The Strategic Path to Success: Outsourcing and the Rise of Big Companies


In the ever-evolving landscape of business, there is an ongoing debate about how big companies become big. Some argue that companies first achieve substantial size and then outsource non-core functions, while others believe that focusing on their main business and strategically outsourcing the rest is the key to success. In this article, we will explore the latter perspective: how big companies have thrived by concentrating on their core competencies and effectively outsourcing peripheral activities.

The Outsource-First Approach

One of the most notable success stories that aligns with the outsource-first approach is that of Apple Inc. When Apple started, its primary focus was on creating innovative technology products. Steve Jobs and his team understood that their expertise lay in design, software, and user experience. Instead of trying to handle every aspect of the manufacturing process in-house, Apple outsourced production to other companies, allowing them to focus on product development and design.

Outsourcing manufacturing not only saved Apple considerable capital but also enabled them to release groundbreaking products more rapidly. It was this strategic decision to outsource that allowed Apple to establish itself as a giant in the technology industry.

Similarly, Amazon began as an online bookstore but quickly realized that to become the global e-commerce behemoth it is today, it needed to outsource the logistical nightmare of storage and distribution. By building an extensive network of third-party sellers and a robust logistics infrastructure, Amazon maintained its primary focus on customer experience, innovation, and scaling its digital marketplace. It was this focus on its core business, supported by outsourcing, that catapulted Amazon to its dominant position in the market.

The Pitfalls of the Grow-First Approach

Contrastingly, companies that adopt the grow-first approach often find themselves spread too thin and struggling to manage an array of non-core activities. They attempt to handle everything in-house, from manufacturing to logistics, marketing, and more. This can lead to inefficiencies, high costs, and a lack of focus on what they do best.

For instance, consider Tesla's early days when the company tried to handle everything, from manufacturing electric vehicles to developing solar panels and launching space exploration projects. The result was a cash-strapped, operationally challenged company. It was only when Tesla decided to concentrate on its core competency—electric vehicles—and outsourced other elements that it started to thrive.

Advantages of the Outsource-First Approach

  1. Core Competency Focus: Companies that prioritize outsourcing can hone their attention on core competencies, which often results in superior products and services. This focus can foster innovation and quality, ultimately setting them apart from their competitors.

  2. Cost Efficiency: Outsourcing allows companies to reduce costs associated with non-core functions such as manufacturing, customer support, and logistics. By tapping into external expertise, they can often accomplish tasks more efficiently and cost-effectively.

  3. Flexibility and Scalability: Outsourcing grants companies the flexibility to scale up or down quickly in response to market changes. This adaptability is vital for staying competitive in today's fast-paced business environment.

  4. Risk Mitigation: By entrusting specific functions to specialized service providers, companies can mitigate risks associated with those operations. This approach also allows them to tap into the expertise of seasoned professionals.


The success of big companies like Apple and Amazon provides compelling evidence for the outsource-first approach. By concentrating on their core businesses and leveraging the expertise of external partners, they have achieved remarkable growth and market dominance. The outsource-first philosophy allows companies to be more agile, cost-effective, and innovative, thereby setting them on the path to becoming big companies in the first place. While it is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, it underscores the importance of focusing on what you do best and outsourcing the rest to thrive in today's competitive business world.

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