Archive for the Outsourcing Category

31 Tips For Successful Outsourcing

Posted in Business start up, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , , , on December 18, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Here are 31 tips to make your outsourcing experiences as smooth as possible.

Come to an Agreement

One of the most important elements of subcontracting is making sure you and the subcontractor are on the same page and that there are no surprises. Keep these things on your list to help facilitate a smooth working relationship:

1.  Use a contract
2.  Make sure you agree on payment terms up front
3.  Don’t pay in full until the job is complete
4.  Be clear on how and when you plan to pay the subcontractor
5.  Agree on a timeline for the work
6.  Include a non-disclosure/non-competition provision in your contract
7.  Determine how you will receive project updates
8.  Clarify confidentiality expectations
9.  Build in a “de-bugging” provision that identifies a specific period of time the subcontractor will be on call to fix potential problems that arise
10.  Clarify the ownership of the project in writing

Protect Your Business

When you outsource, you are giving up some of your control over the project. Consider these tips to help you protect your business, interests and reputation:

11.  Check references
12.  Review the subcontractor’s portfolio
13.  Verify skills
14.  Consider a small test project first
15.  Be prepared to review all work before turning it over to the client
16.  Be very clear about expectations
17.  Don’t leave any details out when relaying the project request to the subcontractor
18.  Send all work requests in writing
19.  Schedule an initial call and regular check-ins, if necessary
20.  Be available throughout the duration of the project
21.  Track all payments for your books

Client Relations

The goal of the project should be to meet and exceed the client’s needs. In order to do that, follow these tips to manage your relationship with your client:

22.  Be the middleman
23.  Tell your client you are using a subcontractor, if appropriate
24.  Pad the time estimate provided by the subcontractor in your estimate for the client
25.  Don’t forget to add in time for your management role
26.  Be accountable for your work AND your subcontractor’s work

Aside from the Work

Remember the importance of the personal side of your subcontractor relationship. Here are some ways to do that:

27.  Don’t overlook the importance of complementary personalities
28.  Respect the subcontractor’s time
29.  Make sure there are no communication gaps
30.  Give praise and appreciation for a job well done
31.  Ask the subcontractor how it went at the end of the project and provide feedback

What other tips would you add to this list?

Successful outsourcing will not only allow you to focus on what you do best, but also find other ways to satisfy clients and expand your business. By building relationships with your subcontractors that are based on trust and respect, you will be able to create a team that can accomplish just about anything…and give you a day or two off in the process.

http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/04/09/31-tips-for-successful-outsourcing/

Alyssa Gregory is the owner of avertua, LLC, a full-service virtual assistant firm. She has been designing websites since 1995, and has a passion for supporting small businesses. Alyssa provides business tips, advice and news through her Small Business Idea Generator blog.

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The Benefits of Outsourcing for Small Businesses

Posted in Outsourcing with tags on November 24, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Please see just a few of the advantages that can be gained from outsourcing below:

Control capital costs.

Cost-cutting may not be the only reason to outsource, but it’s certainly a major factor. Outsourcing converts fixed costs into variable costs, releases capital for investment elsewhere in your business, and allows you to avoid large expenditures in the early stages of your business. Outsourcing can also make your firm more attractive to investors, since you’re able to pump more capital directly into revenue-producing activities.

Increase efficiency.

Companies that do everything themselves have much higher research, development, marketing, and distribution expenses, all of which must be passed on to customers. An outside provider’s cost structure and economy of scale can give your firm an important competitive advantage.

Reduce labour costs.

Hiring and training staff for short-term or peripheral projects can be very expensive, and temporary employees don’t always live up to your expectations. Outsourcing lets you focus your human resources where you need them most.

Start new projects quickly.

A good outsourcing firm has the resources to start a project right away. Handling the same project in-house might involve taking weeks or months to hire the right people, train them, and provide the support they need. And if a project requires major capital investments (such as building a series of distribution centers), the startup process can be even more difficult.

Focus on your core business.

