Hiring Your Startup’s First Customer Success Lead

Customer success (CS) is one of the most critical functions of a startup, especially a business-to-business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup. Your startup’s success depends on educating and keeping customers — exactly what CS professionals are equipped to do. Moreover, when your CS team does its job well, customers turn into advocates, each referring new customers to your business.

If you have the budget, you’ll want to hire someone who has scaled CS at a company similar to yours (in terms of product, sales model, implementation strategy, expansion strategy, etc), from your company’s stage all the way through the initial public offering (IPO). In truth, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find this mythical ideal hire.

Instead, let’s focus on finding you the best first customer success hire for your startup, starting with the basics.

Generalists: At early-stage startups, you need a jack-of-all-trades who can do whatever is needed, whenever it’s needed. You need someone adaptable and resilient to put out fires while thinking strategically and working proactively. You need someone who can build relationships with customers while also analyzing customer data and trends, turn customer thoughts into focused feedback for the product, scale support, and much more. As your CS department grows, you’ll want folks to specialize: dedicated onboarding specialists, expansion specialists, customer success managers (CSMs) for different customer segments, etc. But at an early-stage startup, hire a generalist.

Coachable, Lifelong Learners: When you work in customer success, you’re constantly learning on your feet. You’ve got to be naturally curious about customers and your product. At an early-stage startup, you must experiment and try different tactics, particularly while working toward finding product-market fit. In addition to hiring for lifelong learners, I recommend hiring for coachability to ensure you hire someone who can grow with your company.

Emotional Intelligence: Every successful CS leader I’ve known exhibits strong emotional intelligence; this is no surprise, given how important it is for CS to have empathy and be able to control their emotions and read customers’ emotions. Since CS often manages angry customers, I also recommend hiring for mindfulness. The ability to stay intentionally focused without passing judgment helps ensure appropriate reactions to defuse charged situations.

Leadership: Your first CS hire won’t be your last. Hire someone who can lead your future CS department — a leader with grace and compassion. Speaking of leading a department, you’ll need your CS lead to have a documentation-first mindset to take what they do, turn it into scaleable processes and teach that to others.

Now that we’ve established the overall traits, let’s go over some factors to keep in mind as you hire your first CS lead.


How complicated is your product? Is specialized knowledge required to understand your product? At Liquid, I’ve found that while no specific expertise is necessary, experience with how businesses contract with freelancers and vendors makes the steep product learning curve much more manageable.


Do your customers speak their own lingo? For example, many of our customers are finance leaders, so it’s beneficial to hire folks knowledgeable about accounting as it pertains to working with contractors and vendors. However, since operations leaders also use our product, finance and bookkeeping expertise are purely optional. Additionally, since many of our customers are agencies or social enterprises, it’d be helpful to hire folks with backgrounds in those industries.

Sales And Pricing Model

Very expensive products with a high-touch sales model will probably require high-touch customer success. “Freemium” products relying on product-led growth, self-service education, and low-touch sales will likely require someone who can more quickly operationalize and scale CS.

Implementation Strategy

How complicated is your product implementation? How quickly do customers see value? Is onboarding straightforward and the same for everyone, or does it vary depending on the specific needs/circumstances of each customer? If it varies, you’ll need someone who asks the right questions to craft customized onboarding/implementation plans for customers. In this case, look for past experience in consulting (or a consultative mindset).

At Liquid, we’ve found that implementation can differ quite a bit between customers depending on a variety of factors — including whether the main users have finance or operations backgrounds, whether they use work orders, how much they care about compliance, whether they are moving from existing tools versus hiring their first freelancer, how many vendors they have, and whether they think of their vendors as a virtual talent bench — but not so much so that custom onboarding plans are needed for each customer. In our case, CS needs to provide high-touch customized onboarding when appropriate, while also operationalizing, scaling, and improving onboarding in general.

Expansion Strategy

What does expansion mean to your company? Is it about selling more licenses? Selling on professional services? Upselling on additional features or higher-level plans? Different expansion strategies require different skill sets. No matter what the expansion strategy, I recommend hiring someone data-savvy enough to segment customers appropriately to identify and pursue potential expansion opportunities.

