Is there ever a good time to DIY in your business?

By Renata Mathewson, Maple Marketing

I’m not a New Zealander by birth, but after living for a number of years now in Godzone I’m familiar with a few common Kiwi traits and habits. I’ve heard enough about the classic quarter-acre section and number 8 wire to know that New Zealanders are proud DIY-ers. Whether you can actually do it yourself matters not. What is important is that you give it a go. Put on your stubbies and have a bash. Yeah, no, she’ll be right.

I love the Kiwi DIY mentality – but there is a time and a place for it. And that place is usually not your business. It’s one thing to hack away at your garden fence; quite another to make a shambles of your corporate communications by trying to do things yourself.

There are certain things you know you need to call the professionals in for – setting up a server, installing a heat pump, drawing up legal documents, having a massage, making your engagement ring.

Then there are other tasks you might try to do yourself – taking photos on your own camera for your company website, designing your own brochure in Publisher, doing your own accounts, writing the copy for your marketing materials.

For these jobs you may do an okay job. But unless you’ve been doing it for years and have the education or training to back it up, your efforts will never be as good as those of a professional who specialises in that type of work. And I don’t believe that an “okay job” is ever good enough. It certainly isn’t when you’re trying to get more business than your competitors.

So you need to recognise when the time is right to outsource certain functions. There are a few things to consider:

1.  First off, if there is a job you hate doing or know very well that you are no good at, then of course, outsource it. For other tasks, where you think you can probably throw something together that will get the job done, stop right there.

New Zealand SME owners spend too much time trying to do it all; trying manage day-to-day operations, sales and marketing, human resources, accounts and finances and anything else that needs doing.

You are better off when you hire someone who has the training and experience required and who will put the time into the work properly without rushing or doing things in a frustrated frame of mind.

2.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that doing it yourself is going to save you money. What may take you three hours to do may take an experienced professional only one. And if you spend those three hours starting the work only to then realise that you really do need to hire someone, well then you’ve essentially paid twice.

If you account for the hours you take yourself away from your core competencies, outsourcing usually is faster and more cost-effective.

3.  Talk to a few professionals. Even if you’re not convinced that they can do a better job than you can yourself, call a few who offer no-obligation free consultations. They won’t give you all the answers, but you’ll probably find that they think of things to consider or ways to improve the work that you won’t have thought of.

This is where experience, training and expertise make a difference – and are worth paying for.

4.  Can you be objective? Are you distanced enough from the business to think like a prospective client? This is an important difference between having someone on the inside do the work versus paying for external expertise.

This is especially important when it comes to preparing your sales and marketing materials. What matters to you – information you want to focus on – may not be relevant in a customer’s purchasing decision.

Marketing is an area that too many business owners try to take on themselves. Fair enough, in its infancy a business (particularly an SME) may be well-suited to having the founder or business owner manage the marketing activity. But in order to grow it will need additional input from someone who can look at the opportunities from a client perspective.

More specifically, too many business owners try to write their own text for their websites, brochures and other marketing materials. What they end up with is irrelevant, lengthy story telling. I refer to this as too much “about us” copy. An outsourced, objective professional can look at your business from a customer’s point of view and help you hone in on what really matters to aid the purchasing process.

With everything you do in business, your reputation, image, branding and perception are at stake. Don’t jeopardise them by trying to save a bit of money up front. It is equivalent to buying your glasses off one of those rotating stands at the chemist. You want to save a bit of money and hassle, but you risk doing long-term damage. Don’t chance it. Have it done right the first time and avoid unnecessary fix-it costs or repair bills.