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Hiring Help And Retaining Your Secrets
spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 7:13 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I didn't want to get totally off-topic in the dumb mistakes thread where Hobbs says he's putting off hiring help because he's afraid they will turn into competition.

I currently have 10 people that I either pay or are volunteers doing the majority of the work involved in running/keeping up with my sites. All I do is write the site newsletters(which get added as new content) and work on other new content of my own to add or other new projects.

Of the 10 people, only one of them even knows how the sites make money. But he wouldn't know the first thing about starting a site of his own. One guy sorts content that gets submitted by visitors, crops and sizes the pictures when needed, then passes the info along to the next person, our writer who gets everything ready for our html person, who then takes the edited content and puts it into html code and passes it along to the next person who only knows enough html to be able to copy and paste the code onto the appropriate pages or pre-written templates for new pages. That person then lets me know that pages are ready to upload and I go upload the fresh content since I'm the only one with log-in information. Volunteers help keep up with links(usually in exchange for being the first link) and volunteer moderators take care of the message forum.

You can have help without breaking the bank or giving away your secrets. Just give each person a small job so they never see the big picture. Since each part of the job is so simple, you should be able to find someone to do that part pretty cheap. A little over 10% of what I make goes to pay ALL help who do probably 90% or more of the work.

 

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:29 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

You can have help without breaking the bank or giving away your secrets. Just give each person a small job so they never see the big picture. Since each part of the job is so simple, you should be able to find someone to do that part pretty cheap. A little over 10% of what I make goes to pay ALL help who do probably 90% or more of the work.

I imagine at some point, some people will figure out the business and want to start their own. This is natural.

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 10:12 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

some people will figure out the business and want to start their own

Besides attempting to prevent this from happening by spreading out the chores in such a way that no one person is privy to exactly how the site works, what are your other options? Continue limiting yourself and your growth potential by doing all the work yourself because you are afraid of, possibly, a little competition?

OptiRex



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 1:21 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just give each person a small job so they never see the big picture.

Without wishing to appear rude I feel this is an incredibly naive attitude.

You trust these people enough to do the job you allocate to them yet believe they are not capable of knowing/doing/understanding/learning more.

I'd better stop now!

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 1:42 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

You trust these people enough to do the job you allocate to them yet believe they are not capable of knowing/doing/understanding/learning more.

No, I don't think they are capable of becoming serious competition. In fact I'm 100% sure otherwise their services would be "terminated". The reason being... they are over qualified for the job.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 3:36 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

No, I don't think they are capable of becoming serious competition. In fact I'm 100% sure otherwise their services would be "terminated". The reason being... they are over qualified for the job.

Odd. If they are overqualified, this means they're smart enough to figure out how to start their own businesses. Also, there's more than enough literature out there now that people can use to build AdSense sites.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 3:37 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Besides attempting to prevent this from happening by spreading out the chores in such a way that no one person is privy to exactly how the site works, what are your other options?

How about offering them partnerships?

jtara

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 4:09 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wow! Glad I don't work for you.

I'll shut up now, before I violate the TOS...

If they are overqualified, this means they're smart enough to figure out how to start their own businesses.

No, I think they mean that they would terminate anyone who turned out, after being hired, to be more qualified than was thought. I wonder what questions are asked to determine if the prospective employee is dumb enough for the job...

"Sorry, I thought you were really stupid, but you seem to have some brains. You're fired!"

OK, now I WILL shut up! :)

vincevincevince

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 5:31 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

some people will figure out the business and want to start their own

Don't forget that most people are ethical enough not to go into direct competition with you. Especially not if you have been considerate they feel that they have learnt from you.

pixeltierra

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 7:08 am on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you really care about insiders turning into competitors, consider a no-compete clause in their contract.

Sometimes, though I think we make our own monsters. If your employees actually liked you, then they wouldn't want to betray you or compete with you.

hal12b

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 1:06 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

You are forgetting one thing .... the will and motivation to succeed.

I explained adsense to a friend of mine who is incredibly intelligent and would without a doubt succeed. Six months later he is still sitting on the sofa eating doritos.

My father owns a clothing store and has had the same people work for him for 10+ years. You would think at this point they would have enough knowledge to start their own business if they had the will and motivation to succeed. Some people would simply rather collect a guaranteed pay check.

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 2:07 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I guess I just had a bad experience with the first person I hired as a full time in-house employee. First thing he wanted to do once he learned enough was start his own site. Which he did. The site was non-competitive so I couldn't say much and I thought it would be a good learning experience for him. But when he started working on his own site on my time and using the little tidbits of information he learned for his own gain, that was the end of the line. The guy is a member here now, by the way. After letting him go, I decided to try a new approach.

Now I contract out small bits of work to people in other countries in most cases. If they want to learn how to run their own site, they will have to do it on their own time. The work they are doing for me gives them very little insight on how my own sites work and that's the way I want it to be. The only way for them to put 2 and 2 together and figure out my "secrets" would be to poke and prod for the information, essentially they would have to be spying on the business and that's why I would want to discontinue using their services.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:45 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I explained adsense to a friend of mine who is incredibly intelligent and would without a doubt succeed. Six months later he is still sitting on the sofa eating doritos.

lol ...

My father owns a clothing store and has had the same people work for him for 10+ years. You would think at this point they would have enough knowledge to start their own business if they had the will and motivation to succeed. Some people would simply rather collect a guaranteed pay check.

In some cases, people don't want the responsibility of their own business. They feel it would interfere with their family life, free time, etc. Some don't have the discipline to start and run a business, and some are probably better off not doing so.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:56 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I guess I just had a bad experience with the first person I hired as a full time in-house employee.

I can't blame you for not wanting to hire people who just use your time and resources to start their own businesses, but ...

The only way for them to put 2 and 2 together and figure out my "secrets" would be to poke and prod for the information, essentially they would have to be spying on the business and that's why I would want to discontinue using their services.

Given the literature that's available on AdSense, eventually they'll figure out how to start their own sites, and will do so if they want to. So you should at least be prepared for the possibility that they'll quit if they're not paid more.

Jane_Doe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 10:40 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

In some cases, people don't want the responsibility of their own business.

My experience, and from posts others have made regarding trying to help friends and relatives set up sites with Adsense income, is that even poking people with a cattle prod could not get most of them to start their own businesses.

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 12:00 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Given the literature that's available on AdSense, eventually they'll figure out how to start their own sites, and will do so if they want to. So you should at least be prepared for the possibility that they'll quit if they're not paid more.

I don't care if they start their own "Adsense site", I just don't want them taking my business model with them in their new adventure. My plan doesn't depend on the big G.

Paying them more? The first guy I hired, I gave him a large percentage of the money he helped earn for the company, twice his wages at his last job, but still he wanted to be greedy and go out on his own using my business model instead of coming up with his own suited to the niche he decided to try and market.

At first, I thought, "Hire the go-getters!" Now I think, "Hire the lazy ones who just want a little supplemental income and a steady pay check."

Hal12b, maybe your dad just knew better than to hire someone over qualified and that's why he was able to keep his good help.

Leosghost

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 12:28 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

the "secret" appears to be just never let the left hand know what the right hand is doing ..
there are many problems with that business model ..

not least the presumption that you yourself are the most intelligent being in existence ..or that any "half wit" could put the peices together and do what you do and maybe do it better..( thus you must hide the proceedure ) ..if it was so clever ..you wouldnt have to be afraid that it could be seen ..

fragile foundations ..anything built upon the percieved ability one has to deceive or trick others ..be they employees or customers ..

a business model that depends on that kind of secrecy can last only as long as one does not encounter someone as devious as oneself ..plus secrecy attracts the curious ..

if it's not something that you can patent ..and it's so easy you ..so you have to hide the mechanics ..and it doesn't depend on your special talent ..or on your own private "goldmine" or contacts ..dont bet your retirement on it ..

diversify ..managing the skills of others by deception is not a talent ..and merits no flowers ..nor compliments ..

