Outsourcing is when you obtain goods and services from an external or contracted supplier rather than employing a person on the payroll. It’s used when there are shortages in particular types of labour, where you do not have or want to invest in the infrastructure to support the role, where specialist skills are needed for a specific project or where ongoing expertise is required on a set or variable weekly time investment. With the gig economy and supporting platforms well established, and an influx of unemployed due to COVID, it is now commonly used by business and individuals.
There are, however, some significant disadvantages that small-business owners should be aware of. There is a need for constant oversight in the consistency of outsourced work. There are unscrupulous or incompetent providers who may have any combination of poor communication, unprofessional approach, unorganised reporting or management, lack of resources or planning, any of which may expose you to security risks and possible negative public relations impact. Thus the importance of “due diligence” and the background research on the industry and persons working in that industry that you may choose to outsource from.
There are several things you can do to minimise these risks. Start with a Due Diligence Worksheet and include your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) statement to keep focus on what makes you different and how this can and will be carried through by the contractor. Do research on the industry to know what the most important considerations are. In general terms, the affordability; genuine past client testimonials; membership to their relevant professional association; and proof of skill, outcomes or targets in the area you require, will be essential. List the evidence in each section, such as past client testimonials. You should call past clients and satisfy yourself their testimonials are genuine by asking specific questions about outcomes obtained, reporting/communications competence and overall professionalism.
Provide a brief, establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and clear-cut objectives. A brief should introduce your USP and culture, provide some company background and outline historically what you have done in the space to be outsourced and what their scope of work will be. Making project objectives clear, setting a time frame and defining standard practices helps to get a consistent quality of work. When you have narrowed your shortlist down to two or three possible contractors, give them each the same brief and ask them to provide their proposal and quote in writing. Compare their proposals, consult with colleagues, partners or others in the industry whose opinions you value, and make your choice.
Once you have chosen your contractor and signed the agreement, set realistic deadlines as quality demands adequate time. Give the contractor a realistic scope of work and time limits to allow proper planning and allocation of their resources. Establish good working relations with them, as the longer you work with them, the better it becomes for both of you. Give regular feedback in writing in order to receive quality, consistent work. Pay your contractor on time. This important act of respect will go a long way to ensure you receive quality and consistency. It may be that even after doing the above and despite your suggestions and complaints, the quality and outcomes may not match the standards set. Look for other experienced contractors who can deliver quality work within the expected period. Don’t stay with a poor provider, hoping it will get better.
Viktoria Darabi, Founder, Savvy and Successful and Business Connect Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre