5 Reasons why outsourcing is better then employing staff

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Ask anyone who runs a company or start up what’s the hardest part of business and nine times out of ten you will get the answer “people“. Employing people is time consuming, expensive, difficult and can create serious problems, especially if you employ the wrong person. People are human and here in lies the complexities of dealing with them. Emotions, health, personal issues, opinions, beliefs, the list goes on.

By employing people, managing all these human traits is your responsibility and can have a big impact on the day to day dealings of your business. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that good people are what make a great team, and great teams achieve amazing things but in any business there are tasks that no one likes doing. These are the task that if you can, you need to out source.

Here are my top 5 reasons for out sourcing

5. Makes Scaling easier

If business is booming and your growing quickly, having a task outsourced makes scaling easier and a lot less painful than having to employ a bunch of people to keep up with demand.

4. Redundancy

People get sick, plain and simple. If you only have one person doing a particular task, when they are sick that job just doesn’t get done. Outsourcing it creates redundancy. By outsourcing you can having multiple people trained to do the task, so if one of the out sourced team members can’t do it, another steps in.

3. Time Zones

If you services a global market (like we do) then your business hours are only going to align with 1/3 of the globe. Customer Service is one area that has some great advantages from out sourcing especially if you can do so to people located in different time zones. We outsourced our customer service to Influx which has teams of customer service agents all over the world. This allows us to have customer support agents working round the clock. In doing so our email response time dropped from 24 hours to five!

2. Only pay for what you need

As an early stage boot strapped start up every penny counts. When you outsource you are able to reduce your costs by only using and paying for what you need, as you need it. When your business scales you’re costs will increase but so should your income so it should all work out. If it doesn’t then you may be regretting outsourcing your business plan.

1. Flexibility

Weather you’ve just started your business or have been running it for a while, having the flexibility to pull in more resource when you need it and scaling them back when you don’t is very, very handy. Outsourcing provides this flexibility. Daily our online order volumes are pretty consistent. This makes managing order fulfillment pretty straight forward, however throw in a promotion or a new product launch and order volumes can go through the roof!

We outsource our order fulfillment to Shipwire (a 3rd Party Logistics provider). Shipwire can quickly scale up their team to handle the increased demand and then drop back to regular volume once the wave has passed. They can also help you get product out to locations all over the world much faster than shipping from your office.

Not everything can be out sourced and there are definitely some things that should never be palmed off, especially in the early stages of your business. If you do out source tasks it important that you jump back in every now and then to make sure you still have your finger on the pule and that the task is being done to a satisfactory level.

Check back soon on how to identify tasks that can be outsourced.

 

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CAD is the new Code in the start up scene

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I’ve listened to many interviews and read lots of books that say if you’re in the tech space learn how to code. Even if producing code has absolutely nothing to do with your role we’re told it’s beneficial to have some understanding of code, even if to just give you a basic grasp of how software works.

If you work in the hardware space the same should be said about CAD. Especially when Yves Behar just sold 75% of his design business FuseProject for $46.7M.

The way physical things are designed has changed a lot in the last few decades. In the old days people had an idea and either sketched it out on the back of a napkin or went straight to the shed and started sawing and nailing until they created that idea they had buzzing around in their head… or at least a close approximation to it. Over the years things progressed with the invention of the drawing board and “drafting tables” but ultimately things were still drawn by hand and produced using jigs or tooling which were made or machined by a real person. With the introduction of the computer some smart engineers figured they could control machines with computers allowing them to take out all the manual work and reduce the chance of errors…. They called this CNC, Computer Numerical Control. By replacing manual controls with electrical motors you could make a computer guide a cutting tool on a milling machine to create parts with amazing accuracy and repeatability. The language that control these machines is called G-Code and is a very basic form of software. Hard core machinest know this code well enough to punch G-Code manually into machines to create basic shapes but when you have a very complex organic form you’re out of luck. Then along comes CAD or Computer Aided Design. CAD allowed us to create a virtual 2D or 3D model of the object we want to create. Feed the CAD model into a CAM program (Computer Aided Machining) and the software will output the millions of lines of G-Code to cut your part or tooling to make the part. 3D Printers operation the same way by they add material instead of taking it away.

Every mass produced product in the world today is designed in CAD so if you want to start making things… start learning CAD.

Learning how to Code or how to use CAD can sound intimidating but with the rise or low cost CNC machines and 3D printing, the accessibility of CAD has improved dramatically. CAD program’s which used to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and took months of training to learn how to use are now much more user friendly and way more affordable. Forward thinking companies like Autodesk have even release free software packages to get people into CAD at an early age.

Here’s some free programs that are a great starting point if you want to learn CAD.

TinkerCAD – Web based and very basic but great to for beginners.

Sketch Up – More architectural focused but fast and easy to use.

123 D – A very cut down version of Autodesk’s flagship CAD packaged Inventor but good intro to parametric modelling

Blender – A open source poly modelling package which is great for more organic free form character style modelling.

And here’s a big list from Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_3D_modeling_software

 

 

 

 

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The humanising factor

Quirky recently released a product in collaboration with GE called Aros. It’s a smart air-conditioner which can be controlled by a smartphone. If you’re not familiar with Quirky, they are a company who manufacture products which are dreamnt up by people like you and me. In fact anyone can submit an idea to Quirky. But if you can’t think of a good idea you can contribute to (or ‘influence’ as Quirky says) someone else’s idea. If the idea gets enough traction Quirky put it into production and give back a small percentage of profits to the person who came up with the original idea as well as the key influencers.

