Monty Hooke learned the hard way about the difficulties that can come with outsourcing. In this episode, Monty talks about how to outsource your business and life which ultimately led him to create his business, ezyVA, and everything he’s learned about streamlining his outsourcing.
- Find Monty’s website at MontyGHooke.com
- Grab Monty’s book at BusinessHacker.xyz
- And his co-management company at ezyva.com.
Transcript: How To Outsource Your Business and Life with Monty Hooke
Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast! This is your host, Derek Gehl, and today we’re gonna be covering a topic and interviewing an expert in an area that I am extremely passionate about, because it’s an area that really changed how I do business. Frankly, I believe it’s the future of business, or at least digital business. What I’m talking about here is outsourcing.Our guest today is a gentleman that’s not only mastered the outsourcing process for himself now, he’s mastered it so well that he’s doing it for people all over the world, allowing people and businesses to leverage incredible talent at a fraction of the cost typically to hire somebody internally to do incredible things. So, I’d like to introduce our guest today
Monty Hooke, thank you so much for being here with us today.
Thanks for having me Derek, it’s awesome to be here and to connect with your crowd.
Okay, so you’re an Aussie–from Brisbane originally, correct?
Yeah that’s right, I hope you can understand my Australian accent.
Oh that’s alright, I’ve spent so much time in Australia I translate it well. So, give us your story. I always like to start with the story. Where did you come from? How did you go from a guy in Brisbane, to now owning and managing this giant outsourcing organization, helping people around the world outsource their businesses. How did this happen?
I’m an entrepreneur through and through. I had my first business when I was 8 years old. So I, from a young age was a hustler. I knew that if I wanted something it was up to me. Nothing was going to be given to me on a silver platter.
Well, I’m an entrepreneur through and through. I had my first business when I was 8 years old. I actually grew up on a boat in Sydney Harbour. Some people assumed that we lived on the boat because we had money, or that it was luxury, but I kind of explain it as being a trailer on water. So I just from a young age was a hustler; I knew that if I wanted something it was up to me. Nothing was going to be given to me on a silver platter.
So at 8 years old, I started this business cleaning boats in Sydney Harbour. It was tough, but it sort of planted the seed and ever since then, to be a hustler. I was always making money, through my teenage years, and my twenties, I had a bunch of different businesses. Most of them failed, most of them I was doing everything wrong, which I can talk about a bit. It was just always about being in business.Then in 2008, I had a business in the auto parts industry. It fell apart with what is now known as the global financial crisis, I wound up about $100,000 in the hole. I got out lightly compared to some people. But I had been doing quite well with the business, and the next day I was $100,000 in the hole. It was from that point that I really wanted to continue with business, but I wanted to figure out what was the secret–what was the formula for really making it work? What was missing? And I just became fascinated by leverage, and people like Richard Branson, I just studied my ass off and from that point I started doing business coaching and mentoring and consulting in some form, and I just loved being an entrepreneur and I loved helping other entrepreneurs.It was through that experience that I became more and more fascinated with leverage, and I started outsourcing myself and using virtual systems. I didn’t really like most of what I found out in the market. That’s what I now call do-it-yourself. You get connected with a freelancer, and you’re left to your own devices. I really wasn’t an expert, I had to figure it all out for myself. I tried 26 different companies, or different solutions out in the market, and eventually I just said, screw this, I don’t like anything out there, and I set up my own system, which is now known as ezyVA. It’s really borne out of a need for myself because I saw a gap in the market. People started putting their hands up, and it just sort of grew from there, and three years on, we’ve got a few hundred staff out of the Philippines, and clients all over the world, head office in Australia, and I get to hang out here in Bali. My whole philosophy is about being passionate to help entrepreneurs grow a business that doesn’t rely on them being there, it allows them to be where they want to be. It allows them to spend their time doing what they love.
That resonates with so many people in this day and age. People don’t know what they don’t know right now, and you just published a book recently, correct?
