January 19, 2012

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Small Business Should Consider Outsourcing

Hilary Ingoldsby Whitesides

January 19, 2012

If there’s one thing Mary Crafts knows how to do, it’s throw a good party. Crafts, who is the founder, owner and creative director of Culinary Crafts, has been organizing events for more than 25 years. After trying her hand as a social worker for a brief time, Crafts quickly knew that she wanted to do something more creative and more flexible. She soon found herself in the kitchen, cooking up goodies for family and friends’ gatherings. What started out as a fun way to make extra money on the side quickly turned into a full-fledged business. Today, Culinary Crafts is an award-winning company that organizes approximately 500 events each year. The company’s list of clients includes Sports Illustrated, International Olympic Committee and the Sundance Film Festival. As Crafts’ popularity quickly increased, she confronted a question faced by many growing companies: How could she continue to produce great quality while meeting increasing business needs? For Crafts the answer was surprisingly simple: “Do what I do best and let others offer what they do best.” A Tangled Web As fast as Crafts’ business was growing, technology was changing even faster. Crafts remembers clearly when she first purchased a computer and printer for her business, but still used the fax machine at the business across the street. And the first time a customer asked if Crafts could e-mail her some information, she recalls responding, “Yes, but you’ll have to wait until my son gets home from school.” Technology was changing and Crafts knew that she needed to change with it. She decided that she needed to grow her online presence, including building a stronger website and utilizing social media. But like many small business owners, Crafts also realized that her expertise wasn’t in IT. She made the decision to focus on her core competencies while enlisting the help of a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company. “As an old dog, it’s been hard to teach me new tricks,” says Crafts, whose company blog and Twitter are handled in-house. “The SEO handles the Google analytics and getting us to the top of web searches.” Through SEO, she is also able to track what drivers bring potential clients to the Culinary Crafts website. She also receives feedback regarding where marketing might be beneficial. “They feed back to us what we need to be doing and it’s a win-win situation,” Crafts says. As a result, the Culinary Crafts website is one of Utah’s top websites for venues. Long story short: Crafts’ decision to outsource her online needs to an SEO company has been a cost- and time-saving method that has helped her company stay successful. Building a Team As her company expanded over the years, Crafts faced a similar challenge related to human resources. Namely, she found it difficult to manage a variety of HR roles, ranging from payroll, to layoffs, to taxes, to workers compensation insurance. With approximately 500 events a year and a top-notch reputation to uphold, it’s no wonder Crafts again decided it was “better to keep office people focused on the event details and producing quality and consistent events than to have them doing taxes and human resources.” Crafts decided to enlist the help of A Plus Benefits, a local Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that offers out-sourced human resources and other administrative and legal responsibilities. Although she was admittedly nervous to turn over so many aspects of her business to an outside company, Crafts says the partnership has been very positive. “Now I can turn to them for questions on laws or other situations and I don’t have to second guess if I’m doing the best thing.” Partnering with a PEO has also allowed Crafts to offer better benefits to her employees. Because a PEO technically becomes the employer of its client’s workers for tax purposes and then leases them back to the original employer, employees are able to take advantage of a wider variety of health insurance options than a small company could normally provide. “It’s a much better situation for my employees,” Crafts says. And it’s a much better situation for Crafts, as she’s able to stay focused on event planning. The Benefits of Balance Crafts’ decision to outsource certain business practices to those who “stay on the cutting edge and have the time to devote to it” has allowed her to continue to focus on her passions, which include staff training, service, food, catering and design. She believes outsourcing has helped Culinary Crafts become the award-winning company it is today. And her mantra, to stay focused on what she does best, hasn’t shifted despite the accolades she receives. “Regardless of how many awards we have, we’re only as good as our last event.” Crafts advises small companies just starting out to consider outsourcing tasks to help the owner stay focused on his or her expertise. She also advises being open to changing with the times. “Companies have to decide what they’re going to bring under their personal umbrella and what they’re going to outsource,” Crafts says. “The only way that I had to grow the company was to outsource the things I couldn’t do and keep in-house the things that I knew how to do well.” Sidebar Leave it to the Pros Five ways outsourcing can help your company 1 - Reduces labor costs Hiring temporary staff to handle your company’s new needs can be expensive and inefficient. Outsourcing allows you to get the temporary help your company needs without adding to your staff. 2 - Increases efficiencies and allows you to stay focused Does your company have the expertise to do a variety of tasks, ranging from marketing, to distribution, to accounting? Outsourcing will allow you to tap into the expertise of others, while you and your employees stay focused on your company’s priorities. 3 - Controls capital costs Outsourcing converts fixed costs into variable costs, which frees capital for investment in other areas of your business. 4 - Reduces risk Depending on the situation, outsourcing providers can assume and manage risk for your company. 5 – Improves administrative services Most small companies can’t match the administrative services of a larger corporation. Outsourcing gives you access to experts in a cost-effective manner.
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