Aderson Oliveira: This is an interview I have recorded with David Poindexter. He is the CEO of nvisionative.com. We have spoken about his experience of outsourcing. It was more of a loose type of conversation, no major topic underneath outsourcing. But, his experience about outsourcing, his perspective, tips and tricks of things that he does whenever they need to outsource work, and we have also done something fun, which was role play. I put ourselves in a situation, kind of a hard situation that we had to deal with the scenario. So, have a look, check it out. This is the interview.
Hello, hello! Aderson Oliveira here. This is another interview of OuchSourcing podcast, and today I have with me my good friend, David Poindexter from nvisionative. David, thank you very much for being here.
David Poindexter: Aderson, thank you so much. I enjoy, always, talking with you.
Aderson: Perfect. You are my number one guinea pig. We’re going to be doing some experiments today.
David: Oh, yes!
Aderson: Just introduce yourself. Talk a little bit about nvisionative. What do you guys do there?
David: Sure. I’m the CEO of nvisonative and we are located in Morrisville, North Carolina, just north of Charlotte, North Carolina area. We’re in Race City USA, so if you like NASCAR racing, we’re right in a heart of it here. Me, I’m not so much a fan, but you kind of have to be part of it when you’re here.
We are really a full-service creative marketing agency. So, we do things like branding, corporate IT, advertising campaign kind of stuff. But, we also have strong technical side of the business as well: everything from website development to mobile app development to application development just in general, pretty much any technical thing that needs to be done. We like there to be a marketing kind of purpose behind that technical work. We tend to work better that way. We always talk about the architect-engineer problem that happens a lot in agency world where you have outsourcing. You’re outsourcing to a tech firm or whatever. The architect is the agency wanting to look pretty and be effective in all that. The engineer is sitting there going, "Yeah, but if you build that, it’s going to fall." So, we like to pride ourselves on connecting the dots between those two different kinds of perspectives there.
Aderson: Got it. Usually, I like to make those interviews about one particular area of outsourcing, but today, I just decided that we can have an open conversation here about outsourcing, about how you outsource, what you outsource, your understanding outsource. So, let’s start there. If I ask 10 people there what do they understand about outsourcing, when we talk about outsourcing, most likely you’re going to have 10 slightly different answers there. So, I want to start with your perspective on outsourcing. What do you understand about what is outsourcing?
David: What’s outsourcing? I’ve never heard of that phrase before, Aderson. Just kidding. Outsourcing, to me, it means several different things. I guess there's really two main perspectives for us is, one, we outsource certain types of projects to a provider of that service. That’s very valuable to us because certain skills we won’t necessarily have in house or we have too much or too little bandwidth fulfill that client need, so we’ll outsource.
So there’s that, but then there’s also we play the role of an outsource provider. Another agency may not be able to do mobile app development, for instance. We can do that very well. We can partner with them and supply that service to their client. There’s all sorts of sub understandings of both of those perspectives but, I mean, just in general that’s what it means to me.
Aderson: Got it. It’s interesting that you’re angled there. I'm kind of going to repeat what you said in different words. The angle that you’re bringing to the table is that we outsource a piece of a bigger project. It might be us outsourcing that to somebody else, to another organization or us being the outsourcing provider for someone else out there that may have split their project into smaller pieces and may give that smaller piece to you as well. Is that correct? Do you understand that?
David: Absolutely. We operated in both of those worlds.
Aderson: I truly like think of outsourcing on a bigger picture, in the sense that. I think that this is very broad, but that’s how I think about outsource. Whenever I provide a service to another business, that business is outsourcing that piece of thing. Maybe it’s a website, maybe it's support, maybe it's mobile development. But they are saying, "Hey, I don’t want to do that internally. I’m going to ask those guys to do it." So, they are outsourcing.
It might be nearshoring like it’s in the same city, it's in the same country or it might be offshoring as well, which we’re talking about overseas here, in other countries. Personally, I think this is very much a personal opinion here. I like to think about outsourcing a little bit in looser terms, but let me stick to your definition there: split the project into smaller pieces. When we say outsourcing, do you have more have a positive or negative relationship with that word?
