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The Positives of Looking Outside the Employee Roster

By Liz Elting, Co-CEO, TransPerfect

WSJ Accelerators - December 18, 2013

As a startup entrepreneur, there is something to be said for keeping your business in-house, particularly if you like to have a hand in all aspects of the company. However, this idealized vision often ends as soon as you encounter your first challenge for which you don’t have the resources.

Outsourcing has gained a somewhat negative connotation, but dismissing the strategy on those superficial grounds would be short-sighted. What’s really important for an entrepreneur is recognizing the situations where the rewards are present and avoiding those where the risks are too great.

If a startup outsources work to external specialists, founders won’t feel pressured to give internal employees tasks that fall outside core competencies or job descriptions. As such, when a project arises for which no particular employee seems well-suited, take that as a sign to look outside the employee roster. Rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole, be prepared to call in a round peg.

This is not to say that every company needs to base itself on an outsourcing model. There are, of course, still risks present; outsourcing relies on trusting others, which can be uncomfortable or  lead to unanticipated results. Furthermore, when considering resources overseas, international regulations must be followed. But these risks can all be mitigated with proper planning.

If you’re prepared, when the need arises, you can spring into action. For example, at TransPerfect we use a vast network of subject-matter specialist linguists for our language services division. We have proactively worked over the years to develop this group, often without a specific need at the time, so that when the situation called for one or several of these linguists, we would be ready.

Our version of outsourcing may not be precisely relevant or necessary for every business, but the underpinnings of our strategy are universally applicable – we knew the need would arise, we planned for it and now we have the resources at the ready.