HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

Tips on how to grow your business with Virtual Assistants with Barbara Turley

  • The Virtual Hub, really, we recruit, train, and manage Virtual Assistants
  • All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff, but unless they hired the staff they were never really going to be able to grow it properly, and get out of the trenches of the terrible overwhelm of running your own business. Hiring Virtual Assistants was part of the answer.
  • Offshore has been held as the panacea to solve all cost efficiencies and lots of sort of problems in business. I will say it's not as simple as people think…
  • No matter what size your business is if there's no profit left, there is no business.
  • But unless you've got a business that has a very clear vision, then you have a strategy attached to that vision, and attached to your strategy are all your recurring task lists and project task lists and processes that are involved in running your business; your likelihood of success is lowered if you're not really having a focus on those kinds of things.
  • We have some outsourcing strategy consultants that everybody gets to speak to first. Their job on that call is to dig and see, is this business ready for virtual assistants?
  • Remember that every single business, no matter how small or how large, actually had departments. I always recommend that people just list out all those different little departments, and then underneath those departments, the first task that you want to do is to list what are all the tasks that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Doug: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today's guest in studio is Barbara Turley. Barbara is an investor, she is an entrepreneur, and she is the founder of a company, and the CEO, of a company called The Virtual Hub that helps companies hire Virtual Assistants. It's a business that she started by accident that exploded over the space or the course of about 12 months, and has now become one of the leading companies that recruits, trains, and manages virtual assistants for businesses that need to free up more time and energy so they can go to that next level.

Doug: Barbara's deep background comes from the investment banking side, so she is very keen and very smart when it comes to business, numbers, and making sure the business is making a profit. With her company Virtual Hub, she has a strong focus on customized training and ongoing career development, she ensures that her team is trained in cutting edge programs like HubSpot and Ontraport, to make sure that she meets the needs of her clients, and the unique needs that they have in digital marketing, social media, and personal assistant services.

Doug: Barbara is a mom to a gorgeous daughter named Ruby, wife to her best friend Eddie, and an adventure lover with a passion for horses, skiing, tennis, and spending time in nature. So with that introduction, I'd like to welcome Barbara to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Doug: Well, welcome to the Real Marketing podcast today, Barbara. I'm super excited to talk to you and allow you to inform our listeners on the opportunity that exists working with a company like yours, and working maybe offshore, something they haven't done before.

Barbara: Great to be on the show, thanks for having me.

Doug:  So, do you want to share just a little bit of your background? Kind of how you got into this business, and fill in the blanks for our listeners.

Barbara: Sure, I'll try and give you the short version, because I've had a very varied career, as we were chatting off-air about. So I started my career in the financial industry and spent many years in equity trading. So I was on the trading floors, which I absolutely loved, for about 10 years. And then I hit my 30's and was like, trading floors are great fun in your 20's because it's work hard play hard, I mean I had a great time, but I was burned out by the end. And I did a bit of a switch in the industry and I switched into the asset management side. So anyone in the industry will know that one side is called sell side, the other side's called buy side, and by side financial industry in the asset management/funds management area, was a little less raucous, would be the word I would use, a bit more professional. So, I went into sales in that area, not really knowing where I was going to take that or what I was going to do, but I also had a burning desire, deep inside as many people do, to one day do my own thing. And I didn't actually know what that meant.

Barbara: Like my own thing, does that mean to build a company? Does that mean just be a consultant? I just had kind of a needling thing. And to cut a long story short, I got a great opportunity in the worst financial crisis that our time has known, which was in 2008, an opportunity presented itself to, in the worst blood in the streets time of that crisis, where one of the banks in Sidney … I was working at Deutsche Asset Management here in Sidney, and they were selling off some assets basically, or keen to get rid of some of their parts of their business. And the CEO at the time, who I was working closely with, decided with a group of others, to do a management buyout or do a startup with that part of the business, and I got an opportunity to hop on the coattails of that basically and get involved.

Barbara: So I did, I took the opportunity with open arms, and that's about 10 years ago now, and that company today is a funds management business that's running about six billion of assets now, it's huge. So-

Doug: That's amazing. In ten years.

Barbara: …it was an extraordinary experience, yes. I'm still actually very much involved from the shareholder side, in the company. But it gave me a great opportunity to see how a great company's built and the scalability that, the decisions; I was very close to the decisions that were being made around growing the company.

Barbara:  So after about five years of doing that, the needle came back, I was like I want to do this for myself.

Doug:  Something of your own.

Barbara:  Yeah. Totally mad, even the CEO was like, are you mad? You want to have children and build a company? I was like, yeah I know, I'm totally insane, but. So I started doing a bit of business coaching, consulting, as many corporates do when they leave the safety of corporate, and I noticed that I was coaching a lot of smaller businesses and everything diverse from like a naturopath, to a swim school, to a lawyer. So they were very different businesses but they all had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff, but unless they hired the staff they were never really going to be able to grow it properly, and get out of the trenches of terrible overwhelm of running your own business.

