Love Local: How to Find the Perfect Match when Outsourcing Closer to Home
As a ‘nation of shopkeepers’, the UK knows a thing or two about the value of local businesses – and this goes beyond a Friday cappuccino at your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop. When it comes to streamlining the inner workings of your own business, the benefits of outsourcing to a smaller local firm over a larger national (or even global) corporation not only come down to competitive pricing, but also the quality and bespoke nature of a service – not always guaranteed within a bigger chain; let’s face it, nobody really wants to pay for those extra sprinkles.
Offering cloud-based bookkeeping to small and micro-businesses, KPMG’s recent decision to cease its Small Business Accounting service is just one example of how an uncertain economic landscape can suddenly leave unsuspecting, locally-based clients in the lurch, and without a consultant to turn to. Whether this might be you, or you’re re-addressing your current outsourcing to improve efficiency, you’ll want to think carefully about how future partnerships measure up to your standards. Whatever expertise your business requires – from website building and social media strategy to accountancy and making tax digital – check any prospective contenders against a pre-agreed criteria to ensure you’ve made the right match.
Communication is King
In your endeavour to grow as a business (and focus your talents where they are truly needed), outsourcing to a third-party is a pivotal step for any SME. Naturally, you’ll want to know exactly how things are getting on, so a firm with exceptional communication skills is key. First impressions are a powerful gift, and you’ll soon be able to gauge how committed a consultant is to maintaining this level of transparency – from their manner as an individual and how clearly they deliver a pitch, to that all-important courtesy of a follow-up email. Ask how often you can expect to receive progress updates, and how they plan to keep in touch; the suggestion of occasional face-to-face meetings can also offer peace of mind. Having a good rapport with your consultant, and knowing your business is in safe, capable hands, is worth its weight in gold.
A Proven Track Record
It goes without saying that any consultant entrusted with the important task of servicing your business should meet your expectations. Do your research and enquire into their client roster, past and present, and – if not already displayed on their website – ask them to provide any recent case studies or success stories that further bolster their portfolio. Do they offer an award-winning service of any kind and, most importantly, how well do their client testimonials sing their praises? When it comes to the calibre of your chosen consultant, take the time to better understand their company ethos and values. How are they committed to supporting the local community and you as a business, and what is it that qualifies them to join your shortlist of candidates?
Every business comes with a budget and all services come at a price. Your consultant, however, should always be willing to negotiate a bespoke package to best suit the needs of your business. Ultimately, this degree of flexibility is also what makes your chosen firm the most competitive, as opposed to an outdated, rigid pricing structure offered elsewhere. When presented with a contract, ask them to walk you through it and question any detail, no matter how small, that may seem unclear. If something appears to be missing, flag it at this early stage to avoid any unnecessary hidden costs further down the line (while over-analysing any small print). Payment-wise, enquire as to whether this is also flexible to avoid paying the full fee up-front. This can sometimes prove a costly sum that not all businesses can afford from the outset, but shouldn’t hinder the proceedings if a manageable approach is agreed.
The Futureproof Factor
No matter how long a business has been around, innovation is crucial should they wish to weather the storm of an uncertain economic climate. A firm that remains futureproof takes pride in promoting thought leadership within their industry and sharing their insight as experts – whether this be via networking events, a company blog, or their LinkedIn page. Companies with a strong digital presence will always remain one step ahead of those competitors who last posted content five years ago, and demonstrates an eagerness to always stay relevant. In this regard, a reactive strategy and ability to adapt to the ever-shifting demands of clients are what truly give these consultants staying power. Crucially, seek out that extra spark that helps your chosen firm retain its current clientele – from offering a free consultation to discounted packages further down the line, or a cup of tea and a friendly face when you really need it the most.