Build your “Virtual” Network
Posted by Trevor on 1 October 2012 | 1 Comment
Mining your network for talent is an effective way to find people who will believe in your project and help it become something bigger. When you build a team for a virtual company, think about the kind of people you want to have around you. Starting with people that you’ve already worked with makes sense because you can trust them to do a great job. As the company grows, their good judgment will help you find more highly skilled people without having to vet a stack of resumes or hire the unknown. In the early stages of your business survival is the name of the game and hiring the people you know inside and out is essential.
When you start a company, you typically have a couple of people you know you can rely on because you’ve known them professionally and you respect them. They will either be able to help you for a few hours a week, maybe moonlight for a bit, or they will know somebody who can help you. Trusting their judgment means you can be confident in the people they recommend.
I built my first company by going through my networks. At one time I had 63 consultants working anywhere from a few hours a month to a few days a week. Each of them came as someone I knew well or as a referral – I don’t remember ever seeing or asking for anyone’s resume – and every single one of them was a blast to work with. They were all at the top of their game.
Hiring referrals has worked so well for me, it’s the same route I use to replace top level people. Just recently a quality assurance expert for one of my companies retired. In addition to her recommendation, I also contacted a company that I do occasional business with. I simply said, “I’m looking for a quality assurance consultant. Can you recommend anybody?” After speaking to both referrals, I went with the one from the company. They’d worked with this person for 10 years and said he was “brilliant.” That kind of praise doesn’t come easy, and I was not disappointed.
Small companies can’t afford to be choosy when an expert finds a project interesting enough to take on for a few hours a week. If a top-level referral is willing to take on a really small project like mine that doesn’t promise him much money, he’s someone I want to work with. I usually won’t go and interview three other people before hiring someone who comes by recommendation. It’s worth remembering that if you’re fussy, talented people will lose interest. Remember, they have other options.
Having dedicated experts at the helm puts your virtual company in a very good position to succeed. Building a network from referrals allows you to work with people who believe in your project, not just a paycheck.