Name: Chris Jankulovski
Superpower:Connecting Australia with the Philippines
Chris Jankulovski is the CEO and Founder of remotestaff.com.au. We talk about the benefits of outsourcing and what it takes to make it work. We also discuss the challenges he’s faced scaling his own remote team.
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Lisette: Great! And we’re live. Welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And today on the line I have Chris Jankulovski. And Chris, you’re the CEO and founder of remotestaff.com.au and you’re based in the Philippines, so I’m very curious about this. And why don’t we start with what does your anywhere office look like? Tell us what you need to get your work done.
Chris: For me it’s all about a headset. I talk a lot. I rant a lot. And I give a lot of instructions to everybody. The faster to connect and for me to communicate is the most important. Everything else is irrelevant, frankly speaking.
Lisette: So good headset.
Chris: Good headset and good internet to have a conversation. That’s it. Emails, I never have time to look at them. Collaboration tools, they’re lovely but I tell somebody else to use them. For me it’s more the reviews and feedback, reviews and feedback – instruction, conversation, collaboration.
Lisette: Oh we’re definitely getting into this because I know feedback on remote teams is an issue that people talk about. But first I want to start by talking about your company, remotestaff.com.au. I don’t know, it doesn’t quite roll of the tongue. How am I going to…
Chris: I thought of remotestaff.com but we’re not using it just yet. We’re looking to develop another concept with remotestaff.com, which would be global. We’re just, as a company, getting ourselves prepared to handle that sheer excessive ambitious vision, so we are holding off on the dotcom just yet, but we are expecting to do something about it towards the end of this year.
Lisette: Interesting. Okay. So tell us about what you do. What does remotestaff.com do?
Chris: In a nutshell, we specialize between Australian relationships and Filipino relationships. Since we started in 2008, we’ve serviced 1900 business, of which 300 are international, such as in Europe or American, and then we’ve helped employed to work profession from home over 5000+ Filipinos since 2008. I believe we have 600 staffs working right now. And we’re totally dedicated to saying to employers and Filipino employees that you can rely on each other, you can depend on each other, and you can expect to allocate real responsibilities to these people from a virtual landscape. It matters not that they’re going to be an extension of your own team, and we try to facilitate both parties to cooperate in that kind of ideal.
Lisette: And why the Philippines? I mean there’s probably an obvious reason. I would think cost. Are there other reasons?
Chris: Yeah it’s mostly cost. And also I think for me it’s safety as well. Initially I tried with Indian staff as well, which I’m really ambitious to do something in India as well. But for me I just felt safer dealing with Filipinos. They were just lovely people, just easy to get along with, very easy. And I found that once you get their loyalty and commitment, it was quite easy to kind of build a foundation with them.
Lisette: I’ve heard this before actually that the culture is very well suited to the remote working. That’s come up in previews interviews. So then I guess this is called outsourcing. Is that right? Is it people come to you to outsource their staff or…?
Chris: Kind of. I regard it as more like labor hire. So we would recruit and find candidates that we would bet and say “we stand by this person.” We would go then visit their homes to validate that they are who they say they are. We will get them working on our platform which monitors their application use, their computer use, their internet speeds, their screenshots that leads to our online timesheet, a link to our client’s invoices, link to the staff’s payroll, link to their resume. It’s a very octopus-y, dinosaur-y combined system with the old and the new to function in this virtual landscape and we’ve invested eight years, constantly expanding on our technology. So we have them working on that. And then we have live people actually monitoring people’s screens to make sure that everyone’s playing fair because it’s very easy to game the system if you want to game it. By having us on top, we’re kind of like an insurance policy that you got a staff that you can count on, you’re happy with them, and you could rely on them, and how nice is it to know that you’re not getting gamed, that they really are professionally committed working for you.
Lisette: Wow! Interesting. I haven’t heard of many…I’ve heard of people talk about installing these monitoring systems but I haven’t actually heard somebody in depth doing it. You’re saying that there’s screenshots and you can actually watch what they’re doing?
Chris: Every three minutes we have a screenshot. And what’s funny is that for those who work night shift we actually make it compulsory to do also a 10-minute webcam shot to validate that they are managing their states because they could be half asleep at night. So we have a tem monitoring their states. Sometimes we have to remind them to say “mate, put your top on and listen, tell your wife behind you that there’s a camera going on, please.”
Lisette: I’m sure there’s some interesting situations that come up.
