Keri just got some great news. She won a new contract as the caterer for one of the largest law firms in her state. So, why is Keri stuck in her office doing payroll on a Friday night instead of out celebrating? She doesn’t have anyone else who can do it.
You’re probably thinking, why doesn’t she just hire someone. A few months ago, she did, but it was a complete disaster. The person Keri hired claimed to be an expert but didn’t have any experience working with small business accounting or her Quickbooks software. The worker did such a poor job, that Keri lost thousands of dollars in less than 3 months. So, now Keri is back to doing it herself, after her staff leaves for the day.
Small business owners are in an especially difficult position when it comes to outsourcing work for their business, because many of the so-called experts they encounter are better at selling themselves than they are at doing the work you hire them to do. On top of that, they don’t have the HR resources big companies do to run the extensive background checks and skills tests needed to truly vet a potential outsourcing partner.
As it turns out you don’t need to be a huge firm to hire the right people to help you grow your business. If you want to survive in business without burning yourself out, you can’t try to do everything yourself. In order to have sustained growth year after year, you must focus on your most high-valued activities such as sales. So, here are the important tips you need to make sure you hire a great outsourcing partner you can trust.
6 Tips for Finding the Right Outsourcing Partner
As a small business owner, you may not have a big HR budget, but you can still take these steps to vet your outsourcing partner or new hire before you bring them into your business.
1. Check Their LinkedIn Profile
Googling your potential hire or outsourcing partner should be your first step, but you should go deeper and check their LinkedIn profile. It’s like a CV on steroids. You can see the basic outlines of their experience but more importantly, you’ll see how their contacts regard them. Look for recommendations, what content they have shared and what skills they’ve been endorsed for. Determine if you have any overlapping contacts. Don’t hesitate to reach out to those contacts you have in common to see if they would give them a referral.
2. Review Their Past Performance
Ask any vendor or job candidate for references and check them. Be sure to ask their prior customers how satisfied they were they with their performance. Some key questions to ask: did they deliver on time and on budget? How was their work quality? Were they professional and easy to work with? Did they work up to the promised standard? If you can, go a step further, and dig for your own references. It can be assumed that the people will only give you customers as references who will be positive. Try to find some previous clients not listed there and contact them.
3. Check Their Work, and Test Their Skills
If you’re hiring someone to do an artistic job, like web design, logo development or copy writing, be sure to ask them for their online portfolio. It’s a great tool to assess the quality of their work and the sophistication of their design eye. You could presume that they’ve put some time and effort into assembling their portfolio and that only their best work has made the cut.
If the potential partner is a marketing firm, ask for samples of previous marketing campaigns and then ask for the results of the campaigns in terms of click-throughs, likes, followers and sales. Measure how original their ideas are, how well were the ideas were implemented and how successful was the campaign.
For more technical jobs, like project management, IT or engineering, you probably won’t be able to get samples due to confidentiality or the type of work these type of experts do, but you can test their skills. Ask them to do a simple task instead to test knowledge. Something quick, but something that will give you a little insight into how they can handle the tasks and if they know what you’re looking for.
4. Develop a Communication Protocol
Whether you’re seeking and outsourcing partner for just a short project or you’re trying to find someone who will work with your business in a key role, you’ll have to work closely with that person, and you’ll need a communication protocol and online project management database where all project documents are kept. Consider Slack, Basecamp or Teamwork.
Included in your files should be the delivery schedule, contact information on the team, a meeting schedule and progress updates of the project. It’s is critical that everyone be able to find any assets needed and clearly communicate the progress of their portion of project. If they experience any problems, they must explain where they are against the timeline and how they are going to fix it.
Soft skills are just as important as their actual experience and skill-set. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact way to assess how easy it will be to communicate with your outsourcing partner. Conduct a thorough interview and go with your gut feeling. Do an email interview, with 15-25 questions to gain additional insight and be sure to include situational questions so that you can get a sense of their attitude and people skills.
5. Check Their Infrastructure
To minimize the chance of something unexpected happening due to poor infrastructure or equipment, create a checklist for any prospective hire on their equipment, as a condition of employment. Check if your potential outsourcing partner has a stable computer (no more than three-years-old), a fast internet connection, a webcam to connect for a Zoom or Skype meetings, and solid anti-virus software. Make sure they know your project management software, and confirm how their finished work will be transferred to you. They need to upload finished work and download new tasks. Use cloud based storage solution such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or WeTransfer.com to send draft documents. It’s crucial that information be available 24/7 and you want to avoid client delays because something avoidable happened, like a computer crashing.
6. Consider the Benefits
After the skill set is no longer needed, the contract ends without any hassle or unemployment compensation required. In addition, using a contract worker saves your small business money because you are not encumbered with payroll taxes, benefits, etc. You might also have an opportunity to develop a partnership which could give both companies an opportunity to increase capacity and go for larger corporate contracts.
Outsourcing and hiring freelancers to work for your business can be scary, but often well worth it. If you have a clear job description and hire someone who is excellent at what they do, and doesn’t need a lot of supervision, you can grow well past what you are paying them. Finding an experienced, trustworthy vendor who is good at their job will take pressure off you. This will enable you to focus on what you do best—securing the next opportunity. If you would like our help organizing your business so that you can outsource to vendors who can help your business grow, go to http://succeedasyourownboss.com and click the contact button. Someone from my team will follow up with you within 24 hours. I’m always here as a resource.
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