Archive for Outsourcing

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.

Outsourcing: Don’t be too busy earning a living to make any money

Posted in Office Management with tags , , on December 13, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Outsourcing is worth considering when you find yourself being too busy to do what you do best. 

Tips:  Make outsourcing work for you

When outsourcing:

  • Take your time making decisions and make sure you are clear about the terms on which you and the supplier are working together
  • Make the effort to establish a solid relationship – this calls for good communication and flexibility
  • If you can stay with your supplier for several years, you are likely to get the best results. Switching suppliers can be a lengthy process, so it pays to commit to building a long-term relationship from the outset.
  • A flexible contract benefits both parties, allowing the supplier to innovate and you to react to changing circumstances.
  • Aim for a smooth transition/migration

Even with good planning, it’s a learning curve for both parties, so use it as an opportunity to modify the service level agreement (SLA) for the future.

Measure success

There should be financial benefits to outsourcing, but alternatives could include generating a higher profile for your business, more credibility, fewer defects or greater speed to market.

For further details – please refer to http://www.businesslink.gov.uk
The Business Link helps your business save time and money by giving you instant access to clear, simple, and trustworthy information.

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

Corporate Travel

Posted in Event Management, Marketing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , on September 1, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Corporate travel is a time consuming and logistically testing proceedure. Jigsaw Conferences highlight the nuances involved in this piece.

Corporate Travel is one of the leading sectors of the travel industry today. Business people are constantly flying around the country and indeed around the world to attend conferences, meetings, PR events, training courses, team building events, annual general meetings, parties, seminars, exhibitions, corporate hospitality events, product launches, award ceremonies and so on.  

Where vacationers have the flexibility of waiting for off-peak days of the week to arrange for their flights and get the lowest rates for that season, business people have fixed schedules. Travel agents recognise this important sector and make special arrangements to improve their market share and competitiveness in the industry.
 
An organisation staging an award ceremony or an annual general meeting, for example, at a central location, would need to provide transport and accommodation to their VIP guests. Corporate travel agents help ensure that details like these can be taken care of smoothly and efficiently.
 
Corporate travel planning can be a task on its own. Rather than have one of the company’s head secretaries spend all of her time on the arrangements, many companies prefer to hire corporate travel planners to take care of event management, and meeting planning in addition to making all necessary travel arrangements.
 
Many corporate travel agencies offer specialised services for their clients. They offer to track and report the company’s travel expenses, negotiate special rates, track air miles and reward points and offer 24 hour support from corporate travel agents. Each individual agency would have other benefits to attract clients to their program.
 
As a result of their daily negotiations and partnerships with travel suppliers, like airlines, car rental agencies and hotel chains, a corporate travel planner has the ability to use their discounts to offer the lowest possible rates that are usually not open to the general public. Contracting the company’s corporate travel department to an independent planner can produce large savings for a company whose representatives need to travel as part of their job. More time could be afforded for sales presentations, PR events, product launches, exhibitions, seminars, conventions and parties anywhere in the country or around the world.
 
Corporations have the added advantage of receiving heavy discounts and rewards for making bookings for large groups or making several bookings within a period of time. PR events, product launches, exhibitions and conferences would require large groups of staff and guests to be invited to a central location. Travel, transport and accommodation arrangements would all be necessary for these kinds of events and tend to solicit lower rates due to the large number of attendees.
 
Corporate travel agents who offer event planning services will often locate the right venue for the organisation’s event through a comparison of all appropriate venues that fit your budgetary and space requirements. They would arrange for the catering, accommodation, set up of equipment and business centre. Many times they also offer on-site support. Other services could include meeting and greeting guests, distributing event-related portfolios and other relevant material, registration and so on.
 
Some agencies are further specialised and work with specific types of industries. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry may have special requirements for some of their seminars and events, requiring a certain layout or special equipment. By providing detailed attention to these, corporate travel agents are at the forefront of the competition in the travel industry.
 
Corporate hospitality events, annual general meetings and product launches each have different aspects that need special attention and must be taken into consideration in order to ensure a successful event. Hiring an independent agent, who is an invaluable source of information and advice, saves both time and money, whereby the management is able to spend more time concentrating on more pressing matters. Thus, corporations are poised to receive the best value-added services from a full range of options in travel solutions and event management which caters to the event’s specific requirements for the most competitive prices.
 
Corporate travel has also spawned a new industry in the way of corporate travel safety. Seminars are available to advise individuals of the best way to protect themselves and their belongings to ensure a hassle-free journey. 
For a businessman, protecting the information he’s carrying can be of vital importance. Numbered locks, security waist packs and portable travel safes are all available to the cautious traveller.
 
With the high level of importance given to the corporate travel sector, it’s little wonder that corporations receive premium services and excellent rates. Travel agencies are all vying for their business and outdo each other with the nature of the services and rewards they provide. With competition fierce and demand strong, the quality of service provided is easily world-class.
 
Copyright © 2007 Jigsaw Conferences

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.