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By Yaro Starak
Welcome to the first episode of the Entrepreneurs-Journey.com Podcast new ‘Solo Sessions‘.
What is a ‘Solo Session’ you ask? Well it’s me, talking to you, explaining how I do something behind the scenes in my business.
Don’t worry, EJ Podcast interviews are not going away. I love learning the back-story behind the success of other entrepreneurs and sharing them with you in my podcast, but I also want to share with you my own back-story, in particular what’s working for me right now.
You’re going to see these Solo Sessions with Yaro inserted along with the interviews on a regular basis, starting with episode #1 today – How We Hire People At Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.
I’m calling this episode one, even though it’s clearly not the first ever EJ Podcast (that was this one, back in May 2005). This is the first of the new Solo Sessions, and given I am going to provide you with handouts and resources along with the Solo Sessions, I purchased a new domain name – www.ejpodcast.com so you can easily find them.
This episode has its own redirect link – ejpodcast.com/1 – which is the web address structure I will use for every Solo Session, so you will always be able to easily find them. The interviews won’t use this new domain name, but you can always find them by searching for the name of the guest I interviewed or going to the Podcast Homepage here on EJ.
Also be sure to join the email newsletter for the EJ Podcast, where I will send you an email for every new podcast episode I release.
In this episode I dive into a full history of how I have hired people to help grow my online businesses over the past decade, right up to today, including what my current team looks like and what they do.
I cover my first ever hiring experience, a university friend (and new mother at the time) named Angela to handle email and customer support for my editing company. I also talk about working with my first tech support people, and why I believe I made a big mistake waiting so long to hire help just because I was afraid to spend money.
I share a rather horrible experience trying to hire people from the Phillippines (12 failures!), which lead to a big change in my hiring strategy that I am unbelievably thankful for today.
At the end of this episode I give you three tips you can apply right now in your own hiring process, so you can begin outsourcing for the first time, or build on the team you already have.
As you will hear me talk about during the podcast, today we have a system for hiring new people that includes a comprehensive questionnaire application process powered by a Google form.
To help you set up your own hiring process, we’ve created a free downloadable handout with the questions we ask people as they go through the hiring process. These questions will help you filter away the wrong candidates and leave you with only the best people to interview.
You can download the free handout by signing up to my list here:
You will receive a direct PDF download link to the handout after signing up, plus you will go on to my email newsletter.
I enjoy doing Solo Session episodes, so you can expect more of them from me. Of coursem, I do this for you, so I’d appreciate your feedback…
Please leave your answer as a reply in my Facebook Group.
Talk to you soon,
YARO: Hello this is Yaro Stark. And welcome to a brand new episode of the Entrepreneur’s Journey Podcast. Where I’m actually going to test out a new format, or really I should say it’s actually a very very old format. I say that because the Entrepreneur´s Journey Podcast actually began all the way back in 2005, initially with just me talking, a solo episode, as they are often known, and I was talking about things I was interested in, or things I wanted to teach you regarding entrepreneurship, but to be fair it was very much an experiment. So as you could imagine 2005, it was early, early days for Podcasting. In fact there really wasn’t much of a podcast scene yet, it had started to take off because of the iPod.
Apple’s iPod had come out and iTunes had that function we had to transfer all the music using the iTunes software. Bearing in mind there was no iTunes App on smartphones because there were no smartphones really yet. I think Blackberry was the only phone with email at the time certainly where I was in Australia and it was quite difficult to get a podcast. You really had to download onto your computer transfer it to your iPod or whatever player you had and that was what made it portable. It’s not like today where you can be using broadband over your your smartphone and download an episode directly using an iTunes App which is you know way more convenient.
So back then I wanted to experiment with this format known as podcasting. I only had been blogging for six months at the time so that was also new to me and I really didn’t see this whole publishing business model becoming my main business as it is today. But that’s the origin of where I’ll start my blog and my podcast in 2005.
So that first podcast was simply a place where I started talking about entrepreneurial subjects for the first, I think three or four episodes. It was mostly me talking for between 15 and 25 minutes and then I made a very important switch. I started to interview other entrepreneurs and tell their Entrepreneurs Journey on the Entrepreneurs Journey Podcast and that’s what it has been ever since then however, I’ve often thought about injecting these solo podcast episodes, in particular, because I’d like to continue doing what I’ve always done, which is share my own Entrepreneur’s Journey Podcast. So that’s what this episode is today.
A step back into the past, but also very much talking about the present and giving you a look behind the scenes at certain aspects of my own business, or just talking about subjects related to running an online business that I’m going through without a guest. So I won’t be interviewing anyone in today’s episode. And just so you know today’s episode is a very important subject, if you want to stick around for the whole show, I´m going to be talking about the entire process I went through to build my team, my current team around me, that basically allows me to run the kind of business I run, or how I’ve been hiring, how I found people, what roles they fill, what order I hired them in and including a history of my hiring process too, to build the team.
I don’t have a large team and never want to have a massive company but I do have an important team.
They are vital for me to be able to do what I do with my business and also for me to be able to live the kind of lifestyle I aim for because if you´re aiming for a Laptop Lifestyle as I call it, you need to have certain people in place, otherwise you’re not going to have a lifestyle, you’re going to be chained to a computer 10 hours a day forever trying to do everything. So I’ll talk about that in a moment just a little bit of housekeeping to get people who may be new to the Entrepreneur’s Journey Podcast up to scratch.
So my name is Yaro Starak and I have been blogging since 2005 as I mentioned. I´ve made my living online actually since 1998 when my first online business came out it was actually Magic the Gathering Collectible Card game website. If you ever heard me being interviewed on other people’s podcasts you would have heard the story of my Magic The Gathering site and then my second online business which was an editing and proofreading company called Betteredit.com. Both of those products were sold off many many years ago. But while I was running them, I actually discovered the world of blogging and that’s what led to what I do today.
