No entrepreneur likes admitting that his or her company needs to outsource a skill set. As business leaders, we tend to believe we can do just about anything. But that’s why there are so many successful companies in the world: Each one has a special skill that it does better than any other company. Before you decide to outsource a service, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your company. Ask yourself:
- Is this an important initiative for the company? Does it take priority?
- Why haven’t we been able to execute this? Or if we can execute this, can we do so well enough?
- Will it cost less for us to outsource than it would for us to do this in-house?
Asking these questions first will make you better equipped to pick the right company to partner with, saving both time and money. Your answers to these questions will ultimately determine whether you decide to outsource. But even when you’ve determined that your company needs to look outside its office, you may not know where to begin. Here are three examples of outsourcing needs entrepreneurs have, as well as examples of resources:
- Gift giving: Is it important for your company to show appreciation?
When considering giving your clients gifts, the natural inclination may not be to outsource. After all, how hard is it to send a gift to someone? But think about it: How many business gifts, other than the obligatory holiday gifts, did you send in the past year? This may be a simple task, but it is a task that often fails to make a priority slot in the workflow of busy entrepreneurs. Think back to the first question to ask before outsourcing: Is it important for the company? Showing consistent appreciation can build important relationships when done correctly.
One of the nation’s best gifting experts is John Ruhlin, who literally wrote the book (“Giftology“) on the subject. The Ruhlin Group has perfected gifting for numerous successful companies and pro sports teams, but its mission and heart is to take business relationships to new heights. Gift giving can be thoughtful, simple, and scalable.
Could companies keep the gifting process an internal responsibility? Of course. But do they have the resources and time to scale the process when they want to show appreciation to a larger group? Most don’t.
- Thought leadership: Finding the internal time and resources to execute can be difficult.
Marketing includes a lot of moving parts, and attempting to master each area in-house can easily take up more time and resources than outsourcing to specialized professionals. That’s why outsourcing content marketing, in particular, is becoming increasingly common. But because marketing is all about differentiating your brand and engaging your specific audience, it’s easy for entrepreneurs to delegate responsibilities to internal team members. Who knows your message and audience better than your own team?
This is exactly when you have to be honest with yourself about the answers to the second set of questions: Why haven’t you executed this already, and can you actually do so cheaper than a partner? If you’re honest in your answers, you might find that your internal team just can’t pull it off or the opportunity cost is simply too much.
To be successful as an agency or service provider, you have to do things better, faster, and cheaper than your competition — even if that competition are your clients’ own teams. For example, John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co., asks his team this question: Is our service competitively priced, and are we so good at what we do that it’s a no-brainer for companies to hire us instead of taking it in-house? Influence & Co. is a leader in content creation and distribution that positions companies and executives as industry leaders, so its biggest competitors are often internal teams.
In one of his keynote addresses, John jokes about how excited he feels when he sees a company that honestly doesn’t need his services. “If a company truly already does what we do really well, that means there’s more good content out there,” he said. “That means we can move on to someone who needs our help.”
- Challenging yourself and your employees: External accountability is much more effective.
While it can be challenging for someone to reach past his or her pride to say, “I need help,” counseling is one of the best tools available for personal and professional development. Although it’s different from traditional counseling, business coaching often carries a similar stigma. Some may think a CEO who seeks a business coach isn’t a strong natural leader, but the executive coaching industry brings in about $1.5 billion each year.
Cameron Herold, for one, has specialized in this industry for years. Tapping into his experience as the former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Herold acts as a resource for COOs who want to learn about creating a framework for their businesses to execute their vision. While the role of a COO revolves around the very concept of executing the company vision, every role needs support and a sense of accountability — especially those in leadership positions. This outside perspective helps COOs and other executives improve their success by bringing attention to issues we are often blind to while we’re in the middle of the daily grind.
The instinct of an entrepreneur is to fix every problem alone, but when it comes to business, it may be wiser to outsource. If a company is unable to efficiently produce an important service on its own, it may be time to seek help from an outside company that has perfected that skill. Ask yourself the questions necessary to determine when to outsource, and use the three areas above as a jumping-off point.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.