Warning: Not all outsourced solutions are created equal!
For most businesses, growing the need for additional staff is a given. After all, you cannot manage a growing business yourself, or be expected to have all the skills necessary in order to run a successful organisation.
The art of delegation is a key tool for most owners to maximise their time and also to get the most from every opportunity. However the world has changed; outsourcing is no longer only available to certain industries or business types. In today’s world, you can outsource most aspects of your business. This should be great news for small business, after all, we now benefit from a wider resource pool and not have to worry about the risks (and costs) of recruitment and training. Or do we?
The new Frontier
Over the last few years, more and more outsourcing companies have entered the market, offering a rich pool of talent, with skills from programming to administration. This should make life easier to find the person you need – match the task with the skill set and you’re off. This concept sounds great and an easy solution for many, but like any business transaction, nothing is simple.
You need to consider the benefits and weaknesses of anything you outsource and not forget the potential risks. After all, if not managed correctly, you could end up with something that doesn’t meet your needs. You may also need to ensure there won’t be any time zone issues, for many people managing projects on a day to day basis this is fine but if you are not prepared, it could cause frustration or delays.
Small Business Benefits
So can outsourcing benefit a small business owner? Well the short answer is yes and no. You will really need to consider your own strengths and weaknesses before planning any outsourcing of work to external companies, individuals or other. Really be honest with yourself and consider if you have the right skills to communicate and portray what it is you want. You will also need to consider the long term need of the task; for example: will you need some assistance for a one off task or longer term – ongoing?
What is the motivator behind your thought to outsource? Lack of skill for the required task, simply lack of time or a combination?
Remember any task you outsource, you may still have to project manage and if you don’t understand the task, you may be better off working with a company directly that can provide you with some kind of reassurance (and ultimately recourse) should it all go wrong. This is especially important with anything you consider to be sensitive or the use of sensitive information.
Things to consider
Think about what you should put into place when you hire a member of staff yourself. What do you need, why and how this benefits you. You may well want to follow this same process with any individual you outsource to. After all, they are representing your business and are ultimately employed by you, although maybe only for a few hours or days regardless of whether they are through an agency or not. Your protection and that of your business, clients and suppliers may count on your ability to apply basic HR processes.
Here at Need More Time we have taken a slightly different view.
We remove all of the hassles and worry from our clients by taking on the management of any task we deliver. More importantly we have several processes and layers in place from a HR perspective to not only of course protect us, but all parties involved.
Naturally if something goes wrong, we provide our clients with the reassurance that they will not lose out. Our systems allow us to monitor almost every aspect of the service we deliver and (more importantly) document for analysis later on should the need arise.
Our management teams work to direct and care for the quality of work we deliver all day, every day.
Of course, we have all of this in place – as you would expect – just like any other professional company in our sector, but the point is you need to make sure you have this too when outsourcing to individuals, as they may not.
Your 5 Step Outsourcing Checklist
Here is a simple checklist you may want to consider before outsourcing your business tasks or projects:
Consider why you are contracting out your task or project? Have you considered how to communicate your expectations in a way they understand? This is especially important when considering any technical task.
Which provider is right for you and why? What protection do they give, what are the risks to you and your business? If you have a grievance what happens? Will you still have to pay or will the task be done for free?
Do you need to provide a contract, NDA, HR contract to protect your business and the data you are providing? How will that person store your data and is that secure, today, tomorrow and in the future?
Will your task be ongoing or just a one off? If it’s an ongoing task what happens if that person stops providing their services, who will cover the costs of retraining etc?
What references does the person business have? Is there a way to check them and verify they are who they say they are?
Over the last few years (just like in other industries) the Internet has enabled the world of outsourcing to grow massively, so much so that today, people can get almost any task taken care of for a modest sum, by people more likely to be based around the world instead of around the corner.
However, like every expansion, we need to ensure the growth doesn’t outgrow common sense and it should not be taken as a given that just because a service provider comes via a bona fide website, they are 100% legit or capable of completing the work. Especially if they are handling sensitive information or even worse, your payment details.