Barbara:  So I had read Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Work Week, like lots of people. I had gotten myself a Virtual Assistants in the Philippines to help me out with a few bits and pieces. So I started recruiting a few friends of my Virtual Assistant, purely not as a business, but just to help out the clients I was coaching. And before I knew it, honestly, I was just getting a few more phone calls for Virtual Assistants than I was for business coaching, and I literally in one weekend, was like, I think there's a business in this. And overnight I just pivoted out of one and The Virtual Hub was born in about two weeks from nothing.

Doug:  That's really cool.

Barbara:  No name, no website, nothing. I just did a webinar out to the people that we on my list, and was like, is anyone keen for me to do this? Do you want me to recruit? Would anyone buy this, kind of thing? And it was the most successful webinar I ever did. And bang, we were in business. That was it.

Doug:  Oh that's amazing. I mean I read The 4-Hour Work Week as well, and that kind of wrecked me. I went hey, I've got all these staff here and hmm, I can have some remote staff and have less staff here, and free up my time, and work home base and get out of the car for commuting, spend more time with my kids. Hey, that sounds like a good plan.

Barbara:  Yes, I mean it is the holy grail. And you know offshore has been held as the panacea to solve all cost efficiencies and lots of sort of problems in business. I will say it's not as simple as people think, and lots of people have been burned with it, and we can dive into that if you want.

Barbara:  It's a challenging thing to get right, but when you do, the dividends it pays are enormous for your bottom line and your business.

Doug:  So why don't we start with kind of the why hire a virtual assistant, and then maybe start in the how. Because like you said, there are a couple of opportunities. There's a small business that doesn't have any employees, and then there are larger businesses, thinking back to the Tim Ferriss, that have a bunch of staff, but there's still an opportunity for them to work with someone like you, and to have extended remote staff.

Barbara:  Definitely, yes. So, the why, if we were to delve into the why hire a virtual assistant first. I mean, like we were talking off air, I've been involved in a large business, I've been involved in small business. I've seen both sides of the fence and the challenges that every business faces when they're trying to grow. The bottom line is, every single business, regardless of whether you're a solopreneur working from home, just making an income, to a five billion dollar asset management business, it is all about at the end of the day how much profit is left after you have done all the bits and pieces involved in the business. And if there's no profit left, there is no business.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Barbara:  So people don't like to think about this, but making money is a very important part of being successful and having an impact. I mean, you can have an impact if you make money, right? So the making money piece, if we were to look at that, a huge cost for any business is people. Your staff, it's a very important cost. But I feel it's a no brainer to think about, well if we could have a part of our team that is offshore, even if that's just one virtual assistant, helping us out at a very cost-effective price, then why wouldn't we add that strategy to our business and ensure the people that we do hire on shore are people who are, I don't want to say doing higher value work, but maybe doing different work. It might be more revenue-generating work, it might be more strategic work, and you lift your onshore people out of the doldrums of getting bogged down in the task lists that can be done by people offshore and then you give them great careers as well. Because they're all loving working for us and companies like us, in places like the Philippines, for example.

Barbara:  So it is a business strategy that honestly any business can look at, regardless of whether you're online, offline, where you are in the world, what your business offering is. It does actually work anywhere, it's just a matter of getting into that mindset of understanding that it is a strategy you can leverage.

Doug:  So, first thing, okay, that sounds good, but how do I start?

Barbara: Yeah, so everyone starts on UpWork. Everyone goes to freelancer.com or UpWork, and then invariably gets burnt, and people go, this doesn't work for my business, I had a terrible experience. Some people hit a home run on the first round and they're like, it was great for me. But the reality is the majority of people go into one of these marketplaces, get overrun with, they put a job ad out and then they get like 500 applications from people from India, and Vietnam, and all over the world. Becomes very overwhelming, they try and choose someone, and it's a disaster. So that's a very common story that happens out there.

Barbara:  The reason it is, is because of a number of things. There's obviously the recruitment and HR challenges. But putting that aside for a second, even if you hire an amazing Virtual Assistant; let's say you find someone online, you get an amazing Virtual Assistant. Even if they're in America, like you don't have to hire in the Philippines, but let's say you get an amazing Virtual Assistants. If your business and your mindset is not set up properly before that person arrives, your chance of failure is much higher. And you will naturally blame the Virtual Assistants because you'll say that they weren't able to take initiative, they didn't do this, that. But unless you've got a business that has a very clear vision, then you have a strategy attached to that vision, and attached to your strategy are all your recurring task lists and project task lists and processes that are involved in running your business; your likelihood of success is lowered if you're not really having a focus on those kinds of things.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Barbara:  So I'm hoping that makes sense?

Doug:  Yeah, that totally makes sense. And the other side, I think of that, that sometimes people forget or may forget, is that you're dealing in different cultures. I had read a book by the guy, was David Livermore, called Driven by Difference, and he talked about how innovative companies grow through diversity. And so you're hiring somebody that's maybe in a different country, in a different culture, and so their work environment and their expectations are different than who you've got working with you in North America, or working with you in your case in Sidney, because, you know, that's their-

Barbara:  Well they're in a different culture. And also you have to remember that they were brought up differently.