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 12:47 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

managing the skills of others by deception

Who is deceiving who? They wanted a job and I gave them one.

jessejump

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 2:12 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

You have your content; Content is King. They can't steal your content, but they can learn how to make web sites either on their own or by working at your site. That's out of anyone's control. Stop worrying about it.

pixeltierra

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 3:05 am on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Who is deceiving who? They wanted a job and I gave them one.

I don't think this is an issue of deception. Spaceylacie I can't say you are wrong in your business approach, since it's not about right and wrong.

I think this is a human issue, and if I can say the word on WW, a philosophical issue: Are people essentially 'good'? Am I safe in the world? Are people out to get me? How much do I need to protect myself?

If we run a business our answers to the above questions influence our business model. And although a business model may make money, we all have learned that money!= happiness.

IMHO, the thing that makes us safe in the world and happy in the world is heart to heart relationships. Our presumptions going into a situation influence the outcomes of the situation. If we are suspicious, fearful, mistrustful of people they will be the same to us. If we hurt and offend people they will want to hurt us back. We get back exactly what we put out. Have you considered the possibility that your own behaviour and protection schemes are bringing about your worst fears?

Of course there are people we should fear and mistrust. But not everyone is that way. We have to learn to tell who is who, and take the leap to trust. If we trust no one we are alone and miserable because we shut everyone out. Adsense can't fix that.

So if I can be so bold I think your best course of action, for a full, happy and rich life, is to learn to recognize trustworthy and good people, and SURROUND YOURSELF with them, both in your personal and business life.

Best of luck.

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 4:05 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm being extra nice to my helpers because I feel bad about indirectly calling them stupid and lazy. Wrong choice of words, they just aren't the type of people who desire to start their own Internet business but this makes them neither stupid nor lazy. They are very competent and I fully trust them with their allocated jobs.

Great advice, pixeltierra, but probably too late to save me. In business, I have learned to mistrust people over the years, I didn't start out this way. I'm not sitting in a little shack living as a hermit hunched over my computer looking over my shoulders every few seconds, I have plenty of friends and family that I trust. But I treat business relationships differently based on past experiences.

I've been in business for myself since about 1995, and even in my previous off line business, I had a problem with an employee trying to start a side competitive business. It ended the police escorting me to her house to retrieve the stolen designs(my original designs, about 10 years worth of work) that she was using to create items to sell in a competitive business. She was not only trying to sell the finished items she made from the designs but also claiming the designs as her own. At the time I did not see this coming and had in no way mistrusted her when she came to work for me.

Since I have been working online, I have had my content stolen and sold on Ebay(about a dozen different occurences), I have had content stolen and placed on other people's sites multiple times, a few cases where they were selling my content, I've had entire pages stolen(they just saved a copy and uploaded it to their own site). This year alone I have spent 1000s of dollars on an intellectual property attorney in an attempt to protect my work. It's easy to lose trust in people.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:50 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Perhaps you should recruit through an agency that has a reputation for trust as well as quality.

IME, you have to pay good money (or offer some other benefit like a partnership) to people who are talented, hardworking, and trustworthy. Businesses that are created off the backs of low-cost, outsourced help may last for a while, but they don't generally become long-term successes. However, it ultimately depends on what you want out of your business.

Automan Empire

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 2:13 am on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

A little over 10% of what I make goes to pay ALL help who do probably 90% or more of the work.

10% of gross revenues to labor is excellent! How I struggle to get mine down to 20%!

The part that concerned me is the chain of handing off work from person to person. Are you covered if one suddenly becomes unavailable, especially if you cannot personally cover for them? It seems you'd want a certain amount of overlap or redundancy in this type of system.

