I don’t know if it is a construction industry thing or a personality thing, but it seems like, as electrical contractors, we think we can do it all. The downside is that we can easily be consumed by low-value tasks that must be accomplished but don’t move business forward. Or maybe we have grown as a company, but not by enough to justify hiring another full-time employee. Most contractors haven’t considered outsourcing when looking to free up their time, company resources or help grow their businesses.
As a contractor, you may serve as the CEO, project manager, estimator and electrician. Wearing many hats easily consumes most of your time. All this can lead to workdays of 12 hours or more, 70-hour-plus workweeks and nonexistent vacations. This doesn’t even include life outside of work with family and friends. How can you get some of your free time back and focus on the most important aspects of your business? Are there a few tasks you could get outside workers to do occasionally?
Consider a scenario in which you have graduated from wearing every hat and built a team to help your business grow. Usually, you have enough employees to get your jobs done, but, at some point, there could be more opportunities to bid than time to prepare the estimates. It doesn’t look like the workload will be this heavy in the coming months, but you really want to get these projects bid now.
You’ve come to a fork in the road. How do you proceed?
One option is to hire a full-time estimator to help with the workload, but what will you have them do when things slow down again? Plus, this means increasing your overall budget. Did you even budget for this new position?
A second option is to outsource some of the estimating workload to a freelance estimator or estimating service. With this option, you can bid all the projects but won’t have to increase your overhead.
In both scenarios, your most limited resource is time. Outsourcing can be a great way to buy more time for yourself. This allows you to focus on the high-value tasks associated with business ownership and shift some of the workload. This can be hard because you may feel there is a particular way of doing things, or you don’t like spending money on something you can do yourself. As a business owner, I felt the same way. In the end, once I started outsourcing some administrative tasks, I found I could focus on finding and cultivating new customers. When we get down to it, outsourcing is a low-cost way to free up time or help grow the business.
Resources are humane
As a business grows, seemingly simple tasks can become more complicated and time-consuming. Tasks that took a few minutes with a handful of employees now take an hour or two with more. With this growth, you may need to find someone with HR training to help with compliance issues, payroll and other employee-management tasks.
When you decide to outsource, ask yourself some questions. First, do you want to outsource the work to an individual or a company? When hiring an individual freelancer, you will typically pay less than with a company. However, one disadvantage to outsourcing to an individual is if something happens to them, they may not be able to meet the deadlines you have agreed to.
If you outsource to a company, the service provider most likely has a team of individuals that can step in.
Do not forget that, regardless of who you outsource to, they do not share the same risks as you do for completed work. For example, most outside estimating companies will only assume liability up to the amount you agree to pay them for the estimate. This could be a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, which is nowhere close to the amount if there is a bust in the estimate.
Regardless of your reason for outsourcing, it is important to remember a few key points:
- Set clear expectations for what services are being provided to you.
- Clearly define the deliverables, timeline and compensation.
- Ask for references; be sure to check them.
- While these temporary workers are not employees, interview them as if they will become part of your team. You want to make sure it is a good fit.
There are many reasons to consider outsourcing, but remember, you should be looking for reputation and quality.