Proper focus is always cited as a key quality for successful businesses. This means recognising what your business strengths really are, and then building on them so that they become meaningful and sustainable competitive strengths. In today’s challenging market, focus has never been more important. In concentrating on what your business excels at – it may be selling services, implementing technical solutions, or producing a great product – you will inevitably know which areas of your business are not core strengths. Many businesses find that, instead of increasing their headcount with specially skilled resources, outsourcing anentire function can be a smart solution. Businesses tend to consider outsourcing when the necessary skills are not readily available in-house, but outsourcing comes with many other advantages. One key benefit is that outsourcing provides the exact expertise that a business needs, when it needs it most. This gives much flexibility that would be more difficult to manage once you have invested in new employees and possibly training costs too.Specialised business functions such as payroll, accounting, credit control, debt collections and even business finance, are often best handled by an experienced and expert provider who will ‘hit the ground running’ and can work very much as an extension to your own team. Well tested systems and processes will already be in place with your outsourced provider, so that your business can benefit from an infrastructure that works, and is scalable as your business requirements change. In fact, outsourcing is being viewed increasingly as a strategic tool for achieving your main business objectives.Managing payroll, for example, is a largely process-driven function, so an outsourced payroll specialist will not only bring benefits of economies of scale but also savings on costly software, hardware, administration, recruitment and training. Experts in their field, a good outsourced provider will be able to keep you up to date with relevant changes in legislation, taxation and VAT – invaluable assistance which has the potential to save you much time and keeps you focused on your core business activities.Start-up businesses seeking to minimize overhead costs and control finances from day one can benefit hugely from the experience and expertise available through outsourced business services and finance providers. Having immediate access to well operated services such as credit control or payroll could make the difference between a floundering and a flourishing new-start business. New business owners and managers can then get on with the vital job of building their business and getting new sales flowing.So what are the key success factors for engaging a provider of outsourced business services and finance? Here are some points you should discuss with any provider you are considering…- Value. Aim to understand what value outsourcing will add to your business – in terms of cost efficiencies and impact on bottom line profit- Track record. Have they worked with an organization of a similar size and type before, and what are their credentials and specific areas of expertise?- Fees. What is included and what is excluded?- People. Get to know the people involved as client-service provider partnerships should be truly collaborative- Values. Be certain that your outsourced provider will behave in line with your own business values and service ethos, especially if they are dealing directly with your clients or suppliers- Flexibility. Check that they have the capacity to grow in line with your own strategic growth plans- Protection. Understand how your business data will be handled to ensure data security; are back-up systems and data recovery procedures in place?- Support. Will they support your business in both good and bad times?- What matters most. Recognize that ultimately success will depend on relationships rather than price.In summaryThe market today is highly competitive and continuously changing. In order to thrive, businesses must look at ways of improving productivity and at the same time reduce costs. Many business services and processes can make up precious time and resources, and successful businesses are increasingly outsourcing these functions. Outsourcing such activities can give you immediate access to more flexible, experienced and cost effective capabilities. Moreover, outsourcing is seen as a strategic management option rather than just a cost cutting operation as it can support businesses in achieving their business objectives through operational excellence.