How To Build A High Capacity Team of Virtual Assistants with Louise Sandoval

Uncategorized Jun 19, 2020
 

In this episode, we sit down with Louise Sandoval from Smart Virtual Staff.

Louise has built Smart Virtual Staff to over 35 team members in the Philippines. They offer a full-service agency to clients all over the world and have been a success story of the win/win nature of Virtual Assistants. When done right, hiring virtual assistants can be a huge help to your business, and also provides secure jobs with good working conditions for your team. 

In this interview, we discuss topics such as:

  • Why it is essential for entrepreneurs to build teams and delegate responsibilities
  • The best ways to ensure a healthy working relationship with your team
  • How you should approach the hiring process

And so much more. 

👉 To learn more about what Louise and her team do, head to https://www.smartvirtualstaff.com/

👉 If you’d like to explore any further training, then feel free to check out our range of free courses here: https://www.impactunltd.com/training

 


Ben Donovan
Awesome. Well, welcome to the show today guys, it is my honor to have Louise here from Smart Virtual Staff. Welcome to the show today, Louise.

Louise Sandoval
Thank you so much for having me today.

Ben Donovan
It's awesome, a privilege to have you on the show. I'm super excited to dive into the topic we're going to talk about today because it is one that is absolutely vital to growing healthy businesses. And it's helped me so much in recent times. So I'm super excited to discuss this with you. Before we get into it. I love to ask our guests a little bit of an icebreaker question, you know, just to warm the audience up. And so I thought I'd ask you the one about time travel because it's the one that's interesting me most, at the moment people's different answers. So that said if you could time travel forward or backward at any time, where would you go to and why?

Louise Sandoval
I would go forward. Because like what's happening right now I would just skip over 2020 and just go.

Ben Donovan 
Good answer. Yeah, get straight to 2021. Hopefully, the world has recovered and got back to normal. That's an awesome answer. Good stuff. So Louise, tell us a little bit about what you do at Smart Virtual Staff, how you started, give us your origin story.

Louise Sandoval
Sure, my name is Louise Sandoval. I am the CEO and co-founder of Smart Virtual Staff. I started as an independent Virtual Assistant back in 2014, that was a long time ago. And I just graduated from college, then I actually graduated as a laboratory scientist. I wasn't supposed to be working with all this digital stuff. So but here in the Philippines, it's really hard to find work in the hospital. One thing that we all know is that we will go abroad to work as a healthcare provider. But then on, I encountered a website, they were looking for people who could write blogs for them and I used to write blogs for people before, and then I applied for that job. Then it went on from one client to another til I ended up with my business partner right now who is in Florida, who is a physical therapist. So I helped him with a lot of stuff. And then I had a lot of offers, but as Filipinos, we're very known to be loyal. And I was really loyal to my business partner that I couldn't leave you even if the offer was like 10 times greater than what I used to have.

So I told him what if we create this business, we can help a lot of entrepreneurs because these entrepreneurs are actually stuck. What happened to you and me was that you needed a course up in one week and then I did that for three days. How about we give them what we've done, and use all of the systems that I've created in place for you and help these fellow entrepreneurs. They're struggling and to earn that money, you know, they always stop on fiddling on little things that further you know business instead of focusing more on their content. So in 2016, I told them that okay, I could train people here in my city in what I do, and then we could set up that firm. And then we went on from 3 virtual assistant teams and one client to now 35 virtual assistants after 3 years almost, and then we have 250 clients.

Ben Donovan 
Amazing, amazing what a story and it's so true what you say about entrepreneurs getting stuck in those details and the things that hold them back. I know for me, that was definitely my personal experience getting caught in the weeds, doing the detailed stuff, when actually I shouldn't, I should be spending more time working on my business than in my business is an old cliche, but it's so true, right? And so, talk to us a bit about how you help your clients do exactly that.

Louise Sandoval
Okay, so our clients mostly are online entrepreneurs or coaches and they do all of their stuff. Like, they know that they can do this, or they can do that, or they've maybe taken a lot of courses to do all of their stuff, maybe from setting up a funnel they've gone through. But to tell you the truth, they haven't finished all the courses. And if they do everything in their business, they might take 100 courses. And all of those just end up at the courses' graveyard.

So most of our clients, they want to set up their online businesses or focus more on their students and how we help is go through the back end - set their systems in place, make sure that they are organized from their files, to their passwords, to the platforms that they use and create SOPs for them as well. So we provide teams because we know that one entrepreneur doesn't just need one person, they need a whole team to help them from the small things to the big things and they already have their video editors, their graphic designers, and then they also have their project managers to help them up to date the task and have their one point person. So our team of virtual assistants helps them from the different areas of their business to also doing customer support. So a lot of all that stuff. And what we want our clients to do, is to focus on their business movers or their high dollar value tasks.

