Marita Bon Article

Marita Bon Article
Picture of Marita BonMarita Bon, executive editor and co-owner of Bon's Eye Marketing, has more than 23 years of business, news and corporate writing experience. The founding editor of Wilma!, Wilmington, N.C.'s only women's magazine, she has contributed extensively to area newspapers and business journals.
Outsource Workplace Functions to Save Time, Money

One of the biggest gripes I hear from fellow business owners goes something like this: “I have to do payroll (or invoicing or newsletters or a hundred more tasks), but I feel like I’m always rushing. I just have so much else on my plate.”

Other complaints run along similar lines: not enough staff and too many jobs, lack of internal talent to tackle various chores and too many hours spent on routine, but necessary chores. Sound familiar? If your budget allows, you may want to consider outsourcing.

A practical outsource strategy for selected operational functions can save money and time, as well as expand your firm’s capability to focus on core products and services. You can farm out a slew of jobs, but four general areas offer the best options:

  • Finance and Accounting. Tasks in this category may include payroll, accounts payable and receivable, bill collection, data entry, tax preparation, purchase tracking, distribution and inventory management. Particularly in the case of payroll, a qualified accountant or bookkeeper will be fully schooled in federal, state and local regulations on withholding, unemployment insurance, taxes and other matters. A contractor likewise can manage bank statements, loan applications and other issues that may arise in these areas.
  • Technical and IT. Efficient computer, telephone, internal network and Internet systems are critical underpinnings of any business. If you don’t employ an in-house specialist, contracting a qualified, licensed professional for set-up and maintenance services of computers, servers and other equipment is a must. This is especially important where security is concerned. A qualified contractor can choose, install and monitor software systems that effectively prevent and detect cyber-attacks, a real threat in today’s market. Even if you have coasted along on your own so far, get someone into place before problems crop up.
  • Marketing and Public Relations. Employing a full-time marketing specialist is a costly proposition. Instead, see what marketing firms in your area can do for you. Most companies like to implement full marketing plans, but some offer a menu of services such as logo design, custom brochures, business cards and advertisements, press releases and pitches, email marketing campaigns, and media placement services. Given that social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become valuable marketing tools, many firms also will create blogs, posts, tweets and other content on their clients’ behalf.
  • Website design and development. With the multitude of templates out there, it may be tempting to tackle website production yourself. But think about it. For a modest cash outlay, you can hire an experienced professional who will showcase your brand in the best possible light. A contractor can design a site simple enough for you to access and manipulate, but who will troubleshoot when systems break down. They also can provide web analytics, such as conversion rates for retail sites, and many will post and update content.

Identifying the right contractor for the job pretty much resembles the employee hiring process. Start your search by getting referrals from colleagues in your field, or check listings in industry publications or with professional organizations.

When you’ve narrowed the field to two or three candidates, conduct interviews with each of them. Make sure you are specific and thorough regarding your needs, expectations and deadline requirements. All these factors can impact final costs.

In turn, ask your prospects questions about availability, flexibility, turnaround time and fee schedules. Before making a final decision, request copies of professional licensures, and ask for references.

Finally, don’t over-outsource! Start with one or two jobs that eat up too much time, and let contractors handle them for a proscribed period, perhaps three months. At that point you can assess whether outsourcing will offer a permanent solution.