A while ago I was writing about how globalisation might help us in relocation, how instead of whining that we’re losing the identity because of all the global brands we can switch our thinking to seeing positives of this situation and use it to your advantage.
Today I’d like to mention one more very common phenomenon that is still underrated by many people, which is outsourcing – either of a company function or just certain tasks to external parties.
Outsourcing comes in handy when you seem to do more and more time-consuming tasks that do not directly contribute to your business, but do consume a lot of your resources. Let’s take an example of a one-person company, where you’re the boss and you have to do everything around your company to keep it rolling – strategy, accounting, client relations, marketing, administration etc. At the beginning when you’re just starting it might be manageable and it of course also saves costs. With time, you might want to consider hiring another person, say, an accountant, who would look after your books and make sure your invoices are paid on time. It is true that you will need to pay them a salary, but thanks to this you will also have more time to establish new client relationships which then in turn will provide bigger revenues. Another aspect to this is that it is extremely hard to be ‘5 in 1’. Extremely hard to have all the skills to be a great accountant, great boss, great marketing specialist and a great salesman. It probably is to some extent possible, but will take an enormous amount of energy and resources. Is it really worth all this stress?
What types of activities can you outsource?
There are multiple things that other specialists can help you with:
- accounting, bookkeeping
- database management
- managing emails and calendar
- booking travels
- creating client presentations, visual identification, graphics
- IT support
- social tasks (thank you notes, holiday cards, social media channels)
Your choice would of course depend on which part of your business you’re struggling with and want to save your time on.
Many global companies have their outsourcing centres based around the world. Very popular hubs are Poland in Europe, Philippines and India in Asia and Costa Rica in Americas. These are relatively cheap locations for the companies, but with a very well-educated staff. For these companies, whole departments can be outsourced to these locations, such as Finance, HR or IT.
But outsourcing is not only for global corporations. Smaller companies might benefit from it a lot as well. I also use external services support for this blog even though I don’t have any formal business set up for it. I could probably deal with the technicalities of the blog, regular back ups etc and on top of that do the main activity (so write and edit articles and prepare graphics). But because I would need to learn it from scratch and it was taking far too much time than I initially assumed, I found a person who does the technical magic behind the scenes for me and she is great! I don’t have to worry about anything and have time to focus on the content while she can successfully run her company with other clients like myself. Everyone is happy, win-win!
You’d be surprised how many people live off the services sector by running clients’ social media channels, providing administrative or technical support!
What if your support person lives somewhere else and you’ll be working remotely? How can you ensure you give them the right tasks and that they understand what is expected of them?
Here are a couple steps you can take to ensure you’re on track with successful outsourcing.
Make a log of your weekly activities
I would start with analysing the current situation of your business. What tasks do you do daily? How much time do they take? Thinking in terms of Pareto principle, which 20% of your activities generate the biggest profits/effects/progress? Which 80% do you spend most time on but are not the core of your business?
You will probably want to keep doing the 20% as you want to keep track of the core activities. However for the other 80% you might want to consider which tasks you don’t feel confident enough in and that could actually be outsourced?
Create a profile of the specialist you’re looking for
Once you’ve got the tasks that you can outsource listed, you can think of who you need to find, what kind of knowledge, skills or qualifications this person should have. You can’t just hire the first random person that applies! Take this opportunity to play a recruiter role for a while 🙂
Let’s assume you got to the point where you decided you could use some help with managing your calendar and setting up meetings, booking your travels for client meetings as well as responding to queries that come in through the social media channels.
Now, do you need three different people to look after these tasks? Probably not. What skills does this person need to have? Do they need extensive knowledge of social media marketing? Do they need to have any prior administrative experience? Do they need to have experience in client-facing roles? If you just need this person to manage the communication through private chats on social media you probably don’t need to look for social media specialist, assuming you will be creating the content yourself. In this case you could probably end up looking for a virtual assistant that could help you with all these administrative tasks that you lack the time for.
You can do this exercise with any type of activities you’d like to outsource.
Recruiting your assistant
Congratulations! You know which tasks you need help with. You know what skills your assistant needs to have. One more thing that would be worth considering is who this person should be. Are you a bit chaotic yourself and would like someone to introduce some good organisation into your life? Would you like to work with someone who has flexible working hours or rather just be available from time X to Z twice a week? How much would you be willing to pay them? On what terms – monthly, weekly, daily? What contract will you sign with them? What training or information about the company they would need to be able to start their work with you? These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself before posting your job ad anywhere. Consider what the potential candidates will be likely to ask you and try to include the essential information in the ad already to avoid unnecessary extra work with answering to applications that are completely irrelevant.
Be patient with the recruiting process. You might meet various people with various motivations and differing skill set, so it’s worth spending the time to actually get to know them before making your final decision. In the end what matters is whether you will have a good working relationship with them or not 🙂 And this is true for both small companies and global corporations.
Consider cultural and time differences
When hiring someone to help you perform some of the tasks, you might also want to consider first of all the time zone you are in and the time zone of your assistant. Will they work? Would it be good for you to have someone in a time zone a couple of hours ahead of you so that you can give them some tasks your evening and they can work on them in the morning while you might still be asleep? Or maybe the tasks you’d like to outsource require the person to be available during your working hours? Answer to these questions would help define which locations you can consider when looking for your support staff.
And last but not least – when considering working with someone from another culture remotely don’t assume that it will all somehow magically work out. Probably the best way to approach this is to set up a meeting/call with this person to agree on some rules and ways you will be working with each other. It’s good to have this conversation and agree on things like – how often will you be catching up, how often does this person need to update you on the progress of his/her tasks, in what form it’s best to explain the tasks to them, will there be any other person involved in this project, are there any specific rules or standards your company has that your assistant needs to follow etc.
Is there anything else you think is necessary to do before hiring a support specialist of any kind to help you with your tasks?
Did you/would you use the methods above when trying to outsource certain activities?
Would you consider a remote support or rather work with someone who is on site with you?