Small businesses are big-time commitments. As entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has said, you have to work your butt off to see a payoff-- and it's important to spend that time wisely.

According to payroll provider OnPay, HR and payroll, which many entrepreneurs tackle themselves, require almost 40 hours per month alone.

That might be sustainable for a few months, but you'll eventually burn out. If you aren't focused on your business, there's no way it will grow beyond its original structure. Before you lose your spark, you have two options: Hire a whole department -- which, frankly, few new entrepreneurs can afford -- or outsource. 

In 2019, most things can be outsourced. The first step? Take a long, hard look internally and complete an assessment, as there's no sense in contracting out your strengths. That dilutes the value you and your company offer, and it can damage your industry differentiation. Once you know where you stand, look to outsource for the following:

1. What you struggle with.

Every company has an Achilles' heel. Does your design look like a child's? Is HR a week-after-week headache? Does your team struggle to compile newsletters? If you can't objectively evaluate your weaknesses, ask a trusted peer.

One owner I worked with knew he needed to offload some of the distractions on his plate, but he couldn't figure out which. He asked his mentor, who immediately said someone else needed to manage his content marketing -- something that hadn't crossed his mind.

Decide whether to outsource according to two factors: First, can you hire an internal team member for less than the cost of an agency fee? If so, do you know someone who'd do as good a job as the prospective partner? If you can't answer "yes" to both questions, outsource it. Spending the time to recruit for a role you can barely afford isn't a smart bet. 

2. Expertise you don't have.

Your business might not have the budget to hire a head of engineering, but it might be able to retain an experienced individual as an outside advisor. And that's especially true if it's part-time work. Many professionals are happy to have a side hustle. 

If it's an outsourced CMO, CFO or CISO you're looking for, entire agencies are built around those services. Check SCORE, a network of mentors and semi-retired professionals backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Just remember to vet C-level help more carefully than you might a casual advisor.

A lot of small business owners not experienced at specific tasks themselves have trouble assessing the quality of an external consultant's help. Find checklists, interview another leader to find out how she reviewed candidates or speak to candidates' references. Seeing a sample or hearing about firsthand victories (or failures) can be a huge help in making your decision.

3. Mundane tasks.

Routine, mundane tasks are a not-so-sexy staple of every company. Be sure neither you, nor your best workers, devote time to tasks that don't fit the appropriate skill set or level of expertise. Automate what you can, and outsource the rest. These repetitive to-dos aren't building your teammates' skill levels; they're simply getting faster at doing template work. You need them on more demanding tasks. 

Billing, scheduling, data entry and basic customer assistance are the sort of tasks that virtual assistants handle all day. If you can convince a reliable college student to take them on for less than $25 per hour, do it. Otherwise, check sites like Priority VA and Somebody 2 Hire. If your company is growing, you might even be able to use the prospect of a future full-time role as a bargaining chip. 

4. Creative work.

Say your company needs to develop some short branded videos. You or your VA could do it in a pinch, but amateur content doesn't get companies off the ground. It might be more expensive, but your best bet is to pay a specialist. The ROI payoff more than justifies the expense -- it will help your company grow bigger faster.

To find the help you need, turn to niche sites. In the age of the internet, creative talent isn't limited to agencies. If you need a logo designed, for instance, 99Designs will give you dozens of options for as little as $299. Strong blog content might cost you as little as $75 per post. That's not chump change for a growing business, of course, but utilizing an internal team member with little design or content experience could cost you even more in terms of time and money.

Outsourcing may add to your balance sheet, but it's hardly a waste. Every penny or minute you save is another you can spend elsewhere. Talk to enough entrepreneurs, and you'll realize: Sooner or later, you'll be glad you gave up some control.

Published on: Jul 17, 2019
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