Ben Donovan 
Yeah, great. And, you know, for me, it's obvious that you have practiced what you preach in terms of you know, you've built your organization to 35 members of staff and you clearly are working this stuff out in your organization yourself. So I would love to dig into some of the strategies, some of the keys that the entrepreneurs that are listening right now can actually take away. As I said, I know for me, it was a big challenge overcoming this idea of letting go of control, of creating systems and processes so that other people could do this work. Talk to me about some of the limitations, you know, for entrepreneurs, there might be a hurdle for them to get over, it might be a challenge for them to start with this. And I'm sure like I say, many listening, maybe thinking, that would be nice, and I'd love for someone to help me with this. But here's my problem X, Y, Z. Talk to me about some of the limitations you see entrepreneurs having with this, and then how they can overcome them.

Louise Sandoval
I see. So a lot of entrepreneurs have this hesitation to let go or delegate because number one logistically, they don't know how to do those, like, would they know how to do this, would they know how to do this platform, they might have all of those questions in mind and they're all in doubt. So the number one thing that I suggest for those who are listening right now is to list down what they can do and what they can't do. So, differentiate what you can do. What you think that you do best or your high dollar value task and what you can't do, and then list down, as well, your can do’s, what you think you could let go or you know that you can do them, but you could let it go. And these hesitations come from I know I do this best, but would they do it as best as me?

But you know, trust I think is the number one key factor as well. So you just have to trust that person that you are delegating to. I know that everything virtually is also based on trust because you know, you will trust your coach. So trust the person that you're delegating to as you trust your coach or as you trust your students as well with your content. 

Number two I think is work on your communication. So a lot of us might think that "Oh yeah, I communicate well, I know how to use these communication platforms. I know how to use all these project management platforms". But do you know how to make quality feedback? You know, because feedback is very important, especially when you are in this learning curve of working with virtual assistants, I tell you that your first two weeks it won't be as smooth sailing as they promise it will be. It's a learning curve, and you must know how to work with a person, you must know how to give feedback, especially when you know it's the first time that they've encountered a project with that task. So it's very essential. 

And number three, I guess might be just to let it go. And you have to think of it that you know, I always tell my clients it's because if you don't let this go right now, if you don't know how to let go, you won't know how to scale your business because you can do it best but somebody could always do it better than you and they might also teach you something that you don't know because we don't know everything, they could be more skilled than you are.

Ben Donovan
I think, yeah, you're so right. As business owners, we think that only we can do it to a certain level. But I've been amazed, as you know, we've taken on a team, we've got team members in the Philippines. And, you know, I think there's this wrong mentality sometimes that we are, you know, we can just outsource to cheaper staff. But it's not, it's not a case of cheaper staff and low quality, there's incredible quality, you know, our team members, we value them so much the work they produce is great. And I've been amazed, you know when I actually let things go, they can just blow me away with what they can actually create, and it's like, "Oh, I wish I'd done this sooner" because as long as you do the hiring process, right, and maybe that's something we can talk about how to find good people, then everything else seems to really, really take care of itself.

So like I say, definitely, definitely helpful. And I think for us, you know, just in responding to what you're saying, what's really helped is definitely the idea of repeatable tasks and creating systems around those. So for us, anything that has become a repeatable task such as uploading a blog, uploading a video, anything like that, a process can be drawn out. That's something that a business owner can really quickly begin to delegate so they can focus on more high-level tasks. When we were talking before, you mentioned how systems processes are a big part of your role, could you speak to that a little bit for entrepreneurs on how to begin to create those systems and processes so that they can begin to delegate some work? Because like you said, that first step is the hardest, those first week or two is a real challenge because it can feel hard, but what can I get in place to get over that first step?

Louise Sandoval  
That's a good question, Ben. So actually, I have experienced this myself, you know, I just went on live last week and I told them about the worst client that we ever had and that was me. Because I didn't create or documented all the processes that took place in my business. So when I have my own team as well to do the marketing for Smart Virtual Staff, I realized that "oh my god, I am the worst client that this company will ever have". Because I haven't documented all of my processes. So what I did was, I did things on my own and then recorded them. I used platforms like Loom, and then I recorded them and I created a whole spreadsheet of how I do everything. And then from that on I just wake up to things being done already. And that's the greatest feeling ever. It's like your business is running 24/7. And documenting doesn't really have to be that detailed. As long as you show them how you did it. And especially when you're giving feedback.

So let's say when you've delegated a task, and you've given feedback, that's already a documented process, and number one thing as well that I need to remind entrepreneurs is, you know, the first thing that you did your business, do your systems in place already, because you won't have to wait to work with teams to create those systems. And it actually pays off to have these in place.

