Hiring. It’s a huge problem for almost every small business owner. In today’s lean environment, you need high value contributors, not warm bodies.

The good news is that you can get some very interesting, capable team members without actually having to hire them yourself. A variety of companies manage talent in finance, engineering, and public relations, providing top-notch talent on part-time arrangements. For the business owner, this provides much-needed flexibility. You don’t have to make commitments to potential employees when you don’t know what the next year or even the next quarter will look like. For the right workers, these arrangements allow unheard-of flexibility, challenge, and the ability to pursue other passions in life.

The arrangement is strictly business-to-business, and the intensity of the engagements can be dialed up or down depending on the entrepreneur’s immediate needs. There are no 1099’s, no insurance issues, no hassle. If it isn’t working out, there is no drama around firing an employee. The talent provider takes care of it. Some great examples of companies that use this model to provide talent are:

What have these arrangements meant to my business?

My CFO comes from Kranz. I see her once a month, and I have a bookkeeper that comes in every week. That’s perfect, because I certainly don’t need strategic financial advice on a weekly basis. But I do need that high-level talent some of the time, and it would be cost-prohibitive to hire a CFO on a full-time basis.

I’m also working with a pair of engineers from SoloPoint. One gets custom electronics made, and the other produces the software and firmware that goes with those electronics. These guys are total rock stars, and even if we had the money, we would be hard-pressed to compete for them as employees. But they do this work to support their other life goals, which works out well for all of us.

Why should entrepreneurs give this a shot?

Entrepreneurial mindset. Those who excel in the flexible workforce are people who pilot their own careers, care about their personal brand, and take ownership of the results they deliver. They are highly professional. They understand the importance of communication, timelines and schedules. They do not waste your time or theirs, because they want to get down to business, do their work, and move on. They jump in feet first and come up to speed quickly.

Mix and match. In my business, we have a wide variety of engagements, and each requires a different mix of engineering talent. Some need electronics, some not. Some need software, some not. A flexible workforce enables me to pull together teams with the right skill mix as we get committed engagements. In this model, I never have to worry about paying anyone to sit around as we wait for work to come in.

Flexibility with demand. As business ebbs and flows, or grows, we can dial down or dial up the level of work from our finance, marketing, or engineering talent to manage cash flow. Everyone understands that this is part of the business model and handles it professionally.

This works out for highly-skilled professionals, too. They get:

Balance. Some people like to dive deeply into their work, bank their earnings, and then take time for their passion. They may love to travel, for example. One was a champion bicyclist who competed all over the world when he wasn’t doing my books. The flexible workforce model suits people who have other passions, and frees them from the confines of a one-size-fits-all structure with 15 days of paid time off.

Focus on high value work. Some people really love what they have been trained to do, and they really don’t love being PowerPoint jockeys tied up in management briefings day-in and day-out. The flexible workforce enables highly skilled people to be valued for their contributions in core areas. Engineers who love to do engineering, for example, actually do engineering.

Variety. Some people love the mix of projects they see in the flexible workforce model. They may work with large corporations and small start-ups, see a wide variety of leading edge technologies, and meet a lot of people. For some, this variety is energizing and keeps work vibrant.

When managed well, the flexible workforce approach is a win-win for the small business and their staff. As we remain in an uncertain economy, it allows small businesses to remain competitive, and allows high value contributors to do the work they love. What’s not to like?