Company Structure

Who will your first CS hire report to? While I recommend having a customer success lead report to the CEO, I’ve also seen a CS lead report to the chief operating officer (COO), head of sales, and even the chief of staff. No matter how you decide to structure your organization, be intentional about this. Where CS sits in your company says a lot to your employees (and to your customers) about how you view your customers. Choose thoughtfully.

Don’t Delay Hiring Your First Customer Success Lead

As I said at the start, customer success is one of the most important pieces to building a successful company. It’s never too early to hire your first CS lead.

And once your CS lead has created repeatable processes and you’re ready to scale, empower that person to hire a team. I’ve found that non-traditional backgrounds like hospitality, retail, and education lay an excellent foundation of soft skills for CS excellence. If you have the time and resources to train someone (and a product that doesn’t require subject matter expertise), you’re likely to get excellent value hiring folks new to the technology industry.

Are you ready to start building your customer success department?

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an entrepreneurship and small business consultant and a co-founder and partner of Lau Labs. She loves to read. Since 2010, she has been focused on “solving” the “problem” of ambitious, educated, talented women and men “opting out” of the traditional workforce for personal reasons. In 2015, she joined forces with two other MIT alumnae to start FlexTeam — a mission-based micro-consulting firm that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors and their most requested projects are market research / analysis, competitor research, financial models / analysis, and business strategy. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

Scaling Your Flexible On-Demand Workforce

The future of work is now, and it’s more important than ever to develop a modern business strategy that relies on building and scaling your liquid workforce as a critical component of your blended workforce. The pandemic has made it clear that enterprises need to build and develop a flexible, on-demand talent pool to be prepared for changing market demands and trends. In fact, a recent HBS and BCG study found that nearly 90% of business leaders expect that working with on-demand talent will be important to the success of their future strategic initiatives.

But scaling your liquid workforce is easier said than done, especially for companies without the structure or processes in place to develop and manage this at scale.

Scaling Your On-Demand Workforce As A Competitive Advantage

When you’ve built your on-demand workforce in a scalable way that anyone in your organization can access, it is a competitive advantage. Business leaders can quickly find, hire and deploy deeply experienced talent such as consultants, project managers, researchers, or even interim executives to lead or support mission-critical projects.

It becomes possible to deploy temporary resources to strategic initiatives in supply chain, logistics, pricing, operations, product, finance, marketing, strategic planning, digital transformation, R&D, data analytics, or market research — for both high- and low-complexity work — to overcome capability and capacity gaps. This allows for increased speed to market as it becomes easier to find the right people at the right time to help you enter new markets, launch new products or move into new regions.

The rate of innovation is increased and seen through new business models by testing new products and ideas more efficiently without committing internal resources — and by accessing broader talent pools. The increased labor force flexibility allows companies to try new ideas without increasing fixed costs in the form of new full-time employees.

Whether you’re a consumer packaged goods company, a social enterprise, a life sciences conglomerate, a tech startup, a financial services firm, an agency, or any company in any industry, developing and scaling your liquid workforce can help you grow your organization more efficiently.

Understand Your Existing Capabilities

The purpose of the liquid workforce is not to replace all employees with contractors, consultants, and freelancers. The goal is to build an elastic set of skills that can be deployed on-demand whenever and wherever they are needed — and those skills can come from both internal employees as well as external talent.

Begin with building visibility into the skills available both inside and outside your company. This is about more than job titles and salary history — it’s about creating a repository of skills and background knowledge.

Make sure all executives and leaders are aware of all consultants, freelancers, and vendors that all teams have worked with. This kind of holistic and centralized approach to integrating the liquid workforce is important. I’ve seen different teams inside the same company hiring different outside consultants and researchers to achieve similar goals, resulting in 50% to 100% greater costs.

Furthermore, make sure all leaders and managers know what skills are available within the company. Sometimes it may make more sense to pull an existing employee to work on a short-term project rather than hiring external talent.

