On this episode Josh speaks with Michelle Thompson, owner of Awesome Outsourcing. They discuss why you need a virtual assistant and some things Michelle does to vet a new assistant.
Michelle Thompson CEO and founder of Awesome Outsourcing, LLC that teaches people how to delegate and outsource tasks correctly so they can gain back their time and their lives. Her courses include how to delegate tasks to others without a dip in quality or the need to micromanage, helping clients hire, train, and manage a team, and how to hand tasks off to be magically delivered back, completed.
In todays episode you will learn about:
- Michelle’s systems that allow her to work only 2 – 3 hours a day (which is all she can manage physically)
- Why most business owners are wasting their time and how they can gain it back
- Five ways to work less and get more done work
Narrator: Welcome to Cracking the Cash Flow Code where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when emergency strikes, fully fund a growth program, and fund your retirement program. When you do this, you will have a sale‑ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want, in the way you want.
In Cracking the Cash Flow Code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning, and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.
Josh Patrick: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re with Michelle Thompson and we’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks a lot. This is our first recording for 2021. Although we won’t be seeing this or you won’t be hearing this until February, I’m really excited to have Michelle with us today. Michelle is going to help us understand two things. She’s going to help us understand why delegation is so important and then why you need to be considering virtual assistants and specifically virtual assistants who are based in the Philippines to work for you. So, let’s bring Michelle on. We’ll start the show.
Hey, Michelle, how are you today?
Michelle: Hey, Josh. I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me on the show. I appreciate it.
Josh: My pleasure. Sorry about the dumbest introductions in the world but it seems to be my stock-in-trade so here we are.
At any rate, let’s start off talking about two of my favorite things that I love to talk about. Number one is delegation because if you can’t be a delegator, you can’t grow a business. So, what’s so important with delegation from your point of view?
Michelle: This is one thing that I had a really hard time with because, I had worked so hard to build my business, right, I didn’t want to hand it off to anybody because it was my baby. And I felt like nobody could do it as good as I could. And so, it was difficult for me to hand off tasks because I wanted them to do it, you know, exactly as I did it and I wanted it to be perfect. And, ironically, you can do that. And there are very easy ways that you can hand things off and have it done exactly as you would do it.
But I would say the biggest thing that you’re losing by not delegating is – I’m going to go into two things and they’ll seem completely different, but I’ll bring them back together, is lost revenue from lost brain capacity. And what that means is, if you’re spending time in your business wearing all the hats, right, you are not in your zone of genius.
For instance, let’s say you work on cars, right, and that’s your thing. You love working on cars. And so, you decide, “Hey, that’s great. Let’s open a business.” You had no idea that you’re going to be working on cars, doing payroll, managing your books, doing your marketing. You know, the 15,000 things that we have to do. But what you’re really good at is fixing cars.
And so, what happens is our brain allows us to function in our zone of genius for only so long, right? It’s almost like a computer, right? You’ve got so much RAM and then you need to reset. And, if you’re spending your brain power on the things that don’t push the needle forward in your business, tasks that should easily be handed off to somebody else – social media, bookkeeping, admin things. These are all things that we should be getting off of our plate right away because we’re not able to actually be in our zone of genius where we’re actually bringing money into the business. And so, if it’s a one‑man shop and you don’t hand anything off, it’s going to be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to scale and be successful.
Josh: Well, I can give you some other reasons why delegation is so important. Among them is, if you don’t learn to be a delegator, your business will be stuck at no more than 25 employees.
Michelle: Oh, easily.
Josh: Because you, as a business owner, can manage 13 – 14 people pretty easily by yourself. But you get much past that, and if you don’t learn to delegate, your business is going to be stuck and it won’t grow very much which, for some people, is fine.
The other side of delegation and we like to talk about this a lot which is what is the value of your time per hour?
Michelle: That’s what I was getting at but just in a backwards way, yeah.
Josh: Yeah. Well, it’s really pretty important to understand that, if your time is worth let’s say $500 an hour or $400 an hour which is about what everyone’s time is worth, at least, when they’re working with customers, and you’re doing stuff you could hire somebody for $15, or $20, or $25 an hour – and with VAs, it can often be a lot less than that, then you’re really punishing yourself, you’re putting yourself in a position where you can’t do the work properly.
And the other thing is, if you ever want to sell your business and you have not become an expert delegator, where you’ve made yourself operationally irrelevant, you don’t have a business that’s sellable. So those are all really important things to be thinking about as we go about that.
You mentioned made something really interesting is that, when you started to delegate, you weren’t very good at it?
