HOW TO SET UP A VIRTUAL OFFICE

Tips on how to set up a virtual office with Sarah Noked

  • The three mistakes people make when they are working with virtual teams is they aren't clear about their goals, their virtual office set-up, and they are not leveraging the power of automation.
  • Ideally, the point here is to delegate everything that doesn't really require you, the business owner, to do.
  • Anything that's a recurring task should not be being done by the business owner because in that case, it can be systematized and delegated.
  • A lot of businesses haven't leveraged something like a project management tool

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Three mistakes people make working with virtual teams is they aren't clear about their goals, their virtual office set-up, and they are not leveraging the power of automation.

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Doug Morneau: Well welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today's guest is Sarah Noked. She is the founder of Sarah Noked OBM. She is an online business management agency and she empowers entrepreneurs and creatives in all stages of their business to grow a thriving online business. Sarah works out of her home in Israel helping entrepreneurs plan and delegate, implement the right systems, unite virtual teams across the globe, and grow profits to achieve their goals. As just one of three certified OBM trainers around the world, Sarah shares her passion for online business management through training, certification courses to empower, educate VAs and OBMs worldwide. So I'd like to welcome Sarah to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today. Hey Sarah, welcome to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Sarah Noked: Hey, Doug, thanks for having me on.

Doug Morneau: I'm super excited to talk to you. As I shared before we started recording when Adam first introduced me to you and said, “Hey, what a wonderful person you were in how you helped save his business by systematizing it.” I went, yes, my systems suck so I dove into all your stuff, been following you for weeks anticipating this conversation, so I'm happy to have you share your superpower with our audience today.

Sarah Noked: I feel really honored to be here. So thank you.

Doug Morneau: So do you want to just give us an overview of what OBM is for people who don't understand?

Sarah Noked: Yes, that's great. So an OBM is an online business manager. So I'm sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with the virtual assistant world and what a virtual assistant does, and I like to describe an OBM as a VA on steroids. That's the easiest way to visualize it in a lot of ways. And basically what we do is we help business owners streamline their systems, manage their team, manage operations, manage things like launches, so we're like your clone, if you want to go there.

I will help my client … So typically a business owner will look to bring on an OBM when they earn a certain revenue bracket when they have a team to manage, and pretty much when they're ready to delegate their day to day operations, they don't really want to necessarily be in their business, they recognize that their time is much better spent focusing on making sales conversations, or creating products, whatever is closest to the revenue I always say. So an OBM can really help free up a client's time to focus on what only they can do in their business. Ideally, the point here is to delegate everything that doesn't really require you, the business owner, to do.

Doug Morneau: it's funny, I'm often laughed at, probably not very polite but other people's expense, looking at what owners of businesses will do, an owner of a successful development company or retail store out installing rebar as they're pouring concrete for the next building I'm thinking like, man, this guy, he's got so much great talent but why is he out there doing the lowest paying job in the whole business he could possibly be doing instead of out generating revenue? So, totally makes sense. My systems are getting better but still suck.

And I don't know about our listeners but I wasn't familiar with the term OBM and business manager online, I've got some VAs I'm working with, some people that are listening have a VA or an assistant of some sort, so do you want to walk us through what you consider the low hanging fruit? So, I'm a business owner, I've got a small team, I'm looking to scale up, where do you normally see the biggest opportunity for people right away for ROI?

Sarah Noked: Project managers, like virtual assistants that can do a degree of project management. So I find that a lot of the times business owners are just really stuck not necessarily with the tech setup of things, but they don't really, just like you were saying, the business owner is stuck doing parts of their business that really don't require them at all and it's like, well, you need to really take some time and look at everything that you're doing in your business. So, in my books, anything that's a recurring task should not be being done by the business owner because in that case, it can be systematized and delegated. Maybe not entirely, maybe there's still a certain part of it that the business owner engages in, but the majority of anything that can really be seen as recurring in a business should be delegated.

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Three mistakes people make working with virtual teams is they aren't clear about their goals, their virtual office set-up, and they are not leveraging the power of automation.

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Doug Morneau: So how does that work remotely? I work and work with road staff, so in terms of delegating tasks, that makes sense, but if you can walk us through what a day would look like for you as managing those virtual assistants and the tasks.

Sarah Noked: Yes, great. So even before I get into that, I think the part that trips people up is what I lovingly call setting up the virtual office. And I find that this is the thing that really prevents business owners from being able to delegate because they haven't set in these four simple pieces. So the first thing is, you need to have a project management tool. You need to have a place where all of your recurrent tasks live so that if you need to take a step away from your business or a team member is being replaced by somebody else, it's really clear what everybody is doing and working on. So having a project management tool.

