You can do anything, but not everything.
- David Allen.
There is no area of life in which this is truer than for business owners and managers. Your days are most likely filled with managing orders, stock, staff and customer complaints with a drop of marketing here and finance there. And while you can do a little bit of everything, doing everything yourself is impossible.
Have you ever heard the saying Jack of all trades master of none? Being a business owner does require knowledge in lots of different areas and the tenacity to do whatever is needed, but it’s simply not worth your while to be a master of everything: you need to know when to call in the experts.
Experts can produce high-quality work in days that would have taken you weeks. They relieve pressure on your business and help you get that competitive edge because you can focus your efforts elsewhere.
Experts can come in the form of internal SMEs—like a gun digital marketer that you hire to work in-house, or out-of-house agencies or partners that you can outsource work to on an as-needed or retainer basis.
Think you might need an expert? In this article we ask Neto Partner Operations Manager, Alison Jordan, why, when and how to enlist the help of an expert partner.
Why Outsource to an Expert?
Obviously, enlisting the help of an expert helps to save time and get things done, but Alison explains that when you dig a little deeper, you can see how the benefits of outsourcing go much further than that.
Yes, we mentioned ‘time’ a couple of times already, but this one’s a biggie, and hiring an expert will help you save time in more ways than one. Have you ever tried to do something that you’re not great at and spent way too much time on it? It’s like getting an electrician to cut hair. Not only does it take longer than it should, but it’s unlikely that you’d walk out with a ‘do that you’re happy with. It’s highly inefficient.
Efficiency is about achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense, and when you allocate tasks to those equipped with the knowledge and tools to do them properly you’ll get better outcomes, faster, which means you can spend that time you get back doing other things that you’re good at—whether that’s working on your business... or not (read: drinking wine).
Although you will need to fork out some cash for an expert, relying on outside resources to help in different areas of your business will actually save you money in the long run. Here’s how:
- Instead of hiring in-house or relying on internal staff that aren’t the best fit, you’ll get the best person for the job.
- You can scale up and down as needed, reducing your operating costs because there are no wasted resources or paychecks.
- You’ll be able to tap into excellent partner resources like software subscriptions, group memberships, and industry-specific events.
- Free advice (well, sort of). You’ll be paying a fee for the service, but with that comes a ton of knowledge and expertise that they’ll be more than happy to share with you. Just ask.
Trying to do it all yourself ends up stalling business growth. Letting go of your tight grip on the reigns will help the horse gallop faster and allow you to focus on generating income and scaling your business.
4. Technology and innovation
Technology isn’t slowing down anytime soon and trying to stay across all technologies - whether it’s digital martech, warehouse tech, or business administration tools, is near impossible. But for those who specialize in a particular area, it’s their one job to know what the best tech is to use, to test out new stuff, push the bar with innovation and pass on the gains to you.
The same as you wouldn’t want anyone except a hairdresser touching your locks, you shouldn’t want anyone less than the best touching your business. Experts are responsible for quality work and you can expect them to drive the best results for your business.
6. Flexibility and agility
Utilizing external resources gives you the ability to move quickly to solve a problem or fill a gap, rather than waiting to hire a person or re-allocating resources in house. This increases your flexibility to adapt to change and the market. Use expert partners as an extension of your team so you can scale up quickly and focus on what you’re good at.
7. An external perspective
One benefit you may not immediately think of is that external experts bring an 'external' perspective to your business - one that is fresh, unbiased and trustworthy. All too often we see ecommerce businesses getting bogged down in the detail - they are too close to their business, project or problem, and thus lack the ability to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Bringing in an expert who doesn’t have a whole host of biases, pre-conceptions and emotions can be worth their weight in gold to move your project forward, in the right direction.
8. Minimize risk
The risk of bringing someone into your team internally can be high. There’s a lot of time and effort involved in the recruitment, hiring and training process and there will be broader repercussions within the team if they don’t work out.
Hiring an external expert to do the work ameliorates this risk. If they’re great, great! Keep working with them. If they don’t work out, you can say your goodbyes and you won’t have lost weeks if not months in the process.
Another way that using external experts helps to minimize risk is that they have to, by law, be compliant with whatever they’re doing—whether it’s installing hardware at your office, or advising on warehouse best practices.
When to outsource?
Now you know the benefits of hiring an expert, you probably have a million and one things flying around your brain that you think you could outsource. But hold up. Are some things better to outsource than others? There are some questions Alison suggests asking yourself to figure out whether you should hire an expert or not:
- What are the costs vs benefits?
- Can another party do it better?
- Can the time be better spent on something else?
- Is it a project that warrants new employees?
- Does it make sense financially?
- Does it make sense from a workflow perspective?
- Do you need the ability to scale up or scale down on projects?
What can you outsource?
Many business owners don’t outsource because they don’t know what they can outsource (which is pretty much anything). Alison says that work that can be outsourced can be divided into three categories:
- Tasks or projects that require highly skilled or executive expertise (like website design).
- Highly repetitive tasks: accounts payable, data entry.
