Focus on Core Competencies and Outsource the Rest
October 4, 2012 by Akira Hirai
When you’re running a small business, it’s tempting to want to do everything yourself. If funds are tight, the last thing you want to incur are additional expenses. Learning to handle a task yourself – or tapping your staff to take it on – probably sounds like a cost-effective way to fulfill minor needs without adding to your payroll. You sacrifice some spare time, learn a new skill, and come out ahead, right?
Well, not always. In fact, trying to do everything can end up wasting money. Outsourcing some of your most basic business tasks, on the other hand, can be a smart and economical leadership tactic. And as you’ve probably guessed, it can also create a happier and more productive workplace for you and your staff.
Why You Should Outsource
- Outsourcing frees up your staff to focus on their core competencies – i.e., what they’re good at. By dedicating their time to their strengths, you derive the maximum benefit from their talents.
- Bringing in specialists will usually mean faster execution. You could pay your staff their regular wages for nine hours to struggle through a project outside their skill set, or pay a specialist for three hours. Why finance a learning curve when a pro could complete the project in a fraction of the time?
- The consultant probably has training your staff doesn’t. For example, polished and optimized copy written by a marketing professional will result in higher click-through-rates. A skilled accountant will find little-known tax deductions. The increase in performance should pay off in the long run.
What You Should Outsource
In short, you should consider outsourcing everything that doesn’t fall squarely within your core competencies. Here are some examples:
- Design – For successful branding, your business needs professional and memorable visuals for business cards, logos, and other collateral. While designing for fun is enjoyable, a graphic professional has technology and training to really make your brand stand out.
- Web Development – Many tools on the market can help you put up a quick and functional web site. But a professional developer can not only create a slick and attractive site, but also make sure it functions on all browsers and is easy for you to update with evolving content, rather than struggle with unfamiliar technology.
- Writing – While many people believe they have decent business writing skills, professional copywriting involves nuances in strategy, language, and SEO to deliver a powerful impact. Using the services of a skilled writer for your web content, press releases, social media, and business plan can pay dividends for your business.
- Taxes and Payroll – If you’ve always managed your own portfolio or handled your own taxes, you might consider yourself prepared for handling your business finances. But business taxes and accounting involve specific and complex rules that only a trained professional can successfully navigate. A skilled accountant can find advantages and savings you’re probably unaware of.
- Information Technology – Evaluate your technical skills realistically. The ability to write code is useful, but may not be sufficient to build an IT infrastructure that can grow along with your company. And when you calculate how much an outage can cost in lost sales and lost productivity, it makes sense to have expert IT help on hand to get you get up and running again.
How to outsource:
- Decide how much your time is worth. What other tasks could you accomplish in those three days you’d spend laboring over web design or setting up a payroll system?
- Pick the right help. Get referrals and interview providers just as you would regular employees. While judging the quality of their finished work is important, make sure they’re capable of interfacing with your office software, hours, and culture as well.
- Define the job parameters. Create a firm outline of the deliverables, including, deadlines, budgets, and expected outcome.
- Track the savings. Do a quarterly cost analysis to see what you’re spending, what you’re saving, and then decide if the outsourcing arrangement is worth continuing.
Productive outsourcing should always simplify your workload. If you find you’re spending too much time managing your outside help, it may be time to pull the work back in-house. But when you are busy getting your startup off the ground, smart outsourcing can save you headaches as well as money – and let you pour your energies into the most enjoyable parts of your business.
Other articles by Akira Hirai.
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