Chris: Just forget, yeah.
Lisette: I was watching a presentation that you gave that I found on your website and there was one slide that stood out to me and I thought this is interesting, and you say “if you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business.” And I thought “now that is a compelling statement actually” because with the outsourcing, with the cost, it is a significant cost savings to get your staff, to outsource your staff where it can be. That must be very alluring for businesses.
Chris: It’s very tempting but the whole thing is here, because we deal with clients who succeeded this and we deal with clients who fail at this, and we see thousands of them. And whenever somebody fails at this, they go blame the staff or they blame something. And we look at them and we go “mate, it’s you because I assure you your customer…” there’s been a number of cases like one accountancy firm was a classic example. They didn’t like the staff who was really qualified for the role. It was a people issue. They didn’t quite get along. They didn’t quite make a proper interpretation on how they should work in a virtual landscape. They came over from Australia. They flew over to our office. They totally love each other. They get along well. But in the virtual world they just were not communicating properly for some reason. So he fired that lady and I was quite shock because I was very involved in that experience. And then we placed that staff to ironically one of his competitors who we had to ask for his permission to say “are you okay with us placing her to your competitor because this guy apparently named you and actually he knew that she was on your team and he wants her.” And he said “I don’t care. He can have her. I didn’t get any use out of her.” He put her on his team and three years he’s still very much enjoying that staff member [07:56].
Chris: And I’ve had that case happen many times with virtual assistants and other type of people where somebody, they’re not jelling together then you put them up with some other employer, sometimes we think it must be the staff or it must be the employer. And then we realize, well let’s just do some experiments. And then it’s fascinating what happens when you move one individual with a client, with a client, with a client in a virtual landscape and then you see there’s a connection with one of them and they take off.
Lisette: This is an interesting thing because I’ve had people in the past where we just jive. We work together great immediately. It’s just one of those magical things. And it’s just a personality thing, I guess. Isn’t it? It’s the way we talk and how we connect and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Chris: That’s simply what it is at the end of the day. And in the end it’s investment in the relationship. Sometimes people just get too busy on the task, task, task, and they’re not realizing there’s an individual alive, a person, who’s trying to get by in life and look after their families and everything else. And you know what, if we actually gave a little bit more of a damn and was more interested in the individual, they’ll be surprised at how loyal, committed and involved that person can be for somebody. But of course if you’re just interested in output and just get the job done, get the job done. They’re lovely people. They could take it. They could take it. They could take it but there’s only a point where they’ll go “stop this.”
Lisette: Right. It’s only fun for so long or it becomes just a job, I would assume. It’s just a task then. It’s not “I’m doing this for Mr. or Mrs. so and so.” It’s just like “I got to get this thing done.” I can see how that would be less motivating.
Chris: It’s a wonderful thing at the beginning, you know, this whole thing for the client and for the staff. It’s like “I get to work from home.” “Oh wow, I got a virtual staff from the Philippines.” But the reality is how prepared are you to execute on this? How prepared are you to actually be resolved that you’re going to make this work? The reality is you just have to put in the energy and the time in the relationship, in the effort. You can’t ever assume someone’s going to do what they want you to do just because you’ve told them to do it. Why don’t you check it and see are they really doing it the way you expect it to be done? Because they speak English but can they really interpret or understand the English that you’re saying the way that you’re meaning it. We might say marketing and I might have an interpretation of marketing but the word marketing for you might be a completely different interpretation. We need to take the time to share that difference of interpretation, not just assume that it’s understood.
Lisette: And how do you do that with companies that come to you? What do you encourage them to do? Is it just talking more often, connecting more often? Do you say “you must do video. You must do face to face.” What are some of the tips you give to people?
Chris: Definitely more on the phone, much more on the phone. Don’t just rely on vocal conversation. Send the Skype text messages. Send the email instruction. Then validate it again. You got to cross check because often what I have is I have a HR manager sometimes or we have these staffing consultants for our clients. So what they could do is they could give an instruction to the staff and then have the instruction shared in terms of their interpretation of it to our staff consultant. And then our staff consultant will relay back what they have heard from the contractor. And often the clients can get a feel for the interpretation. And also sometimes a foreigner can talk quite firm and direct to a Filipino and a Filipino might find it a little bit more confronting sometimes and they may not have heard it properly. So they would come to us sometimes saying “oh my God, my client’s screaming” when in actual fact the client is just talking maybe passionately or very firmly about something. Again, it’s simple human nature that’s at play. It’s not the virtual side of things.