Yeah, Business Hacker, it’s called. I got into a lot of detail of the specifics of really making offshore outsourcing and working with virtual assistants work. But also the mindset behind it, what are the things that you really need to be thinking about and preparing for.
The reason that I want to go down that road is because I think mindset is key. If you don’t have the right mindset when you go into the digital business model, it’s very easy to get led astray and have bad experiences and assume that it doesn’t work and give up. I’ve seen you speak, and the message you have is so powerful, and that’s why I wanted to get you on our show today. So what I’d like to do now, is dig into this whole outsourcing your life, outsourcing your business thing, and talk about why people are or aren’t successful at it. The first question I want to throw to you, is why the Philippines?
Good question. So the Philippines has only really become big in the last ten years, or in the last five years especially. In Australia, ten years ago, all the big companies had their call centres out of India. And then it all changed, to the Philippines. It comes down to just a different culture between the countries, and the Philippines, they had a softer nature about them and were better at customer service kind of things, and that was kind of what gave them its kickstart. India is still really great for more technical based things, but the Philippines really established itself. They speak English over there, so they grow up in school learning to speak English. So they’re educated, they’re good, hard workers, the government over there, they’re doing a lot of hard work with the infrastructure in the area of the Business Processing Outsourcing industry, there’s a lot of international companies growing their businesses there, and putting offshore offices there.
This year, the Philippines was the second fastest growing economy in the world. There’s a number of reasons why it’s a good place to be, but in terms of getting work done, because they speak English so well, they’re much easier to communicate with. They have a culture over there of wanting to do a good job for people. That’s why I’ve established over there. It doesn’t work all the time, but it’s like that everywhere. I’ve found the Philippines for myself to be the best place, and that’s why I wanted to pursue it more and more.
I would echo that. Of all the countries I’ve outsourced to, I’ve found the Philippines to be the easiest country to work with. I think everyone needs to understand, when we say, English is spoken very well there, there’s also lots of people that speak English very well in India. But there’s just a Western English that’s spoken very well in the Philippines.
Yeah. And I always say that, when we speak English, be it in Australia, Canada, USA, Philippines, we all have a different version of English. And in the Philippines, they actually learn a very traditional type of English. They speak better English than us in Australia, and wherever we’re from, if we speak English, we tend to be quite arrogant about how we speak and how people should understand us. But that’s something to be mindful of. How you speak, and have respect for articulating what you want properly. But in the Philippines, they speak a very traditional kind of English. And their accents are more laid towards North America. In terms of understanding them, and communication it just seems to be a lot easier in the Philippines.
Beyond language, are there any other things in the Philippines culturally, like barriers, or something that might trip up somebody from Canada or Australia? In North America, Australia, and the UK, we all do business pretty similarly. We’re pretty interchangeable. So when outsourcing to the Philippines, what are some obstacles that people may run into, culturally, communication-wise, beyond language.
So, it’s a great point. One of the huge things is that the culture in Asia and especially the Philippines is that if someone is presented with a challenge, it’s kind of the culture that they bury their head in the sand. In Australia, if something happens, you speak up about it and resolve the problem. In the Philippines, it can be difficult because they bury their heads in the sand if something happens. So the tiniest little communication issue can happen, and make it so somebody doesn’t raise an issue, and then the next thing you know you’ve got this deadline in place, and you don’t find out about this issue until that deadline day because they haven’t spoken up about it. That’s their culture.
What I always say, is have the mindset to always bring them in as part of your team.Because if you’re thinking, I’m in North America, and they’re in the Philippines, and you view them as separate, they’re never going to trust you enough to speak up. When it comes to working with people in the Philippines, I really believe in having a long term deal and relationship, and when they get up to speed with you, they’ll go to the end of the earth for you. But it takes time for them to trust you. If we’re really impatient, and we don’t have that patience to allow a bit of teething, that’s when everything starts to fall over. More often than not, it’s just the tiniest thing that could’ve been resolved.
