You Can Outsource Your Operations; But Avoid These Pitfalls

As you go through the process of growing your small business, there will come a point where you will have to decide whether or not to take on additional full time or part time employees. On one hand, the added human input can help you scale up your operations. But on the other hand, taking on employees can be a very costly and time-consuming process. Plus there is always the risk that your new hires won’t end up working out.

One way to overcome this dilemma is to outsource some of your business’ operations to another individual or business. Doing this will allow you to expand while reducing the risk of a costly bad hire or even a good hire made at the wrong time.

But, outsourcing parts of your business comes with its own set of challenges. After all, who says that this outside entity will properly “get” your company and its unique culture. How well will they be able to relate to your customers, and how do you ensure that there is enough motivation on their end to do a good job?

Outsourcing can truly make or break a company depending on how it is approached. So before you outsource anything- especially those front-line positions, such as customer service and sales- make sure you consider the following five pitfalls:

Businesses don’t consider the scope of their needs. This is the very first, critical step to successfully outsourcing your business’ operations. Before you start the process of looking for an outside company to take over, you should figure out exactly what it is you need from them. Not only will this help to make your search process easier, but it will help you avoid some of the other pitfalls mentioned below.

Businesses don’t allocate enough money. You really do get what you pay for, so beware of prices that seem too good to be true. While many small businesses are working with tight budgets, price shouldn’t be your only consideration when hiring a service provider. If you discover a company that offers the same basic services yet they are charging much less, then it could be a indicative of the kind of work quality you can expect from them.

There is not enough due diligence. Don’t just fall for a company because they have a flashy-looking website. You need to dig into this company’s reputation as well as the amount of time they have been in business. You should also research customer reviews and seriously consider trying to contact previous clients to see how satisfied they were. During the research process, pay attention to any red flags that could signal potential problems or mis-representation. For example, if it takes a long time for you to speak to a real person when you try contacting the service provider or if customer representatives are unfriendly and not knowledgable, then it may be sign to take your business elsewhere.

Businesses forget about cultural fit. Just as you should hire people based on their cultural fit with your company, not just the skills and experiences listed on their resumes, the same is true for any business partnership- whether that partnership is contractual or a joint venture or a full, working partnership.

There is no system to monitor performance. Outsourcing vital operations is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. There needs to be a system in place to monitor and review the company’s performance as well as the ROI that the setup is supposed to be achieving. By doing this, you will be able to quickly spot problem areas and then decide whether or not the partnership is a good one. One of the biggest factors to successful outsourcing is knowing when to walk away from a bad setup.

In short, outsourcing business operations can be a very reasonable and profitable method for expanding a business- but only if it is approached in the right way. In order for such as setup to have the best chance of success, the company needs to consider it as an important investment. With a bit of time, effort, and money upfront, they have the best chances of watching that investment grow.

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How to Properly Outsource Your Content Marketing

Marketing a business today takes so much more time and effort than it used to. Your target audience is being bombarded with messages both online and off, and as technology becomes a bigger part of the marketing equation, the rules just keep changing.

ID-100146171Content marketing in particular has become an enigma to many small business owners who are still trying to figure out how to set up their websites and use social media properly. Yet content marketing, done well, can really help you to build brand awareness and create an online audience of current and potential customers. Doing content marketing properly, though takes a great deal of time, effort, and skill.

For this reason, many small business owners choose to outsource some or all of their content creation and marketing. But for a significant amount of these business owners, their efforts don’t work out. The truth is outsourcing your content marketing is not so easy to apply effectively nor does it make sense in all situations.

If you are thinking of outsourcing your content marketing, here are some important points to keep in mind:

Make sure you understand what content marketing can accomplish. Even if you will not be creating the content yourself, you still need to have an understanding of what effective content marketing allows you to do across different mediums and platforms.

You need to be actively involved in the process. You also need to be actively directing and analyzing the content marketing process from beginning to end if you want it to be effective. Don’t be tempted to just leave it to your outsourcing providers. It’s the biggest mistake you can make! Don’t forget that the content you promote as how you promote it will directly reflect on your business.

Choose your hired content marketers wisely. It’s very easy for a company to claim they they are content marketing experts; it’s much harder to prove it. Therefore, you really need to exercise your full due diligence before deciding on a company. Get a list of previous customers and make it a point to contact them. Request to see a sample of a documented content marketing strategy they have developed and implemented. Also, pay attention to any promises or claims they are making. Content marketing is a long-term strategy, and specific results may be hard to guarantee- especially over the short-term.

In short, outsourcing your content marketing can help your business get its name out there while freeing up your time. But you have to approach it correctly or else it can get out of hand taking your business’ brand and money with it.

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Using Drop Shipping for Your Small Business

One of the keys to small business success during difficult economic times is finding the right balance between doing things in-house and outsourcing those tasks. Small business owners looking to keep their inventory stocks low and their cash flowing may want to consider using the services of an outside drop shipping company.



Drop shipping allows retailers to take customer orders and direct them to a drop shipper, or wholesaler, who then ships the merchandise directly to the customers. The retailers profit by charging customers more than the wholesalers charge the retailers.

Drop shipping clearly has advantages over traditional retailing. For one, business owners don’t have to lay out money to keep items in stock. In addition, the business owner can maintain a positive cash-flow cycle: the seller is paid when the customer makes a purchase, but he or she can delay paying the wholesaler by paying with a credit card. Moreover, the retailer saves on shipping costs, because one warehouse packs and ships all the merchandise.

