Whew! This week was one of those weeks you dream about but are never quite sure how to handle. The past few days have seen 119 new calls come pouring into the office. The calls have been handled and the work has been scheduled (some of it even completed), but now what? How is your small team going to finish all the sketching, maintain daily job documentation, keep the customers informed and happy, write the estimates, work through negotiations with the carrier, and send out the billing to eventually bring in the cash, all while managing any new work coming in?
It may be that the only answer lies outside of your office: relying on an outsourced party to deal with a portion of the process so that your internal team can keep moving forward.
I know, I know … “my team and I can’t do that!” You automatically start listing the reasons (dare I say excuses?) as to why your team could never look at a solution outside of the four walls of your office.
Before you start, I am going to challenge you to read through a few of the common objections I have heard people give as to what keeps them from trying an alternative resource. I call them “The Five Myths of Outsourcing.” Let’s walk through them together, see if you can relate, and more importantly, think about how you could overcome them and expand the capabilities of your internal staff.
The Myth of the 10 Minutes
How many times have you said, “It will only take me 10 minutes; I’ll do it myself”? This is usually the first objection I hear when proposing a look at outsourcing a task or process. In truth, you know it never takes just 10 minutes because your time is never uninterrupted. A phone call you have been waiting for comes in. That “quick question” from a colleague becomes an hour-long conversation. It’s 11:47 am and lunch is sure starting to sound good. The distractions are many and they come quickly. When you finally get back to your 10-minute task, it may take you 10 minutes just to figure out where you left off.
Take a realistic look at the amount of time you and your team spend on repeatable tasks. Try it for just a week. Be honest and keep a log of the minutes spent on this and the hours spent on that. At the end of the week, I think you will be surprised by how much time you really spend on the various 10-minute tasks scattered throughout your day.
The Myth of the Hero
Another common rebuttal I hear to an outsourced option is that “no one can do it like I can do it.” You might not come right out and say it like this, but you have convinced yourself that the only person capable of accomplishing the task the right way (your way) is you. At some point—it may be today; it may be two years from now—you will reach a breaking point. There is only so much of you to go around.
When you look at what else you could be doing for the business in that same amount of time, ask yourself if it still makes good financial sense for you to continue working away at a task that could be handled by someone else.
How much is your time worth? When you look at what else you could be doing for the business in that same amount of time, ask yourself if it still makes good financial sense for you to continue working away at a task that could be handled by someone else. In all likelihood, there are responsibilities in your business that only the internal staff can handle. It’s important to discern what those are and what those are not.
The Myth of the Clean House
Stop me if you have heard this before: you finally hire a professional to help with some cleaning around the house. Between soccer practice for him, swimming for her, and 55 hours a week at work, you just can’t get to things the way you used to. It’s the first day the cleaner is scheduled, and you are dusting the entertainment center, vacuuming the living room, and wiping down the sink, because “we can’t have the cleaner think we don’t keep things in line!” Why do you clean the house before the cleaner comes? They have been hired to help; it doesn’t need to start off perfectly.
Such is true in the efforts to outsource a portion of your business functions; it doesn’t need to begin with perfection. Be honest about where you are and where you want to be, and then allow a specialist to leverage their skills to drive results. No one will judge you about what things look like getting started, but they will pay attention to where you end up.
The Myth of the 90%
I am often told, “well, after I get it back from them, I am still going to need to finish up the last few details.” OK, and …? If someone other than you can get you 90% of the way there, that’s 90% you didn’t need to do. Even if the first few efforts start lower, say 70%, that is still a majority of the heavy lifting taken off your plate, freeing you up to spend time on things significantly more important to the business.
From what I have observed, given time and just a little feedback, your outsourced partner can easily learn how you like things handled and work closer and closer toward a 100% finished product. Don’t allow the small amount of effort needed at the end of the process distract you from realizing the significantly larger effort already done when the first draft reaches your desk.
The Myth of Uniqueness
“Wait, wait! My business is so complex and one-of-a-kind that no one would understand it much less be able to help me in any meaningful way.” I hate to break it to you but no, it is not. Whether it is following up on receivables or writing estimates, the resources available outside your office come from places just like your office and just like your market. They have years of experience in doing the things you do, in the ways you do them, and sometimes doing them even better. I know from experience that what you are facing right now in your business feels new and unknown, but I can speak from that same experience on the ways I have seen others outside my internal circle bring solutions when I thought there were none.
Wikipedia defines a commodity as an economic good, usually a resource, where the market treats different instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them. What would happen if select processes in your business could be commoditized so that the result was thought of in higher value than the process used to reach it? Take estimating as an example. Is it more important that the act of writing the estimate itself is completed in a certain manner or that the estimate is an accurate and detailed description of the scope of work, so that the customer gets the desired outcome and the contractor gets paid? When we think of payment as the desired outcome, the act of completing an estimate takes on less and less importance.
In the end, the hesitation in trying an outsourced option usually comes down to one common issue—you. Most likely it will take a shift in perception to work through the roadblock in your thinking. If the COVID-19 pandemic had a sliver of a silver lining, it may have been in helping us realize that there may be more than one path to reaching a desired outcome. Ask yourself if you need the process or the result. My gut tells me that if you could get the same result or better with less effort, how it is done becomes less important.
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