Outsourcing is a familiar word to building service contractors. After all, if not for their customers outsourcing cleaning operations to them, BSCs would be without a job. But what about the other way around? There are daily business functions that could be too time-consuming and expensive for BSCS to handle — and these roadblocks could be stagnating their business growth.

Office duties such as answering phones, accounting and marketing are all services that many technology companies are capable of handling. BSCs just need to weigh the pros and cons to find out if switching these duties from in-house to an outside provider is a wiser business move.

Cost effective
Outsourcing back-office functions can be extremely effective while a company is growing. By outsourcing these duties, BSCs can concentrate on their core business — operations and sales. Otherwise, to meet demand, owners would have to add new staff members, which requires training, an extra paycheck and possibly insurance coverage. Growing companies might not have the funds this requires.

For example, around 1990, Southern Building Maintenance Co., Inc. (SBM), in Greensboro, N.C., experienced rapid growth, and after more than 30 years of handling payroll services in-house, they found it was getting in the way of meeting new customer demands.

“We didn’t have the time or staff to keep up while in the growth mode,” says Ed Moschler, vice president. “We were overwhelmed with other operations.”

At the time, outsourcing payroll services to a data-processing company was cheaper than hiring new staff members. SBM sent the outsourcing company the employee work hours and they compiled the data and cut the checks. It was one less thing for SBM to worry about and the company could now focus on reaching and pleasing new customers, says Moschler.

Specialized expertise required
The reason a company outsources office functions may not always be cost-derivative. As technology changes, BSCs may also have to outsource business functions where they lack the expertise.

For the past five years, SBM has outsourced the upkeep of its Web site. The company first tried to run it in-house with technology savvy employees, but quickly found that an outsourced company was more effective.

“Right now outsourcing the Web page is a better, cheaper way,” says Moschler. “They’ve got the training, they know the new innovations. They teach us.”

SBM uses the Web as a marketing tool. The Web page includes information on company owners and vice presidents, personal stories and company philosophies. Even though the layout is basic, it is still updated regularly. SBM simply has to call or e-mail the new information and the outsourced company does the rest. The process is a lot faster and also cheaper than hiring a new staff member.

“There are a lot of computer or marketing graduates [who] would love to come and work for us. But we’re a cleaning company — cleaning is our focus and we can’t afford extras like that on the payroll,” says Moschler.

Bringing it back home
Outsourcing does not have to be a permanent solution. Once a company reaches a plateau, it may find it is more cost effective to once again bring duties back in-house. For SBM, the decision to return payroll to an in-house operation came after 10 years of outsourcing. But, Moschler points out the move didn’t come without costs of its own.

“Bringing duties back in-house is an investment,” says Moschler. “We had to invest in timekeeping software and upgrade our computers or the move would not have been possible.”