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Episode from the podcastEntrepreneurs for a Change Podcast: Featuring Social Entrepreneurs, Green Entrepreneurs & Conscious Lifestyle Entrepreneurs

[E4C34] Join the Virtual Freedom Revolution & Work from Anywhere – Chris Ducker

Released Tuesday, 20th May 2014
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Chris Ducker is an entrepreneur and author of Virtual Freedom, which has been plugged as an essential field guide for finding, hiring, training and working with virtual teams.
Now, I wish I had a copy of Virtual Freedom years ago, when the 4 Hour Work Week came out – and everyone and their mother hopped on the outsourcing bandwagon. I’ve known Chris for a while now, and have learned LOADS from him over the years on how to hire virtual assistants right. Because if you don’t go about outsourcing the right way, it can cost you a lot of time and money, and create frustration that will literally shave years off your life!
Now, I can say from experience that every small business owner and entrepreneur – especially solopreneurs – should consider outsourcing early on, even if it means that it’s an investment, rather than a “cost”.
If you are an early stage entrepreneur, I know it’s easy to think,
“I can’t afford to hire anyone right now” (or just don’t have time to).
So you get caught up doing everything yourself – updating social media sites, writing blogs, booking travel, going to the post office. I know you know what I mean.
Virtual assistants can take on those duties so YOU, as the business owner, can focus on the bigger picture. Here’s what Chris and I say to you: STOP doing everything yourself – stop it right now. You need to focus on the big picture, strategy, cutting high level deals, forging strategic partnerships, and playing in your zone of genius.
Face it, if you are stuck doing menial tasks, your business WILL NOT grow. When you wear too many hats, you can easily become overwhelmed and burned out. You’ll lose productivity, creativity, and even miss opportunities that might be right in front of you. Another danger is that since your business depends on you, without the system and teams in place, if a tragedy hits, your business goes down with it. And you don’t want that.
So figure out what your financial runway is, and make hiring a team, or at least one VA, a priority.
Every entrepreneur, even early stage entrepreneurs, can afford to hire offshore contractors – so don’t give me,
“I can’t afford it.”
If you can’t afford to pay a motivated, college educated, English-speaking virtual assistant out of the Philippines for $3 / hour, you shouldn’t be in business. ‘Nuff said.
Chris shares his words of wisdom on the power of outsourcing – during this interview you will discover:
  • How to get started with outsourcing, specifically, the process of identifying which tasks you should consider giving to a VA.
  • When is a good time in business to hire an offshore team.
  • Where to find a qualified Virtual Assistant.
  • The art of hiring the right people for the right role.
  • Best practices for setting up a VA team for the long haul, rather project by project.
  • When it’s time to let your Virtual Assistant go.
  • And whether Chris – the outsourcing guru – believes in this age old management strategy advice, “hire fast and fire faster”.
If you want to get started fast with outsourcing – get Chris Ducker’s book – we’ve linked to it in below, and ALSO check out Episode 25 with Trinity de Guzman, who travels the world while his virtual team does all the work. Trinity gives me awesome advice on hiring the best talent – AND has provided his hiring swipe file (job & email templates) for FREE to our listeners.

Mentioned in this interview

Get Virtual Freedom


Where to Find Chris


Lorna: Hello there Chris. I’m so excited to have you with me on my podcast, and I’ve been watching the phenomenal launch of your book from the sidelines. I’m so excited to have you share with our audience your expertise on outsourcing because I know, as solopreneurs and small business owners, and early stage entrepreneurs, we all really need to figure out how we can focus on what we do best, and hire other people to do the other tasks which they may be highly qualified at doing.
So, first, let’s start with who you are and what you do.
Chris: Sure. Well, I focus on helping bring a little calm to the entrepreneurial storm, as I put it. And basically, I’m all about helping entrepreneurs get more focused in really growing their businesses. I believe that the entrepreneurial mindset, unfortunately, is one that obviously flies off at 100mph in a lot of different directions usually. And so, focus is an issue, and one of the big things with focus is that a lot of entrepreneurs waste a lot of time messing around with all these other little tasks, and projects, and things like that. But really, honestly speaking, they should not be doing as a business owner. They should have somebody else, or a team – or somebody else’s – put that work together and handle that sort of stuff for them.
And so, I’m all about delegating and productivity and helping entrepreneurs grow their business in a smart fashion.
