My first job was in government research and grant proposal writing.
The small firm I worked for started with a Xerox machine the size of a refrigerator. It made about 2 copies a minute. I spent a lot of time with that machine. It kept me warm at night while I copied hundreds of pages that needed to be submitted before an unshakable deadline. But, was that the highest and best use of my time? Could I have been of more value to the company writing and doing research? One thing was certain: you could not seek new clients while running a copier in the back room.
The same principle applies today. Should you be managing your own e-mail campaigns? Can your organization’s image best be presented with a do-it-yourself website? Do you really have so much available work time that you can spend hours on line designing your own business card?
I know you can do it all. It’s the independent spirit we were all born with. But, there are times you need help. We at Capitol Copy outsource or sub-contract when it makes good economic sense and is clearly more efficient. We can fix machines and trouble-shoot computer problems, but only to a point. Our goal is to meet customer demands, not fix things. So, we have a support team that helps keep us up and running. Sometimes a print job is just too large for us to do profitably so we rely on other vendors to the trade, with the same end result: deadline met and production quality preserved.
So, what is good or bad about outsourcing?
First, the bad news
√ You give up some control of your operations
√ Security and information management could be at risk
√ Added expense to your bottom line
√ Oversight and coordination of tasks is required
And now, for the good news!
♥ Gives you a great opportunity to explore new products and services with minimal risk
♥ Less staff to be hired over the long term
♥ Frees up your time to focus on priorities
♥ Reduces repetitive tasks
♥ Potential for huge savings for one-time or highly specialized services
♥ Cost savings on overhead
♥ Get things done: faster, better, cheaper
What was that again? “A great opportunity with minimal risk?” Yes, that can happen. For example, we sensed an increase in demand for posters and signs, especially for trade shows, conventions, meetings, etc. We were providing the printing and web-based design, but there were frequent requests for display products. So, we first offered that service as a broker, built up the market and then bought the equipment to produce all of it in-house. Faster, better, cheaper…..and more profitable.
A few cautionary pointers before you outsource. Here they are:
√ Be fully aware of what you are paying for. If there is any doubt about the services or products you expect, draft an agreement, unless the subcontractor normally provides one.
√ Be certain that outsourcing is consistent with your organization’s image and goals.
√ Agree on a payment schedule and terms. You are your subcontractor’s client; they do not work for your clients.
√ Since it is your name and reputation at stake, see who takes responsibility for any meltdowns, missed deadlines, uneven quality and the like.
√ In some cases, a close working relationship between two firms raises questions about copyright, ownership, creative control, and liability. If this is an area of concern to you, seek an attorney’s opinion or rethink outsourcing.
√ Be wary of outsourcing online services to someone in a foreign country. They are subject to a different set of laws, if any. Do your research before e-mailing them a username and password. Is there a physical address? A phone? Trusted referrals?
More info? See Small Business Trends.
Now, get back to thinking great thoughts with fewer burdens!
Thanks for reading.