How to run Lean through COVID-19

What's in this for you?

In a way, we’re all startups again thanks to the pandemic. By which I mean, we’re all looking for ways to run as lean as possible. Businesses with huge fixed costs (like rent or overhead) or with only one sales channel (ie. in-store) have hurt pretty badly. We’ll talk about ways to diversify sales in another article, but for now we’ll share three ways you can stay lean and mean through COVID-19.

1. Shrink your Fixed Footprint

Working from home used to be a perk that employers had to provide to attract talent. Now it’s a critical way to reduce fixed overhead.

It’s cheaper for businesses. Remote-first will shrink your business’s phsyical footprint. That means smaller offices, lower rent, lower utilities, and possibly lower liability-insurance premiums.

People are as productive. Ask anyone whose job has successfuly shifted to remote-first and they’ll tell you they’re just as busy if not busier than before. Conversations stay focused on work. There are fewer distractions. And people with long commutes love not going into the office.

What you’ll need to go Remote-First. Going completely remote may not work for every business. But there are some functions that can enjoy being remote-first. Here are a few examples:

  • Accounting / Controller and Finance
  • IT
  • Reporting, Analytics & Planning

If you’re able to shift even some of these roles to remote, that’s an opportunity to trim fixed expenses. You’ll have to make sure these people are introverts who enjoy working by themselves. And having access to the right technology to enable this is crucial:

  • High speed internet
  • Instant Messengers (we use Slack)
  • Video conferencing (like Zoom)
  • Collaborative documentation for on-boarding handbooks, sales playbooks and employee manuals (we use Notion)

There is a culture element here that we can’t ignore. Junior hires and extroverts tend to suffer in a remote-first model. Extroverts will lose the ability to walk over to someone’s desk with a question. And Juniors may struggle to know what to work on without direct oversight. Going remote may work better for senior level hires who are comfortable working independently.

2. Try the Time Share model

We’ve all heard of “Fractional” resources, like a Fractional CFO. These are different from “Interim” roles. An Interim CFO comes in for a fixed period of time (say, 6-months) to help set up processes and then hires-in a replacement before moving on to the next company. Fractional, however, is more like a time-share. There’s no fixed project length, and fractional roles help to maintain and expand upon existing processes.

Access to Senior Talent. Fractional heads have to be senior and experienced. Why? Because they’re balancing multiple clients at the same time. They don’t have the luxury of learning how to do the job. They need to provide the benefits of their experience to you and do it efficiently enough that it doesn’t impact their other clients. This typically means Fractional people have solved a greater diversity of problems which you can benefit from.

Flexible budget with no commitment. Fractional roles are also budgeted on a capped, hourly basis, depending on your needs. This means you don’t have to worry about the minimimum carrying cost of a headcount. In many cases, you can leverage a fraction of a head (hence the term “fractional”). And if it’s not working out with a specific resource, there’s no cost to exit.

Whole departments can be Fractional. What you may not know is that entire departments can be fractional. This means you could “time-share” a multimillion dollar department for as little as 10%-20% of the cost of going in-house. No need to worry about management expense, training, re-training, performance coaching, raises, bonuses, benefits, vacations, redundancies, and so on. For example, TypeSift helps companies go totally fractional on data engineering needs. We’ll dig into that a bit below.

Not all functions can be Fractional. Roles that easily transfer between industries do better with the fractional model. This includes Finance, HR, IT, and parts of Analytics. As soon as you need a bespoke solution, going fractional won’t work. The purpose of fractional roles is to minimize expenses on things your company doesn’t specialize in.

3. Explore Market Networks

Market Networks are a relatively new concept, but we believe these will start to see more popularity because of COVID. A Market Network is a three-way combination of Social Network, Marketplace and SaaS technology.

Marketplace. The marketplace lets you find talent specific to some function (eg., Finance, IT, or in TypeSift’s case Data Engineering). It’s far more focused than, say, an UpWork where it’s a random mix of freelancers.

Social Network. The professionals and companies on the Marketplace will depend heavily on their reputation. This is a combination of things like customer reviews, how recent their certifications are, or number of SLA (Service Level Agreement) violations.

SaaS Platform. At the heart of the Market Network is a tech platform that runs it all. It connects clients to verified talent but goes further to drive efficient workflow for complex projects.

The best example we can provide is actually ourselves. Under the Traditional Approach to Data Engineering, companies are on their own. They hire an in-house business intelligence department. They buy several data tools. And they integrate the entire infrastructure themselves to enable reporting, analytics and planning.

TypeSift takes a
Minimalist Approach to data engineering. We provide a single system that rolls up the entire stack of tools into one product. We drive automation and workflow efficiency across the whole process. Then we work to connect clients with highly vetted, outsourced, fractional talent to maintain and expand their infrastructure.

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, Market Networks combine the Remote-First and Time-Share models with a tech platform at the center. You enjoy a much smaller fixed-footprint. You time-share a multi-million dollar team. And you have a single, automated platform instead of integrating many tools.

Market Networks are still fairly nascent, but many are predicting they’ll reach maturity over the next ten years. So while remote and fractional teams can lead to lower fixed overhead and more flexible budgets, the huge value comes from combining the two. And if you can find a platform like TypeSift that enables it all, so much the better.

Get our Help

Would you rather focus on your company’s core expertise, and leave the data engineering to someone else? Would you like help to transition your analytics & data engineering to a fractional, remote-first model? Then please connect with us.

TypeSift is a Data Engineering & Design Minimalism Firm. Our expertise is decluttering information and solving problems in your data that are holding back your growth. We build software that corrals data and invokes ingenuity with the fewest moving parts.