David Judge here and today we have a case study with Laura Sillano from POD Financial.
In this detailed interview Laura details how she successfully implemented outsourcing into her business, detailing the processes she uses, the challenges she faced with staff and how we worked together to overcome those challenges.
David Judge here from Affordable Staff and I have with me Laura Sillano from POD Financial.
Laura is here today to talk to us about her outsourcing experience. She has one team member Alexis or Alex. We are going to talk a little bit with Laura about Alexis just a general outsourcing experience and just for people to get an understanding of what it means to outsource and the approach that we have taken with Laura.
Laura – I decided to outsource as I needed assistance in my business in general. I work with a lot of documentation and once I see a client there’s a lot of follow through to deliver on the promises I have made. So, I needed assistance with that if I wanted to grow and if was going to have a robust business.
David – Why did you get into the industry?
Laura – I love it!!! It was 10 years ago that I got into business so I don’t have a fledging business anymore, it’s an established business. I got into it as I wanted to do something that was fundamental and I wanted something that was flexible for my family, which was important to me. I found that mortgage broking was something I just ‘got’.
I understood risk, how to interpret the language of risk and mortgage broking. That was something that I could then share with other people that didn’t have that background. I think it’s really valuable and important skillset to have or to be able to share.
David – Do you ever feel like you’ve been in this industry for a really long time?
Laura – It does and it doesn’t. There are things that happen in our industry that could be considered frustrations, but it’s also important to know that that’s just what the industry is and that there’s opportunity in that.
10 years is a long time, but I still get joy in the people that I meet and that I get to help them achieve what they want to achieve. So it’s a very empowering industry to be in.
Laura – It’s crucial and it’s one of the most important parts of what I do in my business. Building trust on every level… Trust with the clients, trust with the lender’s’, my industry is based on it. For me a part of that is how we handle client information which is really sensitive information. Things like ID, bank account details are things I have to access to do my job. Therefore I need to have processes around that to secure that data. There are a steps we have implemented when working with Alexis and the team at Affordable Staff, so the documentation I have never leaves the country as everything is password protected. Alexis only has access to certain files and I have visibility over everything she is doing and you are also a paperless offer. There are things we went through together to understand how your office is set up in the Philippines that gave me confidence to trust in that process.
David – I’ve found that trust and having an infrastructure in place are critical. With that in mind your infrastructure is only as good as the people you have using that infrastructure. Now, you’ve had an existing relationship with one of the business partners ‘Nadine’ for many years. For a lot of our clients and our local people, they know who they are dealing with and that they have them there as a support. Have you found having a local Australian person an important part of building that trust?
Laura – Absolutely. People like to work with people they know, like and trust. I think if I hadn’t known Nadine prior I still would have investigated the outsourcing solution, but I have an additional level of confidence as I know Nadine that I would have had to build with someone else, for a longer period of time.
David – How would you see outsourcing working for you if you didn’t have Nadine or a local Australian contact and it was someone directly overseas you were dealing with?
Laura – I would not have outsourced. It’s pretty clear I wouldn’t. Because of what I do and the information being so sensitive, it’s really important that it’s covered here and that I know who I’m dealing with. I have an obligation to know my client and I extend that obligation across to know who I’m dealing with working with my suppliers.
Laura – Because I already knew who I was dealing with and we worked together to find a solution for me. I felt supported and I was confident that my concerns and needs were acknowledged and responded to. There were things that were important to me like none of my data leaving Australia, everything Alexis does is through a terminal. Yes she is in the Philippines yet she accesses everything from my own system locally in Australia. She is logging into my portal and for me that was really important as well.
David – Let’s expand on that, cause you had some issues with us, didn’t you?
Laura – No, I didn’t have issues with Affordable Staff or with the team member at all. When I initially thought about what I needed or put together the job description, I thought I needed a particular skillset as I hadn’t outsourced before. What ended up happening is I employed the person with that skillset. I put a lot of time into that system and I think when you put a person on you need to support them for them to succeed.
If you don’t give them a system to work with, all you’re doing is setting them up for failure. So I needed to develop my system (which I did) and then we were working with the person I had specifically asked for. I turned out through that process that I needed a different person. She was valuable on the tasks I was asking her to do, but she didn’t have that experience in the tasks that I didn’t realise I needed to get done.
David – And how did we handle that?
