(Occasional) Help wanted
EAGLE COUNTY As the cost of skilled employees rises, many small businesses are looking to outsourcing as a way to streamline operations.Outsourcing is especially attractive to businesses that are seeking professional expertise, but only want to pay for what they need. As small businesses become more and more sophisticated, owners are finding they can tap into the talent of consultants and contractors as a way to bring a high level of expertise into their organizations, without the expense of hiring a full-time person. Also, experts in specialty fields are finding opportunities exist to provide services to small businesses in areas where professional job opportunities are not as readily available to them.Why outsource?While outsourcing is attractive to save on payroll, some projects are best left to the experts.Most 10-person offices dont need a full-time computer network administrator on staff, but they definitely need someone to help them with their technology-related projects, said Allen Garner, owner and lead technician with G2 Computing. Many small businesses are finding that despite relatively higher hourly rates, outsourcing is the best way to get the job done. There are also some intangible benefits to outsourcing a function or department. Usually the hidden costs of employee benefits, sick leave, and severance pay that are associated with staffing an in-house person arent there. According to Becky Sobek of Human Resources Plus, an Eagle-based human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, the actual cost of an employee is typically 135 percent of his or her salary once benefits, training, and taxes are taken into account.In addition to cost and expertise, small businesses are finding that using outside contractors buys them a very important resource: time.Robert Aikens, owner of Verbatim Book Sellers in Vail, outsources marketing projects, Web development, graphic design, data entry, bookkeeping and accounting tasks to consultants and contractors.Running a bookstore is more difficult than people think, Aikens said. I have over 100 vendors and the paperwork can be overwhelming. By using a team of outsourced contractors, Aikens is able to focus on what he does best running his business and keeping his customers happy.Im very happy with the way things are and I couldnt ask for a better group of people to be helping me achieve my goals, he said.Tips from the prosKelly Coffey of Hairbrained Marketing specializes in helping smaller businesses in the Vail Valley with their marketing. A growing trend is that small businesses are seeking smaller consulting firms to do their work.A smaller account would probably take the back seat to a larger one at a big marketing firm, said Coffey, I knew there was a good niche in working with smaller companies, and I could provide them with a higher level of service.There are other benefits to working with an independent consultant or smaller firm. With G2 Computing we are able to offer more flexibility and more responsive, personalized service than a larger firm, Garner said. With a larger firm, you never know what you are going to get. You might be getting an entry-level tech on his first day out of college. With a smaller firm like G2, you are always working directly with the expert. What if Garner gets too busy, or needs a special skill? We outsource. Garner said. We work closely with other small, but highly professional consulting firms like Managed Data or High Country Computer Services. This enables us to provide the same level of service as the big guys. Garner said there are financial advantages to working with smaller consulting firms. Rates can be 50 to 100 percent higher using a larger firm for the same types of services. Outsourcing vs. in-houseMany small business operators have a hard time knowing when to outsource a business function or a project. Whether it is an accounting error, or a computer network nightmare, many business people realize that it is worth the money to pay for expertise. Alternately, businesses also begin looking at staffing their own in-house experts when the cost for outsourcing exceeds the cost of hiring someone full-time. However, for most local small businesses, having in-house accountants, computer technology professionals, or lawyers just isnt worth the cost.While doing it yourself may seem like a good idea compared to paying a high hourly rate, experts agree that there is a hidden payoff to paying a higher rate; expert consultants can often get the job done in fewer hours than someone with less skills or training. According to Jason Anderson, a CPA with Dalby, Wendland & Co., Paying a higher hourly rate for someone that is good can often mean paying for fewer billable hours. While small businesses are sometimes hesitant to pay seemingly high hourly rates, experts agree that the real value will become apparent when you look at the total cost over the course of the year.