Most business owners like to stay busy. They tend to try and take on an active role in all aspects of the way their company is run which means they’ve got a lot of jobs to do. In fact, small business owners often end up biting off more than they can chew.
There’s simply not enough time in the day to try and take on every single task or process that must be completed on a daily basis. More important still, you or your team may not have the capacity or the knowledge to adequately tackle some of those processes. So when you feel that you’re getting bogged down in busy work or are feeling unsure about complicated processes, it might be time to call in for some outside assistance.
Over the course of the last decade, the number of companies choosing to outsource various processes has skyrocketed. According to researchers at the Business Services Association, almost 10% of the UK’s workforce is now employed through outsourcing accounting for around 3.3 million jobs.
That represents 2 billion worth of economic activity bolstering the UK business scene helping the country to expand its productivity levels and keep the nation’s economy up and running.
But how does outsourcing work, and how are other small businesses using it to improve their chances of success?
To help you understand the basics on outsourcing and develop some ideas of your own, we’ve developed this guide that will explain why your business should think about outsourcing and how you could be using it to grow your company.
What is outsourcing and why do companies use it?
Before delving into how UK companies use outsourcing, it’s worth delving into precisely what outsourcing actually is.
Outsourcing, which is also often referred to as contracting out, is a business practice that companies use to reduce costs or become more efficient. The process essentially sees your company sign a contract agreement with another business to shift tasks, operations, jobs or processes onto the external party for a predefined (or potentially undefined) period of time. The agreed functions are then carried out by that external provider on the behalf of your business.
In some communities, the term outsourcing may have negative connotations. This is normally because major manufacturing sectors have opted to outsource engineering work to another location, shutting down a local factory to save money on labour or logistics producing items overseas. This is referred to as offshoring, and is at the very far end of the outsourcing spectrum.
But on a much smaller scale, outsourcing can actually be hugely beneficial to your local business community by enabling a wider population of professionals possessing expert knowledge to share their skills with one another in order to establish success on a grand scale.
So, why do companies outsource?
As previously mentioned, outsourcing is a great way to free up cash, facilities, personnel or simply time for your company and its in-house team. By outsourcing certain tasks, your business can spend more time focusing on its core competencies, and less time filling out administrative forms and doing boring but important busy work.
Outsourcing also gives you the opportunity to streamline production by calling upon the additional resources of external service providers to bolster your existing business infrastructure. An influx of hired help can shorten the amount of time it takes to create products or carry out services which should also ultimately help you to reduce operational costs.
That being said, you don’t want to outsource your entire workload away. In handing over aspects of the running of your business to an external company, you may run the risk of losing quality, or the unique aspects of your business that help identify your brand to your target markets. That’s why most businesses choose to limit their use of outsourcing to non-core business functions only.
A non-core business function is an aspect of your business that is not a profit centre which means that its something you aren’t charging your customers for. Non-core functions very well may be essential to your company, but they don’t strategically differentiate your company from any of your competitors.
Non-core functions often include administrative work such as payroll and human resources, web development, content marketing and a range of other processes. Many companies will also outsource legal work, including regulatory compliance with any government rules on environmental protection or human safety requirements.
What sort of processes could my company be outsourcing?
No two businesses are alike and so the ways in which your company could benefit from outsourcing may not necessarily match the ways in which other companies currently benefit. That being said, there are a range of processes that small businesses in the UK routinely outsource to qualified, external service providers.
You might be a genius when it comes to your chosen field, but you may not necessarily be great with numbers. Not a lot of us are. That’s why so many business owners choose to outsource accounting functions.
If your business is large enough that you’ve got too many functions to manage yourself on a QuickBooks account, but small enough that you don’t have the need or resource to bring in a financial controller or chief financial officer, you may want to think about contacting a chartered accountant to assist you in maintaining your company’s accounts.
Not only will it save you a major headache, but working your way through accounts can eat a huge chunk out of the middle of your day.
Public relations (PR) is a non-core function that a lot of businesses rarely call upon. While you may have time or resource within your existing team to actively promote your business on social media or on the web, PR professionals play a more aggressive and dynamic role in promoting a company. They specialise in public campaigns, editorial promotion and reputation management.