Doug:  Absolutely.

Barbara:  So, for example, let's look at the Philippines for example. You know people, that culture is rapidly evolving. I mean I will say it's growing and evolving very fast, but they're still, I think, brought up very much to be workers, and to be almost taught that their voice is not important. You know, that they're there to do the task, and not to assume that their opinion or their voice has any importance, right? That's a problem. Whereas, you know, because when we're hiring people, we have programs and everything internally to encourage both clients and virtual assistants to understand that the Virtual Assistants voice, the client actually wants to hear their opinion, and we make okay for them, and teach them how to be like, yeah I actually would like to share my opinion.

Barbara:  So, culture, that's a cultural problem. And when people working with Virtual Assistants offshore will understand the yes culture that I get, I just keep saying yes, and then they make a mess of it. So that's what [crosstalk 00:12:17]. Yeah, you know? Like they're trained to say yes.

Doug:  Yeah, I know ex … Yes, they are, absolutely. Can you do this? Yes. Can you do this? Do this? Yes. And then you've given two weeks worth of work you want to be done in two days. You say, how come you didn't get it done, you said you could do it?

Barbara:  Yeah, and they run around and try to find somebody who can help them, and they're closed and think, well I'll just say yes and I won't tell them that I actually don't really know how to do something.

Doug: So backing it up a bit, you're saying expectations, and have some systems in place and in mind before you pull the trigger. Now is that something that someone, you would typically work through with a client. So if someone, like if I came to you and said hey Barbara I'm looking at leaning out my business and I'd like to expand with some offshore staff. Are you going to push back and go, okay well tell me about the tasks and what it is that you want to offshore before you're going to take that next step?

Barbara:  Yes. So we have some outsourcing strategy consultants that everybody gets to speak to first. They're sort of salespeople, but they're not selling on the phone. What the idea behind those guys is, I have one in Ireland and one here in Australia, and their job on that call is to dig and see, is this business ready? Because we don't want businesses wasting time, energy, and money on this if they're not ready. Because we could sell a Virtual Assistant all day, all day, right? But if you bring a client in that is actually not ready, you're going to have a very unhappy client, who is even more overwhelmed than they were before they got the Virtual Assistants because all they've done is throw a body at the problem. Do you know what I mean? They have a problem in that their business is chaos, and then they throw a person into it and think that's going to solve the problem, and it doesn't. And then they invariably blame us because we sold the thing. So, it's very important to … You know what I mean.

Doug:  Yeah, no, I know exactly what you mean.

Barbara:  And they get [crosstalk 00:13:57], right? So we don't take them on when they're like that.

Barbara:  I would love to say that we help people build up all their processes. We do to a certain extent. We do have a client onboarding thing, and we actually give clients a lot of processes. But you know, you still have stuff in your own business that we could never know, that you have to build yourself.

Barbara:  So we heavily advise clients. We tell them how to get ready, and we say look, here are the things you need to do to get ready, and you need to focus on this for a while. And you can either get a Virtual Assistant now and get a Virtual Assistant to potentially help you with this project, or you can go away and digest what we've said today and come back in maybe six weeks or three months. And they do come back. Sometimes it takes 12 months, and they come back and then they're ready. And then they start their offshore team strategy.

Barbara:  So our success rates high because of that, yeah.

Doug:  Well that makes sense, I mean, you're dealing with qualified people. And I even like what Tim Ferriss talked about, if you're working for somebody else, even in a sales role, like why would I want to do all the data entry stuff when I make money talking to a prospect. So even people that are full time employed that are making a good six-figure income can definitely support one or two Virtual Assistants to help with the other task, to help them leverage their time and grow their income.

Barbara:  Well interestingly, you know, we have a couple of clients that are large, we've got a few marketing agencies and what they eventually realized is well, if you're paying as a marketing agency your top staff, your account managers, your project managers, and your creatives, in the states or Australia or whatever; a lot of them in marketing, a lot of the work that needs to be done is grunt work, I call it, because it's like analytics and filling out spreadsheets and data, this sort of thing. And realistically if you're paying somebody at that level in the U.S., and they're getting bogged down and quite frankly annoyed because they don't want to do that kind of work, you're just leaving money on the table. Because you could free up that person to do more of the strategic, or the sales, or whatever it is that they're doing, give them Virtual Assistants to work under them so you've got this process going where the Virtual Assistants are doing all of the tasks and the implementation and somebody's running them. So the account manager can actually run them, and that works very well that strategy,

Doug:  So do you have an example of a client that you helped, that has been in business, had some staff, and then looked at leaning down and leveraging your experience and your knowledge, and grew their business?

