If you have the inspiration and the motivation to build your own business, you probably already know that there are elements of management that you don’t want to handle yourself. You probably don’t want to do your own books, and you may not want to do your own marketing. This is where outsourcing can come in handy – you bring in people who are already experts in those fields, and you use their talents on a contract basis to build your business. That way you get the very best of what they have to offer without the logistical (and financial) entanglements that adding more full-time staff can bring.
Using outsourcing to grow, boost productivity and increase profits.
Too many entrepreneurs think that they can handle all of the basic tasks of running a business themselves, and they end up running themselves ragged on minutiae. Outsourcing the daily tasks gives the owner more time (and more energy) to devote to building income. Outsourcing isn’t just for the big companies – thanks to the spread of technology, smaller firms have been able to use outsourcing to grow, boost productivity and increase profits.
Think about it – in many professions, all you need is a laptop or a tablet and an Internet connection. More quality professionals than ever have either had to leave the corporate world or have decided to hang their own shingle: marketing directors, virtual executive assistants, transcriptionists, graphic designers, bookkeepers, IT specialists – and so on. You can bring them to your small business as a subcontractor, and you save on payroll taxes, health benefits and all those other logistical expenses – and you don’t have to worry about adding office space.
Getting started with outsourcing can take a lot of time. You have to figure out how outside professionals will help your specific business grow with efficiency. However, once you figure out what tasks are keeping you from growing your company’s income – but are necessary for the day-to-day life of the business – then you’ll know what you need to outsource.
Understanding when to outsource is a decision that each small business handles differently. If you’ve grown to the point where you have some full-time staff for daily activities but you have some new projects that need to get done but won’t bring in the income to justify another full-time name on the books, then outsourcing could be right for you. Take a look at your calendar. Is your day full of tasks that keep you from growing your business? Then the time is right to consider outsourcing.
A lot of entrepreneurs feel like they are the only ones who know what needs to be done for the business to grow – and that they are the only ones who know how to do each task right. The problem with this is that you don’t have time in your day to handle everything – and still grow your business. You have to figure out when to delegate and when to let go of the mundane tasks.
Knowing what to outsource is even more important than knowing when to outsource. Running criminal background checks and handling payroll are vital tasks, but you don’t have to be a genius to do them. You do have to be skilled, though – and there are companies and individuals who can take care of this for you better than you can.
However, there are some tasks that you shouldn’t outsource. When you’re looking at R&D, or managing your talent (training and inspiring as opposed to mundane tasks such as benefits and payroll) then those are things with which you should remain actively involved. Your small business revolves around doing this differently, so keep hold of the internal design elements so that you retain your unique identity.
So to review, you should outsource tasks that are highly repetitive (such as accounts payable, managing inventory and other types of data entry). Also, executive expertise that you need but don’t have, such as a CIO or CFO. Another example would include specialized knowledge, such as an IT pro to come in and solve your troubles.
But which contractors should you pick? After all, just like there is a wide spectrum of quality in the world of pizza, there is also a wide variety in the quality within each outsourcing field. Talk to your friends and others in your business network for recommendations. Check with people you have come to trust through such professional social media platforms as LinkedIn.
There are several online services such as eLance, oDesk and BidModo which allow business owners and contractors to find one another. Both contractors and employers set up profiles that include feedback from the other side, so both parties can find connections with partners that match well with skill sets and needs.
This wealth of choices makes it crucial to know exactly what you want to achieve in each area that you outsource. Is speed more important, or is quality? Understanding your priority will help you communicate more effectively with each provider.
Once you have a provider in place, put together a contract that has some incentives that focus on getting your priorities met. Your provider may handle similar tasks for all of his or her clients, but you want him to tailor his work to your needs rather than turning that element of your business into something that he does in a uniform way every time.
After you’ve put your expectations out there for the provider, you can anticipate some time for a learning curve. Don’t be afraid to point out areas in which the provider needs to work harder to meet your expectations, but also remember to give the provider time to work through a learning curve so that the work comes out right every time. This can be the frustrating point of delegating work, but if you let that learning curve work, you can end up with a partner that handles those parts of the business that were draining your creativity.
When it comes to how much to pay your contractor, you can find people overseas through websites that will work quite cheaply, even for less than $1 per hour in some cases. Contractors based in North America will ask for higher fees, but the work that you get will also have higher quality. Focus on task-based instead of time-based payments at first, and resist moving to a fixed cost payment schedule until you know that the provider does solid work.
If you choose providers from outside Canada and the United States, remember that you may have a language barrier when working with people for whom English is not their first language. However, having outsourcing partners on the other side of the globe can mean that when you delegate at 5pm, you can come in at 8am and find the job finished.
Remember that when you outsource work you also put potentially sensitive information into more servers. Are your contractors dealing with credit card information or other payment details? Take a look at their Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance statement. HIPAA compliance is a must for contractors dealing with benefits or health. A contractor should provide an ISO 27002 compliance statement that shows their policies and practices for general security.
Once you’ve gone through the extensive legwork of preparing for and finding the right outsourcing partners, you’ll reap considerable benefits. You’ll have more skilled pros working for you without the dead weight of more full-time staff – and you’ll have more time to focus on building your company – and knocking out your new goals.