So your business has grown to the point that you face critical, company-wide decisions for which you have no in-house expertise. Your first instinct might be to hire a qualified executive, but should you make another hire at that level, or should you outsource? Every company’s needs are unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
There are, however, several post-2020 trends to consider whether your pressing need for expertise is in finance, IT, or marketing. No matter the need, there are agencies that can offer a better solution than adding full-time staff in the C-suite. Here are seven factors to consider as your business charts its course:
1. A full-time exec is expensive.
More than one company has failed to adequately consider the total ongoing cost of bringing someone on board at the executive level. Execs don’t come cheap in terms of salary and benefits, but there are other costs as well.
If the hire turns out to be a poor fit, you could inadvertently cause relational problems with other staff. With the wrong executive hire, the risk is not just that you’ll fail to meet the need that motivated the new position. It’s that you could set yourself up for a future power struggle.
2. The ‘complete package’ exec may not exist.
Take a step back from the job description and list of qualifications your team has pieced together for the new executive-level position. Ask yourself, “Is it at all likely that this person exists anywhere on earth?” You may find that you are wasting time hunting for a unicorn. Applicants either will not materialize or be tempted to exaggerate their qualifications during the interview process.
According to outsourced CMO agency Hawke Media, agencies can help companies capitalize on a wider knowledge base by tapping the strengths of multiple specialists. Remember what they say about a jack of all trades? That they’re “the master of none.” When you outsource specialist positions to agencies, you won’t be settling for someone who is strong in most categories but not all.
3. Your team may be stuck inside a silo and not know it.
Any company can become so focused on the primary mission that it begins to lose sight of the larger world outside its corporate walls. This sort of siloed thinking can occur at all levels, from the factory floor to the highest echelons of leadership.
In fact, siloed thinking itself might be one of the reasons your business is considering adding an exec-level position. Before embarking on another headhunting mission, counteract siloed thinking by setting aside time to evaluate your company structure against perceived needs. Once you’ve sifted your real needs from the perceived ones, you’ll be prepared to contract with the right mix of outsourced execs.
4. They don’t call it ‘the bleeding edge’ for nothing.
You could expend your resources trying out the latest and greatest in technology or staffing solutions. Then again, it might make sense to let someone else hit the bleeding edge before you do. If you’re not careful, an urgent need might tempt you to adopt a business solution that looks great on paper but doesn’t deliver on its promises.
The same principle holds true for staffing, especially at the executive level. Don’t get taken in by the emergence of trendy new exec titles. Do you really need a full-time chief data officer or chief experience officer? Perhaps, but outsourcing C-suite needs to an agency allows you to test the waters before you commit to a full-time hire.
5. You may only have a sporadic need for C-level expertise.
There are times when a short-term need can masquerade as permanent one. It’s possible your company does need help at the executive level, but maybe only for a season. Examples include migrating from one tech platform to another, redesigning a factory floor to accommodate AI-enhanced machines, etc. Once the initial push is over, your temp CIO or interim COO can be on their way, and existing managers can take over ongoing maintenance.
6. The time and expense of onboarding an agency may be less than you think.
The outsourcing industry has expanded and diversified in recent years. Competition, as usual, has served to make outsourcing packages more affordable. If you looked into outsourcing another portion of your business a few years ago and deemed it “too expensive” or “not a good fit” for your company, you owe it to yourself to take another look.
7. You are free to change direction as your company expands.
As your business grows, it’s almost always going to be easier to move from outsourcing an executive to hiring one full time. Addressing an immediate business need by moving in the opposite direction tends to be stickier. Executive-level contracts nearly always contain a buy-out clause. This would make it painful, financially and relationally, to terminate an executive position and outsource it to an agency.
So start off entering into short-term contracts with an agency. That way, you can revisit both the performance of that agency and the evolution of your company’s needs on a regular basis.
Let your staffing practices evolve alongside your company
Your business may have started off as a mom-and-pop operation. Perhaps you’ve even been caught off guard by the speed with which your company penetrated new markets. As companies evolve, what worked well five years ago can persist past its expiration date. So you’re not wrong to feel that you need executive-level expertise now.
The question is, what form should that take? The idea of handing over major responsibility to someone who does not work directly for your company might seem “off” somehow. But executive outsourcing has also had to evolve in the new global economy. Today, it can be a great path for moving your business from one era of prosperity to the next.