Lorna: Great, so can you tell us a little bit more about your book, Virtual Freedom? What is Virtual Freedom exactly?
Chris: It’s different for everybody, right? So that you know, this is the thing. It’s been a really nice discussion point particularly over Twitter. If anybody’s interested, check out the hashtag #VFbook, and you’ll see all the different stuff that people have been posting, and there’s been photos of themselves with the book and all the types of different situations and locations and what-not.
Virtual Freedom is about living the entrepreneurial lifestyle, the way you personally want to live it, right? For some people, they might be happy working 40-50 hours a week. Maybe they don’t have a lot of responsibilities and a lot of personal things they need to take care of. But for most entrepreneurs out there, they don’t like the idea of working 10, 12, 14 hours a day. They like the idea of being more streamlined, being more targeted with the stuff that they are doing from day to day. And so, the book itself actually came about…. I was originally contacted by a publishing company about three years ago to do this book. But I turned it down at that time because I was in the process of building one of my businesses, Virtual Staff Finder; we’d been going for about a year, and we all know the first three years of a business lifespan is very, very important. So I kind of turned it down.
It was the end of 2012 that I was approached by a literary agent, and basically, to cut a long story short, she was 100% positive she could get me a book deal, and she felt like the world needed the book, and she gave me a really good pitch. I’ll be honest with you. So I said,
“Okay, let’s work on a proposal. Put it out there and see what happens.”
So she sent it out to 16 publishers, and we got four offers on the manuscript. Considering that I hadn’t even written the introduction to the book or any chapters, it was just eight or a nine page proposal. And even she was a little surprised at that 25% buy-in – it’s not normal.
So for me, that kind of gave me the green light, to think that four completely separate publishing companies want to go ahead and publish the book, – they know better than I do in terms of what people are going to buy. And so I decided to go ahead and take one of the offers, and went ahead and wrote the book. It’s been called the essential field guide for finding, hiring, training, and working with virtual teams to build your business.
That’s not my words. It’s somebody else’s words. And I think that’s a perfect explanation as to what the book is.
Lorna: Wow, I wish that book came out years ago. I would have saved myself a hell of a lot of time, energy, money, and frustration. [laughs]
Chris: Me too! I would have loved to have found it around the same time as the Four Hour Workweek. Those two books together, seven or eight years ago would have been a great 1-2 combination.
Lorna: Oh my god, I would have been in a different place right now. So, let’s hop back to what inspired you to be an entrepreneur, and specifically, to start the business that you have now.
Chris: That’s a good question. I mean, everybody’s got a slightly different light bulb moments, right? So, I mean for me, I’d actually flirted with entrepreneurship for a few years, built a company and sold it. And then, got offered a ridiculous amount of money to consult for a firm over in Miami in Florida but I was still living here in the Philippines, and they were quite happy with that; it just so happened that the guy that I ended up working with just was a nightmare.
He was a lovely, lovely guy, been in business for a long time, 30 plus years, very successful, multi-millionaire, and just super nice guy… until he turned into the boss. And then he was the biggest micro managing pain in the butt I’ve ever come across in my entire career. And eventually, I just had enough. I’d been in Miami for an entire month with him, working on some projects together… and on the flight on the way home, back to Asia, I was 37,000 feet in the air and I just, that was it. I was done. It just hit me there and then – I wasn’t going to make a dollar more for him, or for anybody else. I was going to focus in on my own aspirations again, and so I wrote my resignation letter on the aeroplane, landed in Hong Kong, connected to their Wi-Fi in the airport, and hit the send button.
And I never looked back.
In regards to the Live to Sell Group – which is my group of companies – there’s three companies that make up the group: the first one is a call center, which is about 230 full time staff currently. I also have Virtual Staff Finder, which is what I’m really known for business-wise online, anyway, other than just my blog and podcast and stuff, so that’s a VA recruitment company, fundamentally. And then I also have a co-working space which is here in Cebu City. It’s the only co-working space in the city, and it’s for the use of startup entrepreneurs and small businesses, freelancers, and everything else.
That’s the group of the companies, but you know, the funny thing is, I’ve got to the point now where all those businesses are ultimately, for me personally, on somewhat of an auto pilot. I tend to not have to work on them all that much at all anymore because of the staff, because of the delegation, because of the systems and the processes that are in place. Most of my time now I spend writing. I blog, I podcast, I speak regularly around the world. It’s the fun stuff that I’m focusing on now more than anything else.
