When you first launch a home-based business, you get to wear all the hats: accountant, marketing director, ad agency, administrative assistant and office custodian. But as your business succeeds and you grow, you will start to divvy up tasks, hiring employees or outsourcing jobs to service companies. Most home-based entrepreneurs keep some of the fun jobs – speaking at meetings about marketing tactics for the under-funded – as well as some of the drearier work – face it, you’re stuck as chief floor polisher.
Most home-based business owners dread the concept of sending critical work to outside firms. For one, the all-hats entrepreneur usually has control issues. For another, the successful home-business tycoon is cheap. That’s a good quality when you’re running a start-up, but that aspect of your personality will give you stick-in-the-craw jitters when you realize how much a decent bookkeeper charges per hour, and inevitably, you say to yourself – “Heck, if I just stay up a couple more hours each night, and I’ll get to keep all that money.”
Even more frightening to the home-based entrepreneur is the idea of an employee reporting to your home to work. Face it, part of the reason you chose home as your start-up platform is because you like having the place to yourself. Even more disturbing than the intrusion into your living-room office is the idea of watching a fifteen-dollar-hour employee talk to mom on your phone. Nope, employees are rarely a satisfying solution for home entrepreneurs. You will likely prefer using fellow home-based service companies to fill out the tasks that you can no longer do no matter how late you work.
If you’re business succeeds, you will need some form of support. Likely it’s the sales work you’ll get to keep – it’s almost impossible to outsource this critical task effectively.
Here are a few guidelines for outsourcing the tasks that keep you from the sales calls that are the key to really building your business.
Outsource your weakness. Sales probably comes to mind as your weak suit, but sales isn’t your weakness or you wouldn’t still be in business. Sales may be the most unpleasant work, but bookkeeping is probably your true weakness. Outsource it.
Keep the proprietary tasks. Be careful not to outsource the key to your business – you may find your service company will develop a dangerously close relationship to your client. I know a marketing consultant who handed off his largest client to a freelancer so he could develop new business. The client just loved his freelancer, and next year the client decided to work directly with her.
Send off the cheap work. Part of the success of the home-based enterprise is the low overhead. Be careful not to undermine your low-cost advantage by hiring expensive service help. Keep the expensive tasks at home.
Let go, let go, let go. Home-based entrepreneurs are worse than protective parents when it comes to control. Yet you’ll pay a dear price when you indulge your impulse to keep your business tasks all to yourself. Of course they can’t do it as well as you – at least that’s how it feels. But your business will get stuck at a limited size if you don’t buy help.
Build a team. Once you get good at outsourcing, you can begin to build a group of professionals who behave like a team of managers. You can actually create monthly meetings at a Starbucks to discuss business challenges. And you don’t have to worry about factions and politics, since you’re a client, not the boss.
Manage by performance. Best of all, it’s easier to fire your service company than it is to fire an employee – and the service company won’t sue. If you point out flaws in your suppliers’ performance, they are much more likely to make positive changes – we all respond more positively to request from a client than we do to a request from the boss. After all, the client is always right – while the boss is an idiot.