The second really big thing is having a place where all of your team files live, including standard operating procedures, and any documentation on how your business runs, master files, all that good stuff, that lives somewhere like … I love Google Drive, I'm a big Google Drive fan, but Dropbox is great, Box is great, so whatever cloud software you have to save all your documents on. When you're operating in the virtual climate, everybody's got to be able to access these when they need it.

Doug Morneau: Sure.

Sarah Noked: And then the fourth component is having a place where you can talk in real-time. So something like Slack. Slack is a great tool, or I'm a Teamwork PM user, so I use Teamwork chat, but any chat tool, you could even use WhatsApp, but as long as you are using it just for, chatter, like hey, happy birthday, or hey, just heads up, where does this stand? Those real-time communications but not to be mistakenly used as a project management tool, which I do sometimes see happen. So being very careful on that part.

And then the fourth aspect is having a place where all of your communal passwords live. Something like LastPass where you have the encrypted secure ways of sharing passwords with people and you can revoke access if need be. And once you have those four components setup, it takes the business to a different level because, all of a sudden, your business isn't reliant on the people who the VA in Cebu, and the developer in New Delhi, and the copywriter that lives in the States, suddenly your business isn't reliant on people, it's reliant on the systems in this virtual office that you have set up.

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Three mistakes people make working with virtual teams is they aren't clear about their goals, their virtual office set-up, and they are not leveraging the power of automation.

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Doug Morneau: Well, cool, I'm happy that I can tick off most of the boxes but I think I would probably get a failing grade on how much I use Slack for project management.

Sarah Noked: Okay, well that's not too bad. So you said you're not really happy with your system. So, do you have everything … What do your systems look like, Doug?

Doug Morneau: That'd be a bad conversation. No, so I use Google Drive Box and Dropbox depending on the content. So, for Dropbox for example, I use that for my screenshots, so it's a place for when I take a snap with my phone, most someplace it goes into a common file. We use Google Drive for all of our documents, SOPs. I was using Teamwork for product management and having trouble getting the team to implement it and I've been looking at another tool so hence we're heavily relying on Slack right now till we can figure out a way to work past it.

I have used LastPass for a long time. Like LastPass often go into client's offices and recommend it, and they're usually quite surprised. Just like, I've never heard of that. It's like, well you can't just be giving everybody your password for your social media management, things change, people change, you let staff go and they might say things on social you don't appreciate, I've seen that happen as well.

Sarah Noked: And stuff gets stolen in today's day and age and the last thing you need is somebody hijacking your Facebook account, happens to my husband all the time because he's not active on Facebook at all, his account is always getting hijacked. And like you're not even … It's like they're looking for those random passwords floating around, it's very funny.

Doug Morneau: Well that plus, as you said, things get stolen including laptops and phones, and the last thing you want to do is have your team or team member out there with their laptop, with nothing with the password protection on it and have people have immediate access to your entire company.

Sarah Noked: Really important, what a nightmare.

Doug Morneau: So, in terms of helping people to scale and get a system, so once you get these four things set up, what are the next steps?

Sarah Noked: So the next steps we really look at are digging deeper into streamlining the systems. So, I just want to take a step back to go talk about Teamwork or project management tool, I find that sometimes team members aren't really inclined to use a project management tool because nobody's gone in there and set up all of the recurring … So what I typically do, and this is the secret sauce that I've developed over the years, I will have all of my team members over a period of maybe two weeks write down all the recurring tasks that they do. So whether it be checking client care emails, or scheduling that broadcast, or editing the podcast, publishing whatever, have them record and write down what they're doing and then sit down with them and come up with a plan of putting an SOP around each recurring task and then those eventually form bigger systems in the business.

For example, my client onboarding system is comprising of probably 20 SOPs, it's almost overkill. I mean, it makes me chuckle because I love it, but it's overkill I get it. But every system in your business comprises of a certain amount of SOP and then those live in your project management tool and they're actually linked to the SOP in Google Drive. So if Susie is sick and she can't make it for her workday, I know what she's working on that day, I can take her tasks and I can put them in someone else's name, and it's clearly linked to the SOP so there's a good 80% chance it's not going to get completely screwed up. It may not be 100% but it's still better than being, oh my god, what was Susie even working on? Nobody really knows.

So, I think sometimes you have to have somebody that can just go in and set that up from the basis in recurring, so when they click it as complete, then it sets up again. And people really learn to love it because they then realize that, well, if everything's really clear and organized, then maybe I'll be able to take that holiday for a week and actually not be able to not bring my laptop for example.

Doug Morneau: Right. And not get home to a mess.