Laura – Really well. One of the reasons I went into outsourcing is I didn’t want to handle the hiring or firing as I don’t have that skillset and I don’t have the time. I wanted someone who could handle that process for me. I literally just said to Nadine, I don’t think she’s going to understand what I need her to get in the timeframe I need her to do it. There was a hire that was put out for another broker and he wasn’t ready but Alexis and the other person had been working together as a team and I saw the progress they made together as a team and it was phenomenal. In the end though, I had to choose just one. I ended up selecting Alexis as she had more of the skillsets I was actually looking for and I could see that in the work and the tasks they were doing.
Laura – I think for outsourcing to work really well we need to embrace technology. It’s about having an understanding of how to communicate the types of platforms that are available for you to communicate. In my role and my industry I need to embrace technology anyway, because I’m constantly dealing with the management of information, storing it, collecting it, whatever it is i’m always dealing with information. Technology and the use of it is critical in my industry.
I think if you have an older style business where you’re working with a phone and a desktop computer and you haven’t embraced some of the technology that’s available than that would be something that could be limiting. I think it’s about where you want to go with your business, to really grow in today in business we need to embrace technology, because it’s here.
David – I also like how you say a limitation is an opportunity
Laura – Yes, it is… If there is a limitation around how a process works then it’s an opportunity to grow or to find another way. I don’t see a limitation as a bad thing, I see them as something that helps us to grow into a better business and a better person.
David – When you go on the outsource journey you’re constantly come across limitations when dealing with other countries. There are times that we’ll sit and we’ll think ‘oh again’. Yet you have to sit down, think about the direction you’re going and like you said think, ‘what is this limitation that is being presented to us, what is the solution, what is the work around so you can overcome the limitation’? At the end of the day, I’ve always found as a business that a limitation is defined by people that are a part of the business and what you’re prepared to do in order to make it work.
Laura – The other thing I’ve always thought is English or language skill may be a limiting factor, but I haven’t found that to be an issue. I’ve found the English skills of all people I have spoken to within your team in the Philippines have been excellent.
I think the Philippines in general understand that English is the language that a lot of businesses will be doing business in and if they want be an outsourcing solution then they need to speak the language of those clients that will use those services. I’ve found the language skills are really quite high, and I’ve been really happy with the communication we’ve been able to have.
Overall the limitations have allowed me to build a better business model.
The limitations show me where the holes in my business are. I need a business that can deliver on the things that I promise to a client that means I need to have all of those gaps filled. There’s nothing like a team member doing a job for you, with a job process that you’ve written for them and then they interpret in their own way to help you realise where the holes in your business are. I’ve used that process to build a much more robust business
Laura – They use it everywhere. If you think about my industry it’s financial services. Banks outsource. They outsource their documentation procedures, they outsource their call centres for client service, some of them outsource their credit departments. The lenders outsource to India or the Philippines or where ever they go. They’ve seen that’s a more profitable way for them to run. The aggregators outsource as well.
They’re all already using it so it’s just about how we manage the information transfer.
I think what’s changed recently is we have much better access to communication capability now, through things like email. When I started you were faxing supporting documentation and if the fax jammed through 40 pages it was really irritating.
Now you just email it, or now lenders are moving to allow you to submit supporting documentation online, where you submit it in the portal, so it’s not even email anymore. We’re moving beyond email, so email is becoming an outdated technology.
Laura – Have a strategic plan for how you want to implement an outsource solution and know the tasks for what you want that person to do. You need to have a job description and think about what they’re actually going to do. Then you need to think about how you’re going to complete those tasks and then report back on them.
I would work with the team in Australia to make sure your technology is up to scratch, because if it’s not it will just impede the communication process.
Yeah, having that strategic plan is important.
Have an open mind and constantly be seeking feedback while regularly checking to see if there’s a gap in your system, their knowledge or their experience.
The other thing to bear in mind is to understand what it is your offshore team member actually sees and to work with the technology that they will be working with. They are in a paperless office and they don’t have a printer. So if you’re accustomed to sending or doing things in a particular way, you need to understand that they may not have access to doing their tasks the same way that you will be.
The reason for that is it’s a more secure environment and if you have loose paper you can take that and carry it, but if they are paperless they have to do everything on their monitor. If you have a person complete a task and presume that they have the same view as you on their screen or the same accessibility to the information as you have and they don’t, then you may be asking your team to do something they cannot do.
So it’s really important to understand what technology they have at their disposal to do the task you’ve asked them to do.
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