Lessons on Management

Discussion in 'Case Studies and Journals' started by Bender Bending Rodríguez, Mar 14, 2017.

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  1. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    Warren Buffet made the following analogy: a successful business is like a castle with a moat and a good prince. The economics is the castle, the moat is the company's competitive advantage, USP, brand, or some other element that protects its economics, and the prince is its management.

    So, lets start with an example.

    There are dudes on blackhat forums who are selling social signals. They are able to make a profit: the cost of a package is greater than the cost of the labor. Therefore, they have a castle.

    Do they have a moat? No. Anyone can create social accounts or resell social accounts. Also, anyone can create a thread. Their attempts at branding (something like "Jake's Amazing Social Signals") is nothing more than a name, not a brand. There's no meaning conveyed in it. Starbucks means a nice environment and friendly service. Wendy's means mom's burger's. Jake's Amazon Social Signal means Jake followed the instructions for branding from a marketing book. It doesn't mean he has a brand. Their branding isn't a moat. It fails to keep their customers.

    Do they have a prince? Haha if you've purchased stuff on BHW before, you'll realize how poorly some of the stuff is managed. Its usually pretty chaotic, delivery is late, and communication is poor.

    So, lets have another example.

    At every Infantry Military Base, there are ranges. Some are outdoor shooting ranges, other are pretty awesome shooting ranges where the target move or the shooter(s) get to move (while shooting real ammo!). The units on these ranges are usually on the range for the whole day. Individuals on the range are also tired during/after the training. So, they'd want snacks.

    Guess what? The DoD doesn't allow just anyone to sell on a base. There's usually only a few individuals who are given that privilege. When they're awarded it, they can sell snacks at a markup (castle) with no competitors (moat). Management is usually good since the operation is easy and the managers are competent enough to win a government contract.

    So, why am I writing this? Well, right now, I have 4 individuals below me, who I'm responsible for. I need to add 2 more to be able to meet this years objectives. I have a castle, I have a moat, and I'd like to improve my prince :)

    So far, I've added a new person to the team (#4). She's from Vietnam. I hated that country. I was there two years ago and that was the worse country I've ever been to. I also realized that I couldn't hold that against her. She did a few things that bothered me during the trial task but, after thinking about it, it was because she wasn't onboard-ed properly. I double checked her work and she was able to follow the instructions precisely (which is very important!). She might not understand the concepts but as long as she is able to follow the instructions (and re-do stuff in the event I gave poor instructions) and as long as I give her appropriate feedback, she'll be a good employee.

    This is the first time I'm hiring a female who works at home with a baby, so that's odd but I also think that's a good thing -- she'll never just leave for no reason. She wants security. She also has regular work hours, which is good.

    I also learned something from reading Army Manuals: each soldier is a subject matter expert and has his/her own responsibility which he/she is accountable for. Even the Assistant machine gunner has responsibilities (he's the guy that carries the ammo for the machine gunner). It's usually a dude who has been in the Army for 1 year -- totally new. He's responsible for knowing exactly how many more bullets the machine gunner has left. He's not simply carrying the ammo cases around, he has to count and remember the total bullet count. It's actually something very important to the unit.

    So, yeah, I'm training her to take care of my PBN. She'll be in charge of managing it. We're currently around 200 domains and should enter 300 in 2 months.

    She's off to do more work today and we'll meet again tomorrow to finish onboarding and do more training.

    One hire, done!

    Now I have to figure out how to find the next two as well as how the economics will work...
     
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  2. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    I just interviewed a developer from Pakistan. He's late 30's or early 40's. He is over qualified for the task. He has a background in programming whereas the task requires someone to operate (basically) iMacros.

    He is unprofessional. He got offended that I asked him what his work hours were. He then asked me mine. He didn't realized that I was asking that to be able to manage the rest of the team -- they're all on different timezones.

    He isn't a team player. He's someone who works by himself. I don't know if he'll be able to train other people in the task (I need him to configure iMacros and then train operators on it). He'll have to provide it in writing as well as do the training.

    I get why he's a developer.

    I'm hoping he can configure iMacros. He wants $10/hour and I offered $5. It's a 40 hour/week job so I don't think he can actually work reliably for $5/hour while taking on projects on the side.

    I'll have to find out if he likes the job or not. After iMacros is done, it'll be data entry, not development.

    I might keep him on to update iMacros in the future.

