John Jonas is the Founder and CEO of OnlineJobs.ph, a job board that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs to virtual workers in the Philippines. He hosts The Secret Sauce of Outsourcing, a podcast where he discusses tips, tricks, advice, and stories on how to utilize outsourcing properly. Before OnlineJobs.ph, John worked as the Chief Technology Advisor for ClientSkills and a PHP Programmer for QComm.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- John Jonas’ exceptional introduction to entrepreneurship
- How John found a solution to quality outsourcing
- The win-win outcome of hiring Filipino employees
- Cultural barriers that employers should be aware of
- Setting the proper expectations for employers and employees
- John shares the secret of filtering for the right people
- Why superstar employees are not always worth it
- The reason emails can be better than live interviews
- Figuring out which time zone works best for your team
- Best practices for compensating outsourced employees
- Which payment platforms are best for outsourcing?
In this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast
There is often a stigma associated with outsourcing labor. There may be connotations of exploitation, inefficient staffing, and communication difficulties related to the industry. However, some agencies find incredible benefits for employers and employees alike. One leading company in this field is OnlineJobs.ph.
John Jonas started OnlineJobs.ph after encountering his own issues with staffing and outsourcing. He and his team have since honed the process, supplying ethical and effective solutions for brands. Throughout the process, John has developed core principles to help others experiencing the same problems.
In this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast, Guillaume Le Tual has an insightful discussion with John Jonas, the Founder and CEO of OnlineJobs.ph, about getting the most out of outsourcing solutions. They start with John’s initial experiences with the field and how he created a better way for ecommerce brands. He goes on to cover topics like cultural barriers, time zones, emails versus interviews, filtering for the right people, and so much more.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
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Guillaume: Hello everyone. Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast where I feature leaders in e-commerce and business. Today’s guest is John Jonas, he’s the founder of OnlineJobs.ph. I am very excited to have you here with me today John. I have done your stuff for many years. I read your newsletter no later than this morning and like a decade ago I watched one of your courses like, how to be the CEO in a company and how to properly delegate, etc. and that was really interesting. Today, we will be talking about outsourcing in the Philippines to grow your business or your e-commerce store. Before we get started in diving into the main topic, we move on to our sponsorship message:
This episode is brought to you by MageMontreal, if a business wants a powerful e-commerce online store that will increase their sales or to move piled up inventory to free up cash reserves or to automate business processes to reduce human processing errors, our company MageMontreal can do that. We’ve been helping e-commerce stores for over a decade. Here’s the catch. We’re specialized and only work on the Adobe Magento e-commerce platform, also known as Adobe Commerce. We’re among only a handful of certified companies in Canada, we do everything Magento-related. If you know someone who needs design, support, training, maintenance, or a new e-commerce website, email our team at [email protected], or go to magemontreal.com.
All right, John, thanks for being here today.
John: Thanks for having me, I’m excited. This is cool.
Guillaume: Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself in the beginning of your entrepreneurship journey which I know is a bit exceptional?
John: Yeah, so I’m a husband, a father and I have five kids. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am quite religious. I love to ski and ride my bike specifically with my wife and my kids. We ride mountain bikes a lot. I’m an entrepreneur, it probably just runs in my veins. I know that when I graduated from college in 2003 I had a job for eight months and my only goal during that time was to quit my job because I’m just a terrible employee. The incentive structure didn’t work for me, like I do good work I get paid, I do bad work I get paid, I get paid the same amount either way. For me it didn’t work super well. So I worked every second I could to build my own thing. And after like eight months I finally had an opportunity where I was making a tiny bit of money and I knew I could survive and I quit my job. That was 2004 and I have worked from home ever since.
I started off doing little piddly things on the internet and kind of built some software that would build websites and it was like an automated thing. We built crappy websites that none of them are online anymore. But they were designed to get traffic and add ads on them and people would click the ads and you make money and it worked. It worked quite well. I was ranked to the top of Google for things like car insurance and life insurance and work from home and network marketing and wrinkle cream and vacuum cleaner, like I was at the top of Google for everything. It was amazing until it wasn’t. And Google started making changes, which was fine, I knew it wasn’t going to last forever anyway.
But at that time I was trying to build this stuff and there was just so much to do, and every entrepreneur knows this. There’s so much work to do. I tried hiring other people and I was so frustrated. I hired people locally and the first thing they did when they saw what I was doing they were like, “Oh, yeah, I can do this on my own, see you”. I tried that four times and that sucked.
Guillaume: Yeah, you’re quite vocal about your opinion on this on your website.
