Exactly when did outsourcing become a four letter word? Well IMHO, I think it was when it became a ‘buzz’ word.
Let’s face it outsourcing has been going on for hundreds of years really, at least it has in its most basic form, like networking, it just didn’t have a catchy name it was something business people did naturally, but they never bothered to give it a fancy title.
When you think about it, we’ve all been outsourcing essential business tasks we didn’t have the skills or specialized knowledge to perform, for well, forever really. Gosh if you really think about it, what is a wet nurse if it’s not a form of outsourcing? A bit of an extreme example granted, but really I’m thinking more like accountants, graphic designers, printers, transportation and yes even lawyers. They all provide specialist services that most businesses use at one time or another but may not necessarily have the financial resources to keep on payroll week in and week out.
The main thing is, to recognize that as small business owners and entrepreneur’s we typically ‘wear many hats’ in the course of running our business, especially if it’s an online or home based business.
Besides doing whatever is considered ‘normal’ in regard to whatever product or service we sell, whether that’s designer cupcakes, building websites or book keeping, there are way more things on our To-Do list than we have time in the day or skills and knowledge of in our proverbial bag of tricks to do even if there were 48 hours in every day.
In the last few years though, the concept of outsourcing has been a hot topic for a multitude of reasons, not least of which has been that technology has allowed many of us to perform tasks or provide services without even leaving the house. The 30 second commute has become the nirvana of Work At Home Mom’s (WAHM) worldwide, as they trade their office desks and stiletto’s for a home office and sneakers, even if the desk starts out as or at the kitchen table. WAHM’s are taking their skills home, or more literally, staying home with their skills and their kids and making way more money while doing it thank you very much!
Back to outsourcing as a four letter word though – that really started when people began to associate the term with workers being laid off in favor of using cheaper labor and companies often based overseas and paying their people peanuts (not quite literally, but really close to it in some cases).
There are actually many more reasons and ways to outsource and it doesn’t always mean the work goes off-shore, in fact thanks to the aforementioned technology, in many cases these days, you can outsource to workers based wherever you are or at least on the same shore.
Somewhere along the way from start-up to entrepreneur to small business owner, we find ourselves needing to be able to design and layout a website, write (effective) sales copy, find, crop and re-size images, write, edit and optimize (for bods (humans) and bots (search engines) too) content, set up and manage email marketing campaigns, read and yes, you are actually supposed to comprehend, the myriad of traffic and click through analytics information all that lovely technology is able to dump on us. I could go on but really, I think it would be overkill even by my tolerance for verbosity.
So we carry on running our lives and our businesses, like a human All-In-One solution, I’m thinking printer-fax-scanner-copier here. Typically those machines perform each of task with OK results, but does not one of them brilliantly and just like those machines, we tend to fall short on the end results too. When we try to be all things to all men (or women – gotta be PC here) something’s gotta give and it’ll almost inevitably be quality.
So if we’re all agreed, like it or not, there is a need for outsourcing. A solid network of onshore and/or offshore workers can address what would otherwise be a problem for most small business owners, by providing access to special skills and knowledge or by taking care of those ten dollar tasks that simply don’t warrant a business owners time and attention – after all, you have a business to run right and no matter how much you love it, I’ll bet you’d kind of like to have a life beyond your business too – go figure that!
So How’s That Outsource Network Working For You?
My first experience with outsourcing started out brilliantly and just as quickly dissolved into a pool of tears and frustration (well almost) as I found myself spending almost as much time ‘fixing’ the formatting and layout of documents I’d just paid a Virtual Assistant (VA) to work on. Not to mention the maddening missed deadlines and “my dog ate my homework” high-school-homework-excuses for them.
I moved on to what I called the ‘arbitrage VA system’ of using a team of VA’s with various talents and skill sets to mitigate or at least ‘spread’ the risk. The problem with that was, staying on top of a team of outsource workers can be like trying to heard cats. It’s almost impossible for any one person (as we’ve already discussed, hence the need to outsource in the first place) to be proficient in all the skills needed to run a successful business. So how do you find and manage a team of virtual assistants or workers without it becoming a full-time job for you to do so? Without being flippant here – you outsource it of course!
Now if you’re really lucky you will quickly find a reliable, dependable VA to handle most of your general admin tasks and that’s pretty easy these days with plenty of options and resources to find them, in fact you’ll find some great links and resources right here on our Tools page.
But what do you do when you have a larger project or something that requires multiple skill sets which may even be interdependent to complete the project successfully? Then you need to find an outsource resource that can not only handle all aspects of the project but can also manage the team for you. The good news is that doesn’t need to be as daunting a task as it may have been a few years ago before the aforementioned defining of ‘outsourcing’ as a common practice came along.
These days it’s quite easy to find multi-skill or multi-specialty business or VA services. The trick is to find one that gets proven quality results, gives you a local project manager and can provide most if not all of the primary skill sets you need to get the job done.
I like these multi-skill-set shops mostly because over time and various projects I can build a relationship with my Account Manager (AM). As you work with them on a regular basis the good ones will take the time to learn more about you and your business. They’ll learn your tolerance levels and take responsibility for quality control, time-lines and project management, reigning in those formatting errors while keeping the entire team on-time and on-task, all without you ever experiencing a single tear of frustration or adding another wrinkle to your brow.
So in conclusion yes, I do believe outsourcing is here to stay, in fact I think it always has been we just called it something else, much like networking used to be called ‘gossiping’ but that’s another post and another cliché. Does it (outsourcing) have to be a four letter word? It certainly can be, but like lots of other things, used wisely and appropriately, I think it can actually bring to mind another four letter word and you will grow, as I have, to LOVE outsourcing