So, I think this segways well into our next question. I deal with a lot of people, and their first attempt at outsourcing, they go post a job on Upwork, or e-lance, or craigslist, and they hire someone, and they fail miserably. There’s probably more of those stories out there than success stories. What are the mistakes you see people making on a day-to-day basis, and how do you avoid making them?
It’s the exact same experience for me too. In all of the research I’ve done, it’s about 70% of people who attempt outsourcing fail at it. There’s a percentage of people that succeed and that have an in between experience, The biggest few reasons, I’d say, is when it comes to putting a task–if you need something done in your business, there are two ways of looking at it. The first is you can think, I just need shit done. The other way to think is, I want to build a team.The successful ones are the ones that have the mindset of building a team. That’s not always going to be possible, but there are solutions where you can tap into the structure of a team, so that you have the system and the processes of working with a team instead of one person.
Most of the solutions out there, which I call do-it-yourself, is where you get connected with a freelancer and it’s just you versus the freelancer. Freelancers want to work for themselves. They don’t want to have any accountability to your business. If they don’t want to turn up to work today, there’s nothing you can do about that. So that’s one of the biggest things. You have to be mindful of who you’re dealing with.If you have the expectation that someone is going to show up and right off the bat be reliable and trustworthy, you’re in for a shock. The other thing, maybe the biggest thing for me in the start, and where things start to break down, is the communication.It’s always a two way street, right? You’re dealing with someone from another country, and you need to be very mindful and respectful about how you articulate what you’re looking for. This is where personalities come into it. All of us have got different skills and abilities to communicate what we want. Some people are big picture, and not really the details of the systems of the business. If you go into a scenario where you’re wanting to build a website, if you go into it with very vague instructions and you’re expecting the person that you’re dealing with to make it sleek, it’s never going to happen. You need to show up in such a way that you’re dealing with a technician that needs details.
We’ve got training videos on how to do this, giving feedback visually, so that you can really articulate what you’re looking for. There’s a few systems that people really should put in place, like using a project management system like Trello, that kind of thing, where a lot of people go wrong working with virtual systems and with people in general is by using email. I don’t believe in sending emails back and forth on a project. Emails can go missing into cyberspace, especially when it’s convenient for someone. If you’re using a project management system it’s super easy, everything is chronological. If you work with somebody that can guide you and give you access to those systems, it’ll really make a difference.
There’s a bunch of things in there, but the biggest learning for me was that I kept failing in the beginning. Why doesn’t this outsourcing thing work for me? It took me two years to realize that I was the common denominator. Then I looked at how I was communicating, and my accountability, and when I did that, it had me be more patient, and clarify things more.Everyone likes to say “yes” a lot, and we assume that they know what we’re talking about. You need to be checking in with them, asking for updates and screenshots because quite often what they tell you isn’t necessarily what’s true.
When I saw you speak a few months ago, you said that people try to outsource outcomes. I went, “yeah, that makes sense.” People go into this process and think, I need a website. They ask a contractor to build them a website, and they expect that an outcome is going to be created. From your perspective, could you ever hire to produce an outcome? Or are you only ever going to outsource the process and design the outcome yourself?
Great point. Because we’re on audio, I’ll give you an analogy. If you want to build a house, you have a vision of what you want it to look like. You can’t take that vision to the bricklayer, and say, build me this house. That’s how people approach this–they have an outcome in mind, but they don’t understand what goes into it. Start with architecture. To build a house, you need to go to an architect, who says, we need a plumber, electrician, roofers, all of theses different elements. And then, that is the blueprint for what the technician would be doing. When it comes from building a website, if you want to link in socials, people will say, “we want to generate leads using social media.” And we’ll say, okay, what’s your strategy? And they’ll say, well, we don’t have one. That’s why we came to you.