By retaining or entering into a contract agreement with a PR firm you trust, you’ll be able to safeguard and maintain your company’s external-facing presence and place your image under the watchful eye of seasoned professionals. That will free you up to stop responding to negative online reviews and get out there to ensure your team members are expanding and developing on their core roles.
Ever since the webs big search engines got wise and started preventing companies from improving their online visibility by keyword stuffing, companies and marketers now focus their online efforts upon the creation of unique and ultra-high quality content that will naturally engage their target audiences. That means producing content that flows and that users will want to share organically which means you’ll need a lot of creative juices.
Unfortunately, we’re not all super creative when it comes to writing, designing or shooting video. That’s why around 62% of companies now choose to outsource their content marketing functions. By forging a partnership with a creative team you trust, you’ll be able to assist an external professional in developing a strong rapport with your brand, in turn, enabling you to create and publish fantastic, bespoke content that will bolster your organic web traffic and help you to build a reputation as a formidable content creator.
While most of us are capable of collecting customer email addresses and firing off a monthly newsletter on a platform like MailChimp, truly effective email marketing requires a whole lot of time, energy and resources. By outsourcing your email marketing to professionals, you will be able to deliver targeted, bespoke messages to your target audience.
Email marketing agencies specialise in creating nurture tracks for each consumer, no matter where they’re at in the buying cycle. They will be able to assist you in developing engaging content, testing that content and then delivering it to consumers on a rolling basis to increase your conversion rates and make you sales. It will free up your time, and any amount you spend as part of an outsourcing contract should pay for itself in no time.
Do you want to implement a sweeping change across your company, but aren’t sure where to start? You might want to think about outsourcing project management to a professional.
External project managers are often appointed for time-stamped and measurable operations like a website redesign, organisational restructuring or re-branding exercise. By opting to outsource project management, you’ll be able to maintain oversight over the changes happening from within your company without needing to shift your gaze too far away from the day-to-day operations that make your company what it is.
Even to entrepreneurs running online businesses, search engines are often a mystery. Huge companies like Google deploy all kinds of computer geniuses and a ridiculous amount of money tinkering with their algorithms to ensure a smooth and systematically experience for web users.
That means it’s getting harder and harder to ensure your company’s website shows up on the top of results pages when consumers are looking for products or services that you sell and its also why more and more companies are outsourcing their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) processes.
SEO is the practice of optimising your web presence to improve the user experience on your site and bolster your chances of appearing at the top of various search pages. It’s an exact science that’s constantly evolving on a daily basis and so if you want to be an SEO expert, you’ve got to spend huge amounts of your time monitoring search engines and reading up on the tweaks they’re making to their algorithms.
Unless you’ve got that kind of time, it’s often best for a small business to leave SEO to an external professional.
If you’re running a small business but need to communicate with a large number of individuals in a business capacity, outsourcing telephone answering can be crucial to your success.
We’re not just talking about telemarketing, here. Use of professionally-trained receptionists answering and redirecting your business calls will help you to build reputation strength as a new business. You can also utilise external telephone answering providers to offer impressive follow-up communications after a meeting or event.
If you’d like to explore the benefits of outsourcing your company’s telephone answering, Blue Square Offices provides a range of affordable telephone packages.
If you’re running your very first business, the concept of hiring staff and being an employer may feel somewhat alien to you. That’s totally normal, and its why a huge number of small business owners elect to outsource some or all of their human resources (HR) processes to external agencies.
HR professionals can assist you in everything from role recruitment and the production of contracts of employment to legal employment advice and documentation. By outsourcing HR functions, you’ll be able to rest assured you are complying with government regulation concerning workers rights and can spend more time focusing on how staff are helping your business to grow.
The bottom line
Outsourcing processes is often a game of trial and error. What works in-house for one company might need to be sent to an external professional at another business, and the time you’d like to devote to a particular project may not necessarily reflect your real schedule. That’s why it’s worth conducting an audit of your current business functions and consulting employees and stakeholders about the way things work and how they could be improved before trying to strike any outsourcing agreements.
But when exercised effectively, and after you’ve found the perfect balance for your business, outsourcing can dramatically reduce the time and money you’re currently wasting on busy work. Just remember to do your research, and don’t be afraid to explore various possibilities.