When it comes to outsourcing, I’ve seen people at both extremes. There are those who believe they can outsource every aspect, and those who think they need to do everything themselves. The brave souls who believe they can outsource everything are most likely limiting themselves in growth because they are probably not actively finding problems and solutions within their businesses, and those who believe they can only trust themselves are obviously going to prevent growth and possibly put themselves out of business. There are also those that are fine with hiring people to perform tasks, but they want to be able to completely control it and keep everything in house. So the question becomes: What is the correct balance?
I believe the balance is achieved by asking this question: If I didn’t have to do this and had this extra time, would I be able to do something more profitable? Or if you’re considering outsourcing something you currently employ someone to do you would ask if their time could be used in a more valuable manner.
So let’s look at the main things you can outsource:
- Fulfillment: A personal example for me was when we decided to outsource our fulfillment. At first I was shipping boxes myself, then later I was overseeing warehouse workers. Managing warehouse workers was not a profitable use of my time, neither did it play to my strengths. Plus, I didn’t want to become a fulfillment expert and spend my days strategically mapping out ideal SKU locations when I could be focusing on increasing sales. We decided to outsource and after an initial hiccup we’ve had tremendous success. I can’t even imagine going back to doing it in house. They are also a lot better at it than we ever were! I find it hard to come up with any circumstance where I would not outsource this part of the business. As long as you find the right fulfillment center that can do what you need, this is the way to go.
- Call Center: The customer service experience is a much trickier thing to consider. It also depends greatly on the sort of business you’re in. At Rosenberry Rooms we sell high end nursery products and a certain level of expertise is expected of us. Therefore, we can’t outsource this department. If you’re selling something that requires less finesse though, this can be an excellent route to take. Outsourcing will also give you the benefit of extended hours and weekends when it would be a much larger undertaking to have phones staffed all the time if you kept it in house.
- Marketing: Marketing can be extremely expensive to outsource and you’re also taking a big risk. If you are a complete novice, though, and have no desire to learn than this may be a better strategy at least to start with. In the end, your best bet is to outsource portions of your strategy that you don’t know how to deal with, and deal with what you understand yourself.
- Mindless tasks: Just about anything that requires a series of repeatable mindless tasks should be outsourced in my opinion. As long as the cost of outsourcing isn’t prohibitive you should constantly be asking yourself if this is something worth spending your time on.
When talking to people at conferences, I feel that outsourcing get’s a bad rep in today’s small business circles, people look shocked when I talk about all the things I no longer do in house. The reality though, is that those people are stuck in an old fashioned mindset and are not valuing their time properly. The key is to stay focused on what you’re best at, and have someone else handle what you’re not.