Outsourcing is a familiar concept — whether a company actually employs outsourcing as part of its operating strategy, or it has no other alternative. The benefits of outsourcing have been well documented and remain attractive to start-ups and established companies alike. Regardless of the stage of your business—just starting out, undergoing growth or working to maintain scale—there may be areas of your business that will benefit from a shift to an external resource.
Key long-term benefits of outsourcing include the following:
- It can help you focus on the core business: With peripheral tasks now managed by outside staff, managers can utilize the time, energy and capital freed up to devote to areas that will best grow their business (e.g. focus on customers, growing new clientele, etc.).
- It can help you better control costs: Cost-cutting may not be the only reason to outsource, but it can be a key factor. Outsourcing could allow you to avoid large expenditures and can reallocate capital for investment elsewhere in your business. It can also reduce human-resources costs, as it will help avoid paying large salaries for full-time staff or incurring costs to hire and train staff for short-term projects.
- It can help level the playing field: Small companies or startups that can’t quite afford to develop a full-fledged suite of in-house services can, by outsourcing, access the same expertise and economies of scale that other, larger companies can.
- It can increase productivity: Using outside help can provide your employees an added boost thereby increasing their productivity and accelerating growth.
- It can provide new ideas. An outside set of eyes can a) see the whole picture (financial, strategic, operational), b) offer a full host of services to serve that myriad of challenges and c) implement those changes on your behalf.
If you’re considering outsourcing certain tasks, it will help to first prioritize the needs of your business. This means looking closely at your and your teams’ daily tasks and the administrative processes involved in day-to-day operations in order to identify areas that take up significant amounts of time and may be competing with more important or urgent work.
Which tasks, then, merit consideration for outsourcing? Business needs certainty will vary by individual company and its circumstances, but generally speaking, (1) tasks that are routine or procedural and (2) tasks that require specific, specialized skills and knowledge that you or your teams do not have would be fitting jobs to outsource, (3) jobs that are not directly linked with increasing profit or growth of the business.
Consider these areas, some of which may not be as obvious as others:
- Financial services: Businesses can outsource accounting, bookkeeping or payroll tasks if hiring a full-time accountant does not fit comfortably in their budget. Financial tasks are much more complex than calculating number of hours worked by employees. There are regulations and requirements, as well as tax laws to consider. This is an area in which expertise will especially matter, as mistakes and resulting damages to the business can be difficult to undo. Outsourcing to a reliable financial expert service provider can be a significant help as it will allow managers to focus more on running the business.
- Information technology: Outsourcing technology needs can provide all-around support and peace of mind. Not only can you count on staff availability for emergencies, but there will be someone or a team dedicated to maintaining your systems up-to-date with new upgrades and security measures.
- Marketing: Communication with existing and prospective clients is a crucial component of running a business. A marketing staff skilled in creating content and navigating the social media landscape will be essential. A business owner might manage this area on his or her own, but this could cut into time and energy that could be spent on the most important functions of the business. Investing in outside resources will help managers focus more on areas that require the most attention and will help drive further growth.
- C-Suite: Higher-level jobs may be overlooked for outsourcing, but your business may not at the moment require a full-time chief financial officer or chief operating officer. Outsourcing these executive posts means you can have access to their expertise on a project basis or a few times a week or month, customized to best fit your needs, without having to pay a CFO or COO’s salary.
Businesses should know their core competencies and capabilities—where they add value—and focus their resources primarily on those areas. Outsourcing must be done as a means to that end, with the goal of aiding business owners and managers to devoting time to the core offerings of the business. Outsourcing also must be done judiciously, as outsourcing too much or outsourcing the wrong functions (i.e. any of the core responsibilities) would not be appropriate, as the business then would not be offering anything customers can’t get elsewhere.
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