Sarah Noked: Yes, exactly. I find that by putting SOPs in my business, I've been able to empower my team members to make better decisions without me because they already really know what my guidelines are and more or less what I'm looking for, so then they can make suggestions, and own things, and we can further streamline the technology. So, I think that that's partly what it is. So when I typically start working with a client, as an online business manager, it's a lot different than coming in as a virtual assistant because I'm not really coming in to carry out a very specific task or implementing oriented type work, I'm coming in to make sure that the client is clear about their goals and vision, and the team is really aware of what that is.

And then looking at, okay, well, what's going on in the business? What's the client trying to achieve? And how can we make it so that whatever she's doing, or whatever he's doing, or whatever that looks like, how can we scale it? Right. So, typically, I'll come in there and I'll have a client who this is always the case, typical, the clients got a ton of content whether it be like blogs, and programs they've created, and all kinds of stuff, but it's a complete mess. So every time they want to publish a blog or create some new piece of content for their business, they're starting from scratch as opposed to check back on stuff they've already done, or maybe republishing a blog post, or improving a blog post that has a lot of assets SEO. They're too deep in it to see what it really is.

So, as an OBM, I'll get in there, I'll work with the client to develop what we call in the certified OBM program, this framework, the 90-day framework of what it looks like to really learn someone else's business. So as an OBM my intention is to really get in there and essentially, to a degree, partner with my client because I am that much emotionally invested in their business, I am that much committed to their success is my success. We're really behind the scenes people.

So I'll get in there and I will work with them to develop this 90-day plan that really is hitting on the things we need to achieve their goals, systematize, help them get out of whatever it is they're doing, which is usually managing the team, and I say this from a place of love, but most of my clients are just really not great project managers. They're not good at managing projects. They are very visionary, I don't know if you're familiar with the Kolbe A, but if you are, they're high on the quick start and low on the follow-through so there are so many things happening and nothing's getting done, balls are dropping. And then on top of it, a team member might be disappointed with the performance on the team and is like, well, this so and so didn't do what I told them. But when you really start peeling back the layers, you're like, well, there's not really a system, and you didn't give enough instruction, and so we can get in there, as OBMs, because it's our superpowers being a manager, but it's really leadership, get in there and lead the team provide that.

So if I'm looking at a hierarchy, a lot of the times the OBM sits in between the client and the rest of the team. And I always say we're like a buffer. We're like a buffer sometimes protecting the client from the team and themselves in a lot of ways, keeping them in their zone of genius. Here is your zone of genius, you're a visionary, you need to create, you need to do whatever it is that is usually what is making them a lot of money, and we put them in that spot. You stay here and we're going to manage the team, we're going to make sure that there are systems, that people know what they're doing, that people are confident about getting the task done because most people really want to do a good job. It's not like they're there to upset or disappoint. 

And a lot of the times an OBM can see what the business owner can't see which is, how to empower that team member to do that job that they really love to do and be happy about what they're doing for the business. And essentially, it just makes for streamlining what's already there and then from that, then we can start looking at, okay, well let's mix up Facebook Ads. Now that we're all buttoned up and we're in proactive mode instead of being very reactionary on everything, now we can ramp up Facebook Ads, now we can have 20 more people enroll in that program, now we can actually launch on Evergreen and actually get to that and actually look properly at the metrics and see what's working and what's not because to me, those are all systems the funnels, the team, all that stuff.

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Doug Morneau: Well it's funny you mentioned content because I just read somebody had just posted, I can't remember who it was, just posted the comment about what we don't need is more content, we need to [crosstalk 00:16:13] repurpose content we've got, and I've seen so many companies that have created some great content and they're on this perpetual treadmill of creating … I think it was Neil Patel, [crosstalk 00:16:25] I'm pretty sure that's who it was. And they keep creating more and more content. And like you said, if you took the time to build a system and say, okay, so I've got this one piece of content, how many times can I repurpose it as a blog post, as a podcast, as an Instagram post, as a Facebook post? You probably have to produce a lot less content, you can get a lot more traction.

Sarah Noked: Yes, 100%. And I also find, we do this with our blog, but I find that a lot of the times people don't even really look at what's actually getting organic traffic. What is actually SEO optimized to begin with, and let's make sure that people are finding us digitally on the web, when they get to my website and they land on this really popular blog, I want to make sure that, that's putting my best foot forward. So I think also it's about repurposing content but also making sure that the assets that you do have really are the best.

Doug Morneau: Well, I guess part of that comes back from being organized. If you've got somebody that's organizing your content and is getting it out though, as you said, a systematized approach, now you leave your marketing people or your owner to go in and look at things like analytics and look at the data and then make business decisions on what to do with that information instead of [crosstalk 00:17:38].

Sarah Noked: The OBM makes those decisions on what to do with the information.

Doug Morneau: There we go. Well, I mean, that's new to me. I wasn't aware that an OBM had that much training to take on that role. So that makes a lot of sense.

