by Oliver Dowson, CEO, International Corporate Creations
There’s a general belief that offshore outsourcing is only for big companies, and that Shared Service Centres are only for really big companies. However, that doesn’t need to be true. Even quite small operations can be viable. And importantly, the economic benefits will improve overall business profitability from the very first year – and the enhanced quality of service can accelerate growth.
It’s true that outsourcing probably carries more risks than benefits for the smaller company, unless the work being offshored requires a sizeable existing infrastructure, as is often the case with IT. The most commonly cited risks are variable quality and poor customer perceptions, but the real problem that emerges for most businesses is lack of control – outsourcing creates a reliance on third-party management and increases certain risks such as IP security.
Every business executive hates “people who tell me what they think I want to hear” – and such people are prevalent amongst the owners and managers of offshore outsourcing operations, which makes this a major concern. As a result, customer companies often get a distorted view of staff turnover and productivity, and can be badly misled about costs and other matters.
So, if you’re committed to outsourcing, or think it’s the best solution for you, it’s essential to keep a close eye. Use an independent and knowledgeable audit service (we at ICC can advise) and/or carry out frequent, unannounced and detailed visits of your own.
But I believe there is a better solution. Most outsourcing risks can be eliminated by setting up a wholly-owned or Joint Venture overseas company (turning it into “insourcing”). This can be practical and economic with initial staffing of as few as 8-10 employees. Pick the right local manager, and you don’t need to transfer your own management as “expats”. Essentially, you’re picking another country to move work you might otherwise outsource, or perform work where skills are scarce and expensive in your home country but relatively plentiful abroad in the destination country.
Businesses that switch from outsourcing to “insourcing” overseas, or creation of an offshore Shared Services Centre – will benefit immediately from taking control. They also reduce costs through eliminating outsourcing BPO supplier margins, that are usually huge, and dramatically improve staff motivation and retention.
Furthermore, such insourcing brings additional benefits. Since ownership opens the way to employing higher skilled and qualified staff, businesses can migrate work that wouldn’t be considered for outsourcing, so increasing operational cost savings. By thinking ahead and choosing an appropriately strategic destination, the new overseas company can also form a base for marketing products and services to the country and regional markets, expanding the company’s global business.
Although most executives would agree these advantages, most don’t proceed further, either because they perceive it would be too expensive, too difficult or both. But it’s not so expensive if you use the right resources. And it’s not too difficult if you have the right help.
If you’re unconvinced about the costs, take a look at the chart at the top of this article. They’re actual figures for similar 8-person clerical operations. I’ll be writing separately about the cost comparisons between the different countries in another article.
It was my experience of starting small operations from scratch in countries such as India, Brazil and China, overcoming the bureaucracy, cultural, management and economic issues in each, and nurturing each of those operations to a large critical mass, that led me to form International Corporate Creations. Our mission now is to prove to other businesses that they too can expand abroad, successfully, quickly and affordably, starting small with minimum risks.