Lorna: I love that. That’s so awesome because I think you know, one of the biggest problems that I see is, small business owners and solopreneurs still doing everything themselves. From going to the post office or updating their calendar, and it’s so great to be able to have systems in place where you can focus on your zone of genius.
Chris: Yes, I couldn’t agree more with it. As an entrepreneur, you know you’re working for yourself, as well as your customers and what-not, but I mean, and if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing then there’s a big issue there. There’s a big problem there. There’s a disconnect. And I think that as our own boss, so to speak, if we don’t recognize that disconnect, and then act upon it and make changes, we’re almost letting ourselves down as entrepreneurs, as that word is. We’re letting ourselves down.
The reason why we got into entrepreneurship in the first place is to be able to create our own destiny and unleash our brilliance into the world. And if we’re not happy doing what we’re doing day to day, then you have to make some changes.
Lorna: So when do you think an entrepreneur, especially a bootstrapping solopreneur, should start considering hiring a team? And I would say that with regards to hiring a team, it doesn’t actually have to involve hiring local talent from your city in the Western economy you might be living in – you could actually start hiring a team of folks who are offshore. So starting with outsourcing, when do you think is a good time in the business to begin?
Chris: Well I think it’s a good time to consider it from the outset, to be honest with you, as an option. I don’t think that outsourcing and VAs and virtual team and what-not is as much of a hidden secret to the rich and successful as it once was.
Everybody knows about outsourcing now. Any kind of savvy entrepreneur can understand the importance of not trying to do everything themselves and that there’s some help out there. But when you bring up the subject of bootstrapping, obviously, it’s going to be easier for some people, and it will be a faster connection in terms of getting started with outsourcing for some entrepreneurs than it will be others down the financial constraints. And when you are starting your business, and you’re bootstrapping and you’re just getting going, it’s tough to outlay a single dollar more than you absolutely have to. And so, I will say that when the time comes to outsource, you’ll know, like your gut will tell you as an entrepreneur.
The entrepreneur’s gut is THE biggest ingredient to their secret sauce, as far as I’m concerned. Because if you follow your gut, you’ll very rarely decide that it was a bad idea to tell yourself no. You will regret saying yes quite regularly, but you’ll very rarely regret saying no. And so, following your gut and understanding that eventually overwhelm will hit, opportunities will start to get lost, and at this point, it’s the time to start seriously thinking about the potential of bringing on board additional people. Even if it’s just on a task by task basis. It doesn’t need to be part time or full time. It just needs to be someone out there that could do the job properly, within a timely fashion, and on budget for you so you can focus on the bigger picture. And I think that’s the green light that every entrepreneur needs – is just to understand there is another way to do this. You don’t have to juggle all those balls yourself because sooner or later, you’re going to start dropping the balls, and that’s going to cost you a lot of money.
Lorna: So do you think there’s any wisdom to getting started building a team early on, even if it actually causes you as an early stage entrepreneur to go cash flow negative?
Chris: No, I don’t think there’s any wisdom in that at all. I really don’t. Unless, you know that there’s going to be an actual payout around the corner from it… I mean, somebody comes to you with a job worth $10,000, and you’re going to get paid net 30 days after the the job is completed, which is going to be 30 days from now, and you have to outlay $4,000 to get somebody to do the work for you – knowing full well that you’re not going to see that $10,000 for sixty days to get your profit margin – if you can afford to go the red and then hold your breath for 60 days until you get paid, then that’s fine. But I don’t see the point in any entrepreneur spending a dollar more than they have to on anything, based upon obviously their level of expectation and how important quality is to them and the rest of it.
I faced bankruptcy almost six months into business with the Live2Sell Group. I had two weeks’ worth of money, payroll-wise, left in my bank account, and I had to make massive entrepreneurial pivots from a business perspective to make sure I didn’t go into the red, and I didn’t go into the red. I saved the company; I turned it around in two weeks, and we went from 15 members of staff to 200 plus within 24 months.
So, every time we’ve expanded our business, we’ve always done it from profit. We’ve never done it from loans. We don’t owe a single dollar to a bank, to any kind of credit. Everything we pay for is bought and paid for in cash, so to speak. We don’t need terms. We don’t want them. It is what it is. And so, I don’t see the point in entrepreneurs bringing on board undue stress in their life by getting into debt particularly early on in their business if they can do anything to avoid it.
