Brad Stevens is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Atlanta, Chair of the chapter's EO Accelerator program, author, speaker, career entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Entreholic, which helps companies identify and implement innovative growth and execution strategies. We asked Brad how entrepreneurs can leverage outsourcing to achieve growth. Here's what he shared.
There is a seismic shift happening in the workforce and only a minority of CEOs and entrepreneurs seem to be aware of it. The most innovative companies are already experiencing substantial benefits as the role of the W2 employee is changing rapidly.
In today's hyper-competitive business landscape, getting things done faster and cheaper could mean the difference between turning a profit or going belly up. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have no choice but to shift from a "Do it how it has always been done" mentality to one that asks, "How can we work smarter, not harder?" We must adapt to a much more flexible, almost on-demand structure to get everything done within budget.
My entrepreneurial journey is a true testament to this movement. In my last business venture, I found myself in a tough spot: Money was extremely tight, and we encountered significant product challenges. In order to pull it together and grow, I had to stretch my dollars further. I had to accomplish essential business tasks while still driving marketing and sales. My stress level was through the roof, but the only way I knew to make it work was to put in even longer hours.
When I met with a colleague who opened my eyes to the wonders of outsourcing, I was blown away. He showed me how to get innovative marketing and sales projects done for pennies on the dollar. What I, and most business owners, thought would cost thousands of dollars, he was doing for a few hundred dollars―or less! I couldn't get home fast enough to figure out how to replicate his results. After five hours of research, I discovered a whole new world that would change my trajectory as an entrepreneur. It also dramatically changed how I execute in my personal life.
I realized the opportunities for efficiency and speed coupled with monetary savings are substantial. It's not just about low cost. It's about velocity of execution, getting work done two or three times as fast. With online platforms, you have instant access to millions of low-cost and highly talented firms, contractors and freelancers from around the world. With no overhead or marketing expense, they perform incredible work at unbelievably low prices. The "instant gig" economy of virtual on-demand workers is revolutionizing how businesses can and will operate.
Through outsourcing, I got more than US$10,000 worth of marketing and sales services for US$500, propelling my company forward almost overnight. I began outsourcing almost every aspect of my business―website development, telemarketing, graphic design, lead generation―you name it. Not only was I getting more done for less, but I had more time to focus on growing our operations. Soon I was even using creative growth hacking strategies like data scraping and data mining, two of the most powerful concepts I discovered, to grow my business at a very low cost. Such strategies enable you to create highly-targeted lead lists for pennies on the dollar.
And it's not just marketing and sales. Even work such as Autocad drawings, financial modeling, recruiting, data management and 3D renderings are being done for a fraction of the cost and twice as fast.
And it's not just international. Many of the firms and contractors are in the U.S. where talented executives with corporate backgrounds can now earn just as much if not more working from home on their terms.
In just a few months, our business was back on track, and I continued to build my skills. When I asked around, I was surprised to find that only 10% of entrepreneurs and business owners knew these freelance platforms and unique tools even existed. I knew this information would be the basis of my next business, where we would share our "addiction" to entrepreneurship and lean growth using these techniques. Over the past four years, as I have worked with business owners, I am always asked the same question: "How can we get started with outsourcing?"
Here are three tips that I share with my clients:
- The key to growing a successful business is to find an advantage and exploit it before your competition does. Typically, businesses run from the inside out: Most work is done internally and a few specialized projects are outsourced to freelancers. However, running your business from the outside in can save you money and increase productivity overnight. Outsourcing or automating repetitive tasks can free up time to build other critical components of your business. Outsourcing is a booming industry, even inside the U.S.: Forbes estimates that by 2020, 50% of American workers will be freelancers―making getting work done easier, cheaper and faster.
- Build a virtual team with a broad range of skills. Whether you need a website developer, graphic designer, content writer or marketing manager, it's important to assemble a team of freelancers. Identifying tasks that are major time or money drains and outsourcing them can be the most effective use of your resources. Also, having an experienced "virtual business manager" to manage your team of freelancers can make outsourcing as seamless as possible. The unfolding business landscape will favor those who use freelancers to keep a leg up on the competition.
- Explore online tools to stay ahead of the technology and business curve. Hundreds of new tools hit the market every day―all engineered to make life easier for us. Spending an hour each week trying out one new tool can help you stay on top of the latest assets for business growth. Almost any area of your business can be improved with a tool. For example, Mouseflow tracks how web visitors interact with your website; Bond creates hand-made cards for customers; and Dashlane securely stores a company's logins and passwords so you can safely share them with freelancers and outsourcing teams.
Adopting a "creative mindset" can be your secret weapon in building a stronghold in your industry. When it comes to starting or expanding your business, the sky's the limit. Thinking outside of the box and being willing to try a new strategy goes a long way toward outpacing the competition.