So I built a successful blog myself, just putting up content for a couple of years from 2005 to 2006, 2007. By that point I was making a full time income and that’s when I transitioned to becoming a teacher, really just to share what I’ve done over the last couple of years blogging and talking about what was working and that kick started a whole career now, as essentially an online coach and teacher in the world of publishing and building a platform.
That’s what my company is about today. That’s what I spend my my personal time working on, I create content, I teach, I now run this podcast or I have run this podcast for over a decade as well.
Now this podcast is something that I never have seen as a main part of my business, but it’s been an important part of my business and that’s why I don’t want to see it disappear. So I’ve been a bit haphazard with the way I run this podcast, sometimes I´ll interview two people every month and be consistent. Sometimes months at a time would go by without me doing a new episode. And I’ll be completely honest with you, as much as I love my podcast and I love doing the interviews.
It’s quite a lot of work and it takes me away from other things, even though I have some contractors who helped me get everything up and running. There is work to do like recording and then a little bit editing work after words and writing the content for the post, which I still prefer to do myself since it’s in my voice. So that job was becoming something that I wanted to take a break from.
To put it simply. And that happened at the start of 2016, the year we’re in now as I record this however, just recently I’ve been listening to Amy Porterfield and I love the fact that she interjects her podcast with sometimes a discussion, an interview with someone, it doesn’t even have to be an interview, but some times just bringing on an expert to talk about a subject. But also she does solo episodes and a lot of podcasters to do this still today, where they just get on their podcast and riff. So this is what I’m doing and I’m going to treat this as an experiment to see whether A. you like it. The whole point of doing this is, are you getting any value from what I’m talking about. And B. it gives me the opportunity to really be consistent with this podcast because I’ll be really honest with you.
It’s a lot easier for me to sit down and just talk to you as I’m doing now and then quickly get that off to my team, than it is to do interviews and organize and schedule and also be honest with you. I like talking about my own business. It’s a fun subject so, you know, it’s maybe a little bit selfish, egotistical whatever you like but most people online who teach entrepreneurship and business generally do that a lot.
We talk about our own stuff a lot with our businesses so my blog is built on that foundation, sharing stories from my own Entrepreneurs Journey and the podcast has built on the foundation of sharing other people’s stories, as an entrepreneur and there’s certainly an amazing back catalogue of interviews you can go through from this podcast but from today onwards, we’re going to try switching back to the focus on me and my business and share what’s going on in my world which hopefully you can take away and apply to your own business.
So that’s enough of a background story. What I’d like to do now is switch over to the topic of the day which is how to build a team so you can have a true Laptop Lifestyle Business.
So I want to start with the history of my hiring. Now my business, very much in the early days, for a good five, six years was me and me alone. I was one of those crazy people who despite not having a technical background, tried to become a technical person. So I spent pretty much in 1998, all the way through to around about 2004 or 5, I can’t remember exactly the year, but it was around about that time that I finally made the decision to bring on help.
Now the reason for me why I waited so long was simply cash. I didn’t make a lot of money and even when I did make money, I started to make much better money in sort of 2003. But I didn’t want to spend it. I was feeling tight. I wanted to save money in the bank. I wanted it to get my own house and move out from the family house, or at least pay for rent. So I was like most people young, no assets and I wanted to keep as much money as a made.
Nowadays I understand the value of bringing on people to help accelerate growth and that can actually make you more money, quickly, than trying to save every penny and not hire help. But it was a limiting belief and attitude I had,, that I needed to get over it through experience. That was the only way for me to believe that concept, was actually to start hiring people. However, I did understand the importance of hiring help if I wanted to achieve my ultimate goal, which was a low labour high income business.
So I was looking to create what I called back then. two hour work day businesses. I generally call it my old laptop lifestyle business today, mainly because good old Tim Ferriss has sort of monopolized that concept of a four hour work week so I don’t like to use the phrase two hour work day anymore because it’s how I distance myself from that juggernaut, that is Tim Ferriss and the Four Hour Work Week, so the laptop lifestyle really sums it up. What I was aiming for when I was paying for businesses that don’t take a ton of your time to run but give you a good income 100,000 a year or more. Was my initial goal.
But I didn’t want to work long hours to maintain that. So I looked into passive income, or near passive income formulas and it became very clear to me that for that outcome to happen I had to hire people. So finally, when I actually was about to go on a trip from Australia, where I was born, to Canada to see family, I made the decision to hire my first helper, which was a person to take over the e-mail customer service for my editing company at the time. And this was a very easy hire.
In hindsight it’s kind of crazy how easy it was and how naive I was to hiring back then. But all I did was actually ask a friend of mine, she was in university with me. I’d known her for several years because we were part of a group of friends that we all spent time together and she, she was about to have our first child. She was looking for some kind of work to do at home, and I said you know what, you want to try this out? You take over the customer service role in my email inbox, which was basically the main job of that business. That business was all about forwarding emails between editors and customers. That was my main role. And you have to check the inbox every day, really diligently, and multiple times to make sure you didn’t miss any jobs from customers. That was basically it.
The only other job I performed at that company was going to university campuses and putting up posters to advertise it, which I still did and actually eventually outsourced a little bit of that job to. Although, it was hard to find good people for that role, but it really worked well hiring for the customer service e-mail roll.
So my friend’s name was Angela and she came on board. Literally we thought we’d do it as a trial. See how it worked. She had a baby and she started work. I went off to Canada and she took over the inbox and worked really well. It was quite amazing. She had no problems being a stay at home mum, checking the inbox every day, you know I gave her a bit of training on how to reply to emails and what sort of situations we face. But pretty quickly she became autonomous, and it was great because I never had to worry about these urgent customer emails being dealt with quickly, efficiently, effectively. So she took over that job and I tasted, for the first time, the true power of hiring someone to do a role that A. you don’t like doing B. you don’t need to do and C. it frees up your time.
So it was an amazing transition for my business at the time and Angela actually went on to work for my editing company even after I sold it. And then I brought her back on to my blogging business once that became my main project. And we worked together, I think, collectively for round about seven years and she was just my email person. So a lot of people get stuck with their inbox, their email inbox is like their biggest time suck and they have trouble figuring out how to, how to handle that. I have never had an issue with that because A. I had Angela or at least I had Angela and literally that was so long ago now, you know 2004 ish when they hired her to do that.
Ever since then, I’ve never been the person in charge of my main customer support e-mail. So it’s been, I mean it’s a wonderful, it’s obviously the most important thing I think you should actually get outsourced from day one, or as soon as you can afford to, is get a VA or someone on that inbox for you. So I have not had to deal with my e-mail and it’s freed up a ton of time for me.
The other job that I was hesitant at first to hire help, but I was also very aware of my limitations and I needed help, was setting up the technical aspects of my business in particular website design, website configuration, you know just uploading scripts, plugins, configuring them, making your blog nice, making your products look nice, making your sales pages look nice. All these things that I was struggling and I mean, I did all my websites to begin with, so you know in 1998, 99 and 2000 I learned the basics of HTML. I wasn’t good at it but I learned enough to create my Magic The Gathering Card Game website, and also the editing and proofreading business which, to be fair were quite static basic websites, kind of like online brochures.
The magic site had the advantage of having a forum and I managed to figure out how to install a script to run a forum so people could train and talk about the game there. But that was about it, and it was a real limitation so, when I started taking blogging seriously and also when I was sort of separating myself from the editing company, that’s when I hired a tech person as well. This happened very close to around the time I hired Angela for customer service. I started to tap certain technical people, now I did actually find a permanent person straight away, I remember I used a few contractors for odd jobs, some went really well, some didn’t do that well. I think the first big change was actually doing a new design for my, on my blog.
So Entrepreneurs Journey started in 2005 I was still running my editing company at that point and around 2006, I did a redesign and I hired a person named Phil, down in Australia to do a complete redesign, including the addition of something I’d never had before, which was an e-mail opt in box. You might laugh when you say that, but email marketing is such a big part of what we do today. It took me a couple of years to really grasp that idea, so it took me a year of blogging before I added the opt in box and that was when I hired Phil to do the technical change and hiring and finding Phil as a tech person was again as naive and simple as hiring Angela.
I simply asked a couple of friends, who were already doing their own website businesses, who did their website design and Phil sort of came through, almost as a friend of a friend, he was actually in the friendship circle of some of my friends at the time, so it was very much just going to my existing networks and friendship circles, and Phil started with that job. I used him for that project and then a couple of odd jobs going forward, but then eventually we stopped doing work together because I found another tech person, Mick, who came on board as my permanent person for more ongoing work.
So basically for the next few years I had this three person team of Me as the content creator, Mick as my tech person and basically a blog designer and he helped me with plugins and blog design and landing pages, setting up the membership area when I launched my first course Blog Mastermind, and Angela just did the customer service, all the e-mails coming in. She handled. And that was a sweet combination. I can’t tell you how good that was.
How simple it was. I guess you could say in hindsight only. I limited myself but it was, when I say that, I limited myself by not growing my team bigger than that. I never hired anyone else. I could have hired people for growing my traffic. I could have hired people for, you know, other social media jobs as that became something that we do today. But really I just had this sweet combination of someone handling my e-mail, someone setting up my web sites. I happily did my blog content, wrote my e-mail newsletter, created products.
I had a partnership with Gideon Shalwick in one project, and he was kind of like a tech person as well. He set up some of the technical aspects of that business, way, way back when he was getting started, and we had a great combination, and all of that was just a simple elegant business model and it allowed me to do over a million dollars in sales of my own coaching products.
By then I also sold off my editing company. So I just had this really powerful business model for publishing, that was just essentially three people, myself, a tech person and a customer service person. And that’s actually where I recommend you start. So at the end of this Podcast, I’m going to give you three tips for your own hiring process and you’re going to see they’re very much related to what I’m talking about here.
So that formula was with me for many many years. And eventually, as much as it was successful, I did reach a point where I was seeing other people having more success, doing bigger things, and you know obviously there’s more to my story but I’m not going to dive in to too many of the other projects I started and stopped. But as it relates to hiring, eventually, I reached a point where I was like you know what, I do want to take this to the next level. I’m seeing what my friends online and my colleagues are doing with help. They’re just getting rapid growth, expanding further and I want to do that too. I wanted to build a team that was bigger than me and in a lot of ways, not because it really was still all about me, just with tech and customer service handled. So it was around about the year 2012 when I had this desire to take this serious. And I just basically jumped to the next level.
You know, I was happy living in this comfort zone for a good four or five years. Money was great the freedom was great. The business was great. But things changed online, you know by 2012 the Internet became way more crowded. Podcasting was booming. YouTube was booming. Social media was booming, all these new people were exploding and making millions within a few years, so I’m also influenced by that. So I realized I was kind of stuck in the past a bit, so it’s time to get serious and build a team.
Now this is when things get interesting.
So the first thing I did, which I recommend you do too, is to do what I learned about at a networking event. So it was actually quite interesting. How did it happen? I was at a networking event and this talk was done by a guy who was great at building companies and he talked about doing what’s called the organizational chart. Now you’re probably familiar with those charts. Most companies, certainly big ones have them, where they just break down all the roles and the people that fill those roles in a company and kind of looks like a flowchart basically, and you have like CEO and that would be me, Yaro Starak and then you’d have Head of Customer Service, that would have been Angela, and head a technology, it would have been Mick. So what happened is, I started to plan out an organizational chart for what I would call my dream business.
And this was the advice that he gave to me. He said, you know I can´t remember the name of the speaker, but, I remember hearing his advise and this is something that I should do just for the sake of getting clarity. So he said you should write out an organizational chart, as if you’ve got every person working for you that you ever wanted. I called it the dream organizational chart, because it was basically like building a dream company in terms of the staff or the people you want working for you and the roles they would fill.