Lorna: Okay, that’s really wise advice. Because I know a lot of entrepreneurs are – it’s a bit of a catch 22 scenario where, in order to scale and be able to position yourself to get more business, sometimes it’s hard to do that if you’re doing everything yourself. So I do wonder, whether it makes sense to say, okay, starting off in the business, because a lot of business owners do invest in their business to begin with before they start turning a profit, so would you consider putting together a team as part of the initial investment into growing your business?
Chris: Oh yes, absolutely! If you’re, let’s say for example, you’re going to create a company that’s going to build web apps, okay? Whereas, something like that, all you need is two or three really good projects under your belt, and word of mouth will start working for you anyway. You won’t have to do a lot of marketing. You won’t have to do a lot of advertising. That sort of type… if you’re any kind of creative agency, a large majority of your new business is going to come through referral sources, right? So if you’re going to start a company like that, and you’re going to get to the point where you have X amount of dollars ready to outlay from the moment you start off your business, you’re going to need to invest in people. You need to invest in designers, in developers, in coders. All these types of people that you need for that stype of business to get off the ground.
A startup investment is a startup investment. Whether you’re investing in equipment, in space, in an experience for yourself, maybe you’re going to a conference or something to network and meet new contacts, or whether you’re hiring staff. An investment is an investment. What I mean is that, there’s no need to get yourself into undue financial stress early on in your business. If you can truly avoid it, you absolutely should because you’ll perform a lot better as an entrepreneur if you’re not stressed out and if you’re not worried about the door shutting next Friday. You know what I mean?
Lorna: Yes, so then, looking at the investment in a team, and in talent is something very different from that. I mean, if you do it strategically, for example. Okay. Okay great.
So how should a business owner get started with outsourcing?
Chris: I have an exercise that I talk about in Virtual Freedom, which is in the first section of the book; I call it my Three Lists of Freedom exercise. And it’s an exercise that actually, I bring up over and over and over again throughout the course of the book because it’s that important. And so, basically, what you do – it’s almost like you’re creating a virtual brain dump of everything that you’re doing day to day; so the first list is the list of all the things that you don’t like doing. These are tasks that quite frankly, you hate doing but you need to do them day to day because your business demands them of you. Right, so that’s the first list.
The second list is the list of all the things that you feel that you can’t do. Now this what I call Superhero Syndrome comes into play because as entrepreneurs, we like to think that we are the kings of our universe and that nobody can do anything better than us, you know what I mean? That’s a list that is a little harder to put together. But if you think about it logically, there’s a lot of stuff that you struggle with as an entrepreneur like, I’m not a graphic designer. I know how I want a business card to look like, or a website to look like but I can’t use Photoshop for the love of money, so why am I messing around with that? Get someone else to do it for $150, you know what I mean? So that’s the second list, list of all the things that you can’t do or struggle doing.
And then the last list is by far, probably the most important of the three because it’s a list of all things you shouldn’t be doing. These are things that, day to day you’re doing but you shouldn’t be doing as the business owner. This is why it’s so tough. The reasons why it’s so tough is number one, you might like doing these tasks. Number two, you might actually really, really, good at them as well. But like I said, the question you’ve got to ask yourself with this last list is,
“Should I be doing them? Could I be spending my time doing more important things for the growth of my business?
Like strategizing for new products or services, or putting in place new contracts with potential clients, or building out a calendar of business travel and conferences to network and find new people to do business with and so on, and so on. That’s what business owners should be doing. They should not be updating their bloody Facebook status.
Lorna: [laughs]
Chris: Why are you doing this stuff? Seriously, why are you doing your online research? Why are you booking your own flights? Why are you messing around on Pinterest? There’s no reason for any of that. There’s no reason for business owners to do any of that at all, unless they’re suffering from Superhero Syndrome. There’s other people out there that can do that stuff for you, and you can be looking at much, much bigger picture. I mean, if I said to you Lorna, don’t post anything to Facebook for a month. Interact on Facebook, yes. But don’t be the one to physically find the image, find the link, find the video, go in there, post it up there….
If I said that to you, I guarantee you right now, you probably have on average around 20 hours extra each month. Just that one task, right? How about if you were to take those 20 hours and invest it in putting together a five-video training course on how to start a business blog? And then sell that for $47 as an introductory course to your mailing list.
Lorna: Yes, it’s a way better use of time.
Chris: Much, much better.
Lorna: I do say that I get a lot of really good information out of Facebook, largely because most of my interactions tend to be within business groups like private business groups that have other entrepreneurs in them.
Chris: I’m not saying that that’s not a good thing to do. What I am saying is you shouldn’t let it be all consuming. And if there are things that you can palm off, and you know what I’m talking about; you know the kind of things that you’re doing that you can probably get someone else to do on your behalf for you. And Facebook is purely just an example. There’s so many more things like, searching for hotels when you travel through a city. Go to hotels.com or agoda.com – you type in the address or the city where you are. There’s so many different options. There’s so many things to consider. Is it king or twin room? Is it free Wi-Fi or do I have to pay? Is breakfast included or not? Even if you just come out with five options for a hotel in New York City, that’s an hour. If you’re going to do it properly, that’s an hour to come up with five solid options. You can get your VA to do that for you, then all you need to do is look at those five hotels quickly then figure out which one’s got the prettiest lobby. There’s so much of this stuff that people are doing – just spinning their wheels, and there’s just no need for it.
Lorna: I completely agree. Now, when I think about my early days of trying to outsource before your book came out, I basically wanted to find a clone of myself, Chris. And then I soon discovered that I actually couldn’t find a clone of myself and so, this whole dream of finding somebody to be my super VA who was good at doing everything, it was a bit of a pipedream. So I started to approach hiring offshore contractors differently, and I basically now look at people and their specific skill or expertise area. And so I’d love for you to share with us any best practices that you recommend around setting up a virtual team.
For the long haul, actually. Not just for project-based.
Chris: The big thing is hiring for the role and not for a bunch of tasks. I talk in the book about the Super VA myth that a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of, that when they get going, first of all with outsourcing, they feel like they can get one person to do all the work for them. Like you say, a clone of Lorna. And thankfully for the world, there’s only one Chris Ducker and there’s only one Lorna as well.
Did they clone a sheep? I think they cloned a sheep, right?
Lorna: They cloned sheep. [laughs]
Chris: Right, I don’t think they’ve gotten quite to the human element yet. But I mean, it doesn’t exist and there’s no one person that can update your blog, and edit your videos, launch your podcast, and blog for you, build courses and membership sites. There’s no one person that can do all that stuff because it’s for several different people.
The analogy I like to use is building a house. So when you’re building a house, the first thing you do is you work with an architect to design a house, okay. I just want to clarify that. You work with an architect because that’s what he does. He designs houses. You don’t work with the brick layer to design your house. You work with the brick layer if you start building your house. And then you bring the plumber in to handle the plumbing because that’s what the plumbers do. Then there’s an electrician, you see where I’m going with this? Then there’s the roofer, you know what I mean? So you use the right people for the right roles. And you don’t try to mix and match those roles.
Would you let a plumber install your electrical cables in and out of all of your rooms and the floorboards and the walls of your house? Of course not. So why would you expect the web developer to be a good content writer? There’s no need to think that’s going to work. But we do think that because we want to try and get more bang for our buck, and we like to think that we can hire just one person and have everything done. But it’s not as simple as that. So the first rule of hiring, to build a team, is to hire for the role and not for the task. It’s a very, very clear rule.
Once you get to that point, you can then start to build the team in a very strategic manner. Usually the first hire that I suggest most entrepreneurs look at is a general VA or GVA. And these people would do things like, your flights. The things we’ve talked about already. Handling your travel itinerary, updating your social media, managing a blog for you. Not writing the content, but helping you lay the content out, and bold things, and link things, and hit the publish button for you, and all that sort of stuff, and online research, transcribing your voicemails, and emailing them to you once a day.
All these little things that take you time when added up will literally buy you an extra 40-50 hours a week. It’s huge, huge for any business owner. So that’s a GVA role, and then you can get to the other roles like web developers, graphic designers, maybe SEO people if you’re really online, web, kind of focused. There are content writers, web developers, podcast editors, video guys – there are so many different types of roles – bookkeepers… they go on and on and on.