Barbara:  Yes, we've had a few. So a lot of our … Everyone always thinks we must have a massive client list, actually, we don't. We have 120 employees now, but we have fewer clients than that because our clients are growing their teams. So what we, yeah, we've had some people who are up to five Virtual Assistants, teams of five now. And they get one, and all of sudden they're like, oh my god actually I want three, actually I need four. So that's kind of what starts to happen.

Barbara:  If they really take on board the things that we talk about and the things that we advise, you know, that we have had a lot of people do that. And that's really what we're about. The Virtual Hub, really, we recruit, train, and manage Virtual Assistants, right? That's essentially what we do, in the Philippines. But really our goal is two-fold. We Actually want to have cost-effective scalability and we want to see our business and our clients grow because we know that the more Virtual Assistants we put in there, obviously it's good for us, but it's good for their business as it means their growing. But also we want to provide dynamic, fun, exciting, careers for people in the Philippines so that they can also grow. So that's kind of the two-fold mission that we have. So it's about success rates as opposed to numbers.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Doug:  So if you're working with somebody that, you know, take on three, four five Virtual Assistants, now I notice that you've got, I looked through the services that you offer when I had a look at your website. So it looks like you also can put someone in place to help with the project management and building out the systems as well.

Barbara:  We can, but they're not, and this is where you have to be really careful. So there's a balancing act between … Like we do have clients that come in and they say, they might give a project brief to Virtual Assistants and expect the Virtual Assistants to map out the entire project and all the task lists attached. We have Virtual Assistants that can do that, but if I go and sell that, and tell the market that that's what we do, we would end up failing, because that's where people will take that too far and think they're going to get a strategist and someone to run their entire business for them, for 10 bucks an hour. Do you know what I mean? There are people who actually think that. So, you know, yeah, there is a real misconception. So you've got to very careful that you remember that this person is not a project manager, they are a virtual assistant who we think is smart, we have taught them how to do things like creating a process map, for example, but you need to know what you're doing yourself, or you need to have a strategist on your team that is actually building the strategy and working with that person, and that person's just doing the work-

Doug:  That's right, it's not-

Barbara: … not actually coming up with the plan.

Doug:  Yeah, it's not another C level employee you're hiring.

Barbara:  No, no, so, they can execute the tasks, and I would prefer honestly, if people were not asking Virtual Assistants to map out project plans, because that's a project manager, really.

Doug:  So what advice would you give our listeners now that are saying, hey this kind of sounds interesting. Now you said you need to be prepared and have some systems, can you dive a little bit deeper on some specific things that they can take away at the end of this podcast, and begin that exploration?

Barbara:  Yes, because that's a very broad thing that I've said, and people go, oh I don't even know where to start with that. Like, forget about how do I start with Virtual Assistants, like where do I start with even systemizing my business?

Barbara:  The simplest way to do it is to remember that every single business, no matter how small or how large, actually had departments. Like even if you're just on your own at your kitchen table, you have marketing, and sales, and product delivery, and product creation, and accounting, and HR, and all these different areas, and legal. So I always recommend that people just list out all those different little departments, and then underneath those departments the first task that you want to do is to list what are all the tasks that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, whatever it is, under each of those buckets. And that's going to give you your recurring task list. And the recurring task list is things that, jobs that are non-negotiable, kind of painful, but need to be done on a regular basis, on time, and to keep the engine of the business running, if that makes sense?

Barbara:  So they're not, they don't require somebody coming up with a strategy or anything, they're just like, live chat needs to be turned on every day at 8:00 AM, or whatever, and this is how we do it.

Barbara:  So you've broken all that down. Try to get a little process for each one, because the way you do it and the way you want it done in your business will be different to other people, so you've got to have a little process for each task.

Barbara:  Then after that, you've got your project list. You know, do you want to create an ebook? Have you got visions of revamping your website? All of these things. That's a project list, and the project list is what drives the business forward, and you might have projects under each of those buckets as well. And then after that you can go through each of the tasks. A bit tedious, I would agree, but you go through each of the tasks and go, what are the ones that I need to stop doing and that actually somebody else could do with my guidance. And you'll find that you'll cut your list down, your to-do list becomes much smaller because your stop doing list becomes very large.

Doug:  What I found is that it really made me focus on systematizing the business and I found the easiest way for me, because I don't like sitting down and writing big long project plans, or tasks lists, as if it was, for example, setting up my social media program, I can do a screen record and I can go in and set up the account and go through the whole process from start to finish, and then I can share that, and then we can get on a zoom call and answer questions. But so you do it once like you're doing it every day already, so just record it, and then share that with somebody else, and then you never have to do it again.

Barbara:  And then ask them, as their first task, this is what I would recommend, ask your virtual assistant to create a process map or a process step by step written thing, from your video. So that when you have it now as a process. So they can actually create that for you. They take what's in your head, and what you've shown them on the video, but also go back through it with them and make sure each step is there so that they haven't missed something that might be … For example sometimes when we're doing a process, we don't realize that as we do a step there's a thinking part of it that's not actually reflected in the video, and that doesn't get picked up when they do it, and then they make a mistake.

Doug:  No ESP, they can't figure that out?

