Why a managed offshore staff is a better deal
Hello, it’s Scott Trevethan here from Scott Partners. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Morgan from Delonix Marketing Inc. In this interview, we discover why office-based management is more effective in managing your offshore staff rather than the work-from-home model or the likes of oDesk and Upwork and how this can increase reliability and adds productivity advantage.
Delonix Local Contact No. 02-8014-8432
SCOTT: Welcome to the Small Business Heroes show, where we talk about everything to help your small business grow and prosper. I’m your host, Scott Trevethan, and today I’m talking to Jeremy Morgan.
Jeremy’s managed several hotels and entertainment venues for over a decade, starting his own technology company in 2002. He’s been marketing on the web since 2006, and is currently the CEO and Founder of Delonix, a business process outsourcing company operating in Cebu in the Philippines.
Now, Jeremy didn’t start out with the idea of expanding Delonix into an international company, but the way global commerce has expanded, fueled by the internet, it was simply a matter of riding the technology wave or get left behind. Delonix has now grown to over 180 staff and continues to rise daily.
Welcome to the Small Business Heroes show, Jeremy Morgan.
JEREMY: Thank you very much, Scott. Happy to be here and help you any way I can.
SCOTT: Jeremy, you’re talking to us from Cebu in the Philippines, I understand?
JEREMY: That is correct, yep. It’s a beautiful day here. There’s no clouds in the sky whatsoever. It’s actually the summer period in the Philippines, so nice and hot during the days.
SCOTT: That sounds absolutely beautiful. Jeremy, I’ve just told the audience a little bit about your background, a very brief bio. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing right now.
JEREMY: Sure. Well, I made the decision to move the office to the Philippines almost five years ago now, and that was mainly out of I guess a frustration with working with overseas staff – and at that stage, I had three staff in Australia and about seven-odd staff all around in different areas. We had Philippines, India, UAE. It was just difficult to manage those overseas staff and to have that reliability.
So I decided if I wanted to grow the business further, I had two choices: I could just keep growing with Australian staff, or I could set up an office overseas. The original plan was to set up that office, maybe take a couple of years setting it up, and then just basically still be based in Australia and just come over a couple of times a year. But I’ve actually flipped that in reverse now. I’m happy to be over here for most of the time, and I just come back and visit Australia a couple times a year.
SCOTT: That’s beautiful. So what is the business? What’s the business model that you’re currently working with?
JEREMY: Delonix was first registered in 2002, and there’s always been a technology flavor, I guess, with that. But it has changed directions as different technologies and things have evolved. Currently right now, we are more focused on the outsourcing side of the business, and as an offshoot from Delonix we registered Managed Virtual Assistants, which really is just to give people more of an understanding of what we’re doing, because everyone asks me, “What does Delonix mean? Where did that come from?” There’s a story behind that, but I won’t go into it.
But basically, for me it was moving the website and SEO business – which SEO is my background – moving that to overseas. But once we got here, I had a lot of clients and even friends and colleagues of clients saying, “Oh, can you find me a such-and-such developer?” or “Can you hire me a blah-blah-blah?” So we just saw that there was a massive demand for the whole offshore staff, and rather than have that I guess oDesk or Upwork, Fiverr type model, it’s more about having your own staff, an extension of the business, your own staff and putting them in a remote office.
So the benefits of that is that they’re all in the one place; we can keep an eye on them, making sure that they’re working and not off doing sideline jobs for other clients – which is one of the problems I found with a work-from-home model. As such, now we’re basically just helping businesses expand their teams by having a small-medium team in our office that can assist with any of those type of tasks that can be done remotely. Anything that is not face-to-face in the business, that can be done remotely, we’ve got different staff with different skill sets performing those for clients.
SCOTT: That’s beautiful. What advice would you give to a budding young Australian entrepreneur who was thinking about maybe taking on a staff member, whether that was a personal assistant or someone to help them within their business? What sort of advice would you give them in relation to – I know we just talked briefly about Upwork, but if you could just expand on that sort of advice you’d give that person.