Sarah Noked: So, the really interesting thing about online business managers, and full disclosure here, I'm actually a trainer. So I've been training OBMs for the last two years, I'm certified under the International Association of OBMs. I'm one of three worldwide that can actually train these people. And the irony of it is that I'm actually a lot of the times not training them on a particular set of skills. Most of these women and there are a few men, but most of these women are coming from having had 20 years in corporate of project management, and managing huge budgets, and doing all of this being the right hand to the CEO, doing all of these very high-level things and either they decide that they want a little bit of flexibility, they want to work from home, I'm a mom of three, maybe they're a mom, so for me, that's my big why I want to be … I grew up with a stay at home mom so I want to give my kids that experience in today's day and age, which is not as possible as maybe it could be.

So for most of the people that come in, they have just the most beautiful skill set.

Doug Morneau: Yes. I mean, that's awesome. I mean, the other side of that too, it really comes down to giving instruction because I think as you mentioned earlier. And I know that one of our team members at one point, we do a lot of work in the email space and we had some clients with some very large budgets. And so we just really couldn't afford to have anything fall through the cracks and so what we ended up doing was documenting the entire process from client conversation to execution right through to analytics. And then the key learning for me was not the documentation, the key learning was giving that documentation to somebody who had never done that and having them do the task to see what we missed. So what was obvious to us, who were executors, in that we did intuitively, if we didn't document it, obviously it got messed, but we didn't realize that until we watch somebody go through the process and went, well, why aren't you doing that? They're going, well, it's nowhere in the procedures. Yes.

Sarah Noked: That's right.

Doug Morneau: Big learning curve.

Sarah Noked: Yes. And that's the beauty of it. I mean, that's the beauty of streamlining and then I think also as an OBM when I start working with a client, I'm not going in there and shaking up everything, and setting these team members run for their money and all that stuff, I'm getting in there and I'm observing at first, and it's only until about into the second month, third month of working together where we start to look at, okay, now we've got all these systems documented, now we can start looking back especially in the places where the client feels like they're, “bleeding money”, we can look back and be like, okay, so our onboarding process we're selling this really high top dollar product, let's streamline this onboarding process to really give the client the best experience that they can have. 

So, that's when the fun starts to happen when you can actually add certain nuances to systems and then put in all this stuff so that you're giving your client this experience or the team member is banging this out because half of it is automated now. And just looking at that streamlining piece, and that's essentially what you're talking about is really streamlining the system.

Doug Morneau: So I know that in looking at some of the information that I've gotten and that you had sent over, one of the things you talked about were the three biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make, do you want to share what those are from your point of view as an expert who helps them to solve these problems once they bring you in?

Sarah Noked: Absolutely. So, I find that the three mistakes people make when they are working with virtual teams, the first big mistake is I find that people really aren't clear about their goals. I find a lot of the times people will look to others for clarification. And the people that I've worked with that have been the most successful have been really sure of what they're trying to achieve they can almost taste it. And when you are really clear about your goals, we can be in proactive rather than reactive mode. And this is really, really important when it comes to hiring team members because the last thing you want to be doing is hiring the team member that you needed on your team three months ago or whatever.

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So, a lot of the times people will be like, well, when's the best time to hire a team member? I'm like, if you're asking me that question, then you're probably too late. You probably should have hired somebody already. And it doesn't need to be something crazy. You could bring on a virtual assistant for just a few hours a month at first to help you get clear about your virtual office, get some SOPs going around some of the really, really low hanging tasks that can be delegated such as scheduling out an email, or even managing client care, and even to things like sales conversations. Being really clear about who you need to hire because that's the person you wanted on your team in a year from now, because you're building out X, Y, and Z, then this year you have these three top goals, and once you hit those three top goals, well then you're definitely going to need a stellar project manager on your team. So you're going to be looking for that project manager right off the bat.

So my first thing is about you got to be clear on your goals. Do not make the mistake of hiring in a reactionary mode or doing anything really reactionary in your business.

Doug Morneau: Well that makes sense, not always the case as I'm sure you see.

Sarah Noked: Yes, not always the case. I find that a lot of the times people are … I think we live in the age of bright, shiny object and people will say things like, I'm not really happy with … I'm an Ontraport user and I don't really like Ontraport, I want to move over to Infusionsoft. And I'm just like, well, why are we doing this? Are you doing this because Sally told you that she really likes Infusionsoft? Really why are we even doing this? So, looking at those reasons and being really clear about where we're going.