Barbara: Yes. So and people go, oh they just keep making mistakes. So I'm like, well actually if you were to work with them, you'd actually discover that the mistake is that there's a piece missing. So, [crosstalk 00:23:00].

Doug:  Yup. What we've done is give it to somebody else to do. Say okay, now you do the task list then give it to somebody else and let them go through the process. And they'll very quickly figure out whether or not it's got all the right ingredients.

Barbara:  Yeah, all the bits, exactly. And that helps you to evolve your processes, and they are ever evolving things. They never stop. They're like living, breathing, dynamic, things, processes, as your business grows.

Barbara: So that's the easiest way I think to just sit down and get started, is to do that.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Doug:  So yeah, it's not that difficult. It sounds like a really huge task, but when you think about the investment … I'll ask you a question that wasn't on my list because you're the investment person. What sort of ROI would you, is there any way to look this, because you're looking at existing staff now and you've got maybe people you're paying too much to do jobs that are not in their wheelhouse or aren't growing your business.

Barbara:  Yeah, there is a way to look at that. If you're in that situation where you have a team already on shore, you want to be looking at each person's role, each person's tasks, work with them, what you're going to delegate down to the Virtual Assistants, that sort of thing, and then once you … The first couple of months, realistically, don't expect ROI, right? Because really, that six to eight weeks you've got to allow a transition, a training time, onboarding people; all of that sort of stuff.

Barbara: A  lot of people hire Virtual Assistants and in a week they're like, this is not working. And I'm like okay, but in a week, you actually really need to allow time to onboard somebody correctly and to hand over reigns. But over time what you should see is that, if you've got a salesperson, you've freed their time up more. If their conversion rate or their sales rate was already x, then you should be seeing an increase in that rate. If you're not, maybe they're still getting bogged down micromanaging Virtual Assistants, I don't know, but you've got to talk to them about that, and you want to see data to actually see, well what has been the uplift after four or five months, six months. I would say at the six-month mark, you'd want to be seeing an uplift in other areas of the business.

Doug:  Well and I think if you step back and just use a little bit of common sense, and say when you hire an employee on shore you're expectation isn't that you have ROI the first eight either, there's an onboarding process, and there's a learning process, regardless of where the employee is.

Barbara:  And look, honestly people sometimes think, oh I just want to hire A players, and they just come in and know what to do. I've hired people who had all the experience in the world, were not in the Philippines, they're like Western people; it still takes time for them to get into your business because it's like a new house, they don't know where all the rooms are. It's like you've got to show them around, it takes awhile. And yeah, I just think people just have unrealistic expectations around hiring.

Barbara:  The other thing people say is, I don't have time to create processes. I don't have time for this. I just want to hire people who know what they're doing. I'm like, you can do that, but you'll pay up for it, and when that person gets offered by somebody else, they'll walk out the door and the IP will walk with them, and then you're in a bad situation. You're held ransom then for more salary, more money, more bonuses, whatever. So it's better to systemize your business. And actually, if I was going to go for my investment background, forgetting Virtual Assistants or offshore or anything for a second, the more systemized your business is, the higher the asset value. Because somebody else can just buy it and walk in and take it over.

Doug:  Absolutely, yup. I've got a friend of mine, that's all he does. He works with people that have businesses that want to move 10 years down the road, or five years down the road, to sell it, and they spend a lot of time developing systems so you're not dependent … If you think of Michael Gerber's book, The E-Myth, that's your biggest risk, is having all your value of your business in one or two key employees; because if they leave, you're toast.

Barbara: Absolutely. I'm just a big fan. I mean look, my entire team is in the Philippines. I have two or three people who are based outside, like in the Western countries, but I've had great success with systemizing. I've had people who've … I haven't had people who've really left. I've had people that I've promoted to other roles. But it's been easy because I'm like, well their role is already mapped out and systemized, so it's easy to just promote someone else up into that role and move them into a new one. It becomes very simple to move people around.

Doug:  Well, and I think the myth to is that because they're in a different country, that you need to micromanage and oversee what they're doing. And my experience has been just the opposite, that the different level of work ethic is, well it's just not the same compared to-

Barbara:  No. Let's be honest.

Doug:  … so, I've never had one of my onshore employees send me a note on Saturday saying, hey boss, I'd like to work today because my daughter and my husband have gone to visit their mum. Thinking-

Barbara: Oh, I was thinking the work ethic's a bit low. I mean honestly, in the Philippines, it's touch and go there. It's a good work ethic, but it comes with a few other challenges.

Doug: Well sure, you're dealing with third world issues in terms of, there's electricity, and there are storms, and there's internet, and there's all the other stuff, but I'm not going to put my most mission-critical issue there, or key staff there, that if their power goes out, the business shuts off.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Barbara:  Yeah look, I think the advice I do give to people about the oversight thing … So people go, I don't want to micromanage them, I don't want to have to check in, I don't want to have to check their work all the time. And I say well, you can't check anything, right, because you're running a business. But the way to do it, the way I've discovered, and I learned this the hard way, is to have good reporting lines. So teach them how they are to report results to you, visibly. So don't just say, I did this today. You've got to be able to see data of actual results, and you've got to have … I mean I, on a day, I'm a big fan of the huddle concept, so the daily huddles, and weekly huddles, and things like that. Where you just get straight to the point and what are the results. So, if somebody's doing, let's say somebody's doing a bit of SEO or something for your offshore, or social media, like hard numbers. How much, show me the data reporting of engagement this week and make them talk you through it. That's actually quite effective. Nowhere to hide there right? They're either doing the job or they're not.

Doug:  Yeah, you don't need to be monitoring their screen time on their computer, I mean, you're right. You're looking for output, not how long you're sitting behind the screen.

Barbara:  Absolutely. Yup, yup.

Doug: So what's some of the bad advice that you hear, so stealing, seeing that you're a Tim Ferriss fan, I'll steal his line. What's the bad advice that you hear when you're out at a cocktail party around this particular industry?

Barbara: I think the biggest one, and lots of people will disagree with me here, but people say to me, honestly, like I don't mind when they do the work, I just want the result. I go yeah, well we're all human, and my advice on that is, if you, my experience in the Philippines is if you are too flexible like you can offer flexibility, there's nothing wrong with that, but you need to have flexibility within a structure. So what I mean by that is, if you say to somebody in the Philippines, I don't mind when you do the work as long as I get the results, you'll find that the work potentially might be done at 3:00 in the morning with a baby on the hip.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Doug: Right.

Barbara: And then there's another job going on during the day. And your work's, all of a sudden what you'll find is it'll be great for four weeks, and then the slippage will happen because the person will be exhausted, making mistakes, they'll take on other peoples contracts online, and things like that. And that's a cultural thing because they haven't developed enough yet. I just feel the culture is not really ready yet for this, too much flexibility. I think it's better to have some sort of structure on it and work with them on what works for them, what works for you. But you're the business owner at the end of the day so you can put some structure on that.

Doug: Yep, absolutely. You wouldn't do that locally, say hey, come into the office whenever you feel like it. That wouldn't go over very well.

Barbara: Yeah. And human behavior. The human tendency is to put off, and procrastinate, until the last minute.

Doug: Yeah that's right. Why do today what you can do tomorrow, or put off to tomorrow.

Barbara: So they're going to, that's what's going to happen. And they're going to take care of the family. There's also family things and stuff in the Philippines that you have to take into account. So if you offer too much flexibility, you're trying to be nice, you're actually shooting yourself in the foot, like really badly. So that's my biggest, the biggest myth out there is, yeah I give them flexibility. I'm like, mm, yeah, within reason.

Doug: So do you want to just walk our listeners through the difference between the services that you're offering, and what people may do having read Tim Ferriss's book and go look to hire somebody on their own.

Barbara: Yes. So we're a full service, we're not a recruiter, I will definitely say that. So people, when they come to us, sometimes get confused. They think we're going to send them … A pure recruiter will take your brief, they'll go out to the market, advertise, get a load of people in, do a bit of interviewing/testing, and then show you a ton of resumes, and keep showing them to you until you find someone you're happy with.

Barbara: I found that model to be just fraught with risk on both sides. It just didn't work. So the model that I have today is that I employ, my company in the Philippines employs everyone before, we employ and train, before we ever introduce them to a client. So on average, about 250 people per month apply for a job with us, and after a very grueling three-week experience that's pretty intensive with us, we might hire 10. 10 of them will make it. It's actually very frustrating. Maybe on a good month, we might get 20. But I'd say 10 would be the average.

Barbara: And then we put them through a, even if they have the experience, we have our own digital marketing training program, where we put them through, to see do you really have what it takes, and what level are you really? Because we've got level one, two, and three Virtual Assistants. One is kind of general admin, two is like content management, social media, word press blogs, that kind of thing. Level three is people who can navigate the building, let's say, a campaign on HubSpot, or on Ontraport, as long as the client's given them what they want, they can build it. And maybe put a few Zapier integrations in, stuff like that.

Barbara: And so we've got to ascertain really, is somebody going to be able to do that, and we teach all of that ourselves. And only at that point do we then go to a client and say, we've got maybe two to three people you can meet. Hopefully, we've got three, sometimes we only have one. But our success rate's high because of that, so we say that we've already picked this person, you don't have to pick them, but that's who we are putting forward to represent our brand, basically.

Doug: Now do your clients typically hire one person to start, or do they start with a half time with somebody, or, what's the usual onboarding?

Barbara: Yeah, people always love to start with the part-time, which is fine, we don't mind that at all. But what we have found is, that because of our success rate … About two years ago our success rate went through the roof because we started our own training programs, and we did a pile of things internally to make sure that we had this success rate, and what we found is then, the person would start part-time, and then the other part-time another client would have. And then the Virtual Assistants was so good that neither side would give up. They're like, I'm not letting Virtual Assistants, no, I don't care they want them full-time. And then we had this like-

Doug: It's like a divorce settlement, who gets the dog.