What do you call such a business model- a RAIE? (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Employees :) )

As far as entrepreneurship, only a small percentage of people are cut out to be business owners. All of my employees are tops in their field, and command high wages, and have enough experience in the field to strike out on their own. Why don't they? They seem perfectly content to work their 40 hours then go home. Sometimes (like now, when I am passing hour 11 at the shop) I think they are the smarter ones.

-Automan

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 2:36 am on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

"Are you covered if one suddenly becomes unavailable, especially if you cannot personally cover for them?"

Yes, and this validates my piece of mind.

Fortune Hunter

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:31 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am not sure counting on the ignorance of your contractors and help or only showing them a limited picture is a business strategy worthy of praise. First, eventually you will guess wrong and somebody will figure it all out. Second, I am not sure I really want people that aren't smart enough to figure stuff like this out as my help.

My advice would be to get a rock solid independent contractor agreement drafted by an attorney that says that can't compete for a certain period of time after leaving your employ (usually 2 years) and have clearly defined who owns all work performed (you) and penalties if they violate the agreement. Then be prepared to enforce it in court if necessary.

Next point, since I have yet to find an agreement that is bullet proof and not terribly expensive to fight it out be sure to use some character assessments and build a relationship with your contractors BEFORE you hire them. Make sure you personally feel they are trustworthy and not willing to steal from you. While this is not a stand alone tactic that is why you use the agreement.

If you have someone that is really a decent person they will have no problem signing the agreement because the thought of screwing you probably never crossed their mind in the first place.

I have been using my own advice for a couple of years and never once been screwed by a contractor even though I have let them have access to the client's site and I have had one of them try and poach any of my clients either. The relationship / Legal agreement is perfect carrot / stick approach that seems to work perfectly in my opinion.

Fortune Hunter

jtara

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 10:01 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

My advice would be to get a rock solid independent contractor agreement drafted by an attorney that says that can't compete for a certain period of time after leaving your employ (usually 2 years) and have clearly defined who owns all work performed (you) and penalties if they violate the agreement. Then be prepared to enforce it in court if necessary

That's one of the downsides of off-shoring.

As a practical matter, you can't enforce any contract.

idolw

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 11:02 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

remember, they work for you not because they are idiots. just because they are not interested in checking serps all the time.
the more they know the better. they will quickly find out that building competition requires lots of money.
i do not even know login information to the server just as my people do not even know my bank account login information.

hey, OP! look how much money you lose everyday by uploading the stupid files. your hours is worth more if you can hire 10 people, right?
if you scared someone wants to cheat you do not hire anyone.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 11:25 pm on Oct 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

My advice would be to get a rock solid independent contractor agreement drafted by an attorney that says that can't compete for a certain period of time after leaving your employ (usually 2 years) and have clearly defined who owns all work performed (you) and penalties if they violate the agreement. Then be prepared to enforce it in court if necessary.

Noncompetes aren't always enforceable, depending upon location and type of business. IMO, spaceylacie's just better off hiring competent help and paying them appropriately. Another thing to consider: who minds the store in case something happens to spaceylacie? Personally, I want employees who are willing and able to take ownership of others' tasks. Those are the types of people I want on my team.

spaceylacie

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:13 pm on Oct 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Lots of comments have been made that I'd like to respond to because I think the wrong impression of my business model has been protrayed.

First, I don't just go out looking for ignorant folks to hire as contractors. Every one of them is someone I have previously gotten to know online and are people interested in the subject matter that my site covers(as opposed to my previous way of hiring people-seeking out the best in the field and overpaying them because they have a row of useless plaques on their wall showing off their training and expertise). The people I hire are also the ones interested in seeing the sites succeed because they think the sites are fun/interesting and they want to become part of it's growth and help it grow. Even though they are only handling a small part of the job, each day presents new challenges in most cases and is a learning experience for them. Not only this, but also, in most cases, they become known as a member of our team and gratitude from members/visitors makes their job fulfilling.

