So you’ve heard about outsourcing and all the great things it can do for your business. You want to take that next step and start outsourcing. But before you do that, ask yourself this question: Are you ready to outsource?
Why do you need to be ready to outsource before you do it? That’s because outsourcing is a business investment and a relationship. Any entrepreneur worth his salt will tell you that you have to do your research before you make an investment. You have to know what your business needs before you talk to an outsourcing vendor and make demands. You need to know what you can offer and what you can expect in order to have clear outsourcing guidelines.
And like any relationship, your business has to be ready to meet the demands of outsourcing. You have to let go of any misconceptions you have about an outsourcing relationship so you can start that working relationship on solid footing.
So how will you know if your business is ready for a serious outsourcing relationship? Here are 7 things that will let you know when you’re ready.
#1 Is your business in a good place financially?
Is your business model working the way that it should? Do you see your business growing at a good rate with a little help? If that’s the state of your business right now, then you’re on the right track to start outsourcing.
But I know some of you are asking, why does my business have to be financially sound before I can outsource? Isn’t outsourcing supposed to save me money? Isn’t it better for me to outsource as soon as I can so I can save my business?
A lot of people enter relationships for the wrong reasons. They think that they would be happy and all their problems would be solved if they find the right person. But we all know that’s not the case. In order for relationships to work, we all need to be in a good place. That is, as individuals before we share our lives with someone else. You can’t change or fix a broken person; it’s something they need to do for themselves.
Same thing with outsourcing. It’s tempting to use outsourcing as a band-aid solution if your business is bleeding money but it can’t fix the problem completely. Outsourcing can’t fix a broken business model or bad money management. And like any business investment, outsourcing costs money. If your business isn’t solvent enough to make that investment, you’ll end up wasting money instead of saving it.
Outsourcing can help business grow. It can help build businesses built on a solid strategy. But it can’t fix businesses that aren’t working. If you’re not in that place yet, take a long hard look at your business first before you start outsourcing. Fix what’s wrong with your business. Once it’s in a good place financially, that’s when you can start looking for an outsourcing partner.
#2 Do you know exactly want you want or expect from your outsourcing partner?
We all know that to have a healthy relationship it’s important to communicate and lay all your cards on the table. Why do you want to be in a relationship? Do you want something long term or short term? Do you see marriage and/or children in the future? These questions are important because they can make or break a relationship. But it’s better to have them all in the open as soon as a relationship starts getting serious. That’s when you know that you and your partner are on the same page.
It’s the same with outsourcing. Even before you start outsourcing it’s best to be clear on how it works in your business model. How is outsourcing going to work in your business structure? How do you see the future with your outsourcing partner? What do you expect from your outsourcing partner and what can they expect from you? What are your relationship deal breakers and what imperfections can you live with?
Knowing exactly what you get from an outsourcing vendor shows that you’re serious about having a successful working relationship. When both sides know what they can expect from each other, it’s easier to meet expectations. A good starting point for a profitable business partnership.
#3 Are you willing to invest time and effort to make a relationship work?
In order for relationships to work you need to invest time and effort. This is especially true to outsourcing partnerships. The only way your outsourcing vendor can do exactly what you want, how you want it, is when you talk and spend time working together to get it right.
Take for example you’re looking for a social media virtual assistant. You can’t just give that person access to your social media accounts and expect her to get it right the first time. You have to talk to that person about your brand philosophy, what you want your customers to see from your brand, and how to respond to different types of feedback.
You also need to listen to your virtual assistant when she gives suggestions based on experience. You need to know what challenges are stopping her from doing her job and what she needs to get her work done.
All that training and communication takes time. But once you and your virtual assistant understand and know what to expect from each other, it should be (mostly) smooth sailing from here on out.
#4 How would an outsourcing team fit into your company culture?
Once you found an outsourcing vendor you can work with and everything goes well, there will come a point when your employees and your partner have to work together.
Outsourcing is a polarizing issue. Some of your employees may not feel comfortable working with an outsourced team. They may have biases or prejudices that could affect their working relationship.
Before this even happens, it’s best to be clear with your company employees what you’re outsourcing and how it works in your business model.
For the most part, workers are worried of losing their jobs to outsourcing. This is understandable. That’s why it’s important to inform your workers on the parameters of your outsourcing relationship. Be clear that you’re only outsourcing local search engine optimization or social media optimization services. Reassure your employees that they’re an important part of the company, that outsourcing only is there to help your business, not to replace it.
#5 Do you want to be in total control all the time?
All relationships are based on trust. And trust entails that sometimes you have to let go of some control to let the other person do what they have to do.
In outsourcing, over time you have to trust that your outsourcing vendor has the training and knowledge needed to do their job. For example, you’ve outsourced to a search engine optimization agency. You’ve given them all the information and tools they need to get the job done. They’re confident that they can get the job done. Now it’s time to let them do their work.
Don’t constantly look over their shoulder and question their process. Don’t insist on only having it done your way. Let them do their jobs the best way they know how and just expect good results. Micromanaging just strains the relationships. It also adds unnecessary work into the process.
Think about it this way, as long as your outsourcing vendor is delivering what they promised and they listen to your feedback, the little details shouldn’t matter. Because that’s the reason why you outsourced in the first place. So you can forget about the little details and focus on the big picture for your business.
#6 Are you open to changes/compromises/growth?
As your business grows, your outsourcing needs will change. You may end up outsourcing more than what you initially expected. You may find yourself working with different outsourcing vendors at the same time. You may even find yourself developing different outsourcing strategies.
Once you outsource successfully, growth is inevitable. So when you outsource, you have to be ready for when your business model has to change. It’s not going to be easy, for your business and your outsourcing partner. Because growth means you would have to scale up or change the way you do things to adapt to change. But if you’ve mentally prepared for your business to grow, making these changes becomes easier as your business gets bigger.
#7 Can you imagine yourself working with your outsourcing partner for years to come?
Most people imagine outsourcing as short-term relationships. You hire an independent contractor to fix a problem quickly then they leave. The ideal outsourcing relationship is when your partner is so attuned to your needs they look out for your business as though they have a personal stake on it. The best outsourcing relationships is when an outsourcing vendor and a business grows together.
So, are you ready to outsource?