Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Like many people who start a business after a long corporate career, Wade Forbes wasn’t thrilled with handling the administrative parts of entrepreneurship.  

Forbes, co-founder of RedTale Communications in the Baltimore, Maryland area, does “sketchnoting,” where he creates storyboards, illustrations and rich pictures for organizations to capture what is said at their meetings. “I tell people I’m a thinker who draws,” he says. 

Part of the work he does is to challenge clients to think in unorthodox ways about

challenges such as security threats.

“It’s my job to offer the unpopular statement in the room,” he says. “I get paid to remember what other people get paid to forget.”

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To stay focused on the creative parts of the business he most enjoys, the former schoolteacher-turned-consultant started working with MBO Partners, a provider of back-office services to freelancers, in May 2017.

MBO Partners, based in Herndon, Va., helped him get set up as an independent contractor to the Department of Defense.  MBO served as a subcontractor and handled all of the back-office work, such as the contract.

MBO Partners is part of a trend in which firms that specialize in the administrative side of small businesses—such as forming a business entity, handling billing and marketing—offer their services on an ongoing basis to self-employed professionals who would rather offload these types of tasks to an outsourced service provider than to tackle them on their own.

Clients pay a percentage of their revenue to MBO Partners to cover the services they receive.

“For these professionals, their billable time is very valuable,” says Gene Zaino, founder and executive chairman of MBO Partners.

Forbes says outsourcing allows him to devote most of his attention to client service.

“I do this thing I absolutely love that I never believed I could support myself doing,” says Forbes. “It’s amazing what you can do when you set yourself free from a guidance counselor’s bad advice.”

Many back-office providers are likely to see increased demand as corporate professionals get laid off in the recession and look for new ways of earning a living.

By staying focused, Forbes grew his business to six-figure revenue, and is now part of a new program at MBO Partners called MBO Advantage.

MBO Advantage targets independent professionals who are billing $250,000 a year or more.  Professionals pay $99 a month to belong.

Launched in mid-January, MBO Advantage has grown to 56 participants and is on pace to hit 100 members by the end of the year. 

“They are the cream of the crop,” says Zaino. 

The program gives these independent professionals access to an outsourced chief of staff, puts up a website for them, and provides them with an inside track to opportunities MBO Partners has secured with Fortune 500 companies. 

As part of the program, MBO Partners also arranges networking with the other members, which takes place via a Zoom call once a month at the moment. 

 “They are able to share their stories, as well as opportunities for business and to help each other,” says McLean Robbins, senior director of marketing for MBO Partners. 

While some self-employed professionals prefer the DIY approach where they do it all, Wade Forbes likes having an extended team.

“It’s incredible,” he says. “I’m not beholden to the machine of what a corporation has to do.  If I knew about this 10 years ago, I would have taken the plunge sooner.”

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