    So, yeah, lets see how he does on his trial job. I still need 2 more data entry personnel to find!
     
  3. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    I spent 2 hours briefing the developer last night. I walked him through the situation, his mission, and the task.

    Today, I checked up on him. He's been working on it for 2 hours but got nothing done. He said he read the documentation. He had a problem with something and when I asked him about a point that the documentation covers (which solves the problem), he was clueless.

    My first instinct was to fire him. "Incompetent third world workers" was what I thought of.

    But, no. This thing has to be done and he has the time and the qualifications.

    So, I had him back brief me on what we're doing (basically, I asked "Tell me what the job is?"). He gave an OK back brief. I then had him back brief me on why we're doing it ("Why did I hire someone for this job?"). He said, basically, "its your business and you hired me to do it."

    He had no idea of the situation, the big picture, or his role in the operation.

    So, I re-explained to him the situation (he's to script iMacros for Web 2.0s, write the documentation and train data entry specialists to operate iMacros) and had him back brief me the situation again. He gave an OK back brief.

    I then had him screen cast me where he was in the trial task and walk him through the first objective (there's 20 in total).

    I get where he failed. He either didn't connect two dots or didn't know something that was outside of his field of expertise.

    Other than that, he could figure out how to get the job done.

    I then instructed him to do Objectives 1-5 and tell me when he's done. I'll inspect it and critique it and train him some more.

    Basically, Objectives 1-5 is to familiarize him with iMacros. Then, I have to teach him on-page SEO so that he can set up iMacros to create optimized Web 2.0's (Objective 6-10). Then, once that's all clear, he's off to do Objectives 11-20.

    Once the 20 are done, he has to script the 250 domains, write the instructions for a data-entry specialist on how to operate the program, and train the specialist(s).

    Basically, there's the briefing, then the crawl phase, then the walk phase, then the run phase. We just past the crawl phase. He knows how to script 1 web 2.0 with iMacros. Lets see him do it for 5. (Then w/ SEO in mind and finally lets see how it performs for a wide variety of sites).

    I'm happy that I was patient and worked with him. Firing him on the spot for that would have been detrimental to the mission: I probably wouldn't have been able to find someone in time to get the job done (2 weeks). He's also a bright guy, he just needs guidance. I'm also happy I had him back briefed me the mission and the situation: I wouldn't have figured out his limited understanding of the situation otherwise.
     
  4. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    ... aaaaaand the developer is fired.

    That was one useful trial task!

    He couldn't follow instructions, he's a poor communicator, and he was just greedy. He did a terrible job and was out to just get money. He doesn't have the client in mind.

    The trial was paid so I think I owe him like $64 max.

    I don't think he's gonna ask for the money (and get a so-so review on Freelancer). But I think he also liked the gesture.

    No way could he take responsibility for iMacros. He'd also would be unable to train other people.

    I have another interview in 2 hours. This guy is younger. I'm curious how he is.
     
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  5. Anaconda

    Anaconda Established Member

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    I agree with you that giving very precise instructions is paramount to success when employing VA's. You seem to have a fantastic system in place.

    I'd love to figure out iMacros for myself - just not got the sort of mind that clicks well with some tools.

    Sounds like things are moving along well for you. 200 domains and counting.

    I love how we come here and put the ideas up. I find it an excellent way to keep track of what I'm doing and just clarify in my own mind where I'm heading.

    I am an Island, I don't have other people who understand what I do. Great to come here and look at other peoples ideas and you've posted a lot of interesting stuff - so thanks @Bender Bending Rodríguez
     
  6. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    Force multiplication, in military usage, refers to an attribute or a combination of attributes that dramatically increases (hence "multiplies") the effectiveness of an item or group, giving a given number of troops (or other personnel) or weapons (or other hardware) the ability to accomplish greater things than without it. The expected size increase required to have the same effectiveness without that advantage is the multiplication factor. For example, if a certain technology like GPS enables a force to accomplish the same results of a force five times as large but without GPS, then the multiplier is five. Such estimates are used to justify an investment cost for force multipliers. A force multiplier refers to a factor . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_multiplication
    Here, the Force Multiplication Tool is the iMacros script. I know that a dedicated VA can do 20 Web 2.0's and Profiles in 1 hour. I have to find the rate of a VA with iMacros. That new rate divided by the old rate minus one would be the Force Multiplier.

