Outsourcing has long been an option for large, established companies, but many startup entrepreneurs have begun using the strategy to build their companies. From saving money on staffing to growing your business rapidly, outsourcing can be just what you need to launch. That's what Curt Keller found when he started The Benchmark Internet Group in 2003. The Long Beach, California, entrepreneur wanted to start a company that would provide e-mail marketing solutions to other businesses, but he found that fully staffing his company would be cost-prohibitive. Keller looked to China, India and Russia for programmers who could help him launch his website. Internet communication was key--IM, e-mail and Skype proved invaluable to communicating with potential outsourcing partners. "Finding out how well they could communicate with me was a very detailed process," says Keller, 46. "I spent about three to four months talking to people online."
Outsourcing is a great tool, but it may not be right for every business. "As a business owner, [the question is], Do I make this myself or do I buy it from somebody else?" says Mary Stutts, a business growth expert and founder of MES Concepts, a leadership training and development company. "If it's your area of expertise, you should make it; if it's not, buy it." Outsourcing is particularly useful for specific projects, she notes, because it allows you to quickly adapt when the project is done or your staffing needs change. Stutts says to ask yourself: How fast do you want to grow your business? Do you want to control your growth? Do you want access to resources and knowledge without long-term overhead commitments until you know it's going to be a success?
Outsourcing the programming and highly technical side of his startup helped Keller's company grow quickly and expand into all aspects of online marketing, including pay-per-click advertising, SEO and video e-mail and streaming.
Largely outsourced to India, his company's nearly $2 million in annual sales were born from Keller's early research. "Chat with as many people as you can online and give [them] small, simple projects to see how well they communicate and understand your needs," advises Keller. "You'll know if you have hit the right group because they'll do a better job than the vast majority of people you deal with."