Lisette: Interesting. And it also sounds like there’s a real cultural, there can be a real cultural issue.
Chris: Yes, there really is. And it’s subtle.
Chris: It’s really subtle.
Lisette: Okay. I was going to say. I ask people about the culture thing all the time and there’s never a concrete big thing that ever comes up. It’s always very subtle things. It’s how do we look at each other, how are we used to communicating, like the Dutch are very blunt and the Indian culture are not. They’ll always say yes but they might mean no. I hear things like this all the time, and it can be very offensive for people in the Netherlands to work for other cultures, for example. So I’m assuming in the Philippines this must come up quite often because the Philippines has its own very distinct culture.
Chris: Yeah. It’s very used to westernize thinking though because the Spanish were here 300 years ago and the Americans the last 80-100 years ago. The Filipinos all got these Spanish surnames and all wearing basketball uniforms. They’re very much open to westerners. Actually as a foreigner living here temporarily for about a year and half, we get special treatment. I walk into a building looking to buy an apartment, they’ll assume that I’m there to buy the whole building. The service as a foreigner you’re being given a lot of the benefit of the doubt and they really look up to you as an authority for some reason. It’s a privilege they give you but you got to earn it along the way.
Lisette: Right. There’s trust in every culture. We’re still humans at the end of it all, I assume. What is it then…there’s a lot of things that work really well it sounds like, but what I wonder is what is it that businesses really struggle with this remote working? Is it time zones? What is the real pain?
Chris: Time zones are not really the issue because we have them working the same time zones. If somebody from the Netherlands hires a Filipino, they will work the time zone from the Netherlands because we believe that the client and the staff should always work together. That’s the only way how you could build momentum with your team. You cannot build momentum with two different time zones. So you have to collaborate and the same time. So that’s a must. That’s a non-negotiable for us. I have a list of all these frustrations. I’m bringing it up for you right now.
Lisette: I can’t wait.
Chris: Plenty of them. We call them gratitude and frustrations because there’s a lot of things that they could be grateful for and obviously there’s a lot of things that can be extremely frustrating.
Lisette: There’s a reason why people go and they’re doing the outsourcing because there’s a lot of things that’s working for them – the reduction in cost, the extra staff – I’m sure there’s a lot of things. But I’m trying to get into the meat of what’s really hard of remote working and how are we solving it. I find that curious because I know it’s always better, it’s better if we can in person. I mean in many ways. I hear that all the time. But what if we can’t? I would have to argue. Maybe it’s not better to be in person sometimes.
Chris: I would agree. It’s not necessarily always better to be in person. For example, I had a whole team of IT people in Sydney once, and they were all just there in one room but they’re all Skyping each other. No one was talking because they didn’t want to be too loud or they didn’t want to interrupt anybody else. So they’ll all together but they’re all working still virtually.
Lisette: Right. Plus they have to commute.
Chris: Yeah, to get to that space. And the other advantage was the lunch breaks and stuff when they’re really kind of socially interacted. I’m just looking for the file for you, the information for you.
Lisette: No worries.
Chris: I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.
Lisette: Oh yeah. I’d love to compare our list. I also have the frustrations that people have come up with. It’s quite long. But it’s harder. It’s a new way of working. I mean that’s what they call it. It’s a new way of working. I think people underestimate the differences that go from co-located to virtual. They are subtle differences but they are differences.
Chris: They are. So here are the top 4 things. Poor work performance issues, basically the employer is not getting the best performance out of their staff. Employers without management experience. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of employers who don’t have proper management experience, and let along virtual management experience. Communication and cultural challenges, and dealing with grievances and disciplinary matters. And then we have, in each one of these topics, four cases to five cases in each. Like dealing with grievances, work ethics or moonlighting is something we are always having to fight against to say “hey, don’t freelance while you’re working with somebody. Be 100% focused.” Being taken advantage of. I mean people are saying that they’re working, they pretend to look like working but they’re not really working. Honesty and confrontation issues. Sometimes the employer and even the employee they’re just not being honest and they’re not confronting the issues head on. They go on around it in circles. They’re making assumptions about each other, not just openly sharing it. Internal conflicts, it happens in the real world, it happens in the virtual world as well where somebody feels the attitude of somebody else and they go. They still have issues. It’s just incredible to see them in the virtual space. They’re four cases that result towards or have affected poor work performances.
