RSS

Tag Archives: Career

How to Ease the Transition to Working from Home (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following guest post comes to us from Sarah Pike, a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee, an innovative and resourceful company that helps small companies successfully manage and grow their businesses. Sarah is also a college writing instructor. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and to connect!

————————————————————————————————

How to Ease the Transition to Working from Home

working from homeThe ability to work remotely grew 80 percent between 2005 and 2012 and it shows no signs of stopping.

Research shows working from home might be harmful to your health, but there are a lot of benefits you can gain from it too. If you’re nervous about making the transition from office work to working remotely, here are some ways to help make that transition a bit easier.

Learn to make yourself “present.”

Many people feel like they’ll miss out on opportunities by working from home. To combat this, make yourself as “present” at the office as possible without actually being there. Connect your smartphone and laptop to your office. Have instant messengers and email open at all times while you work. You can give the impression of being physically in the office by being easily reachable during your normal work hours.

Find more ways to connect.

Working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean working from home. Keep your options open. There are apps available, like Work+, designed to help you find available Wi-Fi connections no matter where you are. This way you won’t feel compelled to stay in your house all day, which can end up feeling just as confining as an office.

It’s been shown Internet access directly correlates to a person’s happiness, so having a good connection is essential to creating the perfect work-life balance. Make sure you have a reliable Internet connection at home or that you’re going to a coffee shop you know has a strong Wi-Fi connection. You’ll need a stable connection with speeds fast enough to handle your workload. If you’re unsure if your at-home Internet is up to par, this test can help you check your speed.

Set your schedule.

You can easily fall into a trap of staying in bed all day when working from home. To prevent this, sit down and define your schedule. It should follow a similar schedule you’d have if you were in the office. Begin work each day at a set time and stick to it. Just remember to end at the specified time each day too. Overworking when you work from home is an easy trap to fall into when you’re working in a solo setting.

As Ariana Huffington discusses in her book “THRIVE,” overworking can lead to sleep-deprivation. Not only can this lead to serious injury, as in the case of Huffington, but it can also lead to a fall in productivity and happiness.

Take breaks.

It’s easy to work without stopping when you don’t have people coming to chat with you or when you don’t have a break room to visit. In the same vein of setting a work schedule, you need to schedule break times. Set aside 15-minute breaks and a lunch period each day—and take them. Studies show people are more productive when they take their breaks.

Create your own commute.

For many people, the drive to work is the ideal time to mentally prepare for the day ahead. You may think you lose that period of reflection and preparation when you work from home, but you don’t have to. Take time each morning to walk to a specific place, maybe your neighborhood coffee shop, and back home. You’ll mimic the morning commute and give yourself time to relax and prepare before the stress of the workday takes over.

Avoid unnecessary distractions.

When you’re at the office, you don’t have the option of throwing in a load of laundry or starting to prep for dinner. When you work remotely, you need to stay disciplined to not do these things. These are distractions only serving to keep you from getting your work done. Set aside time to do your home-life chores when your work is done, not in the middle of it.

Make sure you still socialize.

Studies show that workplace socialization is paramount to getting ahead in a job. Not only does it make you more productive and help cultivate ideas, but it also builds trust among colleagues. Find social groups via sites like Meetup.com to help develop interaction or form a weekly or monthly get together with colleagues.

Over 75 percent of employers with remote work programs in place report happier employees. Clearly, there’s something to be said for working somewhere other than a cubicle. The key to making it work is finding the right balance for your schedule and needs. If you’re considering transitioning to working from out of the office, try out some of these tips to give you the confidence you need to get started!

FullSizeRender

 

About the Author: Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next camping trip. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Entrepreneurship in 2015 (Guest Blog by Amy Klimek of ZipRecruiter)

The following guest post comes to us from Amy Klimek, an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter. Enjoy her insights and expertise on the topic of entrepreneurship. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more about Amy and her business and to connect!