Michelle: Yeah, I was horrible at it. And I think we all are and we don’t mean to be. We think we’re great bosses, but we expect people to be mind readers. I think that’s just because we make hundreds of micro decisions without even realizing it. And so, that’s, honestly, probably the biggest part of my job is to get business owners to slow down. And if I can get them to just record a video of them doing a task and talk me through it for something as simple as–
You know, let’s talk about picking a graphic for social media. Everybody has their own brand board, right? And we have the look and feel of what we want. But when you’re looking at pictures, like let’s say, you know, you’re going through Photoshop or something like that, there are probably– you know, you may look at 20 pictures and automatically say no. And it might be the same color as your brand board. And the reason is, you have this preconceived idea of what you want it to look like, but we haven’t actually downloaded that into anybody else. It’s just stuff that we make automatically.
And that’s what I was doing. I was just saying, “Well, here, go make the graphic,” right. And then I get something back. Funny story, so one of the first guys that I hired as a graphic designer, I gave him my brand board, but I didn’t give him any guidelines as far as pictures. And so, I got back a purple font, the way that I wanted, and then I had this like business guy with– there was like this– I swear to you, this is a true story, he had this cloud over his head and he was standing like this in a suit. It was just absolutely horrible. And he thought like, that was like power, right? He thought he did this great thing and found this awesome picture. And I just looked at it and went, “Oh, my gosh, this is horrible.” And it was my fault because I didn’t communicate well.
So, it’s a skill that we learn but, if we can learn it, it makes your life amazing because you can literally walk away from your business and things keep running. Like you said before Built to Sell, right? It’s like that book. You need to have those [crosstalk].
Josh: Yeah. There’s this guy named John Warrillow who wrote that book.
Josh: Yeah. Well, you build a business not to sell. You build a business so it’s economically sustainable. And, when you build a business that’s economically sustainable, you’ve automatically built a business that’s built to sell. And I disagree with John on building the business with the intention of selling it. The sale is a result of running a great business for a long time, in my opinion. And I have found, when people build business to sell, they don’t get nearly the satisfaction out of running their business while they’re building it as the folks who build a business because they want to have a great business and serve the public in a great way.
Josh: You know, if you build a sale‑ready company which is the same as built to sell– but, if you build a sustainable company, you’re not going to want to sell it because you’re going to have too much fun, you’re going to be making too much money, and why would you ever want to stop that?
Michelle: Yeah. And that’s the thing. I’d be shocked if I ever sold my company because it’s a blast. I have so much fun.
Josh: Well, at some point, it might be– you know, when you’re 80 or 85 years old, it might be time to stop.
Michelle: True. True. Yeah.
Josh: One of the things I talk about with people a lot these days is what I call my hundred‑year project. A hundred‑year project has two pieces to it. One is, “How would you run your company differently today, if you expect it to be here a hundred years from now?” which is one question. The other question is, “How will you live your life with the expectation that you’re going to live to 100 years old?”
And, you know, Michelle, you look pretty young. So, my guess is there’s a good chance that you’re in that cohort that is going to see life expectancy at 100 years old.
Michelle: Yeah. So, I just had my 41st birthday. I’m not a baby boomer and I’m not a millennial, so I’m kind of like stuck in that middle. But yeah, I bet we probably will see, you know, 100 because, I mean, technology and healthcare is just growing so quickly.
In fact, I’m a testament to that, right? I don’t know if you know my backstory but, five years ago, I had a stroke. And I should have passed away. I should’ve died but, because of the medical miracles that we have today, I’m still here. And it took two or three years to get back to being able to talk and walk and all that good fun stuff.
But yeah, I think, you know, that’s interesting, because when I had the stroke, when I started building the business, I built it– so, my background’s a little bit different than everybody else. So, I have what’s called Factor Vwhich is a hereditary blood disorder. That means that I have blood clots floating around in my body all the time. So, at any point in time, one could go to my brain or my lungs. So, when we figured out that I had this, the doctors basically said, “You know, Michelle, you’re a ticking time bomb. It’s just a matter of when not if.” And so, I had to kind of look at myself in the mirror and be like, “Okay. So, if I’m not here two years from now, what do I want to transfer?” And so, I got really lucky in that most people think that they’re going to be here forever. I know that I have a very finite time here. And so, I built my business so that it would last a hundred years from now.
And I am a huge stickler on processes and systems to be able to remove myself completely because, if I don’t, when that day comes, knock on wood, hopefully, it’s a long time from now, but it would all fall apart. And I don’t want that. I didn’t want that to be my legacy. I didn’t want to leave something half done. And so, when I started building this, it was absolutely with the intention that, a hundred years from now, it’ll keep running exactly as it is because of the systems that we set up in place.