Now, this particular person suggested you write your own name into every role if you don’t have anyone else doing it, this would actually be a great example of showing you how much work you’re actually doing. If you’re a long term Internet Marketing fan or student you’ll be well aware of Rich Shefrin and his Internet business manifesto, of which the most famous thing that came out of that was, the flowchart, where you, you list all the functions of your company and you put your name and debris function, basically the same thing as this organizational chart idea, but you’d have yourself sitting as every role.
So you’re the pay per click advertiser and the banner advertiser. You’re the content creator and the blog writer or the podcaster or the video maker, you are the customer service person, you know you’re the affiliate manager, every single function in your business, your name would fit in and then you’d see this huge flow chart and it would be incredibly ridiculous that you believe that this could A. work and B. that would get you anywhere near a passive income because you just have too many jobs.
So you know if you start with that idea, but take it seriously and actually map out all the core functions of your company, including what you’d like to expand into. Don’t put your name into them unless you want to. The most important thing is to define those roles. That’s what I did when I started. I basically did what I call a brain dump of my dream organizational chart. This is around about last couple of years 2013, 14 something like that. And I wrote out, so I’d love to have someone in a dedicated Facebook advertising role. I’d love to have someone in a dedicated split testing role for all the content. And you know I’d love to have someone as a dedicated Tech Manager for one specific type of tactic or maybe the product delivery, so you could really ramp that up. But, I put out all these roles that I’d like to have in my company and that allowed me to see the potential of what I could do with my business.
Now it´s around about this time too I actually had some changes in my company. As I was planning this growth, I wanted to expand the role of what my customer service person did. I spoke to Angela about expanding her job and to put it simply, she just didn’t have the hours anymore to do anything more than the basics in that role. By then she already had three kids, she was a full time mum, so we made the decision that Angela would actually leave my company because I wanted to get some people into the customer service role who had more, more space to expand that role.
So I really felt that the person dealing with my e-mails could actually do some other things well, that are very interrelated with customer service and having the knowledge of customer service will help them perform other similar roles. So I wanted someone who had the capacity to do that. So I had a bit of a rotation over about a year and a half where Angela left and then another Australian contact came in named Lindy. I won’t explain how I found Lindy just yet, because I want to talk about the hiring process in a moment.
Lindy came on board briefly. I think she lasted about 12 months, all up, and then, just in more recent time, I actually hired two people to fill my customer role. We will talk about that in a moment, when I talk about my current system. I also had a rotation in the tech role as well and Mick left my business and I have another person named Carly and I explain how she came on board as well. We will look at my whole team.
So to put it simply I had this big change in direction as well as a change in my team structure and I don’t think that was a coincidence in timing.
You know, I realized that I was making a big change, so the people who were with me, in the old days, they were leaving, it was a chance to refresh the team, build from scratch almost. So there was a little bit of a challenging time because there were a few periods there, where I was kind of flying, hiring, at the same time as training, at the same time as you know, saying good bye to someone I work with for quite a while. But, that all came about to get me to the point where I am today. So let me break down how everything changed.
So I did this brain dump of my organizational chart and I had all these roles. Now I couldn’t realistically fill every single role quickly. This is something that needs to be done slowly over time. What was important to do though was to prioritize. So what I did was, I looked at all these roles and decided what I need now. What is the most important roles to fill. That became an easy answer to deal with because I just had my customer service person leave and my tech person leave. So first of all, if I had to get back to where I was and get good people in the role of tech and the role of customer service. They did allow me to do that with a plan to take things to the next level in terms of building out my team. So let me explain how all of this happened.
Now before I talk about the hiring process there’s one thing I want to mention, A players! You probably heard this phrase being thrown around in hiring, in just running a company. You want to get as many A Players on your company as possible and really avoid B & C Players if you can, because B & C Players actually make A Players drop down even want to leave your company. Now I have known about this idea and I studied a lot of Evan Pagans training. He referred me to top grading, I’ve gone through top grading, which is really where the whole A Player idea comes from. I recommend you grab that book if you want to check it out but frankly it’s a pretty dry book. But it certainly will help you though when you’re getting serious about hiring A Players. But the simple idea, is hiring people who can do, not just a good job for you, but actually go above and beyond. This is the way I like to describe A Players. If you’ve never heard this phrase before, and you’ll know it when you work with an A Player, because they do more and have better insight than you do.
So an A Player will actually, though they care about the role they are doing so much, that they actually see ways to improve the work without you telling them to do it. And this is a bit tricky when you’re talking about contractors vs. employees, you know, employees are with your business all the time. It’s what they do, every day of their working life. And they’re very embedded in your company. That’s not my business. Probably not your business either.
I deliberately try and avoid hiring employees, so far. I’m not against that completely. But for the time being I have done great with contractors, and I like working with contractors because it’s more flexible for all of us. So with contractors, to get A Players, is a little bit different, like, while I felt that in the past, my team has been great. They’ve been not really embedded in my business significantly so it’s hard to say they were A Players, also because their roles were not that proactive, you know they were basically reacting to what I would say. Go change this about my website. You know answer this email in a different way. It was pretty much driven by me.
Now with this new plan in place for my company, I’m thinking no, no we need to get people into roles where they actually want to do more than what I just tell them. That´s the simplest idea I think for an A Player to follow, is you’re not just a robot to follow my instructions. You’re actually going to look for ways to improve these core outcomes we’re looking for in your role.
You know whether it’s improving conversion to get more customers, or improving customer service to keep more customers, you know save people who might be wanting to refund a product things like that. So there’s goals we can set for people, I want them, you should want this too, to be people who are actually motivated to go above and beyond, because that´s the kind of person they are. It’s not about the money it’s about doing a great job and actually having the insight and the intelligence to spot what needs to be done to make something better. And you as the Founder, the owner, the CEO whatever you want to call yourself, you can´t see everything. In fact you shouldn’t be expected to. You know you need to focus on your core strengths so the person you hire. You want them to be able to spot ways to make things better without you always telling them that. That’s one of the things I was really looking for in this new team I was putting together.