A couple examples:
-A retired man contacted me saying that he spends hours daily on a particular site of mine and with the information he learned was hoping to be able an extra $150 a month selling items he created from the instructions I provide through a local merchant. But, since he lives in a very small town and interest was slim, did I have any other suggestions? His SS check covered most of his living costs but if only he had just another $150 a month, he could cover all his living costs. Since he seemed to be very familiar with the site layout and how it was organized, I asked him if he's be willing to learn a new skill and help with organizing content that visitors and site members submit. I offered him free training if he was willing to try it out and assured him that I had enough extra work available to allow him to make the extra $150 a month he needed to cover his living expenses. So I gave him a small job based on his skill level and now he can not only afford to buy groceries, but also pay his monthly electric bill.

-We asked for volunteers to help out with a portion of one of my sites. That portion had become very popular among visitors, some saying they have withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to check in daily. We let these die-hard visitors know that new features requested would not be possible unless we had additional help maintaining it. The response was overwhelming. Some sent in resumes with lists of referrals showing they were qualified and vied over a volunteer position(some aware that paid positions, albeit low paying, are offered first to volunteers before being offered to others). One particular applicant was very qualified, over qualified in fact, but was not "hired" because I felt this person was more interested in their own gain(exposure for themselves as an artist) than helping that portion of the site succeed. Upon asking opinions from avid site members and other members of our team that would have to work with this person if selected, my suspicions were confirmed. I got replies like, "I'm glad you brought up this possible problem first because I was thinking the same thing but didn't want to mention it for fear of going against your final decision."

-Another person who was very interested in the sites' topic was regularly sending in information to be added as content just because she wanted to "give back". The descriptions of her work were so detailed and eloquent that I finally asked her if she ever did any commission work as a writer/what type of training she had to be such a great writer. She turned out to be self-taught, having enjoyed literature all her life, but was currently a stay-at-home mom. I asked her if she would be interested in a work-at-home position as a writer/editor for my sites. I offered to send her a batch of work, along with detailed instructions, for her to look over. If she was interested, just send back a sample of her work, a quote on what she would charge to do this on a regular basis and I would get back to her. She did this, the work was excellent, and the quote she gave me was far less than I would normally expect to pay by hiring a "professional" writer. I gave her the job(less than $100 a month) and within a month upped her pay by 25% because I felt that her quote was not enough and she deserved a little more. I'm still paying her less than I would have originally expected to pay for the service. My lawyer wrote something up for her to sign(waiving her copyrights) which she gladly did.

In the case that something happens to me, the organizational part of the job I do could easily be explained to one person. "When this info comes back, make sure it gets uploaded." Let Winston(a made-up name) know that he will have to handle this other part of the site totally on his own until I'm available again. Winston is fully trained to oversee certain volunteer positions(in fact, does all the training) and give him a raise while you are at it. That's it, the sites would be completely running on their own minus the newsletters and fresh content that I provide myself. Since we have so many visitors/members willing to contribute now, I'm probably not needed anyway in order to guarentee future growth. I see this becoming more and more true as time goes on.

I'm only in my mid-30s now and my teenage son(whom I had at a young age) is prepping for college based on the skills he will need to take over the business(business management skills, etc) because I plan on retiring in the not so distant future. I plan on helping to provide fresh content for the sites even after I retire because it's fun for me and something I'd be doing even if I didn't get paid for it. If my son decides he doesn't want to take over the business, my daughter, a little younger, will be next in line for the position.

This post will either clear up my views on the matter or cause more controversy.... we'll see.

SuzyUK

WebmasterWorld Senior Member suzyuk us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3134783 posted 9:29 pm on Oct 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

No controversy here.. I think that's very beautifully explained and from the heart

IMO it's the way most any small business (online or off) survives past the first few years. There's milking and there's surviving long enough to pass something on. While the online world is still in everflux, I do honestly think that the same business principles will still hold true for both, and that what is passed onto the next generation will ultimately be the same lesson, treat them right and fair and you will reap rewards in spades. Whether those spades carry financial rewards or not depends entirely on your reputation, and some things will never change!

Good Luck

Suzy

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