Josh: You’ve touched on two or four things it takes to create an economically and personally sustainable business which is how to become operationally irrelevant, which is you have to learn how to delegate. The most important skill a business owner will ever learn is that skill. And the second is, if you don’t systematize your business, you’re never going to have a great business because your employees don’t know or have any idea what they need to do for excellence and your customers don’t know what to expect on a regular basis.
And then, it comes with systems. I like to use Disney as my favorite system example. That is the most systematized operation. I’m talking about the park operation, not Pixar or the movies. But their Park operations are unbelievably systematized. When you go into the park, you know exactly what to expect. And you get it every time you go there. And they do that so much better than our competitors. It’s unbelievable.
Michelle: They have a system just so they don’t have mosquitoes, like they’ve gone to that finite amount of detail. So, when you walk into Disneyland, like, you know, Walt Disney wanted it that you’re walking into a kingdom. He doesn’t want you to see anything else which was amazing. It was amazing to study that.
Josh: I took a course with Disney on quality management, probably 30 years ago, and the example they used for how they systematize was their parking lot.
Josh: And in Orlando, the Disney World operation, people will, you know, go in. They’ll park their car. And they’ll go into the park. And they come back, they have no idea where they put their car. So, Disney has people driving around the parking lot looking for people who look like they’re obviously lost. They then will ask you, “What hotel are you at and what time did you leave?” They will be able to bring you where your car is parked.
Josh: Because they monitor all that. It’s one of the reasons they charge you $5 or $7 to park is that, if you lose your car, there will be someone there to help you find your car because they put a system together around that.
Michelle: That’s incredible.
Josh: Yeah. Well, that’s what great companies do is they think about things from their customer’s point of view. What are the problems that customers might have and what is the solution they bring to the party to solve that? So, one of the solutions that we bring to the party, in our own businesses, is virtual assistants. I’m a huge fan of VAs. I’ve been using one– actually, I’ve got VAs with me now. They’re with me for eight years, part‑time, which I find– you know, people say VAs don’t last long. That’s just not true. If you treat them like a regular employee, and you treat your VAs well, they stick around for quite a while.
So, at any rate, why don’t you tell us why you think VAs are really important and how you would go about finding a good one to work for you?
Michelle: Yeah. So, for me, like I told you, because of the stroke, I needed to remove myself 100% from the business. And so, for me, I had to find employees. And, for me, those employees were going to be virtual assistants. So, literally, the entire business runs off of virtual assistants. And I have, you know, different departments for each one, right. There’s a video editor. There’s a graphic designer. There’s a writer. You know, pick what tasks needs done. Lead generation.
And I have a very specific system. And so, I actually go to the Philippines. So, all of my staff is in the Philippines and they’re there for a couple of reasons, (a) the US dollar to Filipino Peso conversion is very favorable. And so, I’m able to pay them about four times what would be minimum wage, so equivalent to about $45 an hour in the United States and still make it incredibly workable, you know, for the business numbers.
But then, the second thing is, they’re very, very good at English because that is their secondary language. And so, if you were to fly to the Philippines and you go inside of a hospital, or a court, or the police station, or any public building, you’re going to find that they speak English.
And so, they also are hugely immersed in the American culture. So, you’ll find that the shows that we’re watching at night, they’re watching on TV, too. And so, it was a very easy transition for them to know our slang. To know– you know, be able to understand what we’re talking about, things like that.
But, in addition to that, I absolutely love their culture. And so, their culture is, you know, they want to serve first and really do an incredible job. And that is a huge sense of pride for them. They want to be part of the team and know that they’re making a difference. And if they’re making a difference that brings them pride and fulfillment.
And so, with my team, I definitely develop a family culture. And so, my employees stick around for a very long time because I treat them very, very well.
And I think there’s no secret. Like, when I’m looking for a new employee, I go to onlinejobs.ph, right. It’s just a job board like Monster or Career Builder here in the United States. There is nothing magical about that. What happens is, inside of online jobs, I have four very distinct tests that I put each person through. And when I do that, it makes the diamonds rise to the top.
Josh: So, what are the four tests that you put people through?
Michelle: Yeah. So, the very first thing I do is I have a very detailed job description. And in the second to last paragraph, I’m going to put a hidden word. And I’m going to, right in the middle of the paragraph, put this word in the subject line. And so, it’s very common for me, if I’m trying to hire out of the Philippines, you know, if I have a job up for three days, I may legitimately have 200 applications that have come in. And so, a very easy way to filter through those is we look at the subject line. Did they put yellow tiger in the subject line? If they didn’t, then I know that they’re not paying attention to detail, or they’re just sending me a template that they’re sending everybody else. And so, that’s a very quick way for me to figure out, “Hey, do they pay attention to detail?” Because when you have a virtual worker, you know, a lot of times they have to, you know, be able to work on their own and things like that. And so, I need somebody who’s going to pay attention to detail. So that’s my first one right there.