————————————————————————————————

Entrepreneurship in 2015

Insights and Encouragement from an Expert

Entrepreneurship is equally rewarding as it is difficult. Though you may be free from the shackles of retail and corporate, such freedom comes with a price. As far as 2015 goes, the time has never been better for you to finally build that start-up you’ve always dreamed of having. Just be sure you understand the responsibility that is inextricably linked to power.

Start It
Too many people talk about their dreams but never act on them. They dedicate hours of the day envisioning that perfect business but never actually take the steps to achieve it only to regret their failure to act in their older years. For most, it’s fear that holds them back. Because we no longer have anything to fear, our mind makes up some that exist outside of our comfort zones. Anything that is not part of what it is used to is deemed impossible and not worth it. If you’re going to successfully start on your own path, it’s time to learn how to overcome that negative voice. Instead, use it to guide what precautionary steps you want to take to give yourself a safety net to fall into should something go wrong.

THE-MOST-DANGEROUS-RISK-OF-ALL

Understand the Competition
Now that you are putting together the research, you will inevitably come across blogs that give you reasons not to go after your dream and, specifically, the dream in your field. They all decry the sheer number of people vying for the same thing as reason enough to give up. Never listen to these people. If you wind up falling down a rabbit hole of negativity, stop researching for the day. What you need to realize is the reality of the situation. Those that generally enjoy what they do will share useful knowledge and be very positive about their accomplishments. The other 90% lack the talent and discipline required to succeed, no matter what credentials they try to throw at you. Instead, focus only on the 10%. These are the experts in their field. Though it will take you years to achieve what they have accomplished, they are great examples to look to for motivation and ideas.

10 Year Rule
Overnight sensations are a dream. The only people that earn this title are children that appear on television shows. What the media never reveals are the years of hard work the professionals put into their craft before they finally caught the public’s attention. Dubbed the “10 year rule”, John Hayes researched this phenomenon by taking the lives of famous artists (think Mozart) and statistically looking at how long it took each of them to begin producing their most famous pieces. In the end, 10 years was the magic number. Each and every master required a decade of dedication to their concentration before major success came into play. You are no different. Accept this and use it when you feel like you should just give up. Success takes time. It is a slow and steady pace that will get you to where you want to be.

Be Flexible
You might be the personality type that obsesses over every little detail, and with a venture into entrepreneurship, you’ve already plotted out every modicum of possibility. Unfortunately, this still won’t be enough to prepare for the future. Think big, plan small. Have a single goal in mind but do not be dead set on the path you take to get there. What may seem like something out of left field could turn out to be a well-placed opportunity that opens even more doors for you. Basically, pursue every avenue. As an entrepreneur, this translates into how you find your first clients. The importance of this lies in a single word: experience. If you haven’t already built a career in the corporate world, you are still young and lacking resume fodder that potential clients use as a means to judge your credibility. In these beginning years, you will not have much behind you and need to be willing to take on projects that don’t fit your ideal match but still bring some value to the brand.

Build What You Believe
As an entrepreneur, the world is your oyster. You are now free to pursue anything. While scary, it is nonetheless a freeing feeling. No longer are you wasting your time for someone else. You are working for you. A popular quote entrepreneurs cite describes that they would rather work 80 hours a week for themselves than 40 hours a week for someone else. When you focus on something that means a lot to you, 80 hours is still not enough time to devote. Yes, there will be days you wake up and wish you could just spend the day in front of the TV, but there are never days where you wake up and want to disappear. The stresses between business and freelance are different in many ways, but at least with freelance, success relies on your ability to work hard.

You Are Accountable
You are accountable for everything that happens, especially if you begin your run with just you heading up the fledgling business. This means that before you start reaching out to clients or hiring others to manage your affairs, you better have your own self-importance under control. Don’t think you can continue to take out your frustrations on others. They will no longer work with you. Don’t assume you can make excuses for a poorly completed project. You were the only one working on it. Instead, turn this accountability into a positive. Use it to continually better yourself and what you offer. If something goes wrong, assess what happened and make notes on how you can avoid the situation in the future. If you feel like berating others, take time away to understand why you are frustrated and what you can do to ease the tension. Turn everything into a learning exercise and you will be amazed at how far you can go on your own.