Lisette: Interesting. So how do you deal with these? Let’s move then into feedback and reviews and how you handle that in the virtual space because that’s a big deal.
Chris: Technology plays a big part in it. We have like screen share, we have tutorials. Sometimes our employers don’t have the time to give them live, on the spot feedback. So what they do is they record their voices, they record their [18:47] like Camtasia and give a feedback instruction just like they’re there, and then they give it to them on their workflow tool so then when they’re ready to come around to it, they’ve got feedback already waiting for them, rather than syncing up for a live conversation to occur. Sometimes it’s too time consuming doing it live. So actually giving feedback in a virtual space like this in a pre-recorded manner is actually better.
Lisette: I’ve never heard of anybody doing that before but I would think that that’s actually a great way to do it because you see the person and their expressions. It’s not just an email that can easily be misinterpreted.
Chris: It’s like the mouse where you look at their work and you’re giving them direct pointed instruction. “Not enough weight on this. You’ve gone on a different tangent over here. Please apply this or make emphasis here.” I’m using this in a reference from my designer, but it also applies from a technology point of view, it also applies from an assistant point of view. Normally when I travel around the world, I have a virtual assistant and she has nine must things for me that’s really important. I teach her how to use Google Earth or Google Maps to walk the streets before we look at a place where I’m going to stay. I like to be walking distance five minutes from coffee shops. I need nannies when I go there. I need certain types of transportation and accessibility. We have so much information at our hands. It’s just simply about applying it. Travelling a lot and working remotely can become a real hassle and you feel displaced. But when you do it right and your internet’s fast, you got the right residency for you, you know what to expect when you get there, you can make it seamless. So then, living and working around the world can be an art of pleasure. Sometimes you get confused because you go out “shit, what city am I in right now?”
Lisette: Right, you can be anywhere.
Chris: I love working from the holiday locations because everyone’s on a holiday on the beach, and then I feel like I’ve done my deed for the day, I feel accomplished. I shut my computer down. I see these people on the beach and I switch off right away.
Lisette: Right. You’ve got the umbrella drink ready to…brilliant. So I want to move then into this whole concept of work-life fusion because that seems to be a huge part of why people like to do remote, and before we start recording you were saying that the freedom of being able to do this is really something that attracted you to this way of working. Maybe give us some background about…I mean did you worked in an office to begin with and then move to the remote field? What was your journey like?
Chris: I used to do info marketing and I will create seminars and products online to educate people, whether it be wealth creation or business or online marketing or property development, whatever it was. One of my friends was doing very well online. And I was looking at him at the time, making all this money from his pajamas, staying at home. And then I’m there with a factory saying “I’ve got this forklift. I got this overhead carts and I’m making just this little bit of money. And here’s this guy working from home making this tremendous amount of money.” And the appeal for me was not the money. It was the fact that “oh my god, I can work from a non-geographically bound location.” It could be anywhere. And that to me was tremendously enticing because I love travelling. I don’t just like visiting a place like on a holiday. I actually like to live a local lifestyle when I’m there. I enjoy hanging out like the locals would and taking my time to see something, not being on a mission. So I’d often travel six weeks at a time somewhere and work, and then go to another place. Get settled in and then move on. And I totally enjoy that. And the freedom of what online working proposed was what drove me actually to build Remote Staff as well purely because the lifestyle quality was awesome. I totally enjoy it. You just can’t beat the fact that you’re at home, you’re engaged, you’re stimulated, you’re focused, you’re getting through things, you’re achieving, you’re earning, man you’re at home. [23:17]
Lisette: Yeah. Do you have a lot of people saying like “I wish I could do that” or “oh I’m so jealous.”
Chris: A lot of people are asking my why am I just doing it in the Philippines. Why can’t I help create these opportunities for other people in Australia, Netherlands, or America? Hence why remotestaff.com is coming.
Lisette: Yeah you’re like “I’m on it.”
Chris: I’m on it, yes.
Lisette: It’s all very good. I have the same thing, the freedom, and in fact I like the same travel concept as you do. I don’t like to be on the road all the time from one place to another. I’m totally not a digital nomad, but rather I call it a work holiday where I go some place and I stay for an extended period of time and just live like a local and just get to know the place, walk the streets, visit all the coffee shops and bookstores, all the little things that you do when you sort of live somewhere. But what is the resistance that people find? It seems like the technology has been around for a while but now we can really do it. The technology is really no longer in the way anymore. Why are people resisting this sort of lifestyle?
