It's not the Job — It's the Work

Expertise As You Need It

A veteran manager of remote teams says breaking out of the full-time paradigm lets you spend less money on more talent.

A giant corporation can hire an expert for everything, and give that expert a dedicated staff. That's just not possible for the owner of a small business, says Jeff Meltzer, CEO of Universal Hardwood. The Los Angeles flooring company has an in-house staff of three.

"When you're a small company, even 15 or 20 people, everyone has to multitask," Meltzer says.

That means you hire jacks of all trades, but masters of none — and who wants a master of none? Rather than dump a collection of marginally related tasks onto one full-time generalist, Meltzer taps the experts he needs through oDesk, hiring the exact skill set and paying for precisely the amount of work he needs done, without having to keep those skilled workers on his full- or part-time payroll.

"Never mind 40, 20, even 10 hours a week — for five hours a week, we can get experts," he says. And bringing in a freelancer as needed, rather than filling a staff position, lets him get them affordably. "I'd estimate that I'm saving $100,000 annually — probably more."

Universal Hardwood

Jeff Meltzer / CEO, Universal Hardwood

Without oDesk, it's impossible — you need the transparency.

Slicing The Work

Rather than figure out whether he's got enough work to bring a general IT person in-house, he figures out what he needs done: development and management of his website, and database compilation, for instance. Then he goes into oDesk's global talent pool to find specific, experienced experts.

His team these days ranges from a paralegal to a web designer, with a personal assistant and a team coordinator thrown in. He's had a coordinator since the start, he says, and that lets him get the most from his remote workers. They don't just handle separate tasks — they're collaborating every day, with each other and with his Los Angeles showroom.

It's easy, it's tightly managed, and with oDesk's Team app, it's as convenient as overseeing in-house staff, allowing him to trust that his disparate freelancers are working hard, and are on the right track.

Tools of the Trade

Jeff Meltzer relies on oDesk Team to keep track of his remote freelancers' hours and progress, but a host of other collaborative tools also help break down the distance.

"All the planets lined up: At the same time oDesk came out, other strong products emerged," he says. "The Google suite especially, which is free. We use Google Docs, Google Apps, all of it."

IM and phone provide continual communication, while GoToMeeting is a great way to share visuals and bring the whole team together.

"Without oDesk, it's impossible — you need the transparency," Meltzer says. "When I discovered oDesk, immediately a light bulb went on in my head — this is what we need."

Manageable Model

Jeff Meltzer hired his first remote freelancer in 1998 — a web developer in India who built Universal Hardwood's site. But because it was hard to manage a remote worker, he rarely hired more than one at a time.

"I had people keeping track of hours and billing me, but that can be kind of sketchy," he says. "And with five remote workers, you couldn't really oversee their work — until oDesk came along with a business model that lets you audit a freelancer's time, and pay them on an hourly basis."

These days, with a team of eight, he says he has more confidence in online work than ever.

About Universal Hardwood

Universal Hardwood ( is a family-owned business established more than 15 years ago. The Los Angeles flooring company maintains a showroom staff of three or four and a continually evolving oDesk workteam of five to 10 freelancers.

Universal Hardwood Data Sheet

Los Angeles, CA
oDesk user since:
# of team members:
USA, India, Mexico
El Salvador, Philippines
Range of rates: