How & When to Outsource

By Joan Coyne, Sr. VP Marketing

Early in my career at a major programming network, an executive passed my cube as I was individually packaging 75 sweepstakes prizes won by customer service representatives. When he inquired about what I was doing and why, I boasted that I was saving the network money by managing and fulfilling the sweepstakes myself, instead of outsourcing the project.

Rather than applaud me as expected, he said “We’re in the programming business, not the sweepstakes business. In the future, outsource that stuff so you can focus on the business at hand.”  Yes, many years later, I remember his exact words… they were delivered kindly from a highly experienced and successful business person taking the time to mentor a low-level employee—and they continue to resonate with me.

Too often we take on responsibilities, projects, or even departments when outsourcing might be the better solution. Focus, Efficiency, Expertise, and Expenses should be considered.

  • Focus—Are your back-end operations and/or implementation tasks taking an inappropriate amount of time and resources away from your core business goals like – for example—sales, new product development, and client service? Can you respond quickly to competitive threats, market changes and client needs… or are you hampered by projects that could be done better elsewhere?
  • Efficiency—Have you experienced downsizing while still being held accountable for achieving the same growth and revenue goals? Or, do you simply have “too much to do and too little time”? Rather than trying to clone yourself, are there some campaigns or projects for which you could set the strategy and oversee the implementation… without implementing each tactic yourself?
  • Expertise—Do you have best-in-class talent to perform tasks like competitive analysis and strategy, multicultural marketing, website development, etc.? Whether you do or you don’t, consider also if you need such talent full-time or periodically. You may be better off tapping into an external resource as needed rather than funding a full-time position.
  • Expenses—Could you have greater growth and revenue—while maintaining your client services and expectations—if you outsourced services that would reduce staff, office space and/or equipment that isn’t being fully utilized?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, give outsourcing serious consideration.

Here at Eclipse, we outsource Employee Benefits, Recruitment, and Payroll to a company that specializes in those services. Not only did Eclipse realize staffing and financial benefits, our employees benefited from volume discounts and an array of resources and perks we couldn’t otherwise provide. Similarly, we have clients that outsource various responsibilities and projects to us—from marketing strategy and plan development, to acquisition campaigns, website development and maintenance, multicultural marketing, programming asset procurement and approvals, competitive analysis, etc.

Finding the Right Partner for Outsourcing

When outsourcing, it is naturally of the utmost importance that you know what you are getting in advance.  Here are some tips:

  • Write up the scope of work you require, and the Key Performance Indicators you’ll use to measure success.
  • Identify any other workforce expectations, like exceptional attention to detail, superb customer service, responses to inquiries within a specific timeframe, etc.
  • Research potential providers. In addition to Internet searches, people you know from your industry and professional organizations can be great resources for identifying good, reputable providers.
  • Get clarity and consensus on the services that will be rendered to address your scope of work… and associated costs for providing same.
  • Request bios for the team members that will be on your account, and the amount of time each will dedicate to it.
  • Request 3-5 references that are having similar work done. Personally speak to each reference, ask detailed questions to assess how pleased they are with the services being provided. Remember to ask that telling question… “If you had it to do again, would you hire this same (outsourced) company?”
  • Insist on a detailed contract, reviewed and approved by you and your legal counsel. Include terms for contract renewal or cancellation.

Key Success Factor

Regardless of how well you vetted an outsource partner, your ultimate success will be highly dependent on relationship management. Be careful not to “set it and forget it.” Establish expectations upfront for the level of communications and reporting you’ll need and when… and be sure you get it. Not only will you be doing what you are being paid to do, but you’ll be setting an example of the attention to detail and careful oversight you expect from your team… both internal and external.

Over To You – Have you had any experiences with outsourcing? Let us know any experience, comments or recommendations in the comments below.

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