Chris: Employers, it really depends. I’ve dealt with employers of all scales and one thing is very evident, that it’s a comfort zone. Some people are just at the end of the day not comfortable with hiring somebody from halfway around the world that they’re not going to meet face to face, they don’t know who they are. They just doesn’t sit well with them to allocate such responsibilities to them that they’ve not have that face-to-face bond yet. Sometimes even when that bond happens just once, one catch up, it’s such a bridge already compared to when that bond never quite happened. So there’s those. But they’re easy to overcome. What’s more interesting are those who don’t have the time. They’re really on a chase for market share. They’re really after professions whilst standard. They’re trying to accomplish something and investing so much energy and time to accomplish that standard that they just don’t have the tolerance towards going through the journey, that patience that you need to make virtualization a reality for their business. So it’s the time and standards that affect them. So every type of employer, depending on the stages that they’re in, has different factors that apply as to why they didn’t apply it.
Lisette: Right. So somebody’s just starting out, there’s going to be some ramp up time if you’re going to try to go virtual.
Chris: Starting up is easy. They got all the time in the world, so they’re more than happy to put in the time in the world. They got the time, they’re investing their time, so they need help, they don’t have the cash so it’s a perfect recipe. They’ll hire somebody to get it started, that can leverage arbitral of wages, you know. Instead of hiring somebody from the Netherlands for $3000 a month, you can hire somebody for $700 for similar capacity. There’s such arbitral. Why not? You can capitalize. It’s the employer who then scales or takes off and needs to grow really fast. All of a sudden their conduct is no longer acceptable at a particular standard. They’re going to lift up their game but they have no idea how to do it. Trying to do it in a virtual setting is possible sometimes, and it has happened, but it can be costly.
Chris: In your time and in your accomplishment, like yeah you got there but damn it took you another year longer than it could have.
Lisette: Right. I can see you’re in an office.
Lisette: But you’re not on the beach. There’s no umbrella drink. So you have experience both in the online, running things online, and actually being in an office now. I want to learn a little bit about that transition and why that happened.
Chris: That’s a fascinating journey because as you know I’m so passionate with the virtual space. I’ve been running Remote Staff now for 8 years. The first 4 years I ran it virtually, 100%; started virtual, kept it virtual. And then the last 4 years has been in the office. We reached a point where we got to about 65, 60+ something staff virtually. And unfortunately my managers were not managing their departments, and we have a lot of departments. We had a complaints department, [27:59] department, a marketing department, business development department, a recruitment department, an account management department and so on. And these departments were not talking to each other properly, were not collaborating properly and the managers were too busy burning out fires and try to get on top of it and then putting on new people and replacing people just started to slow things to a grind, and we lost control in the landscape. We just said “wow, if we need to scale and grow, we can’t do it anymore virtually.” That was the point that I got back then, hence I got the office. Hence why offices also exist because when you get a larger team, you need an environment where people can speed up the process in pointing people all in one direction. It’s so much more easy in an office. Change tactics, so much more easier. Train people, so much more easier. Collectively collaborate between departments, so much more easier, not just within a department. And allowing each other to kind of feel each other in terms of this is what they do, this is what they do, this adds the whole feeling to the whole equation. It was just so much more faster. From a virtual point of view, I realized that I’ve reached a kind of limitation. But now, after 4 years in the office, I intend to shut my office down and go 100% virtual again because I actually know how I could do it again if I wanted to do it again. I would literally put a team of managers in one office only, the managers, like in an army, and have my troops out on the field from home. So my army to be central, all my heads to be in one location, but everybody else can be remote.
Lisette: Interesting. So it’s turned into a hybrid, sort of. It was all online and then all in the office and now it’s sort of this hybrid version. It’s sort of where you have a headquarters of…
Chris: I’d like to. I’d like to. We’re not there yet. This is for my internal team. I have 95 staff. But my 600 staff for my clients they’re all virtual. That’s the future. If I was to remove my office one day and go virtual again, that’s how I’d do it. I’ll just have a little office, central headquarter, let it be that way.
Lisette: Sorry to interrupt, I’m a chronic interrupter. I wonder though because most remote teams that I talk with, there’s very few big companies that are all remote, and I wonder if it’s a scaling issue where remote works for small teams really well or medium-sized teams really well, but then there’s a particular size that it starts to become unwieldy, and I wonder if that’s the case.