Amy KlimekAbout the Author: Amy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that, Amy has held similar roles at Rent.com, eBay and US Interactive. For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel. Connect with ZipRecruiter on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Most Effective Way to Follow-Up

listen to me

There’s one exclamation that I’m sure to say at least once a week (often with my hands on my head for emphasis). “I spend WAY too much time following-up with people!” How many of you share my grief?

I can’t stand the blazing bold font of an email message that’s not yet been answered. If I’m anywhere near my phone or computer during normal business hours (and who isn’t these days?), you can expect a response within the hour. Even if I don’t have the full answer, I’ll at least send an acknowledgement so you know the task is on my list. This makes it even more frustrating for me to spend so much of my time chasing down answers from other people.

Following-up has become one of the finest arts of communication. It’s a delicate balance of friendliness and force. You can’t be so abrupt that you get tuned out completely, but if you aren’t direct you’ll never get a response. So what is the secret to crafting an effective follow-up message? Here are six rules of engagement that will help get your questions answered!

Be polite

Always, always, always be polite. It doesn’t matter if this is your fifth follow-up message, you have to maintain your composure and professionalism if you ever want a shot at receiving a response. Time is valuable for everyone, so while it’s taking some (more) or your time to follow-up, you’re also asking for someone else’s time to provide you with an answer. Don’t act annoyed or be passive aggressive with your message. Reference your original conversation, reiterate your request and genuinely thank them for their time.

Allow a reasonable amount of time to pass

You or I may hold ourselves to the standard of answering an email within one business day, but realize that not everyone shares that same practice. For some people, a week might be a reasonable amount of time to get you a response – especially if it’s not urgent. My rule of thumb is to wait at least one week before sending the first follow-up message. I’m often pleasantly surprised by the number of responses that come in on their own right about this time. And I’m always glad I didn’t annoy them with a reminder when they were, in fact, on top of things.

Once you send the first follow-up message one week later, continue to wait a week in between each email. You can use alternative methods of communication in between that time (such as phone, text or Linkedin message). Some people are just terrible at checking email, but will respond promptly when you contact them through an alternative source. It will also increase your chances of getting your message heard. If there’s a significant deadline approaching, you can use this as a reason to follow-up more frequently than the one-week rule. Play this card selectively or risk becoming one of the 11 most annoying email personalities.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Don’t be so quick to assume that the only reason some has not responded to you is because they’re rude or incompetent. In between work, life happens and sometimes takes precedence over your requests. Have patience when waiting a reasonable amount of time before following-up with someone. They might have just had a death or illness in the family. Or maybe they have just returned from some time off and are still catching up on emails. I remember when I first had my son; I was a little slow at responding to messages but greatly appreciated those who afforded me patience and understanding during this time.

Don’t be repetitive

If your follow-up strategy requires several messages, avoid the temptation to simply copy and paste your request from week to week. This repetition is annoying and can seem condescending to your contact, like you’re assuming they won’t know the difference. For each follow-up message, include a new message at the beginning that updates your contact with where things currently stand (don’t make them read down through your whole conversation to figure this out). And for bonus points, add in something timely or relevant that will show you put thought into this follow-up. For example, maybe you saw that they published a new blog this week. Reference something you like about that blog and they’ll know you’re really paying attention and are invested in this relationship.

Make answering easy

Especially if you have multiple questions awaiting answers, the best way to increase your chances of getting a response is to make it as easy as possible. Once tactic I use is to break down each question into its own bullet point so that my contact can simply respond in-line. Other times I will bold or underline the question so that within the context of my message people know exacting what needs a response.

If I have a laundry list of questions or items that warrant more of a discussion, a phone call is the way to go. Emails should be short, sweet and to the point. The question should appear in the very beginning and again at the end. Repetition is a courtesy because it allows your contact to easily skim the message, identify what you’re asking for and quickly respond.

