Golden Business Ideas


Smart Outsourcing Strategies

No question about it, outsourcing is a great idea. But it’s an idea that needs some careful strategic thinking before jumping into it. For example:

Never outsource your core business—even if it can save you money in the short run. Lose control of your core business and you’re guaranteed to lose your competitive edge.

Don’t let cost savings alone be the deciding factor in making an outsourcing decision. If you believe that your creative talents (and time) are wasted by doing some mechanical chore that someone else could do just as well, then it might be best to outsource it. Just be sure it’s not a core revenue-producing activity.

Recognize that even the best legal contract cannot save you from conflict with an outsource partner. Your best defense is selecting a partner that reflects your business style and understands the reason you’re outsourcing.

Resist outsourcing any part of your customer relations activities. Those areas are too sensitive to trust to someone outside your business.

Establish clear-cut performance standards for an outsource provider, and set up a process to monitor them regularly.

Hacker Protection

Check the liability coverage for your business and your clients to be sure that it covers computer incidents such as attacks from hackers and viruses. More likely than not, current policies offer minimal protection at best. The generic name for such coverage is electronic commerce insurance.

Rewards for Creative Types

Traditional rewards—such as public praise or recognition plaques—for exceptional performance don’t work for all employees. Staff members who handle technical or creative tasks tend to get their satisfaction from the work itself, and they usually recognize a job well done a lot better than their supervisors. More often than not, they rate success less by the results and more by how they achieved them.

So how best to reward them? Focus on time off, more flexible hours, opportunities to work at home. And even better: Give them more challenging tasks and goals.

The Best Survey Question

When conducting a survey of employees (and you should do that from time to time), one of the best questions is: What keeps you from doing your job as well as you would like to?

It not only invites employees to focus on their specific area of knowledge and expertise, it gives them an opportunity to disclose how well they really want to do the job.

Important: Once you’ve asked the question, be sure you act on the suggestions—and do it visibly.

Using E-mail Wisely

Be cautious about using e-mail as a marketing tool: It can backfire. Many people are offended by unsolicited e-mail—called spam. If they receive your mail, they may not only ask you to stop sending more, they may cut you off as a business supplier.

What can you do? If e-mail marketing is a valuable tool for your operation, develop a way to encourage customers or potential customers to want to get your mail. For example, offer a free gift for those who agree to be on your mailing list. It could be a business report or financial guide—in other words, something they will find useful.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( zarowin@mindspring.com ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

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