The way that we say it is, we can plug in a virtual assistant to work with you. But they aren’t the strategist. So if you go into the scenario working with a virtual assistant, not being super clear on colours, layout, if you don’t have that, there’s going to be so much back and forth. They’re not mind-readers. Revisions take time and cost money. It works in your favour to create that strategy with them.The thing for me is I have a team, right, if I want something done in marketing, I take it to my marketing team, and they appoint a project manager, and I imagine you do much the same, right? If somebody is not in that position with a team, is it possible to work with a virtual assistant in that regard? It can be, but you need to be the project manager. If you don’t have a project manager, you need to take accountability. You need to think through the back and forth, and decide how to best communicate the process instead of the big picture. Put in the extra work in between, don’t shortcut it. Is it possible? Yes it is. When it comes to recruiting a virtual assistant, then what I’d say, is if you have that in mind, it will probably help you with sourcing and recruiting, because you can test them through the process. You can give them little tasks and ask if they understand what you’re talking about. Once you’re in the middle of a project, it’s too hard to go back. That’s the worst thing.
It’s funny, if I have to summarize the key message here, it’s communication. How you communicate, what you communicate, and how thorough you are. I made the mistake of not giving the detail needed. People aren’t willing to put in the work up front to give their contractors what they need to be successful in their tasks. When I do a website, I do a full wire frame. Does that take time? Yes. But all of a sudden, I went from a low success rate to a massively high success rate with things like website building. People run at outsourcing like it’s the holy grail of efficiency, low cost, don’t need to do any thinking on their own.
If you need to put something together, if you can sit your business so that you can clear some of the stuff off of your plate, so you have a little more time to focus on high value activities. So if you can outsource that low value activity, to focus more on your high value activity, that’s the name of the game. To clear your plate of low value, and fill your plate with high value. If you think of Richard Brandson, that’s all he’s ever done. If you can just clear your plate of some low value activity and fill it with high value, you wind up where you and I are, Derek. You’ve got managers and strategists where you can consult with.
There’s certain things that can be outsourced, and there’s things that shouldn’t be outsourced. What should you not outsource?
Anything to do with website design, graphic design, product design, we work with people in the back end of their marketing. It’s one of the biggest things you can outsource. Membership sites, video marketing, editing videos, explainer videos, writing eBooks, someone can lay that out and make it look pretty. It would take someone on my team an hour to do any of that. Anything to do with marketing collateral, one thing to avoid in that space, is copywriting. Copywriting is very difficult to do, because anything that’s subjective or might be related to your business, if someone isn’t a part of your business, they won’t understand how it needs to be written. Especially in the Philippines, copywriting is tough. I would guide people to be careful about that.
What about support and customer service?
There’s two ways to think about customer services. Project based, or ad-hoc. That’s a one off task, you don’t need any regularity to that. The other side is process based. Anything where there’s a daily or weekly activity, that should be handled a different way. You would recruit a dedicated virtual assistant. They’d work for you for two or four hours a day, doing your socials, or your emails, or your calendar, anything that requires someone to be online everyday, that requires you to go down that route to hire someone to be a part of your business. You give them a set of conditions and a set of hours. Customer service, over the phone, over email, that requires training. Definitely possible to outsource, though.
How do you effectively train someone on the other side of the planet?
So, I’ve got a video that I can share with everybody. It’s a training video on how to do training videos. Camtasia, Snagit, and then there’s cheap or free ones. All you do is go through the process on your computer and talk your way through it. That’s the most effective way of training. Then someone has a documented record that they can pull up any time. If you’ve bought a software program, it’ll have a training video to go with it. It’s the easiest way to do it. All you have to do is go through the process yourself. That way you have visual means and audio means, and people are understanding you in different media. You can do that live, on Skype, or share your screen, but I’d recommend recording what you’re doing. TeamViewer lets you access other people’s computers. But video is the best way.
That’s how I do it. Once you create those videos, you now have a library of training videos. Training new staff is easy, that way. It’s an asset to your company. So one more question about what you can outsource. With marketing, there’s social media, email, SEO marketing, what’s the success rate there?
