The obvious answer is to delegate some of the effort but that can be difficult too, particularly with all of the red-tape surrounding taking on new employees. One excellent solution is to consider outsourcing some of the work to one of the growing army of freelancers and consultants who are happy to work on a temporary or part-time basis and often bring specialist skills and experience with them.

The question then is what sort of work should you outsource and how do you make sure you get the best out of any consultant you bring in?

What to outsource?

To answer this question you need to turn it on its head and ask 'what am I good at?', 'where are my (and my team's) skills best used?'. If you are great at sales but weak on admin then a good virtual PA or administrator would be worth investigating.

Outsourcing a routine function, such as administration, book-keeping or tele-sales could free up the time you need to spend working on your business enabling you to move up to the next level. A prime candidate for this approach is management of IT systems. Its all too easy for the maintenance of computers, including vital but tedious tasks like making backups to get pushed to one side while more exciting things are done. But very few businesses can survive for long without their computer systems in full working order.

Or maybe there are areas of the business you'd like to work on but where you just don't have the expertise. For example, admin and sales might be strong but you really haven't invested enough time in looking after your employees and checking that you comply with the latest employment regulations.

While this may not be an immediate problem employment issues can strike at any time. Beverley Taylor of Taylored Solutions is an HR specialist working in the South West and comes across crisis scenarios frequently. She explains: “One of my clients discovered that an employee had been harassing other employees for over 5 years, when the victim finally snapped and demanded the harasser be fired. A more proactive human resources effort would have spotted the problems long ago”.

Similarly, a new marketing initiative needs your input but the nitty-gritty of organising creative material, launching events or direct mail can easily be outsourced to people who spend all their time on those activities.

How to get the best out of services?

This is really the same problem as managing an employee, you need to be clear about what you want done, set realistic deadlines and monitor the project or service carefully. If focused on a very specialist area you may need to read up on the specialism a bit before choosing a consultant – it's always good to have some idea what people are talking about and form your own opinions on what needs to be done. In fact a good consultant will explain things in plain language, if you don't understand what they're telling you, don't use them! The critical issue here is communication, you can't just pass a project 'over the wall' to someone and expect it to run without any intervention. Keep talking and asking questions and you will soon see whether you are getting value for money.

The great thing about outsourcing is that if carefully managed it lets you work on your business, with highly skilled and experienced professionals, giving you the opportunity to outflank bigger businesses by doing things better for less.