Outsourcing, as we’ve said before, is great for a lot of reasons. You can reduce your overhead costs and focus on what your company actually does without overextending your staff. But there are certain services and aspects of your business that you should never, ever outsource. Our whitepaper, “Setting Up Content Marketing With a Small Team,” has more on the ins and outs of leveraging limited resources, but we’ve got the basics below. Sometimes, it’s easier to start with what not to do.
Don’t Outsource Core Competencies
“If you are a recruiting firm, don’t outsource your recruiters. If you are a chef, don’t hire somebody to design your menu. If you are a tech startup, don’t outsource your technology,” writes Keith Cowing in Business Insider. Part of developing an effective outsourcing plan is determining what your company is really good at—what sets you apart from the competition and gives you an edge. Do you specialize in marketing automation? Maybe inbound marketing is your company’s passion? Figure out your company’s core competencies, whatever they are, and then keep them in-house. Don’t farm out these services to third-party talent; you want those talented individuals to work for you.
That’s not to say you can’t outsource certain support services directly related to these core competencies. For instance, hiring freelance writers and editors to write and edit the content involved in your inbound marketing efforts would be fine. Just be sure that the person or team making the business or editorial decisions—what topics to cover, what channels you use to disseminate content—stays in-house.
Don’t Outsource Termination Management
We all saw Up in the Air, right? How awful was it to watch people get fired by complete strangers? Don’t do that to your employees, even soon-to-be former ones. There are several third-party companies that offer this service, but please handle this unpleasant aspect internally.
“Ultimately a manager (and potential leader) needs to be able to meet face to face with their employees and deliver both good and bad news,” writes financial expert Robert Pagliarini in a 2011 CBS MoneyWatch article. He does add that consulting outside experts is acceptable; this might be particularly useful if you’re in the unfortunate position of firing or laying off a large group of people.
Don’t Outsource a Problem
You can’t run a company without encountering some headaches along the way. The solution, however, is never outsourcing. If you don’t understand how to solve a problem, it’s not a good idea to blindly hand the situation over to a third party. You won’t be sure if they’ve developed an effective solution, and chances are they’ll have missed certain important criteria that are normally supplied by the client. Ultimately, you’re bound to have an unsuccessful relationship with that vendor.
This is especially true of technology and software issues, particularly if you’re a startup. By relying on third parties from the beginning to solve tech challenges, you miss out on the chance to gain a complete understanding of how your technology works.
“Issues that I’ve seen emerge include non-scalable architecture, poor code that is not reusable, and a general lack of understanding your technology backbone,” writes tech expert Harris Goodman in Forbes. “Inevitably, you will also create a reliance on your contractors to do QA and bug fixes going forward.”
When outsourcing tricky issues, make sure the team in charge has a thorough understanding of what needs to be accomplished and the benchmarks they’ll use to measure the final product.
Don’t Outsource Managers
Whatever you decide to outsource, it’s not a one and done deal. Your company still needs a dedicated team to stay in touch with vendors, keeping tabs on progress and answering any questions they may have. Don’t rely on your vendor to be your manager as well, or you may experience delays, confusion, and low-quality work.
“Contractors and freelancers, like any other business, manage their own internal processes, but they can’t manage your business,” writes startup consultant Martin Zwilling. “Don’t over-manage remote workers, but don’t expect them to manage your business. Hire and train your own managers for internal and external work projects.”
Download our whitepaper on content marketing with a small team for more information. While you’re at it, check out our new content scorecard, which determines if your website is getting the traffic it should.