Biggest mistake founders make with outsourcing

Last week I met with someone who told me a story about a lead engineer, husband and father of two who decided to become a truck driver. He eventually didn’t but was close to making the change that would have affected his family. Being a truck driver usually means being away from family for a long time. You’ve probably heard such stories as well.

I was born and worked in a country where the % of outsourcing companies is much higher than startup or product companies. Most tech professionals work for outsourcing companies and see the world through that lens.

Some founders treat overseas teams as ‘labor workers’, do not share their vision, and don’t allow them to make important decisions. I believe this is the biggest mistake when hiring outsourcing teams. Here are two reasons:

  • As a startup founder, you want a strong team that understands your vision and can execute it. A team needs to decide on many things on their own, so you can focus on sales, fundraising and other key activities of an early-stage company.
  • As a startup founder, you want your team to come to work with heads held high. If you tell your team you are only hired to do X, sooner or later they will stop trying to do anything more — even if they see it would improve the product. And sometime after this, they get demotivated because they realize the work they do is not important.

Creating a wall between US and overseas workers is damaging your business. These workers feel the same as minorities in the United States. Walls slow your growth on one side and turn engineers or managers into truck drivers on the other.

If the goal is to create a successful business, you should think about the whole team and create equal conditions for everyone. That will pay off in the long run.

Long-term values over short-term savings

I remember our “outsourcing team" was finishing a big feature late on Saturday. We were lucky because the founder of the business treated us almost as members of his family — he wanted to succeed with us.

We often worked long hours to get things and had a lot of fun doing so. We didn’t feel obligated, we wanted to help the founder and the many people who used the product. We celebrated every win together.

Eventually, this product made an 8-digit exit and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I’ve learned a lot and will celebrate 10 years of friendship with the founder in a few days.

Even if you’re a member of the outsourcing team, the least you can do is have fun doing your work. As PG from YC said in his essay: “The most dangerous way to lose time is not to spend it having fun, but to spend it doing fake work.”

I couldn’t agree more. You won’t ever create anything that will improve the lives of others if you don’t like what you do. And it does not matter if you build your own company or work for someone. You should always do your best.

That will change the trajectory of your life. Learn as you help others build their business (also the cheapest way!). You might need this knowledge one day to start your own startup.

Written by Andrew Orsich. Thanks to John McTavish for reading drafts of this.