Read the next line carefully if you’re running a startup or any business: Time is your enemy, and you’re not nearly as good at everything as you think you are. Even if you are that talented, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all.
Workplace messaging app Slack realized this quickly and, in its infancy, farmed out the design for its logo, website and app so it could get to market fast and learn from its customers. In March, Slack announced it was valued at $3.8 billion, just two years after its launch. If outsourcing worked for Slack, then you, too, can successfully utilize this tactic to take your startup to the next level.
How to know if you need an extra hand
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I learned my own lesson about needing outside help the hard way. After devoting two years and seven figures trying to build an in-house team at my previous startup, my partners and I soon saw the market opportunity pass us by because, by the time we cracked the code, it was too late.
Today, I run a 10-person firm that acts as a plug-and-play marketing department for tech companies and partners with early-stage entrepreneurs to help them grow faster than they could, alone. We are a fully integrated unit, from CMO to copywriters, which helps get companies out of that “do-everything” mode and into a divide-and-conquer mindset, using labor specialization.
An example of what we do occurred not that long ago with ShortPar4.com, a subscription box for men’s golf apparel, which came to us with an idea and next to zero capital. We established a partnership that allowed the company to focus on what it did best: merchandising, logistics and brand. Meanwhile, we focused on what we did best: building robust digital marketing ecosystems automatically engineered for growth.
Results? In the past 12 months, ShortPar4 has become the fastest-growing golf brand in the United States, boasting more than 20,000 members and counting.
Outsourcing, if done right, can be like throwing gasoline on a fire, rather than building up embers over time. If you hire the right team as your partner, together you can fan the flames of success. So, how do you know when outsourcing is right for you? Here are four considerations and how to address them:
1. You need results -- fast.
It can take upwards of a year for new hires to truly add value to your organization, not to mention the significant time and money you've invested to recruit, interview, hire and train each new employee. Even the best recruiting processes can take two to three months to find the right candidate, vet him or her properly and complete the onboarding process. Plus, that one hire still isn’t enough to get the full job done.
By outsourcing the function to a partner instead of hiring full-time employees, you can move faster, learn more quickly and correct mistakes at an impressive speed. These team members are experts in their niches and know exactly what direction to run in.
2. You lack the expertise.
Eighteen percent of startup founders surveyed by Quartz noted inexperience or a knowledge gap as a reason for startup failures. If you’re not a digital marketer or a technologist, don’t pretend to be one.
Find partners with expertise in their fields and proven track records, who buy in to the company’s vision and culture. In the marketing world, many agencies sell similar suites of services, so it can be hard to distinguish among them. Vet potential partners’ founders, organizational approaches and past successes to ensure they’re applicable to your goals.
3. You just can’t find the time.
A lot of startups have a single person devoted to marketing or technology, with the expectation that this person will wear many hats and perform many functions at once. Stacking up too many responsibilities can burn out even the most loyal employees, causing some to leave and your company to spend even more on hiring. In fact, a study by Staples Advantage estimated that 40 percent of jobholders in 2016 will leave those jobs due to burnout.
So, call in reinforcements to spark creativity, momentum and productivity at your company. In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill wrote that, “Two or more people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose … constitute an unbeatable force.” The net effect of pairing your team with badass experienced professionals should skyrocket your productivity and results in the market.
4. You can’t afford a full team.
Whether you’re on a bootstrap or you’ve raised a bit of capital, money is always tight in the startup world, and capital efficiency matters. According to Quartz, 46 percent of startups fail due to running out of money, so find an outsourced partner that offers a flat rate for its service, with clear deliverables and a time line that gets you the most bang for your buck.
To further mitigate your risk, offer to pay upon successful delivery of work or on the basis of the results achieved. Another thing outside teams do is offset the recruiter costs, salaries, benefits and the legal and HR headaches that can accompany full-time hires. Plus, if these people don’t work out, they can generally be fired much faster with much less trouble.
Too many companies are afraid to look outwardly for help because they believe -- incorrectly -- that they can "build it" themselves or can’t afford a partner. If time is your enemy, though, outsourcing may be your new best friend. When done right, your strategy of uniting with an experienced outside expert will help level the playing field to save you both time and money, in one fell swoop