Give an easy “opt-out”

This is most applicable to a message in which you’re asking for someone to meet with you or buy your services. For reasons unknown, some people just hate saying no. Instead, they’ll avoid answering altogether so that they don’t feel like they’re letting you down. In the long run this is a disservice to you both. If you’ve followed-up multiple times, it may be time to offer your final message where you directly ask if you should stop contacting them. Be polite and friendly. Even if they take you up on the offer, this professional courtesy will end things on a positive note and reflect well on you and your business.

What tips or tricks do you have for crafting an effective follow-up message? Share your advice by commenting below!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Things to Remember When Planning a Professional Event

corporate event planning

Throughout my career, I’ve played the role of “event planner” more times than I can count. Fundraisers, golf outings, press events, clay shoots, meet and greets, prayer breakfasts, networking mixers, seminars and conferences are just some of the various types of events I’ve helped to plan. For each one there’s been a different venue, audience, menu, setup and marketing strategy. It’s been a whirlwind!

This experience has helped me to create quite the “tool box” of tips and tricks for successful event planning that can only be gained from my own trial and error. Oh and there have been many errors! Now I have professional events down to a work of art. I can anticipate the unexpected and I come prepared to address every odd request you can imagine. To help you do the same, here are 10 things to always, always remember when planning a professional event.

1. Be overly specific, assume nothing

I have many real life examples of event planning follies where I assumed something simple – like there would be a chair at the registration table – only to be left scrambling at the last minute over silly details. I’ve since learned to assume nothing and specify everything. When I’m in the event planning role, I can’t afford to be torn away from more important tasks to handle these types of mishaps. I work closely with the venue to specify the essential details (without being condescending, of course). Even if I risk looking a little too Type A, it’s a small price to pay for a well-executed event and a happy client.

2. Don’t be literal with the headcount

While I advise to be very specific with the event details, I don’t advise to be specific with the headcount. Inevitably people who have RSVPed will not show up and others who did not RSVP will. It’s the ebb and flow of event planning and somehow it all works out. What I’ve learned is that so much money is wasted on overestimating headcount. Instead, I underestimate the guaranteed count by at least 5 (if not 10) people. At the event, the venue can always pull out a little more food (for which they will also charge you). And at least you know you are paying for exactly what’s being consumed, which can be a cost savings of a couple hundred dollars!

3. Anticipate people arriving early (and staying late)

When I’m running logistics for an event, I always arrive at least an hour in advance to set-up, troubleshoot and acclimate myself with the venue and staff. I also do this because I know that a handful of early birds will arrive a half hour early as well. I hate to be caught still setting up (though it would totally be understandable), so instead I beat them at their own game! I also anticipate another group staying past the end of the event to eat and chat until the staff starts vacuuming over their feet. This means I, too, also stay late to ensure a professionally executed event from start to finish.

4. Bring a “tool kit”

You will always have a need for scissors, tape, extra name tags and pens. I can’t emphasize enough how often this has saved me the time of having to ask the venue to search and bring these items to me and how it also helps me to look extra professional and prepared. Slip these items in your laptop bag, and even if you don’t need them, you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re one step ahead.

5. Be accessible

When planning an event, you will need to be accessible and on your feet to address any issues as they arise. Maybe it’s someone at registration who said they paid, but their name isn’t on the list. Or maybe a side dish needs refreshed at the buffet that a server hasn’t yet noticed. I’m all eyes, all ears – and always on my feet at events.

6. Call upon helping hands

In order to pull off tip #5 of always being accessible, you need a competent team of helpers to assist you with being in multiple places at once. When I’m putting out the big fires, I rely on others to manage the registration table and greet guests. What this also means is that I have to prepare easy to manage lists and clearly explain the process to my helpers to ensure they know what to do even when I’m not around.

7. Keep people comfortable

People with full plates and full glasses are happy people. For the most part, people won’t remember the venue or the color of the table linens, but they will remember if they were well fed. Don’t skimp on food or drink and make sure that it is out before guests arrive and is left out even after the event ends, in case people choose to mingle after hours. Also, be sure your menu matches your ticket price. If people are paying a couple hundred dollars to attend a fundraiser, don’t give them chips, pretzels and a cash bar. Show them a good time! I promise you, this is always money well spent.

