Behind The Scenes In Online Business: What My Team Looks Like Today

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in online business on a day to day basis? Like who does what, how many people are back there making things happen? What does it really take to build a successful business anyway?

What My Team Looks Like

I do. I’m super curious about every business I encounter. I’m lucky to know a lot of smart successful business owners who share their behind the scenes, and who help me see that business doesn’t have to be so mysterious.

What I’ve learned after 7 years of running an online business is that there’s no “self made person”. Even what looks like a “solopreneur celebrity brand” likely has a group of collaborators and support behind the scenes.

So today I thought it’d be cool to share what my team looks like, who does what, and how my team has evolved throughout the years.

Behind The Scenes In Online Business Teams

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

2009: I start my business right out of college, and out of the gate try to partner with another creative entrepreneur.

It ends badly, so we part ways and I go back to doing everything myself. I get help from colleagues and friends, hire a coach, but do all of the implementation myself. It’s slow-going.

2010: Things are starting to pick up speed, and I hire my first virtual assistant for a handful of hours per month. She helps me with email and basic admin tasks, but because I end up switching businesses we part ways.

2011: Now operating as a web developer, I get booked solid and hire another developer to help with the overflow of work.

I partner with other designers and developers, too. This agency model works for us for a year, but I realize I’ve become a project manager… and decide to move into more consulting and info-product creation instead.

2012: At the start of the year, I collaborate with an amazing photographer and designer duo to freshen my brand. But by this point I’m back to being a solopreneur, thinking that this whole team thing isn’t right for me.

By the end of the year, I find myself booked with consulting clients so I hire my second virtual assistant. We really hit it off after starting working together just a handful of hours per month, and she’s still on my team today. Her role and amount of hours has evolved over time.

2013: Business is growing by leaps and bounds. I hire a lot more people this year. I hire a local event coordinator and marketing maven, a whole video crew, and a project manager to help keep it all together.

By the end of the year, my husband Robin has quit his corporate job to join my company full-time even though we’re not sure exactly what his role will be yet. (Find out more about how we learned to work together here.) I also collaborate with an amazing designer and it’s my first time working with a copywriter on a project basis.

2014: This was a year of transitions: we moved from NYC to Texas and essentially ended up with a whole different team except for my virtual assistant, designer, and Robin. We worked with a new video crew, new event planner, and new project manager.

Lots of hard lessons around hiring, from trying to hire too quickly once we moved, and not speaking up enough when we knew it wasn’t working out. Some of these lessons led to shifting our business model, but at the end the year I’m clear that the right team is key.

2015: My goal for 2015 was to build our dream team, and I’m so happy with where we’re at now! We hired another full-time developer early in the year (she’s wicked smart!), to keep taking our software products to new heights.

We also hired an audio and video production specialist in the Philippines who helps with our podcasts and tutorials. We also collaborated with freelance writers over the summer.

Next, we hired an amazing full-time project manager to help us keep everything running smooth and on time… and we’ve still got our incredible “much more than a VA” and collaborating designer along for the ride, too.

Plus Robin as our lead developer, and fantastic husband and father-to-be. :)

Now we’re hiring for a new role to round out the dream team: full-time technical writer and editor.

Behind the scenes in online business

Small Business Teams Aren’t Your Typical Corporate Gigs

I don’t have a ton of corporate experience, beyond my internship years, but my experience being on an entrepreneurial team is totally different from the teams I was a part of in bigger businesses.

My team has gone through a lot of evolutions and changes over the years and I know one thing for sure:

Being part of a winning team is extremely gratifying.

I used to think of myself as that “solo athlete” who can do it all herself… But looking back at everything we’ve accomplished this year, I know without a doubt that I owe it all to my amazing team mates.

It’s so much fun to see an idea that someone on the team came up with turn into reality, like a new feature in our software, a blog post, a graphic on social media, you name it.

Plus, since we’re a small team we really get to know each other, and we make things happen quickly even if we all live in different parts of the world.

So that’s what the behind-the-scenes of my team structure looks like, I hope you found it helpful. Especially if you wonder how I get it all done (I don’t do it alone, I just get out of the way and let everyone do what they do best!) or you’re a little hesitant to hire your first team member.

A huge thank you goes out to my amazing team, and if you or someone you know might be a good fit for the Technical Writer + Editor role, please pass this link along.

Here’s to growing professionally, and collaborating with other amazing human beings!

Got Questions About Teams or Hiring?

I’m happy to answer your questions about hiring and teams in the comments below!

