Andrew: Hey there, Freedom Fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. And I, just a minute ago, moved the treadmill out from under my desk. I’ve been using a treadmill for a desk for a while and I think it’s a little too much pressure. I just need to work sometimes and not be distracted by another thing to do while I’m working.
Anyway, that is not what this interview is about, that’s not what Mixergy is about. Mixergy is a place where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Some of the world’s best entrepreneurs have come here to talk about where they got their ideas, how they built it up, how they got their customers, and a few things that, to be honest with you, some of them kind of regret. I’m actually saying that because I’m texting with one guest right now who regrets what he said, and that happens on a regular basis. And part of my job is to just say, “Don’t worry, the world is not going to collapse because you said it.”
Having said that, today we’re going to talk to a guest who’s been warned, right? Am I right, Sharon?
Sharon: I got a warning, I got a warning.
Andrew: I record it now with every guest. I don’t just say it, I make sure it’s recorded before the interview.
Sharon: I have to say, I’m actually very . . . I want to get one of those treadmill tables. It sounds really, really appealing.
Andrew: If you weren’t in Montreal, I’d just bring mine over. It’s really good. It’s phenomenal because it slips right under the desk and you get to work while you’re talking. Sometimes I just want to pace while I’m talking to people, but it’s a little much when you don’t use it. If I could maybe . . . I’m considering maybe putting it on the other side of this desk and then maybe I can use it at times, but when I don’t want to use it, I can just chill out.
All right, that’s not what this interview is about. This interview is about finding out how you are building an online recruitment agency, which enables businesses to find IT employees who are going to work with them remotely. And what I’m trying to figure out is how you’re competing in a world where there are so many people who are so deeply venture backed.
How are you even getting customers? How are you finding the people that you’re placing, the candidates, I guess, is the word that you guys use in the recruitment world, how are you finding the candidates that you place in your client’s company? And then, what happened in the past when things didn’t exactly work out for you, and you feel like you lost your soul when you ran a previous company?
All right. All that and so much more is coming up in this interview. The interview is with Sharon Koifman. He is the founder of DistantJob. It’s a boutique recruitment agency specializing in remote IT employees.
This whole interview is sponsored by the office-based company that lets me put treadmills in, take treadmills out, have people come in with their Scotch, have people leave, like the whole thing. I’m renting office space from them and have for the better part of the last 10 years. It’s called Regis. And the second sponsor is a company that will do your financials, get your books in order. It is called Bench, but I’ll tell everyone about them later.
First, it’s good to have you on here.
Sharon: Thank you, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Andrew: All right. While you got a smile on your face, I’m going to ask you the awkward question of revenue. What was your annual revenue 2017?
Sharon: 2017, we were at about $2.5 million.
Andrew: Two point five. So, that means that people are paying you $2.5 million to find IT professionals and place them. It’s not that out of the $2.5 million in revenue, you have to pay the IT guys, do you?
Sharon: Yes. So, to be specific, we are . . . the revenue that . . . it’s not just the commission, it is the full shebang, it is paying the candidate and paying us, which includes in that revenue.
Andrew: And then out of that, how much do you guys keep and then use to pay for everything else, like the headset you’re using in your office space?
Sharon: About 20%, approximately.
Andrew: Twenty percent?
Sharon: Yes. But it really depends on each client because we want to make a certain amount to make a living. So if a person ends up being incredibly affordable, we charge a little bit more. If a person is more in the expensive side, we charge a bit less. The idea is that we try to maintain a similar margin, profit margin, on each individual.
Andrew: Okay. Before this, you ran a company called Empire Host. What was Empire Host?
Sharon: Empire Host was a web hosting company. We had about 3,000 clients. We had two offices in India is where I learned everything about the offshore world. And we sold it for not a huge amount of money, about six, seven years ago.
Andrew: How much did you sell it for?
Sharon: I sold . . . that actually is a private question.
Andrew: Is it over a million dollars or under?
Sharon: It was under, a little bit under a million dollars.
Andrew: Okay. Was this only on that Empire . . .
Sharon: It was not a huge exit.
Andrew: Was it empire-hosting.net?
Andrew: Empirehost.com. What kind of hosting did you guys do?
Sharon: Small, tiny, little $5 to $25-websites. It was pretty straightforward.
Andrew: WordPress type of thing?
Sharon: Back then, WordPress just started. I started it about 14 years ago. So it was not WordPress. It was literally giving a piece of space. People, back then, used to create web-savvy front page and the Dreamweaver and some of them coded themselves. So that was before the WordPress era.
Andrew: I see. Okay. So why do you feel like you lost your soul there, what did you do?
Sharon: Well, this was . . . it was a tough business. It’s a tough business that I was not able to grow. We grew it to a very nice 3,000 clients for a while, but it was 24/7, 24/7 effort for clients who paid pretty much nothing, and I had a lot of complaints to offer.
I’ve met some of my colleagues that build beautiful web-hosting companies and the smartest of the most successful guys that I met made a big decision that “I’m no longer going to the cheapie business. I’m not going to do the Walmart of technology, I’m going to offer a very expensive server, I’m going to service the living hell out of it, and I’m going to make great margins.” And that’s something that I didn’t do, and it was torture. It was genuine torture to run that company.
Andrew: You know what? I’m looking at it right now. It was $250 set up, $35 monthly, and then I could pay extra if I wanted more transfer speed and more disk space, right?
Sharon: You’re referring to . . . that’s . . .
Andrew: That wasn’t your model?
Sharon: No. My model was $5 a month.
Andrew: Five bucks a month, that’s it?
Sharon: That’s it, or 20 bucks a month. There was a lot of company. HostGator built a massive company.
Andrew: So why did HostGator do so well when so many other people I interviewed said “This just was not working for us, we got to get out of this space.”
Sharon: First of all, I don’t know how well HostGator does. This is a very low-margin business. But there are guys who are successful in the Walmart model, right? So I remember I met the CEO of HostGator. He was a great operator. So, when you’re going to the cheapie business of web hosting, which back then was very . . . right now, I feel that the market is fairly saturated, but back then, there was an opportunity to be in the cheapie web hosting, and you were getting a lot of clients. Look, I got about 3,000 clients out of this. So it was a decent company and it’s virtual . . .
Andrew: Three thousand clients means you’re getting paid what? Fifteen thousand a month.
Sharon: I don’t remember, it’s been a long time.
Andrew: But that is painful.
Sharon: Well, we got some $20 clients, we had some $30, so it’s not all $5. So it accumulated to about a half a million-dollar business, right? But beside supporting it, there’s no real cost, there’s no tangible . . . there’s servers, and once you have a server, you can turn into a full profit. A server would have cost you maybe $500 one time. The connections and everything would cost a small portion. So there is room to make a profit. The profit margin is high, but it was 24/7, it was . . . and the real cost is the support people.
Andrew: I get it because you know what? Everyone’s installing different software on your server, they’re all making mistakes, some of them have to do with front page, not anything to do with you, and they’re calling you up and asking you to deal with it and you don’t know what they’re installing.