It comes down to the strategy in between. What are they being guided by? We can recruit people with experience in social media, and put together a plan for you. But I wouldn’t rely on that solely. There’s lots of people, with SEO, that think they know what they’re doing, but it’s just a minefield to me. So if you’re expecting someone in the Philippines to be an expert in it, you’re not going to get a result. IF you really have the structure of that mapped out, like SEO, I wouldn’t recommend going to a virtual assistant. Somewhere in there there needs to be an expert. If they’re learning from you, the structure in between, step 1 2 3, then that’s where success happens.
Last question surrounding outsourcing models. We have our traditional e-lancer model, we’ve got the ability to hire people directly, or we have the solutions you provide, which is like a managed team there. Talk us through the pros and cons of these different platforms.
Yeah, sure. I referred to it before, as what I call do-it-yourself models. That’s the upwork, elance, fiver, that’s where it’s you and the freelancer. Pros, it’s very easy to get access to them. Awesome platforms, millions of contractors, there’s not much you can’t find on there. It can be very cost effective. But like anything, you get what you pay for. If you want a virtual assistant for $4 per hour, you get what you pay for. Then there’s agencies in between, in the Philippines, and they’d do the recruiting for you. They charge you a fee for finding the right person. You work directly with them, and you pay them directly.
On those two models, I still call it do-it-yourself because it’s you and the staff. No one in between to help you. Pros, it’s easy to pay. Biggest negative, I think, is that you have no one there helping.
Then there’s co-managed systems.That’s what we do at ezyVA. In the Philippines, we have staff and offices there. Our staff, they’re actually employees of the company. So what that means is that when they’re onboarded, they don’t have the freelancer mindset. They’re not gonna go missing. They come in looking for a long term opportunity. Our whole structure is trying to nurture a long term relationship.I think that’s the success in outsourcing. Every staff that we put in place has a team leader. And that team leader’s job is to be the conduit between the client and the contractor. There’s always a support mechanism there for you. It’s kind of like you’re parachuting into the structure of a bigger team. That kind of gives you a different mindset as well. I see tons of people giving up prematurely, and if they just stuck it out and did some learning for themselves it would turn out well, but if you don’t put in the time, you get no results. That’s what I call the co-managed solution. Then there’s companies that do more management solutions. That’s for bigger companies. You can recruit a team, of say, 5 staff, and that would include management. There’s kind of three levels there. When it comes to things like Fiver, I think it’s a great way to start and test the water. The most you’re risking is five bucks. But if you’re gonna go into a solution with bigger money involved, you need to be mindful about which way you go.
So I’ve been listening to you here, and I’ve been outsourcing for a long time. Let me ask, what’s the price variance between hiring someone directly and working with a co-management team?
Again, you get what you pay for. If you’re going to Upwork for a visual/marketing assistant, you could find someone for $3 per hour. I’d recommend you don’t do that. You could find someone there that’s going to be fairly good, $6 – $8 per hour, probably up to $10. I know that the more you spend, the better productivity you’re going to get. That’s probably the biggest thing. Think of it like, what’s the return on investment for me? The difference on what you pay with co-management, is that, if someone is at really high quality on Upwork, they’re going to demand a higher rate. The reason they’re freelancers is because they have the ability and the platform to charge a higher rate. With us, they’re inside our structure for different reasons. They get a regular pay check, they get benefits, they’re performance mechanisms, they’re in our company for different reasons. They don’t want the risk factor where they can make a bit more money but not have a job for half the year. We tend to attract high quality people, because we want to pay them well. If there’s a dollar amount on it, you’d probably be paying $2 per hour more with a co-managed service.
The reason I asked is because I’ve been down the road. It’s easy to get sucked in on Upwork. Had a co-managed system like what you have existed when I first started, it would’ve been no question of which way to go. If I’m going to spend a couple bucks extra, I’m going to have a project manager. That’s huge. When I look at the margin you guys are charging, it’s an incredible deal to have all of that value added service. It’s hard to emphasize the additional value you’re creating there to people that have never been through this process themselves.
