Aderson Oliveira: I've spoken with my longtime friend, Tiago Tavares from Brazil. He has a web design agency called TopDesignTeam.com and they provide outsourcing services to companies and organizations all over the globe. We have spoken about why Brazil should be an option when companies and organizations are thinking about outsourcing. What are the challenges? What are the benefits? How to address the challenges as well? Very, very good conversation. We went deep into why Brazil can be an outsourcing destination as well.
Hello, hello! Aderson Oliveira here. This another interview for the OuchSourcing Podcast and today I have with me my longtime friend, Tiago Tavares from Brazil. Welcome, Tiago.
Tiago: Hello there, Aderson. I'm very glad to be here talking to you, my friend.
Aderson: Very good, very good. How about you start by saying, what types of services do you provide? What is your organization providing to your clients?
Tiago: Okay. Well basically, our main work focus is on web Design, web Development, and site management in all its aspects to services. Basically, we provide our services on the CMS like WordPress, DNN, Business Catalyst from Adobe. We also worked with Joomla and Drupal but in a much smaller scale. We also graphic design when needed but it is a minor part of the work that we provide. Global design, folder, and publicity materials. Our major focus is design, but we also do some development on e-commerce, creation or some data collection forms, some real estate systems. Small stuff for small businesses most the time.
Aderson: Perfect. I'll just mention a little bit about the past that we have together. We have worked together for a few years. We have worked from 2007 to about 2010, 2011. I worked a lot with Tiago from a web design standpoint and that's really, really an aspect that he shines through. That's just a side note about my past with Tiago here.
Let me ask you this, Tiago. What's your usual client profile? What type of clients do you have? What type of clients outsource work for you and your organization?
Tiago: Okay. Most of our clients are small and medium size business. I personally do not like to work with big companies. Of course, I do work sometimes, but most of the time I work with small and medium-sized businesses for specific reasons. It's more like a strategy that I put forward because, let's say, if they have 20 clients, I am much less dependent if one or two of them go out, if one or two of them stopped being a client.
But, let's say if I work with big clients, I will not be able to work with such a scale. I would have maybe four or five big clients, and if one of them go out I would be in big trouble because, in a profit of values point of view, it keeps me more or less vulnerable in the case of the fluctuation of my current plan portfolio. Small and medium for a very good reason.
Aderson: Got it. I understand that. Perfect. I didn't mention it. I think we didn't mention it yet, but where are you located?
Tiago: Okay. I am located in an extremely hot place called Fortaleza Sierra. It’s in the northeast area of Brazil and we are here almost below the equator line, so a lot of sun.
Aderson: Perfect. Side note again, I'm from the same city originally as Tiago was. Let's talk a little bit about -- because a big component about outsourcing Tiago, I think it's about being able to communicate well, and I have worked a lot with Brazilian companies, with Brazilian freelancers, with Brazilian outsourcing providers and one of the challenges I would say, and I want to hear your opinion about that, is a bit about communication. I can speak Portuguese. That's fine, it's okay for me. It's not a problem for me. But then, when it comes to letting the outsourcing companies or the outsourcing professions who talk directly with clients, that used to be a bit of a problem because English is a bit of a barrier there. Talk to me a little bit about that problem. If you see that as a problem or not, talk to me a little bit about it.
Tiago: Yes. It is a big issue, it is a big problem, because we have several layers of communication. The easiest ones communicate by email or just by Skype chat or any sort of chat. These kinds of communications are, more or less, even that we have difficulties with it -- I'm not talking about me, but the persons that we bring to work with us. For this type of reason, I prefer to centralize all the communication. We have a person that has a lot of experience dealing in communication with clients. On this particular case, it's me. You will have a lot of trouble finding people that can have a conversation like we are doing right now with clients. It is an issue, but if you have someone that is kind of a product manager, it's not a problem. This person can translate everything that is there, communicate, and manage the product. If you would, let's say, you have a freelancer team of people or four people, at least one of them communicate well, it can make the whole team work perfectly, very nice. It is not an issue if someone does, but most of the time, you will not be able rely in your other partners, in your other web designers who are pursuing those communication processes. It's very uncommon.