Ben Donovan
Yeah, a hundred percent. And what we're finding as well, Louise is that the library of processes gets built over time, you know, and I think a lot of people don't do it because they think it's a big job. And you know, the beginning is it takes time, it is admin, but what you'll find is if you just create enough to get started, then over time, it just continued, like every day, we're adding new processes, when one of my team does something for the first time, the beauty of it now is that actually, the team can then create the processes. So you know, you can then build out this library of things that you can go back to time and again, so you can grow the team and so on. So, yeah, as you say, it's a process right, but only is going to happen when you first take that first step and get started. 

Louise Sandoval
I agree. We need to be obsessed with the process itself. You know, every day we're creating new processes. So it's not new to us as entrepreneurs.

Ben Donovan
It's good. So for you, as someone who hires people, hires virtual assistants, for anybody out there right now that is looking to potentially hire a virtual assistant, they've heard about how helpful that can be and what a game-changer it could be, what would be some advice you would give to entrepreneurs going through the hiring process, you know, from the very early days.

Louise Sandoval 
I see. So if you're someone new to outsourcing or hiring people from overseas, the number one that I would recommend is to go very detailed with your job description. Always put in what you need, what skills you need, or qualifications or requirements - If you need someone who has faster internet or like a high powered laptop, let's say you're looking for a video editor. And then also, one trick that you know to filter out all the applicants is to have this trick as we use this and you'll also know how detail-oriented they are. Let's say "when you apply, put in your subject, I'm a rockstar". And if they don't follow that automatically, "Okay, they didn't pay attention, they didn't even read the whole job description. Sometimes we put it in the middle, or sometimes we put in, put your favorite meme of the day, or attach a meme of the day as well. So we put in those tricks to narrow down the applicants. I tell you, if you post right now on one platform that you could, you could use onlinejobs.ph. And if you post right now, you'd get a hundred or tons of applications but you need to find someone who commits and number two would be to ask an interview and make sure that you have their camera on so you know that these are real people. Some we might have to, you know, it's not new, but there might be scams or there might be people using other identities as well. So you might need to have them on camera and submit their valid IDs, just to be sure and be more secure.

Ben Donovan
Yeah, definitely, you're so right. And what you're saying is having a good robust interview process application process is essential. And as I said, that's what we've learned sometimes the hard way is that the more time and effort you put into the hiring process, the more chance of success you have. And I think often entrepreneurs may try hiring a virtual assistant, it doesn't work out once and they give up on the whole idea, not realizing that even in hiring local people, there's still sometimes it doesn't work out. It's no different. Humans are humans and you have to go through a process. And so what you've described there in some of our training, and when we teach people building teams, we call it like an interview funnel or a hiring funnel, you know, brings people down the funnel. Yeah, making sure there's something like that. For us, we often ask "What's your favorite book?" or anything like that. Like you say, it helps bring that funnel down. And so, yeah, really, really helpful. 

And what we've also found, I don't know, if you find that Louise is actually the best people are the ones interviewing us, you know, as well as we're interviewing them, they want to know if they're working for a good company. That's where I know it's a good person, that's where it comes back to what you said, about a detailed job description. You know, you see some people on online jobs, we want an admin assistant to apply here. And it's like, you know what's going on. But we make sure we have a really detailed job description because I find the best people they want. And they've noted that because we always ask them, why did you apply for this job? And the people we're going to hire always say, you know, we really appreciated the detail you put in the post. So that's a great tip. Louise, I'm sure it will help a lot of people. 

So do you see the way the world is going? Changing? So we're in the midst right now as we're recording this in this sort of Coronavirus situation and there are a lot more people working from home. How do you see the world of online business and remote working changing? Do you see it getting stronger? Do you see it growing? How do you see this going?

Louise Sandoval
I think this is a new normal, and then I think it's going stronger. And it's, you know, scaling to a number that you know, we can't even imagine. Right now I just have seven discovery calls of people looking for virtual teams. And it's amazing like, you know, either of them, you know, is just starting with a new business or like setting up their businesses online or like transferring their business online. I actually just talked to a university from the US that they want all their curriculum to be online and they don't know how to start. So, you know, this is the new normal and I'm so glad that I am in this industry and that this industry is changing in so many ways, and that people are now open. People usually, you know, here in the Philippines when you're asked what you do, and you tell them that you're a virtual assistant, actually, they tell that it's not even a real job, just like online entrepreneurs. You tell them that you have an online business, they would laugh at you. But right now people are asking. So with what's happening right now, this is the industry that you would want to be in.