JEREMY: Look, Upwork and Fiverr are fantastic for small project-based jobs, and if that’s what you need done, then that’s what you should use. But it gets to a point where at some stage, you need reliability and sometimes redundancy, and if someone’s going to be a core part of the business – now, whether that’s in admin or appointment setting or screening calls or whatever it is – but if they’re going to be a core part of your business, then you may need to consider having something that has a bit more reliability.
There’s many wonderful things about the Philippines; having a good internet connection is not one of those things, sadly. Internet and electricity has always been a problem over here. So if your business relies on someone answering the phone, then having that work-from-home, Upwork type person may not be the best solution. So that’s what we found, is having an office – and we’ve got I think four separate internet lines, fiber optic. We’ve just upgraded our router so we can handle 500 connections simultaneously. Having that kind of infrastructure and backup generator for power, that kind of stuff, just means that if you want someone to be part of the team, then you might need to look beyond that initial oDesk/Upwork.
But coming back to the question, what would I recommend for an up-and-coming entrepreneur? Well, once you’ve decided that there is a need to be filled in terms of assisting you – and again, that can be admin and backend, or it can be more direct upfront where they’re setting appointments, or they might be going through your list and doing all the grunt work for you so that you can just focus on the big picture stuff, focus on the $100 an hour, $500 an hour activities and outsource the day-to-day tasks.
Because the problem that I myself have found as well is, especially for the first nine years or so, the business was all me. I had many hats. I was in control of every single aspect; I knew what was going on. But as you grow, you can’t wear all those hats and be effective. So you have to start relinquishing some of the tasks. So my advice is work out exactly what it is that can be passed on to someone else, that you can document, write all the procedures out for, and then give that to someone else.
A great example is my own PA, Sam here, who came straight out of school. Her sister was already working in our office, so we knew that they were very smart in the family, there was good genes running in the family. I was very hesitant about letting go of all the different activities and stuff, but just one thing at a time. And all I would do is I’d sit down with Sam next to me, and I would do a screen capture of “Okay, this is how you do such-and-such in PayPal,” or “This is how you do something in Xero.” I just kept recording screen – it’d only be a few minutes – and just kept giving her more and more tasks to do. And she’s been fantastic.
So my advice is make sure that you understand clearly, exactly what it is that you want to have outsourced, and have the training or have the systems in place. Because if you just have this idea, “Oh yeah, I’m going to get a VA or I’m going to get a staff member,” but you have no systems in place, you have no training in place, it’s just going to be a big flop, it’s going to be a failure, and then you’re just going to walk away unhappy.
SCOTT: That’s very, very sound advice indeed. I think, if I can just add to that, we have a team with Jeremy at Delonix now, and it’s been a good learning curve for us as well. But the ability to say to Jeremy and Jeremy’s team, “Can you please hire me an accountant or a PA or an admin assistant looking like this?”, and then for that person to be able to come to a location that has internet, that has electricity, that has an office, a desk, a chair, a computer, and not have to worry about that from Australia – not have to go over to the Philippines if I don’t want to – it’s just a tremendous thing for anyone.
And that’s why the success of the business process outsourcers has been – or that industry is so strong within the Philippines and in quite a number of different countries, why Delonix does well and is growing. Jeremy’s doing a wonderful thing over there as well. That was my editorial.
Jeremy, why the Philippines? We’ve got India, we’ve got the Philippines, we’ve got Vietnam, and probably some European countries as well. Why the Philippines?
JEREMY: Well, when I looked, going back about five years now, I had two choices for myself. It was either India or the Philippines. That was based on my business was more on the web and marketing, so I had programmers and SEO guys in India. So I was considering that very heavily. But to be honest, I kind of weighed the two places up, and I was like, “I don’t really want to go live in India for a couple of years.” No disrespect to India, of course, but my mum’s visited there, and I’ve heard and stuff like that. Whereas Philippines just seemed a little bit nicer, and particularly where we are now. There’s a lot of diving available, scuba diving and stuff.
