It’s no secret I love McDonald’s. I can’t say no to a cheeky cheeseburger. It may have to do with the near six years I spent working there at headquarters watching leaders make complex commercial decisions while simultaneously maintaining the brand integrity. And just like every business big or small, it had to make decisions to specialize, diversify and outsource.
We are all familiar with the saying that good leaders surround themselves with people who can do things better than they can. The idea that we cannot be the best at everything, and seeing the importance of working with those that have complimentary skill sets has taken me time to fully appreciate and recognize the wisdom in this saying.
As the old adage goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Yet why do we still see such a reluctance to outsource functions, particularly in small businesses, and focus our energy on areas we have mastered in order to grow the business faster?
The Voice of Reason
Freedom to focus
Are you doing what you’re great at or are you spending all your time muddying through Google search returns on employment regulations, cash vs accruals accounting or how to use WordPress? If it’s the latter, it may be time to get some HR, bookkeeping or Web Development help because doing more of what you’re best at keeps motivation high, inspires others and is the reason you went into business – you can’t outsource that.
Having an expert
You wouldn’t pull your own tooth out or do your first skydive solo. Equally in business, there are just some things where relying on the niche skills of professionals will improve performance and chance of success. Google has expanded our skillset exponentially but remember you don’t know what you don’t know, so what is it that you’re not Google-ing?
Lower cost and flexibility
Traditionally, access to lower labor cost markets was a key driver for outsourcing but the savings in cost goes beyond that. Outsourcing certain tasks can save you from hiring permanent full time staff and G&A costs, turn fixed into variable costs and give you the flexibility to scale up and scale down quickly in response to market conditions, giving you a competitive advantage.
A valuable partnership
While it may sound brave to go at it alone, it can also be a very lonely and even scary place. Being a founder, the pressure to wear an invincible armor of positivity all through the long work days to build confidence in your employees and investors is tiring to say the least. During times of inevitable struggle, it can be severely isolating. Outsourcing can provide you with an invaluable partner – after all, they’re already on the inside, and as their client they want you to succeed and may have experience in a challenge you’re facing. With the right agent, a service provider could become an integral part of your support network.
Playing Devil’s Advocate
Loss of control
When you start out, you do it all. Cash is tight, the future is unknown but you are in control of how things are being done. Emotionally, it’s a transition to trust an external third party to help mind your growing baby but just like a child, you’ve got to send her to school one day.
External agencies are separate businesses with their own goals, and can be motivated by profit rather than careful consideration of your own customers or strategy. Although tasks may be done more quickly by outsourced experts, quality may be lacking and may not feel like it’s being done on-brand.
Lost in translation
Face-to-face communication can be challenging enough let alone instructing someone over email or phone who has multiple clients to service and focus on. In the early days when they are getting to know your business, it can take valuable time to share and explain information.
Disclosure to clients
Depending on what is being outsourced, is there a grey ethical issue if you do not disclose to your customer the outsourcing of key parts of your product or service? Here at Accela, we always disclose when we’ve outsourced our professional service to someone else, even when it may be common industry practice such as outsourcing bookkeeping to a lower cost market. You chose to put your trust in us over others and that is important.
How to get it right with outsourcing
- You have to start with being honest with yourself. If you don’t do this, you won’t get the right help you need in areas you don’t add value to but spend a lot of time on.
- Understand what your priorities are. Is it just cost? Or is there a more creative or strategic objective an agent will be helping you achieve?
- Talk to multiple vendors. You want a good fit. There is a part of the business that you will be losing direct control over and your service provider can have an impact on your overall business culture.
Reaching a point in your business where you are beginning to strongly consider outsourcing is something to celebrate! Starting up a business is one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can do, and making a decision on whether it’s time to call-in agency help is often a great sign your business is on a trajectory of growth requiring a higher level of professionalism and expertise. And as I’ve learned during my time with McDonald’s, when making that decision, never compromise on your brand integrity and always trust your vision.
At Accela, we understand the decision to outsource is not easy but we truly believe the potential it can bring is worth every consideration.