If you’re a business owner, or an office manager, you know all about the daily pressures involved in keeping things running smoothly. From making sure there is always coffee in the break room to managing PTO requests and processing payroll, it takes a lot of work to run a business. It’s easy to see why so many companies, especially small businesses, turn to outside help for tasks such as payroll, HR and benefits support.

An administrative services organization, or ASO, can fill in the gaps so that small businesses can operate efficiently. They can also make it possible for companies to grow by handling time consuming tasks that bury in-house teams under paperwork. And the right ASO will also help your company stay compliant with laws and regulations by lending their expertise in key areas.

But how do you really know that your business would benefit from outside administrative support? And how would you go about finding an ASO to match your needs? The following questions and tips can help you clarify your company’s needs and evaluate potential ASOs.

Does your small business need administrative support?

How do you even know if your business needs help? After all, you’ve managed fine so far, right? This is a common question that people ask when they start exploring ASOs, and it’s an important one. Its easy to answer if you feel buried, but it’s harder to know for sure if you feel like you have things under control.

In reality, an ASO isn’t just there to help you keep up, it’s there to help you grow. By helping lift the administrative burden of running a business, an ASO makes it easier for your team to be efficient and effective. When everyone isn’t busy trying to keep up with paperwork and administrative tasks, you can be more strategic, plan for growth and accept more business.
Here are a few questions you can ask to see if an ASO is right for you:

  1. How much of your administrative team’s time is spent doing mundane office work like managing PTO requests, processing payroll, dealing with HR tasks and similar functions?
  2. Do you feel confident in taking on more business or do you worry that your staff may not be able to keep up with the back-of-house work involved in growing?
  3. Are employees wearing a few too many hats just to get things done, including taking on tasks far outside their area of expertise? Does this include areas where compliance with laws and regulations is important?
  4. Have you missed, or come close to missing, any important deadlines, like filing your 941s?

You should also consider how well your company is doing in terms of customer service.  We all know that customers service is vital to a company’s success, but it’s often one of the first things to slip when employees are stretched past their limits.

Evaluating administrative service options

ASOs tend to help with several key business areas including payroll, human resources, and benefits support. The types of services offered in each area will vary, as will the level of customer service. To find the right provider, you have to carefully weigh your needs against your options. This can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to outsourcing administrative functions.

One way to evaluate a potential admin service provider is to make a list of service areas you can benefit from, prioritized from most to least important. For instance, if your HR department is well staffed, but your payroll team is struggling, you’ll want to focus more on finding a high-level of payroll support. If you have one person filling roles in multiple departments, you should look for full-service admin support in areas you want to ease their burden.

Be sure to take a close look at exactly what type of support the ASO offers in each area. You will find that “payroll services” is an often used phrase, but it means different things to different ASOs. Some may offer simple payroll processing, while others offer tax filing, unlimited direct deposits and reporting support. Get all of the details up front so you can better evaluate your options.

If your small business wants to grow, but needs administrative support to gain ground, you’ll also want to consider the level of support being offered. Many administrative service organizations offer platforms for payroll and automate areas like tax filings, but they aren’t focused on customer service, . If something goes wrong with their payroll portal you can call for help, if you need more than that you’re on your own. They are not there to answer questions about laws and regulations, or proactively work to keep you compliant.

Last but not least, look at contracts and commitment. Some administrative support providers require you to make a significant commitment, and they enforce it by contract. This may even come with financial penalties for ending your relationship early, even if you are unsatisfied with their service. This can lock you into an unfortunate position and impact some vital business functions.  Your best bet is to look for an ASO with no long-term commitment.

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.