Sharon: Look, again, maybe I was not strong enough of an operator, maybe didn’t fit, maybe I didn’t have that technical strength. So if you really are deciding to go into the cheapie web hosting or web hosting general, the CEO should be stronger technically. And I was medium technically. And so, if you’re . . . it’s all about the operation in that business.
Andrew: The other thing that you told our producer was “I also went for a really cheap team. I had 30 people, many of them in India.” I’m wondering why you even needed anyone in India. You were hosting in North America, why do you need anyone to do any dev work outside?
Sharon: Well, then . . . those . . .
Andrew: Or was this customer support?
Sharon: I was definitely an early adopter. So we opened two offices in India for two purposes, for customer service mostly. And, of course, for outsourcing solution. We provided web design and programming and all of that, and it was always such a big compromise because the outsourcing model was not strong. And I don’t blame it on India, I don’t blame it, necessarily, on a specific region. I made a decision India was a popular outsourcing location back then.
Andrew: And so you said “I’m going to go in there.” But here’s the thing that seemed painful for me. First of all, $5 a month, that’s super painful, unless you’re offering something that’s just unchangeable, that’s just . . .
Sharon: It’s Walmart.
Andrew: Even Walmart doesn’t sell . . . Walmart’s not going to sew pants for anyone and adjust them or do any of that. They barely can point you to the right aisle when you want to buy something. So that’s a problem. The other problem I see is hosting, design, consulting, you just took on so many different things and maybe that’s why you also told our producer . . . you just if you had to be honest, you weren’t delivering great work to people.
Sharon: I was not delivering great work.
Andrew: Because you were doing lots of different things.
Sharon: It’s not just that I was doing a lot of different things. The real weakness was, and it’s a weakness with outsourcing model, that I had cheap people, I had people that I paid back then $200 a month. And that was a reasonable salary. I know it sounds crazy, but it was a reasonable salary and I would go into this and say, look, I can’t get 10 people, 20 people at the price of one individual here. Even if I wanted to go fancy system, a level-three system, it’d mean they would cost $500.
But my attitude was, “Look, just let them do their thing and I will know which one is good or not, and I will let go of somebody and replace it and do it right.” It’s so much better than hiring one specific person. And I learned very quickly that it doesn’t matter how cheap, it doesn’t matter how many people you have, even if you have 500 people instead of one, if you’re not going to train them as if they are a full time high paid individual, you’re going to lose your pants because things are just going to go backwards.
Andrew: I see. You’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, you know, these guys are so inexpensive, who cares? Let’s just let them try. If it hits, it hits, if not, I find somebody else. What have I got to lose?” But what you do have to lose is the time of working with them, the shoddy work that they do because they don’t know how to work with you, and all the time that you have to go and find somebody to replace them.
Sharon: I was not preoccupied being a good manager because . . .
Andrew: You were doing what instead, marketing?
Andrew: Marketing. What kind of marketing worked for you back then?
Sharon: That’s a really long time. There was a lot of word of mouth. There was a lot of forums where I would go to forums and talk about somebody wanted a web hosting, “Hey, I got a cheap price for you,” and I sucked all the worst clients in the world, right? I did some acquisitions. I did some advertisement, even a little bit of SEO. It’s been a long, long time but I’m trying to remember . . .
Andrew: And you were the guy who would go on these forums, you were the guy who would go and write all your . . .
Sharon: All the forums, absolutely.
Andrew: Is there one that was especially useful for you or you’re especially passionate about?
Sharon: Web Hosting Talk.
Andrew: Web Hosting Talk. There were people who would just get together and talk about web host?
Sharon: It was one of the biggest forum on the Internet back then. It’s still probably one of the biggest forums. Until today, if you are going to a forum that is not in Facebook, that is not LinkedIn, I think Web Hosting Talk is one of the biggest players because everybody wanted to know where to get a good hosting package. So, there were literally people . . . hosting for a lot of IT people is their infrastructure. And they want to know which one fits with their requirements, they want to know which one makes a good package for them. So, yes, there was a lot of need for a forum for web hosting.
Andrew: I see that. I’m actually seeing that it’s still active to this day. It looks like the old v-bulletin board but it’s using Penton which I don’t know what it is. And it’s just full of people who are even right now writing and asking questions about different domains in e-commerce hosting and so on, wow.
You know what else I remember was very good at the time, and I don’t know, what are the years that you did this? I tried to look you up on LinkedIn, I couldn’t find Jack about you there.
Sharon: Actually, I don’t do LinkedIn as much anymore because I received way too much spam. So, I let my employees take care of all the LinkedIn requirements. Unfortunately . . .
Andrew: You don’t have a LinkedIn page as far as I can see here. At least, it’s not showing up when I search for you.
Andrew: That’s a mistake. I’ll tell you why I think that’s a mistake.
Sharon: You tell me why and I’ll tell you why . . .
Andrew: Here’s why. People like me are researching you, it’s an easy way for me to have a timeline to see what you’re doing. I’m noticing that you’ve been doing some more podcast interviews over the years. You got a really nice photo of yourself wearing a hat. Whoever took the fricking shot, you should reward them, they did great fricking job with that. That’s a great photo of you, right?
And so, you’ve gotten really good at getting the word out about yourself, about building a reputation. The LinkedIn profile is an easy win. It signals to people what you want them to see about you. And then you ignore all the fricking messages because people have 81 unanswered messages in LinkedIn, it’s just too much.
Sharon: Well, I might take that advice into consideration.
Andrew: Yeah. Just tell them, “Set up my page.” Go put in the domain names. And then if you hate getting all the messages, say, “If you want to contact me, go here,” and give them a different place to go contact you in the bio.
So I don’t really see the years that you did this but here’s what I remember from that time period. These top 10 hosting company lists were really big. In fact, I would see templates for creating websites that would show top 10 web hosting companies for parakeet sites, top 10 web hosting companies for watch sites, right? And people would find these top 10, every one of them was an affiliate. Did you do any of those?
Sharon: I actually did not do any of those. I hated those simply because I knew that . . . until today, your company’s like top SEO and those types of services, they are just fake, right? They are being bought and it’s just . . . I didn’t feel that it was legitimate. It was just . . .
Andrew: Of course, it is illegitimate.
Sharon: Yes. So I actually avoided those. I don’t know why. I guess I have some kind of [inaudible 00:16:01].
Andrew: You couldn’t even have an affiliate program, so you probably couldn’t even compete in that space.
Sharon: Why? I did have an affiliate program.
Andrew: You did? Five bucks, you could afford to give affiliate payouts?
Sharon: Yeah. Just quantity-wise. Keep in mind, it was 5, 10, 20, 30. There was even 50.
Andrew: Okay. So the $5 was entry point.
Sharon: Five dollars was a big chunk of the business, but we had an affiliate program. We did generate quite a lot from that. So that was a real marketing. Thank you for reminding me.
Andrew: Affiliate program work. All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my sponsor, Regis. I don’t think I’m going to get them as a re-up sponsor for a simple reason that they’re not big on podcasting ads, but I want them to sponsor in the worst way. I’ve been with them for years. Here is the thing that I believe, too many of us are not doing the best work we can because of the environment we’re in. You read Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence.”