Find Or Designate An Executive Sponsor

As you may have noticed, companies struggle to develop a flexible, on-demand workforce without a companywide strategy for building a digitally ready liquid workforce. While I believe that human resources departments can spearhead a blended workforce strategy, most companies benefit from having someone at the executive level who can internally advocate for liquid talent as a strategic advantage. From my experience, this person is typically the COO, CFO, or CHRO but can also come from procurement or other teams.

This C-level advocate must believe in the importance of shifting talent strategies to include external talent. They must be passionate that shifting talent strategies is a competitive advantage. But more than that, they must have cross-functional relationships to change how employees perceive external talent, fostering much-needed change.

Integrate An Operational Platform

Managing the on-demand workforce is both like and unlike managing a full-time workforce. To effectively scale an on-demand talent pool, companies must have an operational platform like Liquid (our offering) that will support end-to-end management. This platform is the key to enabling visibility and transparency, which provides a companywide view of all projects, costs, and talent. Plus, an operational platform can help standardize, streamline and automate the core processes involved in managing an on-demand workforce — a critical requirement for successfully scaling.

Embrace The On-Demand Workforce

It’s time to move to a blended workforce and build your on-demand talent pool. A flexible workforce provides the agility that companies need to quickly take advantage of opportunities, grow in new areas and respond to challenges. To compete and thrive in the future of work, engaging the on-demand workforce is no longer optional — it’s essential.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

Five Reasons A Chief Of Staff Will Be Your Best Hire

Today, the Chief of Staff (CoS) role has become common in corporations and startups — though it dates back centuries and originated in politics, government and military. CEOs and owners of growing companies, whether startups, small businesses, professional service companies, or agencies, are always short on time and resources. Even after hiring an assistant, senior managers and executives, CEOs and owners often find that their focus is still divided among too many different priorities. All too often, a CEO or owner needs more help than they are getting.

A Chief of Staff is very different from a virtual assistant (VA) and is also distinct from an executive assistant (EA). A VA is usually a freelancer who works on remote administrative tasks on demand while an EA manages your calendar, emails and other correspondence, day-to-day schedule, and travel arrangements. In contrast, a CoS thinks strategically and works independently. In addition, a Chief of Staff is often a part of the senior management team.

While no two CoS roles are the same, here’s why a Chief of Staff will be your best hire.

1. A Chief of Staff will save you time.

Most executives I’ve talked to who have hired a Chief of Staff say that doing so gives them a quarter to half of their time back. They also can get more done in the time they have left. This is because not only do Chiefs of Staff take day-to-day tasks off your plate, but they also create and implement systems and processes to help you get more chunks of focused time.

In a startup’s early days, your CoS may help you systematize your marketing plan, then manage your QA automation team, then move on to build a repeatable sales process, and then create an internship program. And that’s all while helping to manage budgets and prepare for board meetings. Your Chief of Staff should be a generalist who can go from one project to the next without missing a beat, allowing you to focus on strategic thinking and planning.

2. A Chief of Staff will improve the flow of information.

An experienced Chief of Staff will significantly improve the flow of information between departments that were previously siloed. Plus, they will also improve communication between you, your senior management team, and the rest of your staff. Your CoS will cultivate relationships throughout your organization, allowing him or her to give you unfiltered and unbiased opinions. Without ties to a particular department, you will also find that your Chief of Staff may become one of your most trusted advisors.

3. A Chief of Staff will help you make better decisions.

An experienced CoS will help guide and implement an objectives and key results (OKRs) process throughout your company. With more time on your hands and better information, you’ll be better equipped to think through important decisions. And with your Chief of Staff knowing your business as well as you do, he or she will be a wise and reliable counsel for difficult decisions.

4. A Chief of Staff will identify and reduce your costs.

A good CoS will identify areas for improvement and take action. For example, if your company is manually paying invoices and onboarding 1099 workers, your CoS may recommend implementing a contractor management solution (CMS) or vendor management system (VMS). Switching to a VMS or a freelancer management system (such as Liquid) should help reduce person-hours needed for these manual processes, reduce direct costs due to overpayments and late fees and help your team source pre-vetted talent across departments.

An experienced Chief of Staff will always be looking for operational inefficiencies like these, recommend solutions, and then implement them. And then your CoS will move on to the next project or opportunity.