Doug Morneau: Yes, I have those conversations too. And I sometimes identify them as procrastination. I mean, there's a bigger issue at hand, so you've got a lack of sales and your lack of sales has got nothing to do with your backend, that's got to do with your front end in most cases. So switching, like you said, from Infusionsoft to whatever Active Campaign or Ontraport isn't really going to change anything, it's going to take a bunch of time a bunch of money, it's going to pretty much freeze [crosstalk 00:24:26] up what you're doing. So why do that?

Sarah Noked: Why are we going to look for someone now that can do this migration, is going to cost all this money? So definitely being really sure of your goals. Then I would say the second mistake people make is what I was talking about at the beginning. It's that communication. You have to organize your virtual office, you have to make it so that all of your team members across different continents, my team is all over the world, I got to make sure that no matter where my team is, they can access and we can communicate, and we can have our SOPs in one communal space. I find that this is very revolutionary for a lot of my clients because they just don't realize the power of the tools that we have. I mean, I've been in the online space for a decade already and it wasn't like this 10 years ago. And now, there are so many more tools that it's almost overwhelming, but in the same token, it makes me really excited because of A, I love technology, for better or worse, and I'm the bright shiny object number one. I'm like, I got it, I can't even go there. I can't even try it. I got to just stick with Teamwork PM, I've been with it for 10 years.

Doug Morneau: That's funny. Yes.

Sarah Noked: But making sure that you can communicate. Many of my clients find that just by leveraging something like Slack and using it properly, not using it as a project management tool. And I know sometimes when you're developing and growing, sometimes you are using these things as a crutch. But having all those components I talked about, those four components are going to make it so that your team could communicate, that to me ultimately results in a lower turnover for team members. I find so many of people running businesses in the online space have this huge team turnover and they're just like, well, I hired this person and then she ghosted me or he went MIA, because I'm in that world, I know that a lot of the times it's because, oh my god, the client dumped too much stuff and freaked them out, or the client wasn't really as available as they led themselves on to believe, or whatever. So, being able to communicate with your team is huge.

And then I would say that the third mistake I see people making is that they're just not leveraging the power of automation because they are technophobic or they don't really understand. So I'm a real out of the box thinker. I'm the complete opposite from my husband, he is not techie, he does not know how to think outside the box, he's really cut and dry. For me, I'm like, okay, we've got a system of onboarding and there's a whole part of this onboarding system that I'm pretty sure we can find a system that can, for example, using something like Calendly for scheduling meetings with clients, I can't even tell you how many people in the online space aren't even using a calendar tool to facilitate that engagement with the client and making it really easy for your potential client to book that call with you.

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So just leveraging simple automation tools and combining that with automating also in the sense of delegating to your team, so that to me is automation as well. But for me personally, it always lets me feel really at ease to know that most of my stuff is automated, my whole sales funnel is automated, a lot of my courses run on Evergreen, this is the beauty of automation.

Doug Morneau: Yes. And like you said, it is there, you just need to leverage it. I learned that when I started podcasting a couple of years ago because I was brand new, I didn't know how to podcast. I thought, hey, this can't be that difficult to buy the equipment, I'll set it up. I'm just a do it person. And then launch. And then I realized, now I've got a schedule people for interviews, and how does that work? And I went, this is crazy. This is so much work. [crosstalk 00:28:21] It is. The first thing I did was put a calendar in and I thought, wow, why doesn't everybody do this? Why doesn't it do the follow-up? And then I thought, now I need to collect information from people, so that's when I put the Google form in. And I get comments from people I'm thinking, well, why wouldn't you do that? I'm the new guy, I just don't have the cycles to go back and forth and pick a time, and I don't have the cycles to go back and forth as you went in, you fill in your information, and I got your website, and your social media handles, and your one sheet that makes it very simple, so one click and all the stuff there.

Sarah Noked: Right.

Doug Morneau: That was just a, I don't know, a necessity if I want it.

Sarah Noked: I think it sometimes takes a little bit of time to set up, and I think that that really … So I always say to people because I'm a real systems gal, in case you haven't noticed, but I always say to clients, the reason why I think most people don't have their systems buttoned up and haven't really thought about things like automation and leveraging a lot of these tools that to me are really like breathing air, it's just because the amount of effort it takes to really sit down and think about a system usually requires a three-hour block of time in the wee hours of the morning where the house is quiet, it's like the high functioning hours of the day. And in my opinion, we've only got two or three of those every day. And it's that headspace where you have a chunk of time and you're focused, where you can really bang out systems, especially things around the podcast, like bigger things in your business, it might be about building out a course or how the membership site flows and all that stuff like that.

So many things go into that thinking that it can really be off-putting for people and it's much easier to be like, well, Sally uses Infusionsoft so let's move from Ontraport to Infusionsoft. Then being like, okay, let's button up our onboarding system. Let's sit down and think about it and look at how we can leverage our CRM tool if we're already using a customer resource management tool, how we can bake that in, and how we can pull this information into here and actually see a big the big picture for what it is and then make really calculated decisions about that.

