Six Steps to Successful Outsourcing

A businessman pressing a Freelance button on a transparent screen.

It’s time to talk outsourcing Level 200! 

If you missed it our first installment, you can take a look at here. In it, we talked all about discovering the areas of your PHA that would benefit the most from outsourcing. 

Outsourcing can be intimidating if you’ve never ever done it. There is usually a good bit at stake and you want to get it right, right?  

Like, where and how do you even start?  

Our experts have come up with 6 steps to achieving supreme outsourcing success.  

Step 1: Identify Your Needs   

Before we can make any moves, we must assess our position. It’s super important to identify the areas your agency truly needs support. Maybe it’s a mountain of processing backlog. Or do you need support with inspections, outreach management, training, or compliance. Whatever it is, the first step is always identifying where we need support. Where are we behind in our operations? Where does our staff lack full understanding of the policies or regulations? What can we offload to give our team an opportunity to focus on strategic maneuvers for our PHA? 

Pinpoint the areas you may need to outsource and then prioritize.   

I mean, wouldn’t we all love to have an endless budget where we could just hire as many people as we need to get everything done, ON-TIME? See that’s the key aspect of outsourcing. It’s not a matter of “can your team do the thing?” Ask yourself, “Can our team do the thing, efficiently, produce the results on-time, with little to no issues in compliance or customer service?”  

But since most of us don’t have endless funding at our fingertips, we have to pick and choose our priorities, and then be even more choosy on how everything gets accomplished. Focus your initial efforts where you will see the biggest payoff. For example, if your entire agency is being negatively impacted by your processing backlog, that is probably a top contender.   

Step 2: Hunt for Your Dream Team

Now that you’ve got your wish list and priorities in order, it’s time to find your perfect match.   

Wait a second…  

List of what you’re looking for…  

Finding the perfect match… 

Sounds like… brace yourself… online dating. Which let’s be honest, it kind of is, but before you break out in a cold sweat and run and hide, let us put your mind at ease.  

The affordable housing industry is a fairly tight-knit community so it shouldn’t take too much to find someone reputable and trustworthy. Reach out to neighboring agencies or friends who work in the industry and ask for recommendations. Heck, if you’re feeling brave, even Google is a good option. The most important thing is not how you find them, but that once you do, you do your homework. Browse through profiles, read reviews, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Just like online dating, it wouldn’t be safe or wise to bring someone into your home without first doing your research. Trust us, this is not the time or the place to take someone at their word. Anyone worth their salt, and your time, is going to have the data, the references, and the expertise to back up anything their website says, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. Putting in a little extra effort to properly vet any potential partners now will save you heartache down the road.  

Step 3: Test the Waters  

So, you think you found a potential rock star for your project? Awesome! But before jumping in the deep end, start with a small task or a trial run to see if they’re everything they say they are and that the two of you work well together. They may have checked out in every other way, but you really don’t know someone until you get into the trenches with them. Do their skills match up with what they promised? Are they communicating through every step? Did they follow the instructions given, ask questions, and deliver a quality product on time? Not only that but even if they are everything they say, your personalities or work styles might not mesh well and that can also be a deterrent to success. This trial run is an important step to gauge how things will go before diving into bigger projects that could potentially end in disaster for your PHA if you aren’t careful.  

Any red flags need to be 100% cleared before proceeding and the thing to keep in mind is any quality contractor will be completely on board with this process. If your potential rock star balks at this idea, that is a good indicator that they may not be a good option. Be ok with walking away from anything that doesn’t align with your goals or values.  

Step 4: Communicate Like a Pro  

Communication is key, folks! I’m sure we don’t have to remind you of what happens when people assume things, right?  

Be crystal clear about your expectations, deadlines, and goals. Whether it’s through email, chat apps, or carrier pigeon (okay, maybe not the last one), keep the lines open and active. And this definitely should not be one-sided. If you are giving all the information, and they aren’t reciprocating, that is a problem.  

Here at AMA, we have a policy to OVER communicate everything. It sounds like it would be super annoying, and even possibly a bit condescending at first, but the truth is, we had to learn the hard way and we want you to benefit from that experience. Our standard is that when we communicate anything, there should be no question left unanswered, and no room left for assumptions. We also drive home to each team member how vitally important it is to ask questions if there is anything at all that is unclear. Leave no room for assumptions and make none. If your contractor isn’t doing the same, it is safe to say that will be their standard going forward. Remember, when someone tells you who they are, believe them.  

Step 5: Trust & Delegate  

Ok, so you’ve found your superstar and laid down the groundwork. It’s time to do the really hard work and loosen the reins a bit. You have to trust whoever you hired knows their stuff and let them work their magic. Micromanaging ain’t where it’s at.   It is a waste of everyone’s time, efforts, and resources.  If you believe you have found the best person for the job, you need to let them do it.  

Don’t forget reviews and contracts are two-way streets. Make sure you know what your end of the deal is and uphold it or you may find yourself unable to get anyone to work for and/or with you. The thing to keep in mind here is that contractors typically have more than one client and are juggling several projects at one time. While this has made them efficient and fine-tuned their skills, it does require a level of awareness and respect for their time, expertise, and process. The expectations for timeliness, communication, and respect apply to you too.  

Just because you are the one hiring doesn’t mean all the responsibility lies with the other party. A contract is a mutually beneficial partnership. The experience should benefit both you and them.

Step 6: Review & Feedback  

When the task is done, take a breather, review the work, and give constructive feedback. If it’s all rainbows and unicorns, great! If not, don’t sweat it. Communication is key here too—give clear feedback for improvements.  

Again, any good quality contractor won’t have a problem with this. In fact, they would be expecting it! As a successful consulting firm, AMA factors time for feedback and requested changes into every single project we take on. On the rare occasion we don’t do it perfectly the first time (wink, wink), we go back as many times as it takes for the final product to be exactly what the client wants. It’s just part of the process. I can guarantee you your contractor takes immense pride in their work and they want to get it right and produce a quality product. Sometimes the road to accomplishing that can be a little bumpy, but effective communication can smooth the way and result in both parties being satisfied.  

In conclusion, as you get comfortable with the process of outsourcing, you’ll find it becomes much more routine. Keep exploring new talents, refining your processes, and watch your productivity soar!  

 

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