Ben Donovan
Yeah, well, one of our team that joined a couple of months ago, she was telling me recently, it's just like, the timing of this, you know, has been so good. And now everybody's turned around. Everybody's saying, how did you get this? You know, how did you do this and lots more people interested? And it's a good point. And I'd like to ask you about that. I think because, you know, when I tell people that have never heard of this principle about what we do and how we grow our team, we have both local team and remote team overseas and they have this idea of, you know, call centers in other nations and maybe it's a bit of a negative idea. I try to tell them, "No actually, the people that work for us they love to work for us actually are a great thing that they're doing." Talk to us a little bit about that, from your perspective living in the Philippines having 35 virtual assistants, talk to us about your perspective.

Louise Sandoval
So I have to tell you that Filipinos love Western culture and everything abroad. We even go abroad just to work or you know, like to do a lot of applications to go abroad. And us, working with people around the world is just amazing and how we can connect with each other. Lately, we've been doing check-in calls with our clients and then asking them what they're doing, how they're doing right at this time. It's just changing, we can also relate to them because what's happening right now is global. We are all experiencing it and we connect with them. And as Filipinos we know, we're very fond of working with a lot of people. And this industry has changed a lot of our lives. And maybe a lot of people are hesitant, you know, working with people overseas, because they might not have or they may not communicate well. Or they might not understand instructions or they might not relate, or you can't just trust them because they're overseas - they're not here, they're not local. So I say that, you know, there are a lot of differences but our differences make us closer because like right now. For you, it's morning and here, it's actually evening and it's so funny when our clients say "Oh my you live  in the future." We love working with people around the world. And you know, it's actually how we learn about what's happening, we actually learn from you, and you actually learn from us. 

Ben Donovan
Yeah, absolutely. And as I said on the call before we got on the recording, you know, we just so highly value our team members from the Philippines. There's such an incredible culture, of loyalty, of work ethic. So from our point of view, it's never been about let's find cheap labor. But let's actually make this a win-win situation, you know, we might not be able to hire a full-time executive assistant locally, but we can do it in the Philippines, but we can also provide a great opportunity for them. And I think that's one of the big limitations that entrepreneurs have is that mindset of taking that first step because of how it might be perceived. You know, when I was running interviews for a role we filled recently, several different people told me about like, the traffic is just one example. You know, There's so many people in Manila and areas like this, that it will take two hours there and two hours back from work to travel 20 kilometers, you know, it's just insane. And so just that alone, that time that they get back by being able to work from home is something that they love and, and so I think it's, you know, gone are the days of this idea of, you know, draconian bosses that kind of lord over people, but actually, hey, we're a team, we're in this together, and let's build something that we all enjoy, you know?

Louise Sandoval
Yes. And that's what I love about our clients. And then when we hear this with our team members, they said that I actually plan to go abroad and leave my family, but when I got this opportunity, I am spending more time with family and actually earning what I could have earned abroad.

Ben Donovan
Hmm, yeah, absolutely. No, it's good. It's really good. This has been super, super helpful. Louise, hearing it from your perspective, not only from the systems and process of building a successful business but from your unique perspective obviously, being in the Philippines, I feel like this is, you know, just been so, so helpful for a lot of people. If you could give, you know, kind of one bit of advice, a golden nugget, you know, something that entrepreneurs could really take away from our conversation today. What do you think that would be?

Louise Sandoval
I think "Delegate or Die". Because you know, if you don't delegate now, you would be burnt out with your own business, you won't be an entrepreneur. Not allowing that idea of delegating would get you stuck as self-employed. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should delegate and learn how to work with people.

Ben Donovan
Yeah, I can't echo that enough. It's so so true. Again, from personal experience, having got caught up in that burnout of trying to do everything myself. And you know, one of the greatest things we ever did was really start focusing on a team. So, Louise, you're the expert of all these and virtual systems and building this all out so if people do want to connect with you any further or even explore using your services a Smart Virtual Staff, I know that you have a great proposition in terms of bringing a sort of complete team in on a, you know, a small basis to begin with, and then grow from there. It's a great opportunity for people to explore this, how might they go about connecting with you?

Louise Sandoval
You can find me on www.smartvirtualstaff.com. I have a link there to book a free discovery call with me. I can help you as well assess if virtual assistants are fit for your business right now or if you need to still have your systems in place.

Ben Donovan 
Yeah, that's awesome. I can't recommend that enough to you guys that are listening. You know, seeing the kind of contributions that Louise makes in entrepreneurial groups. We're in on Facebook, you know, she knows what she's talking about. She walks the talk. And so I yeah, it's a really, really valuable resource it would be to connect with her. So make sure you take advantage of that. Louise, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Really excited about what you've built. And we're really, you know, it's an amazing thing that you've done so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the journey continues to unfold.

Louise Sandoval
My pleasure, Ben, thank you again for having me.

Ben Donovan
No worries at all.

 

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