Many small and medium businesses struggle to find that balance between doing as much in-house as possible to keep costs down, while leaving enough time and resources available to focus on growth and expansion.
With a growing ‘gig economy’ and increased ease of doing business with someone who might be hundreds of miles away thanks to the web, outsourcing non-core business functions has become a lot simpler and more accessible to small businesses.
Yet many are still reluctant to do business this way, preferring to maintain direct control over every aspect of their day to day operations that they can. We take a look at why this might be, and why SMEs who fail to take advantage of the benefits of outsourcing could be doing themselves a disservice.
Identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a business
When you’re in charge of a small team of employees, making the most out of the resources at your disposal is especially important. Getting back to what you do best, improving your service and standing out from the competition should be your main focus at all times. And while that all sounds good on paper, actually running a business in the real world is never that simple!
This is never truer than in financially trying times. When you’re in ‘survival mode’ all those goals, strategies and plans can all too easily fly out the window while you’re busy just trying to keep the business afloat. Ironically, it is these times when focusing on the long term can be most important – shifting gears, innovating and coming up with something new that can boost profits in a sustainable way. The very last thing you should be worrying about is admin.
In a world where you can, quite literally, outsource your grocery shopping – it doesn’t make sense to be doing tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks in-house. And while many businesses still see outsourcing as something only big corporates and large firms can take advantage of – it could now be true that the smaller you are, the more you need to outsource – so that all of your resources can be firmly focused on growth.
Start by establishing in your own mind what your core business functions are. What are the biggest strengths of each of your employees, and are you using them effectively? What are the non-core functions that take up the most time? These are the areas you should prioritize outsourcing first.
Examples of tasks you could outsource:
Even if you run a tech company, things like compliance techniques, technology budgeting, lifecycle planning, online security, data and disaster recovery, and even just staying on top of new developments and the latest tech trends can take time away from your main business focus. A virtual CIO company can take care of all that for you.
From tax reporting to payroll and general accounting, it’s never been easier to outsource as many or as little of your financial administrative tasks as you see fit. By outsourcing to a professional – whether that’s a dedicated firm or an experienced freelancer – you’re also less likely to make errors or overlook requirements you might not even have been aware of, but which could come back to haunt you.
Many SMEs make the mistake of putting marketing on the back burner when things get busy – meaning your social media profiles, company blog and website end up neglected and not bringing in new revenue like they should be. By outsourcing your marketing, it takes the pressure off of you to keep churning out new content – and lets you get on with assisting the new customers your well-marketed company will be bringing in!
Personal admin and travel arrangements:
A virtual assistant can free up your time to focus on your business by handling all manner of small tasks on your behalf, from scheduling in client visits and managing travel arrangements, to making that booking with the hairdresser.
Staying on top of what your competitors are up to, industry-relevant news and conducting in-depth market research is another one of those tasks it can be tricky to find the time for when you’ve got your hands full running your business – yet is crucial in planning your company goals and strategy.
While it’s perfectly possible for SMEs to conduct their own SEO, it’s one of those areas that need regular check-ups and improvements, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry. If you rely on your website for leads (and who doesn’t these days?) then this is another task you should outsource immediately.
Graphic design, doing a website overhaul, recruitment, creating a snazzy presentation or radio advert – if it’s one off and not in your regular wheelhouse, outsource it.
But what about cost?
Yes, outsourcing to freelancers or external providers does cost money – although due to the competitive nature of the online space, probably nowhere near as much as you anticipate. Wasting time when you could have been growing your business and setting the wheels in motion for great things to come, on the other hand, likely costs you a lot more. Remember that your time is always best spent doing what you do best!