How can decorators successfully and professionally outsource jobs?
Here are seven ways to think about creating a savvy outsourcing partnership with another decorator that benefits you and your clients:
FIND THE RIGHT PARTNER(S)
Outsourced goods still have your business's name on them, so you want to make sure you stand by the partners you choose. It’s critical to select a provider you can build a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership with. The best way to get started is to make a short list of local decorators who offer the services that you don’t. Only make a list of shops you’ve had a good prior experience with or who have positive word-of-mouth or online-review reputations.
TEST IT OUT
Before signing formal agreements or sending any customer orders, plan to swap test orders with your potential partner. The goal is to see how your partner performs on multiple levels: quality of work, customer service, and turnaround time. During this discovery stage, it’s essential to establish what you each want, what your mutual customers want, and how you can both make that happen to ensure everyone’s satisfied and reordering.
SET SPECIFIC OUTCOMES/METRICS & ASK QUESTIONS
While this will be different for all shops, your outsourcing partner needs to know what you expect. What’s the expected turnaround time? How do they provide proofs? How do they handle customer requests for artwork or revisions? And since the other decorator is a business that will function as an extension of yours, don't be afraid to ask additional questions. What are their values? How do they serve customers? Are their products, processes, and practices eco-friendly? Make sure everything aligns with what you want your business to represent.
ASSIGN A POINT PERSON
The jobs you farm out will require oversight. A member of your team needs to be the point person that deals with all outsourced work and the outsourcing partner(s). Your team member should be the one sending your jobs over with explicit directions, special instructions, and delivery dates. This person should also be available to answer questions on the fly and sign off on proofs. If that person’s out of the office, be sure another team member is up to speed on how the oversight of these jobs works.
DON'T GO SOLO
Most businesses don’t partner with one business forever. Test partnerships with additional businesses that currently offer products or services beyond what you and your current partners provide.
A partnership concept could also work via a cross-promoting relationship. If you solely decorate apparel, perhaps partner with a decorator that focuses on hard good promo products. That could mean you work with another business to cross-refer them to your customers via newsletters, emails, social media, or even over the phone or during sales calls.
KNOW WHEN TO PART WAYS
There are obvious reasons why businesses might part ways, including botched or late orders, or a violation in your contract. However, from another perspective, if you’ve only ever offered embroidery, and you’ve scaled your business to where you’re acquiring a screen printing setup and hiring an experienced operator, you may no longer need to outsource if jobs are brought in-house.
While outsourcing a portion of your orders can definitely make good business sense, it’s also important to constantly monitor the work and service your partner shop offers. Similarly, if you’re providing decorated pieces to a partner, you need to make sure you're upholding your end of the partnership.