Interview with Judy Schramm of ProResource

February 1st, 2010 by | Print


 

Today, we’re catching back up with Judy Schramm, CEO of ProResource, LLC. You can check out the first interview with Judy here. If you recall, Judy is a seasoned outsourcing pro – both as a customer and a provider. ProResources teaches how to avoid the potential pitfalls associated with outsourcing for predominately solopreneurs and small businesses.

Let’s see what she has to say about what’s new with ProResource, and how this can help you if you are think about or if you are in the midst of an outsourcing project.

TSG:     I know your New Year includes some new changes. The first striking change is the “Help Without Hiring Toolkit” posted prominently on your home page. Can you let the readers here know what the tool kit covers?

JS:     There sure are a lot of changes. Thanks so much for asking about them! The Toolkit is designed to help small business owners – particularly solo business owners – to bring in people to help them in their business. That might be an assistant, like a virtual assistant, or freelancers – or it might be someone local – possibly a neighbor who has agreed to help out or a student working part-time.

We’ve got 50 templates, checklists and worksheets that we have been using for years, along with some new materials we created just for this purpose. They’re all focused on making it easier for the business owner to start delegating work.

They help with the 4 steps the business owner needs to go through:

  1. Figuring out what to outsource (where to start),  
  2. Finding the right person to do the work,
  3. Getting them productive quickly,
  4. Making sure the work is done right.


TSG:     If an interested person clicks on the kit graphic or the “Learn More” and “Preview” buttons on the home page, they will notice I gave a testimonial on the right side of the linked page. Yes, I did review all 50 templates, checklists and worksheets included in the package and believe there is real value in the kit. This wasn’t a paid quote or one solely for publicity sake.

With that said, let’s talk about the Creative Brief for a moment. It’s one of my favorite documents in your kit. Do you think a business can effectively engage in an outsourcing program if they can’t answer all the questions in this document?

JS:     Well, yes, I do. The Creative Brief is designed for marketing projects. I know that’s your area of expertise, and I think you and I have a deep appreciation for how valuable this information is for anyone who is doing marketing. When a business owner can provide that level of insight into their business and their target market and what they want to achieve, it becomes so much easier to deliver really good results for them.

Plus, a Creative Brief helps you get organized for a project because it gives you a list of all the information you are going to need to provide to a freelancer or agency who is handing the project for you.

But it is certainly possible to outsource effectively without it. For example, if you are outsourcing something other than marketing – such as hiring a virtual assistant or a bookkeeper – then you wouldn’t need to give them the Creative Brief. Or if you are doing very small, simple marketing projects, you might not need it.

That’s why we have both the Creative Brief and the About My Company templates. The About My Company is shorter and simpler. It’s kind of a Creative Brief Lite. It has the information you want to share with anyone who works for you but it only takes about an hour to fill out.

Thank you very much for the testimonial, by the way. It was very nice of you to share that with us.

TSG:     Over my career, I’ve done hundreds of interviews for hiring employees, temp works, and outsourcing partners. My philosophy was hire hard – meaning take more time upfront to find the right freelancer or company and it makes the rest of the work easier with better results. According to your “Avoid 13 Common Mistakes People Make When They Outsource”, it sounds like you would agree, correct?

JS:     Yes, I do agree. And I think most hiring experts would agree with you. It’s hard-won experience for all of us, I suspect.

It does make sense to invest in getting the right person, even if it takes a little longer up front, because you have a much greater likelihood of successful results, as well as a lot less aggravation and frustration.

If you think about it … if you just hire the first person off the street, odds are they won’t work out, and you’ll be looking for someone again down the road – after you’ve lost time and opportunities. You might as well do it right the first time.

We’ve taken our experience and a lot of tricks we’ve learned and built them into the toolkit, so business owners can spend a lot less time and get to that right person faster.

TSG:     The other thing I appreciate about the “Avoid 13 Common Mistakes …” document is it sets appropriate expectations for people considering outsourcing as an option. From my own extensive experience, I think you nailed the key issues. In your opinion, does the burden for establishing realistic expectations fall on the customer or the outsourcing provider?

