Despite the common image of a small but plucky team doing it all to get a small business off the ground, in the real world there are times when you and your staff need help. As talented as your workers may be, they might not have the skills required for accounting, marketing, manufacturing, or IT tasks.
The great news is, there are many providers who can help, from accountants to marketing wizards to for-hire manufacturers to IT outsource specialists. These folks can take non-core tasks off your hands, enabling you to do the things that will truly propel your company to success.
Outsourcing is the practice of hiring outside professionals to perform particular business functions. You can outsource just about any part of your business, including the tasks mentioned above, as well as legal services, human resources, recruiting, and payroll.
Why Outsourcing Is Great for Small Businesses
It may sound counterintuitive to say you should spend more money when your company’s success depends on keeping outflows to a minimum. But the adage that you must spend money to make money is often true in business.
For example, how will anyone know about your products or services unless you launch a marketing campaign? Assuming you don’t have any promotional experts on staff, taking advantage of a reasonably priced marketing package can more than pay for itself when the sales start rolling in.
Outsourced professionals can also cost less than employees. For example, an on-staff IT professional may expect to be paid $50K per year in salary alone. Hiring similar professionals on an as-needed basis can cost much less.
Meanwhile, the time you’ll get back is priceless. While you and your team strategize about your next great product or the changes you’ll need to make when you outgrow your current location, your outsourced professionals can be sweating the small stuff.
Another benefit of outsourcing is that you can easily ramp up or ramp down outsourced services, depending on what’s happening in your company. For example, you may grow to the point where it makes sense to always have full-time IT professionals onsite, so you no longer need the outsourced IT team.
How to Hire an Outsourced Vendor
If you think outsourcing may be a good option but you’re not sure where to begin, here are some tips to get started:
- Start with the end in mind. Know what you want your vendor to accomplish. For example, if you’re looking for a firm to help with payroll, will it be every week? Twice a month? How much time do you hope to save on this task? What kind of expertise are you looking for? How much can you afford to spend?
- Ask for referrals. Find out from other small business owners if they’ve used this type of vendor before and whether they like the firm they work with. Ask what they like in particular and how hiring that firm has helped their business.
- Do your research. Check out a variety of firm websites to understand the differences between them as well as reviews to see what others say about them. Narrow the search down to two or three to interview.
- Conduct interviews. Ask questions of each of the two or three “finalists.” These meetings could be in person, over the phone, or via a video call. Find out if they have experience with your type of company and whether they can help with the issues you identified in step #1. Also, do a “personality check.” Would you like working with these people on a regular basis?
- Make an agreement. The vendor will likely have an agreement they want you to sign. Have your in-house or outsourced legal team review before you put pen to paper. Be sure to include a section about intellectual property protection.
- Review the arrangement. After a reasonable period, review your relationship with the vendor. Are they helping you accomplish the goals you initially identified? Do you like working with them? Is the arrangement helping your business move forward?
- Make adjustments. Your review might reveal some adjustments that need to be made. If the vendor is willing, let them know what you’d like to see change. If the changes are important and the vendor isn’t cooperative, consider starting the process again to find more suitable help.
- Recognize when you’ve outgrown a vendor. Even before a regularly scheduled review, you might conclude that, although an outsourcing firm has done a great job for you, they can no longer meet your needs as you grow. You can part ways knowing the relationship has benefitted both of you.
Outsourcing may at first seem intimidating and expensive. But, as a small business owner or manager, you should at least give the idea a chance. Outsourcing is a great way to expand your operations, give yourself more time in the day, and allow your employees to do what they do best. It can also end up being more cost-effective than hiring full-time staff and can be a great investment in your future success.
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