5. A Chief of Staff will help you boost your impact.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to the future of work. Companies are increasingly comfortable with remote work and relying on blended workforces of employees and on-demand workers. In this environment, the CoS role becomes even more essential, not less, helping you to more nimbly adapt and iterate to take advantage of opportunities.

A Chief of Staff will help you maximize your time, improve your decision-making, make the flow of information to you more efficient and help you reduce your costs. A Chief of Staff will have a direct positive impact on your business, particularly in areas that fall outside of scope for your other executives. In short, hiring a Chief of Staff will help you be a more effective executive, allowing you to build your company and focus on your vision.

It’s time to take your company to the next level. Define what you need in a chief of staff, then find that perfect match. The Chief of Staff is a role you won’t regret adding to your management team.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

Soft Skills Are Essential To The Future Of Work: Hiring for Skills of the Future, Part One

Whether you are hiring employees, independent contractors, or a blended workforce, we all know that the world is changing rapidly and how work gets done is evolving. As a result, how we screen and hire employees and freelancers has changed too. Soft skills — such as empathy, emotional intelligence, kindness, mindfulness, adaptability, integrity, optimism, self-motivation, grit, and resilience — have become crucial success factors.

Why Soft Skills Have Become More Important

As more and more job activities become automated, soft skills, which cannot yet be replicated by machines, have become more important. In 2017, Deloitte also reported that “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030” and that hiring employees with more soft skills could increase revenue by more than $90,000.

Empathy And Emotional Intelligence

The importance of empathy and social-emotional skills cannot be overstated. Emotionally intelligent teams have a competitive advantage, and I have found that empathy is one of the most important skills to hire for. Caring about how your teammates and customers feel and sensing their unspoken feelings is a true skill that I believe increases productivity and revenue. Empathy and emotional intelligence require self-awareness and enable better listening, leading to improved communication.

When screening potential employees and freelancers, I like to ask if there are charities or causes they care about. This gives me insight into whether they care enough about others to take action. I also like to ask this question: “Can you think of a time when you worked with someone difficult to get along with — how did you handle interactions with that person?” This shows me whether their empathy and emotional intelligence enabled them to not only defuse a challenging situation but turn it into a win.

Integrity And Ethical Responsibility

Billionaire Warren Buffett is famously credited with calling integrity the most important trait to look for when hiring. I agree that this character trait is critical to long-term success. I’ve found that my most successful employees and contractors are those who are ethical, take responsibility for their successes and mistakes, have humility, respect other people’s time, give others credit and take full ownership of their work — especially for losses. When someone tells me they’ve made a mistake and how they intend to fix it, I know I can trust them. In today’s fast-paced world, integrity is even more critical. It’s easy to take shortcuts and show short-term gains, but it’s harder to do things right to set yourself up for long-term success.

In the days of in-person interviews, I liked to ask the receptionist how applicants treated them (and if a meal was involved, how the applicant treated the wait staff). In our remote work world, ask admin assistants how applicants treat them over email. How people treat others reflects their true character.

To encourage a culture of integrity, I own up to mistakes and encourage others to do the same. To screen for this, ask potential workers to explain an incident that occurred in their life that didn’t go as expected and how they resolved it. How they respond usually shows whether they are capable of taking responsibility when things go wrong.

Adaptability And Resilience

As technological advances come more rapidly, hiring for adaptability and resilience is critical. You need open-minded people who can shift gears and take on different responsibilities as needed, adapt their behaviors to their teammates’ needs, manage uncertainty and find the positive when things go wrong. Agility and flexibility — which go hand in hand with adaptability — allow workers to bring and implement fresh ideas.

One question I like to ask potential employees and independent contractors to look for adaptability is, “What’s the most stressful situation you have handled, and what was the outcome?” I also look for people who have combined working part-time during college or graduate school or taken on different roles and responsibilities. To build adaptability and resilience, challenge yourself to be comfortable in unfamiliar environments and situations.