Every business has limited resources, and every manager has limited time and attention. Outsourcing can help your business to shift its focus from peripheral activities toward work that serves the customer, and it can help managers set their priorities more clearly.

Level the playing field.

Most small firms simply can’t afford to match the in-house support services that larger companies maintain. Outsourcing can help small firms act “big” by giving them access to the same economies of scale, efficiency, and expertise that large companies enjoy.

Reduce risk.

Every business investment carries a certain amount of risk. Markets, competition, government regulations, financial conditions, and technologies all change very quickly. Outsourcing providers assume and manage this risk for you, and they generally are much better at deciding how to avoid risk in their areas of expertise.

http://www.allbusiness.com/human-resources/workforce-management-hiring/1084-3.html

Outsourcing To A Virtual Assistant

Posted in Office Management, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , on November 23, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Outsourcing is the strategic use of outside resources to perform activities traditionally handled by internal staff and resources. Small business owners can outsource non-core functions to specialized and efficient service providers. The difference between simply subcontracting and outsourcing is that outsourcing involves the wholesale restructuring of the corporation around core competencies and outside relationships.

 As a consequence, a new class of skilled entrepreneurs has emerged — the virtual assistants.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilising advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office.

A VA completes your projects using his or her own equipment, and carries out the work through e-mail, fax, telephone and postal service. Therefore, the location of your VA is not important. This gives you the liberty to look for professionals best suited to your needs located anywhere on the globe. Since they’re paid only for time-on-task, businesses can hire several VAs in dispersed locations and have 24-hour support — paying far less than what a permanent or temporary employee would cost for such comprehensive assistance.

The services offered by each VA differ according to his/her skills. The list of services includes general administration services, database and Website development, graphic design, Internet research, sales support, presentation preparation, telephone answering, bill payments, travel arrangements, bookkeeping, desktop publishing, computer training, medical/legal transcription … the list is endless!

Why outsource the work to a VA?

The primary benefit of outsourcing is economising since the VA can do it cheaper. VAs only charge for actual time worked.

By outsourcing to a VA rather than hiring an in-office assistant, you will never need to pay employment insurance, vacation pay, sick pay, or contribute to retirement plans and worker’s compensation. A VA has his/her own hardware, software, training, etc., thereby reducing your capital investment. So there is no wear and tear on your office equipment or a need for special equipment.

Engaging a VA gives you time, allowing you to do what you do best. You can focus on delivering the higher value and service to your customers. As skilled VAs are chosen to perform particular tasks, they can do it better because they do it all the time. It is their business.

Like you, VAs are entrepreneurs and understand the needs of businesses today — ensuring the success of their clients. VAs value each and every client; it is because of these clients that VAs can ensure the success of their own businesses.

The resources of the VA can give your business access to technical advances you would not normally have access to. With modern day communication, projects can be accomplished without ever having to meet the client face to face. With the growing ease of the Internet, finding a VA almost anywhere in the world is quite simple to accomplish — more so in the developed nations like USA, Canada, Australia, UK and many other European countries where the VA industry is highly organised.

http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20031027_va.htm

The emergence of Virtual Assistants

Posted in Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , on November 19, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Virtual Assistants are typically professional level people who have left the confines of corporate business to start their own businesses. Virtual Assistants are independent contractors who work from home providing a variety of services to businesses.

This trend allows these highly skilled professionals to bring their knowledge to bear for a whole range of companies that would otherwise not have access. While VA’s were once limited to more administrative tasks, they now encompass the entire spectrum of professional skills. If it can be done from home, there is a VA doing it.

What companies are starting to appreciate is that Virtual Assistants cost companies a fraction of the cost of actual hires. A company employing Virtual Assistants can utilise the services of a whole range of professionals instead of having to choose which specialty is needed most as the company grows.