So let’s talk about that new team. So first of all I’ll start with Carly. My tech person who I really, to be fair, she came on before I made this big transition. Mick my tech person, we went our separate ways. I can’t remember the reason why we made the change. I think I was looking for some fresh blood in terms of design perspective. I think Mick was moving on to some other client work and projects. So we we went our separate ways and I found this person named Carly.
Now, to be absolutely honest with you, I feel bad about how I found Carly because I kind of poached her from a friend. So, I have a friend, you might know him, named Brett Thompson, who lives in Australia, he´s a copywriter, and he had Carly working with him doing some sales page, design work, and things like that. Since she was a contractor, she’s also based in Australia.
So I was talking to Brett and we were actually working together on a sales page for my business with one of Brett´s students doing the writing copywriting for it. And as part of that, he said we can do the design work. And I said that’ll be great. And Carly was the person on his team who did the work. So I actually asked if Carly was available for additional work in my company and she was. So she started doing some more for me. I loved her work so much. I said I’d like to make this a regular contract role. Now, I know Carly still has done work for Brett. I did kind of feel, because I just had more work for her and ongoing work, that I kind of approached her a little bit from Brett. Although I didn’t stop her working for Brett, but I do feel a bit bad about that, but that’s what happens. You know people talk about headhunting and you know moving from one company to the next.
Whatever the case may be, you know, it was ultimately up to Carly to decide, she was a contractor, what work she did, and I offered her a fairly consistent amount of work and she came on board, and she has never been a full time worker for me. But she’s done a lot of the tech work, pretty much all of my business, in terms of, you know, blog redesign, membership design, has been mostly done by Carly. I’ve had a few temporary, one off hires, to do a sales page here and there, where I go to a site like 99 designs and search their market place to find a designer whose work I like, and get them to work on just on one thing. Like my flagship core sales page design and that handover design to Carly, and she implement it as a website.
So she came on board and has been with me, and still is with me today. Now I think it must be a good four or five years now. So she was the new tech person, so that got me back up to the basic level, but then I also needed to find new customer service people. So what happened was, I had this kind of period where I had a bit of trouble after Angela left, finding someone. I used an outsourcing service, which didn’t get me a good result. And then I found Lindy, through a method that I still recommend today.
I´ll actually mention this as a tip at the end of this podcast for you, is just by hiring through your existing contacts. So I contacted my e-mail lists. I sent a notice on my email list that I was looking to hire a new customer service person. And also, I think on Facebook, I posted it and Lindy showed up as a great potential customer service person. I actually had a couple other people show up at the same time, who also applied for the role.
Lindy had experience with Ontraport, which is the system I use for everything, e-mail, delivering product and so on. So that gave her an advantage and I was pretty convinced that she was gonna be my new customer service person. But at the same time that Lindy applied, a friend of Carly named Laura also applied for the role. Another person who was looking for some sort of remote laptop lifestyle kind of contracting.
So what happened then, was I started to think about this organizational flow chart, and started to think about the kind of roles that I wanted to fill and where Laura might fit in.
Before I tell you what role Laura took over, I have to tell you a story because this will give you an insight into what kind of mindset I have, the timing regarding hiring contractors and where I was at.
So prior to everything I’ve talked about here with Lindy and so on, back when I was still running my company with Mick and Angela we’re doing things well. I was still hiring people for odd jobs. You know, maybe get someone to take over some social media that I didn´t want to do, or, like I said, hire a designer, or a copywriter for a sales page design or copy for it so, I get these one off people jumping into my company doing a role and then leaving. They weren’t permanent the way, I won´t say permanent, but they weren’t consistent in, in doing work from my business the way Mick and Angela were. But, I wanted to find more people.
So, as you probably have heard and no doubt I´ve seen talked about many many times on the internet, now the idea of outsourcing overseas to countries where the local currency is of lower strength so you can actually hire people for 500 dollars U.S. for a full month worth of full time work. So 500 dollars U.S. is a full time income, a good full time income, in the Philippines. Or you know in Russia or Thailand, where ever it is you’re going to look to hire people, and you can get a lot of hours from someone, quite competent, for much lower cost if you’re based in somewhere with a strong currency like Canada, Australia, America or the U.K. or anywhere where without using euros.
Now, I was hearing some actual stories with some close friends of mine. My friend Gideon who I mentioned earlier, he had this Filipino person who would come on board and basically become his Chief Operating Officer, was almost running his company at the time. And I think he bumped her salary up to a thousand dollars U.S. but it was still a thousand U.S. for full time, 40 hour week work. And then I had some friends who had people on part time, 20 hours a week paying 300 dollars a month or two, and it was in my view, even stories about six dollars an hour five dollars an hour kind of jobs out there and people happily doing them because that was still good money for them in their country. Now I was a little bit hesitant regarding underpaying people, but I certainly saw the value in potentially, you know, finding someone good and then upping their pay rate. It’ll still be cheaper than me, you know, trying to find someone who would cost me 3000 dollars a month here. If I could get them for a thousand dollars, kind of like what Gideon was doing,
I was happy to do that. So I delved into this idea of hiring, especially from the Philippines, with everyone is saying the Filipinos are friendly and they’re quite competent with tech, especially with basic tech like maybe WordPress and dealing with your customer service and social media. So I started on the hunt for some Filipinos and this is when the horror story started for me.
So, to cut a long story short, I basically started a process of testing and I’m looking for Filipinos, including using some quite well known services for example Chris Ducker, you probably know Chris Ducker, he has a big company in the Philippines and has a, he actually has a contracting service where he will find vetted Filipino workers for you. You pay their company like a finder’s fee and then this person comes and works for you. So I did everything.
I tried Chris Ducker´s service three times to find someone. I had people come through referrals. I also advertised on my Social Media, in my e-mail list and I basically had this horror run of about 12 people from the Philippines who came and just didn’t do the work. So this is what would often happen. I’d start communicating with the person and they were, their English wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, they agreed to do some work. And then, often I would assign them the job and then I’d come back and a week later nothing had been done.