Chris: It is. From our client’s point of view, we could see that because we’ve had clients hire as many 89 or 90 staff virtually.
Chris: One client hired 90. Actually he’s exiting right now, 89. We have another one at 55. And then the rest that dribble and drop down to 15, 20. It’s all about capacity. Most employers have that capacity to go up to about 50. If they get to 9, they’re good. If they could get to 15, they could get there. Very few can get to 20 to 30, but some can get there. It just requires so much more. When you get to 50, you need to have somebody fly in every 6 weeks, every couple of months to do training, to visit the team, have a good collaboration session. There needs to be conduct that’s different that happens. But from the landscape of Australia and small business in general, we kind of got a few of them. It’s between a capacity of 5 to 15 is the sweet spot.
Lisette: For being able to work remotely really, really well.
Chris: Yeah. If they have a team of 15 virtually with their team locally of 15 or 20, that’s the sweet spot. When they go bigger, they collapse upon each other, not because it couldn’t work. It’s just because they didn’t have process. They don’t have their own [32:22] internally. Some of the employees start the work but they don’t really know what the hell they’re doing. They haven’t got an induction program. They don’t have a quality check program. It’s management, just not sophisticated enough.
Lisette: Right. And you would assume that it’s extremely important to have those processes in place. In fact I would think that as a co-located company you would want those processes in place as if you were going to go remote, even if you’re not remote, just so that you could go remote if you needed to.
Chris: What’s ironic is in the virtual space, you need to do those processes actually sooner because when you’re in a larger corporation, companies tend to do these things, this corporate governance within a company happens when their staff get over around 80 or 100. It kind of starts then. But in a virtual space, you kind of got to do it earlier, around 30, because you got so much of these relationships that are virtual that require so much more touchpoints and involvement from an individual manager’s point of view, compared to an office point of view. Since you have to leverage on the time it takes you for that involvement, you need to do as much as you can to leverage your time – systems, tutorials, trainings – all these things need to be applied. And they got to be executed properly. They can’t be vague or general or something where they read it it’s not updated. You got to be on it basically.
Lisette: So if there’s a new client coming to you and they’re wanting to hire a virtual staff, I don’t know how many people, I don’t know what the difference would make, what advice do you give them? When somebody’s first starting out, what is it that you’re telling them to look out for and warning them about?
Chris: I have a business developer, PJ and Walter and a few others, so I don’t have the privilege to talk to clients for some time, but perhaps for this video or audio I can mention a few things. I think first, be resolved, that you can make this work. It’s up to you. That’s the reality. Be patient to make it work with that individual. Don’t give up on it so soon. Just because you had a bad experience or it didn’t quite work out as what you expected, be ready for surprises and just quickly deal with that fast. You’ll get to a point where you will take a while to gain consistency. But you will reach that point around four months to the sixth month point of view. You have to have a long term view on this. If you expect a short term view and you think you can get there straight away, perhaps it might not be better off trying it anyway. You’ll quit. If it’s a long haul, then just be resolved with it. Just say “look, I’m going to make it work.” It’s worthy of it because it’s like winning the lottery when you make this bloody thing work. It’s like “holy cow! Holy cow! I’m able to bank on these virtual staff that cost me nothing to run a mega operation. How awesome is that?”
Lisette: Yeah. I had somebody write to me from my mailing list with an issue and this person said I hired somebody and we spent a long…I mean the interview process was a long interview process. He had to go through several interviews and several tests and then we trained him for a month and then he left. The staff just took off and he was so frustrated. He says “what can I do?” And in my head I thought you’re going to get a few like that where it’s just you trained them, you interviewed them, they went through the process, everybody passed, and it just doesn’t work out for some reason. Given the number of staff that you work with, you must see this. You’re shaking your head so I know you do.
Chris: It’s so embarrassing that it still happens. We work with them, especially in the Asian culture. What happens in the Asian culture is that they’re afraid to confront you about a decision like I’ve changed my mind, so they’d rather not tell you and just disappear on your because they don’t want to lose face. So they feel that it’s easier to just disappear. And so their conduct is just really frustrating because we kind of tell them “for God sake, if you actually told us, it’s easier for us to move on and carry on. It’s also from our client’s point of view, you’re representing us to our client’s, for God sake. You’re leaving us with mud on our faces going ‘oh man. You said yes. You go train. You said in two weeks time you’re going to get started. You start day one, disappear on day two. You never returned. Holy cow. We’ve all invested in you. We’ve all put in money and time. We’re banking on you. You got nothing to lose. We’re guaranteeing you income and you do this.’” It happens maybe once out of every 50.