Sharon: I did not.
Andrew: Oh, such a good book telling you how to influence people. It’s all the subtle things that lead people to do what you want them to do. One of things that he noticed was he was sitting and working in two different environments. When he worked in school, which is his full-time job was teaching, his perspective in the writing changed from when he was working at an office with business people around him, just moving yourself from one place to another will influence the type of work you do. Too many of us are working coffee shops and subpar offices or in our homes and we think that we’re not doing good work because we’re stale or because things just are a little tough right now.
And the reality is I don’t think our environment supports good work. I think what we need, and this is something I believed in for a long time, you got to get out of your house, out of the coffee shop, and get a real office where you can work. Not one where you spend tons of money where you can work, where the little things that you don’t realize take up a lot of your time are eliminated. Like, you don’t have to buy coffee at a Regis office. I’ve been renting from them, they have coffee that they make every morning and then anytime I want after that, I put one of those packets in and I brew my own coffee. If I don’t like it, I’m welcome to bring my own coffee maker and then grind the fricking thing right here.
I have tea. I actually have switched over to green tea, I have tea. There’s a refrigerator, so I could have healthy food here. But more important than all those amenities, like if I have an envelope that needs to be mailed or something, there’s somebody here to stamp it and to write it. More important than all that, I have space where I can focus on my work, get into deep work, focus on it. And unlike other places, I know co-working is becoming really big, these guys don’t do parties every fricking day to distract me. I’m not looking for a party space, I’m looking for office space to sit down and get in the right mindset for work.
All right, one last thing I’ll say about Regis, gives me all that, two things actually. Number one, I travel all over the world. I get to go into a Regis office in every country and city that I’ve been in, and I’m like home. My Wi-Fi works, they’re there to take care of me with coffee and a local drinks like Yerba Mate in Argentina. So that’s number one.
And number two, you may have heard me say that I do Scotch nights from time to time. I invite people into my office and do Scotch night. I don’t have to clean up jack. There’s a lounge space, it’s beautiful with couches and tables and people are always stunned when they walk in, it puts them in a good frame of mind. And we sit, we have our drinks and when we’re done, we just leave the classes and we go back to our homes. And the next day, like magic, it’s all cleaned up and ready for me to sit and work.
Regis, that is the magic. I tried to leave Regis. I said, “You know what? Maybe I’m stuck too much in a Regis office, year after year, city after city,” I went and looked around and I said, “What the hell is this, I’m not making my own coffee anymore. I’m not going to greet my guests at the door. I don’t need that. I don’t want to even worry about the temperature being a shade off.” All right, if anyone out there wants to sign up for Regis, I’m going to give you a URL, but dude, screw it, email me and I’ll introduce you to my person at Regis. Here’s the URL, regis.com/mixergy. All over the world, you can get office space, desk space, one person, lots of people or you can just email me, and I will . . .
Sharon: Is there Regis in Canada?
Andrew: They absolutely have it in Canada. You’re in Montreal?
Andrew: There are tons, yes.
Andrew: You know what? I was in Vancouver. I was in Vancouver. I had a meeting, I said, “You know what’s good? I’m not looking for a coffee shop, I have like two hours of important work to get done.” I walked right into a Regis office. The important work was I had a team meeting. I wanted to be in a nice place where they could hear me, where the Internet is slow, and I don’t have to apologize, “Sorry, my internet’s slow. Sorry, you can’t hear me. What is it? Bad connection?” Screw that, I’m not here to beg everyone’s forgiveness on a call. I go right into Regis office, I get things done. All right, guys, my email address email@example.com, and I’ll introduce you to my person.
All right. Let’s get back to your story. Where did you come up with the idea to do this outsourcing recruiting company?
Sharon: So, first of all, it’s not an outsourcing recruitment, it is recruitment for remote employees.
Andrew: What’s the difference between that?
Sharon: And it’s very important because that’s how I kept the idea.
Andrew: Because I’m hiring them full time, is that what it means?
Sharon: It means that there are people that are focused on you, they become part of your company, part of your . . .
Andrew: But they are not my employees because you hire them. I pay you, you pay them.
Sharon: So not exactly. So you do outsource to me the HR management of the process. I make sure that they work from a professional environment. I make sure that their internet is good, that all the payrolls are taken care of, but you are really becoming their manager, right? S, the fact that that I’m paying them or you’re paying them, that’s a small technicality compared to the success of this relationship is dependent on you.
Andrew: They will work for me.
Sharon: They will work for you.
Andrew: Full time, they get on my Slack, I use Basecamp, they get to my Basecamp, we do chat, the whole thing?
Sharon: The whole thing, they really need to focus on working by your processes. So even if there’s services out there, they’re called dedicated staff or anything of that sort, it’s still they’re sitting there working under another management. I am not their management, I am your HR manager for these individuals.
Andrew: I’m curious about how you’re finding these people. I’m curious about so much about what you do. Let me take a moment just to build up to that. Let’s understand, how did you get to this place, where did you come up with the idea?
Sharon: S, the web-hosting company influenced me a lot because I got, at the end of the company especially, I got into the outsourcing model, I got into building web design and everything. I had two offices in India, I wanted to take advantage of that. And I have noticed very quickly that this model comes with a lot of weaknesses.
If you are a real estate company, for example, and you need a web design, outsourcing makes sense a lot. You don’t have those core skills whether you choose offshore or inshore to outsource web design, when you’re in real estate, makes sense. But when you’re an IT company, when you’re a web design company, a consulting company, a software company and you take on a contract and you decide “You know what? I’m overloaded so let me outsource it to some company in India.” In my philosophy, you’re literally committing business sin.
Andrew: Because . . .
Sharon: People paid you money for your way of doing things, for your methods, for your way of coding, for your way of putting together products, the way you motivate. The people, then, in your office are your brand, are the thing that puts together what you have been successful for. And you make a decision “You know what? Let me take all this and give it to a company that absolutely does not have your culture, that does not understand your processes, that as a manager that is . . .”
Andrew: But that’s not what you did, you didn’t just hire an outsourcing company in India, you hired full timers in India.
Sharon: Well, back then, they worked for me, but somebody outsourced to me.
Andrew: I see. You were watching people outsource you and you said, “Hey, this is great for me but if they only knew how much better it would be if they hired full time for themselves, they would do that.”
Sharon: I felt that what I provided was not a strong product.
Andrew: I see.
Sharon: I felt that my model, I’m very confident . . . I took me a long time to be comfortable and admit that the product that I was offering there was not good enough. There were IT specialists, there were people that knew how to do things. Within the environment of where my client was working, those technology companies, the CEOs were brilliant technologists, the people that worked for them were amazing. And somebody who outsourced to a schmoe like me that does not understand your product, does not understand your culture, does not understand how you do things, and you bring it to me because I’m cheap. And that was the reality, that was the reality, and that is still the reality today when it comes to the outsourcing model.