Quirky’s latest marketing campaign for the Aros is built around a video show casing the manufacturing process of the Aros. The video shows factory workers at various stages of production assembling tooling, painting parts, screwing in components, braising tubing, testing, packing and eventually shipping the products out of the factory. The focus is on people making the products, not machines or robots. There are very few shots that don’t feature a person doing some of the work. It’s a very well put together video however the focus on people left we with a very different feeling when compared to watching the making of the Apple iPhone 5C.


Making of the Aros Air-conditioner

Being a designer I love seeing how things are made. I find the manufacturing process more interesting than the product in some cases. If I have witnessed how something is made I get to see all the effort and technology that goes into a product and I am more likely to want to own it. This was definitely the case when Apple released the video showing how the iPhone 5C was made. The technology and precision involved in making that handset was up their with fine watch crafting.


Making of the iPhone 5C – The manufacturing component is from 1:35 – 2:20

The big difference between the videos is that Apple does not show a single factory worker. Sure there is more robotics and automation involved when assembling an iPhone compared to an air-condition but I guarantee there are lot of other steps which involve actual real people assembling iPhones that are just not shown.

The two videos left me with very different feelings. The Aros video made me feel for all the factory workers assembling products all day long getting paid very little for their efforts. Where as the Apple video still makes we want to buy an iPhone 5C and I don’t even think about the factory workers because I don’t see them in the video.

I respect Quirky for showing it how it is, however I wonder if the humanising factor will have a negative effect on their marketing campaign.

How did the videos make you feel?

 

 

 

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Seth Godin interview for the Good Life Project

I first heard about Seth Godin through the Shopify build a business competition in late 2011. As chance would have it we managed to win our category in the competiton and were very fortunate to have the opportunity to fly out to New York to meet him. Seth is a marketing guru and has this ability to get straight to the point and understand the most complex situations with an uncanny clarity. He was recently interviewed by the good life project about his recent book that he launched on Kickstarter. If you have a spare 37mins its a great insight into how he views he’s “projects”.

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Six Cloud based Apps for running an ecommerce business

I was recommending a few applications to a friend of mine the other day and it very quickly dawned on me how much of what we use to run our business is in the could. Its scarey to think that we are so reliant on the internet to do business but quiet frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The ability to run our business from just about anywhere with only an internet connection and a laptop is what makes an e-business so great. To give you some insight here’s a list of the applications we use to run our e-commerce business of selling mobile device accessories.We use these applications daily and highly recommend them. (more…)

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Never underestimate the power of Good Industrial Design

I was browsing the web this morning and came across an article by Bernhard Kubicek who had recently developed a neat little interface box which connects to a Ultimaker 3D printer to allow the user to have more control over the printing process. The article shed some light on the development of what was originally just a hardware hack that quickly turned into a collaboration with the developers of the Ultimaker and dutch designer, Joris Tubergen. Joris was the first beta user to adopt the Ultipanel for controlling his 3D printer. Joris has a machine set up in a public space and allowed people to print colorful objects which he charged by the minute for print time. As the Ultimaker was originally designed to run of a PC, the Ultipanel allowed him to run his machine as a stand alone printer and free up more desk space for displaying printed parts. However the original design of the Ultipanel was not that nice to look at or to use so Joris hid the controller out of sight from his customers.

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Tips on how to request a product review unit?

On the launch of our first product we we’re keen for as much PR as we could get our hands on. If you sent us an email saying you wanted a sample to review on your youtube channel, there’s a fair chance we’d send you one, no questions asked. This seemed like a good idea at the time however the more we sent out the more requests we got and it got pretty crazy for a while there. In the end we did manage to get some great reviews but we also got some pretty terrible ones as well, not terrible reviews on our product, just very badly put together reviews with incorrect information and misleading statements. We’ve now learnt to be selective on who we send product samples to and we have a set criteria that they must meet before we’ll send them anything.  (more…)

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To patent or not to patent?

A lot of people I come across tell me they have a great idea for a product but they are note sure if they should patent it so here’s my personal views on the topic. DISCLAIMER: These are my personal views on the topic. I highly recommend getting professional advice from a patent attorney before you make any decisions on the matters of patent protection.

Firstly, for your idea to be patentable it must be new (novel), involve an inventive step and be able to be made or used in an industry. Do your home work and you can get a fair idea where you stand on this without having to consulting a patent attorney. There are lots of online resources for advice on patent protection. IP Australia is a great site for information on Australian patents and also allow you to search the Australian Patent database for existing patents. Google also has a great online patent search but it’s only for American patents. (more…)

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Selling online in USD from Australia is not easy!

website_designYou would think being based in a country renowned for being innovative and a major producer of ground breaking technology, we would be inclined to support budding young entrepreneurs trying to develop new businesses. Well in my experience this is not always the case, especially when you are trying to set up an online store, selling to a global market.

When we started selling our products online, the two areas that had the biggest road blocks when trying to establish our online business were third party logistics (3PL) and online payment gateways. (more…)

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Solidworks CAD Workstations

Being fairly active in the Solidworks Community, one of the most common questions I get asked is “what kind of PC do I need to run Solidworks?”

It surprises me how many people are willing to invest a fair chunk of money into an expensive piece of software like Solidworks but then skimp on the hardware they run it on. To me it seems crazy, you wouldn’t buy a brand spanking new 911 Porsche Turbo and put a cheap set of re-tread tyres on it would you??? Same goes for Solidworks, if you want your software to perform, get some decent hardware to run it on! (more…)

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