    The list of 250 domains is pretty long. I'm having a hard time finding a developer who can do the task. For stuff like web 2.0's or profiles, its pretty straight forward. For some of the domains, they can't figure out how a link is dropped on it -- it's not obvious and they couldn't make the inductions and deductions to find out how.

    SO!

    I'm gonna do all my tasks this week and, next week, I'm gonna sit down and go through the 250 list myself. I found out that, for web 2.0's and profiles, a VA can do it after he/she is taught the how (VAs who can follow instructions are good at procedural knowledge as I've found out). For the non-obvious ones, I'll have to solve it myself and write the steps down for them.

    The list of 250 is actually overkill IMO. I'd rather have them do 200 easy web 2.0 and profiles and finish in 2 hours instead of take 4 hours to finish all 250 (or whatever the real numbers for this example ends up being).

    I'm already at ~$170 for the Force Multiplier so far. I think it'll end up being $500 in total. Since there will be 2 VAs working 40 hours/week on this, I'm pretty sure the $500 in development is a fraction of the value :)
     
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  7. Anaconda

    Anaconda Established Member

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    20 web 2.0's an hour - wow that's a lot.
     
  8. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    The target is 60/hour when iMacros is done and the VAs are trained. (Giving us a force multiplier of 3. The two VAs can then do the same amount of work as 6 VAs.)

    It'll eliminate a lot of steps since it can spin spintex, solve captchas, and fill in the forum with a password, username, location, email, etc.

    At 60/hour, it'll still take 4 hours to go through the 250 list. With 2 VAs, that's 20 sites/week.

    The current backlog is around 270 URLs which need these links. That's 13.5 weeks for these VAs... which would be just in time to start on Q3's link building.

    I don't think I can find a developer to do the work, so I'm finishing stuff this week or assigning it to other people so, next week, I can do it.

    Basically, the web 2.0's are straight forward: the site will walk the user through the steps on how to drop a link. The profiles are straight forward too: the user just needs to register and go to "profile" and add the "website" or "homepage".

    There are some in the list that are not obvious. For those, I'll need to provide instructions to the VAs.

    So, yeah, next week, I'll have to go through the 250 list, classify sites, and write instructions for the non-obvious ones.
     
  9. Wazza

    Wazza Active Member

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    Doesn't GSA SER create Web2.0 profiles?
     
  10. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    You're talking about SEREngine ( http://serengines.com/engines-we-support/ )?

    It only supports 28 web 2.0 domains and 22 profiles.

    The list I've made is 250 and, since it isn't automated, I'm sure not a lot of people are hitting up these sites (or ever will).
     
  11. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    I think he's referring to GSA. It supports quite a few platforms but I'm guessing it won't get close to hitting all of the ones on your list, and I think the approach of targeting 2.0s that no other tool is targeting is really good.
     
  12. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    OMG hiring people is so stressful.

    One of the developers I interviewed last week was not fit for the job but he seemed motivated to work; so, I contacted him today about an outreach job I have.

    He says he has a team (lol what?) who can do it.

    That's a no-go. I'm not delegating the work to him who will delegate the work to someone else. He'll have no accountability for the project; so, if it goes to shit, I'd just waste 2 weeks and whatever money I spent.

    He then tells me his wife can do it. I said OK, refer your wife.

    She says she can work 4 hours/day. If she performs at the same rate as the regular Outreach dude, that's 2 weeks to finish this job.

    I give her the trial job and motherfucker husband told her to tell me that we need a dedicated mail server.

    Fucking idiot didn't understand that the trial job is just that, the trial job.

    I told her that its only 50 email. No spam thresholds would be reached.

    She's doing the task tomorrow and I'll evaluate it tomorrow.

    Hourly rate hasn't been discussed yet.

    The operation stats Monday. So, it'll be best to have everything prepared this weekend, approve her for Outreach, and begin it Monday.
     
  13. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    I've found for hiring for tasks like this you'll run into 20 bad people for every good person and 5 good people for every exceptional person. It's a far better approach to just standardize the test and be fairly brutal in how you evaluate people. You'll eventually find that one person who goes above and beyond and you'll be laughing at how you almost considered that one iffy candidate that one time when compared to this exceptional candidate.

    Although if you are only doing this one time then the upfront cost of looking at 50 people might not be worth it for the amount of work they'll actually be doing... but if you plan on paying someone for a long period of time I think it's better to take your time, consider a lot of candidates and make sure you have someone you can completely count on.
     