David: I think both really. It comes down to the individuals or companies that you’re working with and your experiences. It kind of comes back to the human experience, right? Not so much whether it’s outsourcing or not outsourcing or in house versus overseas, whatever, or local. It’s really about the people and how we interact as to whether or not that experience really works.
Aderson: Okay, so what is it that you outsource? What kind of types of work? Is that mobile development? What is it that you outsource, that you have outsourced, actually?
David: I think it varies really just based on what skills we have in house and don’t have in house, and then also what our availability to fulfill a particular project. We found ourselves outsourcing whenever we need to scale up for a larger project or something. We’re a fairly small boutique agency, so when a large client project or multiple projects come at the same time or whatever, sometimes we need to augment our services. So, that maybe everything from something simple as web development. A lot of times it's programming because we don’t have a ton of developers, so a lot of times, we'll augment that through outsourcing.
Aderson: Got it. So that brings me to why -- you mentioned that throughout what we have been talking, but you outsource because of cost, experience, expertise, timing, or maybe a mix of everything there?
David: I think it’s a little bit of a mix of everything. Sometimes, we need something very specialized. Like for instance, if we're doing a great website for a client and they have products, for instance, and we’re building out an e-commerce store for them where they need great product photography but they don’t have it. I can shoot a picture of product but you don’t want me doing that. It’s not going to be the best outcome.
So, that is a great example where it depends on what the product is as to what particular supplier we would actually go to for that, because we want the best and for the price point that we need for the client engagement as well. Sometimes it’s just that specialized skill. If it’s food, you want to go to a food photographer and get that food shot really well for working for a restaurant, for instance. If we’re working with somebody that creates widgets, we want to go just a general product photography kind of place instead of a food specialist. There are photographers out there that just shoot hands, what hands do and stuff. Sometimes, it’s that specialized skill. Sometimes, it's cost as well, cost availability.
Aderson: You said your experiences vary between provider and another one. You have good experiences, I guess, bad experiences. So, how do you go about selecting, picking this provider or that one? How do you go about selecting that?
David: That’s a good question. I mean, it really kind of comes down to integrity for us and dependability of that provider. We do tend to gravitate towards working with companies rather than individuals. That’s not always the case. It really just kind of comes down to the relationship, a working model, pricing-wise, so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time that there’s an engagement. We’re pretty big on setting a model for that particular provider. They tell us what their pricing model is and if it’s something that we can easily implement without their involvement or with very little involvement, that’s even better. Because, that way, we can just go ahead and seal the deal and engage with them. We don’t have to spend too much time on the sales cycle.
Aderson: Got it. It’s when you say that you prefer to go the agent route, or the company route because, for some reasons, I have the tendency, and we have the tendency of going more the freelancing route instead of the company route. I have my reasons for that. Sometimes I think when we go to a company that the individual under that company always have other priorities and other things. You can say the same thing about freelancers. Again, that’s just my take. I like the single professional type of thing and I see that you go about more of the company approach.
David: I think that tendency probably comes with the scalability and the size of projects that we do. An individual can do whatever an individual can do, whereas a team of people that are doing the same type of thing can handle larger opportunities or multiple opportunities at a time without us having to work a different way and try to manage a bunch of individuals working on a same project. But, I see the value in working with individuals, especially on smaller projects where you can really -- not necessarily small projects, but when there’s a piece of the project that can easily be sectioned off and handled by an individual. In the end, it’s really just kind of about the relationship and how that works and how we communicate, and set expectations for clients, and meet those expectations.
Aderson: I get it. As a follow up, I assume that at this point you have a bit of a roster of different people, different companies that you go for when you are looking for this expertise, or photographers. Hand photographer must be a very niche type of scenario. But, my question is this, are you geared towards the local outsourcing organization, the local contractor, the local freelancer, or do you also do things offshore, from other places? Tell me a little bit about that.
David: We don’t really necessarily try to go for local unless the client is local, then there’s a real benefit to that. But, a lot of our clientele is not local, so it doesn’t really matter in the end. We’re working in a distributed fashion anyways. As far as experience with offshore, I’ve had mixed experiences. I’ve had some very bad experiences and some not as bad. I haven’t had really great experiences yet. I've had some that were adequate.