Lisette: Okay, so it happens is really the advice. Sometimes these things…yeah I mean that was my response too. I thought I just went to the same process with the Happy Melly team. We hired somebody, great guy. Even met him in person. We both happened to be in Paris at the same time, so we met and have breakfast together once. Great guy. Two weeks later, we’ve never heard from him again. And I was like “oh!” You would never guess. He was a great guy.
Chris: People change their minds. And what’s really embarrassing is normally it happens one out of 50. It’s when it happens to one individual like once then it happens again and then it might even happen a third time. That’s what’s really puzzling. Sometimes it really is a work style, I call it. So they open, they game, they find out a little bit more about what you’re all about and what you’ve got to offer them and then they realize that this isn’t quite the game for them, and rather than telling you and trying to explain it, they just disappear. It’s easier than for them to confront. One client, I remember very clearly, is very firm. It’s the best way to put it. He’s awesome because he’s very candid and blunt. So sometimes it’s just a bit too much to swallow for some of the candidates. And so they work with him and then they quit. They work with him and then they quit. And when we spoke to the guy, because we talk to him, we love him. As a western bloke, we’re like “this is awesome. No bullshit, straight to the point. Fantastic.” But then the Asian culture, this is a cultural thing, felt that there needed to be a little bit more sugar coating in between.
Lisette: Right, right, and that is important I can imagine. In this case, do you find the staff to fit the client or do you tell the client “hey man, we love your bluntness but you got to turn it down a bit.”
Chris: It’s the lesson that we learn, right? We can say it sometimes and we do catch them out sometimes and we do recommend. There are some clients who don’t even…some clients don’t have the time. None of us have the time. We’re all trying to save time. We’re all trying to leverage our time. But we need to invest the time here to make it work or our managers need to invest their time to make it work. It’s an unfortunate reality that heaps of people are prepared to make it work, they get it going, and then they don’t have the time for it. They just assume it can be on autopilot now. And that’s one of the biggest [39:53] efforts that I find in the virtual world workspace. It goes like flows and unfortunately in the workspace the true face of the employee comes out sometimes. After they struggle to finally get to work together, probably tell their wives or husbands “oh my God, that was such a mission. I’m so grateful I got it working now. I don’t ever want to talk to these people again. I’m just going to email them instructions for the rest of my life.”
Lisette: Right, so it has to be maintained, the connection. It’s a new way of working and we touched on it before that it’s kind of a new style of management.
Chris: [40:28] But on the point of the relationship bonding, I was going to say that sometimes there’s Filipinos that are really perfectly suited to an employer, and then there’s employers that are perfectly suited to the Filipino person. There is a real people dynamics to the whole thing. There really is. And sometimes you’ll never going to know until you work with them too.
Lisette: Right. Yeah that’s the little things that come out. And of course everybody’s on their best behavior on the first two weeks. It’s like dating. Right? They never do the weird stuff the first few times. You have to wait a while.
Chris: Yeah. I always like to question the decisions. I always like to see their kind of thinking or what they see and what they don’t see. Those things tell me more about somebody than what they actually have done. But those things, you could interview as much as you like, play scenarios as much as you like. And yes it does help you weed them out. It’s an art more than a science.
Lisette: Right. Well it seems like you’ve definitely made it work. I mean you have a staff, you said of what? 600?
Chris: We’ve got 600 staff working for our clients around the world and we got 95 staffs ourselves in our office.
Lisette: Wow! So clearly you’re doing something right because that’s a significant reach that you have.
Chris: It all begins, first with the fact that I think we’ve got quite an extensive issue now. I think we’ve made more mistakes over and over and over, though I like to care to mention and I don’t like the fact that we still make them but we deal a bit faster. We’re stepping up our standards. And we’re kind of gaming up. We’re getting ready. We’re getting ready to kind of go. It’s a game of odds. The more we establish relationship for clients where the odds of success are higher in their favor is all that we could do for them. And that’s what we’re doing. That’s where we got the: visit their home – tick, validate they are – tick, validate that they’re working – tick, confirm, call their past employers – tick, get them to do skill test – tick. That’s all we’re doing.
Lisette: Right. You’re increasing the likelihood. I mean you can never be 100% certain but you can increase the likelihood of success by going through this sort of checklist, it sounds like.