Self-Motivated And Self-Directed

Self-motivated workers, people who have intrinsic motivation, need less oversight and management. Self-motivation and self-direction enables people to take initiative and ownership of their work, set achievable goals against a schedule and take steps accordingly and adapt their plans as necessary. In a future where things are constantly changing, these skills are paramount to success. While I’ve found these skills difficult to develop, helping connect employees to find intrinsic motivation in their work can help.

One question I like to ask potential employees and freelancers is “Tell me about a time when you set a goal for yourself and what you did about it.”


Mindfulness is a soft skill that builds on other skills. Those who are mindful tend to be more emotionally intelligent, adaptable, and forthright. Mindful people stay more focused during difficult situations. Mindfulness is the amplifier of all other soft skills as it cultivates the awareness and discretion to know how to respond in a centered, balanced way across diverse situations.

While I don’t have a secret for hiring for mindfulness, I believe in mindfulness training. Companies can support developing mindfulness by offering perks like a subscription to Headspace or Calm. Or, if you want to maximize the benefits of mindfulness, a subscription to Yoga Ed. so your employees and their families can benefit from on-demand mindfulness and yoga practice. (Full disclosure, I’m an investor in Yoga. Ed.)

Hiring For The Future Of Work

Assessing soft skills should be an essential part of your hiring process for potential employees and contractors. Soft skills strengthen other skills and abilities, and teams with these skills will be equipped to adapt more quickly and easily as the future of work continues to evolve.

Next time, I’ll share additional skills required for success in the future of work, how to hire employees and freelancers with these skills, and to develop these skills with your teams.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

Skills for the Future of Work: what I’ve learned about people while building FlexTeam

I started FlexTeam in 2015 with two other MIT alums. In the early days, we all worked on everything: project scoping, operations, operations strategy, people ops, staffing, business development / sales, marketing, customer success, engagement management, project management, community management, content creation, quality control, copyediting, product development, consultant training & education, social media management, invoicing, and all the other things that come with running a startup or small business.

But as we’ve grown, we’ve all narrowed our focus a bit. My focus now lies mostly with our consultants — onboarding, education, training, learning & development, community building, best practices & processes for projects, project placement, etc.

My personal interest in FlexTeam has always been our consultants.

I’ve long thought that project-based work was the key to finding work-life fit, and once I became a mother I began dreaming about creating a mom micro-consulting firm to help women stay as engaged professionally outside of the traditional workforce.

So when we started FlexTeam, I was the one who sent out our first call for consultants. We started with a simple email to our sorority list (yes, I was in a sorority at MIT). The subject line was “remote / work-from-home opportunities,” the body of the email was five sentences long (plus our contact information) and included a link to a google form to sign up to work “as a freelancer remotely for FlexTeam.” That google form got 30+ responses within a few days.

That was 2015.

Today, we have hundreds of independent consultants in our database and a long wait-list of women who want to join us. Our consultants are alums of MIT, HBS, Wharton, Stanford, Princeton, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Bain, Merrill Lynch, & many more elite organizations, who reclaim their time by working with us on challenging projects for our clients. Our consultants work with FlexTeam to help them create their own work-life fit. And our clients get access to highly experienced, highly educated women that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to hire (whether on a project, part-time, or full-time basis).

So what have I learned about people and career success?

First, computational / algorithmic thinking is fundamentally important to being successful as a management consultant working remotely and independently.

What is computational thinking?

Computational thinking is a term that has been used for decades. The phrase computational thinking popularized by an essay by computer scientist Jeannette Wing. Wing suggested that thinking computationally was a fundamental skill for everyone (not just computer scientists). I think of it as the ability to solve problems algorithmically and logically:

  • the ability to break down a problem into its component parts;
  • analyze and organize data;
  • recognize patterns (within the problem and with past problems);
  • identifying, analyzing, and implementing potential solutions;
  • and iterating when feasible.

I think the ability to work with uncertainty is also part of computational thinking.

Why is computational thinking an important skill?

As the world becomes more complex and interconnected, so does the work people do. More importantly, as machine learning and artificial intelligence begin to do more of our work, it will become more important for people to do work that machines find it harder to do.

But for FlexTeam, I’ve found that solving client’s problems requires consultants (or, at the very least the project manager, who supervises other consultants) to be able to think computationally. Our clients expect the work to get done; but they don’t want to spend time telling us how to do the work. That’s why they’re paying us — to get it done without having to expend additional resources or brainpower to it.