So very quickly, when I sold the company, I saw that this model doesn’t work, and I decided that, you know what? I understand the offshore market very well, I hired so many people, how about I skip the process of taking on projects and just focus on being the best at finding the talents. And let’s win them by telling them that if you give them the benefit of working from home, which is incredibly exciting for many technology specialists and programmers and developers, they’d love the idea that they can sit in the middle of the night at home and work and not travel and everything like that.
And we became very successful at that and we start teaching the client “You know what? Don’t outsource your model. Get those people, let us find you the people, and let us teach you how to manage these individuals yourself.”
Andrew: Okay. And where did you get your first customers?
Sharon: First customers, Montreal. Lots of networking.
Andrew: Because you were walking around networking with people trying to find them.
Sharon: I was walking around. This company, initially, now we have a few sales people and we have an amazing marketing team, but this business was built on me going to every cocktail, every networking event, every IT conference and just getting people to understand the model.
Andrew: And trying to get them to hire your agency, to just send them the talent that they need?
Sharon: Yes, that’s it.
Andrew: What was a good source of clients? What’s a good event that you went to that actually led to clients?
Sharon: HostingCon was amazing.
Andrew: HostingCon, really? Because you were a part of that world and . . .
Sharon: I was a part of that world. That was my first . . . I really liked IT conferences that had a community. There’s certain trade shows or conferences that are so big and so not personal. Usually, they happen to be in New York or San Francisco in the Javits Center or . . . and just nothing is personal, and when you go to a HostingCon which just stopped . . . they just stopped this event last year. When you go to HostingCon, you know everybody, everybody’s introducing, this dynamic is so powerful when you’re doing sales and you’re meeting as many people as possible.
Andrew: Okay. And so you were just walking around talking to people, telling them what you were doing, telling them and evangelizing and getting customers. How did you get the initial developers?
Sharon: Initial developers?
Andrew: Yeah, the IT people, the Java developers, the VB developers, the PHP people that you had.
Sharon: So well, in the beginning, I failed a lot in finding the right talent for my web hosting and outsourcing. Eventually, I did have some good, loyal awesome employees. And I literally brought them in to DistantJob and taught them how to recruit. And one of my original philosophies was that if you find IT talent and you teach them how to recruit, it’s much better than getting recruiters and teach them about IT because I wanted to be the specialist in filtering some of the amazing talents. So, we . . .
Andrew: What was the process?
Sharon: So what you mean, the process?
Andrew: What was your process for finding people, for getting them in the conversation, and for filtering out the bad?
Sharon: The process then, and still pretty much the same process today, is doing what local job-hunting and recruitment agencies do. So a lot of advertisements, a lot of networking, a lot of solicitation, a lot of relationships. Nothing, particularly, innovative, the innovative part is that I did it on a global scale.
So I took recruiters from specific areas, I hired them, and I said, “You bring me a lot of CVs.” But the real magical part of it is what not a lot of local recruitment agencies can do is the filtering process. If you have a lot of CVs, what do you do with CVs? So, when I have IT specialists as recruiters and then I have amazing interviewers and I have people that . . . because that the advantage of dealing with affordable people, I could have filtered through thousands of CVs.
Andrew: How? CV is resumes.
Sharon: Resume, CV, sorry. In Canada, we call them CVs.
Andrew: Yeah, foreigner, of course, you guys call it CVs.
Sharon: That’s it. I don’t know why we call it CV, but it’s . . . you’re not the first one in the US to be confused with that and I keep on forgetting it, it’s resume, it’s resume . . .
Andrew: No, it doesn’t matter. CV is fine. I’m looking, as you’re talking, you’re saying, “We place a bunch of ads,” I see some of the ads that you put online. So, it was a bunch of ads you placed online like everyone else. Did you also do some of the things that other companies were doing, which is going on LinkedIn, finding people’s contact information, messaging them there, that kind of stuff?
Sharon: We do everything, right? And I’d like to think this [inaudible 00:29:55] strategies are incredibly innovative, and I can’t share them all, but throughout the years . . .
Andrew: Give me one that’s innovative because so far, I’m just hearing that it’s pretty basic business here.
Sharon: First of all, like I said, the innovation is to do it on a global scale and to be able to filter it. So, what is an innovative strategy? First of all, there is a lot of social media involved in these days. We’re having a conversation with people about remote work. We’re not just saying, “Hey, let’s hire a remote person.”
We’re saying that remote is the way to go and you’re getting people that not only are more motivated because they work from home, but they . . . because we have the entire world to choose from, we find them better, we find them faster. And research shows that they’re motivated. This conversation that we’re having, you’re going to see it all over the internet. We’re running amazing articles, we blog . . .
Andrew: You know what? This is something I have seen you do from, I don’t know if it’s the beginning, but for a long time. You would, on your blog, chronicle all the companies, including some of the bigger companies that you have nothing to do with, who were outsourcing. So, it might be something like . . . where’s a good example? Here’s a story about Google outsourcing to India by hiring this company. Here’s one that’s an authentic one actually. “J.P. Morgan increases IT outsourcing to India.” It’s not at all connected to you, you read about it in “Business Week,” you’re reporting about it, and you’re evangelizing it.
You had a course about . . . what is it called? Where is that? Oh, here it is my notes. You had an outsourced management course. And so, this was part of the way that you were promoting yourself. You’re not promoting your business, you’re promoting this new approach to doing business and you just happened to be at the forefront of it
and the person writing the e-books, etc.
Sharon: Yes, yes, thank you. You verbalize it really well. I am not promoting DistantJob, I’m promoting remote placement agency.
Andrew: Even when Robin asked you before the interview started, what do you want out of this interview? You said, “I want to promote remote workers.”
Sharon: Yes. And this is part of the innovation. People are getting excited about it, remote . . . I’m getting tons of resumes, not CVs, right? I’m getting tons of people that are fascinated because our entire marketing strategy . . . I mean, the website traffic has quadrupled in the past year simply because we’re just working on a revolution of “Please accept, the remote employees are great. Don’t go back, don’t be afraid of this idea.” One of my closest friends is a very successful contractor for big companies, for Expedia, for Nuance, for [inaudible 00:32:41]. And every time he gets a new contract for about two years or so, he goes, and he says, “Please, please, let me work from home. I will give you a discount.”
Andrew: And people don’t want that.
Sharon: And people don’t want that. But the great thing about this is the candidates get very excited about this, right?
Andrew: So you’re saying you’re attracting people to you because they want to work from home, they want to work from where they are?
Sharon: Absolutely. So I get people who are inspired to work from home and we inspire them to work from home. And that is one successful . . . you asked for innovative strategy that we’re implementing, that is one of our interesting strategies to get people in the door.
Andrew: Were you writing these articles in the beginning?
Sharon: I’m not going to take credit.
Andrew: You hire people?
Sharon: I hire a person. My marketing guy is brilliant, and we work on . . .
Andrew: Even back then, it wasn’t you . . .
Sharon: No, no. In the beginning, some of them I wrote, but very quickly I said, “This is not sustainable,” right? And I’m in the business of finding quality people. And one of the things that we find is great content writers. So, yes, a lot of the content that you are seeing that is incredibly impressive or I co-wrote it or my marketing guy wrote it or, you know, I don’t have time to write those articles. I am very focused on the e-books and the big things that I was highly involved in. And again, I didn’t write everything, I just threw the ideas and we worked together. But now we have a team of writers because . . .
