Stature Software started using oDesk in August 2006, only three weeks after it formed. "I realized at the time that the future was with offshore developers," says partner Gregory Silvano. "My problem was that I didn’t know how to find good offshore developers. ... Once I saw oDesk, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for."
Three years later, Silvano's partnership with Joseph Patalano has grown, with no capital investment, into a business that earns $2 million a year. Relying almost entirely on remote providers, they're experts at managing online workteams — they have 20 oDesk providers and a smaller number of outside contractors — so we asked them for a buyer's perspective on provider relationships.
Q: You really emphasize long-term relationships with your providers, don't you?
A: "Once we find a provider, we typically keep that provider full-time forever. The second person I ever interviewed was Roman Trotsenko, who now has a dozen developers in his company working for Stature. Originally it was Roman as our developer, and we kept adding more and more to his team."
Q: Besides the specific technical skills, what do you look for when you're seeking a good provider?
A: "Creativity, reliability, English skills, responsiveness. I don’t want to give perfect specs every time. I want the developer to understand our clients’ business and really understand the problems they need to solve."
Q: What's a fatal mistake that providers commonly make, whether in their profiles or in initial communication with you?
A: "Lack of responsiveness is absolutely No. 1. It is probably the only fatal mistake they can make in my eyes. They can always get better at coding and better at the processes. But if they are unreliable, then they’re gone. I’d rather have an eager and responsive junior developer than an unresponsive expert."
Q: You've got providers all over the world. What are the tricks and advantages to building a widely dispersed workteam?
A: We have nearly 24 hour coverage ... it’s good to have the team all over the world. I intentionally found providers from several locations in 2006 because I didn’t want one political situation or one tidal wave to wipe out my entire company. We typically focus on Russia, Ukraine, and Philippines."
Q: In what ways does using oDesk providers give your business an edge over the competition?
A: "Cost and ability to rapidly expand. I can add new developers quicker than my (competent) competitors can. I can also add developers quicker than my clients can add in-house developers, which means I can ramp up for a new project quicker than they can — so I’ll often get the new business."
Q: You've got multiple projects under way at a time; how do you divide the work among your various workteams?
A: "We’ve found it’s best to not use multiple teams on the same projects. There are different coding styles, time zones, managers, etc. In the end, I’d rather have all of the code written by the same team."
Read our full story on Stature Software here.