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10 reasons that start-ups 100% absolutely should outsource (almost) everything

By Melissa Chang

Outsourcing sometimes feels like a dirty word. But for companies that are just starting out, outsourcing is an essential tool for getting off the ground and moving out of the start-up phase. The most common reason for outsourcing is to lower costs, but there are many other positive reasons to outsource.

Here are 10 reasons that every start-up should outsource (almost) everything.

1. Outsourcing lets companies be an expert in everything. On a typical day, a start-up needs to build software, design a new logo, write marketing copy, put together financial data, create an audience development plan and build a power point presentation — all before noon. To be able to do each of these things expertly would require a staff with diverse specialties. It’s more likely that a start-up has a founder who is piecing together half-baked graphics while his roommate hacks away at some copy. Outsourcing lets companies hire experts for every task, making sure that each aspect of the business is top-notch.

2. Outsourcing extends your business contacts. By working with a large number of people, in all fields and specialties, start-ups will extend their professional networks. A Web designer that a company works with just might be the brother of a venture capitalist or have a great sales person as a roommate. The more people a start-up has working on various tasks, the more people it will be able to reach out to when it’s time to network.

3. Outsourcing allows for some flexibility with spending. During good months, a start-up can spend more, ramping up development and getting a lot of projects done at once. During the slower months, a struggling company can cut back, either trimming or eliminating its outsourcing for that month.

4. Outsourcing gives companies a chance to work with people they need but might not like. During some phase of the start-up, there will probably be a job that needs the expertise of someone that someone in the company knows and has worked with in the past, but is fairly unsavory. Perhaps that person is just unappealing to the vibe of the start-up, or maybe the person is downright mean and nasty — but that person’s skills are good, oh so good. Outsourcing is the answer.

5. Outsourcing keeps a company thinking about international opportunities. When a company does international outsourcing, its employees are interacting with people who from an entirely different culture. This will help a start-up keep its eyes fixed on the global marketplace and aware of opportunities to expand internationally.

6. Outsourcing gives employees a chance to practice their management skills. Start-up companies often have inexperienced managers as early hires. Having those employees manage outsourced relationships will give the untested managers some quick experience that they will be able to apply to in-office management as the staff expands.

7. Outsourcing provides a captive audience for refining a pitch. When a start-up outsources, there is a lot of early explaining that needs to be done to partners about what the business is, what it is going to do, and how it works. This is an excellent time for the founders and early staff members to begin practicing the start-up pitch and refining the company’s key selling propositions, features and benefits, and other key business points that they’ll need to make time and again.

8. Outsourcing keeps you from hiring the wrong person. A bad employee hurts every company, but a bad hire can destroy a start-up. Early hires in start-ups need to be considered very carefully, because they can make or break the business. Outsourcing allows a start-up to get work done while taking its time on hiring key employees.

9. Outsourcing makes companies more efficient. A start-up that outsources the majority of its tasks will always look for more things to outsource. By looking for jobs to “give away,” the start-up will be able to group similar work with one outsourcing partner — efficiently combining tasks that might otherwise have been completed by multiple people.

10. Outsourcing lets companies change direction quickly. Start-ups often require a few starts and stops before zeroing in on the long-term business model. Outsourcing lets a start-up “change its mind” quickly, adding and eliminating providers as needed without the burden and pain of hiring and firing full-time staff.

The only thing that should be sacred for start-ups — the one thing that should never, ever be outsourced — is that one special thing that makes the company unique. Each founder should know what that thing is for their company. That thing, whatever it may be, should never be outsourced.

Everything else is fair game.

Melissa Chang is the founder of Pure Incubation, an Internet incubator based in the Boston area.

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