For you to be able to inject into your business as it grows, to build your virtual team so that ultimately, you’d end up with four, five, maybe six different people doing six very different jobs for you, and then at that point, you’re probably going to be ready to promote your GVA who’s been with you for a year or two at this point into a project manager. So you can stop running the team yourself, because what happens if you get 4-5 people on board and you just end up people manager, not a business owner anymore. So now you’re back to square one when you started this whole thing, right?
So at that point, you want to get your project manager on board, and get them to work with the team, and then you work directly with that one person to run your business. It’s almost like an assistant manager, so to speak.
Lorna: I love it, that’s brilliant. It’s so great to actually get there. I’ve been going through that process myself and I have somebody who’s in that kind of like a wing woman role and it’s just been a huge time saver.
So how and where do you find a good VA?
Chris: Well, I mean, there’s so many different places now for this that it can be sometimes a little bit overwhelming. The job posting sites are a great place to start because you can just outsource one or two tasks, get your feet wet, a little bit. And there are sites like Elance, and oDesk and Freelancer, and what not. You know, there’s so many out there.
If you’re looking for anything graphic related, I always suggest 99designs. They’re a great resource, and for $400-$500 you can have 50-60 graphic designers design your landing page, or your website, or flyer, or logo, whatever, and you just end up picking the one you like the most and go from there. So it’s a very good source for anything graphic related but when you look at web developers, Eastern Europe is a big hotspot right now. Some amazing talent coming out of Eastern Europe for web developers and coders, and things like that. But ultimately, any of the job posting sites are good place to start.
Lorna: Yes, I think I’ve actually tried all of them. [Laughs]
Chris: Me too. Yes.
Lorna: I’ve got to be honest, I’ve had so many frustrating experiences with offshore virtual assistants – from web developers that take my deposit money and just vanish, to having kind of like more general VAs, and having to like spell out every detail of the job to the point that it would actually have been faster for me to do it myself. I’ve had virtual assistants pad their hours or do poor quality work, and then after several attempts at working with the person, then I say, “Hey, look, I can’t have you work for me anymore if you don’t pay attention to these details.”
And you know, it’s very difficult to let them go because they seem to really want to do a good job and keep with the role. So, I’m kind of curious about this adage or piece of advice in the business world which is “Hire fast and fire faster”. What do you think about that? Is that something that you practice, Chris?
Chris: No. I do the exact opposite actually. [laughs]
I hire very, very slowly but I do fire very quickly. Half of it I follow, the other half I don’t.
I’m all about taking my time when I hire people. If I hire people to work within my facility, I have at least two interviews before they’ll get to a final interview. A lot of times I’m not even hiring these people anymore myself. I only really hire executive management now. I mean, we’re talking about a company with 200+ staff so, I can’t hire every single person that we need, that’s why I’ve got other management in place, and I empower them to make those decisions for both themselves, for me, and for the company. But I do, I hire very, very slowly.
Most VAs that I hire, nowadays I know through other people so I know that they’re trustworthy, and they can get the work done, and stuff like that. But even if I don’t, I still make sure that I follow up with references. And this is one of the big things about working on those job posting sites. You see their history of work, they look like they can do the work. Their written communication looks solid. But how do you know they haven’t paid a native English speaker to write their cover letter for them, right?
You just don’t know. I mean, maybe they’re outsourcing that part of it themselves, you just don’t know. So it’s a little hit and miss sometimes. But you should certainly not feel bad about letting someone go if they’re not doing a good job for you. I think the quickest that I’ve ever fired somebody is about 20 minutes, literally. And she was a new PA. She was working with me; it just goes to show you, even with all my hiring experience, sometimes I get wrong as well. We had, I think two interviews before it came to me; she was going to be one of our assistants internally, and on her first day of work she brought me a cup of coffee into my office, and at the same time, before she walked out, she asked me who she’d talk to about booking holiday time. And I was just like, what? I couldn’t believe it, Lorna. I was, you’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve been here 20 minutes, you’re asking about booking a holiday already? That’s insane.
Lorna: [laughs] I don’t know what to say.
Chris: I was completely bamboozled by the request. I just said,
“You know what, it’s not going to work out. You can pack up your stuff and leave now.”
She went, “You’re firing me?”
I said, “Yes, because you obviously don’t want to be here, so what’s the point? You might as well just leave.”