Doug Morneau: And I guess part of that, like you said, you've got a high energy, high focus part of the day is finding what works for you. So when I started my podcast I needed to figure out, I basically just got some big yellow post-it note sheets, stuck them all over my office walls, a bunch of small post-it notes, and I started writing down everything that needed to happen to go from, I'd like to have a guest to full production of the back end, and then I just put them buckets. So it wasn't really complicated. It was super low tech. As much as I love technology, I still love writing notes by hand. And so for me, it's very visual, okay, well this post note clearly doesn't go on onboarding because that's going to be a social media sharing session marketing in the backend. And it worked quite simple. Didn't take lots of tech, didn't take days and days, as you said, but it did take a couple hours of looking at it and moving the pieces around to get it down.

Sarah Noked: Yes, totally. I love those exercises, they just really thrill me because I feel like this is getting one step closer to time away from the desk. When I was a solopreneur, and for a long time I really prided myself, especially when I was transitioning because I started off in the virtual assistant world as somebody ex-pat, suddenly I've moved from Canada to Israel finding myself living in a new country. So I went back to school, I got my MBA and then I was like, all right, well, corporate and I want to have a family, this is not going to work for me. So I started VA'ing.

I think that a lot of the times people really feel like it's almost like a murder being that solopreneur is like, I can do everything, and I'm going to work 18 hour days, and I'm going to love it because I've traded the nine to five for the 24/7. And for two years, I was like, this is amazing, I'm so smart, I can do everything. And then, of course, I got pregnant and needed to take maternity leave, and I mean other things probably would have happened that if not that, that would have at some point burnt me out and made me wake up and be like, okay, this is actually not really sustainable. And it's been two years of working night and like 15 hour days, I really like to take a holiday, maybe even without my laptop.

So, I started really leveraging team early on in my business because I was like, this is just where people need to be. They need to spend the time on the systems and spend the time doing the exercises with those posted notes, those are the best because it's like when you write them down it connects something with your brain and it's a wonderful thing. So I love that you did that Doug, I think that, that was amazing.

Doug Morneau: Well that worked for me. I mean, it might not work for everybody. So do you want to walk us through what an engagement with you might look like? So let's assume for a minute you've got an entrepreneur, maybe a guy local team member to and there's got some remote team members. I just want our listeners to get a good feel for, what is that new relationship look like? So I've got a team here, I've got some team overseas, realize you get to the point where, hey, I can't do this. I can't manage the team and run the business. So, what does that look like for someone?

Sarah Noked: Yes. So for someone who's wanting to work with my team or with an OBM, it's really about, I think for the client, really getting clear on their own want to delegate.

Doug Morneau: Right. Okay.

Sarah Noked: So, I mean, that's the first thing. But I mean, to give you what that really is, so my services always start with a strategy call. This is an opportunity for me to meet the client because we'll have a short discovery call, I'll get a feel for who they are, if they're a good fit for me if I'm a good fit for them based on what their goals are, and what their team structure is like, and what their revenue is like because I'm like a virtual assistant. As an online business manager, I'm really focused on working with the, I lovingly call them the high-end client, because they have a proven business model, they've got a team to manage, and they're also very clear about their goals and vision. So that's the client I'm looking for and then they're looking for certain qualities in me as well.

So then the first point of engagement would be having that … I call it the getting down to the breakthrough strategy session where we sit down together virtually, I have a very long questionnaire, for better or worse, asking them things like, what's your list size? What are your goals? What's your team like? What do certain people do on your team? What do you want to get off your plate? Because I find a lot of the times my clients are most of the time they're trying to scale themselves out of the business. So either they have a suite of different products they offer and maybe they are branding services as well, but they're also a speaker or they're writing a book. So when I'm working with a client, I'm really trying to understand what it is that they want out of their business.

So most of the time, I find that people really want time away from their business. They want time to be able to creatively decide, engage in that mastermind, go to that conference, they want to be able to enjoy their business. So I want to really understand, what is it? Is it that they want more time with their family? Is it that this holiday? Are they pursuing a new business? So during that breakthrough strategy session, I'm really trying to get clear on where the client sees themselves in the business so that we can … because a lot of the times I find that despite their best efforts, they … Sometimes I get into teams where there's like five or seven people and a whole host of them aren't even really doing necessarily what the business owner thinks that they're doing. So I'm auditing the team then I'm trying to work with the client to figure out what I'm going to need to do over the next 90 days in order to help them either achieve their goal. Which might be scaling themselves out of the business, or streamlining a certain process, and that stuff.

