Hi everyone, Nadine from Affordable Staff here with Steve from Frontstream. These guys are located in Melbourne and we’re going to talk about outsourcing and Steve’s experience with his outsourced virtual assistant. 

Summary of the video:

Nadine – Hi everyone, Nadine from Affordable Staff here with Steve from Frontstream. Hi, Steve.

Steve – Hey Nadine.

Nadine – These guys are located in Melbourne and we’re going to talk about outsourcing and Steve’s experience with his outsourced virtual assistant. But first Steve, tell us a little bit about Frontstream.

Steve – Hey, thanks Nadine. So Frontstream, we’re a technology company. We’re experts in online fundraising. We’ve been here in Australia since 2007, a U.S. company but here in Melbourne, we cover Australia and New Zealand.

We’ve got a lot of pretty big deal clients in the charities sector so you might heard of Cancer Council, Leukemia Foundation. We do runs, walks, and swims like World’s Greatest Shave, so that’s the kind of thing we do It’s pretty cool cause we enable charities to raise money through online fundraising so a “feel good” business.

Nadine – Very “feel good” I love it.

Why did you decide to outsource?

Steve – Couple of factors. One was, at the time when we got involved with you guys, which was about how long, a year ago, I think a year and a half. I was looking for some solutions around reception, admin, that sort of thing and at that time, our budget had taken a bit of a hit, so I was kind of looking for something a bit innovative, a new solution so that’s really why I approached you guys, originally, I thought I’d have a chat and see if it worked for me.

Nadine – So somewhere that you can get the same work done effectively for a bit of a better price.

Steve – Yes, price was definitely an issue for us, so that was one thing I was looking for, but also, importantly for us was we needed it to work. We need to be able to trust that it was gonna work well and deliver for us.

Is trust a factor when you’re outsourcing?

Steve – Absolutely. For us, remember, some of our clients are tier one charities across Australia and New Zealand, and particularly cause we’re looking at reception, and by the way Jo is just absolutely awesome. She’s been with us for a year now. That role is sort of crucial because it’s a first touchpoint for a lot of our huge clients into the organization. We needed a high level of professionalism. We need to be able to trust that she’s gonna be there and say the right thing. So yeah, absolutely crucial.

Nadine – Cool. And how’s that working for you, your outsourced receptionist?

Steve – Absolutely brilliant. Jo’s really part of our team. Whenever we do team meetings, we’ve got her on the phone or on Skype as part of it. For us it’s really important. We’re a small team. We’ve got, including Jo, ten staff. Eleven staff. And so when we do team meetings, we definitely include her.

Nadine – It’s always good to include your team member as a part of the team. I always find that you get a lot more out of your team member when they feel like they’re a part of something larger.

Steve – That’s right and I think we’ve been very deliberate about that, including her. And I think that is really important actually with virtual assistants that they feel connected and then that probably helps them have some drive in what they’re doing, as well. So it’s not some disembodied process.

Nadine – Exactly, yeah. Any staff member, whether they’re in country or not, always needs to feel that sense of connection.

Why did you choose us?

Steve – I’ve got some really good reasons for that. One of the main ones was that, the idea of virtual assistance is brilliant in theory but the idea of trying to find one, then trying to find one that’s reliable, He’s got everything that’s virtual, his whole life is set up that way but I didn’t have the time to look for someone, I just didn’t know where to start. And importantly for me, you are actually based in Australia. That was also a reliability factor.

The fact that I found out that you guys have got your own building, you’ve got supervisors, you’ve actually got power to the building. You’ve got internet. Really important decisions for us as a business because it is, you can imagine, I had this image of virtual assistants which is really great service but might be in a village, which is cool, but where there might be not reliable internet, or any supervision.

Nadine – Or there are gonna be roosters crowing in the background from home, very professional. When you answer a call in that manner.

Steve – Yeah. All those factors meant, and because you guys are based in Brisbane, actually I found out that you go over to the office a lot and check that everything’s fine. That was, for us, that’s why we worked with you guys.

Nadine – We actually have an incorporated business in the Philippines, which means, any agreements, like a non-disclosure agreement or an employment agreement, actually can be executed in country. So, a lot of outsourcing companies, you just need to be wary of would be, they may not have a presence in country, which means anything that’s signed is really a waste of paper if you don’t have an in-country presence.

Steve – That actually makes a lot of sense and for us again, also we’re a technology business. We have PCI Level 1 security in terms of critical handling, all those sort of reputational issues are crucial for us so dealing with an Australian entity was actually a no-brainer for us. That was the reassurance. We probably wouldn’t have gone with virtual assistance otherwise.

What limitations have you found in outsourcing?

Steve – I don’t think I’ve talked about limitations so much as here’s a positive limitation. Jo’s so damn efficient, that my limitations is almost going, I’ll pile her up with work and she kind of does it so well, I’ve got to find some more work.

Nadine – That’s an excellent asset to have.

Steve – There you go.

Nadine – We find that, too, sometimes, like our staff are very efficient because they don’t have the downtime of losing internet or power, you can actually come across that quite a lot. It’s like having somebody work in the office right next door to you. You just talk to them remotely via Zoom or via Skype or via phone call.

Steve – I’m sure all your clients set up in different ways. We’ve set up our processes and it’s Trello boards, and it’s Skype messages, and e-mail. We’ve set up an e-mail under our banner for Jo, and all our phones are routed straight and she answers them. So it’s all very high-tech and very cool.

What does your industry think about outsourcing? 

Steve – That’s a bit of a hard one. I think probably about outsourcing, probably some of the other suppliers are using outsourced staff. Not so much in a kind of particular area but I know that, for example, with fundraising, a lot of charities employ suppliers that have call centers. Or those sorts of things. Because for example, good practice in fundraising is, if someone makes a donation or if they’re regular givers, you should acknowledge them though a phone call. Often, charities employ call centers so in that case I think that’s where the industry’s kind of started to grow into virtual systems.

Nadine – With a bit of communications stuff.

Steve – Donor management, donor connection stuff.

What would you say to a business looking at outsourcing for the first time?

Steve – I would say a couple of things. I think you really need to know why you’re going to employ a virtual assistant. You have to be quite specific. And have enough tasks before you get into it. The other thing is, I think we found with you guys was that we could give it a go for a month. We weren’t tied into some owner’s unbreakable contract. For us it was like, let’s give it a go.

Nadine – It was good to know that you could try it without having a 2-year contract that you’re stuck in if you didn’t like it. And a part of what will cover that is actually a guarantee that if the person isn’t the person, we will replace them for you without any additional charges. That’s kind of a backup as well because you don’t actually have to go “yeah I just wanna be out altogether.” This isn’t the right person like you would with any employment.

Steve – So far, so good. It’s worked really well.

What can you say about your outsourcing experience in general?

Steve – It’s really been worthwhile for us. It’s really enhanced our business. It’s easy to administer. It’s actually affordable. It actually is so for us it’s a bit of a no-brainer, really. Had a great experience.