Aderson: Okay, that's fine. Let's talk about something here that used to be -- not a big problem or big issue, but a few years back when we were working together, 10 years back, it used to be a minor problem, and we're talking about design, we're talking about web design, we're talking about visuals. It used to be a problem. There used to be some sort of cultural differences when you do a website, a web design for a Brazilian organization or a South American organization as compared to a North American organization or a European organization. Is that still an issue? Is the web design style from the different locations in the world different? Do you feel that?
Tiago: Well, this is a very interesting question, because in the past, we had a lot of differences like this, but in the last five to six years, those differences kind of merged with each other. Right now, they almost disappeared entirely. I am talking about, mostly, if we focus our attention in clients from Brazil, Canada, United States, and other countries from Latin America that I also provide work. Yes, in the past it was kind of an issue. There was a cultural difference. But, I think there's globalization of everything, of communication, of the processes, of the designs. It kind of makes everybody follow, more or less, the same trend. Because, in the end, the business, the web business, is a global thing. So it already has, on itself, a tendency to move towards a single point.
Tiago: No. In the past, yes. Right now, not anymore.
Aderson: Okay, that's good. Good to know those things. I guess that because of frameworks and standards, things got much easier on that side. Let me ask you this. If I ask you - and I'm going to ask you - I want you to sell Brazil as an outsourcing place. Why would people, why should people? Because, when you talk about outsourcing, we don't think right away at least not in North America, not in Europe. We don't think right away in Brazil. We don't think much in Brazil. We think about Philippines, and India, and Pakistan. But, we don't think about Brazil. So, why, in your opinion, should people consider outsourcing not only web design, but outsourcing, in general, to a country like Brazil? Sell me Brazil.
Tiago: Okay. Here in Brazil we have a great tradition in programming and in design. There is a lot of professionals like this, there is a lot of college and high-profile courses, and technical training that create a lot of excellent professionals here. Just to give you an example, here in Brazil, some years ago, you would find a lot of websites done with much greater quality than websites done in some European country. We have our, let's say, educational issues in other places but not on information technology. Brazil has a lot of very good material for this, a lot of professionals, and they all pursue their training and their knowledge in English. So, many of them can communicate reasonably well by email, by chat, and they read a lot of material in English because they need to study and expand their expertise. First, we have a lot of people. The second obvious reason is our currency is very much devaluated from the dollar. We have a situation of three to one for each dollar. One dollar by three of our currency now. The cost can be also good. The professionals are great. Well, that's it. Good professionals, good price.
Aderson: I'm going to give you one more for you to consider. I'm trying to sell Brazil a little bit here. What about time zone? Time zone is a very positive aspect of Brazil. Talk a little bit about that.
Tiago: The time zones are great because, if we consider the United States East Coast. We are basically in the same time frame. Canada also. Of course, not even clients from the United States are in a nice time frame. Let's say a guy from New York and a guy from California, they are very -- but, let's say, consider the United States and the whole American continent is East Coast, we are basically the same time frame. It's not the situation that have happened that's kind of crazy when we work with customers from Australia and New Zealand. That is a crazy time zone that makes it impossible sometimes to organize meetings. This is one of the advantages of course.
Aderson: Got it. Okay, great one. One of the points of this podcast, Tiago, which is called OuchSourcing, and ouch because it can be a pain to do outsourcing. People have bad experiences with outsourcing providers. Now, my question to you is how would you go about, and I'm not talking specifically about you and your team, but in general, how would you recommend that someone would go about testing a web design outsourcing company, an outsourcing professional? How would you recommend them to test and to see, "Hey, this is a good profession," or, "Hey, that company, they are not going a great job there"? How would you recommend people to go about evaluating a web design professional or company?
Tiago: The first thing that we should do is probably send a small task, a small job just to get a feeling of how they communicate, how they work, and if they can deliver what they promise in the correct deadline. This is the best method. This will allow the client to get a very nice feeling of the whole thing. One thing I would like to comment about outsourcing is that when you get -- because, we have bad companies and bad people that outsource. Most of the time, let's say, the official structure, let's say, a company, an established company versus outsource freelancing thing, both can get you a very bad job, and both can get you a very nice job.
