Sometimes I get criticized by my peers for the way I get things done with my businesses. And to be frank, I’m fully aware that the way I do things is not always the most efficient.
For example, whenever there’s a problem that I need to solve, I try to spin my own solution before I look for outside help.
When it comes to my WordPress blog, I absolutely hate using plugins and I only use 3rd party software for functions that I already know how to implement myself.
When I do in fact use a plugin, I like to study the source code in order to understand how the plugin works at a high level before I hit the “activate” button.
I’ve also been known to reinvent the wheel. Even though there are perfectly good solutions out there that are sometimes free, I’ll often take a stab at coding my own implementation in order to fully understand the problem at hand.
Now a lot of you who are reading this post are probably shaking your heads. And I’ll be the first to admit that my method of operation can be quite inefficient from a time to market standpoint.
After all, if you read practically any small business blog out there, the general rule of thumb is to outsource as many tasks as possible that are outside of your core competency to someone else.
Focus on what you are good at doing and have others do the rest. Seems like perfectly logical advice right? But I try not to follow it.
My Take On Learning
Now before you close the window and stop reading altogether, I want you to hear me out and listen to my own point of view on why I do things the way that I do.
First and foremost, the most important aspect of starting a business for me is the learning experience. Of course, making money is important as well but the fun part for me is furthering my business and technical knowledge.
If there’s a problem that needs to be solved, I want to understand every facet of what I’m trying to achieve. I want to understand all of the details and options at my disposal.
So whenever I need a new feature implemented on my blog or online store, my first instinct is to do things for the sake of learning so that I can add yet another skill to my tool belt. And most of the time, I don’t care if things take a little longer to get done as long as I’m gaining more knowledge and depth.
Sometimes the learning process requires me to write my own code from scratch. Sometimes, it involves doing extensive research online. Sometimes it involves carefully studying someone else’s methodology. But the end result is that I always come out of the process more self sufficient, more confident, more knowledgeable and more experienced.
Being Self Sufficient Will Save You Time And Money
Now it can be very tempting to outsource as much as you can to a 3rd party. And honestly, if you have the money and limited time, it often makes sense to do so. But as a small business owner or solopreneur who doesn’t have a ton of resources, it helps tremendously to become a jack of all trades.
Now you don’t have to be a master at everything you do but keep in mind that when you outsource a task or a feature to another individual or company, you learn absolutely nothing. And when you know nothing, that puts you and your small business at the mercy of someone else who may not have the same interests as you do.
For example when you hire a programmer or a designer and know nothing about web design, it’s very easy to be taken advantage of. And I’ve seen even the simplest of projects turn into big time money pits because of a lack of knowledge and poor specifications.
When you outsource your ecommerce store to a fully hosted provider, you are essentially handing over the reins for your business to someone else without an alternative. Now you might think that they can do a better job than you can, but I’ve seen many fully hosted shopping cart platforms go down for extended periods without an apology or refund.
In fact, one of the best known fully hosted shopping carts on the market has been extremely unstable since their last update (ask me about this privately if you want to know which providers to avoid).
I’ve also seen 3rd party platforms like Ebay jack up their rates to the point where it’s hard to make a profit. I’ve seen providers like Etsy change their policies and leaving many sellers in the dust.
That is why I always recommend to all of my online store students to at least give the open source shopping cart route a shot and completely owning the source code for your shop. By investing a little bit of time in learning the basics, you can be in full control of your own destiny and contain the risks of long term failure.
Becoming A Jack Of All Trades Has Saved My Butt
By taking some extra time to learn instead of outsource, I’ve saved myself from a ton headaches on several occasions. For example, because I host my own sites and I have a pretty good working knowledge of the source code since I set everything up myself, I can usually fix problems quickly as they arise.
When my site got hacked, I was able to diagnose the problem quickly and close the holes. When my blog kept crashing my server, I was able to figure out the cause and apply the appropriate fixes as outlined in this post.
When my accountant screwed up my tax return, I was able to diagnose the issue and found additional tax deductions in the process.
But what if I had outsourced everything and had no clue what was going on? When my site got hacked, I probably would have been down for a long time and lost countless dollars in the process.
With my blog, I probably would have blindly upgraded my web hosting and needlessly spent more money. With my taxes, I would have missed out on a few key tax deductions if I didn’t study up on the tax rules.
Bottom line, it pays to learn the basics especially if these skills are not a part of your core competency. As a small business owner, you can greatly improve you chances of success by becoming a well rounded entrepreneur.
My Rules For Outsourcing
So to conclude this post, I’d like to present to you some of my own basic rules of outsourcing. Now these rules may be a little extreme for some of you but the more that you can afford to follow, the more well rounded you will be.
- Never outsource anything that has to do with your unique value proposition or core competency. If one of the value adds of your business is great customer service, don’t outsource your customer service. Always handle mission critical tasks in house and don’t even think about outsourcing them.
- Never outsource a task that you have absolutely no clue about. In other words, you need to get a clue first. For example if you don’t know anything about web design, take some time to learn about the limitations of technology and get a good idea about the extent of the work involved before you hire anyone. You don’t have to become an expert but you need to know the basics.
- Only outsource tasks that you could probably do yourself but don’t have the time and inclination or if it doesn’t make economic sense. If you know how to do something already and you don’t enjoy doing it, then it makes sense to outsource the task because you wouldn’t be learning anything by doing it yourself anyways. For example, I could create my own email marketing platform by myself from scratch but it’s much easier to use Aweber for my email needs
- Don’t blindly use 3rd party software. This especially applies to free WordPress plugins. I’ve considered using several useful plugins in the past only to discover that they were horribly inefficient and poorly written when I looked at the source. Be careful what you install on your blog and spin your own code if possible!
- Consider how you would do things yourself before even thinking about outsourcing. Do whatever it takes to figure things out. Sometimes, this might mean coding something up yourself. It could mean having to perform extensive research on best practices. The more you think about a problem, the more effectively you’ll be able to weigh your options
- Do as much in house as you can. Every single aspect of your business that you outsource is another potential point of failure. No one else is going to care about your business more than you so it pays to be in control of as much as you can.
So that’s how I like to roll. It might not be the most efficient way to run a business but it ensures that I’m constantly learning and that I’m able to gain a depth of knowledge in a wide variety of areas.
My main philosophy is that even if your business falls flat on its face and fails completely, you’ll still have the knowledge gained in the process.
If anything, running my businesses this way has allowed me to teach my online store course that much more effectively because I have a depth of knowledge in many different topics. What do you think? Do you agree with my philosophy?
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