small business owner

When and How to Outsource for your Small Business

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners have enormous talents but oftentimes they think they can do it all. This mindset can really hinder the growth of the business. Through outsourcing, they will have more time to focus on their core competencies to generate income. 

Business owners and entrepreneurs have long seen outsourcing as a strategy used by big businesses or large corporations, but technology has made this incredible resource more accessible to startups and other small businesses. For many startups, outsourcing has made a powerful impact not only on their growth but also on their efficiency, productivity and bottom lines. 

More and more businesses in the SME category are outsourcing or utilising offshore teams to do repetitive day-to-day back-office tasks because of technology. The advancing technology allowed professionals to be able to work from anywhere in the world. Couple that with the availability of extremely qualified and talented professionals. Whether it’s a virtual executive assistant, digital marketing professional, graphic designer, bookkeeper or web developer, there’s a large pool of these talents in countries like the Philippines. The utilisation of offshore staffing helps small businesses save on overhead costs. It removed the burden of paying overhead associated with payroll taxes and expenses such as health insurance and salary, as well as the office space constrictions that growing a company in-house can present.

When to outsource

Taking the first steps toward outsourcing can be a daunting task and extremely time-consuming. But figuring out how to build a more sustainable business with help from outside professionals can offer increased productivity, efficiency and economies of scale.  According to David Walsh, an entrepreneur and author of Source Control, “Progressive entrepreneurs realise the unstoppable power of outsourcing to handle aspects of their business that are essential but simply don’t make sense for them to deal with personally.”

The right time to outsource is different for every company. Some businesses have in-house employees to handle daily activities but may need outside help to tackle new projects that are beyond their capabilities and capacities. It’s when you and your current staff are unable to manage the daily business of your company and do it satisfactorily, it may be the right time to consider outsourcing. For entrepreneurs, the realisation may come when you had no time left in your day to pursue the growth of your business. If you want your business to thrive, you have to let go of some control and start delegating. 

According to Tonya Thomas, president of The Small Office Assistant, it’s recommended that startups and very small businesses start outsourcing from the very beginning. She suggested starting out with a virtual assistant and a bookkeeper and growing the team from there. 

What to outsource

Almost any task can be outsourced these days with many outsourcing and offshore staffing firms in countries like the Philippines offering access to a large pool of talented and qualified English-speaking professionals. But just because you can outsource a task or a project doesn’t mean you should. 

Business owners should take a hard look at their business and determine their strengths and values. Startups and small businesses especially must identify their core competencies and capabilities. 

Here are two general categories of the types of tasks that are best outsourced: 

  • Highly repetitive tasks. Some examples are data-entry, accounts payable, website tasks such as moderating comments, blog writing, content creation, SEO and social media tasks.
  • Specialised knowledge. An example is IT support for your network or accounting system. 

Related: Here are 4 tasks that entrepreneurs should consider outsourcing.

Finding the Right Outsourcing Provider

Although technology makes it a lot easier to find capable, reliable outsource providers, the selection process is still extremely important. There’s no better place to start than your own network; ask other entrepreneurs or your accountant, lawyer, or banker if they can recommend a provider that offers the services you need. Online networks like LinkedIn and Facebook make it easy to grow your personal networks and to ask for recommendations.

Others are also able to locate outsource providers through brokers like Outsource Accelerator. They are the leading Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) marketplace, advisory & operator for businesses across the globe. They connect startups, entrepreneurs and business owners of small-to-medium sized companies with the top outsourcing providers in the Philippines while helping them learn about, engage and integrate outsourcing into their businesses.

Whether you use a personal referral, a web-based broker or marketplace, or a consultant, the key to choosing the right provider is to know exactly what you’re business needs are.

Focusing on identifying your performance metrics for each task that you want to outsource is critical. There are some outsourcing providers that focus on speed at the expense of quality or vice versa. This is fine as long as there is a good match between what the small business wants and what the provider specialises in. In the Philippines, there are BPOs that specialise in customer service support for big companies like Slack, Google, AT&T, Skype to name a few who require a larger call centre operation. Others specialise in assisting the SME market like Dynamic Business Outsourcing Solutions (DBOS). DBOS’ business model allows full flexibility to scale up and down from 1 staff to 50+ which is perfect for startups and expanding businesses. Many small businesses don’t realise these massive differences among outsourcing providers and select the wrong ones. It’s essential to have an open and transparent conversation with potential partners regarding these key performance metrics.

Making it Work for your Small Business

Your work does not end yet once you’ve found a provider. You need to put in some extra time creating a specific contract that outlines exactly all the key performance indicators. You need to ensure that your provider focuses on what is most important to you rather than their own preferences or assumptions of what you want. 

Set your expectations and the steps included in the job as clearly as possible. Never assume that your provider is thinking what you’re thinking. And even when you clearly set your expectations, there will always be a learning curve on the provider’s side so just be patient. The provider will get better, and you will soon have the freedom to focus on more important tasks. 

Finally, your last responsibility to become a successful outsourcer is to relinquish some control and allow your new offshore team to do the job you’ve hired them to do. A measure of trust is required to be successful at outsourcing. Remember that the whole point of outsourcing is to save your valuable management time and attention. You also have to realise that removing yourself from low-level operations is the smartest investment you can make for the long-term success of your business.

Determining the Costs vs. the Benefits

The costs of allowing you to get away from the day-to-day tasks and build a better business depend on the type of work that you’re buying. You also have to consider the skill level of the employees you’re planning to hire and the location of your provider.

In the Philippines, outsourcing companies like DBOS offer a flat structure monthly fee which covers all the dedicated staffing solutions:

  • Staff’s salary package
  • Staff’s workstation
  • Electricity and internet access
  • HR support
  • IT support
  • Admin support
  • Orientation
  • Payroll processing
  • Benefits management
  • Performance monitoring and evaluation
  • Engagement and recognition programs
  • Meeting and boardroom access
  • Access to pantry and supplies

This type of fee structure allows businesses to save between $20,000 to $40,000 per employee annually. 

It cannot be any more true that you get what you pay for wherever you go in the world. Regardless of location, you always have to pay someone what they are worth. Leveraging the currency differences though can often work in your favour. 

Overcoming the Challenges

Outsourcing does not guarantee success every time. While it yields great advantages for a startup or small business, there are always challenges. 

  • Language and timezone barriers. Making sure that your own communication is clear can help overcome confusion for non-native English speakers. Time zones, on the other hand, create more opportunity than an inconvenience. You can extend your productive hours by assigning tasks over to your offshore team during your workday and wake up to find it complete and ready for you.
  • Security risks. There is always some level of security risks involved when handing over tasks to an outsourced provider. You need to ensure that you’re not risking any employee personal information and customer data. Choose a provider that allows clients to maintain their intellectual property and full process and data control. Or provide them with only the absolute minimum data necessary for them to do the job. Otherwise, for general sense, always review your provider’s security policy and practices.

Earning the Benefits of Small Business Outsourcing

Despite the risks, outsourcing offers small business owners great advantages. It’s an affordable and proven strategy for growing your business without letting it consume all your time. Outsourcing can bring back your focus on your core competencies and allows you to spend your time setting new goals and finding ways to fulfil them.