Outsourcing has become a widespread practice among small-business owners. They use outsourcing for reasons such as handling work overflows, marketing, IT and administrative tasks. This saves business owners valuable time and attention that could be placed on higher-priority tasks. It is prudent to perform a cost analysis to ensure that it is more cost-effective to outsource than to hire more employees.
The decision to outsource certain functions requires a professional approach, particularly since the small-business owner may be understandably leery about relinquishing control over a task that he or she has handled from the outset. Developing a successful long-term relationship with an outsourcing partner requires effort on both sides. Its important to treat it like a partnership, because thats what it really is. A vendor who supplies a vital service for your business is like part of your staff, so you should go through a similar interviewing and reference-checking process before you hire the vendor.
Using outside service providers who have experience working with your particular type of business is important. Youll also want someone with the technology and expertise to deliver cutting-edge service. Many businesses achieve improved results from the experience and know-how contributed by the supplier partner.
Be especially careful if you outsource bookkeeping for your business. You need to look at and understand the numbers. At a minimum, specify monthly summations of income, receivables, expenses and payables. A cash-flow summation should be included. A responsible service will alert you when unusual activity occurs.
Be sure to ask detailed questions about the service you will receive and your access to someone who can answer questions and solve problems as they arise. For most small-business owners, this kind of accessibility and service are top priorities. If the firm you are considering wont be available when something goes wrong, look elsewhere.
Also, ask your candidate firms for current and past clients who received services of a scope similar to what youre looking for. If possible, ask for clients similar to yours to properly gauge how well the company understands your needs. Always meet with the service providers leadership as well as the people who will be working directly with you. You dont want to have any doubts about their ability to handle what may be critical tasks for your business.
The go-to resource for help is the Outsourcing Institute, the worlds largest professional community dedicated solely to outsourcing. The Institutes Web site (www.outsourcing.com), provides a wealth of information about outsourcing trends, articles on securing IT and business processing services, and tips for ensuring your outsourcing partner delivers the level of performance you want.
C. Norman Beckert, Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. email@example.com