Outsourcing, Systems & Support – to make your business grow

Although the official anniversary of my magazines is in the summer, from a personal viewpoint Easter is always when I celebrate my “Business Birthday” as that was when I started work on my first magazine.

Twelve years ago I produced one 40 page, black and white magazine which was delivered to 1500 homes. Today I publish four colour magazines delivered to 23500 homes.

The hours I work are still the same but what has changed is that where as in 2005 I did literally everything myself, today I outsource and use many systems and other experts to support my business.

As a concept this will be familiar to you but what I wanted to share in this post are some practical tips on how best to actually implement this strategy:

• Some areas where you need help will be obvious e.g. you need a system to handle your accounts. However, finding a better way to handle a task that you undertake occasionally but which is really difficult (and irritating!) can be just as beneficial e.g. I get my Coffee and Connect newsletter professionally coded every month to ensure the formatting works.

• In order to outsource successfully you need to understand exactly what you are wanting the person / system to do (ideally you need to have done the job yourself). Write everything down, step by step, in extreme detail. You can never provide too much information!

• Don’t be afraid to outsource tasks you can do yourself – I am an experienced copywriter but I still commission other writers.

Solutions that I have found helpful over the past twelve years:

Outsourcing – where you contract a supplier to handle a complete specific task BUT this does not mean you can forget about it. You still need to invest time continually reviewing their work, discussing changes / improvements etc.

Simply buy in extra hours – there are lots of great people offering admin services. I have a very efficient lady who collates my magazine mailings to my advertisers – it takes her three hours but it would take me all day

Customised Software – do you have boring, repetitive tasks that require you to move data round various types of software? It used to take me three hours to produce mailing labels sorted by 14 different combinations of magazines for my mailing mentioned above. Now it takes two minutes and two clicks on my own customised spreadsheet.

Software Systems – Online accounts and CRM packages. One of my best decisions ever was to start using these online systems but take time to research really thoroughly. Get recommendations, but the most important factor is to find software that works the same way your mind does, so sign up for a free trial and put a system through its paces. Two years after moving my Accounts software online the user interface totally changed. I could not get on with it so I moved to another package that I found much easier and quicker to use.

Training – Always, always do the training. Accounts systems will come with online tutorials but even better is to get someone to come in and train you individually. This also applies to things like Social Media – yes you can spend time working it out yourself but it is so much more efficient to get someone in and train you. In a few hours you know exactly what you are doing.

Equipment - no one ever mentions equipment but I am sure there is kit that you could buy that would make your life easier. For example, I have a specialist high spec PC screen which I chose because it gives a very close colour match to my final printed magazines… and of course there is my Dymo label printer.

I can categorically state that if you ever need to post a business letter then your life will be better with a Dymo label printer in it – the best bit of kit I have ever bought!

Making Changes – one of the most difficult things when you run your own business is changing things that are working – yes you may realise that your systems are slow and inefficient but they work and achieve results. However, I would really encourage you to regularly question how you work.

The changes I have made over the past twelve years have enabled my business to grow and whenever I have implemented a new system or outsourced a task I have inevitably said “why didn’t I do this earlier?”

This entry was posted in Networking Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.