07 September 2018 in The Call Takers Blog

Outsourcing Office Tasks

Marketing Tips for Financial Professionals and Insurance Agents: Practice Management

Outsourcing Office Tasks

In today's difficult economic climate, small businesses are often caught between the desire to expand and the need to watch the bottom line. Taking on more work can mean more office duties, which can translate to a higher payroll or a lost opportunity to focus on other matters.

However, there may come a time when a business expansion overwhelms existing employees, and additional help is needed. But taking on a full-time or part-time time employee brings with it additional administrative work and related costs.

No wonder then that outsourcing office tasks or hiring a virtual assistant is becoming increasingly popular. Generally speaking, outsourcing begins with a decision to purchase goods and/or services that a company could produce for itself with its own resources. A virtual assistant is simply an offsite individual who acts as an on-demand office assistant.

But is outsourcing or hiring a virtual assistant right for you?

Why Outsource?

One easy way to determine whether your firm could benefit from outsourcing is to ask yourself some basic questions.

Will your firm save money or become more profitable? Obviously, a decision to outsource should be based on the assumption that doing so will either (1) save money because the provider can do it less expensively than you can in-house or (2) help your firm become more profitable, because turning over certain tasks to an outside firm will let your staff focus more of its attention on your firm's core competencies.

Will the quality of your firm's work improve? In some cases, hiring an outside consultant or contractor to develop tools or strategies might help improve productivity in ways you hadn't considered, and possibly at a lower cost than doing it in-house.

How much time will you have to spend on governance? No one is more motivated to improve your company's productivity and profitability than you are. Given this truth, remember that outsourcing requires you to give responsibility for part of your company's operations to someone else. The benefits can quickly disappear if you still have to spend significant company resources to monitor the quality of the contractor's work. Any contract with an outside firm should include clear benchmarks for success and an exit strategy if they aren't being met.

What Tasks Can Be Outsourced?

Tasks that involve direct contact with clients, such as sales, communications, presentations, and after-sales support, tend to be poor candidates for outsourcing because they may require skills or knowledge that cannot easily be explained to the third party.

Regular but essential tasks that require limited contact with clients may be more easily transferred to outside resources.

Data entry, typing, and transcription: Usually all you need to do is provide source material in a common file format or notes that can be easily read. While typing functions can also be handled by a secretary, data entry is a lower-level task than secretarial work often is, so separating the two may allow you to reduce the cost of a third party doing it instead.

Secretarial duties: These can include making travel arrangements, scheduling meetings, getting clients on the phone, and keeping your daily calendar and schedule up to date.

Appointment setting and telemarketing: Appointment setting and telemarketing are numbers games. The more people who are called with an effective and compelling pitch, the more likely you are to eventually acquire clients as a direct result of those calls. Effectively outsourcing these tasks is "qualifying" available leads. Once the initial contact has been made and possible interest established by a third party, you can then step in to handle the prospect. However, it's a good idea to use only experienced telemarketers to help avoid damaging your reputation or running afoul of the do-not-call laws.

Writing, editing, and public relations: Although some writing duties such as business plans, reports, and presentations are likely to be completed in-house, professional freelance editors and writers can help develop polished content that will be viewed by prospects, clients, and the general public. Writing and distributing press releases and organizing special events should generally be handled by a specialist.

Accounting and financial duties: Accounting firms or individuals can help with billing, financial statements, and tax preparation. Payroll processing services are commonly used for businesses with multiple employees.

Human resources: Human resources or employment firms can be used to complete the initial groundwork when hiring an employee, such as advertising, identifying suitable applicants, and checking references and backgrounds. Outsourcing human resource functions can be particularly useful for businesses with low employee turnover. The administration of employee benefits can also be outsourced if your firm has enough employees to warrant it.

Marketing: Because effective marketing dictates how you and your brand are perceived in the marketplace, this is a critical area. A marketing expert can provide a perspective that an in-house marketing employee or department might not have. Plus, you may be able to acquire the necessary marketing assistance from a third party for less than it would cost to employ a full-time, in-house marketing department.

Why Consider a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant is basically an on-demand worker whom you can turn to for specific tasks or when in-house employees become overloaded with work. One advantage of a virtual assistant is that you only pay for work performed on actual tasks.

As a result, you could save on all the hidden and indirect costs associated with an in-house employee (even a part-time employee), such as office space, furniture, a computer, and supplies. If the assistant is working on a contract basis, you may not need to worry about income-tax withholding, payroll taxes, workers' compensation, health benefits, and vacation and sick pay, depending on your state's employment laws.

Using a temporary employment agency is a possibility but could be a more expensive option. An important difference between a virtual assistant and a temp agency is that a virtual assistant could become familiar with your company and its procedures, eliminating the need to train a new person each time you need extra help.

As modern business trends move companies slowly away from centralized office environments, the need to keep a small but efficient core employee base becomes increasingly apparent. This does not, however, have to result in overwork, overtime pay, or poor service as a result of stretching your workforce's time. Instead, outsourcing certain tasks or employing a virtual assistant could be an efficient, cost-effective solution.


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