Like all business trends, drop shipping has potential pitfalls. Here are a few quick tips on how to effectively use drop shipping in your business:

  • Do some research before agreeing to work with a particular drop shipping company. Drop shipping attracts some of the biggest scammers on the web. Some people who claim to work as wholesalers are essentially middlemen who connect you to actual wholesalers. These swindlers then retain most of the profit. Avoid this trap by using good sources, such as trade shows, to find wholesalers. You can also check out and for up-to-date lists on verifiable wholesalers.


  • Safeguard your own reputation. The drop shippers represent you. Poor customer service and sloppy packing reflect poorly on your business. If the drop shipper back orders products for a lengthy period of time, impatient customers might cancel their orders and never return to do business with you. Before using a drop shipper, check the policy on back orders and returns.


  • Assess your profit margin. Of course, you pay the drop shipper for the service. Determine whether the price differential between what you charge the customer, and what you pay the shipper, is enough to warrant outsourcing your business’ inventory management and shipping.

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Tips for Using a Virtual Assistant in Your Business

The use of a virtual assistant (or VA) can be a cost-effective and efficient alternative to hiring on-site employees. But, just like most things in life, one needs to know how and when to use them in order to maximize the benefits.


But before we can discuss the ways to maximize the use of a Virtual Assistant, business owners should be clear about what a VA really is. A virtual assistant is a broad term that describes anyone who contributes to a business from a remote location. Usually, VA’s are hired to perform administrative tasks, such as fielding phone calls, answering emails, writing memos or reports, etc or research-oriented tasks, such as conducting market research.

Outsourcing is a vital tool in nearly every business these days. After all, what is the logic of hiring employees and having to pay salaries and benefits, not to mention renting office space to accommodate them, if you can simply hire sub-contractors to do the job? This question is particularly relevant to a small business which cannot afford extra expenses.

So how can small business owners maximize the use of a Virtual Assistant? Here are a few tips:

  • Use the Virtual Assistant to take care of repetitive tasks that take up a lot of your own time so that you will be free to do the larger, more important things. The Virtual Assistant can deal with responses to routine emails, market research, compiling business quotes, updating contact lists and other mundane tasks.


  • Virtual assistants can also help with more creative activities such as lead generation via blogging and social networks, and submitting articles to directories. You can also use them for event planning and preparing Power Point presentations about your business.


  • Take the time to establish work flow processes. Decide on how you will share information (verbally? By email?) Establish how you will issue instructions – (verbally or in writing?) Set clear procedures to prevent double handling.


  • In order to ensure maximum efficiency, make a list of the tasks you want your Virtual Assistant to accomplish and establish a reasonable timeline. Prepare an outline of the specific task step-by-step so that the Virtual Assistant will be able to tackle the job efficiently.


  • Establish a method of evaluating the VA’s performance and return on investment. At the beginning there may be some tweaking involved in working with a remote employee until the right balance is achieved. Sometimes appropiate tasks are being assigned, but the person filling the VA position may not be a good fit. Other times it may be the exact opposite.


The good thing about outsourcing is that you can use it if and when you need it and customize it to fit your resources and demands. It’s up to you to find the right balance. Once you have, a Virtual Assistant can be virtually invaluable.

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Bucking the Trend: Who is Thriving in the Credit Crisis?

With concern growing over the health of the global economy, many consumers and businesses alike are doing whatever they can to ride out the impending storm- and that can spell growth and financial opportunity for those who can capitalize on it.

So which sectors should still thrive in the current credit crisis?…

  • Financial consulting and tax planning. As the economic downturn forces businesses and consumers to focus on savings, the need for professional financial consultants and tax planners will only rise.

  • Accounting/performance management software. Any software applications that are designed to increase performance or efficiency, such as accounting suites and CRM packages, should remain in strong demand among businesses seeking to preserve their profit margins and maintain their competitive edge.

  • Outsourcing services. As businesses seek to reduce costs, expect a continued increase in infrastructure management and applications services. This also spells good news for free-agents, telecommuters, and “momprenuers.”

  • Telecommunications. Manufacturers of mobile devices and telecommunications equipment as well as supporting software should continue to perform strong as businesses rely more on telecommunications to reduce the ever rising cost of travel. Reliance on IP data, such as VoIP, is also expected to increase among small and mid-sized businesses due to the tremendous cost savings.

  • Online Marketing. By tapping into web-based marketing, businesses have several relatively cheap alternatives to traditional marketing at their disposal, such as e-mail marketing, blogging, and sending out newsletters, press releases, and articles. In fact, Google recently announced a 26% rise in their third quarter profits that they attribute to the fact that “targeted, measurable ads” are becoming more important to advertisers looking to reach as many possible customers while operating on a tight budget.

  • Entertainment. Video game sales are on the rise as consumers with tight budgets are foregoing travel, trips to the cinema, and dining out in favor of staying in.

  • Alternative financing. In this shaky financial climate it is no surprise that it is getting increasingly difficult for American small businesses to receive traditional bank loans. There has thus been an ever growing trend towards alternative financing ranging from the risky high, interest payday loans to the more mainstream invoice factoring, equipment leasing, and business cash advances.

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