So we start with that strategy session, then I deliver a 90-day plan, that is the real signature certified OBM type framework and formula, we deliver this plan. And then we just kick it off and it starts. So when I kick off working with a client, the first thing I'm doing is I'm auditing their team. I'm having meetings with every team member. I'm looking at the core virtual office systems and making sure that if somebody needs to go on holiday or whatever, do we have everything documented? Because I find usually it takes three to six months to set up systems, so it's a strategy that's playing in the back end even though that it's not at the forefront for the client.

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For the client, what the clients really looking for is for me to really help them with whatever it is that they feel is suffering in their business. So it might be that they've got this awesome product that they've made into an evergreen funnel and then suddenly it flopped. So looking at things like metrics, and looking at things like how we're launching, and how we're tracking certain things, and how we're tweaking certain things. So I call that the places where they're bleeding money or the putting the if you imagine the bucket with all the holes, where are these holes and how can we start to fill this up with either taking existing team members and putting them on other things or just making it more of a solid business?

And that's the beginning of usually a very, very long relationship because what happens is our clients find that they've suddenly got time, they're much healthier and happier because they have work-life balance. They also feel like they have a partner. I know it because I get … Even my husband's also an entrepreneur and he doesn't want to listen to me talk about my business anymore. I have people on my team that I can talk to and OBM is always a nice sounding board for strategy and ideas. And I've seen the back end of so many businesses, hundreds and hundreds of businesses in my day, and it's really given me leverage when it comes to, maybe not being the digital marketer strategist, although sometimes I do consider myself a digital marketing strategist on my best days, but I can say to them, hey, I had another client who has a similar business model and she used this evergreen funnel where it was webinar and we targeted ads to a webinar after people had opted into her list, and maybe this is something that we can try in your business.

So, it's also coming at it with the confidence and the leadership to lead your client into making decisions, because I find a lot of the times people don't really make decisions fast enough and I know that really the most successful clients I've worked with, and even in my own business, when I can make decisions fast and keep things pushing along, then I'm feeling I'm really in control, and everyone on my team has things to do, so that's the place where we try to get our clients.

And it's unique, right. It's really custom for every single business out there. And I always say that typically an OBM comes into the business when the client is making $20,000 or more in gross revenue a month and have at least one team member on their team. But you'd be surprised, there are a lot of people I come across where they're making, I lovingly call them successful despite themselves, but they're hitting like $40,000 months and they've got some random subcontractors that they leverage here and there but nobody is really on their team all the time, it's just them. So there's that financial piece, there's the solid business, and there's the team. That's what we're looking for.

Doug Morneau: Well that makes sense. I mean, to be able to leverage someone like that to give the entrepreneur or the business owner may be a chance, like you said, to focus on something else, if they want to write a book if they want to launch a podcast, if they wanted to maybe go down a new trial or a new path and have the primary business just to continue to operate and grow while they maybe dip their toe into something else, or do some speaking that's going to take them away from the office and put them in a plane.

Sarah Noked: Right.

Doug Morneau: I know if I didn't systematize the podcast, it would just never happen because I didn't set it up as a revenue source, I set it up as a way to meet really smart people.

Sarah Noked: Yes.

Doug Morneau: And you may have caught this on a previous episode, and it's a way really to pre-interview potential vendors that I would recommend to clients.

Sarah Noked: Right.

Doug Morneau: So, yes, without a system, it just wouldn't happen. So what's some of the bad advice that you hear? So when you're out and about, and you're out in a business setting, and people are talking about businesses, businesses scaling, using a VA, having a project manager or having an online business manager, what's the bad advice that you hear?

Sarah Noked: Oh, wow, I hear lots of bad advice. That's a really good question.

Doug Morneau: What's the worst? What makes you want to walk over there and slap them?

Sarah Noked: Yes, I find that a lot of the times it's the people who … it's like they don't know any better so they haven't leveraged something like a project management tool and they've been building their business, and they haven't really considered that kind of technology because they feel like they're above it or that it's very primary, I find a lot of the times people will … they don't realize that that's the secret to the sanity of their team, it's not really about them. 

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Doug Morneau: Sure.

Sarah Noked: I find a lot of the times, business owners, they just don't … And really I find overall, it really irritates me when I hear people complaining about their team because I know, as somebody who's been on a lot of teams and I've worked with I feel like millions of VAs in my day, at some point I just want to say to them, I'm like, I think it's really a problem with you. Maybe you haven't really … Maybe it's not just everybody else, maybe it has something to do with how you're managing your business. And I find that [crosstalk 00:43:01].

Doug Morneau: Yes, if your whole team is bad it's pointing back to the person in charge.

