Burn the Remote Control and Do The Important Things Yourself

One of the significant challenges in an under-capitalized business is filling many skill gaps you bring to the enterprise as a founder. Consumer brands are elaborate pipe organs of decision-making, some of the most complicated consumer-facing businesses to run. This is especially true if you manufacture your own product. Initially, the filling of your skill gaps involves outsourcing a bunch of stuff to specialists who do it full-time, all week long: accounting, web design, eCommerce integration, general IT help, tax prep, nutrition label validation, logo design, package graphics design, etc. 


This is generally much cheaper than bringing on full-time specialists because many of these specialized tactical needs are very sporadic. If you’re launching UPCs so frequently that you need a full-time nutrition facts panel specialist in-house, please contact me so your head can be thoroughly examined. 

However, when the needs are regular or constant, like PR or Sales, outsourcing these functions is a huge mistake. Even in the beginning. Yet, it is very tempting for the solo founder or the overwhelmed founder duo/trio. The list of essential core functions you need to handle-house will vary based on the 4P playbook you initially experimented with. But, if it is a weekly need, it probably needs to be done in-house.

And this is where I see too much black-and-white thinking among folks, especially those with a prior professional business background. They tend to outsource anything they’re not good at, too expensive, top-tier specialists before going through a simple thought process: 1) can I hire a high-energy young person to learn this on the fly and nail it because ‘good enough’ should be exemplary? (e.g., PR outreach is often easy for a socially adept young person to handle without ten years of agency training). 2) Can I learn this skill myself with a bit of effort? (e.g., essential cash register data analysis?) and 3) if neither, how can I find a fractional expert open to coming in full-time later?  (e.g., marketing or sales)

If the need is routine and tied to basic operations and you don’t have the skill, try your hardest to bring someone on, even fractionally. It’s the nice-to-have functions for your playbook that come on full-time later. Or do it yourself. The worst possible situation you can put in yourself is to have a life-giving function like sales wholly outsourced to a rack of brokers who then keep you two degrees of separation away from the buyer you must seduce to win in this country’s marketplace. 

And for Lord’s sake, don’t give anyone the title “CMO” at an early-stage company. That’s beyond pretentious when you have but one brand to fund. 

Dr. James Richardson

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