8. Strategically time your (brief) remarks

Hosting an event and not taking a moment to address the crowd is a really wasted opportunity. You may not be the most confident public speaker, but you can at least put together a few sentences especially if it means promoting the purpose of the event. Timing is everything to ensure people are paying attention. Plan to take the mic (and do use a mic) about halfway through the event. This will catch both latecomers and early-departers. Your remarks also give the event closure. If people need to take off early, they can feel like they have at least stayed for the most important part of the event.

9. Take advantage of the opportunity to market your services or future events

Use your remarks and printed promotional materials to market your services or future events. Give people something (verbally and physically) to take away from the event. You’re footing the bill after all, the least you can do is gain some promotional value from it! If this is an annual event, have a date set for next year’s event and promote it. If the event is not annual, give people some other call to action like a special discount on services if they purchase that day. If nothing else, at least invite them to visit your website and connect with you on social media.

10. Remember, it’s not about you!

It’s your event, but it’s not really about you. It’s about your guests. They are the ones either paying to be there or offering themselves as your captive audience for a few hours. Respect their time and make each guest feel special by greeting them, even if only briefly. Also keep your guests in mind when selecting a venue and food choices. Some restaurant off the beaten path may by a stone’s throw from your home, but it’s a trek for your guests. And just because you like a menu of red meat and potatoes, be thoughtful about your guests who may prefer some variety.

To boil down this entire list of corporate event planning advice, I simply urge you to be hospitable and genuine. Put the extra thought into the details to make this a pleasant experience for your guests so that they remember you for hosting a fun event, not wasting their time. Both extremes leave a lasting impression and you have the power to choose the outcome!

What other things would you add to this list? Share your event experiences (good and bad) by commenting below!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Easiest Way to Find Your Passion

Live-with-Passion

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we have all been asked at least once in our lives by a teacher, guidance counselor or parent trying to steer us in the right direction of a fulfilling career. Can you recall how you answered? I’m willing to wager that a vast majority of us never became what we thought we wanted to be when we were young, but don’t take this to mean you’ve failed your childhood self.

This question was never going to help you find your dream career or perfect job, because it doesn’t ask the only thing that really matters. What gets you excited?

The easiest way to find your passion is to identify what excites you. What energizes your soul? What puts that spark in your eye? What would you choose to do every day, again and again, for the next 100 years? This is what excites you, this is where your passion lies and this should become (at least part of) your career.

There may be some ideas swimming around in your head right now, but before you storm in your boss’s office with your two-week notice, let’s cover just a few more important details about turning your passion into a career.

Why excitement matters

It doesn’t take too much searching to find someone who has chosen a particular career path because it’s easy, stable or lucrative. While these aren’t necessarily bad characteristics of any job, without it also involving your passion, you will spend the majority of your life deferring your happiness to the weekends or retirement.

Excitement and passion for your job also helps you to excel in your field. When you love what you do, you take pride in your work and strive to be better at it each and every day. A job should do more than provide a pay check, it should provide a stage for you to showcase your best talents to the world. Pursuing a career that excites you will ensure you look back on your life’s work with satisfaction.

Understanding what really excites you        

If you’re asked “What excites you?” you might answer “Sports.” But we have to dig deeper. Simply saying “sports” is too broad of answer that doesn’t give us a clear indication as to what exactly about sports excites you. There are countless options.  Is it the element of competition, the energy of the crowd or the impressive athletic performance that you enjoy the most?

To better pinpoint your passion, we must peel away the layers of your initial answer by asking “Why?” at least five more times. For every answer, turn it into a question and ask yourself again. If you initially answered, “I like sports because of the element of competition.” Then ask, “Why do you like the element of competition?” This may seem redundant, but you’ll be surprised as to how it identifies what really excites you.