Many clients come to me and rent me away from a company, a real company with an office, an established office, and many employees, but did an extremely poor job for them. So, it's more a thing of a bad experience. Many clients are basically running away from companies and prefer a more, let's say, personal touch and having a person that they can rely on and a person that they can communicate in a much more personal level.
Just to give you an example, there's a client that worked for me for more than six years. So, having that personal communication level. They know my name, I know their names. They always talk with me, they say, "Happy birthday," I know their birthday also, we can go and talk on Skype. They know that I'm always here. Of course, you will have bad freelancers, you will have bad professions in companies, because in the end, the big companies, or the major companies, or the freelancers, they are all web designers, web designers that worked there and web designers that worked outside those companies. So, if they do not do a good job, they will not do a good job in any situation. If they do a good job, they will do a good job in any case. That's it.
Aderson: What do you mean by good job? A good job is what? Is it a good design, is it about communication? What do you define as a good job?
Tiago: Well, the good job in the end, to be quite honest, is what the client expects to receive. Because, some clients will simply not - this is a more rare case - but some clients will not allow you to create for him a good design. He will make it impossible, totally impossible. He has a very specific image of what he wants. Most of the time, it is not best design practice. We suggest the best design practice. We insist in this best design practice, but he may not consider this and we'll be very happy to have it's not so good, let's say, this design that is not very nice, but it is exactly what he is looking for.
So, we need to suggest, we need to present him with a good design, but in the end, we need to deliver what he wants, even if it is not the best practice, but our responsibility here is suggest, recommend, and talk with him about it. Sometimes, he will not listen or will not even consider it. But, most of the times, they will, and they will get even better experience on what they imagine in the beginning of the process. So, deliver what they want.
There is also certain aspects about a good job also. One of those aspects, and most of the time, it is the most important, and it is communication and commitment. It is possible that we go in the situation that we need to go into several interactions in order to do changes, fix things, and change how the project is going on. That may take time. If your communication is good, your client will feel very safe. "Okay, this guy I sent him a message, he replied to me in the same day or in the next day. He's always communicating, he's always talking to me. When he says he will deliver in a specific date, he delivers in a specific date." This will provide to the client a comfort zone. He will feel much more safe even in projects that are very complicated, because as I work with outsource, of course, I deal with companies that basically provides services to other companies.
Let's say, I provide my web design service to a consulting agency that is creating a website for a small business. Sometimes, the end client is very complicated. If I keep my communication going on, if I keep delivering things in a specific date because, then my client that's not the end clients, he will understand. He will feel that my work is doing great. Even if the project is not going so well because of the end client, he's saying, "Okay, Tiago is doing a good job. He communicates. He is working hard, he is trying his best." So, he sees that, he feels safe, and he's trying to do the best for this complicated client.
Most of them see this as a quality, but some, if the project is not going well, even if it's the fault of the end client, of the final client, some clients do not see this as a quality, and this is a big problem for them, not for us, because he will have a lot of trouble in order to find people to work with him because the first time that he gets in a difficult situation, he will not be able to correctly value the work of the people that are doing the job around him. So, this is big trouble, and I saw a case, a funny report.
Aderson: I was about to ask you, do you have any horror stories, any story that you'd like to share that demonstrates a problem, and how you went around it, how you fixed that problem? Go ahead.
Tiago: This kind of ugly situation, thank God it happens only, let's say, once in a year, or once in two years, but from time to time, some very complicated person shows up. One case, it was not an international client. It was a client here from Brazil from the state of Piauí. This guy came to me. It was not design work for a website; it was design work for an online system that he was creating. He came to me and the first thing that he says in the mail, he found my contacts on LinkedIn, and saw my profile there and everything else, and he contacted me.
The first thing that he said was, "Wow, Tiago, I already tried to do this work with seven other web designers, and none of them did a good job," and I start to think to myself, "Oh my god, this will be a total disaster," but I do not refuse to answer. If they come to me, if I know how to do the job, I will accept, I will try hard, and never give up, as the tagline, never give up.
We start the project, and very soon, the issues start to appear, because the guy that came to me, he did not manage the project. His wife did, and what happened, his wife had not the technical expertise to understand minimally what I was doing even when I explained it, and it created a lot of issues with communication, and when you create a lot of issues on communication, for the reason that I said that communication is extremely, and maybe the most important value, because if the communication gets messed up, the whole thing will go to a very bad road.
