I’ve been writing a lot lately about business process outsourcing and how it can support smaller businesses and even give them an advantage over their large competitors. I want to dive deeper and give some concrete examples about exactly how some outsourcing solutions can be so beneficial. The landscape has changed so much and has really opened up some exciting tactical and strategic opportunities once you understand how to use them for your financial and competitive advantage.
The great thing about outsourcing now is that the options have increased so dramatically in the last few years. In the past, if you wanted to outsource, it felt like the only options were to contract with a big consulting company who would expect you to fall in line with their processes. This might work in some cases, but a lot of times some unintended consequences have been an erosion of your company culture, and a mismatch due to the cookie cutter nature of the solutions being offered. There are far more vendors out there now besides the big consulting companies who have some creative solutions from full service outsourcing to pieces, which provide greater customization and flexibility.
If you’ve been considering outsourcing, you may be under the impression that the only thing that makes sense is to outsource the tactical and keep the strategic in house. The argument is that only people inside your organization have the knowledge and capacity to undertake strategic endeavors, that the tactical is easy to hand off and that there is little impact to the organization regarding who undertakes it. This may or may not have been true in the past but it is definitely not true today!
Outsourcing only tactical is a strategy that mostly benefits the large consulting companies that have tactical processing ‘machines’ already built and are ready to fold you into their processes. This may very well make sense for some of your processes, but probably not as many as you think. To take the tactical out of your organization completely removes a key component of engagement and morale, which is in the daily touch points. Simply outsourcing “HR” sends a message to employees that you are okay with them calling a third party who doesn’t know them to answer personal questions and job concerns. Granted, some companies do a better job than others at handling this, but you are deluding yourself if you think that the employee experience is not affected by the transition of tactical HR to a third party vendor.
Contrary to popular opinion, strategic roles are often the ones best suited to outsourcing for several reasons. First, it’s almost always the case in small and growing businesses that key leaders are wearing too many hats and putting out too many fires to be as strategic as they’d like. A savvy consultant can work with key leaders enough to ‘pick their brains’ and then do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of developing plans and road maps. It’s also often true that leaders and managers in small businesses just haven’t had the experience at the strategic level. To think that they’ll magically develop the ability just because they own or are brought into a growing company is unfair. It’s similarly difficult for them to select, hire, and manage a person at this level. The balance of power makes it difficult for the strategic person to be as direct as to issues or roadblocks as they often need to be, and the reality is that the simply overwhelming amount of tactical work that always need to be done will eventually take over the strategist’s daily tasks. Finally, fair or not, high level strategic leaders almost always command a higher wage than their tactical counterparts, making a full time strategic role something out of reach for smaller businesses.
The solution is outsource consultants who don’t simply approach your businesses needs as something they press into their machine and spit out a stock answer to. Canned training and off the shelf ‘solutions’ are not the answer for small businesses either. One of the best features about being a small business is the flexibility, personal feel, and ability to be unique. These features will get lost when you try to force ‘corporate’ solutions on them. The great news is there is a huge cadre of equally flexible, personal, and unique outsource providers willing and able to fill needed roles at highly strategic levels on an ‘as-needed’ basis.
There are some aspects that naturally lend themselves to this solution: Marketing, Finance, Recruiting, and Organizational Development come immediately to mind, although these are by no means the only ones. Having partnered with several consultants who specialize in providing these services to small and growing businesses, I can’t speak highly enough about the quality and customization. Not only that, these consultants genuinely care about their customers and their businesses. It truly becomes a trusted partnership that, because of the scaleability and flexibility, is highly accessible to most businesses.
Just to give you some examples of how this might look:
- A CFO consultant may work with you on-call or monthly to provide support in obtaining financing, in creating budgets and forecasts, or in determining how to responsibly grow your businesses.
- A recruiting process outsource company will recruit as you and for you, sourcing and qualifying candidates for you on an as-needed basis. Some will even take it further, and completely manage your recruiting and onboarding processes, and even your other recruiting vendors, allowing you and your managers to focus on operational issues.
- An Organizational Development consultant can work with you to provide leadership or management training to shore up vulnerable areas, and help you prepare for growth with succession and employee development plans and can create performance management programs that improve profitability and efficiency.
The benefits are almost infinite. And the best part is that using these consultants often allows you the luxury of growing your existing staff into the demands of their new role. I’ve seen time and again organizations feeling like they had no choice but to let go of loyal employees just because the role grew beyond their current competence. This is a horrible situation for everyone and it doesn’t always have to be the case. By bringing in the right consultant, the pressure can be relieved, the work can still be done, and the staff member can often learn what they need to know from the consultant. That’s a much better outcome for everyone than the alternative.
So if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed with growing pains, don’t worry! Those are good problems to have, and help is closer than you know!
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people. With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work. Carrie can be reached for consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org