Eva: Hi my name is Eva Judge and I’m from Affordable Staff, and here with me I’ve got Damien Barnett, also from Affordable Staff. Hi, I’m well. And Jade Wellings, yes.

Jade: Hello.

Eva: And Jade is from AAOK Parks. Yeah I love the OK at the end. Thanks for coming, Jade.

Jade: Thanks for having me.

Eva: No, it’s awesome. So, Damien?

Damien: You’ve been a client with us for just under 12 months.

Jade: Has it been that long already? That’s very quick.

Eva: Yes!

Damien: I suppose we just wanna talk to you about… In the real estate sector, you’ve got a different type of model and you’re not the traditional, I suppose, real estate agency with what you do.

Why did you decide to outsource?

Jade: Well, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and as you guys know I met you at the property management conference, which I do come to every year and even though I don’t directly run a property management business anymore, I’m still involved in the accommodation industry. A group of family companies that do caravan, parks, motels, resorts, and workforce accommodation.

So it’s always been in the back of my mind maybe for 3 or 4 years before I even did it. Long before I even knew you guys and when I met you at the conference and I got to see some of your staff in the Philippines and see them up on the screen, talk to them, interact with them, realize that they’re actually just people.

Eva: And human, aren’t they?

Jade: Yeah.

Eva: And they speak English. Really well.

Jade: They were lovely! I guess I’ve always wanted to have a crack at it but always been worried about whether I’d have enough work that I could outsource or give to them to keep them busy. And where we’ve been stuck in our businesses… One of our businesses is actually in remote Western Australia, and it’s one of our largest businesses and we, at any one time in the office, there maybe have about 4 staff working. And they struggle to retain them over there because of where it is.

Most of the staff that are coming and going are backpackers. They’re not local to the area. So they’ll come in, they’ll work for 6 months and then they’ll take off. And when they do that, it has a massive impact on the business because we have to spend time, then re-train.

Eva: And that’s so expensive.

Jade: I would say even now still, even though we have outsourced and we’ve reduced that problem, the problem is still there because we do still have to, we’re constantly in training-someone-new mode, but by outsourcing, because the stability of the workforce in the Philippines is much higher than what it is in remote Western Australia, we can have a team member or two that we know are gonna be stuck there and stay with us for the long-term.

Eva: Yes.

Jade: So that’s one.

Training The Offshore Staff

Damien: One of the things that we work on really strong with the clients is actually having a process. Team members even in the Philippines, we’ve all — we’ve got a system to actually reduce our training burden on their clients. So that if we do have to change team members then we can actually move forward with and have us, the client is not impacted as much as it would be like.

Eva: I guess that’s what should happen to you. So Jade in your situation, we had Tess working for you and she was lucky enough that she gets a Visa approved to go and live in Canada. But we had Ella that stepped in and, we’re having the conversation yesterday, and you haven’t even spoken to Ella yet, and she’s fully taken over the role. Completely, seamlessly.

Jade: Yeah.

Eva: Actually, you need to talk to her today.

Jade: Yes, yes. It has been good because they will spend the 3 weeks together training each other, but that’s not even the main thing I think that is the selling point for that because where it’s really shown for me is you guys taught me how to use all of the technology that I needed to communicate with them. You taught me how to record a training session with the VA. So when thinking back to our very first VA, Queenie, we had a nickname. And my staff actually, not myself personally, but my staff all trained her on these videos and we saved all the videos into our Google Drive, and then I think we’ve t– so just to be clear for anyone that’s listening, I’ve got 2 VAs and the first one works for the Western Australia place, and the second lot work — “lot”, because I’ve had two in each site. So the first one, when Queenie turned over and we had to get somebody else, they were able to just sit there and watch all the same videos that she watched. So it really minimized the time that the people in the office had to spend actually training. And then the same thing with Cess. So yes.

Jade: You know who we’re talking about.

Eva: Yes we do.

Jade: But the other place that I didn’t expect it to shine really was the staff that we get in the office is usually the Australians or the backpackers if it isn’t in Australia, that come in that we would normally spend a lot of time training — on their first day we can just say sit down and watch these videos, and they’re watching the videos we made for our VAs.

Eva: So she streamlined the entire business across board in Australia and the Philippines. And actually we were having a conversation just before and you mentioned Jing. Jing is a little screen capturing tool. So you make sure you tell everybody about Jing.

Jade: I know! And actually Jing and Zoom, the two programs you showed me how to use, we use them everyday for all sorts of things.

Eva: That’s exactly right.

Jade: And now I’ve even started using Zoom for myself. So you know when you do those tasks and you’re the only one that knows how to do it, I was sitting there the other day, only probably about three weeks ago in my office, going “ugh, I’m the only one that knows how” it was the most boring task. I’m like, I’m just gonna make a Zoom video on this. I’m just gonna put it into my cloud so that if somebody else says, “oh no I can’t do that.” I can go well, “here’s a video.”

Eva: But if you go on holidays, but what if something happens and you needed someone to step in?

Jade: Exactly.

Eva: Everybody should be replaceable no matter what role they hold. That’s my theory.

Jade: Agree. Yep.

Why Did You Choose Us?

Jade: I was probably less panicky than what a real estate agent would be because I’m not operating a trust account. That’s one thing. But I did query that. I think it was yourself Damien, I was talking to in the early days and another family member that works in a group of companies, Fiona, I don’t know if you’ve spoken to her.

Eva: No.

Jade: She said to me, “Oh there’s this other company,” I won’t say what they are, what their name is. “There’s this other company that do it, and they’re cheaper.” And I said “oh really?” She goes, “Well make sure you look into them, too, because I met them somewhere.” And I was like “well I met these guys somewhere.” And I said okay, to be fair I’ll look into them and I contacted them as well.

