Wembley web marketer Ed Keay-Smith employs 14 full-time permanent employees at Online Impact — yet he has not met a single one of them.

They are his virtual workforce, scattered around the Philippines and India, diligently spreading the digital word for his Australian clients from their home offices.

His own office is wherever he lays his hat and plugs into the internet.

For seven months during 2009, that happened to be at a range of hotels throughout America, Canada, Europe and Asia.

With a skype-linked mobile account, none of his clients realised he was not in Perth during regular phone calls to liaise about web-marketing campaigns.

“Once we realised that we didn’t have to run the business from one spot, we decided to travel, ” Mr Keay-Smith says.

“It’s a brave new world, and more and more businesses are understanding what can be done.”

Mr Keay-Smith says he turned to offshoring for the savings but acknowledged that it is a “sore point” with those who want jobs to stay in Australia.

“Typically, to have 10 staff in the Philippines or India would have the same cost as one and a half or two staff in Australia, ” he says.

“Companies who hire Australian staff have to pass the cost on to their clients, because someone has to pay for it.”

Apart from his business partner in Queensland, he outsources all other roles in the business.

This includes virtual recruiters and office managers to handle his virtual workforce, such as payroll.

Mr Keay-Smith says he embraced outsourcing after reading a book by Tim Ferris, The Four Hour Week, which has gained cult status in the start-up community.

“If someone else can do something cheaper than you, you should outsource it, ” Mr Keay-Smith says.

“As the business owner, you should be working on the bigger picture — the $10,000-an-hour stuff, not the $10-an-hour tasks.”

Consultant Lisa Reed, from Business Balance, says outsourcing is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia.

A decade ago, her consultancy was a rarity because , as most corporations preferred to keep roles in-house.

But these days consultants, freelancers and e-lancers are common place.

Ms Reed says it is important not to outsource the very strengths that give a business its point of difference.

“Draw a circle and in the middle put down the business’s reason for being, ” she says.

“Around that, write down your core competencies, your key value drivers and strengths. These are the things you need to retain in-house.

“All the things that are not going to detract from your distinctiveness can be outsourced, like book keeping.”

The types of jobs that can be outsourced seem to have peaked, with chief financial officers now joining the list of part-time guns for hire.

WA founder of The CFO Centre Rupen Kotecha says his is the only company in the world to hire out the qualified executives, claiming other groups which offer CFO-style services use accountants in the role.

Mr Kotecha, who was formerly the finance director on the board of British Airways Cargo, says the multinational venture, which has a parent company in Britain, pays the executives a wage, and they then work with several different companies on a permanent part-time basis.

“The reason I left the board of British Airways Cargo was I wanted freedom from corporate life, ” he says.

“I had lots of experience and I wanted to bring that to businesses and give them a bite-sized chunk of me, but I didn’t want the corporate kerfuffle.

“Another reason CFOs join us is because they want a work-life balance.

“With one of my CFOs, we don’t ring him on a Wednesday afternoon, because he will be at Royal Perth Golf Course.”

Annemarie Papelard, the company’s WA principal, once worked as a full-time CFO in Europe, at major companies including training multinational Krauthammer International BV.

But she says she finds it more rewarding to help smaller businesses to grow.

“For me the main reason for doing this is the fact that I can work side by side with the owners and their business to achieve their goals, as a permanent part of their employee base, ” she says.

“The freedom of working this way (means) I can schedule my own appointments, work from home and have a life next to my job.”


© The West Australian

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