Andrew: And they do this?
Andrew: When did you guys launch your company?
Sharon: Well, that was about seven years ago. Was it . . . I don’t remember that precise date, I should know that.
Andrew: No, it’s got to be earlier than seven years ago because I’m looking at a post from February 2009 on your site. Here’s what I’m guessing . . . oh no, actually I take it back. Yeah, there is a post from 2009. The earliest I can see is something from 2009 essentially.
Sharon: You do your research so well.
Andrew: I do, yeah.
Sharon: I love it.
Andrew: Oh, and you know what? And it looks like . . .
Sharon: You could be in Support Empire. So, I did have the outsourcing company, it was called Support Empire back then. And DistantJob evolved from Support Empire. So maybe that article was somewhere in the middle. I was talking more outsourcing back then. I no longer believe in that word. I had a friend, I have a policy, I don’t charge my friends. I don’t like doing business with my friends, it’s so much safer.
So I give him the best advice that I can give, and he said, “Sharon, I hired some person in Mexico, so explain to me how this outsourcing model works?” And the first thing that I tell him, “Just remove that word ‘outsourcing’ from your language. The moment that you start treating the person like a real employee, the better results you’re going to get.” And he came back to me a month later and said, “Wow, that was good advice.”
Andrew: Okay. So you’re starting to go out, you’re talking to people, you’re bringing people in through your blog, you’re starting to get them to come in. Tell me about this thing where it seems like you were having trouble still paying salary and your brother sat you down, gave you a speech, and the key takeaway phrase from that is “The key to succeed in business is . . .,” do you remember what he said? I will finish it. “The key to succeed in business is to stay in business.”
Sharon: Oh, yes.
Andrew: Why is that such a . . . what does that mean? Why is that so important?
Sharon: When it comes to business, the biggest challenge that you have is, first of all, put food on your table, right, to actually to pay yourself. And if you stay long enough in a specific business, you will eventually learn everything that you need to learn in order to succeed. And in tough times, during my business, that was a very important secret. Just make sure that you pay your bills, and after that, just stick around try, try, try, try, try.
Andrew: Because if you just keep sticking around, sticking around, sticking around, you’ll know enough to master it.
Sharon: Yeah. So first of all, as long as we’re talking to a normal, intelligent human being that is not sitting there, and for seven years, doing exactly the same thing and hoping for different results. If you’re an evolving individual, you’ll always experiment, you’ll always . . . as long as you’re sticking around, then you have the motivation to grow. You’ll always try to new things until something clicks, right?
I’m a huge, huge believer and that is . . . and we are in a big growth spurt happening right now. And that happened strictly from experimental marketing. It came from the concept of “You’ve got to try things as quickly as possible, as fast as possible and write it off whether it works or not,” and that comes from sticking around in business.
Andrew: Okay. I’m going to come back and ask you about this whole experimental marketing thing, but what I’m curious about is what was going on in your business at the time, that he had to sit you down and say, “Just stick with it”?
Sharon: Well that was Empire Host stuff.
Andrew: Oh, really?
Sharon: Empire was . . .yeah. So that was not DistantJob. DistantJob, it was . . .
Andrew: DistantJob took off early.
Sharon: DistantJob grew slowly but nicely the entire time.
Andrew: Okay. Let me take a moment and talk about my sponsor, then I want to come back and ask you about this whole experimental marketing. It seems like that’s part of your process. And I want to ask you about how you got to the first million in revenue because I know that was a big milestone for you guys.
First, I got to tell you and everyone else about a company called Bench . . . I should be evangelizing this. Here’s the problem. A lot of business owners do not know where their revenue is coming from. I don’t mean in general, I mean specifically how much is coming from where, and how much is going? Where is that going, and how do you categorize it, so you know very clearly what’s happening in your business?
So they don’t know it and they feel guilty, they feel shame because it’s on them, they’re supposed to know this, they’re the big entrepreneur. How do I not know it? Accept it. Believe it or not, many of the people who I’ve interviewed here not only did not know it for a big portion of their career, actually did not even pay taxes. I brought this up in the past with guests, and yeah, they skipped taxes because it’s so overwhelming to keep track of numbers and don’t catch up with it and then the guilt gets you and you don’t do it, yeah.
Andrew: You’ve never missed taxes?
Andrew: I’ve never, but you know what I’ve done? I’ve called up my accountant at the last minute and said, “I need more time,” and they file an extension and I make up some number because it’s based on an estimate. I’ve definitely done that because I couldn’t keep up with it because the business changes so much that you think of one point. Maybe at Mixergy, all my revenue came from advertisers and there’s like three, four advertisers. I can keep track of that.
Then suddenly, I had premium and go, what the hell? What did I do this year? Oh yeah, I tried premium by collecting payment via PayPal because that was the easiest thing. And then I shifted to authorize that net and I know what authorize that net is keeping track of. And then I tried this other thing that’s kind of weird, but I forgot what it was, where is that revenue? And then, what’s my expense? Where did I actually spend money? I forgot to record this. That happens, it happens, especially as we evolve. And so, you feel ashamed. You don’t have to.
Go to Bench. They’re going to just take all of your data. They don’t even need you to sit with them. And frankly, even if all they do is sit with you and they babysit you, sometimes it helps to have somebody say, “Dude, stop focusing on what’s going on, what you didn’t do, get back here. Get your head in the game, here’s what I need from you. Go get me access to Stripe. Click this link, it’ll work. Great. Now go get me access to your bank. What bank are you with? Click this link, it’ll work.” You need some time, someone to sit with you like that, and Bench will do that. They’ll actually tell you exactly what you need to do so that they can organize your numbers properly, so you know, day to day, month to month, year to year how well you’re doing.
The other thing that they’re going to do is they’re going have a human being go in and look at it. Now, here’s the mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make. They hire a bookkeeper. Now, I know this is supposed to be the great thing. Of course, you hire a bookkeeper, they’re people who are going to do it. The problem with a bookkeeper is they get sick, they’re weak, people are weak, they get sick. They have other clients, they need to send out lots of 1099s in January, so they don’t get to do your December numbers in time. And meanwhile, you don’t get your December numbers. They have problems with their lives . . . I don’t need that, right?
I don’t want problems with people sick, I got a house full of people who can catch a cold in any day and then screw up my whole schedule. I don’t need my bookkeeper to do that and that’s why I like Bench. Yes, they have software that’s going to suck in all your data and organize it properly, but they also have human beings, a team of them. So, if one of them has an illness, one of them can come in. One of them decides that they’re going to quit, doesn’t matter, there’s a team of people there and they’re all backing each other up.
All right, what do you think of that? Makes sense?
Sharon: I live with a pretty much in-house bookkeeper accountant, but I guess, you, what you’re talking about is freelancing but I don’t know . . .
Andrew: Be open with me. Tell me what your hesitation is, tell me.