At Neto, we have a network of specialist experts that can provide help in the following areas:
- Business workflow
- Conversion optimization
- Data clean up and migration
- Design (Branding, graphic design UX, UI, CSS)
- eBay and marketplaces
- Ecommerce consulting
- Fulfillment and distribution
- Hardware services (POS installer)
- IT Cloud integration
- Marketing (automation, SEM, SEO, PPC, content, social)
- Photography/videography (photography, editing, styling
- Videography and animation
- Website design and development
- And more!
Head over to our experts directory to find your perfect match.
How to Pick the Right Expert
As we’ve touched on, the reason you’re hiring an expert will often be because you don’t yourself have the expertise in that particular area. Stepping into their world can be a little daunting sometimes, especially when it seems like they’re speaking an entirely different language. So how do you know what questions to ask? And what qualities and experience to look for?
Here’s a few of Alison’s tips for finding the right partner:
1. Set clear objectives for the project
First, identify what’s important to you before embarking on your search process. Do you want to work with someone locally so that you can meet them in person, or are you happy with a remote worker?
If timing is a critical factor then perhaps you’ll be happy to be more flexible with your budget. On the other hand, if budget is a constraint, you may have to settle for a longer framework for delivery, or a less-expensive option.
Think about your expectations of the relationship too, for example, if regular communication and updates are really important to you then you need to make this clear from the outset.
Once you’ve figured out what’s important to you, set some clear objectives or goals. This will enable you to measure if the project has been successful or not: because you can’t score unless you have a goal!
An easy way to set good goals is to use the SMART method - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. And make sure you communicate these goals to your agency or partner so that they’re aware of them too!
2. Niche vs all-in-one
Once you understand your objectives, Alison advises that it is beneficial to look for multiple expert partners who work in niche areas of specialization, rather than just one. As an example, if your objective is to increase the number of sales, you may need to implement multiple strategies and a different expert will be best positioned to deliver each of these strategies. e.g.
- Increase traffic to website - for ways to increase traffic to your site, you could look for an SEO or digital marketing expert to help drive traffic to your site organically and through pay per click advertising.
- Increase sales channels - if you’re not sure which sales channels are best suited to your business and products, you could consult a digital commerce expert to set up the systems to allow you to do this.
- Improve workplace efficiencies - increasing your sales is fantastic for top line revenue, but to improve profitability you will want to make sure you get the orders out the door as quickly as possible in the most efficient manner. Workflow management specialists can work with you to improve these internal processes.
Understand your requirements and choose your experts to match.
3. Interview them
If you’re hiring somebody to work internally, you’d interview them at least once, perhaps two or three times. The same should go for hiring externally. Interview the company and the people you will be working with to see if they can meet your requirements and if they’re going to be the right fit. They will be sizing you up to see if you’re the right fit for them too.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
When in doubt, ask. No question is a stupid question and if you haven’t asked it then that’s only on you. You might feel silly sometimes, but remember you’re asking because they’re the experts, not you, so it’s their job to explain it to you.
Alison advises you to write down questions as you think of them and take that list to the expert to answer.
5. Ask for recommendations
Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing, so ask for recommendations from other users of a platform, friends, or the business itself. Many software companies will have forums, Facebook Groups or networks with other users of the platform and will also have preferred partners. Neto users get access to an exclusive community forum where they can ask for someone to recommend an expert that they’ve used.
5. Look at reviews
If you’re choosing a place to go for dinner with a friend do you check out reviews before you go? What about if you’re comparing a physical product like a barbecue or TV? Just the same as these situations, we recommend looking at the reviews on Google or a business’s Facebook page to suss out what past clients have to say.
6. Ask for examples of work
Ask to see work that the expert has done before. If possible request examples of work in your industry or similar clients to you so that you’re comparing apples with apples. Most service-based business will have a library of case studies of how they’ve helped their previous or current clients and many professionals will also have recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles (but be aware that these tend to be more biased as they’re usually requested by the person themselves.) At Neto, our experts directory includes reviews and examples of partners work, like web design agency, Toolbox Designs, who have designed and developed ecommerce sites for clients including I Love Linen and Gritty Pretty.
7. Ask for references
To go a step further than asking for examples of work, it’s not out of the question to ask your potential partner to put you in contact with a client they’ve worked with to act as a reference. Speaking to someone directly can help ease some of your concerns.
8 Look for specialized experience
Check that your expert has experience in the systems, software and tools that you need them to. Every system has its own unique features and using partners with the right experience will lead to increased accuracy and time efficiency. For example, if you need an expert to help you integrations with MYOB, look for an expert who is familiar with MYOB rather than Xero.
Working with a partner
You’ve picked your partner and you’re ready and raring to go. Here’s a couple of Alison’s final tips to ensure it’s all smooth sailing.
- Set a realistic budget. Understand the value of the partner and that you are getting specialist advice and service and set budget accordingly.
- Start with smaller projects to ‘test drive’ the expert and get experience with them. Then once you are happy and have seen their work you can develop a long-term strategy for working together.
- Schedule regular meetings to keep up to date with progress.
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