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  14. Anaconda

    Anaconda Established Member

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    I think I've misunderstood. So your list of 250 sites are web 2.0 sites or they are websites you own?
     
  15. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    The list of 250 sites are web 2.0's, profiles, forums, etc. They're basically big sites where one can get a link if they register an account.

    If you know KnowEm, it's sorta like that except these sites are all dofollow and none of these sites block profiles in the robots.txt (a lot of profiles are blocked by robots.txt... and people still sell them on Fiverr LOL).

    At a 60 domains/hour, that's $.05/link or $12/target URL. Great economics IMO.

    The best part of having specialists trained on this link building is that, every month, I find more of these type of links. They'll be experts in this type of link building, which will free me to do more valuable things.
     
  16. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    I was reviewing my calendar for last week last night and realized that, as the leader of my company, I must spend time improving myself.

    So, I re-did this week's calendar so that I have at least 9 hours/week to study. I've learned a lot from Buffet already and that was just from watching 1 documentary and reading 1/2 of an essay he wrote. I've also learned a lot from the current Army Manual I'm reading.

    Actually, I've been meaning to share this. I've been reading FM 3-21.8, the Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad Field Manual (http://armyrotc.msu.edu/resources/FM3-21InfantryRifleSQPL.pdf). It contains great leadership advice as well as organizational advice. Here's some points I've learned:
    • When evaluating people, evaluate their capabilities. Use a "stress test" to determine where they are at. In the example that's use in the manual, they were talking about coming into contact with an enemy and sending a small unit to "investigate by fire" to determine the enemy's size, mission, and capabilities as well as what the leader should do in response. I've taken this to investigate what an employee is capable of by asking them open ended questions, asking them to solve problems, and having them walk me through their tasks. Its actually great. I know the new VA I hired can not solve technical issues (I asked her one and she was pretty stumped) but I know she's super visual and can follow directions. I can write the exact steps and I know she'll follow them exactly. She's capable of following directions to the T, which is awesome.
    • A problem is when there's a course of action that leads to a negative consequence. A dilemma is when there are two courses of actions that both leads to negative consequences. The infantry leader needs to create dilemmas for the enemy. The enemy leader would then be forced to choose one of the two bad choices or spend time evaluating the situation, which gives the friendly leader time to exploit the situation. The example used in the manual was when an infantry platoon runs into another infantry platoon. If the friendly platoon uses small arms fire (a problem), the enemy platoon would take cover and return fire (the solution). If the friendly platoon calls in artillery (problem), the enemy platoon can run into cover, such as trees, and solve that problem. However, if the friendly platoon sends small arms fire and calls in artillery at the same time, the enemy leader would be forced into a dilemma: 1.) he can take cover (such as behind a rock) to protect his unit from the small arms fire but that exposes them to the artillery fire 2.) He can run to cover (such as into the trees) to protect himself from the artillery but he'll be exposed to the small arms fire during the run. If he stays there and thinks about it, he'll be SOL since there's artillery fire and small arms. He'll be forced to choose one of the two bad course of actions, which will give the friendly unit an upper hand. The manual also talks about compound effect, which is shown here as the compound effect of artillery and small arms fire.

      How do I implement this? I don't know but I think that's very, very smart. In the business world, the action is not as dynamic and real time as a modern battle field, but I'm sure creating dilemmas for competitors would be a great thing.

      So, lets say there are two property management companies. One of them can lower their management fee as well as advertise their lower rates. The other company would be: 1.) forced to lower their fee too just to compete. If they do so (and if they didn't have the economics to do this), they'll be in a bad situation economically. 2.) counter the ad with a different USP. If they didn't have the economics for an ad, they'll be a little bit worse off, especially if they lose customers.... OK this was a so-so example.

      Hmm... Let me think of another one...

      Hmm.. actually, I don't think this theory would apply to business that much since there will also be time to think. I think the most that can be taken out of this theory is to use complementary effects to increase the effectiveness of an action. So, with my iMacros script, I'm increasing the backlink count of my site with 1.) more employees 2.) semi-automation 3.) good economics ($3/hour VAs). The 3 together will give me an advantage over the competition since I'm 100% sure they can't get 250 backlinks for $12 in 4 hours.
    • Leadership by Example - the infantry leader leads by personal example. He can't force others to do something that he himself won't do. After learning about Buffet, I see this quality in Buffet as well. I think this is something that's true in all good leaders (and a manager is a leader).
    That's it for now. I gotta go to work!
     