SCOTT: I can personally attest to that.
JEREMY: So yeah, there was a bit of lifestyle choice in it. But the main factor from the business side of things was the English language. Now, right or wrong, a lot of Australians have this I guess filter as soon as they hear that Indian accent on the phone, and that’s because we’ve been absolutely bashed for the last 10 years with telemarketing, and even Optus and Telstra moved their call centers over to India. There’s a lot of that frustration from the Australian side of being smashed for the last 10 years with telemarketing. So there’s a bit of that connotation as far as the Indian accent goes.
So when I weighed up both, from the lifestyle and the business point of view – because I did have staff in both countries – I chose to pick the Philippines, and couldn’t be happier with that decision in retrospect. In the Philippines itself, I actually was in Manila for six months before I knew what I was doing or anything like that, and that was only because through some accounting contacts in Adelaide that had got me started on this journey.
But six months later I actually moved to Cebu and set up the office in Cebu. It took about six months to get all the paperwork finished. And why Cebu, out of everywhere in the Philippines? Well, Cebu’s got a population of about three million versus Manila’s eleven million, so it is much smaller, and there’s less of that urban sprawl. I mean, the traffic in Manila is absolutely horrendous; from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. it’s just bumper-to-bumper, six days a week. Unless there’s a Manny Pacquiao fight on, you can’t get anywhere in any reasonable amount of time.
So Cebu, there’s less congestion, the cost of living and wages is lower than Manila, and also, as I mentioned, the lifestyle and the diving. But for me, what I’ve found in retrospect is that Cebu’s grasp of the English language is a lot better, and the accent is a bit softer than Manila. What I actually learnt after I came here was that the English as a Second Language training schools, particularly for Koreans, they’re all in Cebu rather than Manila, because they believe that the English is better in Cebu. So yeah, that’s all the boxes lined up and ticked, and here we are four and a half years later.
SCOTT: And from our own personal journey – I’ve been to the Philippines just twice, and I would agree with that. I think the accent seems a lot softer down in Cebu. We were initially up in Clark, which is to the north of Manila; spent some time in Manila as well. Yeah, I’m starting to get a grip of the country and the way that the people are in the different regions. And Cebu, yeah, I agree, it really does tick the boxes. Very, very happy to be based in Cebu and being looked after very capably by Jeremy and the team at Delonix and your Managed Virtual Assistants.
We could talk for hours and hours and hours on outsourcing and what people should do and where they should go. If people do have any queries or thoughts or ideas that they might want to look at the outsourcing side of things – which I strongly encourage them to do – how best can they get in contact with you, Jeremy?
JEREMY: All the information is on our website. For the outsourcing and the VA type services, we have ManagedVirtualAssistants.com. Pretty much everything is on there. But if you want to chat to myself or my partner Alison directly, the local number – well, when I say “local,” Sydney – is 02-8014-8432. So we actually have numbers for Australia, and the lines are that good. The connection that we’ve set up is as direct a connection to Australia from here as possible so that the delay on the phone is nothing. It’s like we’re calling from the suburbs. So you can give us a call.
SCOTT: Absolutely. And this is not meant to be an ad for Delonix, but I can absolutely attest to that. I have, in my phone directory, a speed dial to my PA Mae, and it just goes straight through like any other phone call. It’s really, really good.
I’ll put all those details just down below, those contact details that Jeremy just mentioned. Jeremy Morgan, thank you so much for appearing on the Small Business Heroes show with us today.
My name’s Scott Trevethan; I’m the host of the Small Business Heroes show. You can find out more details about this show on our Facebook group page, which is Small Business Heroes. You can also give us a like at Scott Partners on Facebook, or also go to www.ScottPartners.com.au to find out about what we’re up to.
Thanks very much for your time today.
JEREMY: Thanks, Scott. Cheers.