I was introduced to the idea of a virtual assistant through a podcast Entrepreneurs on Fire hosted by John Lee Dumas. In this episode, his guest is John Jonas, the founder of OnlineJobs.ph; a website dedicated to placing Filipino employees in jobs overseas. As I listened to this podcast, it sounded too good to be true. We all know that expression that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I found this true in almost every situation; except when it comes to hiring virtual employees from the Philippines.
What VA’s From The Philippines Charge
John Jonas was talking about Filipino culture and the work ethic that Filipinos have. He also talked about how attractive virtual positions are for Filipino employees. He pointed out that if you live in Manila, the average commute to work would take four to six hours. So a virtual position might be attractive for people who don’t want to be in traffic that long. I don’t know anyone who enjoys that level of extreme traffic. I love listening to music and podcasts in my car, but I don’t know if I can last four hours of it both ways.
He also pointed out that a US company can expect to pay from $3 to $10 an hour for a Filipino employee. I found that intriguing. What kind of quality work are you going to get? I didn’t expect much until I hired a virtual assistant from the Philippines.
Work Ethic Vs Experience
I found my assistant through my graphic designer, who is also from the Philippines. After listening to John Jonas’ podcast, I was so intrigued by the work ethic that Filipinos have. So I said, “Okay, let me hire a graphic designer from the Philippines and see how that goes.” I hired this guy, and he did great work. Then I asked, “Hey, do you by any chance know anyone in your area who might be looking for a virtual assistant position?” He referred me to his sister, Hanna. Gio made it known to me that she didn’t have any experience as a virtual assistant but wanted to learn.
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What to Look For In a Virtual Assistant
1. Work Ethic
According to John Jonah’s podcast, I figured it was at least worth it to give it a try despite her lack of experience. I first gave her very simple projects. She did an amazing job. One thing led to another, and now she’s my full-time virtual assistant. John Jonas talked about Filipino culture and their work ethic. He talked about what one can expect from Filipino employees. At least in my case, all the traits and positive attributes he mentioned were very real.
I wanted to first share with you a few of my thoughts on what I’ve seen working with my virtual assistant. Again, she’s only one person and doesn’t represent the entire nation of the Philippines. It’s so consistent with what other people have written about the work ethic and culture of employees from the Philippines.
Her work ethic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve worked with a lot of twenties-something-year-olds in the office of my music school. Most of them, the ones that did a good job, did what I asked of them. Sometimes, if they didn’t particularly like it, they might kind of blow it off and hope that I would let it go. That was an ongoing frustration I had with both my office staff and my teachers.
2. Going Beyond Expectations
Hanna does a certain project I assign to her. Quite often, she’s clearly thinking of ways to take the project to the next level. She provides me with some information or data that I didn’t ask for. Things she identified as something that could be of value to me.
What I’ve seen with people I’ve worked with from the Philippines is that they value the employer-employee relationship. They respect it. They get why it’s important as an employee to be respectful to your employer to do what they’re requesting of you. They seem to get and it’s not about the employer or the employee—it’s all about the cause. It’s all about the organization and fulfilling its mission.
Respect For Leadership
I have not experienced that with a lot of my American employees. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had teachers and office people challenge me when there’s a new policy I put in place. I’ll never forget one time when I was in a staff meeting. I said to my staff, “Guys, going forward, here’s this new policy.” One of my teachers said, “Well, Dave. How come we didn’t have any say in this? It would have been helpful had we had a vote or something.” This isn’t a democracy. This is how life works in an organization. There’s a leader. A leader leads and makes tough decisions. The people’s job in the organization is to implement the vision of the leader.
Less Ego and More Focus on What’s Best For Business
That’s not always the case I’ve seen with American employees, and it’s been very frustrating for me. A few years ago, I actually listened to a podcast once talking about how to manage millennials. I guess we’re talking more about Gen Z and Gen Y at this point. In this podcast, they talk about how millennials want to feel as part of the decision-making. They don’t always respond well to direct orders from their leadership. I’m thinking to myself what kind of world is this that we live in? I grew up in a time now like I’m in my 50s. I do have a job. I also work for Ensemble Music Schools. I want to be led, to be told what to do, and to understand what success looks like. I don’t have any ego when it comes to that. I understand it’s best for the organization.
The Problem With Hiring Local
What’s best for the organization is a leader who makes the tough decisions and staff he could rely on to implement the vision. That’s not always been my experience with managing younger people. I once had a teacher get up in my face because I fired another employee. It’s none of their business. They don’t know the details. It’s between me and that employee that I let go. This other teacher got up in my face about it and was even kind of hostile. I can’t imagine anything like that happening years ago. That same teacher actually got upset with me when I shared feedback with them about their teaching. “Dave, look. You teach the way you teach. I’ll teach the way I teach.” Unbelievable.
That’s what I love about working with people from the Philippines, specifically my virtual assistant. There’s this total respect. They understand the role and the importance of a leader within an organization.
4. Embraces New Challenges
My assistant also welcomes new challenges and never complains about her workload. She’s also invested in improving her skills for herself. Every new skill she acquires is an investment in her future. Not only is it going to make her a better employee within my organization, but it’s also going to benefit her throughout her entire career.
5. Understands the Value of Hard Work
Having worked with people from the Philippines, I can see that they take great pride in their work. They know the value of hard work. They understand the value of contributing to society. They understand being a part of a work environment. An environment that isn’t riddled with tension and toxic employees. They’re team players.
