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Rent or Own? The Power of Project-Based Talent in the Gig Economy

June 20, 2017 by Kurt Wilkin

How did you determine whether to rent or buy your current residence? Perhaps you wanted to purchase a house in a good school district for your kids. Maybe you rented because you were unsure of how long you wanted to stay in your current job or city. Or maybe you rented while your dream house was under construction.

There are pros and cons to renting vs. owning, and sometimes the short-term option may actually be the best step towards a long-term solution.

As it turns out, this applies to talent as well. You need someone who understands your business challenges and has the experience to navigate the right path. And sometimes it makes sense to “rent” this expertise before making a permanent – and very expensive – hire.

We get a lot of hair-on-fire calls. Sometimes a dire need for someone to tackle a key initiative can best be done by a temporary, less costly, resource. Here are just a few examples of times that we have been called to recruit a permanent employee and we determined that project-based talent was actually the better, and more cost-effective option for the client.

“We really need a tactical and detail-oriented leader, who is also an outstanding communicator and strategist, to first set our marketing strategy and then implement it over the next two years.”

Because you live in the real world, you know that this combination of attributes is more wishful than realistic. In cases like these, we often recommend bringing in a project-based strategist to develop the overall plan, and then hire an experienced operator to execute it. Our client Living Direct had great success with this approach – read their story if you want to be inspired by the power of asking probing questions and “renting” very talented project-based talent!

“We need to renegotiate our credit line with the bank. We are fielding calls from companies who want to acquire us. We just received an audit notice from the IRS and desperately need a full-time CFO.”

Perhaps you do need a full-time CFO. However, more often than not, you just need some short-term horsepower or a part-time superstar to get you through your current pain. Now may not be the time to add a high-powered CFO to the team, since those CFO skills are expensive and there’s a reasonable chance your company is not ready for a full-time CFO. But an interim CFO may make a lot of sense.

“We need to hire 20 restaurant (or retail) managers in the next six months to staff our new store openings, so I need a full-time recruiter.”

This is one of my favorites! Again, we encourage our clients to consider a project-based resource to get through this hiring frenzy, as opposed to acquiring, on-boarding, and paying a salary for a full-time recruiter who will likely be terminated once the special project is completed.

Short-Term Solutions

Over the years, one consistent theme I’ve heard from clients and peers is the need for short-term solutions in the middle market. Our Project-Based team allows us to properly address your short-term or immediate talent needs that result from an unexpected phone call from investors, a key player’s decision to leave, or simply to take advantage of a market opportunity, without the investment in a knee-jerk, permanent solution.

You can’t afford to make a bad hire, but you also can’t afford to have a critical need go unaddressed. No matter what talent challenges you face, ensure you have a trusted, objective advisor to help you navigate those inevitable growth challenges that are unique to the high-growth middle market.

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