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Outsourcing core business responsibilities  

Another chat I had with another entrepreneur, who runs a London-based design business, was about his struggles in hiring a marketing guy. He had hired someone, but it hadn't worked out at all, so he was looking for someone else to recruit in that role, and hoping to get introduced to someone good.

"Why do you need a marketing guy?" I asked, first. "Startup-friendly design shops are already in high demand. Usually, you split marketing off from sales when you need to generate more demand, more leads for the sales team."

After a bit of digging, it turned out that what he needed was really a salesperson. Moreover, he didn't really need to hire someone - he needed to go out and understand the sales process for his company, before then hiring someone (once he knew what skills they needed) and training them to sell his product. And that's assuming that the sales process did indeed end up time-consuming enough to require someone full-time.

It's very difficult to hire the right person (whether in or out of your company) unless you understand the work you're hiring them for. In fact, I'd argue that to a large extent, you need to have done that work yourself before you can parcel it off to someone else.

Ray Grieselhuber makes a similar point about UX/UI design work, but really it applies to anything that's a core competency of your business:

(...) I learned far more about the UX that my customers needed after launching than I did before launching. If I had committed to an outsourced designer, everytime I wanted to make fundamental changes to the user experience, I would be stuck in a cycle that required getting their time, communicating the problem and going through an even longer cycle of the inevitable revisions.

The E-myth said it well: you should never abdicate a responsibility, only ever delegate it.

Startups exist to explore a business need and identify a solution to it (and then, monetise the hell out of it). Anything that's core to the startup, before it has transitioned into being a business (i.e. a sustainable, scalable entity that profitably fulfills a business need) is probably not something you can pass on to others.

That includes:

  • Sales
  • UI/UX (and anything else falling under the general heading of "Product Development")
  • Copywriting
  • Evangelism
  • Fundraising
  • Cash flow management
  • Hiring

...and I've probably forgotten a few.

More from the library:
Recall vs recognition for search
Hot markets and flying turkeys
How to rely on other businesses