Turning excitement into a career

Once you have a narrow focus on your true passion, you will find that there are many career options that will allow you to tap into your passion on a daily basis. You may also be surprised with how different each option is. For me, it was foremost my passion for creative writing. The communications field obviously provided an opportunity to utilize this passion, but so did political campaigns, speech writing, website design and advertising agencies, to name just a few.

It’s important to think beyond the literal interpretation of your passion. Sure, you may be passionate about eating baked goods, but you have more options than becoming a baker. This love for food can also be turned into a passionate career as a food blogger, marketing director within a snack food company, food photographer or graphic/web designer that specializes in web sites for bakeries. Get creative and keep an open mind! A job will still involve work (sorry, there’s no way around that) but when it taps into your passion, even the work will become a labor of love.

If we want to reverse the dangerous trend of seeking careers solely for security and stability, we need to stop asking “What do you want to do?” or “What do you want to be?” And instead start asking, “What gets you excited?”  This is the easiest way to pinpoint your passion and ensure a life’s journey filled with fulfillment and joy.

Where does your passion lie? Share your own search for inspiration in the comments below!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Make Your Business Strategy a Mile Deep and a Foot Wide

mile deep foot wideYou can’t scroll through your social media news feed without coming across an article, video or photo that has gone viral. And don’t forget about the sponsored posts that force us to consume information all because Facebook says it fits our demographic. This communication overload can lead us to believe that we must utilize every marketing strategy out there in order to grab the attention of potential clients or customers.

This goes against the longstanding wisdom to be “a mile deep a foot wide.” And by that I mean – be selective about where you dedicate your time and money and choose only the strategies that best fit your goals and audience.

Instead, I’ve been seeing a growing trend where business owners spread their time and budget thin by trying to do it all. While an effective communications strategy requires a variety of tactics, it also requires you to be selective with your tactics and then focus your full attention on doing them exceptionally well.

So why should you rethink your complicated and scattered communications, marketing, advertising or business strategy? Here are four key reasons why being a mile deep and a foot wide will better serve your business and your bottom line.

You’ll be able to devote more resources to what makes the greatest impact.

When you try to do it all, you can’t provide each task with the time and attention it needs to produce the best results. So often, I’ve seen business owners throw their hands up as to why – with all that they are doing – nothing seems to be making a difference. Instead of stopping to take a look at the chaos and disorganization of their strategy, they try and do more.  And so the downward spiral continues.

The only solution is to stop, breathe and take a critical look at where you’re devoting your resources. If the depth of your tactics is not yet a mile deep, your breadth should be no more than a foot wide. More simply put, first master the tactics that are producing the greatest results before adding in anything additional. Once you’ve found a good pace and are happy with your ROI, you can slowly explore with more variables.

You’ll be able to more easily identify what’s working.

If you begin your communications efforts with a massive strategy right out of the gate, it’s going to be difficult to identify exactly what tactic is helping you reach your goals. Changing everything at once will only add more confusion as to what’s really working – and what isn’t.

Instead, the “doing less, but doing it well” approach will allow you to more easily identify what each tactic is accomplishing as you slowly add them in one by one. If your web hits skyrocket over one quarter’s time and the only thing you changed was adding in a monthly e-blast, you can likely credit this as the catalyst.

Every strategy does not apply to every business.

When I help businesses to develop a comprehensive communications strategy, I’ve found that this is often misdirected with the desire to do everything they’ve ever seen another business do. I see innovative marketing techniques around me every day, but I know that only a fraction of these would work well for my business. The same is true for any business. Not every strategy is necessary, nor effective, for helping you reach your specific goals.

Business owners take note, you must consider many factors that make your business unique (i.e. industry, size, target customers, location) when selecting the tactics to best serve your business.  While you might be inspired by the multi-million dollar grassroots campaign of a powerhouse brand, this is not likely the most feasible or effective strategy to help you reach your specific audience.

You’ll preserve your sanity.

