One of the most natural entrepreneurial tendencies is to try to do everything yourself, but that's neither a practical nor a particularly productive use of your time. "My philosophy is `Defer to the experts,' " says Michael Lamb, host of "Moneyroom," a nationally syndicated radio talk show he broadcasts from his home office in Wichita, Kansas. "If you need something done that's critical to the quality or image of your business, find someone to either help you with it or actually do it for you."
Typical functions that might be outsourced include graphic design, advertising, accounting and bookkeeping, secretarial work, and Web site design and maintenance. You might also want to outsource all or part of your marketing efforts. "Everything in business [relates to] marketing, and people often don't know how to get and retain a customer," Lamb says. Consider a marketing consultant who can help you develop and implement a marketing plan or a marketing firm that will actually perform specific portions of your marketing program. Telemarketing firms can answer incoming calls, provide information and take orders. They can also do outbound lead generation using a calling list you've put together or do telephone follow-up for a direct-mail piece you've sent.
Beyond routine business functions, Lamb advises you to look for ways to outsource anything you don't enjoy doing, even things that might not directly relate to your business. Hire a cleaning service, a professional errand-runner or a shopping service. If you're a very small or solo operation, you can even outsource a support system in the form of a business coach.
How do you find an outsourcing resource? The first step is to network. Ask friends, colleagues, customers and vendors for recommendations. Check the Yellow Pages for companies under the category of the service you need. Contact your chamber of commerce and other local business associations. If a nearby college or university has a business or marketing department, consider offering your company as a project for its students; that's often outsourcing at its best, because you'll get some top talent at a low cost.
"Any area that doesn't directly contribute to the generation of revenue or in which you don't have sufficient expertise is a possibility for outsourcing," Lamb says. "You need to have the time to do the things you're best at or that you need total control over. Outsourcing provides you with that time."
Jacquelyn Lynn is a freelance writer in Winter Park, Florida.