Outsourcing is one of the least-discussed weapons of successful businesses. Whether it’s literally outsourcing a job to another country or simply delegating it to someone else in America, business owners who clear the unimportant from their plates are free to focus on what really matters. As a result, their businesses enjoy steady growth instead of being suffocated by unpleasant chores and busywork. Here’s how you can do the same:
Embrace the Outsourcing Mentality
A jack of all trades is a master of none. It’s an old saying, and one that many entrepreneurs would do well to remember. Unfortunately, there is often a resistance to outsourcing in the business world. The prevailing attitude seems to be “why should I pay someone else to do what I can easily do myself?” It sounds logical, but it actually isn’t.
The reason it makes sense to outsource tasks as a business owner is the same reason you probably don’t change the oil in your car. Someone else can do it better, more quickly or for less money. Outsourcing is your friend, not something to resent or avoid. As an entrepreneur, you should actively and zealously look for ways to get things done through others. The only exceptions are your core competencies – the thing(s) your business does better than anyone else.
Hire an Assistant
Outsourcing doesn’t necessarily mean hiring foreign workers (although it certainly can take this form.) You can get started with outsourcing by just hiring an assistant. It can be an in-person assistant who works with you in your office, or a virtual assistant who completes tasks from abroad.
Before starting your search, nail down some specific chores you’d like to unload on them. Anything low-value, repetitive or personally unsatisfying will do: invoice processing, task scheduling, follow-up, etc. For best results, create written procedures that specify exactly how to do the tasks you’re outsourcing. Fine-tune and refine these procedures over time.
Utilize Third-Party Vendors
Another excellent way to outsource the unimportant or unenjoyable is using third-party vendors. Take payroll processing, for example. As a busy executive, do you really want to sit down for hours at a time manually sending out paychecks to your team? Of course not. So why not pay a company like Paychex to do it for you?
Receipt processing is another example. In order to maximize tax write-offs, your company needs to carefully store and categorize all business expense receipts. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it. Companies like Shoeboxed.com take your receipts (via mail) and categorize them into an online, accountant-friendly digital record, with no involvement from you. These are just examples of what’s possible: always look for third-party vendors who can perform low-value tasks faster or less expensively.
Freelancers can offer a partial solution to your outsourcing challenges under the right circumstances. Let’s say it’s your company’s job to produce some type of content. Maybe it’s articles, maybe it’s graphics, maybe it’s some combination of both. In his classic book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber encourages entrepreneurs not to get overly caught up in actually doing the work. You might technically be qualified to produce the content, but you should be working on your business, not in it.
Instead of adding content creation to your ever-growing list of management chores, why not recruit some capable freelancers? Once they’re in place, growth becomes a good thing – easily supported by your outsourced infrastructure – rather than something you worry about.
Bring Employees On Board
Freelancing isn’t the right solution for everyone. Turnover tends to be high, and locating reliable remote workers can be difficult. In that case, bringing an employee or two on board can be a better answer. Although you’ll need to pay half of their payroll taxes, you also get several advantages: namely, the ability to directly supervise them in your own office.
Employees are ideal for tasks you despise, but which do need to get done and will never go away. Installing a full-time employee into that position and training them to do a good job can be more attractive than a potential revolving-door of hit or miss freelancers.
Enforce Quality Standard
No matter who you outsource tasks to, it will be imperative to enforce quality standards. The fact that something is being outsourced doesn’t justify doing it poorly. Take receipt management, from our earlier example. No one enjoys doing it, but the difference between it getting done well or poorly is powerfully felt at tax time. The same goes for most (if not all) of the tasks you wish to outsource.
The key is to avoid seeing outsourcing as a “set it and forget it” solution. Before placing a business process in someone else’s hands, clearly spell out what your expectations are – what good work looks like and, perhaps more important, what type of work you will absolutely not accept.