Maybe you’ve got mixed feelings about outsourcing. As a business owner, you realize two things. One, in America outsourcing is still a dirty word. Two, it’s also critical to modern business. Regardless of how you feel about it, outsourcing is here to stay. More important, it isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact outsourcing may be the key to taking your business from the back of your garage to a global enterprise reaching customers on multiple continents. Here are six services to consider outsourcing for your business.
1.) Payroll and taxes
Let’s face it, you didn’t start a business because you loved adding columns and carrying the one (unless you’re an accountant). For small businesses, processing payroll can be a complicated and time-consuming task. Among other things, payroll functions can include anything from determining employee wages and withholding taxes, to updating vacation and sick pay and deducting employee-contributed payments for benefits. Payroll is one of the most widely outsourced elements of modern business, and you’ll likely save half of what it would cost you to do it in-house. Outsourcing your taxes may not save you a tremendous amount of money, but it will save you headaches and heartbreaks. Small business owners claiming deductions are the most heavily audited sector of American society. Outsource this one, and come next February you can pour yourself a drink and toast your sharp business acumen.
2.) Cloud IT
Don’t feel bad if you’re still wondering just what the cloud really is, if you’re currently standing beneath it, and if you’re going to need your umbrella (this is me). You don’t need to understand the technology for it to revolutionize your business as well as your profit margin. Put simply, the cloud refers to the Internet. Cloud computing is an umbrella term that covers a lot of ground, from storage services like Dropbox that store all of your documents and files online, to creative platforms like Windows Azure that allow users to create apps, websites, and databases tailored to their own specific needs.
To understand the difference between traditional mainframe/terminal host computing and the cloud, consider Photoshop. In the old days, you paid an exorbitant fee for Photoshop, took it home, and installed it on your hard drive. You saved all your files right there at home. Today, you can subscribe to a host of Photoshop programs and services (just like cable TV), produce what you need, and store your files online. It’s a whole new world.
3.) Growth hacking and marketing
Much has been written in recent years about whether or not you need a “growth hacker.” A growth hacker is someone who understands and utilizes technology, specifically website analytics; search engine optimization, content marketing, and A/B testing-to connect businesses to customers.
Is it any surprise that “Mad Men” the most highly awarded show in recent memory, is about, yes, marketing? Or that even teenagers, those frenzied denizens of social media, chatter furiously about their brand, by which they mean their life. What isn’t about marketing anymore? But marketing is a complex, creative endeavor. Chances are, your business will benefit not just from outsourcing a portion but all of your marketing tasks (growth hacking included) to professionals who specialize in nothing else. The customers are out there and your outsourced marketing team will find them.
4.) Help desk
Somebody needs to answer your phone when it rings, but does it need to be you? How about answering questions about problems navigating your website? Dealing with a missing order? Refund returns? Whether you take Visa or Mastercard? While outsourcing your help desk is probably the most clichéd of American business moves, it may be the right choice for your business. And in spite of the bad rap call centers get, the truth is that many outsourced help desk services are reliable, intelligent and friendly. According to a report released by the Global Call Center Project, 22 percent of call centers predominantly hire college graduates. The report studied 2,500 centers in 17 countries. The highest ratios were found in France and India, where 60 percent of call centers recruit college educated workers.
If you’re considering outsourcing this element of your business, it’s critical that you shop around and find a company that understands your business and can truly help your customers. It won’t do you any good in the long run to save a few bucks outsourcing only to drive your customers away.
5.) Virtual assistant
Take a moment to think about all the daily minutiae that suck up your time – answering emails, filling out your calendar, making phone calls to set up appointments, sending out letters, ordering, checking your Facebook, etc. How much would you give to not have to do any of it? Whatever amount popped into your head, chances are you can hire a virtual assistant for less. Seriously, virtual assistants can handle nearly any task you can imagine and work within your budget.
6.) Legal services
There are law firms that offer programs that fixes legal costs for those businesses who need regular counsel, but do not want the expense of a full time employee. Programs can start as low as $500 a month and concentrate in the areas of employment, taxes, insurance, corporate government and contracts/agreements.
Cheryl O’Neill Gowen is president and CEO of Alternative Funding Options. She works with business owners seeking cash flow from non-traditional sources, drawing on more than 30 years’ experience in banking, financing and staffing. Contact her at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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