John: It was messy at best. Look, I love India, it’s cool. I have Indian friends, I love their food. I have nothing against them, just outsourcing there doesn’t work really well. It’s really hard. And some people can make it work but it’s really hard. The culture difference between the US and India is just so much, it’s just really hard.
Guillaume: I think we’re guilty of that because the US and Canada and Europe are looking for cheap solutions. So they’re gearing the economy and training people to provide cheap solutions. But if you’re looking for quality it can just be a mismatch. So you have to find people who are quality driven rather than cheap solution driven, which is what we’re trying to get them to provide.
John: Yeah. It’s just really hard. And most people think outsourcing is a disaster, it’s a headache, it’s a babysitting job, because for a long time everybody in the western world, the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, went to India. Because the thought was, there’s a billion people there you’ve got to be able to find good people. You can but the culture is so limiting. So I found Elance when I was trying to do this too. ELance doesn’t exist anymore, today it’s Upwork. Elance merged with oDesk, you’ve got to remember that?
Guillaume: Yeah, I do.
John: Or Upwork. Now Elance and oDesk merged together to form the behemoth of Upwork. I hired someone from there and I thought he was amazing and guided. He wrote a bunch of articles for me and I was like, yes, I finally figured this out I’ll sort everything out. This is awesome. And then he sent me these 50 articles and I was so excited. But then I realized that’s all he’d do. I had to do everything else for this. I had to check him for plagiarism. I had already paid him because I saw that the first one was good, the second one was good, the third one was good. But when I looked from the back, the 50th one was plagiarized, the 49th one was plagiarized, the 48th one was plagiarized, oh crap, this sucks! And now I have to write headers and resource boxes and links and submit them. This burden just fell on my shoulders, realizing the incentive at Upwork is for them to do a job, get paid and move on so that they can get a review and move on and get paid more. As a small business owner that was really hard.
Guillaume: I know, I can relate, it is so hard. There’s just so much work to do and resources are limited so you just do an overdrive mode, so you just do 80 hours, 90 hours a week. But there’s a limit to how long you can sustain that pace before you start having some issues, either your health or other areas of your life will not be in balance.
John: It’s rough. I was ready to give up. I just had to do it on my own. And I think a lot of people get to that point. Hiring people is really hard, it’s not worth it having employees, it just doesn’t work. I just need to do it myself. I was there. Like you said, you know, I’m working 50-60 hours a week. I hate that because I’m a family guy. I had one child at home and we were expecting another. I don’t want to work 60 hours a week, I want to spend time with my kids. I had a conversation with a guy who said to me, when you’re ready to start outsourcing some of the stuff make sure you go to the Philippines. I was like, what? And he said, “Yeah.” This was super eye opening to me. He says in India when you say something to them and they say, yes, that means, ‘Yes I heard something come out of your mouth’. It doesn’t mean, ‘Yes, I understood what you said’.
Guillaume: Yeah, I learned as a management tool that I have to ask anybody now worldwide, please re-explain to me in your own words what I just requested to be sure that we understand each other well. Someone might see it as patronizing or weird at first time, so I cut it and explain it and I set it up but then I expect them to explain it back to me so I can see if they missed key bullet points or not.
John: Yeah, and that’s so good. Such good advice. So he gave me a reference where I could hire someone, it’s just like the typical things that people are feeling, like, I don’t know if I can keep someone busy full time, I don’t know if I can afford this, I don’t know if they can actually do good work, how do I trust them? I felt all those things and after a couple months I finally just decided it doesn’t matter. I can’t keep doing what I’m doing, I have to keep trying other things. So he gave me a reference to an agency where I could hire someone. And they said, “Do you want a webmaster or a programmer”? And I was like, “Well, I want a content writer”. They said, “Do you want a webmaster or programmer”? I was like, “Okay, I’ll take a webmaster”. So they basically just pulled a guy off the streets and he spoke pretty good English but not great and he wasn’t a webmaster by any means. Like, they give him a little bit of training but it was the most liberating experience in my life. This guy’s full time job was to do anything I asked him to do and anything I could train him to do. He was eager to do the work and he was willing to learn and what I taught him he would learn. And that whole thing, like, the articles and the submitting that I just talked about, he and I implemented the whole process and he did all the work. I just had to teach him how to do it. And it was so amazing, it was like there were two of me. And I just kept doing that with him over and over and we just kept implementing processes.
I finally realized that this is what I had hoped to find in outsourcing. I’m not sure that it needs to be country specific but it just turned out that the Philippines was different than elsewhere, I have no idea why that is different. Since then I’ve had like 40 people on my team in the Philippines full time and we built this job board that hundreds of 1000s of employers have used. We have almost 2 million Filipino profiles and it’s been amazing.