JS:     I would say it probably falls primarily on the outsourcing provider, because outsourcing is a core competency for them – it’s what they do for a living – so they are better positioned than the average business owner to know what it takes to make it work successfully.

But there are a lot of freelancers, consultants and virtual assistants who don’t educate their clients. Sometimes they just want to start work and they don’t take the time up front to make sure each new client fully understands what to expect and what it will take to get successful results.

TSG:     Another cool tool included in the kit is the ROI Calculator. When quoting copywriting or consulting rates to customers, I find in a high percentage of responses, customers have a preconceived price in their head based upon something they heard somewhere about what it should cost instead of deriving a budget based upon the expected results. Do you find this to be true as well?

JS:     Yes, yes, I do. Sometimes that number comes from other vendors they have talked to. Sometimes it is something they read somewhere which may not have any applicability to their situation. But a lot of people also have no idea what price is reasonable for a particular type of work and level of experience.

Again, I think it falls to the outsourcing provider to explain what their rates are and to show that the business owner gets value at that rate.

But the main purpose of the ROI Calculator is not to provide rates as much as to encourage business owners to have a realistic understanding of what outsourcing will cost, and a plan for increasing revenue by more than that amount.

TSG:     If a customer were to ask you whether they should pay an outsourcing partner by the hour or by the project, what would you advise them to do?

JS:     I typically prefer paying by the hour. I have just seen far too many projects where both sides agreed to a fixed price and then the scope of the project grew but the price didn’t. Then they end up stopping work at some point because they are no longer making money. That’s annoying for everyone.

The reality is that most outsourcing providers are really bad at pricing. They estimate how long a project will take based on an ideal situation, and then when it turns out not to be ideal (which is at least 2/3 of the time), they lose money.

To be fair, many business owners are not particularly good at explaining what they want. So projects always evolve, and you have to keep the pricing in line with the amount of work that is being done.

That’s why most of the good outsourcing providers either quote an hourly rate or put a limit on how many changes they will make before the price goes up.

For what it’s worth, project pricing can work well where the project is fairly stable and fixed in size. It is also useful where the outsourcing provider truly dislikes keeping track of their time. Sometimes the convenience of not having to worry about timekeeping is worth the risk of not getting paid for all the hours you put in.

TSG:     Do you still offer the Outsourcing Fundamentals course?

JS:     Yes, we do. In fact, we’re just wrapping up the January course. The February one starts February 10. We’ve got it down to 4 weeks now – it’s nice and tight – packed with useful information that helps people learn how to put outsourcing to work in their business.

TSG:     Does the “Help Without Hiring Toolkit” and Outsourcing Fundamentals course overlap or do they work in conjunction with each other? Is there a difference between the course and the toolkit?

JS:     That’s a good question. The Toolkit is the full set of templates. The course walks you through how to use the templates, and it helps you develop a roadmap for getting started with outsourcing in your business.

TSG:     Are you seeing any change in the types of businesses looking for education on outsourcing? For example, are you seeing more solopreneurs enter the market looking for services or are there more small to medium sized businesses downsizing staff in favor of outsourcing?

JS:     Well, our target market has always been solo businesses. You’re right, there are more solo businesses today than ever before. Technology has made this a viable option for just about everyone, and a lot of people are taking advantage of that to live their dreams.

I do have to say that we are seeing small businesses interested too. I think everyone is doing more with freelancers these days.

Outsourcing just makes sense on so many levels. It lets you be more responsive to the needs of your business, and it helps control costs. Plus you can get great people with amazing depth of experience, who you could never afford otherwise, but you only pay for the amount of their time that you use. It’s a win-win.

Thanks, Judy, for letting us catch back up with you.

As I mentioned earlier, I was fortunate enough to have reviewed ProResources new Help Without Hiring Toolkit. As an experienced outsourcing provider for small business consulting and copywriting services, I think it is a wonderful package and an excellent value for the price, without a doubt.

If you want to get a hold of Judy or purchase the Help Without Hiring Toolkit or ProResources Outsourcing Fundamentals training, here is the contact info:

ProResource, LLC
Judy Schramm, CEO
5911 Skyline Heights Court
Alexandria, VA 22311
P: (703) 824-8482
W: http://www.proresource.com/

All the Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide 

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