17 Comments

  1. Cathy on December 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Natalie, I’m at the point of thinking about hiring a VA. Any tips on where to look? I’ve been pointed in the direction of Chris Ducker’s VA matching services. Thanks for any help or advice :)



    • Nathalie Lussier on December 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      Hey Cathy! Yes, I’ve used Chris Ducker’s VA matching services with great success. However, for your first VA I would not necessarily recommend hiring someone in a different timezone. From my experience, it’s much easier to get great results with your first hire when you can communicate in real time and there isn’t a language barrier.

      You may pay more for a US based VA but your chances are success are higher, at least until you get the hang of delegating and training team members. :)

      Good luck!



  2. Melanie on December 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Nathalie! Thanks for sharing your “behind the scenes” and your journey from being a soloprenuer to having your team. I feel ready to take that first step to hire my first VA and I would love to hear from you what is your best advice on things to look when you hire one for the first time.

    Knowing what you now know, what are some things that you would look for in someone to hire as your VA?

    Thanks again, and I hope you keep building your “dream team”! :)



    • Nathalie Lussier on December 3, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      I have a full on training coming to the Heartquarters Insider program all about hiring and training team members, but some of the things I look for are:

      -Someone who has done the work, so you don’t need to train them from the ground up (this doesn’t mean that they know all the tech tools you’ll use, but they need to get the gist of the type of role this is)
      -Someone who preferably is already working or in demand, so you can get references
      -Get really clear on the role, and what expectations you have / what success looks like for you in hiring this person
      -Be prepared to spend a lot of time getting this new person up to speed, and know that it will be worth it



      • Melanie on December 3, 2015 at 6:57 pm

        Awesome Nathalie! Thanks that helps a lot :)



  3. Paula Skaper on December 2, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Nathalie, I’m curious whether your team is made of contractors or employees and how many hours you need from each role a month to run your business? Which roles are core competencies/ mission critical and which are easier to swap out / freelance?



    • Paula Skaper on December 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Also curious how you set pay rates- are you able to tie compensation to revenue performance or is it all overhead?



    • Nathalie Lussier on December 3, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      It’s a combination of employees and contractors, and currently we’ve got 3 full-time employees in the US including ourselves (and some full-time people who qualify as contractors, because they’re in another country).

      The things that are mission critical are the full-time roles, and the things that are easier to hire on freelance are more project based – so think about the projects you have in your business that have a start and end date.

      In terms of pay rates, it’s really up to you how you want to do it – we’ve always done hourly and/or per project payments, because it’s more predictable for both you and the hire. But you can also add on performance based things.



  4. Karen Sasine on December 2, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I loved reading your story. You are an inspiration to so many, including myself, and I look forward to meeting you one day!



    • Nathalie Lussier on December 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      Aww thank you so much Karen! :)



  5. Mariah on December 2, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Best of luck filling your technical writing position! Anyone would be lucky to be on your team! I’m a creative and prose writer, not a technical writer, but wishing you the perfect team mate!



    • Nathalie Lussier on December 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks so much Mariah! We so appreciate it!



  6. Susan Drumm on December 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post Nathalie and couldn’t agree more! A successful business needs a team to take them to the next level. A team can produce far greater results than any one person can do on their own. Plus, it’s more fun to celebrate the big wins when you have a team to celebrate with. My team supports me and allows me to focus and achieve success, by doing what only I can do to grow my business. In fact, I’m so passionate about the power of a team and the importance of leadership, that I help entrepreneurs build motivated & fun high-performing teams on a daily basis. Knowing “who to hire” and “how to motivate” a team has a huge impact on big, business goals. Thank you for sharing what your behind-the-scenes team structure looks like, and here’s to continued business growth and success in 2016!

    Susan Drumm
    @drummleadership



  7. Nhon Pham on December 7, 2015 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for sharing the story! Both solo athlete and team leader are good experience for our journey. For managing a team, we know that we are doing a huge impact to someone directly everyday. Wish you all the best for next steps



  8. Sara on December 30, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    I really enjoyed your story and getting a glimpse behind the scenes. I believe being transparent is important in business and sharing your story will help inspire many others to not give up. Thanks for all that you do!



  9. Rita Frois Silva on March 14, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    It is really amazing the potential growth of an online business. I loved your story and you have become an inspiration for me! tks for share.



  10. Maite on April 15, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I loved reading how you grew your business and built your dream team. As an online business manager, I was also very pleased to see that you decided early on to work with a project manager to help you keep things together. Most of the time, online business owners try to manage it all themselves and while that might be okay when they are just starting up, this is just not the best approach once their business really starts to grow. Delegating the day-to-day management tasks to a project manager can help immensely by freeing up the business owner so they can focus more of their time and energy on the tasks only they can do for their business.

    Good luck in finding your technical writer and thanks so much for sharing your story.