Sharon: Personally, I think that in order to run a proper company, you’ll always need to know your numbers, right? It is the most important thing. And the only person who can deliver that for you is the in-house . . .
Andrew: So what is the in-house person doing? How do you guys get all your data? Are they logging into . . .
Sharon: We’re logging every invoice. We still use, unfortunately, we still use QuickBooks. I would like to use a better tool at this moment, but it still seems to work with us.
Andrew: What’s wrong with QuickBooks?
Sharon: You know, it’s not flexible enough. The moment that you start going multi-currency is the moment that you start doing with different countries. The moment that you . . . they’re just not creating a tool flexible enough and easy enough. It’s so complex.
Andrew: Are you using their invoicing system?
Sharon: Yes, we’re using their invoice system.
Andrew: So, you’ll invoice your clients, okay?
Sharon: Yes, I will invoice my client every month.
Andrew: And then when people pay, it will take all their payments in whatever countries they’re from, and they pay by credit card?
Sharon: Yes. They pay by virtual checks, credit cards, ICH.
Andrew: Yes. Oh, I didn’t know that QuickBooks did all of that, okay.
Sharon: No, QuickBooks doesn’t do any of that. I invoice and then I do everything manually.
Andrew: Oh my goodness.
Sharon: Sorry, I was not being very clear.
Andrew: Oh, it doesn’t go right in?
Andrew: That’s a pain in the ass. So you know what? I have someone who I work with who invoice me via QuickBooks, I use their ICH. I paid them, it was four 49,000-some odd dollars. It was fricking kicked back, it was kicked back because they thought they didn’t trust him because he didn’t get this kind of payment before. So I had to go back and wire him fricking money, what a pain in the butt. All because he’s using . . . and what’s the point of QuickBooks invoice? To take money. Don’t tell somebody who’s sending you money they can’t.
Sharon: We make it as easy as possible . . .
Andrew: But I can’t believe if you have to do it manually. So here’s what Bench will do. First of all, you should frankly consider Bench because they’re an alternative to QuickBooks with some intelligence, with some intelligence. They do a lot of the stuff that QuickBooks does better. And it’s software pulling the data in, organizing it, etc. And then they have a handful of people who do the first pass, and then they bring it to your bookkeeper and your accountant. They say, “Okay, you hated QuickBooks, try this, tell me what you think.”
I’m telling you, even if you have a team of people, I’ll tell you, I’m not even going to sell you, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you go to this special URL, they are going to give you a free trial. Your people, if you trust Bench, and frankly, go online, look at their backers, these are people you can trust. Tell them, “I want to try a free trial. Andrew says they’re better than QuickBooks, test it motherfuckers.” That’s actually not the way you should probably talk to them. I would talk to them like that. Just say, test it, and then you see the numbers. I get carried away sometimes with these advertisers.
Guys, if you want to go try this out, even if you’re using someone else and you’re happy with them and you don’t realize all of the manual labor you’re doing, I’m going to tell you, try them and you’re going to see, it’s going to be better than what you’re doing right now. And if you didn’t start with someone else, don’t start with antiquated technologies, start with the best, the most modern piece of software.
Go to bench.co/mixergy. If you look at the top right because you used that URL, they’re going to give you a free trial. And number two, they’re also going to give you 20% off your first six months with Bench. Frankly, don’t be cheap about this stuff, don’t care about the fact that it’s 20% or 5% or any of that, don’t nickel and dime this. This is very inexpensive, and it will do the work right.
If it does it right, it’s going to be worth 5, 10, 20, 100 times what they’re charging. If it doesn’t, back off. And frankly, don’t just back off, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me why it didn’t work out because I want to know. I will not promote any company that I don’t love. Right? I get fiery.
Sharon: You’re so excited about the products that you’re promoting. I mean, you’re doing magic for them.
Andrew: I’m getting better at it. If you go back and listen to the first interviews, you see a shaky Andrew who could not talk about his guests. I would never . . . I would have felt sweats if you told me that you use something else. “Oh, God, now he’s talking about QuickBooks, that’s the number one contender. What if . . .” No, now I know it. I know these people . . .”
Sharon: You are very lucky, I don’t like the product.
Andrew: I know.
Sharon: So now, I’m excited to try something new.
Andrew: Yeah, you should. Frankly, honestly, go try them out.
Andrew: All right. So you’re getting people. Here’s the thing that I’ve noticed over the years and I’m trying to figure out whether this is intentional or not. In the past, you used to very clearly say, “Here are the types of jobs that we’re going to help you fill.” Today, I go to your website, it just says, “We help you fill jobs.” I didn’t know getting into this interview what you were going to do. I couldn’t tell are you doing IT jobs, virtual assistant, what is this? Why aren’t you being as explicit as you used to be?
Sharon: I like to get people on the phone.
Andrew: I see. So, if I call you up and I say I need a virtual assistant, you will get me on the phone and then you’ll say, “Why do you need a virtual assistant?” Will you sell me on a virtual assistant if that’s what I’m looking for?
Sharon: No. If you’re looking for a virtual assistant, we’re going to have to discuss the details, one of my solutions is I don’t want to be another marketplace. I don’t want to be CVs available. I want to cater to you. I want to help you create a job description for this individual. I want to, me or my employees . . .
Andrew: If I’m looking for someone who’s not an IT person, will you help me find that job?
Sharon: Sure, absolutely.
Andrew: Oh I see. So your focus is IT, that’s what you’d like, but you will go to anything.
Sharon: Not everything, but we provide some pretty mean virtual assistant. And when I’m saying mean, I mean . . .
Andrew: Give me an example of what I could get if I hired a virtual assistant from you.
Sharon: You get somebody who’s fluent in English, you get somebody who potentially understands North American culture that, first of all, working North Americans hours. I mean, the biggest challenge of virtual assistants in general is cultural understanding. So, quite often, you get people that can speak English, but they don’t understand exactly the level of individuals.
Now, the key for virtual assistants is also sometimes that just specializes something. So, if you are a law firm and you need a virtual assistant, I will actually get you somebody with at least some minimal legal degree that will be fluent in your language, that will understand what is it that you need. So, it’s not just getting a virtual assistant, it’s getting somebody smart, somebody who gets your industry, somebody works within your capacity. So, that’s how far we go to get what you need.
Andrew: Interesting. You know what? My problem with the outsourced, I read Tim Ferriss’s book about going and getting virtual assistants in India, this is “The 4-Hour Workweek.” And I hired, and these people didn’t get me. I even think I used the companies he referred me to and I think he must have done a lot of training or maybe the whole space has evolved a lot since then, it was not useful. I finally emailed my friend Ramit Sethi. I said, “Where do you hire these people overseas?” He goes “I don’t go overseas. I pay extra, and I get someone in the U.S. and it’s worth it. And I finally did that, and it was worth it.
Sharon: So that is the fear that we are trying to fight all the time. I personally think that . . . first of all, I completely agree with everything that Tim Ferriss has to say. The four-hour week in my opinion, is absolutely ridiculous. Successful business people work hard, they don’t overwork, they spend their hours, they invest in managing their people. So when you talk outsourcing, you are talking about giving a responsibility to somebody else that doesn’t understand what is it that you do, which is the message that I try to deliver. Remote management is all about integrating people into your processes. So, whatever made you successful, you want to replicate it with that individual.