No communication had happened either. I find out what’s going on and they only write back and say sorry, I’ll give it to you on Monday. Monday comes along, I don’t hear anything from them and then I email them again and then that’s it they’re gone and haven’t heard from them at all. That will happen once, I say okay I understand I might have to go through a bad eggs to find the good ones. So that happened like, two or three times and then I start working with Chris’s service and I had similar problems. People would say that, it was really bizarre actually, people would say this person is currently working for my company and they’re brilliant but, I haven’t got enough hours for them or I’m changing my business so I don’t need them anymore.
Do you want to take over working with this person and a couple of times, I said sure, if they were so good for you, then they must be great and they were good for them. But then as soon as they started working for me, I don´t know if it was me, or the kind of work I had for them, or the way I communicated. Maybe something was off with what I was doing, but I had this ongoing experience where these contractors were just poorly communicate, not get the work done. Sometimes the work was still terrible that I just said we’re going to stop.
I can think of one specific example, I was actually trying to have my podcast turned into YouTube videos. Hire someone to do that for me, and one person did it and it was so bad I couldn’t use it. Another person did it but they were actually taking, like it was a one hour long podcast that would take them 40 hours of their time to finish editing. So although their hourly rate was cheaper, their pace of work was so slow they’re actually more expensive than anyone I could imagine that was costing you four hundred dollars for one video which just did not make sense.
So long story short, by the time I hit the 10th person, 11th person, 12th person, in fact there was one real deal breaker to deal breakers. One time I had this person who basically, I went through that process of assigning them some work they didn’t do it. They said they would do it. Then they came back to me after two weeks and said I’m sorry. I´m sorry I disappeared. A tree fell on my grandmother’s house and I had to go save her. Now I don’t know whether that’s a true story. It’s a made up story, just true story then. I hope the grandmother was OK. Whatever the case is they disappeared completely after that as well. Hopefully just looking after their grandmother, but whatever the case is. They were not a good worker.
So I had this period of about a year where I lost all faith in hiring from the Philippines and I basically threw it out the door. I said that’s it. I’m not going to do anything with the Philippines.
Now I did find someone who did a little bit of work with me, and actually he came to me and said listen, I want to defend my country. He was Filipino and wanted to show that there are some good people and we did a bit of work together and that was OK. It wasn’t A Player by any level, but it was it was good and we did a few jobs so. To put a very, very long story short in terms of hiring from overseas at discount rates, I kind of threw that idea out the door. Now I’m not going to say it’s something you can’t do. I still know plenty of people who have great, great, people working for them from the Philippines, from all over the world, who are paying really low prices. I know Barbara Turly she’s one of my graduate students, who has a team. And she gets great results with Filipinos.
Another friend of mine has been on my podcast Barnaby. He has a great tech team in Ukraine that do a lot of programming, doing apps for him. He loves it because it’s a low priced, great quality. So there’s certainly more examples out there of successful projects or whatever the case maybe, it just wasn’t working for me. And in my experience I had a lot of success with the Australians and Canadians and you know, even though it was not quite the same as paying in Filipino, it was a little bit cheaper if I’m making American dollars and I can pay people in Canadian or Australian dollars because of the cross rates. Usually, there was a time when the Australian dollar was stronger than the American which was a scary time for me. I tell you that.
But anyway, what I decided, what my conclusion was, I just preferred Australian, Canadian, American, U.K. workers for many reasons. The communication was better, the reliability was better. The work quality was better. I kind of came to the belief that I love this sort of stay at home mum scenario, I had great work with Angela. You know, Mick wasn’t a stay at home mom or stay at home dad but he was also doing his own thing and working during his own hours and that just worked well for me. I think it was a cultural thing as well. So since that experience I was like no, we’re going to try and focus most of our energy on Australia and Canada and you know that that kind of person is not looking for full time work. But they’re good at what they do, and they want to become part of my team. You’re really looking for a long term, not one off jobs, but consistency.
So that’s where I found myself at this point. So I had this, these bad experiences but they give me clarity when I was looking for it. I put together this dream organizational chart of what kind of roles I wanted to fill in the future. And then I was about to get ready to do all this hiring but, I realized something about myself as a result of this entire process. I didn’t like hiring. It’s just not a good job for me. I didn’t enjoy it, and that was being reflected in the quality of the outcome, you know, because I wasn’t good at the role. I wasn’t doing a great job at it.
So I came to this conclusion. I need to hire someone to help me do the hiring. It’s not a strength, and it’s something I should do first. So I decided, once I was filled up with the main roles, once I got my tech person on board and my e-mail customer support person back on board. So I´m back in my standard level of team. The next person that I would actually hire, would be a person to help me hire, basically a project manager type person where we decide what things we need to do next and then go and find people to help us do it.
So when I went out there looking for a new customer service person I had Linda apply and I had Laura apply who I mentioned earlier, and I was talking then I thought this is fantastic. I’ll give Lindy the customer service role and I’ll ask if Laura is willing to come on board as a project manager, with the emphasis being on getting up-skilled to become a good person at hiring other contractors. I made that very clear to her during the hiring process, that this is the role now, Laura didn´t come to me planning to be a person who hires other people. But she had the common sense, the intelligence, and I guess the desire to, and even the excitement to potentially do this role. So Lindy came on board Laura came on board.
I have Carly as a tech person and that was where my company was when I also coincidentally, no, it wasn´t a coincidence that I planned on basically rebuilding my teaching business, because I had no products on the market at the time, so I was about to personally dive in and write some ebooks, create brand new versions of my flagship courses, create brand new training, so I was going to dive into that, all while building up this team so that my company can you now start growing a little bit without me.
So that’s, that was the plan. Now what happened going forward was quite interesting. So after about a year, I realized that I wanted to change the situation with Lindy in customer service, I actually wanted to bring on two people to do that role and two people in different time zones, so that we can offer customer service across a longer period of time. You know, I don’t like people having to wait longer than 12 hours to get a reply from us, so we need people in different time zones. So what happened was Lindy moved on to work on her own entrepreneurs project and Laura got to work hiring two new customer service people.