Chris: I wish we could guarantee success, but it doesn’t.
Lisette: Yeah it’s the world. Chaos surrounds us. I don’t know that there’s any guarantee of anything. I think people have to be sort of in that mindset also. Alright, so I know we’re reaching sort of the end of what I told you the time I was going to give. Let’s see, I’m going through the different things. I’ve got leadership and management and team building and we’ve talked about trust and feedback. Is there anything that I’ve missed that you want to…because outsourcing is not my forte so sometimes I don’t know the questions to ask, but is there anything that I’ve missed maybe that you would think that it’s important to bring out?
Chris: It’s virtual working. It’s virtual collaboration. It’s depending and relying on people from halfway around the world, accessing each other online. The sooner you all embrace this reality and actually make it a core strategic recruitment solution in your business that there are roles in your business that are and should remain in your office, and that there are roles in your business that you should seriously understand that can be done virtually and remotely, and that you should apply yourself. Remote strategic hiring is just as vital as traditional hiring. You’re going to mix the two and get this up to speed and making it a reality for your businesses ASAP because that’s only the future and it’s only a bigger future ahead of us.
Lisette: Indeed. I agree completely. And I really like the hybrid of it. I mean I like how you say there’s some things that should be done co-located and some things that should be done remote. You should make sure to separate those out wherever possible, especially when the cost savings is so significant. I mean that must be, for a business, I’m assuming that’s a real driver. It real matters.
Chris: Yeah, but again it depends on the size of the business. And so when time is an issue for market share or when speed is an issue or when standards are an issue, when they’re prepared to spend whatever it takes to get the best, virtualized hiring or remote hiring sometimes is not going to suit them. So that’s the reality. But when that equilibrium of cost savings versus effort kind of bounces in that sweet spot, yeah it’s a no brainer.
Lisette: Right. It’s the only way to go. My last question then is if people want to get in touch with you and learn more, I mean you’re getting ready for world domination, what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to learn more and get involved?
Chris: I’m a busy person because I’m running also realestate.ph, a property portal in the Philippines, but remotestaff.com.au, there’s lots of touchpoints there from phone numbers and emails. There they can reach me through there by asking for me. I’m generally available on email and I’m always open to having interesting conversations in this topic. I’m still very passionate and interested in this field. So yeah, remotestaff.com.au is the best way to go.
Lisette: It’s a really comprehensive, nice looking website too. There’s a lot of information there for people.
Chris: We’re actually going to load up something new, which I look forward to in the middle of March. Look out for that new one where it’s taken me…because I’ve got the office in 2012, I have not uploaded the website since 2012. And so it’s taken me so long to get this new site up and running, but I’m grateful. It’s a monkey off my back. And I think in the online world it evolves and changes so much, what the market expects of you and what they…because there’s so much landscape changes, I can’t afford to leave a site not updated every year. It needs to be updated every eight months actually.
Lisette: It’s crazy, isn’t it? The sort of the time of these things. Now when you say like “that app is old.” You could be talking about months. It’s so ridiculous.
Chris: Fascinating. It moves so fast. I always ask my staff. “Listen guys, stop focusing on all these changes. Just focus on what do you think is not going to change in the next 5 or 10 years.” If it’s not going to change, put your energy in there because that’s what matters now, that’s going to matter in 10 years from now. So stick to doing that. So when we give a candidate to somebody, it’s going to be somebody that’s made a firm commitment that they want to work with that employer. That’s not going to change 10 years from now. Make sure you do that good. If we endorse somebody, make sure you stick by that person as somebody that you really have vetted that you agree that this person is going to be good for that guy, and states the reason why. Those things aren’t ever going to change. That’s why we’ve been around for 8 years and we’re going to continue to be around for a lot longer, no matter how much the market or landscape changes.
Lisette: Right. I think that’s really good advice, really. Stick to what’s going to happen in the next five years because after that you have no idea.
Chris: There are things…change is part of life. It will happen. We’re going to go. We’re going to flow. We’re going to adjust. We’re going to adopt, but stick to what we know. People appreciate now and will surely still continue appreciating 10 years from now.
Lisette: Indeed. That’s a good way to end. That’s a good note to end on, I think. I really appreciate your time, and great to finally meet you. I’ve seen you online all over the place. It’s totally nice to have a conversation, finally. I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Chris: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Lisette: Alright everybody, until next time. Be powerful.Interview