A consultant lacking in computational thinking skills is able to get the work done, but requires attention from others to figure out a plan of action. More than that, she needs help with gut checks (does what I’ve produced make sense in real life?), has difficulty coming up with recommendations (a key component of FlexTeam’s offerings), and she sometimes lacks creativity to get the job done.

The computational thinker is more adapatable, agile, and able to manage time and priorities. And as they are self-motivated and curious, they find joy in solving problems.

Communication skills are also important

Since we work remotely (our consultants are all over the United States, with a few spread out across the globe), written communication skills are obviously important to us — our consultants communicate with our clients via chat on project pages, and our consultants communicate internally with each other via Slack. Also, most of our projects require us to deliver a report or memo of some sort to the client, so it’s important to write clearly, effectively, and precisely.

But we think that effective oral and written communication skills are important to succeed in any career these days.

Again, as machine learning and artificial intelligence begin to do more of our work, it will become more important for people to do work that machines find it harder to do — effective communication is one such task. Computers can surely put together pieces of writing, but understanding nuances of communication are best left to humans.

Can a computer take a client’s message, and tease out what the client really means? Can it tailor their message (whether oral or written) to the audience? Can it read the audience to know how best to phrase their message?

I think not.

Our best consultants are able to intuit what a client’s main concerns are, even if they are unspoken. They are able to intuit how frequently a client wants to be updated, and how much detail the client wants. They are able to communicate effectively to other consultants what work needs to get done and when, and knows how to motivate them when necessary.

You can certainly get by without superior oral and written communication skills, but you’ll be more successful if you excel at those skills.

As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson say in Rework, “Hire the better writer.”

“Soft skills” make all the difference in career success

So far we’ve learned that computational thinking and writing skills are important to career success. Obviously, some core competency in knowledge is also important. But it may surprise you to hear that “soft skills” like grit, resilience, persistence, being a good listener, empathy, a desire to learn, a cooperative attitude, resourcefulness, kindness, a “always do your best” attitude, optimism, ability to deal with difficult personalities, and manage conflict (among many others) are just as important.

The benefits of soft skills can be hard to measure, but new research reveals that training employees in soft skills can bring substantial return on investment to employers while also benefiting employees.

In fact, we’ve found that consultants who lack these “soft skills” typically produce work that client’s are less satisfied with. These “soft skills” enable consultants to go above and beyond for our clients. And the truth is that having soft skills like emotional intelligence usually correlates with computational thinking abilities and writing skills. These skills build on each other!

So what?

If you are looking for a job, assess your computational thinking abilities, writing skills, and “soft skills”. Where can you improve? How can you work toward improvement? Where do you excel? How can you highlight those skills in your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile?

If you are hiring, recognize that at some point there is a level of technical capability or job function competence that is sufficient. After that, the person who is the better writer, who is better at computational thinking, and who has better “soft skills” is going to get you more productivity than someone who is simply more technically brilliant. He or she will be more eager to learn, more eager to work, and simply achieve more. She’ll get more done and go above and beyond.

If you work in education, think about how you are teaching these skills to your students. Whether you are a kindergarten teacher, or a college professor, what can you do to help your students learn these skills? Read Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play — this book talks about the importance of computational thinking and creativity in the future of work, and discusses how to teach and cultivate it. Read Dr. Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need and What We Can Do About It — published in 2008, the 21st century skills listed in this book are still relevant. In fact the “7 survival skills” are traits that most of our best consultants at FlexTeam excel at.

And if you’re a busy business person looking to get more done, think about working with FlexTeam. Our top consultants excel at all of these skills and are ready to help you achieve more.

Let me know what other skills you think are important to career success!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.

10 Reasons to Hire an Independent Consultant

By Yolanda Lau

We’ve all heard that the “gig economy” is the future of work. Estimates put the number of Americans doing freelance work between 54 million and 90 million. In particular, there’s been an increase in the number of freelance strategy and management consultants, as well as marketplaces and platforms connecting businesses to independent consultants. Boutique sites like SpareHireHourlyNerdMBA and CompanyHillgateToptal Business (formerly Skillbridge) and 79 Studios’ own FlexTeam make top quality consultants more accessible to and affordable for smaller businesses.