Now while that was happening Laura was also working hard to hire other people for my company, so I’m going to give you a summary of what happened because I don’t want to drag this on too long. It’s really been a very long episode but I want to just explain the roles I’ve got now, in my company and how Laura has been able to hire these people.
So what things look like today and what’s worked really well. So today we’ve got two people, Martha and Amanda in customer service. In my business we call it client care. Carly is still working as my main designer. Really more of a developer role, she’s great with HTML and CSS. We have a second tech person brought on board named Adam. We also have a person in graphics specifically, her name is Olena. We have a few other sort of people pop in and out now and then for odd jobs, not so much the main job. So that’s the main, the main roles in my company. So basically it’s kind of funny you think about basically doubled the core roles I have. I have now two customer service people and two tech people, plus I´ve added a graphic designer and I’ve added a project manager or hiring manager in Laura.
Now that’s the main role. The people who work with me every day, they are the people where we are always working together and we have a few other people pop in for things you know like Facebook ads here and there, and there would be copyrighting here and there, when we need them, but that’s the core team now that’s allowed me to do more than I ever did, in particular do better than I ever did. Now that I got two tech people, we can do more things like split testing, opt in page´s, landing pages, you know, we could start playing around with more things with my blog and testing and tracking.
With two customer service people we can respond to queries quicker. We are also were able to do things I want to do for a long time. Like have an active representation on Live Chat across all my sales pages and also in my customer area. So the girls do a great job. They’re dealing with any like Chat queries, which is actually a sales role. You know when you get a question coming through in a like chatline sales page they’re looking to buy. And that’s something that you know, my customer care, my client care team are in a great position to handle because they deal with customer questions all the time. They know my products. So it’s a good extra role that I wanted that person to do, for example, that Angela didn’t have the time to do. So this team came about. Let me explain how we went through the hiring process because this is what’s really involved with my company.
So the great step one I made at the beginning was hiring a person to help me hire. So that was the big lesson. Bringing on Laura and saying listen I suck at this, not just that I suck that I don´t know how to do it, but I suck at it because I don’t want to do it and I haven’t got the motivation to learn. Laura had the motivation to learn and do a good job at this and really has come out as an A Player. In general she’s an A Player in general, but has turned out great at this job.
Now Laura had the same kind of problems I had, so I handed off to her, this horrible job, and said listen, we need to find someone to do this role, this role, and this role go and hire. So she started doing that, and we did things like most people would advise you to do. You know we said oh let’s go check out the outsourcing Website´s. So we went to Upwork, and we tried to find people through Upwork. Then we we have a page on my blog, and headed there for a while, called the Jobs page. So when I first found Laura and lindy, one of the things I did was send an e-mail to my newsletter house list directing them to this job page on my blog.
I just listed the roles that I have and people could apply and they’d apply, but often I have bad people, not bad people, but not the right people applying for these roles and you waste a lot of time even sometimes hiring people that turned out to just be so not right for the job. So there was this lot of wasted time happening and Laura actually became really frustrated too because we just kept hiring people who, were so not fit for the job. We were amazed that we were even reaching this point with them, clearly we were doing something wrong with the hiring process.
If we’d reached all the way to the point where we’re testing them but we haven’t, we should have eliminated them a long time ago. So we kind of went back to the drawing board. We said, you know what, we need to learn how to do this better.
So we started researching how other people hire, what they do, and we came across one thing in particular that seemed to be something we could test, that was setting up a much more in-depth application process to apply to work with our company and also really expand the page that we list on my blog that offers work. So it became a sales page, in the sense that it talked about why it’s exciting to come to work with Team Entrepreneurs Journey, why it’s exciting to come work with Yaro and also talk about, you know, who already worked with us, just really make it a more desirable company to work for.
But then also once they’re excited about working for us, make sure they have to jump through a few hoops to really demonstrate they’re good at this so. Laura analyze some other peoples hiring process and then came up with essentially a survey application form so people now when they apply for roles in my company actually have to go through this multi step form. We just use Google forums to do it, and it asks them some questions. Obviously the basic things like name and country and all that. But we also ask them questions regarding what they want for their future, how they see themselves working for us, how they would deal with certain situations. You know give us examples of how you would do this.
And so there’s some abstract questions in there too just to get some feeling about their personality, and you know what kind of goals they have, and what kind of attention to detail they have, all these things we identified as, what was lacking in the people who are not fit for the job. We want to make sure that this application process. A. made sure those people didn’t get through the application process and B. the only the very best, would make it to the end. So they’d be, they’d be not just motivated enough to fill out all the survey questions, which showed they were serious but, then actually fill out great answers to the questions.
Now naturally that means you get far fewer applicants to the jobs, for the jobs. But when you get people all the way at the end of the application process, they’re good people. Now you’re probably wondering what kind of questions I ask, so what I´m going to do, as a an upgrade, as a as a handout to go with this Podcast, I want to give you an example of the questions we ask in the hiring application process, so you can adapt them to any kind of survey application process. You want to put in place for your company, so many give you the questions we ask in one of our examples. If you want to get that, I’m going to make that available as a download, you have to opt in to grab it from this podcast. And I’ve actually just purchased a brand new domain name to make it easier for you to find these, since I have to say it on the podcast.
So to get this handout where I go through the types of questions you could ask in a job application form to find the best A Players, you can go to EJPodcast.com/1. This is the number one because it’s the first solo episode that I’m doing in a long time. So EJPodcast.com/1. And number one don’t spell it it’s just the number one. And that will give you this episode, and on this episode, you’ll find the opt in box to get their hand out to go along with it.
OK, so once we set up these application forms, we started to get some better people applying. That’s actually how we found Adam. The second main tech person, we are actually initially discarded him during the earlier phases when we were looking for people. But he came back and went through the whole new application form and came out as a top performer and we’ve been working with him since and he’s been quite good. OK so that’s a summary.