Barbara: Yeah, and people would say things like … Like clients would say, one client, tried to offer another client money. They were like, tell them I'll pay for another Virtual Assistant for a month, for him, if he gives me her full-time.

Doug: That's hilarious.

Barbara: And he said, but that's only money. The other client said that's only money.

Doug: That' funny.

Barbara: Yeah, so what we recommend now, if somebody is going to go part-time, we're like look, it's better to start full-time, and then if you find that your task list is not developed enough you can always downgrade, that's easier. But taking a part-timer and thinking I can build them up in three months time, we're like no because they're already on our payroll, so we're like no, we've got to fill them. But we do part-time for smaller clients though, we do do that.

Doug: That's a great point. And that totally makes sense, and as you said, when you're looking at the number of tasks and stuff you're going to be able to take off your desk, it's going to make a huge difference to your day.

Barbara: Well the other thing we do say, for clients that need to start with part-time though, we do say look, don't panic. We can start with part-time, and then what we recommend is, get another part-timer that has different skill sets. Like don't worry if you can't get this person full-time, we can work with you on different solutions. There are different solutions to that [crosstalk 00:35:51].

Doug: Right, so you can have a general Virtual Assistants, then you can have somebody that's more advanced that's doing your Ontraport or your [crosstalk 00:35:57] campaign.

Barbara: Exactly, yeah.

Doug: Or building [crosstalk 00:35:59].

Barbara: That's exactly right.

Doug: Oh, that's really cool.

Barbara: Yep. Yep. So you can have a cheaper one, and then a more expensive one. And you don't have to have like the one that does everything.

Doug: So what parting words of advice would you give our listeners that this is a new idea to them.

Barbara: I would say number one, it takes your mindset, so you've got to, there's a lot of fear and mistrust and all that stuff, which I completely understand, about offshore. But I want you to open your mind to the cost-effectiveness of this, and the ability to scale faster if that's what you want to do because you can hire a number of staff … For one person you can hire in America, you can probably hire five in the Philippines. So just think about that, like in terms of your business.

Barbara: And number two, the systemization thing is tedious, most people find it very boring, and they absolutely hate it. I completely understand that. I don't particularly like it myself, but even forgetting Virtual Assistants, it is going to be so beneficial to your business value and the dividends it's going to pay you from a business perspective are worth every minute that you spend on it. So just, and then you can plug cheaper stuff into or on it. That makes it easy. So it's just about expanding your mindset into making this possible for you in your business.

Doug: That's really cool. So, now do you have all of your staff in location or are they working remotely? Or how do you generally structure that from your company's side?

Barbara: Yes. I started off with the work from home model. There's nothing wrong with that if you want to go on UpWork and find Virtual Assistants you can find tons of them. They work from home, and that works pretty well. You got to keep a bit of a tight reign on them. But what I found is when I got to 50 people, that model completely broke down and it was too hard to manage everyone, and I just realized in order for me to grow the way I want to grow this company, I had to take it more seriously.

Barbara: So I set up a company in the Philippines, and I have full offices now in a beautiful location called Cebu, which is one of the nicest beach locations in the Philippines and they're all in one office.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

All the businesses I was working with had the same problem; they all were too small revenue wise to hire staff. Hiring a Virtual Assistant was the answer.

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Doug: Yep, I've been there. It's beautiful. Yes, it is.

Barbara: Yes, it's beautiful. Yeah, great talent pool there. Great work-life balance, Manila's pretty bad with traffic and typhoons and stuff like that, so the people I think are happier in Cebu, and so they're all in one office, and we have full office set up there, and they love it, so, it's much better for us that way.

Doug: Well, and that's what I assumed by the size of your company and what you're doing, that you'd have to have everybody in one location. And I guess the added benefit is that there's no question in terms of quality of equipment, and latest updates of software, and the internet, and phone, and all the things that you're going to need to rely on to get your work done.

Barbara: Yeah. And even things like, we're rolling out, I don't know, the Americans weren't that into this, but in Europe they had that big GDPR data protection thing that happened last year, and we actually are a data processor technically, because we're Virtual Assistants, so we had to roll out an entire thing around that, and thankfully we had offices, because actually, that would be impossible to roll out with a work from home.

Doug: Well, and it's going to keep going. I mean I do a lot of work in email space, and we're seeing California now in America looking at very similar legislation to GDPR, and I'm just hoping that the Americas can get together and not have a different set of rules in every state. Just do what they did with GDPR and go across the country.

Barbara: Well interestingly, Europeans these days, I think we got a lot of European business out of that because the Europeans were rapidly realizing that they actually cannot legally use a work from home Virtual Assistants with flimsy, they can get away with it, but it's not actually really that great to do that.

Doug: Yeah, it may not be as compliant.

Barbara: Under the law.

Doug: That's right.

Barbara: It's not really compliant, yeah. It's difficult, yeah.

