Both Brian and Craig each operates a productized service business – very similar businesses, doing different things. Both run a production line type of service. From week to week Audience Ops is publishing blog posts and PodcastMotor is publishing podcasts. We’re talking about marketing, hiring, production, everything it takes to run a productized company and the things that make this type of business challenging.
A more simple service business would deliver something once or would deliver something that wasn’t so creative. The creative process isn’t always black and white, can be subjective and is a challenging part of the business.
Audience Ops creates the content for their clients from start to finish –the research, the topics, and the writing. Each article is unique but the process is standard. Every Monday Audience Ops sends a feedback loop so the client can see the finished work and has seven days to make any edits. With a few days notice, the writers can implement any necessary changes. The important concept here is the process.
Standard policies make it easier to manage the workflow. Exceptions cost money. Expectations need to be reasonable.
Audience Ops found all of its writers, all U.S. based, through Inbound.org and the Problogger.net job board. Each project manager also has a writing background.
For assistants and other types of positions, both Craig and Brian have hired through Upwork and Virtual Staff Finder. It’s a process – vetting and interviewing – Virtual Staff Finder does take some of the legwork by recommending three viable candidates based on your needs but makes the selection pool a little smaller. In addition, hiring and working with non-U.S. employees can be challenging.
“The most important thing is good communication…skill and process can be trained over time. The communication makes the training easier.”
The tricky part with overseas employees is the huge time difference. It takes a lot to manage. One solution is having your virtual staff work an overnight shift. It costs a bit more but it’s still more cost effective than hiring in the U.S. It’s all part of setting expectations up front.
Hiring and working through Upwork is great for part time employees – it does the managing for you. Hubstaff is a good time management solution for U.S. based employees.
Scaling a productized service business is a pretty linear progression. The key is to getting good processes in place. You can only be as good as there are good people and number of hours in the day. With a productized service you can launch is as little as a week. You can deliver value immediately. But scaling up is a slower, more methodical process.
There are two parts to both productized businesses. There’s the ‘Done for You’ service, which is the one to one value service, and there’s the ‘Tools’ portion that you can feasibly sell to thousands. You can’t do the second without the first.
Building a team culture in a distributed team can be tough to get real tangible but if you can do it, it’s optimal all around. Group calls, group chats, one-on-one catch up calls are all ways to team build and share key practices.
Its great to be able to compare notes on the details. If you hire the right people, it’s easy to do the work. The tough part is managing the team and the process. It’s your job to grow it.
“It’s not the thing we’re delivering, it’s the organization we’re building.”
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