Bear with me, I'm talking about outsourcing.

DON'T keep a dog and bark too! Then again, if you can bark...why have a dog?

Bear with me...I'm not barking mad...we're talking about outsourcing.

These days, it is common for people to follow the outsourcing trend - which has led to a plethora of businesses dedicated to taking care of the most mundane domestic (or otherwise!) chores.

While 'outsourcing' may be a hot topic now, it really isn't new news. Businesses have been outsourcing for almost as long as business has been around! Think about it...unless she's very multi-skilled, even your cleaning lady will outsource at least her accounting.

The topic of outsourcing is today usually accompanied by a discussion of outsourcing overseas. Everyone has their story to tell of calling an overseas call centre and struggling with the fractured English and sometimes helpful advice or assistance on the other end of the line. While outsourcing overseas may achieve some cost savings, the real cost in terms of customer service shortfalls and damage to the business's reputation needs to be factored in to the equation.

This shortfall gives outsourcing a bad name - which it doesn't necessarily deserve.

This leads me to the number one rule of outsourcing:

Make sure it fits your business model. If you are a 'bricks and mortar' business that relies heavily on face-to-face interaction with your customers, it is unlikely that those same customers will tolerate the outsourcing of your customer service function. However, I have seen many examples of online businesses that are able to offer 24 hour personal customer service by having three virtual assistants in time zones around the world! This works extremely well for them, as it fits the business model.

In comes rule number two: be prepared to acknowledge that you're a poor barker.

The availability of professional assistance in a range of skills online is really quite remarkable. A great example of this is our exceler8 logo - it was developed by a talented young designer who lives in the US...and we've never met her. We're business consultants, not graphic designers - so we acknowledged that we were 'poor barkers' in that area, and outsourced. The result is better than anything we would have ever come up with!

From a business perspective, the list of things you could outsource is nearly endless - other than the core function of your business...which we recommend that you keep doing!

Here are just a few of the things you could outsource in your business:
Accounting, marketing, graphic design, administration work, manufacturing, copywriting, website design, human resource management, strategy and planning (though you should have some input into that!), financial control and administration, legal services, event planning, PR and promotions...the list goes on!

The key here is to realise that you're not good at it, and then work out how you could outsource it.

Homework for this week - carry a notebook (or iPhone) around, and just take note of the tasks that fill you with a sudden and deep sense of dread.

Next step? Outsource!