Again, I’m making very general statements here, but this is what my experience has been. This was also what John Jonas was talking about on the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast.
A virtual assistant can help you with just about everything. The tasks could range from scheduling and billing collections to research on marketing.
Bill payments would be something you would want to do with a virtual assistant early on. Once you establish a level of trust, there’s no reason why your assistant can’t help you with this. The only thing that a virtual assistant from the Philippines couldn’t do is make phone calls. The Philippine Standard Time is 10 to 12 hours ahead, which isn’t so ideal for something like that.
It’s important to understand that schooling in the Philippines is in English. Filipinos are not only well-versed in English. They also use American expressions and slang. This makes communication as flawless as it would be with a native speaker. There aren’t any barriers there, and her grammar is also spot on.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant
1. Choose a Platform
I always use Upwork for contract work. You can post on Upwork, get a bunch of resumes, and check out people.
2. Test a Candidate Before Hiring
When hiring a virtual assistant, I’d recommend you find two or three candidates.
Pick out three or four that you like and give each one a different assignment. The one who does it the best is the one you go with. You could give them all the same project and see who does it to a level that you’re most satisfied with. The project could be to outline a certain process at your music school. You can do this with a voice recording. Ask the candidate to listen to it and turn that recording into a bullet point list with headlines. Mapping out a process could be a very telling assignment. It would also be helpful to have that done for you.
4. Identify Your Best Fit
Now, you have identified the person that you want to hire. Slowly, step by step, you put more tasks on their plate until a level of trust is established. You are truly impressed with their work. Worst-case scenario, the person doesn’t work out and have wasted fifty, a hundred, or two hundred dollars. Not that big of a loss. Just keep in mind the Filipino employee charges. You’re paying somebody five, eight, to ten dollars an hour.
After six hours of work, you realize that they’re not a great fit. Not that big of a deal. Move on.
How to Delegate to Your VA
Every task and function in your music school can and should be delegated. The only thing that you can’t delegate is the big-picture idea.
1. Record Your Process
I use screen capture software called Snagit. There are a bunch of different ones out there. I pull up an email or some documents on my laptop. I hit record on my screen share software, and it records my desktop. I talk through the process while it’s also recording my voice.
For example, billing. I create an invoice, and I go through the process on QuickBooks.
2. Let Your Assistant Map Out the Process
I’ll email my assistant and ask her to watch the video and make a bullet-point list. Breaking it down helps map out the process that I’m articulating in the video.
3. Keep a Spreadsheet of Your Processes
I also keep a spreadsheet where I name each process. For instance, I make a video on creating an invoice. I then create a hyperlink that goes to a folder on my drive that contains the video and the bullet point list. That’s pretty much how I delegate work to my virtual assistant.
4. Rinse and Repeat
I constantly capture and outline new processes. I send her the video to create an outline of what the process is and save it in the virtual assistant’s spreadsheet. Instead of creating an operations manual outside of the day-to-day activities of running my business, I do it in real time as things come up.
Delegation Dos and Don’ts
Only you can plan the big picture for your business. Only you can define the brand and the essence of what your music school is. Only you can steer or point your music school in the direction that you want it to head in.
Every task and function in your music school can and should be delegated. The only thing that you can’t delegate is the big-picture idea. You can’t delegate the mission of your music school. You can’t delegate what your marketing strategy is going to be. What you can delegate is the implementation of your marketing strategy. A virtual assistant is great for that.
You’re going to have your teachers on the ground taking photos. They then upload it to a folder that your virtual assistant has access to. Your virtual assistant converts those images and videos into social media content. She can then push that content out online.
A Win-Win Collaboration
1. Peace of Mind
I have peace of mind knowing that I can send Hanna an assignment or a project where I don’t have to worry about it. She’s gonna get it done. There’s not going to be any pushback.
2. Healthy Work Environment
I’ve implemented new policies with my teachers and office staff and nothing happens. They don’t honor it because they don’t like it. Nobody likes change. When you implement a new policy in your music school, it’s not because you’re trying to punish your staff. You’re doing it because you think it’s what’s best for the business. I have found with employees from the Philippines that they’re great team players.
3. Job Security
My virtual assistant seems to be genuinely happy and excited for me when I have a breakthrough. She’s genuinely happy when I have hit some big milestone in my business because she also realizes that it benefits her: it creates job security.
4. Gaining Clarity on Your Business
One of the best investments I’ve ever made in my business is by hiring a virtual assistant. I heard about VA for years, but I convinced myself that, “No. I need my assistant to be someone who’s on the ground and is interfacing with the public.” Yes, that is an important role to have somebody that can do that. Maybe you’re that person. You’re the one who’s going to interface with the public.
5. Being Able to Focus on the Bigger Picture
If you find yourself bogged down overseeing all the little details in your business, a virtual assistant can be a real game-changer. Delegating these tasks to an assistant allows you to focus on the things that only you can do in your business. Only you can plan the big picture for your business. Only you can define the brand and the essence of what your music school is. Only you can steer or point your music school in the direction that you want it to head in.
Everything else can be delegated to a virtual assistant. It can give you peace of mind knowing that you’ve hired somebody with a strong work ethic. Someone who finds pride in a hard day’s work and will be a loyal trustworthy employee.