I don’t think that it’s really fair, though, to kind of talk about that in that way because it paints a bad light on offshoring. I think it can work. I think that we have just not found the right match for us in that regard. For us, it's comes back to communication and understanding each other. Sometimes, it's cultural differences, or language barriers, or things like that. We've even tried with kind of a middle person that's supposed to understand both very well and try to translate that, but that hasn’t worked out very well for us either. I just think that it's because we haven't had the right match yet.
I’ll go into the development world, right? That’s kind of a common angle for that because of the cause of doing offshore development is a fraction as far the rate goes. I think in the end, you may end up spending about the same unless you have a really good match. In that world, the offshoring companies seem to all be able to do everything, or at least that’s their message. When it comes down to it, we have not experienced that. They have great websites, they have great marketing speak or messaging, but when it gets down to it, they’re really just beginners in a lot of those areas for the experiences we’ve had.
So, that’s a little frustrating to be told that you’re an expert and then you find out later, they’re really not, not even really a good match for the project because we needed that base understanding that they just didn’t have. So, honesty and integrity, sometimes I think it’s innocent, but we haven’t had a great experience.
Aderson: I find it hard to work with an organization when they say that they can do anything under the sun. They list all different kinds of technology that are just disjointed, they have to do with one another, and they can do anything under the sun.
I want to get back to one point you made earlier. You said you even tried outsourcing offshore with someone that knew local culture and their culture as well. Just a few years ago, I did that a lot because I used to outsource a lot to Brazil. I'm Brazilian, so I used to outsource a lot to them because it's a culture that I can understand, it's a place that I can pick up the phone and I can scream at them in their language. Not that I'll be doing that. Actually, I never did that. But, I just wanted to be confident that I can pick up the phone and talk to someone on the other side with ease that would not be struggling with the language.
Then, what I thought is that, "Hey, you know what? The reason why some people fail with outsourcing or offshoring is because they don't have what I call ambassador." An ambassador is someone that knows the local culture and knows their culture as well and can become the bridge between those two cultures. I'm a firm believer at that, that you have to have that type of individual. It might be an individual that’s sitting on the outsourcing organization. They may have spent years and years in North America or whatever it is and they have a good hang of the culture of how things flow, and how people communicate, and they can be that bridge. But, I truly agree with you on that sense that you need to have that piece, that ambassador that knows both, that can facilitate communication. That’s really it.
David: Absolutely. I think that model can work. We just haven’t found the right match. I believe that. Otherwise, especially if you’re talking about real diverse culture kind of perspectives, that makes it very difficult. Sometimes, the smallest phrase can just not mean anything or it could mean something. Especially if the culture is one that the answer is always, "Yes, we can do that." That’s one of the things that we ran into, "Yes, we can do that," but they didn't really understand what they were saying yes to when it came down to the end. I like somebody that says, "I can't do that," or, "We could do that but it will require this." I like that transparency. I don’t need to be told yes all the time because that makes me feel like we’re not being honest. But, that’s a cultural thing.
Aderson: And again, at the end of the day, project will be delayed and you just have no frustration from both sides. What’s the point? Talking about frustrations. Let’s talk a little bit more about it. I’d like to see if you have any horror stories, off the top of your head. Of course, not naming organizations or anything --
David: I worked with this company called DeskPub. I’m just kidding.
Aderson: Who’s that company? Actually, that would be an interesting one. But, in any case, any horror stories aside from double charge? Well, that’s just an internal joke. People that are watching this will not understand, but sorry, that's just an internal joke. Aside from double charging by a provider -- I guess let’s explain it. DeskPub provides some service to David, and just about a month ago, we double charged him. We had a problem, so we came to terms, and that was addressed, but we had a problem. In any case, aside from that, any horror stories that you’d like to share with us?
David: I have one recently, Aderson. I’ve got in ebbs and flows with outsourcing certain areas of work, especially more complex projects that require -- I usually play them role of kind of the architect when it comes to the technical side of things and then I try to say what each developer's going to be working on and then manage it, kind of like a tech lead, architect-type role.
