Today's small businesses (“SMBs”) constantly find themselves facing an uphill battle when it comes to competing against enterprise corporations and in the greater global economy. While emerging tools and technologies have leveled the playing field in some ways, the lack of manpower and expertise across disciplines still has SMBs finding themselves at a disadvantage. While tempting to tack on new departments and grow internally, most SMBs do not really have the resources or abilities to do this properly. If they attempt it at all, many new positions will be added without proper planning or management. Yet, in light of all of this, all is not lost for small businesses. To combat specific needs for expertise or additional manpower, small businesses can look outside to professional service providers to leverage their abilities while maintaining focus on their core competencies and primary objective—growing their business.
One of the most heavily outsourced functions in small businesses is IT management. Until your business grows to a certain size, you likely have no need for a full-time staff member or department managing your IT. However, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t look for IT-savvy employees. Combining an IT management company specializing in small business support with internal resources that can “speak IT” will help keep clear lines of communication. Office administrative support will likely be where you want an IT savvy person—they’re used to fielding all kinds of issues so a fluency in IT will make them even more helpful for your company’s efficiencies.
We often see small businesses consider using freelancers or individuals to fill in IT gaps. This is a good solution if you have very specific needs, i.e., customizing a Salesforce report or managing on site systems, but be careful not to become too reliant on an individual without a backup plan in place. Be especially careful to check references and work history—there is a big difference from a freelancer just trying to make extra money to a freelancer whose full time job is supporting small businesses. You want to make sure they’re committed to you and flexible to your needs before you find yourself without help in an emergency.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
In the very beginning of a business, the accounting is often handled by the owner or a close relationship. However, a growing business has growing financial data—and their need for better bookkeeping, accounting insights and financial management can grow out of control quickly. Small businesses should always have an accountant for tax filings and regulations—and this is almost always via a third party provider. There simply isn’t usually a need to keep an accountant on payroll full time for most small businesses. In addition, full charge bookkeeping services, controller management and financial reporting are all functions that small businesses can easily outsource to providers—and typically with better results than went managed internally.
There are a few reasons for this but in general it all boils down to SMBs not having the time or expertise to manage professional bookkeeping. Business owners know the data the need—but rarely know the facts and figures themselves. Managing an internal bookkeeping staff isn’t easy when the owner isn’t knowledgeable about the “how” and “what” of the duties. Books may not be closed on time and data might not be accurate—but the business owner simply isn’t equipped to manage the process of preventing problems.
Search Engine Marketing
Whether your business is currently leveraging advanced search engine marketing (“SEM”) features or simply dreaming of the day when it has a functioning AdWords account, most small businesses can outsource SEM easily. From SEO to SEM, small businesses and large businesses can compete fairly evenly. It is rare, however, to have an internal expert in these areas, especially in small businesses. Instead, the better structure is for small businesses to engage a general marketing manager who understands SEM principles and knows more than enough to vet and manage resources, but outsource actual SEM work to a third party agency.
SEM agencies not only have significant expertise in all subject matters, they also have access to high-level knowledge and information about upcoming trends and opportunities. They bear the responsibility of stayed training and up-to-date, and SMBs benefit from their collective abilities. In addition, the enterprise-level tools utilized by the agencies are typically more expensive than SMBs can afford—and too complicated for training to be worthwhile. By outsourcing SEM to a third party, SMBs can compete with enterprise-level corporations without sacrificing any internal resources or finances.
These are just three of many opportunities available in outsourcing functions today. What services and specialties does your small business outsource? Tell us in the comments!