And the key difference between you guys and them and the reason why it felt, I didn’t even think that much to be honest in the early days, if it’s a security. I thought ah, it’s worth the risk, we’ll see what happens. I’m a bit of a risk taker. But it became apparent when I talk to these guys and then back to Damien again because the other guys have staff working from a house on their own laptop where you know, everybody’s got a rooster in their backyard, I was told!

Eva: Or dogs.

Jade: Or dogs that make noise. If the VA is gonna be using the phone that’s gonna be a problem. And also there’s a real issue there with where the data is stored. So they’re accessing my system from their own laptops and their own desktops. What’s happening with that, and what happens if they stop working for me?

And then the other thing that I liked about you guys was that instead of that, you have an office with supervisors and generators, because the power is renowned for going out over there as well.

Eva: Particularly in a home-based environment, it’s more stable in commercial zones, but it’s an issue.

Jade: And a colleague of mine did go through the other knob and she did say that. She said it’s always dropping and it’s crap.

Eva: So we need to talk to your colleague, obviously.

Jade: She had a terrible experience and she has a trust account. And this is through somebody else. And it’s solely because that they didn’t have any protection and it was just the

Eva: That’s a serious issue. Particularly like what if the clients find out about it?

Jade: I love that I know that my people turn up for work in your building, under the review of your supervisors, on your computers.

Eva: But we also have some non-disclosure agreements as well. So technically, not that it has ever happened, but if somebody was to even think about doing something wrong, we can, we have a legally binding agreement which they have signed. Which is impossible. That’s important. The knowledge that it’s there, is a massive factor in preventing it from happening in the first place.

How Is Your Local Staff Working With Your Outsourced Team Members?

Jade: You know, in the early days you can see the looks, like are we losing are jobs, are they outsourcing every — you know, in the early days. And I’ve been communicating with them here and there about how it’s going and they love it. They think it’s so good, it’s so much help. One of the big challenges we had in our Western Australia office was the emails that would flood in and we did a mystery shop on some of our competitors and ourselves to see how long it would take to respond to an email, like booking requests or some accommodation. Fiona did this one. One of the competitors was like, within 5 minutes. And we took hours.

And now that we’ve got a new one, Ella, in place. A new one that I must talk to, now that we’ve got Ella in place, the emails are clean. And every now and then one of the girls, one of our VAs needs to take a day off and everyone’s fine with it. The other day was the first time I noticed I said, “Oh she’s gonna take a day off on this day.” And they were like “Oh my god the emails!” Yeah exactly, “what am I gonna do?”

Damien: So do you like communicate with your clients? Or is it via email or?

Jade: Yes. Only via email. We don’t do phones yet, mostly because we haven’t had a need to. It’s like they are emailing, and we have some quite large clients that booked hundreds of rooms with us at only one time.

Eva: Any comment from the clients so far, like has anyone mentioned anything?

Jade: Yep. Yeah. We did have one company that was a little bit disgruntled with our service and then they dealt with — it was the previous one of our VAs — and we’re just singing her praises in an email. They have no idea she’s on the other side of the world.

Eva: Fantastic!

Jade: They have nicknames that are commonly Australian-sounding names. That helps, too, because I think they just believe they’re in our office, and we don’t tell them otherwise.

Eva: But you actually have a Filipino person working in your office, too.

Jade: We do! We do.

Eva: That’s right.

Jade: One of our longest-serving members in our office is a Filipino, actually. He’s physically in the office. That’s been helpful too, for us.

What Difference Has Outsourcing Made For Your Business?

Damien: What’s the biggest difference it’s made to your business? And has the outsourcing changed, I suppose your lifestyle, your business. The business in Western Australia or in Queensland.

Jade: Productively, largely. Productivity, customer service obviously because they get back to people really quickly. The fact that all the people in the office have a lighter load. We are able to put less people on the roster as a result of that and that helps with the bottom line as well. We don’t like spending a lot of money on wages, but yeah it’s everything. It’s been amazing.

Eva: What about stress levels or? Has that impacted the business at all?

Jade: Yeah, definitely. It’s lower. It’s lower for the guys on the ground working in the office. They know they’ve got that backup.

What Would You Say To A Business Owner Thinking About Outsourcing?

Jade: That’s interesting, because a lady bailed me up on the toilet about an hour ago and asked me exactly that. I’m not even kidding. And I said like I was in the same place 12 months ago. I was really nervous that I wouldn’t have enough work to give somebody. I was really nervous about the actual implementation, how is it even gonna work, I don’t even know how to train someone on the other side of the country, let alone the other side of the world. It’s difficult. It’s a mental thing now, really. Once you know how to do it, it’s okay. Maybe what I didn’t realize at the time was how much support I was gonna get from you Eva.

Eva: And it was so easy! We literally did it in like under an hour.

Jade: I know. Like it took me no time to learn. But it’s like this mental block, I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to do that. And then suddenly, one hour of training and I’m like, yeah I’m alright with that. That’s easy, I’ll show my other team how to do that.

Eva: So you had Jing, you had Skype, you had Zoom, everything all ready.

Jade: So I think my advise would be just to have a go. Don’t worry about what you’ve got to give them, whether you’ve got enough work to give them, because that will come. Maybe you probably need about a week of a slightly clearer schedule just to make sure that you can, because you still have to integrate them like a team member. You can’t just treat them like they’re nobody on the other side of the world, and they’ll be right, they’ll figure it out.

Eva: They are human beings.

Jade: They are human.

Eva: Exactly!

Jade: You do need to train them but with the training videos that you make, lots of short videos, if they’ve forgotten how to do something they don’t need to ask me again and waste my time. They just go back to the video and watch it again. So it’s quite simple really.