Finally, your ability to embrace a “mile deep and a foot wide” mindset will remove the stress and frustration caused by wasting your resources on a cluttered and misdirected communications strategy. Don’t you want to do everything to the best of your ability? Trying to do it all won’t allow you to meet this standard. Instead, narrow the breadth of your tactics and focus on their depth. Produce quality and consistent messaging that helps to build a loyal and attentive audience.

Do you practice the “mile deep and a foot wide” philosophy? Why or why not? Share your thoughts!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Outsource Work Without Losing Control

outsourcingAs a business owner or entrepreneur, your time is limited and there are only so many projects you can take on or directions in which you can be pulled before you feel like your head is going to explode.

Hiring a fulltime employee to help with this workload isn’t always the right answer, either. Sometimes the situation is better suited for a subcontractor who can tackle specific projects or lend the expertise that you’re lacking. Even if you know outsourcing work is the right answer for your business (and your sanity), it can still be a scary experience to relinquish control to an “outsider.”

Here are five key ways to outsource some of your business responsibilities without feeling like you’re losing control over the consistency and quality of the work you’re used to doing first-hand.

1. Be a part of the process

This starts at the very beginning of every project and carries out the whole way through. To maintain some control over the direction of your marketing or communications strategy or your overall brand, you have you be a part of the process. Yes, outsourcing is a wonderful opportunity to shift some of the work off of your plate and delegate it to others, yet you can’t completely disconnect from the project or you will risk becoming disconnected from a very important part of your business.

When working with a subcontractor, clearly define the roles you and everyone involved in the project will play. This will help to establish realistic expectations and clearly communicate with your contractor just how much or how little you plan to be involved. Even if you choose to only play a minor role, find a way to still be a part of the process.

2. Know what’s most important to you

It’s okay to have a few key things that are “non-negotiable.” This won’t necessarily make you a micromanager or stifle the creativity of your subcontractor, if done selectively. On any given project, you should have clearly defined goals for the work and standards to which it must adhere. When outsourcing your work, it’s the subcontractor’s job to satisfy these goals and standards, but it’s first your job to identify what’s most important to you.

For example, if you feel that the fact your business is 3rd generation family-owned is one of its most distinguishing factors, you may require your contracted copywriter to focus the web site’s content on this aspect. Select no more than 3 important factors (ideally one or two) and express these clearly from the beginning. Trust me; this will save both you and your subcontractor a lot of time and revisions in the long run and help them to share in your vision from the start.

3. Be accessible

When you can’t be reached, decisions will have to be without you and they may not be what you would have preferred. The lesson here is to be accessible to your subcontractors throughout the project. This will keep you involved in the process (as I stressed in my first point) and in control of final decisions.

So what are reasonable expectations for being “accessible?” Respond to emails or phone calls within one business day – or at least acknowledge that you’re working on an answer if one can’t be made in that time frame. As a business owner, it’s often the deadlines that you’ve set that the subcontractor is working to meet. If you become a plug in the process, you’ll either get cut out or have projects that stretch far past their due date. Both consequences can be avoided simply by being accessible when needed.

4. Select your contractors carefully

When looking to outsource work, one of the first areas you have complete control over is who you hire. Simply put, choose carefully.

You should take as much care in hiring a contract worker as you would hiring a fulltime employee. Even though they won’t be working in your office, they still need to mesh with the company’s culture and share in your vision. Overlooking this important decision will most certainly result in a disconnect between your existing messaging and branding and the work done by a subcontractor.

5. Check-in on a regular basis

This doesn’t mean micromanaging every task, but it does mean staying apprised of the work your contractor is doing for you and checking in with them on a regular basis. This will effectively address (and stop) any straying from your company’s brand and help to create cohesive and consistent messaging.

To establish an appropriate time frame for your regular check-ins, first think about the scope and length of the project. If it’s detail intensive or urgent, you should plan to check-in with your contractor at a set time on a weekly basis. If the project is ongoing, straightforward and consistent, you can scale back to checking in with your contractor monthly or quarterly. Remember to always be accessible in between these regular meetings as well!

Do you use contractors for any of your business’s responsibilities? How do you maintain control when outsourcing this work?

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 939 other followers

%d bloggers like this: