How do you learn to let go when outsourcing to others?
I have grown my business as far as it can go. I currently outsource on a limited basis. I have found it difficult to let go and let others do their work. No one else seems to be as concerned with deadlines as me. How can I fix this?
All have great suggestions and advice Stephanie. I am sure it will be of great help. I fall on the other side of the coin and I will give you my point of view, too (hope it helps), based on my experience. I am writing this not to play a blame game but in hopes that it might be of help to the community members.
1) The freelancers that you have hired are they part time or full time? When you hire freelancer on a part time basis you can't expect them to give your work priority (not always). Like every business works (it is first come first serve or whichever has most $ attached to it or status of the relationship). In this scenario, the freelancer should be professional enough to say no, after being aware of your TAT. Some freelancers may get jittery about the fact they might lose your business if they say "No".
2) This is based on my personal experience of past. I was hired on a full time basis and had to work for 6 days a week. My client had no job or very little for almost 3-4 days a week however on a very short notice he would overburden me with piles of tasks that would consume my week offs, too, just to meet the turnaround time. Technically this means I was working for 7 days a week. This seemed to become a trend and was taking a toll on me and I was loosing the zeal and was hampering the work. Bottom-line: You have to be realistic about turnaround time. I know sometimes you have to do but be realistic and reasonable.
3) Freelancers are not superman: In today's world you ought to find a jack of all trades than master of none however there is also a limit to it. The skill sets expectation should be clear during the initial conversation while hiring. If you give anything that falls beyond the skill set you can be for sure that TAT will be missed and most of the projects are heading towards that.
Bottom-line: When you are hiring a freelancer, please give a deep thought about
1) What do you need the freelancers for? Define job profile and roles.
2) Based on question 1, What skill sets do you need, specifically?
3) Are there any back ups/helping hands with that freelancer to assist him/her, in case a faster turnaround time is required (You should be willing to pay for those extra hours :) ) ?
There is more to it..but it will be too long.
As the others have suggested and I concur totally, you must try to build up the trust cycle between you and those you outsource with---understand your strengths and weaknesses, and try to team up with outsource people who have strengths in your areas of weaknesses...and your strengths offset their weaknesses
If you approach this incrementally and expectations are understood by both parties, the net result is that the trust gets better deadlines will be discussed in more responsive and action oriented atmosphere...Try to understand the process that helps get you to the necessary deadlines and the delegation on an outsourced basis will become clearer...and most importantly less stressful
It is a partnership like a marriage..
At a minimum I recommend a Letter of Understanding, if you do not have a formal contract or service agreement. Put your expectations in the letter so there is no misunderstanding . Then be prepared to "fire" the outsourced company/person if they do not perform. Life does happen and sometimes deadlines or quality standards are not met. But if this is a business for you and not a hobby, then you deserve to have partners that support you. I have also included bonuses in my letters so the outside people are also motivated.
Since YOU are now the boss, YOU have to lay down the law. Tell your VAs what's expected of them, and when the deadlines are, and hold them to it. If you need something by noon on Friday, check with your VA at 9am, or 4pm on Thurs. This is your reputation on the line, so cover yourself.
As an entrepreneur, the CEO of your company, you have a limited number of hours to work both IN and ON your business. Constantly flipping your hats not only takes time, but a shift in focus, a reorganization of your priorities and it disrupts your workflow. You may end up overlooking important business details or even client needs because you are buried in the trenches instead of running the front line. Focus on the high payoff activities that model your organization’s vision, foundation and core competencies.
“Exponential growth is possible when we give up trying to do everything ourselves and allow others to leverage THEIR genius to help us grow.” Melanie Benson Strick
I personally believe that if you partner with an entrepreneurial virtual assistant, you are more likely to have a vested partner in your business. When you team up with another like-minded entrepreneur, you are given the opportunity to have a dedicated partner in your success not someone who merely receives a task oriented email to complete.
I haven't used a VA before, but as far as outsourcing, I try and limit the job to very small chunks, that an expert in the field could finish very quickly, get paid, and move on to next task. If project is too long, it just tends to drag on, and they lose interest.
It boils down to two things -- expertise and communication. You should be hiring people who know more about the subject/task than you do. (After all, if you have to teach them, you might as well do the work yourself!) It's much easier to hand a project over when you know it's being put in the very best hands possible.
Of course, even the best outsourcer isn't a mind reader. Be clear about your goals/demands/instructions up front.
And finally, if you're finding people who aren't serious about deadlines, they're not good at what they do. Period. They either aren't skilled enough to work efficiently, or they simply don't care if the finished product is done on time. Either way, you've got to find someone else. The good ones DO care about your deadlines!
Great question and lots of great answers. As a VA who wants people to outsource I also outsource. It's important to know how it feels and what concerns the client will have - because I outsource I know those.
I then spend time with my client finding out what they need and provide solutions. Set up systems and communicate regularly to ensure they are comfortable with my actions and progress being made. Being a business owner too with many clients I can be pro-active, suggest successful things that other clients have done and use my own experience, training and activities to support my clients.
I also have regular reviews to review the past, plan for the future and improve the systems and/or communication or even discuss new tasks to consider/undertake.