Basically everyone in my team now, my two customer service people, my two tech people, Laura as a hiring manager, Olena as a graphics person. That’s how the business works. It’s still not huge it’s still all contractors, but it does allow me to do more than I used to do and of course were expanding were going to hire more people as the business grows. So this has been a long podcast already, I hope you’ve gotten something out of it.
Now what I want to do in this sort of last five minutes before I wrap up the show, is just give you some tips on what you can do based on the story I just shared with you to sort of avoid my mistakes and benefit from the things that have worked well. I’ve just got three tips for you, based on this journey I’ve been on.
The number one tip for hiring for your company, your online business and particularly if you’re going to put together a laptop lifestyle business, hire in the right order. So what I mean by that is. Hiring is something that you can do forever. You will always need more people but you only need certain key people from the point you’re at now. So you know where you’re at now, you might really have someone working for you, but there’s some constraint in your business right now, that if you had the perfect person it would make a huge difference to your business growth. Sometimes if it’s just at the beginning, you could be like me, where I was, you know, 10 years ago and you just need a tech person and just need a customer e-mail support person. And I will almost, always recommend those two roles as the first people you hire for especially e-mail.
I mean you can do tack on a sort of ad hoc basis, hire a person once off for setting up your blog, and your landing page and e-mail newsletter. But you’re going to always have e-mail coming at you. So the sooner you get a semi-permanent virtual assistant type customer service person who’s dealing with your Inbox the sooner you don’t have to deal with your Inbox. That’s a huge job. Outside of that though your hiring priority might be differing, you might really have great tech, great customer service. Maybe what you need is to hire someone to be your own Laura, your own project manager.
So someone who can actually hire for you and that was a key higher for me to get everyone else who we got since then and also to just you know keep all the learning away from me like you know as much as know Laura would say she did not like the experience of having to tell people they didn’t get jobs or hire people who turned out to be wrong. It’s so important that she did that not me. Like the hours she put in doing that, saved me from doing it. And I was able to use that time to create product, to market my business and that’s important not just about growing your business by bringing people to do things. It’s about growing your business taking you out of jobs that you shouldn’t do. So you know hiring the right person in the right order for you, simply might be about hiring one person to do something that you’re doing right now that you shouldn’t do.
Tip number two when going out there to hire people. We’ve had the best results using existing contacts, your own e-mail list, your own blog, your own social media following, as an initial contact point. And then as a secondary contact point, any kind of referrals. Frankly we’ve not had great success with any outsourcing services like Upwork or freelancer.com or wherever you go. We’ve also had, as I talked about in my story terrible results going to hiring services that try and find good people for you. I’ve done that three or four times and it’s not worked out well. The best people have come from people who are ready follow your work. They know you, they like you, they trust you, they know your work. They’re excited to work with you. So if you’re if your audience is of a big enough size, even if it’s only a few hundred people or a few thousand people, go to them first, then you might find the perfect person to work for from them.
If not them, you might find it through a referral source in the sense that they might know someone, If they don’t have someone. Definitely tap any friends you have who are really succeeding, someone you know has a great website, ask them who did it. Someone you know has a great social media marketing campaign going, ask them who runs the social media marketing campaign.
That´s tip two and Tip three the final tip is, when you’re getting serious about this. You want to get serious about the application process. So I recommend having some kind of multi-step, survey style, application process to weed out the people who are, just not good because they’re lazy. It’s really easy for people just to write out a quick e-mail to you to apply for a job and they might come across quite good but they’re not answering certain questions. If you use a real survey, that ask some tough questions, you’re going to weed out the bad people or people not right for the job.
The lazy people, the people who aren´t qualified, or people don’t have the right kind of attitude and you’re going to be left with the best people because they put in the effort, they have the attention to detail, they’re excited and they care about filling out the survey to the best of their ability. And as I said I will give you the certain questions or some of the questions you could use based on what we do, as a free give away an opt in handout if you get. If you go to EJPodcast.com/1 that will take you to the download page with this episode and on there you’ll find some opt in boxes to grab that hand out the give away to go along with this, first of my brand new, behind the scenes, Entrepreneurs Journey Solo Podcast episode.
OK. So to recap those three tips. Make sure you hire people in the right order. Focus on the priority person you need today. Look for people in your own network, your own email list, your own world first and then referrals, if you can’t find them through your own network and three, put in the time to create some kind of multi-step application survey process to find the best people.
OK that’s it. That is the story and the situation of where my hiring is at now. Thank you for spending your time to listen, all the way to the end of this episode. That was a long one quite a few stories to share there about how I’ve gone through the hiring process over the years. I do feel that I’m in a much better place now, especially with Laura in place as a hiring manager and Laura having the experience of going through some failures at hiring as well which helps us learn what works.
So one of the best ways to learn what works, is to figure out what doesn’t work first. And I feel that we’re at a good place and so we’re growing, so we’re going to add a few more people to do more things in the future. But that’s where things are now and it’s quite different to where they were for me. For most of my company, for a good six seven years, I did do things to people and then that can work well if you’re happy staying at that level. Obviously if you want to grow to the next level you need to start bringing in more people.
I hope those tips help you. I hope the hand out with the survey questions to ask during the hiring process helps you. That’s EJPodcast.com/1. And that’s it.
So my name is Yaro Starak. I’d love to know whether you found this format of the Entrepreneur’s Journey Podcast useful. Do you want me to do more of these behind the scenes style episodes where I talk about my business. What did you like, what did you not like. You know please come and let me know. The best place to do that is on my blog or on Facebook. I actually have a Facebook community that you can join for free called the Laptop Lifestyle. To join that you can go to a laptoplifestyle.me, laptoplifestyle.me.
OK. I’m going to call it a day. Thanks for listening all the way to the end of this Entrepreneurs Journey Podcast episode.
My name is Yaro Starak. And I´ll see you or speak to you on the next episode.
About Yaro Starak
Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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