And that’s the hard part, because you and I get it. People that haven’t been there, they don’t necessarily see the value. But I take no issue with people going and learning those lessons and then coming back to us, which they do all the time. Like with the Dream Team, we have a service called the EzyVA Dream Team, where people can tap into an On Demand service. How that works is you buy blocks of 40 hours of service, and that’s about $10 USD per hour. For that, we give you one point of contact. A project manager. If you had three projects on the go, you go straight to your project manager, and they then farm it out. There’s a quality assessment, in between, and we have protocols in place for communications. If you put a message into the system, you get a message back within three hours. That’s the biggest thing. Whatever task you want, into the system.
Everything is done on the project management system. You can use this in your own business, so you can plug your own partners in. That really systematizes your business. The other thing we do is training. We give you all of our training videos, and there’s always someone you can talk to on a business level. We can talk to them as business owners as well. We do strategy, and make sure they’re going into the right solution, and there’s always someone there they can talk to.
It’s an incredible model. If I was a business just starting out, I might need a short video edited, a VA to do some stuff for me, a web designer, a coder. If I was going to outsource that on my own, I would be going out to four different people and coordinating them. So it’s tough as a small business to ever have a cohesive team. And what I see all the time, is people panic and run out and hire a VA full time, without really thinking, how am I going to keep this person busy? Because now I have a person to manage. So what I love about the Dream Team is that it’s perfect for someone that doesn’t need full time designers or assistants. We’ve been through the school of hard knocks here, and this is so cool. It’s so powerful. I know people are gonna go post a job on Upwork, and be drawn in by the low cost, but you don’t understand.
Understanding what you’re worth, anybody that’s on this call, if I say what are you worth? People are going to throw out all these hundred dollars figures. It’s never $10 per hour. If you’re spending your time doing that, instead of outsourcing that to someone else, like if you have a ten hour task, you might spend five hours just trying to find someone. If you can cut out that time, and you can get your own time back by plugging into a team like ezyVA, it’s going to make you more money in the business.
That’s the key question. What is my time worth? And that’s the deciding factor. If someone else can do this while I’m earning more money, that makes sense. It’s a powerful question to ask while you’re making this decision. I’m really trying to communicate the value of what you’ve created here. You’ve said, it’s funny to see people go learn the hard way. But I want to try to help you avoid that hard way. I paid a project manager full time to work for me, and it cost me a lot, but had you exist before I went down this road, my life would’ve been very different. It’s a fantastic solution. We’re running out of time here, but I think we’ve given a ton of great information. Where can people find out more about you and your book? We talked about mindset in the beginning and I think that’s key.
You can find me and information about me at MontyGHooke.com. There’s links there to EzyVA and to the books there. The thing that I’d encourage people to do there is to go over to the website, there’s a ton of resources, I’m really keen on educating and helping people exactly how to go about outsourcing, and give them tools and resources to hack that. if you get the book, you get access to a training video as well. It’s what I call the unpacking. Deconstructing the individual activity in the business. If you want to scale up and plug people into it, you need to know what’s happening everywhere in the business. Then we do the consult with people from the unpacking, and that really makes sure that you’re set up for the right direction. We’re more than willing to have a conversation with you to suggest alternatives.
Just to be clear, you deal with clients all over the world.
Oh yeah. We have clients in Australia, Canada, Singapore, all over the world.
I’ll include all of the links in the show notes. So you can head over to ProjectIgnite.com/podcasts, you’ll find links to Monty’s website and his book. I would highly recommend that you check it out, if you’re thinking about outsourcing, or even if you’ve tried outsourcing and didn’t like it. I just got back from three weeks in Whistler with my virtual teams doing everything. It’s a fantastic way to run a business, but you need a good team behind you. Monty, I think you’ve created a great system that takes a lot of the guess work out. So kudos to you, thank you for your generosity. Whether someone uses ezyVA or not, the strategies you shared today are good for anyone to use. So thank you for that.
My pleasure. Awesome to share.
Fantastic. Alright, thanks everyone for being here, you’ll find all of the show notes on our podcast page. Make sure you never miss an episode by heading over to ProjectIgnite.com/podcast or subscribe on iTunes. So thank you very much, and we’ll see you at the next episode.