Delegating to specialized providers may save you money.

By George Havranek

Guest columnist

As your small business grows, so too do the complexities of its operation. You may well reach a point where certain functions are costing money or compromising efficiency, and diverting your attention from more critical core aspects.

These are functions that may be ripe for outsourcing — delegating to specialized providers who can perform them more efficiently for less than it costs you to keep it in-house.

While any number of business functions can be outsourced, the most common operations include administrative tasks (e.g. accounting, human resources), those with a high degree of repetition (data entry), and those requiring special expertise such as IT management or public relations. Some small businesses outsource customer service operations, inventory management, or component manufacturing as well.

As with any business decision, outsourcing requires careful consideration on your part, particularly finding qualified contractors to take on these duties. Some good sources of guidance include the Outsourcing Institute (, a professional association for the outsourcing industry and a neutral resource for information, connections and solutions; and contractor exchange sites such as oDesk ( and eLance (

Fellow entrepreneurs can also be good sources of advice and referrals for outsource contractors. But don’t just take their word for it. Needs and priorities differ from one firm to another, making someone else’s perfect fit less suitable to you.

As you evaluate potential candidates, make sure they have experience in your type of business, a good track record for problem responsiveness and resolution, work processes, and cost structure. Pay particular attention to the last two factors to ensure the investment truly saves you money and enhances your own company’s efficiency.

Because you will be entrusting them with a portion of your business, communication is critical, and you’ll want to gain a comfort level with the contractor. Much of the up-front introductory work can be conducted online, but phone calls and in-person meetings will go a long way toward establishing trust and an all-important “comfort level.”

And even though the idea of outsourcing is to shed responsibility, you need regular contact with the contractor to get updates, ask questions or explain changes that may be coming to your business. Don’t simply assume that the contractor instinctively knows everything you do about the function.

Finally, you will want to make sure that you maintain control of all data and information that is produced by the contractor. This may include tax documents, accounting files, personnel information, etc. And, you will need that information in a usable (probably electronic) form. Remember that, at some point, you may change vendors or bring the outsourced functions back in-house.

George Havranek is a SCORE volunteer mentor. To learn more, contact ashevillescore. org. SCORE is a nonprofit organization offering free, confidential business mentoring and workshops.

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