It's not about letting go it's about working with a team and treating your outsourcer as a team member. Letting them have the information as if they were in the office.
Hope that helps.
A good tool to use is a well-documented Statement of Work or contract. In this contract between you and your vendor - you clearly outline the expectations including the amount of work to be delivered, quality of requirements to be supplied, time-lines and the consequences of not meeting the quality metrics and/or timeline. For example, if they meet 100% of their commitments, they receive 100% of the fee. If they are delayed - their fee is affected by missed deadlines.
Another way to ease your fears is in the interview stages. Make sure you ask your vendor about their project management techniques. Understand how they plan to keep the project on-time and meeting your quality standards. Clearly outline your acceptance tests (acceptance tests are actually things you are going to review or test before accepting the task as successfully completed). Discuss what they plan to do if/when their deliverables do not pass your acceptance tests.
By clearly articulating your expectations, providing them the resources that allows them to succeed and outlining the consequences of not meeting the goals -- you will be able to let go and allow them to do outstanding work.
I think the first rule of outsourcing is that it is just a means of delegation and not abdication (e.g. it still needs managing). second rule is that no-one cares about your business like you do - if you outsource then you loose a further degree of commitment that an employee would have. having said that if you invest time in them and have high levels of involvement/communication particularly around the outcomes, the impacts and the reasons for targets/decisions/outcomes then they can become more of a partner than a supplier and more responsive. At the end of the day whether you insource or outsource you are dealing with people and you need to develop the relationship with the people doing the work and if the people are not up to it then you need to find another company to outsource to.
When you delegate a responsibility to someone, it is because they are up to the task or if someone has taken a responsibility then S/he should give results. No one person can accomplish several tasks that is why organizations are established with different people having different sets of skills and that is why we also outsource. So the best way is to have confidence in others and just keep a check only because interfering itself causes delays.
What I have learnt as a freelance Visual Communications Designer is, a lot of my clients are not 100% honest about deadlines. I think its important to agree on when you want to see the presentation from the outsourced person. This will help you to make adjustments and every other back and forth well before preparing a final presentation for your own client. A written contract is vital especially if the project is big and involves large sums of money. Some outsourced companies or persons have a wide client tell and perhaps a lot on their table, some may not be honest about meeting deadlines probably because they don't want to lose u as a client yet they lack resources to serve as many. A clear contract is always a wise approach so that the quality of your work is not compromised in the process.
I read through many of the response you got and excuse my language, many are BS. Don't ever let go! This is your business and you should always be in control. Set expectations up front. If your outsourcing option is not meeting your expectations you need to have a plan to remediate and resolve the issues or move on. I have seen so many companies outsource and have no "out" and lost millions of dollars for that very reason. It took them months to get out of their "contract" spending more money in the process. Quality will differentiate you - it is not a value; it is required. If deadlines are your issue, then provide your outsourcing organization with an SLE or SLA (Service Level Expectations or Service Level Agreement) I don't know from your question what you are outsourcing but there are ways to positively influence outsourcing.
Hiring is one of the most important decisions you ever make in a business, yet people do it very badly. They either put too much stock in the CV in front of them or base it on just ow they got on in the interview.
I put a lot of faith in the chemistry, but on the basis that if they're not comfortable answering some basic questions about their own experience, it will show. It always does.
Once done, you need to offer support, but not micro manage. Regular meetings – even if on Skype – will allow you to reiterate what needs to be done to hit the marks. It will also reassure you that your team is on top of things.
Deadlines are not important, they are absolute unless a change is agreed. Start from this position and if you struggle to get them hit, be clear from the start that failings will lead to a detriment. Depending on your remuneration structure, a 'fine' might be suitable, or a bonus might not be achieved. But first of all stand back and consider whether the objectives are fair. That doesn't mean what you might achieve, as you can't expect others to go at it with your level of enthusiasm/focus/knowledge.
I recommend giving it to an established agency or a company for that matter, which has the same vision as you do. Be assertive; demand quota and targets from your partners, so that they can maximize the production during their working hours.
First you study their reputation in market and on social media, after completing this study you give him your own work or that type of work which is easily you did yourself, so after completing this practice you give him work and but always show him deadline buffer one week,...
Hire better number one, whether staff or outsource. Know what you are paying for and demand it up front. Outsources are easy to fire and usually easy to replace but also be sure to recognize if you have control issues or communication issues and fix the one that's the real issue.
Better training, better company,go over reports on a daily basis with your outsource company.
I have come to accept that it's about finding great contractors, and then holding onto them. It's normal for 30-50% of outsourced work to come back bad - cut those contractors out and find new ones. This is the "hidden cost" of contracting. Treat the goods ones great, and hold onto them as long as you can.
First...just do it! But I know that isn't what you are looking for. To be comfortable you need to set up some type of measurement system that enables you to keep track of the work being done on your behalf. That is true whether you relinquish tasks to employees within your company or outsource to a 3rd party. Large third parties will have processes in place to provide you with information that will enable you to do this. With smaller vendors you need to develop a contractual metric system that they agree to regularly report to you. It needs to be based on something that gives you a real understanding of both what they accomplish and the value of what they accomplish. If you do, you can let go knowing that you are still watching. The key is developing the right metrics!