Friends, don’t neglect the obvious. Full-time employees are expensive. Several roles can be filled by either part-timers or hourly contractors. For sales and marketing needs, several companies I know have hired unemployed actors on an hourly basis. Actors are great at reading scripts and infusing their voice with enthusiasm, and if managed properly, they can generate and qualify sales leads over the phone. Take the ones with the strongest selling skills, the ones who are comfortable asking for sales orders, and have them do telephone- or Web-based sales. Give them a quota. In my previous companies, we even used contract sales people and paid them commission only—20 to 25 percent on their sales. (Yes, that’s the amazing win-win of pay-for-performance!)
Contractors may not be as committed as employees, but you can offer incentives to increase their loyalty and commitment. Pay them bonuses based on results, refer other clients to them, and keep your company at the top of your contractors’ minds by knowing what your contractors care about and helping them achieve their goals. If you are a key source of business for them, they’ll have a lot at stake in maintaining the relationship.
Customer support is another area where you can hire contractors or outsource the function entirely. Have experienced project leaders evaluate and manage lower-rate contractors. As long as you have someone you trust running a given department (see “Leaders Build a Rockin’ Team” in Chapter 7 of Rules for Renegades), encourage the hiring of contractors—and convey a sense of accountability for cost-cutting measures across the company.
You can also check out www.elance.com and www.teamdoubleclick.com to find contractors with all varieties of skill sets. Ask around, too. Through friends we found a guy based in India for graphic design, marketing materials, and Web site design work. He does terrific work at a reasonable price. The bottom line is this: To have a BOTTOM LINE, you need to build your biz, kick a** with sales, marketing and your team of advisors, and you must control expenses and headcount.