Outsourcing and the Zero Staff Model

Outsourcing and the Zero Staff Model

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“Do what you do best and outsource the rest”
Tom Peters

Stick enough of us together in one organisation, and we create an ugly system dependent on rules and relationships, bosses and subordinates, power and control. The more people in your organisation, the more likely you are to end up with a bureaucratic hierarchy.

Employing so many people to manage the people and functions needed to run a large organisation… you’re left wondering who is actually doing your core business! Consequently, your business can slow down or even grind to a halt. I have nothing against the great work that individuals and groups do. I just have problems with what large groups of people actually achieve. If you are not careful, the sum of the parts can become much less than the whole. As your business grows, pay attention to preventing this restrictive phenomenon from taking hold.

In my view, the secret to solving this problem is outsourcing. This simply means sourcing providers of services from outside your organisation – contracting with another company or freelancers to provide you with essential services, either remotely or on site. Instead of employing full-time employees to do everything (and building the hierarchy to contain them), you get work done by people who are great at what they do, who are specialists who love their niche, and who manage themselves as either freelance business owners or small organisations. Many of the back-office functions like data management, telesales, web content and management, PA support, deliveries and marketing can all be outsourced. If you take it to the limit, you can actually outsource everything – and still own a thriving business. It can be a virtual business with few fixed overheads, or a hybrid of a small office with both core employees and outsourced services, but it still means you can work from the beach if you like!

We are at the beginning of what is a quiet revolution. Organisations are becoming smaller and more virtual to remain competitive and flexible in this rapidly changing world. It is now possible to create a multi-million – or even multi-billion – pound company, and have no staff actually on the payroll! The internet is bringing the demise of the factory mentality and the large organisations of the post-industrial revolution. Getting people to turn up to large edifices for 40 hours a week to play office politics is no longer the most efficient way of getting things done. Outsourcing delivers a better business and a better life in the long term.

The main reason why I love outsourcing is that relationships are between business owner and business owner, rather than owner to employee. You both own businesses that matter to you. A good service provider is passionate about their field, just as a good entrepreneur is passionate about their business, and there is a fundamentally different dynamic. Hard to believe, but somebody loves to do the jobs you hate! And they can do it cheaper, faster and better than you! Outsourcing work to other providers, or running and operating a small organisation is more human. It is the antidote to the bullshit that big organisations bring. Bullshit takes time and creates inefficiency. That harms profitability and takes away your life. Design your business so that this disease can’t spread.

Think about shaping your business in a different way so you can get back to doing what you enjoy. You cannot do it all. And why even try, if you have little expertise, knowledge or time to devote to those areas? Be really great at running your business. Let those who are really great at other things do them for you. This makes for an incredible business.

Outsourcing also creates a different dynamic for those who struggle to manage people – or would prefer to deal with fewer! If you can run a business with zero employees, why would you run one with 500? Shape your business to suit your own management style. You can be a hugely profitable global company and still feel like a small business if you keep your headcount down.

With outsourcing, you can forget about employing people and Employment Law, HR, Health & Safety, Payroll. If you still need any of these, you can outsource them! Outsourcing gets rid of these problems on a daily basis, leaving you to get on with your business. The advantages of outsourcing mean that you can be excellent in all areas, improve your services and products, grow your business and yourself, save time – and save money!

Some fear that outsourcing means losing control and paying more, but in reality, it adds more value and capability, at much less cost. Like any recruitment process, just make sure you research well and select reliable, high quality providers you can work with. Think of the savings you will make if you eliminate the cost per employee of expenditure on premises, salaries, equipment, paid holidays and on-costs – and outsource to specialists who know what they’re doing, and do it better than you ever could.

Running a highly outsourced business provides a different set of challenges to running a traditional in-house business structure. To be successful, get really good at managing outsource relationships. Build a two-way relationship, in which both sides have a vested interest in making things work. Know what you want, and be clear. Recognise that you are working with experts in their particular field and realise that if you give clear direction, you will get a good quality result that adds value to your business. Teach them enough about your business for them to do a great job, and learn as much as you can about their business, so you can understand how it works. This way, you can work together to develop better and better solutions. If you take responsibility for ensuring their success, you are much more likely to succeed with outsourcing.

Outsourcing can be great fun, so get creative with it. Get a virtual PA for your whole life! Outsource people to find you other outsource workers, or to select and buy your partner’s birthday gift (remember that part about knowing what you want and being clear, though!). If you want new sales literature designed, outsource it to people with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. The list is endless. We live in a world with huge freelance networks and crowd-sourcing sites. Just google ‘freelance’ or ‘outsource’ and you’ll find agencies and websites, like peopleperhour.com and elance. There’s even a highly successful website – fiverr.com – offering a range of people who will do almost anything for a five dollars – make a video featuring your logo, provide an hour’s SEO, write a song about your company, improve your website, sing happy birthday to you in Finnish, or even pretend to be your girlfriend for a week on Facebook! There is no end to what you can achieve with outsourcing. Only the limits of your imagination hold you back. Go beyond what you think is possible – and you’ll find someone who can take you further!

Identify what your business needs to function better, present itself better and to be more effective in key areas. Find somebody fantastic in that particular field who will improve it faster and with better results that you ever thought possible!

How far can you take this? Be bold. See if you can outsource everything!

Can you achieve a zero staff model? What could you do with your life if you had no staff to manage?

Be a small business doing big business! Do more with less, and give yourself more time and money to spend on what really matters.

Further Reading:

The Four Hour Week by Tim Ferris (Amazon Link UK, US)

Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier (Amazon Link UK, US)

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at getintouch@marcwinn.com.

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