Andrew: So let me talk about that. The other reason why I failed with the people he recommended in his book, on his website, is I didn’t give them a process. I just said, “Hey, I hired you, go figure it out. It’s not that hard, it took me five minutes to figure out,” and then I left them trying to figure out what to do. So give me some tips, how do I guide people better, how do I manage them better?
Sharon: First of all, figure out your management processes before, originally, right? So you need yourself to be a better manager, whether remote or local, the model, and that is why the pain was original with outsourcing, say, “Yeah, you cheap guys, go, do, I’ve [inaudible 00:49:56] with you, you’ll get the results.” No, you really need to manage them. So, first of all, you need to figure out what is it that you do awesome? And how are you doing this awesome? You need to actually be able to put it down. You can write it down or you can just brainstorm in your head. You need to understand what is it that you’re doing awesome and why are people paying you money?
When you understand that . . . and then after that . . . when you’re a little bigger company, you need to understand your culture and culture could be just simply fun stuff. Like in our company, everybody talks music and talks geeky stuff. We’re nerds, we love talking about this stuff. And we try to hire people that are communicating at the same level. We don’t hire a lot of jocks, right? And that is part of the company culture.
So you need to define this for yourself, even if it is one person, what makes you successful, what makes you awesome, and what is your culture? And after that . . . according to that, you’re going to hire your local or remote person. And you’re not allowed to treat the remote person any different than your local person. That means you need to get somebody who, potentially, will work your office hours, he needs to be fluent in English. Because you need to feel like we feel right now. I don’t feel that you are very far away, but you might as well be in front of me. The webcam works really well.
So a webcam interview today is excellent, so is the remote management process. Tools like Slack, Skype, Zoom. You can chat with . . .
Andrew: Tell me more specific. Now we’re talking culture, I get it, the importance of it. We’re talking about treating them just like everyone else. What else can I do to manage somebody better because, frankly, that’s a topic in school that I fricking hated, I didn’t want to be a manager. I felt like I was going to be a Dilbert character if I was learning this management stuff, and so I passed over it. Teach me, you know this stuff, you’ve managed people a lot.
Sharon: Managed. It comes down to interview, motivate, inspire, fix or teach, which means you need to talk to them, you need to find out what they do. And it’s not easy. It’s hard work, but it’s key to success, you need to see what they’re doing every day, see what they’re doing, fix their errors, motivate them, inspire, and repeat. This is the short version of . . . but if you understand that, that is 90% of the work, and it is hard work, there is no . . . that’s why I don’t believe in Tim Ferriss’s four hour.
Andrew: Did you scheduled meetings with your people? Is that how you keep . . .
Sharon: No. So we have a scrum. Every day, we have 15 minutes with a marketing team, with a recruitment team, they try different departments, then we have once . . . the entire concept of agile, of scrum is that meeting that you have with individuals, and you find the road blocks, you find the constraints, and you try to fix them. So yes, I have meetings . . . a big meeting with everybody, and I have individual meetings. “Hey, Bob. Hey, George, what’s happening?” And we talk about Star Trek And then we talk about what’s important. It’s not all business, you’re making friends. Those are people that are hanging . . .
Andrew: In 15 minutes, you’re talking about Star Trek and talk about what’s going on in the recruiting process?
Sharon: No, 15 minutes, every day, is the group meeting. We have a very fast, express meeting, so we don’t waste time because meetings can be distracting. And after that, I have a chitchat where I say, “Hey, are you available for . . .” And he can say he is not available, he is busy or he is available. So what have you got, what are you stuck with today? And a good manager, a good CEO, a good president needs to be inspiring.
Andrew: Tell me something. I was talking with Cameron Herold, the founder and COO Alliance. I told him I’m having trouble hiring someone who can take on some of the work that I do at Mixergy. He gave me some advice about how to put together the job description. Do you have someone I could talk to? Can you help me out if I put together a barebones job description, can you guys help guide me with some feedback on how to do it better?
Sharon: We’ll rewrite it for you.
Andrew: If I ping you with this, you’ll help me out with that?
Sharon: Yeah, no problem.
Andrew: All right. I could really use that help.
Sharon: Or I sit with you and work with you, which is it’s a long process. Or I . . . send me the CV . . .
Andrew: Just tell you what I’ve got and then you guys will help rewrite it.
Sharon: All you need to tell me is the points that you . . . what you want, the core skills, and we’ll turn it into a beautiful job description, not a problem.
Andrew: All right, okay. Finally, I said something earlier and I didn’t follow up with it, I need to follow up now. Let’s close out with this experimental marketing. What is your process?
Sharon: The process is to . . . and that goes with scrum quite a lot. It is the model of getting people to be dynamic about the marketing strategy. We hired a bunch of people that . . . they’re called growth hacker, I don’t like that term, nobody likes that term, but it is individuals or dynamic. Or not to spend too much money because all they know is $10,000 of advertisement they know, and they know how to come up with new ideas, implement them as fast as possible and go to the next idea.
Andrew: What’s an example of something you guys tested, implemented fast, and then decided, no, not for us?
Sharon: What is . . . so, we try one e-book, we write that down, and we put together the e-book within one week. We try to bring traffic to it using specific traffic from Twitter and Facebook. If it doesn’t convert, that was an experiment, that should not take more than a week and a half, and we need to move on to the next one.
Andrew: Okay. It’s just test it and see it. Okay, what’s one that . . .
Sharon: And the infrastructure needs to be that people are ready to implement those ideas fast and move on. That you do through scrum. Does that make sense?
Andrew: Yes, it does. What else?
Sharon: What else?
Andrew: Because scrum says, what is it? Fourteen days, seven days, come back and . . .
Sharon: We do seven days. We do a week at a time. So, that’s not traditional. I know that usually is two weeks, we try to stick to one week.
Andrew: So it’s in one week, you’ll get together in a meeting with them, you say, “What are we going to try this week, what worked last week? Go out, try it, and if it works, we’ll continue.”
Sharon: And what we’ve done and what was successful and what was not successful.
Andrew: So, maybe this podcast thing is something that you look at, you say, “Hey, you know what? It was successful, it took up a lot of my time, is it worth it, are we getting enough customers?” Yeah, it is, let’s keep going with it. How do you measure success for something like this? I didn’t give a specific URL.
Sharon: First of all, the URL is DistantJob.
Andrew: No, I know, but I didn’t say like distantjob.com/mixergy. How do you know how many people are coming from this versus anywhere else? Or whether it’s worth your hour, two hours, actually, because we demand a lot of your time?
Sharon: There’s a lot of analytics tools that we use, that we know where the actual traffic came from. So, if somebody goes, or somebody goes on your website to check your podcast and simply the traffic comes to our website, we know that. We even have analytic tools in our phone calls because phone calls are so important for us, where it matches the IP and we actually know where the phone call came from.
Andrew: Oh, from the phone, really?
