Well, so maybe it wasn’t your job. But I don’t mind outsourcing overseas. And here’s why. When my husband and I started our first business, we were living in a one-bedroom cinderblock apartment on Brigham Young University campus while he finished up his degree. So our shoestring budget was always more than a little threadbare. When we had the idea about a year later to make a flash-animated online design tool to sell our basketball uniforms, we got a quote from a local company. The Utah company we consulted (which will remain unnamed) quoted us $150,000 to $250,000 to design our tool. At that pricetag, we needed to either give it up or think of a new solution. So we found an Indian design company called ExtremePro (short for “extremely professional”). They created the exact same tool for a grand total of $8,000.
Global outsourcing made it possible for our little fledgling company to compete with the NIKE behemoth in the high school market and not look half bad. Our Indian design team was responsive, helpful, and friendly. As I got to know them, it gave me a great feeling of satisfaction to know that we were creating jobs for people who really needed them. $8,000 must have fed our friends Sonia and Raj and their team and families for a long time. For all of us, it was more than a business relationship. The weekend that they were working overtime to finish our tool before the deadline, their whole office ordered in from a nearby restaurant. Unfortunately, the food made several of them seriously ill. We sent them flowers in the hospital, and forgot the deadline. From then on, whenever we had a problem or needed a bug ironed out, they were happy to help.
It was around this same time that I was pregnant with our second child. When we found out he was going to be a boy, we were a little stumped for names. After Tony nixed Griffin and Tariq and I vetoed Bud and Gavin, we had nothing left on our list. That’s when I thought of our Indian designer, Raj. And we named our son after him.
We’ve also worked with Romanians, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Pakistanis, and Mexicans. Some of them worked in clothing manufacturing facilities. Others were computer programmers or graphic design artists. We met them on websites like getafreelancer.com and guru.com, which provide venues for companies like ours to find highly qualified people all over the world to do contract work on a project basis. For me, there is nothing more hopeful and happy than using technology and the global market to improve people’s lives and help small businesses flourish. The people we have worked with are often highly educated, but unable to find jobs in their local economies. Sometimes they are self-taught. I love that they are able to find jobs and opportunities overseas, without having to endure wrenching separations from their families, or leave their communities empty of young people. And having direct access to talented professionals who work on a project basis is a huge asset for small American companies that are struggling to compete with industry giants.
For us, the biggest difficulty with our overseas contractors was that somebody (either we or they) always had to be up in the middle of the night. We eventually solved that problem by outsourcing ourselves — to Italy! Yes, from Italy to India there is only a 3 1/2 hour time difference (and no, I don’t know how the Indians don’t go crazy being 1/2 hour off the rest of the world. I’m taxed to the limit with figuring out what time it is everywhere as it is). At the beginning of last year, Tony himself was doing freelance work for a small San Diego company. He was the web design project manager, and subcontracted with several different overseas freelancers. One was a Greek, who helped him create videos and do photoshop work. Imagine our surprise a month or so later, when as lonely American expats in Florence, Italy, we discovered that our Greek freelancer happened to be living there too! Our new friend took us out to pizza, and we spent a delightful evening together. There is nothing like feeling that you have friends all over the world. It puts a human face to an increasingly impersonal global economy.
Using global freelancing is more than just smart business. For thousands around the world, it’s a way out of poverty. And by bringing us together on a personal basis, it promotes intercultural friendship, understanding, and solidarity. As we work together freely for mutual benefit, we learn a little about each other, and come to see the world a little out of each other’s eyes. I am convinced that personal connections are the key to peace. How can you invade the Enemy when the Enemy is your friend? When you’ve sent him flowers in the hospital or named your son after him? These kinds of relationships are possible with people from anywhere and everywhere. We don’t have to interact with the rest of the world the way we do now, as exploiters, invaders, and ugly American tourists. And we don’t have to shut ourselves away in the fear that letting other people into our world will lower our own standard of living. For me, participating in global freelancing is an expression of my belief in the brotherhood of mankind. It is an embodiment of my conviction that a person in Romania, India, or Vietnam, Afghanistan, Somalia, or Haiti, is worth every bit as much as a person from anywhere else. We all deserve opportunities for a better life.
Our world is not an ugly, mean place where there is only enough for those who grab it first. If we pull together and help everyone use their strengths, we can all be happier, more peaceful, and more prosperous. And for those of you who are worried that this kind of thinking is taking jobs away from Americans, let me tell you how making technology and the global economy work for us is still the answer. In my inbox yesterday was the story of an innovative company started in Wyoming by three brothers. Eleutian employs people in small-twon America to teach English to Koreans one-on-one via Skype. The company is growing rapidly, and still has come nowhere near saturating the market, even just in Korea. The result: good jobs for Americans in places where jobs are hard to come by. And Koreans better equipped to compete (or should I say productively cooperate) in a global market. I call that synergistic. And from where I stand, it looks like the best chance for all of us to survive and thrive in our ever-changing world.
I guess it all reminds me of that song we used to sing at girls’ camp, and John Donne’s immortal meditation:
No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.