I was speaking with this company that I had met recently at a conference. We had a great conversation on the call and it felt like a really good match. Ultimately, by the way, it is a good match. We had some misunderstandings, but we’re on the call and we ultimately get to the conversation about pricing. To me, I respect you as a business person, you tell me what your price is and then we’ll figure out if that works for us or if it doesn’t.
I don’t negotiate pricing with vendors. Maybe in a very rare situation where we’ve got a client that is really needing something and we have agreed to do something at a certain level and we have kind of shot ourselves on the foot or something. If we have an ongoing relationship with a particular provider, sometimes I would go back and say, "Listen, this is a situation. You may not be interested in this, you might be interested in this. We have committed to something probably we shouldn’t have committed to. Are you interested in working with us?" and then they can decide at that point. But, aside from that, my mode of operation is not to negotiate pricing. I respect you as a businessperson and you have your own pricing model.
So, we're on this introductory call and we get into the pricing, and I have a fairly good memory when it comes to numbers and things like that, and they mention what their pricing was, and I was kind of shocked at how good it was. So, I was like, "Okay, let me make sure I understood you correctly. Did I hear you say X per hour?" and he said, "Oh yes, yes, we can do this because this and this and this." I was like, "Hmm, okay. Well, I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer at this point for me," so I'm excited. I'm like, "Okay, this really helps our business big time because these people really know what they're doing, they're experts." I knew they had, then, in this particular technical world for a while and I said, "Wow, this could really work out."
We go off the call and I'm like dreaming up all these projects that we could do now because we could really afford to do it and it really made sense from a business standpoint. So, I come back with the first opportunity and I said, "Before we engage in this, would you mind just sending me an email to reiterate the pricing? I know what you said and all that."
Aderson: If I may stop you for a second. Is that a local organization, or remote team, or offshoring?
David: Offshore. It's offshore. So, I got the email. Well, the pricing was double what they said on the call, and I said, "Okay, did I misunderstand, because I heard this? I even asked you again is that really what it is, and I was surprised, pleasantly, at the pricing, and you agreed, but now you're saying it's almost double?" One dollar short of double. So, I was like, "Okay, did I misunderstand?"
Then, we got into, I guess, a cultural kind of difference, whatever. They wouldn't answer that I had misunderstood. I guess they didn't want to offend me because I was literally wanting to know if I misunderstood. Because, if I misunderstood, then no problem. I mean, it really wasn't that bad of pricing. It was more of, "Where did I miss this?" because this is not like just a few dollars off. It was double.
We went back and forth, and long story short, I think they felt like I was negotiating with them, but I was like, "But, you told me not once, but three times on the call a different rate than what you're telling me now." So, that started the, from my perspective, relationship off wrong because -- and I didn't misunderstand. I heard exactly what I heard and they changed their mind because they saw opportunity.
Aderson: Got it. So, let me ask you this. What should they have done to keep their higher price but to make good amendments with you? What would you expect, if it was a mistake, or whatever it is, but what would you have expected to make amendments there?
David: That's a good question, but it's kind of a loaded question. It's one of those that it really kind of depends on how they operate. I mean, first of all, they should not have stated the rate to start with that was wrong. If they do say that it -- you could say, "I'm sorry, I misspoke."
Aderson: Own it, own it.
David: Yeah, exactly. "I did tell you that rate and I was thinking about X when I did that, and really, we didn't understand what you needed." They could have positioned that something like that and it would have been fine because that would have been owning the situation. But, just outright saying it was double, it put a bad taste in my mouth and it put us into a situation where -- either one of us was at fault, but it kind of felt like it was being negotiated. I said, "I'm not trying to negotiate," because they came back and they said, "Well, the lowest we can do is this," and I'm like, "But, I'm not asking you to change your pricing. I'm asking for clarification what was stated versus what you're saying now." It's turning out well but it started off wrong.
Aderson: I get it. Anything else on that bad experience?
David: No, that was a pretty simple one, but it can happen. So, if you are providing a service for somebody or if you're asking for somebody, don't commit to something before you've thought it through. If they want to offer different pricing or anything like that for different situations, that's fine, that's their prerogative. We don't do that. We treat everybody pretty much the same and that's just kind of our model. But, if you want to do that, you don't have to commit to anything until you're ready to commit to something.
Patience is important in business to listen and then evaluate and then decide what you're going to commit to, and then if you do commit to it, stick to it. Integrity is very important.
Aderson: Got it. Even if you have to take a cut there. But, I guess, in the longer run, you're going to reap the benefits of being in a strong relationship.
David: Yeah, if I messed up like that and I realized that I really misspoke, I'd say, "You know what? The first project, I'm going to honor that and I've come to a realization we can't do that en masse." and we'll do that for the first project and honor that.
Aderson: Got it. Okay, so I have an experiment to do here. Here's what I'd like to try, and I don't know if this will work, but let's see. I would like to do a bit of a role play here. You are your own organization; you're David from nvisionative. But, I'm a provider of mobile development services to yourself. Then, there is this client that you close a project, and there is a mobile development part of that bigger project. You say, "Hey Aderson, take that piece. Do you want to do it?" I'll accept. But now, the project is late. The mobile development has not been delivered, and now you have to give me a call and understand what's going on.
So, I would like you to play that role, and I will play the provider role and see how we -- and go for real. Try to be as real as possible. I'm going to try to be as real as I would be on my own organization. I'm not going to be a slippery slope. I'm just going to try to be myself as I put myself in the shoes of that person in that situation. So, give me that call.
David: Okay, so for clarification, we have filled in delivering what you need on the time?
Aderson: Actually, you have outsourced a project, a mobile development to us. So, we are providing you a mobile development service that you subcontracted for a major project that you have with a client.
David: Got you.
Aderson: So, you're going to be calling me and saying, "Hey, what's happening?"
David: Ring, ring.
Aderson: Hello, Aderson Oliveira here.
David: Hey, Aderson, this is David over at nvisionative. I wanted to do a touch point here on this project that we have going on for client X. I may have misunderstood what we agreed to, but do you remember the project plan that we developed together and that we signed off on, and you signed off on, and then I delivered that to you. Do you remember us doing that? It was a few weeks ago, but do you remember that?
Aderson: Yeah, let me just look here through my emails. Yes, I see it. I see something here. Was it to be ready a week ago. Is that correct?
David: Yeah, I mean, I want to make sure we're looking at the right document. Are you looking at the Gantt chart that we put together for that project timeline there. Do you see the dates on it?
Aderson: Yeah, and I gave that to my lead developer and he was supposed to be following that. So, you're telling me that he didn't deliver yet that mobile app?
David: We do have a daily stand-up meeting with him. But, last Friday was supposed to be the day and we did not have a meeting on Friday morning because that was the date of delivery, and we have not heard from him, and we've sent several emails since then. We're now on Tuesday and our client is a little frustrated. So, we're trying to backpedal here and understand what's going on and if we need to reset expectations or not.
Aderson: Got it. So, David, here's what is happening. John has been sick for the past few days, so I wasn't aware of that deadline. It wasn't top of mind. He went away for two days already. We haven't heard much from him aside that he's trying to recover himself. So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give him a call and find out where things are, see if anybody else may have an update on that. But, yeah, I'm going to get on top of that, get back to you as quickly as possible and hopefully give me two or three days to get things back on track, please.
David: Well, listen, we're sorry to hear that he's dealing with some sickness. He's been doing a great job. It's just that we committed this and now this looks bad on us. I know you have to do what you have to do. I don't know if this can be transitioned, if we can kind of make up for the time, but I think he was really close to getting across the finish line. So, I tell you what, why don't you do that. Is there a way that you can get back to me with just a general idea like today so that I can actually get over to kind of remessage things with the client and reset expectations?
