Outsourcing is defined as hiring people or firms to take over specific business functions rather than doing it all in-house. It used to be a strategy only large businesses used because the vendors they would work with were large themselves. Think of a company like General Mills outsourcing its advertising to a Madison Avenue agency or its legal obligations to a multinational law firm.
Today, the situation has changed. Along with access to the internet, we have also gained access to local and online businesses and individuals ready to take on as little – or as much – of our daily duties as we want to outsource. Today, small businesses around the world are gaining the efficiencies, skills, and cost savings necessary to grow their businesses at rates never before seen.
The only hitch? Many small business owners aren't sure which exact responsibilities they should farm out or what they should be looking for in the vendors they choose. If you're planning on taking advantage of outsourcing in the new year, keep reading for the top tasks we recommend hiring out – along with info about what outsourcing vendors can do and the benefits they can bring.1. Sales Calls. If there's one thing most small business owners dread, it's making a sales call. It makes sense; sales calls can be seen as intrusive and offensive – even by the people making them. They also can take a while to perfect. So why take on that kind of psychological burden? Outsource your outbound sales strategy by contracting it out to folks who are trained to be effective salespeople. Lead generation companies will identify target customer characteristics (like title, industry, ZIP code, etc.), pull together contact lists, and schedule appointments with potential customers for you. Many companies like this charge (at least in part) based on appointments scheduled – so the cost comes with results.
2. Marketing. Along with sales, marketing is a great responsibility to delegate to the experts. Sure, I'm co-founder of a marketing and communications firm so may be slightly biased, but if there's one thing it's hard for many small business owners to keep up with: it's marketing in an online environment. We don't live in a world of "set it and forget it" when it comes to your brand. Websites, social media, digital communications, reputation management, content, search engine optimization, online ads: all of it is complicated, ever-changing, and requires near-constant monitoring by a staff of more than one person. Outsource it to the pros and rest assured that your business is building a positive presence and improving customer relationships (even while you sleep).
3. Storage. There is absolutely no reason to pay high prices for on-site storage when CubeSmart offers so many low-cost, high-convenience business storage solutions. CubeSmart small business customers use their self-storage units to neatly organize everything from paper goods to off-season inventory to office equipment. CubeSmart managers have found that drive-up units are especially useful resources for small business owners, but be sure to give them a call at 855-578-8744 to discuss your exact business needs – and find the exact storage solution to meet them.
4. Bookkeeping. Bookkeeping and other small business accounting needs (such as invoicing and bill collections) that will likely waste a lot of your valuable time can be outsourced for reasonable fees. Stop worrying about inaccuracies in your financials, or letting your books fall behind, and leave it to the pros. When it comes to filing your year-end tax returns (which, surprise surprise, should also be outsourced), there's nothing better than having categorized, reconciled, and correct financial statements.
5. Information Technology (IT). Along with accounting and finance, IT is the most commonly outsourced small business function. It makes sense. Both of those competencies are highly technical and require specific skills that regularly need to be refreshed. IT outsourcing resources for small business owners run the gamut from setting up and managing company email addresses to maintaining and safeguarding company data in the cloud. That last bit is an important one. According to recent outsourcing research by Deloitte, "Around 90% of [participants in its global outsourcing study] saw the cloud as one of the primary enablers in their outsourcing journey." As with all companies you consider outsourcing with, be sure to diligently check the references and online reputation of any IT company you hire. Your digital footprint is too important to share with just anyone.
6. Extra work. Similar to growing too slowly, growing too quickly is a risk many small businesses face. If you find yourself overwhelmed with work, take the time to start subcontracting whichever parts of it you can. After all, if there's one rule in entrepreneurship, it's “never say no to a customer.” The key to scaling is to be as efficient as possible – and that means delegating. One rule of thumb when outsourcing business tasks is to choose those that are easily explainable. Examples for office jobs include research into competitors, customers, or industry data, data collection or analysis, and sales presentations. Of course, you'll want to diligently check the quality of anything you subcontract because, at the end of the day, it's your name on the work.
7. Competitive Research. Small business owners know that in order to stay solvent, they must stay competitive. One of the best outsourcing ideas I've seen is to hire a firm (or individual) to "shop" your competitors and prepare a report for you. You can easily (and pretty cheaply) find out pricing, sales pitches, and customer acquisition/customer service techniques – all of which can help you understand what your company could be doing better to distinguish itself in the marketplace as well as to attract and serve customers.
8. Scheduling. If your small business is one that serves multiple clients in a day or week, then outsourcing your scheduling to a trusted provider makes a lot of sense. Cut down on no-shows, ensure teams show up at the right job sites, and deliver a better customer experience by outsourcing the function to the pros. Firms can book and confirm appointments with customers, follow up to ensure any forms or pre-payments have been submitted, and manage your internal scheduling software to ensure that everyone is where they need to be – when they need to be there.
9. Human Resources (HR). HR is one of those functions that a small business owner might not need – until they do. And then they really need it. Lower your risk (and get ahead of that need) by outsourcing to an HR firm that ensures employees receive the support and training they need to be happy and effective and keeps up with all the local, state, and federal employment laws and statutes. It's a big job, and it's not one you want to mess up. Also, keep in mind that HR is about more than lowering risk; it's about increasing humanity at the office. If your employees know there is a process by which to air their concerns or gain the support necessary to improve their performance, they will likely be more motivated and committed to your company. Good HR professionals can also help you identify and offer benefits that make top employees want to work at your company – and stay at your company – which will have a huge return on investment.
10. Visual Content. If there's one thing that the Internet has taught all of us, it's the importance of good visual content. For small business owners, this means updated and modern photographs of staff members, locations, and inventory. It also means a unified brand with consistent fonts, logos, and colors, and on-point merchandising. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a novice with a cell phone can take quality pictures of your products or that an intern with an Adobe account should control what your brand looks like. Instead, outsource it to the pros who can quickly and compellingly tell your brand story – and express your brand values – through art, photography, and graphic design. Nothing says professionalism like sharp, clean, and high-resolution graphics spread across your marketing materials, website, and social media accounts. Visual appeal has always mattered but in today's world, it can mean the difference between a sale and a pass.
Outsourcing resources for small business cover a wide range of needs. As stands to reason, they also come at a variety of price points. In my experience with outsourcing, price tends to equal quality and professionalism. That being said, there are always underpriced ‘diamonds in the rough' if you're willing to put the time in to find them.
Quality contractors also tend to be shared between small business owners by word of mouth or networking. If you're in the market for a new vendor to take over some of your small business tasks, ask around in your professional circles. You will likely end up with a list of outsourcing resources to contact and, maybe even more valuable, a list of who not to contact.
Definitely let us know in the comments or on social (@cubesmart) if we missed your favorite outsourcing resources for small businesses. We're always open to new ideas and are curious about what your experience has been so far – and what you're planning for this year.