Barbara: So those are the things, these are all the things that, in my role, I have to navigate all this stuff.

Doug: Well I'm glad that you're there doing that, and it's not me.

Barbara: Yeah. I don't mind it actually. I quite enjoy that company growth side of things and making sure that we're delivering what the market needs and wants, as much as we can. It's really hard, just like any business. But we're constantly evolving.

Doug: Well, I just wanted to say thanks so much for taking time today to share with our audience. I think you've got a great offer. I really enjoyed looking through your website. I must say that all the stuff that you've got up there, and the educational information, and even the response from your email auto-responder was very professional and very well done.

Barbara: Oh good, because when you look at your own website, you're like oh, we need to revamp that, change this, and that's too old. But I do have a podcast there as well, under the Our Content tab on our site, where I started a podcast to educate people, and it's literally like, we talk so tactical on that podcast around, even things like when is it time to fire my Virtual Assistants. You know, questions people have or have had to do this, and all the pitfalls and everything.

Barbara: It's warts and all on that podcast, we don't hold anything back.

Doug: Well, and if you look at the stats of podcasting right now, it's in the news just about every single day. I was reading just last night that Spotify's got 42% of the American's ear in terms of listening to podcasts right now. So it's just exploded.

Barbara: Oh, I think it is the greatest untapped marketing source out there right now. People don't realize that everyone's listening to podcasts and, I mean I'm on this podcast, something I do a lot is podcasts. I'm on podcasts all the time talking about this, because that's where people are, and they're in the gym, in the car, their listening to podcasts.

Doug: Yep, and you've got the Virtual Assistants that can take your transcription and get it up to your blog, and create your social media posts and share it out there to the world to help you grow your audience.

Barbara: And we have a process for that that we give to clients. So that's one of the processes we've built for you. So you don't have to do any of those things. Social media, all those ones, we've actually got all those built. People can just take them and use them.

Doug: Well that's fabulous. I hear that complaint a lot in the podcasting circles that I'm in. People that are podcasters that are doing all the stuff themselves. It's like, why don't you outsource it?

Barbara: Come to us, we'll get you Virtual Assistants can do that. And it's just like, all I do is record the podcast and put it in DropBox. I don't even, it just shows up everywhere. Even this one that I'm on, eventually this will go live, they'll take this, they'll take a couple of snippets out and turn it in to an image, they'll spread it all across our social media and tag you guys, and I don't have to be like hey, did you see that podcast I was on? I just [crosstalk 00:42:15] that. It shows up on our website.

Doug: There's a system for that.

Barbara: There's a system for that, yes.

Doug: So two questions and I'll let you get back to your day. One is, who's one guest that you think I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Barbara: I reckon you should interview James Schramko, in Australia. Who's, I think you know him. James Schramko's SuperFastBusiness. And then I have an interesting one, I'm going to give you two. Matt Malouf is my co-host actually on our podcast, The Virtual Success Show. And he's a real systems guy, right? So if anybody is thinking I'd love to do all of this, but I can't be bothered to building systems, I hate it. Then Matt is ace of that sort of thing, that's kind of what he … He's got a coaching business in that. And you can get a flavor for him on our podcast, and I reckon you should have him on your show; Matt Malouf.

Doug: Well that would be good. Yep. Systems are important. So whether or not you've got Virtual Assistants or not, if you want to grow your business, and work, as Michael Gerber says, on your business not in your business, you need to get it systematized.

Barbara: He actually has a book, I just realized. I just saw it on my shelf here. He wrote a book called The Stop Doing List, which is where I got that stop doing concept from. And he has, that's a tactical book that shows you how to do that.

Doug: Very cool. So now Barbara, where can people get in touch with you, learn more about what you're doing, and how you can help them out?

Barbara: Sure, so we have a special link for your listeners, with some freebies on there. You can go to thevirtualhub.com/rmrf, but we'll put it in the show notes anyway, RMRF, yup. And on there you can get, we've got a free mini guide. You don't even need to sign up for that, it's just a downloadable, which gives you the five reasons people fail with Virtual Assistants, and how to fix it. So that's always a useful one.

Doug: That's always a good start. Find out what not to do.

Barbara: Absolutely. These are like the things you see all the time, and why you're going to waste money. And then the next one is, we've got a scalable business success formula, which is kind of more of what I've been talking about today on this show. And you can also book a free consult with one of our strategy consultants if you feel like you want to dive into, are you ready? Is this for you? Are we for you? All that sort of thing. You can have a chat with them.

Doug: Well that's super cool and super generous. I just appreciate you set that aside for our listeners to check it out. So, listeners, we'll make sure we get the show notes transcribed. We'll make sure that we've got Barbara's information there, and a link back to the website with those offers. So thanks again Barbara for sharing with our audience.

Barbara: Thanks for having me.

Doug: And thanks audience for tuning in. If you have no subscribed to the podcast, please don't be shy. Subscribe to the podcast, leave a review. If you've got some comments or some questions for Barbara, definitely reach out and contact her, and I look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

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