Despite celebrating the one year anniversary of Bulldog Accounting the "entity" a couple of months ago, I have the slightly more poignant date next week when it will be one whole year since I left full time employment to work on this venture. I cannot believe how time has flown, how much I've learned and how amazing the last year has been!
Whilst still definitely a juvenile business, Bulldog has now reached a point where I need some additional help in meeting my client's needs. The thought process is that this will free me up to work "on" rather than "in" the business, keeping it on its successful trajectory, making sure everyone is happy and - crucially - ensuring I still have time to play with my bulldog and possibly even have a little holiday. Hurrah.
So far as I see it, there are three main types of outsourcing:
Buying in expertise you do not have, or are not best placed to provide (in my case: marketing, IT. For other people, accountancy often falls into this category).
Reducing the administrative burden on the business owner or key staff, by paying someone else to deal with specific tasks e.g. managing telephone calls, paperwork, meetings and other general office tasks. Virtual Assistants often fall into this category and are an avenue I'm definitely exploring.
Hiving off specific "packages" of work that are low margin, specialised, or particularly time consuming to someone with the expertise or capacity to do them on your behalf. Book-keeping and payroll are often in this category.
How much will it cost?
It is definitely worth doing some research into this to get a sense of whether its financially viable for your business to outsource a function. Mostly,if you're reasonably small, you can get by investing in the bare minimum support to keep you on the right side of the law. There's no point having an all singing all dancing advertising firm on retainer if you can't actually support all the business they will generate for you!
Think about what you really need right now, and how this might change over then next 6, 12, 18 months. Play it safe and make sure you know what you're signing up to. Do some sums, think about your cash-flow and what you will really be gaining. If your profit is £500 a month after you've take a meagre salary, you can't really afford to pay someone else £400 a month for their services - no matter how shiny they are. If paying someone £75 a month saves you £20 a month and frees up some premium head-space to pursue a new project, you might be onto something.
How do I find someone I can trust?
This is SUCH a tricky one, and the whole arrangement stands and falls on how good your outsourced person is. I don't have much pithy advice for you here other than take your time, trust your instincts, get everything in writing and make sure there's an affordable exit strategy if it goes wrong. Contracts or, at the very least, a memorandum of understanding - are dull but crucial. You also need to be prepared to crawl all over the service that's being delivered, at least for the first few months (and then at regular intervals). I would absolutely advocate being completely paranoid, but in the same breath, try not to be a d*#k about it. Its your business, its important to you - its ok to make that clear to the person you are trusting with it.
What about personal data and GDPR?
Even before GDPR came into force in May, one of the trickiest aspects of outsourcing functions is trusting a third party with potentially sensitive data. There's no easy answer but there is lots of guidance available (as well as a tonne of self-proclaimed GDPR experts who will happily charge you lots of money to tell you what to do). The key tenets involve making sure your partners are GDPR compliant, and being very clear about what the processes are going to be in terms of data sharing. This takes you right back to the contracts point I made above - it all needs to be in writing, clearly laid out and understood on both sides. And its always worth checking that everything is being done as you expect. There is lots of information on the Information Commissioner's website on GDPR if you want to know a bit more about it GDPR because after a few minutes people's eyes tend to glaze over...
So that's my thought process so far. I'll let you know how I get on!