Unlike corporations, SMEs do not always have the luxury of having permanent staff with all the expertise and the latest technology to grow their business. That is when creating a virtual team of trusted experts and specialist service providers becomes critical for their success.
Of the 97.4 per cent of small businesses in Australia, 62.8 per cent are sole traders. Most do not employ accountants, marketing teams, web designers, human resource experts or administration staff on their books. Instead, they engage independent experts and specialists as needed to run their business.
My business, CircleSource, is a great example. Our virtual team around Australia consists of a marketing team, financial accountant, technology team, copywriters, business development, telemarketers and virtual EA. Like most business owners, we have one key area of expertise that we bring to the business, in our case it is human resources. We choose our virtual team carefully. And we choose to work with Australian experts, not only because we believe in supporting small business, but because we benefit from the excellent team dynamics, communication and understanding of subtle nuances.
According to a 2019 report from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsmen, 81 per cent of SMEs use the internet to search for service providers, relying on general Google searches, word of mouth, or personal networks when beginning their search.
The challenge for SMEs is how to make their search more strategic so they don’t waste precious time and resources finding the capabilities to compliment and grow their business.
Use the right platform
More and more experts and specialists are leaving traditional employment to start their own business and engage with multiple clients who need their expertise. Xero’s research, Boss Insights 2021, reveals that 55,900 new sole trader businesses were created in the 2019/2020 financial year alone – the only sector to grow more than it did in the previous year. So, it is not surprising new online talent platforms provide real opportunity to access greater choice, to quickly find and connect the expertise you need, when you need them.
But make sure you read the fine print. While these platforms offer many features and promise access to high quality experts, it is critical you do not outsource your ability to control who you connect with and how. In my opinion, trust and transparency offered via a platform is critical.
Ask yourself these questions when considering a platform
- Can you search for and review independent experts with the capabilities you need?
- Are you seeking to engage local, Australian experts to deliver your services?
- Are you in control of when and how you post an opportunity?
- Can you engage with the experts interested in the opportunity to assess their suitability and fit?
- How much in fees do you pay? And how much does the expert pay to use the service?
- Is the online platform working for your benefit?
- Finally, do you trust the platform?
Academic research reveals that independent specialists want platforms that are truly transparent – no hidden costs such as fees for membership and lead generation; no barriers to buyer/supplier communication; and openness around how jobs get awarded.
As Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor at Yale School of Management explains in an interview published in Deloitte Insights, “It matters a lot that people feel they understand how it all works, especially in the business side of things – where the money goes, how jobs get assigned – and that they feel fairly treated.”
And, yes, there are platforms available in Australia that can help create your virtual team.