-paced startups with growth strategy and technological advice, automating internal processes, generating higher revenues through inbound marketing and technical solutions. CEO @ DevriX, a featured international WordPress agency. Working with automotive and airline providers, media outlets generating 200M+ page views a month, LMS platforms and large multisite corporate platforms. A Business Advisor published in Forbes, HuffPost, Inc, Entrepreneur, Business 2 Community, Apple News, among others. Running business and tech teams at DevriX with 40+ people crafting high-scale solutions that convert visitors to customers.
Finding a qualified developer or an agency these days is a rough endeavor.
* Verifying output and credentials is nearly impossible for a non-technical business owner.
* Assessing product quality upfront is challenging. A custom build will be different even if you send the same assignment to 10 different companies.
* Setting the right KPIs upfront is tough. Even if you establish some traffic/data volume limits, you'll require both time and expertise in order to validate that.
Determining quality by price won't work every time, either. There are cheap developers who produce outstanding work and expensive consultants who can't deliver.
Try to break the process down into separate components. For example:
* A mockup/wireframe/sketch of your website.
* A sitemap of all pages.
* A use case diagram defining all roles and how they interact with the platform.
* A detailed scope of work defining all project requirements, the key features that the platform needs and sample user stories that should validate upon delivery.
A good starting point is picking the right technical stack for your platform. Could be a CMS such as WordPress or Drupal, a framework like Laravel, Ruby on Rails, Django, or a completely custom platform. All of these have pros and cons and you can find a technical expert in your network who can assist once you have the initial brief ready.
Certain platforms like WordPress have designated marketplaces for experts. TopTal is also a good place to find great talent. Looking up online may uncover experts and companies profiling in similar industries. Word of mouth works great if you ask around in your network.
In terms of physical files (WordPress core or plugins), the core setup of a WordPress project is straightforward:
- The project root contains wp-admin, wp-includes, wp-content, and the main core files.
- wp-content/ contains your custom code - themes, plugins, uploads, backups, whatever be it.
- uploads/ are grouped by years and months (for better accessibility).
If you're struggling with the search itself, make sure you're not overcomplicating your product with dozens of random plugins that you don't need. Keep it simple. Each plugin has its own purpose, which makes it easier to find the right function or class.
Using a professional IDE like PhpStorm, Eclipse, Netbeans will help you search thoroughly. On Mac/Linux, you can study grep or ack and craft complex search queries for whatever you need (including pipelines of stacked commands).
In terms of your media uploads, there are plugins that let you organize the media in a sensible manner. If you've integrated with AWS S3, creating buckets for certain files may be a better approach, too.
Startups are, by definition, "temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” (as reported by Steve Blank).
The main bits differentiating startups from mature companies are:
* Narrow target - startups always start small, focusing on a narrow niche/subset of the industry they aim for. They define the buyer persona, going into as much detail as possible. The focus is crucial for all of the marketing and brand messaging, as well as avoiding ubiquity in their product.
* Agility - startups are flexible. Processes are available, but just loosely followed. During the first 3-4 years, processes are aligned to the process of finding a product-market fit and the available staff at hand. People often determine the culture, buttom-up.
* Speed of execution - startups must move fast. This is one of their key strengths. Less bureaucracy, fewer processes, rapid release cycles. The senior management team (often the co-founders themselves) are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations, responding to customer requests and even support tickets.
* Team efficiency - each and every team member is absolutely crucial to the success of the organization. Looking for experts comfortable working in fast-paced environments. Juggling on a daily basis. Marketers asked to touch code here and there, helping with product planning or sales.
* Startup spirit - the mindset of a startup is different. Things may change rapidly on a daily basis, or multiple times a day. Everyone fights for survival, growth, beating the competition and stealing market share. It's a small army of sort.
We do marketing partnerships with some of our ongoing accounts. Terms vary from fixed-fee retainers through fixed amount + 10-20% split share to 30-40% fee on new deals.
Depending on the specifics of the business and the marketing services provided, the percentage could be for a specific product/service, or the entire business. We do inbound marketing and partnership outreach which increases the brand awareness, grows the email lists of our clients and allows for scheduling cross-promotion campaigns and webinars that support the entire business - hence the added benefit of shared revenue across all products and services.
Limiting revenue share for a product is more applicable for larger businesses that have an established marketing and advertising strategy and bring a good number of customers this way. Then a marketing strategy could be shaped around a specific product or a solution which justifies partnering only on a specific venture.
Ben has definitely hit the nail on the head with his reply.
As someone with two VAs in my team, I've been contacted by various VA agencies that couldn't explain their business model and what differentiates themselves from others.
Do your due diligence and figure out what makes you different and better. With Zirtual as an example - would you offer VAs in more countries in order to help other markets? Are your rates more affordable then theirs? Is your selection process more refined?
Based on your access to VAs, structure your brand message and define your perfect customer. Do some customer development and jump on a call (or email) with some prospects, and see what sort of help do they need and how can a startup like yours help them.
Shape your strategy in a way that corresponds to their needs, and align your pricing to your audience. Then all of your marketing can be focused on that group of people and your conversion rate would be much higher.
Happy to provide some feedback as someone who's hired VAs before.
We have been discussing those problems at WordCamps for a few years now since the web design/development market has been oversaturated in terms of numbers, but quality is fairly hard to find.
If you are a technical person, you can look for people with active GitHub presence and review some code yourself. Otherwise, find some reputable community people.
With WordPress powering close to 25% of the Internet right now, that's probably a platform that you may look into. That said, see if there is a local meetup or a WordCamp happening in your area and ping some of the speakers, or search some of the WordPress development agencies and browse their showcases.
Most good engineers and designers are community involved since this is the best way to always stay up to date and improve your skills through collaboration.
Happy to discuss more over a call if you need additional guidance or technical help.
Protecting the source code isn't trivial, since there are plenty of ways to get access to it, one way or the other, with the right motivation.
Step one is NDAs and non-competes, so that you can protect the IP if needed, in extreme cases.
Step two is hiring people with certain reputation. A lot of the good developers are involved with communities of some sort - related to the programming platform or something else. They maintain GitHub profiles and use other methods to be respectable in their niche. Those people are less likely to turn against you and perform shady activities, since their reputation can also be affected.
Step three is communication. Most of the internal conflicts happen due to the lack of proper communication - people getting rejected in a rude way, or not treated properly. Whatever happens over the months (years) can be communicated properly. Even if you part ways one day, it would be clear what the reason is, and it will be justifiable.
Most conflicts happen after a serious company drama that escalated with time, and with the right contract and attitude they could be prevented as well.
An idea I love from "The Personal MBA" is that a manager is merely an assistant to the team that does the heavy lifting.
A successful project management is required to be a great communicator and plan according to the team, requirements and various milestones for the project.
Agile is a great methodology that provides some quick iterations, providing you with the opportunity to adjust the project on the fly, notice delays during the project and fine tuning the process so that it meets the end goal. From a "roadmap management" perspective you need to break the assignment into small chunks and delegate them to the right people, manage the time line in a reasonable and slightly pessimistic way, and figure out all of the possible bottlenecks that could go south (i.e. risk management).
From a "team management" perspective it's all about communication, understanding your team members, their skills, their pros and cons. You have to be able to delegate the right assignments to each team member based on their strong skills, expertise and work process. You have to deal with the team dynamics, make sure the burnout levels are extremely low, and implement a communication structure that ensures that everything is clear, the team is on track, the team is productive, there are no obstacles, missing dependencies, or internal issues that should be taken care of.
You have to be the principal conductor for your team - balancing the work load from both project and team perspective, solving internal challenges and keeping the team spirit high.
In order to be hired as a consultant, you need to provide value to your customers with outstanding quality.
For instance, being a technical consultant means that you are more experienced than the technical department of your client, and they want to get a 10 out of 10 review on their platform, design the right architecture and coach the team in the best direction possible.
Business consultants can assist the CEO and the managers by finding out the best way for them to generate revenue, grow their user base or whatever the main problem of the company at that moment is.
Your end result has to be of a great significance to your client. You can focus on areas that require deep knowledge and a lot of experience - through trial or error, or working with other top corporation - which would justify the costs for you given the ROI.
Grant and Niels are correct when they mention "speed" and "tweaking your product constantly".
However, that has zero correlation to having people on-site. Over the past 13 years I've seen thousands of bored people working 9-to-5 jobs at the office, and hundreds of dedicated remote engineers. None of these options is exclusive in any way.
Companies such as GitHub and Automattic are completely remote. That trend is moving forward, and it gives you the opportunity to hire the best of the best without being limited location-wise. I've been managing and working with remote people for many years and I haven't stepped into an office since 2008 (except for meetings or teaching).
The only things you need to take care of are:
1) Don't go for the cheapest option. Go for reputation, portfolio, references, community activities and such. That can still be much cheaper than hiring people, just don't try outsourcing to the cheapest agency out there.
2) Protect your product and intellectual property - there are various of companies burned out by an avenging sysadmin who got fired, but sharing everything you got offshore should happen carefully. Right back to 1) here.
3) Commit in the long run - if you're open and you can guarantee a decent retainer option, you're good to go. That doesn't stop you from expanding, hiring extra consultants and freelancers etc - and that would likely make your product development times faster in comparison to doing a tedious hiring process and looking for decent engineers in your area.
Most traditional managers can't imagine managing a remote team, but it's just as easy with the right mindset. Let me know if you want to discuss hiring tips for remote engineers.