Last week I celebrated my five year work anniversary. Wow, that went fast. Thank you, Cloudstaff 🙂
I wanted to reflect on what five lessons I have learned about outsourcing in my time that can help a business to do outsourcing well.
Here are my 5 top tips to get your started on the right path:
1. You have to know what you want
Before outsourcing anything, it’s important to stop and write down your goals.
What does outsourcing success look like for your business? It might only be five dot points on a page, or it might be a five-page business case. Do what works for you, but please write it down.
Defining what success looks like is critical to success as it will frame the provider you choose to assist you on your journey and how you set up and interact with your offshore team in the future.
The basic five dot points for me would be:
- What is it you want from your outsourcing team?
- What tasks do you need help with?
- What are your goals for the project?
- What is your budget?
- What is your timeline?
Answer just these five and you’ll be well on your way to setting up your business and your outsourced team for success. You will have clear answers that will help you find the right outsourcing partner and set realistic expectations for your offshore team.
2. Find the right outsourcing partner for you
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of firms offering outsourcing services globally. The success of your outsourcing will depend heavily on finding the partner that’s right for you.
Look for someone who has experience in your industry who can deliver high-quality work. Check out their references and read their reviews to ensure you’re selecting a reputable and reliable partner.
As a handy guide, try asking yourself these five questions:
- Does this firm feel right? Are they a good fit for me and my business? Yes, you’re going to give a subjective answer, but ask it of yourself anyway and answer it honestly. Sharing common values with your outsourcing provider will go a long way to ensuring you match well.
- Do we share similar personal and business goals?
- Does this firm treat staff as a commodity or do they treat staff like they are family?
- Ask yourself: Would I work here? This will help you to quickly assess whether the staff working conditions and facilities align with your own business culture.
- Can they grow with me? Some outsourcing providers will specialize in recruiting for a specific cohort of roles. That’s great if they’re the roles you need today. But what about the future? Do they have the Accountants, the Marketing Team members, the Software Engineers, the Back Office Support, the Customer Service Help Desk staff that can take my business to the next level?
3. Communicate effectively
It cannot be stressed enough that clear communication is key when outsourcing. Talking it through regularly will help you to address any issues in a timely manner before they become big problems.
Set up regular check-ins with your outsourcing partner. A quality outsourcing partner will provide you with some form of Key Account Manager who is onshore who can listen to you and your feedback. Their job is to then go back into their organization and get you what you need to succeed.
- Set up clear communication channels with your offshore staff too.
- Set up your team on your corporate email.
- Set your team members up with a hard phone or soft phone on their desk. (Your outsourcing provider should offer you both).
- Select your video conference tool of choice (Meet, Zoom, Skype, Teams) and get it installed on everyone’s desktops so you’re all using the same tech stack. It makes life so much simpler when you do.
4. Use Project Management Tools
Project management tools can be a lifesaver when outsourcing. Platforms like Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Bizscrum, Monday, and ClickUp can help you manage tasks, deadlines, and progress. By using these tools, you can keep everyone on the same page and track incremental project successes and milestones.
Just a quick warning here: All of these tools are only as good as the data being entered into them.
You will need to make sure you catch up with your team daily. Yes, I said daily – not weekly, not bi-weekly, and not monthly. It only needs to be a group conversation for 10 minutes at the start or end of the day.
Insist that team members enter their tasks through the day into the selected tool as they are being completed. This will give you a feel for what your team members are working on right now and what they will be working on next.
These tools help to systematize and institutionalize your team communication. They help to instill confidence that your offshore team members are happy and productive. They also enable you to react quickly and course correct when they are not.
5. Provide feedback
Providing clear feedback is essential when outsourcing. Be specific about what you like and don’t like about their work, and provide suggestions for improvement. Team members will be eager to please. It is your regular communication that will help your team members to get to know you and to understand what you like and don’t like.
It’s communication that helps your team to deliver work that meets your expectations, without wasting time on revisions.
6. My bonus 6th. Unicorns don’t exist. 🙂
Don’t try and pack everything into one role. Focus on a set of similar tasks and skills and write a very simple job description to guide your recruiter.
- What are my three must-have skills for the role?
- What are the five things I want the person to focus on in their day?
That’s it. There’s no need to write a heavy bloated job description. The top 3 skills and top 5 tasks are more than enough to inform your recruiter.
Whoever your outsourcing provider is, please don’t ask them to source a customer service person who can also do part-time bookkeeping who can also answer reception calls. That’s a unicorn. They don’t exist.
This is a very common tell that you are nervous about your outsourcing venture and are fearful there’s not going to be enough work for your team members to do.
You don’t need to overload the role. Trust me. Your team members will be great at what they do. There will be plenty of work to fill their day.
It’s been a fun five years. I have learned a lot about what works and what does not.
Outsourcing can be a great way to save time and money for your business, but it’s important to approach it with the right mindset. By following these tips, you can set yourself up for success and get the most out of your outsourcing. Good luck.