For the cost of one salaried Administrative Assistant, a business owner could utilise approximately 1400 hours of assistance divided among any number of top professionals. Utilising Virtual Assistants allows businesses access to the exact services that they need, it also allows businesses to shift gears more quickly and efficiently by investing in growth rather than payroll because they are paying only for the time spent on their project. There is no longer a reason to worry about taxes, benefits, vacation pay, and time wasted by the water cooler.

More and more businesses are coming round to the idea of Virtual Assistance; it’s a win-win for everyone involved. It gives businesses the help that they need without the hassle of hiring a full-time employee.

www.powerhomebiz.com/082005/va.htm

Top 10 Tips for Outsourcing Success

Posted in Outsourcing with tags , , on January 26, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Entrepreneurs and small businesspeople are always looking for creative ways to accomplish more of their business goals for less money. One strategy that can help you save time, money and frustration as you start and build your business is to outsource as much work as possible to skilled, but cost-effective, external service providers.

Following this advice can help you get the most out of your relationships with external vendors or contractors — whether you use the web to find service providers or are requesting and evaluating quotes from vendors the “old fashioned” way.

1. Clearly define the scope and schedule for your project
This might seem obvious, but any successful outsourced project always starts with a clear statement of what you are hoping to accomplish. Define your project requirements up front. Service providers need accurate, complete information to present you with realistic proposals and to quote you a reasonable price. Be specific about the deliverables you expect the vendor provide. Give vendors as much information as you can about what you need delivered and the way in which you need the work done. Also, be clear and realistic about your schedule requirements – project schedules can have a huge impact on project costs.

2. Evaluate a service provider like you’d hire a full-time employee
When you’re evaluating proposals from service providers, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just like hiring a full-time employee, selecting a vendor is a very subjective experience. Check their references and ask for feedback from other clients who have used their services. Engage in a dialog – if you have any concerns about a vendor’s specific capabilities, voice your concerns. Don’t just stew about it and hope for the best.

3. Look for specific experience fit
Ideally, the service provider you select will have specific experience with the type of project that you’re undertaking. You don’t want to be somebody’s “guinea pig.” This is especially crucial when outsourcing complex technical projects such as software development. For example, if you’re looking for someone to develop an application for the Palm PDA, make sure they’ve actually completed commercial projects on that platform for other satisfied customers. This advice holds true for other types of projects as well. If you need a business plan for opening a retail store, you’ll get best results if the consultant you hire has verifiable experience in the retail sector.

4. Don’t choose a vendor based solely on price
Though it might be tempting, never select a vendor based solely on price. Experienced buyers who have outsourced many projects and evaluated hundreds of proposals almost always recommend discarding the highest-priced and lowest-priced bid. Buyers report that their most successful projects are the ones where they felt the vendor offered a balance of good value and quality results.

5. Review portfolios and samples
Examine the vendor’s previous work (their “portfolio”) and make sure that their previous work meets your expectations for quality and style. If you’ve evaluated a vendor’s portfolio, references and previous experience and are still unsure of their capabilities, consider asking them to do a quick mock-up or provide a basic outline of a work plan. A service provider who really wants to win your business might be able to give you a rough concept so you can better understand their approach to solving your problem. But never cross the line between asking for a mock-up and insisting that a vendor provide you with finished work “on spec.” No qualified professional expects to work for free.

6. Start small
When engaging with a service provider for the first time, start with a project that is relatively small and simple in scope. This will give you a better idea of the provider’s style and capabilities before you entrust a “mission critical” project to them.

7. Tie payment to clearly defined project milestones
Just as you should be clear about project scope, make sure that you define a work plan for your outsourced project with clearly defined milestones. Having scheduled checkpoints where you review the status of the project as it works toward completion—is an easy way to ensure that you meet your final deadline and that the final product meets your standards. Tie the vendor’s payment to these milestones. A good guideline for IT and software development projects is to pay no more than 20% to 30% of the total project price up front, with the rest of the payments awarded based on the completion of 3 or 4 milestones.