Aderson: We're going to do it all hands on deck in the next 10 minutes, and then you're going to see the other team members are going to sort things out, and yes, I'm going to get back to you within the next half an hour or so with an update, and hopefully, we can get across to the final line within a day or so. I think that that would be reasonable to get the other team members up to speed. Again, I'm terribly sorry. Again, full ownership here. It's really on us. Nothing wrong with what's going on in terms of communication. We knew what needed to be done, we failed there. Again, I'm not trying to give an excuse here, but I'm just owning things up here, and let's make this right and let's cross the finish line here.
David: Well, let's do this. Since we have disappointed a little bit on the client's side of things at this point, before I go back with a clear reset of expectations, let's make sure that whatever you commit to at this point, that we're really going to be able to do. I don't really want to be in a situation to have to kind of buffer the things and everything, kind of pull the wool over the clients, as I'd rather be direct and tell them exactly what's going on. I'm sure they'll understand a sickness situation. I think they would say to me, though, that we should have alerted them to that when we first knew so that they would not be expecting to receive it.
Aderson: Again, our fault here. I should have mentioned to you up front as soon as I knew that John was sick as soon as he communicated that. So, I should have communicated that, but I have so --
David: It happens. Not a problem. Listen, Aderson, I appreciate your time and everything. We're going to wait to hear back from you and I appreciate you handling it the way you're handling it. We really respect the relationship.
Aderson: Perfect. Thanks very much, David, and you're going to hear from me within an hour or so, bye.
David: Excellent. Thank you, Aderson.
Aderson: So, how was it? Should I have been nasty type of provider that, "You cannot wait just one more day? How come?" or did I do right by you?
David: Actually, Aderson, that's why we love working with you because you recognize what happens, you own up, and you've put a solution in place. You're not going to say, "Well, you didn't do this or you didn't do that," which may have been true. Maybe we messed up, maybe we did that, but you actually made me feel, as the client of yours, that you valued it and that you wanted to rectify the situation that, "Okay, yeah, we had a problem, let's fix it."
Aderson: Perfect. And next role play that I'll be doing with the next interviewee, I'll be nastier. I'll be the provider that wants to give excuses for everything, you know. So, not being a nice guy.
David: Do you have that in you, though, to do that?
Aderson: I do that. I can do bad. Like my daughter says, "I'm bad, I'm bad." That's about it. I think that we are coming to an end here. We are close to 40 minutes. I really like the role playing. It was really an experiment. Let's see how that will play out with someone that I don't know as much as I know yourself. Let's see. Anything else that you'd like to mention about outsourcing?
Actually, let me ask you this. When it comes to outsourcing, what is the one thing that you would say to someone that is looking to get some work outsourced to a third party? What would be one thing that you would recommend to them before they get started?
David: Yeah, I think having a clear definition of who you are, what you provide, and what is your model for working, what is your engagement process, and once you get engaged, how do you communicate? I know I just threw out a lot there, but if you can really define that and know who you are and how you prefer to work, you can always use that as a starting point to meet the needs of whoever you're providing to.
But, if a provider can provide that stuff to me up front, it puts me at ease because I know we have a model in place and we don't have to have these awkward conversations of how we're going to work on every single project. We can know what to expect.
Aderson: Got it. Actually, let me ask you one more before I let you go. What would you not outsource at all?
David: You stumped me.
Aderson: I'll give you some --
David: I know one. I would not outsource my accounting. What I mean by that, my daily bookkeeping.
David: I figured that one would get you, because I think we talked about --
Aderson: Yeah, that's interesting.
David: It's my books. Now, I would have somebody here. My point is I would do that in house. I would hire internally for that because it's so involved and the communication needs to be so tight there for what we're doing.
Aderson: Very good, very good. Last but not least, tell us where people can find you, and if they want more information about your services, your agency.
David: So, you can find us on the web at nvisionative.com, and that's spelled like this. You can also go to mobileapplify.com, which is a brand of ours that would do mobile app development for it, but it's the same company. You can reach me on Twitter, @davidpoindexter, and all the rest of the communication information is on the website.
Aderson: Perfect. David, thank you very much, thank you for taking a shot on the role play that we did, and I really appreciate your help, man.
David: Thank you, Aderson.
Aderson: Cheers, bye.