I realize it isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it has been around for a REALLY long time. I would go as far to say as it is how anything that has ever been successful in this world works.
Whether or not the world works like that, I’ve always though the idea of outsourcing certain things was always a really silly idea. I come from a very talented family and from a young age I saw my father, grandfathers and uncles do everything from general construction to roofing to plumbing to painting to electrical work to building computers to working on cars. Ever since I had things to fix or build, I always just did it myself unless my dad advised otherwise (you know…things like replacing the head gasket in cars).
When I bought my house 5 years ago, that continued on and I started tackling projects just the same (of course, enlisting extra hands from friends along the way). I installed a new floor, replaced walls and doors and threw a big painting party to get the paint done. Then it was time to bring my basement out of the 70’s into something a little more modern. I knew it would be a long process if I did it all myself. I was ok with that because I would be learning a ton and I had the aptitude to do it. In the end, I was looking at improving the house AND learning new skills, so it all worked out.
Like any Webber, I took a deep breath and went in to knock out the projects myself. I generally did things as I had bits and pieces of time over weekends or evenings. I started with replacing walls and some electrical and plumbing. I then got some buddies to help hang the new drywall. After looking into taping/mudding the drywall, I realized it was a good idea to outsource that. Sure, it would cost me some $$, but the time and effort it was going to take me to do just as good of a job as having a professional take care of it really made it worth it. I can’t say I was fond of shelling out the cash, but in the end it was really pretty nice to have that done and out of the way. This was my first step into outsourcing bits of construction on my house.
When I started my company a few years back, it was just to do some freelance programming on the side. After I lost my job and took my freelancing fulltime, I started gaining some pretty good momentum in clients and the amount of work I was getting in. So much so, that I started to get overwhelmed with all the work I had to do. I started working 80 hours a week to get all this crap done and realized this wasn’t sustainable. It was somewhere in the midst of that where David Lingholm said on twitter “Strong Leaders identify people they can trust and let them do the work. Weak ones need to do everything.” This quote hit me square in the face.
I always believed I was good leader, but if I were to be defined by this quote I would be considered weak. Now, I don’t think the quote necessarily applies directly to outsourcing, but I think the connection can be pretty strongly made. When a company starts to grow, the leader needs to step out of the way so the work can be shared among people he (or she) trusts. This also allows more work to be done in the same time span.
As the work started piling up, I quickly looked into my twittodex (twitter + rolodex = twittodex…right?) and found an awesome guy who has the same passion as me at turning out really good code quickly.
I found a guy I trusted, and started handing him the extra work I had and it was very freeing.
As work continued to grow, I had to enlist the help of other good programmers. As I was finding more people I trusted, my company could then accept and handle more work while still allowing me to spend time with my family, work with customers who request me specifically and still continue to build my company. I started liking this so much that I started thinking about other ways I could “outsource” my responsibilities and help more things knocked out of the ever growing todo list of life.
There were two places I started looking for ways I could get out of the way and give others a chance to step in and grow (or at least do what they are good at): church and home improvement.
At church I started realizing that I was hindering the growth of my volunteers by always stepping in and taking care of problems. At church, we talk about “Helping People Take Next Steps With God” and I was definitely hindering that by needing to handle everything and be there all the time. So, I started scheduling two people per Sunday to handle the computer and the video switcher. I then started backing off and letting them do the work and troubleshooting when something went wrong. I was there to help catch them if something catastrophic happened. The most amazing thing I am seeing in each one of them? They are getting more and more comfortable knowing they can handle things. I LOVE THIS!
At home, I realized that the unfinished projects looming over me were really causing some major stress. I realized that there were friends of mine that could help alleviate some of that stress by me paying them for doing what they are good at. In fact, right now, I have some awesome guys finishing up the work in my office so it’s not an unfinished space/storage room anymore.
Right now, this is just the beginning. I’m working through organizing how I do business and starting to put processes in place. I’ve been streamlining the process at church for a while. It is now time to take what I’ve learned there and push it out to other areas where I am involved.
Overall this has been huge for me. Leading others and helping them seeing into their potential and helping them be successful (whether in volunteering or by giving them business) has directly caused me to be more successful.
The part I didn’t talk about though is really how much I enjoy doing a lot of these things I’m outsourcing. I still get to do what I enjoy, it’s just more in moderation and manageable chunks now.
How are you going to start outsourcing?