Being time poor is the unavoidable curse of the small business owner – but most entrepreneurs agree certain tasks are more important than others to allocate your time to.
The growth and direction of your company can take a backseat if you are spending the majority of your time sweating the small stuff.
In recent years, there has been a rise in services that help business owners outsource those tasks that require specific expertise; tasks which would usually take an SME owner significant time to learn and implement.
The good news is the increasing popularity of outsourcing means more competitive prices, so there’s more reason than ever to stop working in your business and start working on it.
SmartCompany takes a look at four tasks you can outsource today to save you time to focus on where you’re going tomorrow.
Handling human resources can be one of the most difficult aspects of running a business, requiring specific and up to date knowledge on everything from industrial relations to training and leadership strategy.
Often an SME will choose to employ an in-house HR person at the cost of a fairly sizable salary.
“Usually what will happen is an SME will hire one HR person, but one person hasn’t got the ability to cover the full breadth of issues, from strategy to administration,” says Sue-Ellen Watts, managing director of wattsnext HR.
“They either end up with a high-end person on a large salary doing low level tasks and not leveraging that salary, or end up with a lower-level person who can’t do some of the higher level tasks.”
Watts says outsourcing allows you to cover the full breadth of HR issues and exposes your business to broader industry best practices and trends.
“We are working with hundreds of different customers every day, so we have that knowledge and experience to bring lot more to a client, rather than someone sitting internally who just knows that business well.”
An additional benefit, according to Watts, is the ability to change your outsourced needs depending on the peaks and troughs in you HR requirements.
“For example, if a client is going through a big recruitment drive, we have the capacity to put all hands on deck,” she says.
Conversely, Watts says she has smaller startup clients who incrementally outsource their HR activities as they develop.
“Startup clients who want to get things right from the beginning but don’t have the funds, we do bits and piece as they grow. So they might do employment contracts at first and then role descriptions a little later down the track.”
Many business owners understandably have reservations about giving up control of their customer’s first point of contact.
But with customers increasingly expecting 24/7 service, it might not be realistic to expect you or one of your staff can answer every call and follow up on every sales lead.
To deal with these increased expectations, outsourcing a help desk or creating a ‘virtual office’ is increasingly one of the most common business functions to contract out.
There are a handful of services in Australia that offer 24/7 Australian-based answering services, which also offer the option to pay depending on the volume of calls and even prepay so you don’t receive a nasty bill from the service provider.
Mark Baranov from OfficeEarth, which offers such a service, says the key to outsourcing your helpdesk is to choose a service that replicates your own.
“Australians have become accustomed to being communicated professionally by native Australian speakers,” says Baranov.
“The point is that we become an extension of the team, rather than a service provider. We sound like them because we have tools in our hands, such as comprehensive FAQs and core profiling technologies, to give our call takers the power to answer every call with intimate knowledge of the business.”
Design and copy
With business owners increasingly being told they need to have a spectacular looking website and a host of social media channels with brilliant content, there is growing pressure for business owners to keep up online.
From website design to social media graphics and blog posts, there are a number of services that allow you to outsource those time-consuming marketing and design tasks to freelancers.
“A lot of people know it’s important but don’t have the capacity to get it done,” says Adam Stone, founder of freelance marketplace Speedlancer.
“But not doing some of these basic things is leaving money on the table.”
Stone, whose company promises to deliver a task for $40 in less than four hours, says outsourcing tasks to freelance experts rather than hiring in-house design and content teams will save you recruiting time and will save you a salary.
“In-house teams are great for sales and you need an Australian sitting next to you talking to customers,” says Stone.
“But when it comes to marketing and general operations, why waste time hiring in-house, if you can systemise and outsource?”
Video content is becoming more and more popular on Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter, with Facebook even favouring the medium in its news feed.
But creating professional looking marketing videos is often completely out of reach of a small business owner, who typically lacks the skills and equipment to produce much more than a quick iPhone video.
“It’s very time consuming figuring out exactly what to do – there are scripts, content editing and setting up the filming,” says Anthony Lam, founder of Punchy Digital Media, which produces marketing videos for SMEs.
“What we say is, the quality of video represents the quality of your brand and doing it yourself sacrifices that quality.”
Lam says paying an in-house staff member a salary of between $50,000 to $100,000 just does not add up for an SME, which will generally only require a half a dozen to a dozen marketing videos.
“It’s not a good use of resources,” he says.
Lam says one video has “remarkable mileage”, such as utilising video ‘remarking’, where you post your video as an ad on relevant YouTube clips.
“For example, if there’s a video on how to bake a cupcake, you can put your business’ video in front of that.”