Small business: When to outsource key tasks
SmartBrief Editor
January 22, 2015

Sometimes it feels like you spend more time taking care of the business side of the business rather than the core product or service you provide.

There are myriad important to-dos that require attention, that’s for sure. But not all of them require your attention. Outsourcing small-business tasks related to human resources, finances and technology frees you up to focus on the aspects of the business that really need your involvement. Here’s a quick look at what and when to outsource.

  • Outsource CFO functions when you require deeper knowledge of business finance, activities beyond basic bookkeeping, or you have multiple partners. An outsourced CFO uses weekly, monthly and quarterly reports (prepared by you or your bookkeeper) to track and manage your business’ financial performance, assess current and future financial requirements, and make recommendations for decision-making. This person can also help you design internal controls and processes that reduce fraud, lower spending and operate more efficiently. If you don’t need this level of insight and oversight, consider outsourcing only your bookkeeping functions.
  • Outsource human resources functions when you have more than one or two employees or you feel stressed out about keeping up with records and regulations. HR is more than just hiring employees, which is complicated enough. Outsourced HR functions include: background checks; HR policies and procedures; staff training; terminations; and compliance and documentation. You can also find someone to help you with benefits administration, like health and disability insurance, paid time off and retirement or stock-sharing programs.
  • Outsource payroll activities when keeping up with employees’ hours and required tax issues is too time-consuming or too confusing, or if you have employees in different states. A payroll service manages tasks like calculating withholding, unemployment and other taxes; profit-sharing; insurance; and other wage/salary-related deductions and assessments. They also process payments, generate reports and handle filings. Even if you outsource payroll, remember that you are responsible for making sure everything checks out and that payments are being made correctly.
  • Outsource IT services when the technology you rely on to run your business is complicated or requires frequent upgrades, or when you have mission-critical server and security requirements. An outside IT provider can handle web hosting, server maintenance and performance, software and hardware installations and upgrades, automated backups, tech support for your team and your customers -- all the technology-related services that keep your business going. Choose a provider with an established reliability and a spotless security record.
  • Outsource web design when you want a site with an unconventional design and/or functionality that’s beyond your abilities and that DIY site-builders don’t provide. Because your website is your online storefront or office door, it’s got to look right and function well. Web designers can build a site that supports your brand, reflects your values and works the way you need it to. There are a lot of DIY site builders out there that are easy to use. But that doesn’t mean you should necessarily use them. If you’re already strapped for time, it might make more sense to hire someone -- even if they’ll be using a DIY solution -- to design and maintain your business site.

Deciding when to outsource also requires a little homework on your part:

  1. Understand the costs. Outsourcing small-business tasks should save you time and make you money—whether by reducing costs, streamlining processes or improving business outcomes. Determine your cash flow to determine what you can afford to pay and ensure you can sustain it over time.
  2. Vet vendors thoroughly. The tasks you outsource are crucial to your business’ success. Before contracting with any vendor investigate them completely. In many cases, these people have access to sensitive business, financial and personal data that must be protected from fraud and theft. Check each vendor out with your personal network, the Better Business Bureau and your state attorney general’s office to make sure they are reputable and reliable.

Outsourcing small-business tasks is a smart way to expand your capacity and operate more effectively. Explore your options today.

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