Sometimes you don’t want to hire.
I often don’t want to hire.
Adding new members to your team is stressful.
You want to get it right, but it’s also a big risk—and one that can have lasting consequences!
When you’re running out of bandwidth on your current team, or when it feels like there are plenty of opportunities *just* out of your grasp if you only had some additional skill sets in the office, hiring can feel like your best option.
But is it?
Sometimes it makes a lot more sense to test the waters by outsourcing some or all of a part of your business—and sometimes outsourcing works so well you never need to hire in-house for the role at all.
Outsourcing: When It’s Good…and When It’s Bad
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term outsourcing?
Maybe it’s jobs moving overseas or having someone else take care of your cooking or housework.
Or maybe it’s the roster of firms and service providers you use to amp up parts of your organization.
Clearly we should talk about the first one.
Are you ready for geopolitical analysis?
We’ll start with the industrial revolution, when, as you know…
If you insist, we’ll talk about outsourcing in business.
In most organizations, there are certain things you specialize in—particular skills, industry knowledge, and processes that you can implement better than anyone else.
These aren’t the kinds of things that you should outsource.
You and the people critical to your organization’s success can’t be outsourced, either.
The organization’s key roles are off the table for outsourcing.
But the parts of your work that are directly related to the specialized knowledge, relationships, and skills you and your team have aren’t the only parts of running and growing a business.
What You Can Feasibly Outsource
There are tons of business areas that you may not want to handle in-house.
- Does your company really need a full-time payroll or HR person?
- What about someone to run paid ads or buy media?
- Content writers?
- Graphic designers?
- Legal professionals?
Outsourcing also works well when your team is churning along, but are swamped and can’t get to all of the priorities.
Bringing on a project manager as a short-term solution is a great way to outsource, accomplish all of your priorities, and still have a semblance of work/life balance.
That’s the key to thinking about how you outsource: which tasks and/or roles are necessary for business, but not to providing the key products or services.
Create Three Lists
Another way to think about this is to create three lists (which I stole from Chris Ducker’s Virtual Freedom):
- The things you are really good at doing, only you can do, and you love doing;
- The things you enjoy doing but are either not a priority or don’t fit within your bailiwick (for instance, for me that would be Facebook ads—I love doing Facebook ads, but they’re better suited for someone with that sole expertise); or
- The things you hate doing and are not a priority, but should get done eventually.
Outsource the things that are on lists two and three.
You keep the things on list one because they fit your expertise (and what you like to do).
How It Works In Practice
Here’s an example: in my own business, there are certain things that have to get done in a timely manner, but don’t fit my core expertise.
Those things include bookkeeping, writing contracts, tax preparation, HR, new employee onboarding, internal processes, heck even social media scheduling and project management.
Can I do that stuff?
Do I enjoy it?
I wouldn’t even say I’m good at it.
Certainly not better than an expert.
I could do all of those things and hate my life and wonder why I started my own business just to do things I hate to do.
Or…I could outsource it all so I can spend my time working with clients and helping their businesses grow.
You also can consider outsourcing when you’re thinking about expanding to a new product or service offering.
For example, if we wanted to add a full paid media profit center, beyond social media advertising (did I mention I really love to do it?), we could either outsource as we brought in the clients to enable us to afford to hire full-time, or we could partner with another agency to do it.
Either way, we don’t take the risk of hiring a bunch of people until after we have the clients to support the workload.
Some Things Would Surprise You
There also are some surprisingly critical tasks you can outsource, particularly if they’re not things you love to do and not in your core expertise.
For instance, speech writing for executives.
Something they need to create on their own?
I wrote not too long ago about outsourcing executive thought leadership.
A lot of people are surprised that I work with a ghostwriter.
But by outsourcing first drafts, and collaborating on topics, themes, and angles, I am able to get a lot more content out there in a way that is still authentic.
I always say, it’s significantly easier to start with a draft versus a blank sheet of paper.
So, while it may feel disingenuous (at first) to outsource some of those things, you can still have a hand in the final pieces and definitely in the human-to-human element, such as engaging with readers/listeners/viewers or crushing a speech.
That brings me back to the things you really, really shouldn’t outsource: engagement, and business strategy.
Never Outsource Engagement
Engagement is the connection you are building with your own audience, or that your clients are building under your direction.
In communications, this can get a little hairy because there is a lot of content going out on a lot of platforms.
The key thing to remember is that a member of the audience should never be confused about or surprised by who they’re talking to.
If the CEO’s name is in the byline, that’s who should respond to the comments.
If the Twitter account says “John”, then John should engage with tweets.
(This is why you see a lot of corporate accounts without personalized names, or individual team members signing off on specific tweets!)
You never want someone to feel misled or to be confused by who they’re talking to.
Or Business Strategy
The other thing you shouldn’t outsource is business strategy.
You can absolutely hire a coach or bring in a facilitator to help you get through annual strategy planning, but the actual work needs to be done by your internal teams.
When there is a lot going on and you have decision fatigue and you just wish it was all someone else’s job for a little while (not that I know anything about that), it can be nice to imagine a brilliant expert coming in and telling you exactly how to grow your organization.
That isn’t going to happen.
You can buy advice, you can buy services and you can buy help with execution, but the only people who can decide how your organization needs to grow are you and your internal teams.
Don’t try to outsource the heart of what you do.
That’s on you.
Your Own Outsourcing Experiences
Now it’s your turn!
I want to hear about your outsourcing experience(s) and also how you decide when and what to get off your plates.
What are the pros? And the cons?
You can give me all the goods in the comments below—or in the (free and amazing) Spin Sucks community.