I start to perform some changes that she sent to me in the design of the system, and I explained to her that the original code that they provided to us was a total mess, Aderson, the original code was, and I know why. Because, it was messed up by seven other people before me. So, I said to her, "Okay, it can be done, but the code is very, very messy. The changes that we would need to do here will take a long time because there is many things to fix, many things to adjust," and some changes were very difficult to perform.
We started this, and I start to send to her some changes, and basically, more or less, what she communicated. Well, what happened is, in the first design interaction, the first design interaction, I sent the design changes to her, and she did not reply back to me. The person who replied back to me was her husband already telling me why I did not do the changes like his wife asked for, and he appointed a meeting to complain about why I was not doing the design changes that his wife asked for in the first interaction.
So, I tried to explain, "Sorry, but I was dealing with your wife and I sent to her the changes. If they are not correct, please let me know where I did it, but I tried to do it based on her comments, and I can assume now that the thing did not go so well, but I need you to supply me with feedback. Feedback, for me, is very important. I need to know, just tell me, and I'll work on it ASAP, and let's move forward with it." Well, the project went on, and basically, every interaction went to a situation like that. Very complicated.
Aderson: So, let me ask you that. Was the problem there -- again, let's forget about blaming. Let's not blame this, blame the client. No, let's forget about that for a second. The problem was that, most likely, the individual, himself and his wife, they have gone so many times through bad experiences for various reasons that they were expecting you to deliver. I guess at every new experience they had, it built up inside of them, and it built up to, "Hey!" So, they got very defensive, correct? I mean, what's your take? What's your take on why they were like that?
Tiago: Of course, this plays a major, major role in their expectations. But, what I view, because some clients have very big trouble in communication. So, they have this issue, and I will be very honest. If I will not be in the position of a person that they hire to do a service, I would really talk with them in a more personal level, say, "Look, guys, you need to fix your communication. You are noticing that I am the eighth new -- after seven designers, I am the number eight, and you're still not getting the job done. Can you feel that, maybe, the problem is not with us, and maybe the problem is with you, and then how would you handle the situations and how you deal with the person?"
Because, some freelancers have a very bad habit -- I do not have this habit. When they get in a situation like this, with a very nasty and complicated client, they just run away. They just run away. Companies do this kind of thing also, but in a different way. They masquerade this, but they also run away. But, many freelancers, they run away. They get with a very complicated person, they run away. It was not my case. I went along with them until the end.
The end of the whole job was like this. The husband paid me, nevertheless, for the job. Even if it was not done, the wait was expected. The wife did not speak with me anymore, even though I was trying to get from her feedback. The thing is the difficulty of sending good feedback and explaining correctly what they want, you will notice others -- I was dealing with a local client, so no language barrier.
Aderson: No language barrier, no language problems there.
Tiago: What I learned from all these years is that the language, when you get, let's say, a sufficient amount of experience with it, if you deal with complicated clients, the language barrier will not be the problem. The problem is how the communication's done.
Aderson: I guess that, Tiago, at the end of the day, it seems to be about setting expectations, you know. And I try to do that a lot with our clients, as well, is that, "Hey, this is what you should expect." In your case, you should expect that, "I will require feedback from you. I will ask you what's your opinion about that." So, again, at the end, it boils down to communication.
Let's shift the conversation. You mentioned about the horror story there. Thank you for that. Let's shift the conversation a little bit here towards a different direction. So, so far, we have spoken about you as an outsourcing provider. You provide outsourcing services: web design, web developing services to companies. But, you also hire people, you also subcontract work. So, let's talk about -- let's put the hat now of someone that hires people that you outsource work to.
So, when you go and outsource and you work with some local people, what are the most common mistakes that you see your local guys that you work with that they do, and how do you go about fixing that?
Tiago: Well, locally, it's more of a cultural kind of issue. The people do the work well, they do the job well, but they have a big issue. It's cultural here in Brazil. Let's say they set the delivery date, and they always think that is kind of a flexible thing. I set a delivery date on Monday, but they think it's okay to deliver on Tuesday. So, I try to be very specific about that from the beginning.
Or, I use a smart method. I set the delivery date for Monday, but I set the delivery date for my end client for Wednesday. To be quite honest, I'm using this strategy a lot, because it released me from the pain to have bad conversation and keep the guy quiet, calm, and in total peace. So, I do that. It's a cultural thing. It's not because the guy is an irresponsible person, but he worked all his life like this.
Even in companies. I worked with companies here before I started working in my own business. The companies here also think like that, also work like that. When I worked in a company, everybody delivered the thing the next day. So, it's a cultural thing. It's not the guy. So, I adjust my time frame in there. I put the Australian time zone for me in order to help me out here. Really, the problem, these others, that was basically the big issue.
The second thing is because the professionals, they have very different expertise, so you need to try -- at least, I try a lot, I try to make the job to get the help from them in small pieces. Let's say, maybe, I will not ask him to do the whole design plus HTML CSS JScript plus the PHP for, let's say, for a worker. No, just do for me until the HTML CSS, I will take care of the rest.
So, I outsource, I get the guy to help me, he releases me a lot of hours. This is one thing that's very efficient. Of course, it's great to have a person that will take care of everything. But, most of the time, this is not possible. So, if you get the guy to do for you a major part of the job, take that. This is a very nice strategy. I think this is the two characteristics that I would like to highlight in this.
Aderson: Got it. I love it, I love it. Again, you were very honest there, you are not afraid of calling out some of the bad habits with Brazilians like us, like the punctuality. Not a problem for me, not a problem for you. I just want to highlight that. But, for everybody else.
Tiago: For everybody else.
Aderson: Now, let me ask you this. We're coming towards an end here, Tiago. So, if there is one thing about outsourcing specifically to Brazil in regards to web design as well, is there one thing that you love that people that have listened to this interview, to this conversation, if there's one thing they could leave here with and you would be happy about that, what would be your one thing here out of this conversation?
Tiago: Well, it's more like about the freelance, the outsource work. You can get a lot of benefits from it. You should try to find a team that can work very close with you that can become a real partner for you. If you try, you will find it, and you will notice, in the end, that you will save more money, and you will have a much more reliable person that can be much more flexible. Because, in the end, the freelancers, the outsourcers, they are much more flexible than a fixed real big company. They can do much more for you, and even go across --
I will talk about my own experience with this. I go very far on this flexibility thing, very far indeed, because I even go to the extent to, let's say, a partner comes to me, and he says, because web design, there is a lot of different platforms, different modules, different systems, different everything that needs to be done, that many people have a lot of, let's say, different needs of platforms sometimes that you've never heard about.
So, sometimes a client says, "I need you to create for me a website on this Gukachinga Monkey Congi platform." "What!? Where did you find this?" So, I try to show to the clients that, "No, you should try to use DNN, you should try to use WordPress, they are excellent platforms."
But, if it is not possible and even if I don't know the service, I will get to him and be very honest, "Look, I don't know. I've never worked before with this platform, but I will use my usual strategy. Other platforms work with HTML, with CSS, and they follow a certain logic. I can learn that for you and work with you as a partner on this project. I will charge you a lesser price, because for me, it will be nice because I will learn a new skill, you will get your job done, and you will also not pay too much for a job done from a person that has not experienced the exact experience on this. This is the kind of flexibility that I provide, this is the kind of flexibility that I'm willing to do. It works for me very nice in a way that will expand the kind of things that I can do," and be honest with the client at the same time.
This is the message that I have. Try to find a team, try to find a person to work with and transform this person into your partner, and he will be.
Aderson: Perfect. Very good message. Just to finalize, where can people find you? On the web? Tell me how people can reach out to you if they have design work, if they have more questions, if they have more -- how?
Tiago: Well, you can go to TopDesignTeam.com. It's basically my outsource team website, and you can also find me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is nice because we have there my clients' recommendations, and all my skills recommended and then stuff like that. You can search for Tiago Tavares there, and that's it. TopDesignTeam.com and online LinkedIn. Feel free to send me a message and let's talk.
Aderson: Perfect. Tiago, it was a really, really a big pleasure talking to you. As I said, you're a longtime friend, and we have worked together for many years, and it's great to see where you are with your career, with your business, with your life, and I'm very glad to have had this conversation with you. Thanks very much, my friend. Bye.
Tiago: Thank you.