So that’s the quickest I’ve ever fired somebody, literally. But it’s like anything else. When you hire somebody virtually, you can pretty much do everything that you can do when you are hiring somebody physically, to work in an office space now. You can see them by hopping on a Skype video. You can speak with them, at least by just hopping on the plain old, good old fashioned Skype. You should absolutely contact people that are listed as references. And if you’re on the job posting sites, you contact people that they’ve done work with before and ask them about their experiences.
Invest a little bit of time upfront in hiring people the right way, and you’ll have less misses and more hits. Just the nature of the job posting industry is that people will post their job, they get a load of people reply – sometimes a hundred plus people will apply for the role, the task, the job, the project, whatever, and they’ll just hire one of the best people that they can communicate with via email because they’ve got stuff to do, it’s time sensitive, etc. etc. It’s a bad move to do that, man.
You must do your homework. You must get on the phone with them or Skype, rather. You must speak with at least one or two people that they’ve listed as people that they’ve worked with before. And if you don’t, if it doesn’t work out, you only got yourself to blame, as far as I’m concerned. And that’s one of the reasons why we setup Virtual Staff Finder four years ago is because we understand a lot of entrepreneurs don’t want to do all that stuff so we do it for them… for a fee. And so, that was the reason why we set the company up. It was to fill that void and save people time.
And even Virtual Staff Finder doesn’t get it right every now and then. So, you know, we have a massive hit percentage of about 92% of all hires stick. But that 8% is just proof of the of the pudding that not everybody can get it right all the time. Even a company that does it for an average of a hundred entrepreneurs every single month.
Lorna: Yes, you know, working with people, especially keeping your team members motivated can be really a challenge too. Because I think one of the things that I’ve noticed in my years of working with offshore talent is that sometimes it starts off really well. But there is the distance, the virtual aspect. I mean, the fact that the person’s not coming to work and be in your presence on a daily fashion that does somehow, I think add an additional layer of challenge, and so what I’ve been finding is that, typically or frequently after a few months, like it might sort of, like with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation, and then after a few months, sometimes I see a major slack off. And then it starts pulling me into a direction I don’t like go in which is, I guess kind of like your example in the very beginning from being a really nice person to becoming a micromanaging whip-cracker. And I don’t want to be that. So, when do you know if it’s time to let that person go, because they are not keeping their end of the teamwork or if you are simply not doing a good enough job keeping them motivated?
Chris: Right, right, exactly. I get all that. I totally understand everything that you said right now. I hear every single day from entrepreneurs, and the fact of the matter is that, it’s a gut thing again. I think once this person is not delivering on their end of the bargain, you have to start questioning it immediately. And you know, I’m kind of a one or two strikes you’re out kind of guy. Because I’m paying to do a job properly, and if you’re not doing it, a) properly or b) on time or even c) to the level that I need it done at, I’ll tell you once and you will listen to me. Because if you don’t, I won’t tell you another time and it will be over and done with. I can’t build my business – I can’t support my community and my customers with employees and staff that are half-assed in the way that they do what they do for me. It’s not possible. Think about it. It’s not possible to do that.
So, if someone is not bringing you the value that they once were, or that you truly need them to, you got to let them go. And you got to let them go sooner rather than later. I kind of, I really am, when I say,
“I’ll give you another chance, but this is it. Don’t blow this chance here because you’re going to get another one.”
I’m very strict with that. If I say something like that to somebody, if they screw up again in the same way, they’re done. You got to be a little harsh. You have to be.
Lorna: Okay, okay, great. That’s very good advice.
Chris: I mean, Donald Trump has been firing people on TV for years, it hasn’t hurt his image too much. [laughs]
Lorna: Wow, okay. Well, on that note, I would love to keep talking to you more, Chris. But we are coming to the end of our interview so I‘d like to leave you with two last questions. One, to uplift our audience after the firing conversation.
Chris: Yes, what is this all about? This is supposed to be a really positive conversation about building teams. What we’ve done for the last 10 minutes is talk about firing people. [laughs]
But it is, you know, we joke about it. It’s not the most positive thing in the world to talk about, right? I get it. And we do jest a little bit here but the fact of the matter is, it’s reality. This is business. People get fired. If they can’t do the damn job that they’re getting paid to do, you’ve got to can them. You have to. You’re not here to build their careers, you’re here to build your business. And so, if they can’t come to the party with a decent bottle of booze, you’ve got to kick them out. They’re not welcome. Plain and simple. You have to move on.
Lorna: Yes, I think it’s a really valuable conversation to have because books like the Four Hour Workweek make it seem like, wow, this golden light shining on the horizon – hire a VA to outsource your life. And the truth is, you can find really great talent, and I have.
I have people that I’ve been working with for a long time already, years. But it took a while to find them but I’m so grateful; I’ve got this awesome graphic design team out of India, I’ve got this fantastic podcast producer in the Philippines. So you know, it’s just hard for us to learn how to deal with like the not so fun aspects of building a team and building your business. So I’m very grateful for your candid advice on how to deal with this.
So now to switch gears, I’d love to ask you this; Chris, what do you think is the most effective way to change the world?
Chris: To solve problems with people. I think that’s what being an entrepreneur is. In fact, actually, I did an interview a few months back and somebody asked me, what’s your definition of an entrepreneur? And I said, it’s somebody that provides answers to people’s questions, and solutions to people’s problems. And I think, at the core of it, that is exactly what an entrepreneur is, and if we’re here with a good idea, with a good product, or a service, or an experience, something that people can utilize and make their lives better, then you’re doing a good job as an entrepreneur.
When Walt Disney first came up with that funny little mouse idea and decided to build the first Disneyland, who would have known that it would have just catapulted into what that company is today?
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Disneyland before but I love Disneyland. I’m a 40 year old male from London who just loses his marbles in Anaheim… on as much of a regular basis as possible.
Lorna: [laughs]
Chris: I’m not joking.
Lorna: And you’re not on drugs? [laughs]
Chris: No, definitely not high at the time, I can assure you that. I’ve been to Disneyland in Hong Kong – I don’t know, I’ve lost count now – 8, 9, times because it’s easy for us to get over there; it’s a three hour flight from Philippines, but, no, I mean, that’s a perfect example of changing the world. That’s the experience that that company creates. It’s that Disneyland experience, and that’s how Walt Disney changes the world.
How does Chris Ducker change the world? Well, through my writing and through my speaking, and through the companies that I have created, I enable entrepreneurs to buy more time, ultimately, and become more productive in what they’re doing as business builders.
Ask yourself that question when we’re done with this call. And everybody listening in, ask yourselves that question as well because I think it’s an important one. I’m glad you asked it because we can sometimes lose track a little bit, through the pivots that we do, and we do pivot quite regularly as entrepreneurs, to help build our businesses, we sometimes get a little lost. And I think it’s important to pull ourselves back on to the track and kind of get back into the bigger picture stuff on a regular basis.
Lorna: Love it! Okay Chris, how can we best stay in touch with you?
Chris: Well, the blog, chrisducker.com. That’s my main, sort of online home – everything is linked up there. And obviously, Twitter, @chrisducker, and the book’s site is VirtualFreedomBook.com. And that’s about it really.
I’ve got a lot more websites but I’m pretty sure you probably don’t have another 45 minutes to discuss them!
Let me just tell you. I got to tell you, let me finish with this little story right here. I spoke at the Google London campus a few weeks back, when I was in London, and it was my first time to do a Google talk, and so, I didn’t quite know what to expect but I knew that there’s going to be a lot of passionate entrepreneurs there. So I just did a quick survey at the beginning of my presentation, and I just asked everybody to raised their hands if, at some point in their lives, they had left the shower, mid-rinse, to register a domain name, and I kid you not, about half of the room put their hands up. There must have been about 150 people in this room, and it just goes to show you how our minds work. I don’t know how many domain names you have. I culled my list about six months ago and I now own about, I think 40 or so but it was well over a hundred.
Lorna: I’ve been culling, yes. Definitely, been culling.
Chris: You’ve got to because it just gets out of shape. It really does. So, I’m sorry to screw up the ending of your show with that story, but never mind. There you go!
Lorna: Well I think the moral of the story is we entrepreneurs can also tend to have monkey mind. And so sometimes, it’s really good to then have a team, so that we can do some monkey minding, more of the monkey minding while the work is still getting done. [laughs]
Chris: I never really heard that term monkey minding. I like that. In England, we use word like, scatterbrain and things like that. So I like that, that’s a cool term.
Lorna: Alright, thank you so much Chris. You have a beautiful day in paradise.
Chris: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. You too.
Lorna: All right. ‘Bye.

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