If you are in the early-stage of running a start up, you’ll be in the process of building a core team. This team will most likely consist of co-founders, product management / development, sales, and the ‘doers’; whoever makes a product or services a client. Chances are several people will be doing more than one job, and in some cases it might just be you and your smartphone.
These core roles will be your priority to get your business off the ground, focused on developing your product, building relationships and partnerships, and earning money. But for any organisation there are a whole host of other side tasks that need to be performed to support your core activities. Accounts, admin, marketing, IT management, all need to happen in the background to ensure that the business is run smoothly and has every chance of success.
How do you manage these additional jobs?
You might already have assumed some of these yourself, or perhaps other team members have taken on some of the responsibilities. But is this an effective use of your resources? Should you be doing the bookkeeping as well as winning that lucrative contract? Should your product development team also be trying to market the product?
Alternatively you could consider employing another team member. But before you do this you need to be certain that you have sufficient work for them, and that your investment will pay off. Staffing costs are the highest business cost of all, so this decision could seriously impact on your bottom line.
5 ways to fill the start up skills gap: outsourcing
Of course, there is an alternative – outsource your requirement. With this option you can buy in the skills of an experienced professional, freeing up your team’s time to concentrate on their core competencies, allowing you to budget efficiently by only paying for what you need, and saving you significant money that might otherwise be spent on staffing costs.
This means you can cut capital costs, keep flexibility, and improve business efficiency by acquiring each service on a monthly basis.
From my experience the following jobs are the ones I would outsource when starting up a new business:
- Finance and Accounts
From bookkeeping, payroll and tax returns, all the way through to financial strategy; these jobs can be outsourced to an expert who can either save you time by managing day-to-day accounting and regulatory compliance, or proactively drive your business forward with financial projections, cash forecasts, operating budgets, financial planning etc. For those start ups in a high growth mode a Chief Financial Officer to oversee an accounting team, could be a good outsourcing option. Companies with a more modest projected turnover might want the services of an accountant for specific jobs or projects, such as year end, audit preparation etc., and manage their invoicing and bookkeeping internally.
Sales and marketing tend to be lumped together. But while they are intrinsically linked, this doesn’t mean your sales team has the skills to perform a marketing function. Marketing is such a large area of expertise that even organisations with in-house marketing departments will often outsource parts of this remit to other agencies or freelancers. For a start up, the cost of employing an experienced marketing manager, compounded with the additional costs involved in creating marketing assets, can make it prohibitively expensive to do in-house.
- Human Resources
Managing your employees, from recruitment right through to employee policies, compliance, and even grievances, takes your core team, away from their role. Although you may have senior members of staff managing other employees, they should be focussed on enabling their team to perform at their best – not dealing with employment issues. In the absence of an HR Director this role tends to fall to a Co-Founder who will be on a very steep learning curve acquiring knowledge in employment law, best practice, contracts etc. In the infancy of a new business, outsourcing this function is a much better alternative.
- IT Support
One of the key benefits of outsourcing your IT is that you can outsource as much, or as little, as you need. This could involve management of your entire IT department, or just a single component such as data storage or service desk. For start ups this is a very scalable solution, allowing you to outsource more or less in line with the growth of your business. IT outsourcing also increases your core team’s productivity, not just by allowing them to focus on their core competencies, but also by reducing downtime because of system errors or IT outages.
5. Office admin
Cloud services enable start ups and established businesses to reduce costs and increase flexibility in their day-to-day operations. All of the jobs above benefit from the cloud, whether it’s the ability to share files and documents using cloud storage, or the use of cloud-based software such as project management and accountancy systems. Office admin is no different and for the start up has clear advantages. Whether you require diary services, data input, transcription, a telephone answering service, research or letter writing; all of this can be outsourced without having to provide a desk or a computer to the provider.
Perhaps the key advantages to the start up owner of the above outsource options is their flexibility. You might start off with just a few small tasks such as IT activities (e.g. network connectivity, data back up and software applications) in the early days of your start up. Further down the line when your company has proven itself and has reached a certain growth, you can outsource additional services like infrastructure management or service desk.
Either way it’s important not to ignore these jobs while focussing on your core business activity in the early days. They may not be directly generating revenue, but they are all contributing towards making your business more efficient, productive and profitable.