My second one is, after they pass my hidden tiger test, I’m going to ask them some completely off the wall questions that have nothing to do with work. So, I’m going to ask ‘em, you know, “Hey, what’s your favorite movie? You know, what type of food do you like? What did you do this past weekend?” And the reason for that has nothing to do with whether I care about what they had for dinner last night. The point of the test is (a) I want to know, “Can they write English really well?” And the reason they’re off‑the‑wall questions is because, a lot of times in the Philippines, they will have hired someone to create a template for them and write perfect English for the normal business answers. And so, I have to break that mold and ask them unusual questions that they wouldn’t have hired somebody to already answer.
But then the second reason is I’m already starting to build a relationship with them. So, what I’m doing is I’m getting to know them a little bit better, so that when I get on an interview– because out of those 200 applicants, I’m only going to do a video interview with two. But in those two, now I know.
Okay, first of all, one of the questions that I have is, you know, what is your requested pay rate? So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to check to see what they put down in that email versus what they’re asking for on online jobs. And is there a discrepancy there? If there is a discrepancy? Are they trying to take advantage of me? Do they think they can get one over on me, you know?
But then I also have a whole bunch of information to start talking to them when I have a video interview, you know, so I can ask them, you know, “Hey, what was it like playing basketball with the kids last weekend? You know, did you guys have fun with, you know, New Year’s? What did you do?” And it just kind of breaks the ice a little bit because Filipinos tend to be very, very shy, especially on camera. And they want the job so bad that they’re terrified in front of the camera. And so, you have to kind of break the ice a little bit with them, so that’s a great way to do that.
Then, the third thing I’m going to do is, before I ever get on a video interview with them is, I’m going to take my top three to four candidates and I’m actually going to give them a paid test. And the reason it’s a paid test is, unfortunately, there are some, in my opinion, relatively unethical people that will go out and they’ll put a job board out and their ultimate goal is to get an article written. And so, they’ll go and find five people. And they’ll say, “Well, this is just a test to see if you’re going to make it.” And they’ll have them write the whole article, never pay them, and then there really never was a job to begin with. And that happens all the time. So, by me telling them, “Hey, this is a paid test. I’m willing to pay you, you know, for up to three hours for you to do this.” That tells them that (a) there really is a real job and (b) I’m not a crappy boss.
And what I’m going to do is, without any training, I’m going to throw him right in the fire. I’m going to give them some basic guidelines. And then I want to see who rises to the top. And my top two, I’m going to do a video interview. And on that video interview, at that point, I know they can do the work. I know that they’re good. What I’m looking for is culture fit. And I want to know how are they going to fit in with my team? Are they going to blend? Are they going to cause problems? You know, what– are they a go‑getter? And also, I want to, you know, look at their face and see how interested they are in the job.
And so, those are the four steps that I use to put somebody through and everybody’s like, “Oh, my gosh, Michelle, that’s ridiculous overkill.” But I can tell you what, when I find a diamond in the rough, they stay with me for years and years and years so it’s worth it.
Josh: What you’re doing is absolutely correct, in my opinion.
And, unfortunately, Michelle, we are out of time. But you did manage, in this episode, to hit three out of four – the drivers of a personally and economically sustainable business. You know, what you missed was recurring revenue. So, congratulations, you win a prize. I’m not sure what that is but you win a prize.
Josh: So, Michelle, I’m sure people are going to want to find you and get more information about the world of VAs. How would they go about doing that? Not everybody is watching us on Facebook right now.
Michelle: Yeah. So, the easiest thing to do is you can send me an email. So, it’s michelle, M‑I‑C‑H‑E‑L‑L‑E, firstname.lastname@example.org, all one word, or you can find us on Facebook. I hang out on Facebook a lot or LinkedIn. So, any one of those three places. And I’ll be happy to get in touch with you.
I have two things I need to have you do. One is really important. And one is just going to be interesting for you to get. But the really important thing is please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please go to wherever you listen to your podcast and rate and review this show. And please give us an honest rating and review. If you hate it tells you hate it. If you love it, tell us you love it.
And the second thing is I’ve got an infographic on how to do innovation as a system. And this is something that people think innovation just comes out of the netherworld without any reason or rhyme. Well, that’s not true. Innovation can be a systematized process, internally and externally. I put together an infographic on this. It’s really easy to get. You go to www.sustainablebusiness.co/innovation. That’s .co and not .com. And you’ll get our free infographic.
So, this is Josh Patrick. We’re with Michelle Thompson. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to Cracking the Cash Flow Code where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?”
If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 extension 102, or visit us on our website at www.sustainablebusiness.co, or you can send Josh an email at email@example.com.
Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.