8. Negotiate ownership of work up front
For any type of outsourced project, make sure that you are clear about who owns the resulting work product and any important components of that product. Make sure the service provider understands how you intend to use the deliverables that they are agreeing to provide. For example, the development of a custom software application for your personal use would be substantially different from the development an application that you intend to package and re-sell.

9. Don’t forget about support after the project is complete
For technology projects, it’s a good idea to specify a warranty or support clause so that you are assured of some amount of continuing support from the vendor after the project is complete. It’s much easer to negotiate a support clause before the service provider begins work, rather than after the completion of the project. Even creative or business services can benefit from a support clause. Suppose you need some changes to a business plan based on feedback that you get from potential investors. Or maybe you find that you need that snazzy new logo delivered in a new type of file format. Specifying some amount of free support or negotiating discounted prices for future modifications can save you time, money and headaches later on.

10. Get it in writing
During the course of a service engagement, the scope of the project, deliverables or even the agreed upon price may change. Make sure that you clearly communicate any schedule, scope or payment changes to your service provider and get confirmation from them – in writing – that they understand and agree to the changes. Similarly, keep a record of any agreement changes requested by the service provider and whether you accept or reject those modifications. Save copies of any email exchanges that you have.

You can access top-notch expertise any time you need it without the overhead of hiring full-time staff. By staying focused on your core competencies and hiring expert freelancers for your other needs, you can compete with the delivery capabilities of larger organizations while maintaining your independence.

http://entrepreneurs.about.com/cs/beyondstartup/a/uc041003a.htm

Case study: Using a Virtual Assistant

Posted in Office Management, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , on January 11, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Desmond Turner is in a quandary faced by many small business owners. He has so much work he can’t focus on minute details, but he’s not at the point where he needs a full-time office assistant. Turner, owner of A+ Landscaping, is a perfect candidate for virtual assistance.

Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) is a practical and affordable solution to helping manage many small but growing businesses. Thanks to speedy advancements in technology, entrepreneurs have access to highly-skilled professionals.
A VA is someone who handles administrative functions such as e-mailing, faxing, database management and bookkeeping from a remote location. Highly skilled assistants can also offer help with website maintenance, customer and client contact and even marketing material, all services that would greatly benefit Turner’s business.
“Because I’m in the landscape industry, I spend the majority of my time outside of the office, which means I don’t really have time to devote to answering e-mails and sending faxes,” said Turner. “Having a professional who could serve as a liaison between me and my clients would be invaluable.”
Invaluable indeed, since not having an assistant means late nights spent catching up on paperwork like contracts and bookkeeping.
Virtual assistance companies often span several industries, and some assistants even offer help with the clients’ personal lives by organizing social gatherings, making doctor appointments and arranging travel plans.

Virtual assistants offer several advantages over do-it-yourself practices or temporary and part-time workers, the main benefi t being that they’re cost-effective. The employer has no payroll taxes, workers’ comp or temp agency commission fees. Small companies could also save money on offi ce space, equipment, pensions, insurance and the like. Another advantage for business owners is that they would have full access to assistants while only paying for work that was actually done.

Employers who are thinking about hiring a virtual assistant are urged to do research beforehand to ensure a profi table match. A good VA may be instrumental in helping with the mundane tasks while business owners focus on advancing the company’s goals.

What does a Virtual assistant do?

Posted in Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , on October 22, 2009 by virtualcitypa

A Virtual Assistant (typically abbreviated to VA, also called a virtual office assistant) is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office.  They usually work for other small businesses, brokers and consultancy groups. It is estimated that there are as few as 5,000-8,000 or as many as 35,000 Virtual Assistants worldwide; the profession is growing in centralized economies with “fly-in, fly-out” (FIFO) staffing practices.

Common modes of communication and data delivery include the Internet, e-mail and phonecall conferences, online work spaces, and fax machine. Professionals in this business work on a contractual basis and a long-lasting cooperation is standard.

Typically 5 years of administrative experience in an office is expected at such positions as executive assistant, office manager/supervisor, secretary, legal assistant, paralegal, legal secretary or real estate assistant.