Understanding how to leverage remote workers

July 5, 2012 · Posted in Accounting 

Smaller businesses today are not at all like they were even 15 years back. Not only is building a small business a complex undertaking, it’s also continually changing. Back in the day you used to place postings in the local newspaper when you needed help, today if you want the most bang for your buck you’ll be searching online, sometimes for folks living in distant countries. The movement towards using folks you find on the internet means you should know about how to locate, manage, and keep an eye on these people.

Outsourced or remote workers break out into about four different categories: BPO, KPO, Technology Services, and Virtual Assistants. Let’s take a look at them.

BPO, or Business Process Outsourcing, is where you have a defined and quantifiable business process and would like to have somebody else do it, like gathering sales leads, replying to inquiries, answering the phone, and so forth. If you’ve checked out business books like the E-Myth, you understand that your most important job as a small company owner is to construct a system that operates on its own. You don’t want to be constantly needed. This means for a large number of your processes you’ll want to write detailed guidelines and standardize them. BPO allows you to take these directions and give them to to people you have selected from around the globe so they can do them.

Knowledge Process Outsourcing, or KPO, is when you trust your overseas helpers to think for you, performing research, analysis, working on their own, and so on. Dealing with anybody over the phone or internet is very difficult as it is. Knowledge Process Outsourcing is often particularly tough. Typically the guideline is that nobody cares about your business as much as you care. Asking people to think for you is very challenging. This is common in some industries, however.

Technology Services Outsourcing, or TSO, is where international helpers help do a lot of technology-related tasks for you like managing internet servers or corporate services. The majority of small businesses won’t require this type of work, but it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with them.

Virtual Assistants are the service you may very well use the most of as a small company. They can blend all of the above kinds of work depending on what you ask for. As long as they work well, they’re just like having a “girl friday” at your beck and call; handling calendars, gathering data, answering the phone. You can find a highly-trained person on the internet to help you out with administrative duties for a substantial savings off locating somebody nearby.

While for larger project work you need to decide on a company to work with, there are plenty of sites for finding 1 or 2 workers at one time. Some popular ones are www.99designs.com (for design work), www.agentsolo.com (for professional services), www.contractedwork.com (general contracting work), www.elance.com (the leading site for finding and hiring on-demand workers), and www.guru.com.

Managing remote workers is a book in itself, but below are a few tips.

- Record every little thing. Obscure verbal instructions or not-thought-through ideas will not get what you need done – Expect failure. You must hire more than once or twice to get the hang of it – Get feedback from them in a couple of hours, not weekly. Little tiny steps to begin with – Some types of work will never work with somebody not at the office – Forget about humor. It’s almost impossible to do well remotely – Use email and Instant Messaging every day – Provide an introduction to why this task is critical and exactly how it works – Supply an upper limit or cap to how long you believe it should take and don’t pay if it runs past that

Using international helpers, whether virtual assistants or outsourcing companies, is a brand-new way of looking at your business. It will demand lots of learning and patience, but it can compensate you with a more effective organization and smoother progress. For many sectors, it’s also the sole way forward.

Interested in optimizing and growing your small business? Take a look at the writer’s article on writing your first paycheck stub and his blog on all things paychecks and paperwork.

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