As a CEO or founder of a small or medium business, you may benefit from hiring an external independent consultant. And once you do, you may find that you can’t work without them. Here’s why:

1. Independent Consultants are Affordable and Provide Cost Savings. Freelance independent consultants are cheaper than hiring a full-time employee. They require fewer overhead costs, in terms of office space, software licenses, benefits, paid time off, payroll tax, and other fixed payroll and office expenses. Moreover, while they often come at higher hourly rates than full-time or part-time staff, you’ll rarely pay them for 2,080 hours a year. And hiring a freelance independent consultant is much more affordable than engaging McKinsey & CompanyBoston Consulting GroupBain & Company, or any of the less well-known firms.

2. Independent Consultants are Experts. Freelance independent consultants tend to be highly skilled, extremely experienced, and educated at top universities. Many freelancers have worked at a big name consulting firm or are industry experts. At FlexTeam, we provide vetted MIT-educated women who are former CTOs, CMOs, COOs, CEOs, investment bankers, management consultants, industry experts, graphic designers, serial entrepreneurs turned consultants, and other top tier talent. Hiring freelance consultants gives you access to skills and experience levels that would come at a much higher price tag if you were to hire them as full-time workers, allowing you to scale your business efficiently and economically.

3. Independent Consultants are Ready to Go. Freelance independent consultants can work independently with little guidance. They have almost certainly worked on many similar projects in the past, and will efficiently work on yours. They hit the ground running and don’t require training, saving you time and money. And your patience.

4. Independent Consultants are Flexible. Freelance independent consultants are highly flexible and adaptable. They can augment your existing teams, or they can work on their own on special projects. FlexTeam, specifically, augments your management teams with on-demand executive level brainpower. Freelancers’ flexibility allows them to adapt to your company culture and the specific needs of your company, thus producing better quality results.

5. Independent Consultants are Easy to Hire. Freelance independent consultants can be hired within a few days. Compare that to engaging a consulting firm or hiring a full-time or part-time employee, which can be a lengthy (and sometimes unsuccessful) process. There are interviews, negotiations, compliance and legal issues, and other time-consuming aspects of the traditional hiring process.

6. Independent Consultants are Committed to Excellence. Freelance independent consultants are committed to customer success and happiness. They recognize that their ability to get future work is dependent on the quality of every work product they create. Since their livelihood is at stake, they are more committed than consultants employed by traditional firms.

7. Independent Consultants are Professional. Freelance independent consultants usually spend time upfront clearly scoping detailed projects. They like to work on deadlines with specific milestones and deliverables. They have their own consulting agreements, though many are happy to sign one provided by your company.

8. Independent Consultants Understand the Importance of Confidentiality. Freelance independent consultants work with dozens of clients across industries on varying projects. They are accustomed to working with confidential information and are comfortable signing Nondisclosure Agreements. Again, their livelihood depends on the quality of their work and keeping their word.

9. Independent Consultants Meet Short Term Needs. Freelance independent consultants allow businesses to meet their short term needs without the time-consuming, frustrating, and costly process of hiring full-time or part-time employees. With freelance consultants, companies can hire an on-demand Chief Marketing Officer to craft a marketing strategy, a Chief Operating Officer to create a strategic growth plan, an analyst to assess new markets or create a financial model, a data scientist to figure out your KPIs, an experienced entrepreneur to write your business plan, and more. All just for a short sprint at the right price.

10. Independent Consultants are Always Available. Freelance independent consultants work irregular hours, often more than 5 days a week. Since they work odd hours and don’t have to operate during business hours, they can work on your project when you need it done. Given clear milestones, deliverables, and deadlines, they create time to get the work done optimally.

Still not convinced? Try hiring a freelance independent consultant for one small project. Just a small investment of about a thousand dollars. You’ll see that once you outsource work to a freelancer or a team of independent consultants, you’ll gain breathing room to tackle the rest of your endless to-do list.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.