The Challenge of Outsourced Business Partners
During the 1990’s big businesses shrunk their workforce and the SOHO (Small Office Home Office) was born. Business would never be the same again. The question is whether we’re getting the best from these new outsourced partnerships that were birthed?
I blame the 1990’s for much of why our current business environment is what it is today. Actually, I blame shareholders in the 1990’s. They got greedy (as people do). They wanted more money (of course they did). Someone convinced them that the companies they had investments in were running fat, and money could be saved, profits boosted and share values increased if they trimmed the fat. Directors were summoned and told they needed to rationalise. If you look at business history books covering the 1990’s, you’ll see multiple mentions of words like downsize, rightsize, and retrenchment. In one fell swoop the business landscape was changed, the SOHO was born, shareholders were happy, Windows 95 was born (into the most perfect storm) and nothing would ever be the same again.
True Business Partners
These new small businesses (sometimes not so small), made up of ex-employees with skill. expertise and experience were contracted back, in order to deliver in the areas they’d been retrenched from. In theory, it was an opportunity for true business partnerships to be formed.
It wasn’t only big business that benefitted, it also allowed small and medium-sized businesses to not have to employ the entire spectrum of diverse skill needed to run a business. They too could hire in whatever skill they required. Leaner meaner business all round. We (Calidascope) have a client (Decimal Point) who advocate the following approach:
For a business like ours, this is a massive relief. We can get on with what we’re really good at, and look for experienced experts to take care of the rest.
How much of a Partner do you let them be?
Here’s the challenge. To what extent should we trust these partners that we outsource to? How much freedom do you hand over to your outsourced business partners to apply their experience and skill to your business? What if we don’t like the advice our financial partners give us, even when they assure us it’s the best advice for us? What if we think our rental agent hasn’t found us the best office space when they assure us that the space they’re presenting is the best possible space for our budget, our size and will deliver on the image we’d like to present? (we don’t have offices, nor are we looking for space)
Certainly the buck stops with you, and the final responsibility must always be yours, but every time you disregard or choose a different option to the best advice of your outsourced partner, you quite possibly run the risk of both undermining your outsourced business partner, and even worse, selecting a poor option for your business.
My view is that there are many businesses today who have lost sight of the opportunities represented by these partnerships. Instead of building authentic partnerships characterized by trust and a shared desire to see your business grow, we simply see someone who is there to get a list of things done for us, and treat them accordingly. While this achieves the end result you wanted, it doesn’t leverage the possible true value contained in the partnership.
When we started Calidascope, this was an extremely important thought for us. The analogy we used was that we didn’t ever want to look after our client’s ‘sheep’. We wanted to find clients who needed to move their ‘sheep’ further up their mountain to superior grazing areas. We wanted to play a meaningful role as a true outsourced business partner, and not simply be responsible for a list of tasks that needed to be completed. We would get to know our client’s business, we’d work hard, we’d be as passionate about their success as our own, but never ever did we want to be seen and treated as an outsourced team of workers with little value outside of the task at hand. This for us would ensure the best possible results, with everyone working at their best on the things they are excellent at. In our minds, this would always deliver be the best possible chance for superior results.
With regards to the quote above, I’d prefer a small change so that it reads like this….