15 Mar What to outsource first as a small business
What to outsource first as a small business, as your business grows or changes, can be a difficult question to answer. As your small business grows there are a number of issues you will need to consider. Planning for growth and change is ideal, but quite often decisions have to be made when opportunities present themselves. Decisions might include: staffing, outsourcing, going into or expanding a premises.
If you aspire to have a business that operates without you so you are free to go on holidays or earn money while you sleep, then you need to have a support crew. If you need to meet regularly with external clients you might need to consider having an office space rather than meeting in cafes.
You are probably used to being the ‘everything’ in our business. From the CEO to the director of sales, the book keeper and manager of first impressions. Because you become so used to doing everything yourself it can be hard to let go of some of the day-to-day activities of your business. And sometimes when we try to hand over some of the reins we are disappointed in the result. Because let’s face it, nobody does things the way you do!
But growth will not come without you moving from working in your business serving customers to working on your business (developing strategies, taking advantage of new opportunities and the consideration of new products or services).
You may already have people and organisations in place who have supported you in setting up and starting your business, such as an accountant and a lawyer. If you needed finance to start, you might already have a relationship with a banker/angel/ investor. You may have a mentor or business coach. However, as your business changes so too do your needs change.
Finding the best help
Recommendations can be a good way of finding the most appropriate professionals for your needs. Ask in your industry networks, through online networks such as LinkedIn and through Beyond Business Groups too. Make a list of all the things you want from specialists –- what skills do you need and what values do you admire? Then you can interview a range of people to see if they can meet your needs. What might be right for someone else might not be right for you.
You may be tempted to accept offers from friends and family who want to help you out by providing their service for ‘free’. While the gesture is nice, if they don’t have the specific skills or expertise in the area you need, you may be better off paying for someone who does. And you don’t want to have to wait for services if they prioritise paying clients ahead of you. Is there really such a thing as ‘free’? (Ah, the fine print.)
Just as you are the key to your business success, the people you involve in your business can be critical to your long-term sustainability. No-one will love or be as committed to your business as you are, but you need to surround yourself with people who support you and your business idea and can contribute to its success.
What to outsource first
Before deciding on what types of jobs you want someone else to do it is useful to undertake an audit of your own skills and passions. What are you good at? What do you like doing? What do you want to continue to do? And most importantly – what are you happy to handball to someone else?
The most common areas to outsource or employ people for in small business include:
- bookkeeping (made easy through cloud solutions such as Xero, Quickbooks and MYOB)
- social media
- administration (virtual assistant, personal assistant)
- sales (agent, representative)
Employ or outsource?
As well as deciding what skills you want, you need to decide if you will employ someone directly or outsource to them through a contracting or project-based arrangement.
If you are employing someone you need to decide on:
- employment conditions and entitlements
- level of pay (often based on employee awards and agreements)
- other costs of employment, including skills and training needs, and new equipment and facilities
- work arrangements.
Before you decide to advertise a job, prepare a position description that defines the responsibilities and functions of the job. This will help you identify the knowledge, experience and skills required, as well as the interview questions you might ask.
If you are outsourcing you need to agree on the fee, the desired outcome and payment terms.
As well as employing and outsourcing, you should also consider what areas of your business could be automated. Automation is basically handing over a job to technology. If you are using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite you are already using automation. Automation can help improve your efficiencies and reduce your costs.
The best tasks to automate are all the jobs you do regularly. As well as the ones you don’t want to put too much thought into. Things such as social media, email marketing, invoicing, customer data management, eCommerce and inventory management.
During the pandemic we got used to using new technology. So there may be some tools you want to adopt in the longer term.
Many small businesses start out in the homes of freelancers and entrepreneurs. As a small business owner, you’ve probably worked out of your kitchen or home study. But as your business grows, you might decide that it’s time to find your own office space. Despite many people enjoying working from home, there are just as many business owners who are looking to further separate their home and business lives.
If you have regular meetings with customers or are planning on hiring staff, an office space gives a better impression and creates clear professional boundaries. On the other hand, you might not have employees or client meetings, but you might just feel more comfortable having a clear distinction between your home and work life.
How much you should spend on your office space depends on a number of factors. These include location, accessibility, amenity, and aesthetics. If you see your company expanding quickly, you might want to consider finding a space that has the facilities to support your growing business.
Planning and implementation
Like anything in your business, before making a decision you should start with setting your goals and developing a strategy to avoid falling for the ‘new bright shiny object syndrome’.
Start by identifying areas and workflows that can benefit most from additional resources. Then decide if it is best to manage them inhouse by employing people, externally by outsourcing or by investing in automation.
What to outsource first as a small business, as your business grows or changes, can be answered by going through the analysis of what your needs are, and who or what is best placed to provide them.
Plan, decide and implement. And of course, measure and make adjustments. Don’t forget all of these business challenges can be made easier by using a Beyond Business Groups brains trust. If you’re not yet part of a group, contact us to arrange a start date.
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