Andrew: And so, you have people who will do all these phone calls for you?
Sharon: No, no, no. I’m saying that when somebody calls me, I know where the traffic came from.
Andrew: What software are you using for that?
Sharon: I don’t remember. You have to ask Louis.
Andrew: Okay, but this is on your site because I don’t see a phone number on your site.
Sharon: There is. If you go to “Contact Us.” So, we’re experimenting right now . . .
Andrew: Got it, I see it.
Sharon: So just a month ago, I don’t know, argument with my own in scrum and everybody said, “You know what? I don’t think you should have the phone on the front page, let’s experiment.” So we changed the number and put it in “Contact Us.” That is experimental marketing. We continuously change, we don’t believe in every one website that works all the time, we try out a bunch of things. I don’t know if . . .
Andrew: If someone calls up that phone number, there’s a sales person or account rep or something talking to them. If I need to hire someone like that, could I hire them from you?
Sharon: Of course, yes. The answer is yes.
Andrew: The answer is yes. So I would go and fill out a form and say, “I need somebody who’s going to do demos, product demos for my own customers, can you help me find that person?” You’ll find that person for me?
Sharon: As long as it’s full time.
Andrew: Has to be full time, 40 hours a week?
Sharon: Yes. We are in business . . .
Andrew: And I don’t know what they’re going to cost until I talk to you and we figure it out?
Sharon: Sorry, repeat again.
Andrew: And I don’t know what they’re going to cost until I talk to you and then we figure it out with your people?
Sharon: Yeah, absolutely. I send you CVs with their price and the profile, and you make a decision, “I want to interview this, this, this, this person.” And only then, we charge you.
Andrew: Only if I hire them or only if you introduce me to them?
Sharon: Only if you hire them.
Andrew: Okay. So you introduce me to them, I do some tests to see if they’re a good fit. If they’re a good fit, we go on.
Sharon: It’s fairly . . . it’s quite a risk-free process.
Andrew: All right. And I think I saw in your notes somewhere, it’s like a third the price that I would pay because you’re going to get me people who work remotely?
Sharon: Yeah. From Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, they have a much lower labor cost. They live in an environment where their cost of living is much lower, and you benefit from that.
Andrew: All right. And I could, yeah, I could test them first, I could run the whole thing, make sure . . . and I could talk to people they’ve worked with in the past?
Andrew: All right. This has kind of become a whole ad for DistantJob.
Andrew: DistantJob.com. For anyone who wants to go sign up with them. The IT stuff is interesting, but the beyond IT, I feel, is where we could use some more help as a team here at Mixergy. And I’m interested to see that you guys do that. Frankly, whenever I . . . I didn’t realize there were agencies out there that could help me hire beyond IT, that’s a recruiting firm. I thought it was all the Upworks of the world that was available. So, if I didn’t want to hire someone on my own, I thought the only option was Upwork. I didn’t realize that I could come to an agency like yours and find somebody.
Sharon: Upwork is a big challenge because Upwork, if you ever used it, you see, it’s an environment where people just outbidding each other to death, so the quality people kind of make a decision that they don’t want to play this game. And even more to it, really quality people with high standards have a job. So, they need to be head hunted.
Andrew: I’m wondering why you don’t want to do a marketplace. Seems like such a pain in the ass for your team to have to go recruit people, to hire them. If I’m not happy with them after I hire them, we fire them, we go find someone else. Just so much work where marketplace just works on its own.
Sharon: No, it does not. Unfortunately, most people, I don’t want to criticize my competitors, but most people have a really rough time with marketplace because it doesn’t have that connection because most marketplaces, they put, like I said, they make the freelancers compete against each other. They always look for the next job and everything. And we’re all about finding these people specifically for the client and they will last forever. And lasting forever is very profitable.
Andrew: All right. Guys, go check them out. And distantjob.com. And the two sponsors are the office space where I am standing right now. I’m sure they’re going to get customers from this ad. I don’t know if they’re going to buy ads again because they just don’t do podcasting. I think they don’t even understand that I’m a podcaster. But, man, I love them. Regis.com/mixergy, screw that, just email me, andrew@mixergy, and I’ll introduce you to my person at Regis.
And if you want your books done right, if you don’t like the competing software, just want to experiment. Maybe you are bookkeeping curious, book-curious, no, book . . . maybe you’re just curious about what the other software could be. Go to bench.co/mixergy. There, you don’t even need my email address, you don’t need me to introduce you. Just go, try the software and you’re going to see how well it works, really good. And they’re also well backed, I wonder how much money they’ve got.
Let’s see. You have no outside funding, do you?
Sharon: No outside funding.
Andrew: I always go to AngelList to spy on people. Frankly, partially, I do that because I want to know who’s backing them, can I trust the people behind them?
Sharon: You’re an excellent, excellent spy. You should . . .
Andrew: I cannot help myself.
Andrew: It’s awkward in conversations. Here’s where I try not to do it, especially I live in San Francisco, my kid goes to school with people, I check out their email address and you have the LinkedIn plug in for Chrome, you can’t help it. You go, “Who the hell is this?” And I have to back off from the feeling of “I better go get to know this person because of look who he is or what he’s doing,” because then that kind of creates a weird feeling with my kid. I want it to be about my kid, not about what these guys do. But everywhere else, I can’t help it. If you come to my house, trust me, I will be Googling the hell out of you and researching like crazy.
Sharon: Well, I’m hoping that most of the stuff you Google on me is pretty positive.
Andrew: It is. I think you’ve done a good job with Google. The one place that I think is weird is LinkedIn. And my sense is that there was something going on with LinkedIn, maybe people were trying to get a job from you, maybe something else.
Sharon: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We decided that they already have enough people on LinkedIn that I avoid it, but maybe you’re right, maybe it’s not a good strategy.
Andrew: Just a standard page. So, they start out with Tech Crunch, with Tech Stars at Bench. Then they raised $2 million seed from Lerer. Lerer is the famous investor whose son started . . . I can’t remember it. But well-known investment company. Then they just went on and they got another 7 million from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, I think that’s who it is, yeah, from New York, and a few other people. Another 6.7 million, then 16 million from Bain Capital, 18 million from iNovia from Canada.
Sharon: I know iNovia very well.
Andrew: You know iNovia?
Sharon: [inaudible 01:04:05] iNovia. I know the guys there very well.
Andrew: There’s bench.co no wonder they’re buying a bunch of ads on Mixergy. No wonder they could compete with such big companies. This is huge, huge funding. All right, all that’s behind us though. Thank you so much for doing this interview. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy.
Guys, if you liked this interview or didn’t, please give us feedback on the interview. I know I went a little off topic several times in this interview and on the audio quality. Ari and the team who were helping me put this interview out, they really want to find out if they’re doing a good job with the audio quality. So please, email them, email@example.com. Say, “Audio stinks, audio is great. Here’s what I like, here’s what I don’t.” Anything.
All right. Thanks so much for doing this interview.
Sharon: Andrew, it was a real pleasure, thank you.
Andrew: Same here. Bye.
Sharon: Okay. Bye.