  17. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    I get what's meant by creating a dilemma for the enemy using combined effects now.

    Lets say you are starting a SaaS and you have 2 competitors. If they're a legit website, they'll include an About Us with their team. Lets say 1 has a team and the other is a solo entrepreneur. Lets also say, from the backlink profile of the team, you can tell that the SEO head subscribes to the Moz mentality of building links by good content and outreach. They have a team of 4. The solo entrepreneur buys links from BHW and uses PBNs.

    You can use combined effect to create a dilemma for both competitors.

    I actually can't post how this is done but, basically, you combine different link building operations together at the same time. The competitors would have to 1.) sit down and think how to respond (which gives you a lead in link building) 2.) allocate resources to match your link building (hard for the solo entrepreneur, OK for the team but that will stretch them) and 3.) do nothing and lose in the SERPs.

    This is SEO, so it's not as real time as a battle field, so I'd say it'll happen be a month from when links are built to when Majestic picks up on the links to when Google starts adjusting its algorithm. Then it'll be 2-3 months for the competitors to develop a course of action. By that time, your operation should have ended and you're planning your next operation.
     
  18. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    Holy shit.

    Last week, I interviewed a developer. He didn't want to do the job and said he'll do LAMP scripts. He seemed hard working and was evoking sympathy (he is from a poor country).

    I contacted him for outreach work and he referred me to his wife.

    His wife was willing to work but he kept on telling her to plug in his development work. He told her to tell me about a custom mail server or a mass mailing script. It was quite annoying.

    I gave her the trial task on Saturday and, on Sunday, I didn't hear anything. I then started the operation without her. 2 other VAs got the job.

    Today, he tells me they couldn't do it because they had the wrong email address. I told him the job was already given away and then blocked him. He then begins to forward me all the emails they did for the trial task.

    Looking back, she was an OK VA. It was her husband that was annoying as hell and who ruined her employability.

    He was only willing to do LAMP work, didn't realize that there are like 4 linux guys at the company already, and didn't understand the full scope of the operation (it didn't need his services and he was just being an annoyance).

    I actually feel sorry for her since her husband ruined her chance at getting the job.

    Yeah, I'm not working with him: he was out to sell his services instead of assisting in the operation. He didn't comprehend that he was given a limited scope. He was actually very dumb.

    I also learned that people who are seeking empathy should never be hired. Business is not welfare and those people know exactly what they're doing. They want employers to feel sorry for them and then try to get as much money out of them as possible. That was exactly what he was doing and that was what some other freelancers were communicating from their profile ("feel sorry for me rich person from developed nation! hire me to help me out!"). Wow, those people are terrible.

    Thank god that story is over.

    So far, people should be hired because of:
    workability - are they easy to work with and do they understand the mission?
    capability - are they able to do the job?

    People should never be hired out of sympathy. People should also never be hired out of likability.

    My 2 VAs are booked with this one operation, which pushes everything else back. I'm looking for another VA -- I might need a 3rd VA for future operations. It'll be nice to qualify a 3rd worker.
     
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  19. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    Just did another interview.

    This guy couldn't make it past the skype chat.

    He couldn't write in complete sentences and just came off extremely unprofessional. He's from SE Asian and I know they type as if they're on T9 a lot there, but that's not acceptable for a job interview.

    Seriously, his reply was "yes; but i am sorry pls let me know jd".

    It seems like he's in a rush. From his reviews, I was expecting this too, actually. Other reviewers said he was unprofessional, overstated his qualifications, and did a poor job. Some reviews said he did a good job. So, IMO, he'll take on any job and rush though it. If he can do it, the client was lucky. If he can't, it'll be a long dispute process.

    I told him to write in complete sentences. He replied in a poorly structured sentence. From that, I knew he couldn't do outreach or anything that involves English -- good to let me know buddy!

    I then asked him if he was in front of a computer and then he blocked me.

    He wasn't a serious applicant. He is always in a rush and doesn't have a long term mentality. He isn't professional. He'll probably screw up a job sooner or later and disappear. I'm glad he blocked me.

    EDIT: I get the feeling that he is very short sighted and narrow minded.
     
  20. Bender Bending Rodríguez

    Bender Bending Rodríguez Senior Member

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    It is my conclusion that most people are hard workers and want to do a good job. They just need the right training and leadership. When they have those two, they excel.