By Trevor Foster, Vice President of Finance

As companies begin their annual strategic planning and budgeting process for the new year, many executives dust off perhaps the most ubiquitous acronym in strategy – SWOT! We do this analysis at Innovative Employee Solutions (IES) and many things are learned from it, but the process of compiling all of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be a bit overwhelming. How do you turn that insight into action? One effective way is to focus on my favorite letter – S.

For some context on why strengths are my favorite, let me first tell you about our culture at IES. In short, we are a strengths-based organization that believes our people are gifted in different ways. Someone’s strengths might be in influencing others and building relationships. Another might be gifted in seeing future possibilities and possess a real thirst for knowledge. At IES, those very different strengths are celebrated and built upon – we want people to focus on their unique strengths to become even better. Due to this focus, we don’t ask people who excel at one thing but not another to focus on their weaknesses. That would be seen as a waste of effort.

This concept is drawn from the book Strengths Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath where he and his team have done extensive research suggesting that focusing on a strength returns way more than focusing on an area where you are average or weak. This means that we have a mixture of employees with strengths that complement each other – we need people who can build relationships as well as those who thrive on learning. By asking an individual to build a strength where they are weak, we are sub-optimizing according to Rath. We seek to find people with some natural talent in an area and ask them to build on that.

But back to strategic planning – what does this mean for the rest of your business? It means that focusing on a strength provides the larger return on investment and that your weaknesses will be hard to overcome. In fact, I’d argue that everything you do in your business should center on maximizing your strengths and downplaying your weaknesses. Double down on what you do well and seek to stop doing what you are weak in.

You may be wondering how you can just stop doing some of your weaknesses – we don’t often have that choice in business. Instead of seeing this as a binary choice, get creative – just like when we hire staff at IES with different talents, you may need to hire a company with a strength to complement your own. You probably already do this by outsourcing legal, accounting, or marketing and you almost certainly don’t mop your own floors. Use the strategic planning process to figure out how you can repurpose resources from some weakness of yours to supercharge an area where you’re already strong. Here are some common outsourcing areas to consider:

  • IT Services

Information Technology permeates every part of business. From the software on your desktop computer to the server that holds your company’s data – managing your IT can be a huge task. This is precisely why several companies offer this as a service you can outsource. Find out how much you can save in dollars and add in peace of mind by outsourcing this task.

  • Payroll processing

There’s a really good chance your company has employees. There’s also a good chance that you would not consider payroll processing a particular strength of yours. You’re not alone – payroll processing is a prime target for outsourcing to save you time and headaches. There are many choices ranging from industry giants like ADP to innovative new companies like Zenefits to choose from – if you still do your own payroll, consider making the change. You won’t regret it!

  • Bookkeeping

Although near and dear to my heart, I understand how someone would not necessarily enjoy doing their own bookkeeping. This is a task that is often overlooked until tax time which not only costs more in CPA fees but also means you miss out on the benefits of financial reporting throughout the year. Consider hiring a professional bookkeeping company to do this so you can focus on the rest of your business.

Bonus: if you hire temporary or contingent employees for projects or busy times of the year, consider using an Employer of Record. This type of company can manage the entire onboarding, payrolling, and tax filing process for you. If you choose the right partner they will help you ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act as well. This is even more of a time and expense savings in that an Employer of Record is actually the employer not you, meaning you do much less of the work to bring on temporary workers quickly, efficiently, and legally.

So, as you contemplate how to get the most out of strategic planning this year, go for the best return on investment. How can you spend more time and resources on what you’re great at by using outsourcing to take care of what you aren’t? It’s may not be an exhaustive planning system, but it will deliver results – and if you only have time for one thing, make sure it’s to focus on your strengths!


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