Sarah Noked: I get on calls with clients, and I have a lot of amazing clients, I speak to a lot of lovely people, but I do every once in a while get a client who's just really mean and sour about their team. It just really is not very nice and they are talking about how balls were dropped and just not really taking accountability. So for me, it's like, if you're going to run this business, and you're going to have these big visions, you really have to also carry that out with how you manage your team as well. I mean, this isn't really answering your questions. I think these are my list of personal pet peeves but …

Doug Morneau: That's okay. I've got a few. I mean, I got some pushback when I started hiring a remote team. People said, well, why would you hire outside North America?

Sarah Noked: Yes.

Doug Morneau: And it was like it was a negative thing. I said, well all the major companies are around the world, all the fortune 500 companies do that.

Sarah Noked: Yes.

Doug Morneau: So if you want to look at emulating success, if they're doing that, they're doing that for a reason. And then we got the feedback of well, can you trust remote employees? Will they really work? And what I noticed very quickly as I said, you'd be embarrassed to know sometimes the conversations I have with my remote team. It's like, “Hey, boss, my husband is taking the kids away for the weekend, I'd like to finish the project you gave me this week.” It's like, no, the deadline is next week. “No, it's okay, I want to do it this week,” I said, that never happens to me in North America. I don't get staff pinging me on Slack on the weekend saying, “Hey, I'd like to get this project finished up three days early.” It's like, no, don't do that. So, that was initially the feedback and I just think people have given up on trying to tell me it's a bad idea and they've moved on to something else.

Sarah Noked: Right, exactly. Yes. I just [crosstalk 00:44:40].

Doug Morneau: So two questions and I'll let you go back to serving your customers. One is, who's one podcast guest I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Sarah Noked: Oh, wow. Oh, my goodness. I [crosstalk 00:44:55]

Doug Morneau: And I've already had Adam on the podcast, you can't say Adam.

Sarah Noked: I think I really like Claire Pelletreau, she's got a badass podcast herself called, The Get Paid podcast. And she would be a really great person for you to connect to. She is a Facebook Ads consultant and has created courses around Facebook Ads. And she has an incubator where she actually trains. You probably think all my friends are Facebook Ads people. But I mean, she's just very, very smart and very up in digital marketing. I met her way back when at traffic and conversions in San Diego, like five years ago or something like that. She's pretty awesome.

Doug Morneau: Well, cool. I'll make sure we connect with her. If you'd like to make an introduction, I'd really appreciate that.

Sarah Noked: Yes, I'd love to.

Doug Morneau: And now the most important question of the whole podcast, how can people connect with you, reach out, and learn more about you?

Sarah Noked: Yes, absolutely. So the best way to find me is of course anywhere on social media. But I've actually created a really awesome little thing for your listeners for the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast and it's over at sarahnoked.com/rmrf. And what that also has there is it's my SOP template. So I actually have my whole onboarding SOP documented and I lovingly give this away because I think people really need to not think that systems are boring. But I literally say, use this SOP to overcome that unsexy block you have against starting systems so you can finally begin scaling your business.

Doug Morneau: There you go. Well, hey, I mean maybe systems, if you framed it differently, it would be sexy. If you have systems in place, you could spend more time with your spouse or partner.

Sarah Noked: Right.

Doug Morneau: That could be set [crosstalk 00:46:47].

Sarah Noked: Go on a holiday.

Doug Morneau: Go for dinner. Go have a bottle of wine without the kids. [crosstalk 00:46:52].

Sarah Noked: Go to sleep at night time without having a piece of paper next year bed because every five seconds you're like, oh my god, did I remember to followup with that person? Oh my god, did I remember that we need to schedule a broadcast tomorrow? So, that's not sexy in my mind.

Doug Morneau: No, absolutely not. That ruins the mood. Leave the talk of finance and business out of the bedroom.

Sarah Noked: Right.

Doug Morneau: Well thanks so much for taking time today. I know for you it's probably a lot easier than most of my guests because you're organized and you have systems so you could easily fit this interview into your schedule. So I appreciate that.

Sarah Noked: Yes. Thank you, Doug. Thank you for having me on. It was a pleasure.

Doug Morneau: So thanks so much. There you go listeners. I hope you took notes. Sarah, as you can hear, is a very high energy person. I really enjoyed the pace of the conversation. This is one podcast I won't have to listen to at one and a half-speed, I need to slow it down. So I've got a page of notes. We're going to make sure that this conversation has been transcribed. We'll make sure that all of her contact information is in the show notes. And I really encourage you to look at her website and sign up for her material. Like I shared at the very beginning of this episode, I've been on her list for a while now, I'm super excited, I love The content that she sends out, it's absolutely amazing, and I'd highly recommend that you go over there and check it out. So thanks for tuning in. I look forward to serving you in our next episode.

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HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS WITH VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

VIRTUAL REALITY, INTEGRATED MARKETING & PR