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Business Hack: Uber Nerds and Their Minions Collaborate Over Skype


Mike Michalowicz is the well-known author of business books The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and American Express’s “Open Forum” blog series, and has appeared as an entrepreneurship expert on a number of television news programs.

Sometimes I think the only thing preventing Uber Nerds from taking over the planet is the fact that their numbers are limited. Uber Nerds – the ultimate experts in their fields – are utterly indispensible. As a small business owner you likely have one of your own – or you wish you did.

If you do have one, are you making the most of your best resource? True Uber Nerds are in short supply, they command high prices, and their workloads can quickly pile up. Even Uber Nerds can only be in one place at a time. Or is that really true?

Imagine if you could clone your Uber Nerd. Ethical considerations aside, you probably wouldn’t want to wait for your Nerd to mature – you know how hard it is to tolerate children going through puberty, and can you imagine the expense of gaming systems and hardware for a prepubescent Uber Nerd? Back to reality though. There’s a way to work smarter, not harder, and get more out of your Uber Nerd: supply your Nerd with minions!

The easiest way to explain how Uber Nerds with minions work is through an example. I used to work in data forensics. When business was booming, we often needed to collect evidence from multiple locations at the same time. But each job frequently presented a unique set of challenges. Short of cloning our staff, we found that the most efficient way to work was to have our most highly skilled technician (a Proto-Uber Nerd) work from a single location – in this case, the office. We trained an army of minions to do the work of actually traveling to the site and recovering the data and evidence, but situations frequently arose that required super specialized expertise, beyond the training of the minions.

How did we solve the problem? The minions called in over Skype to explain the situation and get instructions from the Uber Nerd. Sometimes voice contact was enough, but in some cases the tech in the field would need to send or receive files, and also could do that over Skype.  In other cases, the Uber Nerd needed to see what the minion saw, and a Skype video call helped preserve and collect all the information we needed. You can’t beat an Uber Nerd with eyes and ears everywhere.

This model has many applications, but the basic concept is that if you need to put multiple experts in motion – physically visiting clients – then it can work for you.  The key is finding the right technology to facilitate communication between your Uber Nerds and their minions. If communication breaks down, your model falls apart. In our case, Skype met all our needs: low cost, call and video quality, and reliability.

It’s impossible to predict everything your employees will encounter in the field, and it’s impractical to train every minion to become an Uber Nerd.  Sending staff out with the support of an Uber Nerd, though, maximizes the reach and efficiency of your expert. You don’t want to waste your Uber Nerd’s talents; you want your expert solving the biggest problems, troubleshooting the trickiest challenges and coaching the minions through solutions.

Have a business hack of your own? Share in the comments.

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