Outsourcing is not something typically associated with small businesses. In fact, the way this practice has been portrayed at times in the news, one might even say they are opposites.
Outsourcing is often associated with larger firms, and it’s sometimes cited as one of the reasons small businesses can’t compete and carve out space in the market.
But this is an unfair characterization of outsourcing. Businesses have been farming out work to other companies for ages, and when done correctly, it can actually be a great way to not only grow your business, but also an economy as a whole.
However, one of the biggest challenges—especially for small businesses where resources tend to be tighter—is knowing exactly what to outsource. You need to find the things in your business that take up too much time and that could produce better returns if you brought in some outside help.
To help you figure out where outsourcing could factor into your business, and to make it easier for you to focus on your core activities, consider these tasks small business owners should be outsourcing:
Accounting and Bookkeeping
This is one of the first things you should outsource as a small company. Improper cash flow management is one of the major reasons why small businesses fail, so it’s best for your company’s future to get some professional help.
Outsourcing accounting work will also save you tons of time. These firms will install automated payroll systems and they will also help you around tax time to make sure that everything is in order and that all documents are filed.
Again, you’ll still want to have an accounting presence inside the firm. But as with marketing, you want these people focused more on strategic thinking, not logging payroll and chasing down accounts payable. Outsourcing some of your company’s more routine accounting work will free these people up to think more about where to take the company instead of where it currently is.
Marketing and content creation
We all know how important marketing is to your business. It’s how you reach new customers, retain current ones, build your brand and engage your audience. But we also all know how hard it can be.
Between conducting the necessary market research and developing, implementing and evaluating a strategy, you can easily eat up a bunch of your time and money trying to get the word out about your company. You can focus on things like word of mouth marketing, which works wonders, but even this is a much more difficult practice than it seems. It requires time, energy and money to be successful. Or, there are growth-marketing tactics.
The answer to this is to get some help. There are countless agencies out there that specialize in all different types of marketing with all different types of objectives. Figure out what it is you would like to focus on as a company, and then bring in an expert to help you get it done.
For example, social media marketing is huge these days, but if you’re not familiar with it, you can easily spend tons of money and see no returns. Consider working with a top Facebook advertising expert to help you leverage this powerful platform. Doing this will make it easier for you to focus on your business’ core functions.
It’s worth noting that you may want to keep some of your marketing operations in-house. It’s useful to have people who truly understand your brand and mission, but don’t let your marketing department get too big. Consider sending out for help for content creation so that those working on marketing from the inside will be able to focus on higher-level strategic thinking.
Nowadays, being a successful company requires more than just having a good product or service. You need to be able to deliver a top-of-the-line “customer experience.” This means working with customers after you’ve made a sale, and attending to them in a personal way as much as you can
When you first start out, it’s possible to do this all yourself. But as you grow up as a company, you need to find ways to do better by your customers. You could invest in a huge customer service operation, but you’ll never be able to compete with the big companies.
So, what you can do instead is get some help. There are lots of firms out there that will handle all your day-to-day customer service operations so that you can maintain a live chatroom on your site and a 24/7 call center without having to make a huge investment on your own.
Of course, you’ll want to maintain ways for customers to contact you directly. You don’t want people viewing you as detached or hard to reach. But by outsourcing the nitty gritty of your customer service operation, you can improve your image with your customers without investing tons of resources.
Far too many small businesses ignore cybersecurity, or at least don’t pay enough attention to it. And this is a real problem.
Small businesses are increasingly becoming targets for cybercrime. They’re easier for hackers to get at because they don’t have the same defenses as larger companies, but they still possess valuable data, especially nowadays with so many small businesses using the internet to reach new customers and grow.
There are some things you can be doing on your own. For example, set up policies about data management, password creation and information sharing. But for the bigger stuff, you’ll want to get some help.
Bringing in someone to manage your servers and to protect you from threats is a worthwhile investment. It might not seem like it on the surface, but considering that most small businesses cannot survive a cyberattack, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
This is the biggest threat of the 21st century, and it’s unlikely you’ll want to (or be able to afford) managing defenses on your own. Bring in a professional and focus on the rest of your business knowing you’re protected.
There’s no reason to think negatively about outsourcing. Bringing in some help from the outside doesn’t mean you can’t do something. It simply suggests you know what you’re strengths are and are more interested in focusing resources on growing your business. Consider outsourcing some of these tasks in your business and witness your company improve as a result.
About the author: Jock Purtle is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service that specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online companies. Jock started his first company when he was just 19-years-old, and since then he has been deeply involved in the world of digital commerce. He believes strongly in helping small businesses succeed, and he writes frequently about his experiences to help do this. You can find some of his work featured in publications such as CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider and Entrepreneur.