Guillaume: Yeah, I can vouch for that. I mean, this podcast is actually produced by people hired from the Philippines through OnlineJobs.ph, in part, plus other agencies and external providers. So it’s a mix. The social media promotion of it after that is also done by a Filipino VA. So it just makes sense as a company to say, well, what’s my marketing budget to get this thing off the ground? Well, if it’s limited then hire someone in the Philippines full time and pay them like twice more than what they would earn locally if they had the local job and I still get to pay much less than if I had someone here locally. It’s a win-win, they’re happy to earn twice as much and I’m happy to just pay less in general and save money. You can then try to get your business off the ground.
John: Yeah, and you’re making a difference more than just, ‘Oh, I’m paying them more than what they would have otherwise made and I’m saving money’. That’s cool. But I didn’t realize at the time that you’re affecting their family and their kids’ lives. Traditional Filipino families, parents go to work and the grandparents raise the children, the grandparents are tired and it’s hard. What I’ve seen with so many people now is that those parents are staying at home, they’re not going overseas, which is the traditional Filipino dream to go overseas and work and send money home to your kids and never see your kids again. Instead, now they’re working at home and they’re raising their families and they don’t have these two-hour commutes to Manila, or to Florida or whatever. It’s just so good for them, you’ve changed generations of lives because of that. That by itself is so amazing.
Guillaume: That is huge. I had not realized that it prevents the whole, ‘I have to emigrate’ phase of their life to send money back home. I can stay home and work with Zoom or whatever else and just upload my work and get paid and no need to emigrate.
John: Yeah, and that’s a big deal. I’ve seen a lot of that and I’ve had a lot of my team say, thank you so much I thought I would have to leave my kids, or I know people that have left their kids. Like you have a blind son and he’s living in the Philippines with your sister and you’re in Dubai, that sucks. And we’re keeping them at home. On the other side you have people you never thought you’d be able to find such talent so easily. Like a video editor or an audio editor or a social media marketing person, it’s so easy to find these people. That’s a big deal for a lot of employers when they first see this.
Guillaume: Yeah, I agree with that. An interesting trend, we can talk about the plus and the minus, like, what’s bad that we need to be aware of. There’s a lot of positives like lots of loyalty from people in the Philippines. Of course, you always have to check your staff and trust progressively and so on, but I’ve seen lots of loyalty. I’ve seen lots of positives, lots of good skill sets too, like a lot of people have bachelor degrees although not as good as a bachelor degree from Harvard? Well, no, but it’s still a bachelor degree and that’s a well educated person who is more affordable and very often they tend to be very dedicated to your company and cause and really embrace it. I had some people from the Philippines stay for years, like Sofia stayed seven years with me and I just loved working with her. The company grew but the person didn’t grow, unfortunately, but it happens to all countries. I had to part ways there. But I think you can have pretty successful hires with long runs of people dedicated to your company from the Philippines.
John: Yeah, that first person I hired from that agency still works for me today. That was 2005.
Guillaume: That’s awesome.
John: And I have people that I hired in 2007, and 2008, and 2010. They all still work for me.
Guillaume: Pretty awesome.
John: Like you said, trust progressively, which is good. They really want to be honest with you. The Philippines is a third world country but they don’t want to be called a third world country, they want to be called an emerging economy. But it’s hard to find a job there and when they get a job with a foreign employer, which in Philippines there’s an interesting culture behind, and they’re not like in most places where people are like, “Oh, my stupid American boss he doesn’t know”. That’s not how the Philippines is, they look up to you as their foreign boss and they brag about you on Friday night with their friends. And when you give them the situation where they’re working for a foreign boss and they’re making good money, and they’re working from home in their own hours, it’s a really good situation. Once they get a job they don’t want to lose that job and they want to be honest with you to make sure that you’re happy. Culturally, they are pleasing. They want to make people happy and so they’re willing to do things to make sure that you’re happy. In all of this there are some caveats.
Guillaume: Yes, of course, you have to learn. I learned about the 13 month pay after I had hired someone so I said, “Oh, your country does a 13 month and you expect that at the end of the year”? I didn’t know that when we were negotiating the salary. It was not that big of a deal, so I said, ‘Okay, now I know about it’. Another thing that I learned the hard way is a guy just disappeared on me. He wasn’t comfortable with the situation and then I learned about this concept called, ‘going shy’. So now I learned how to prevent that and I would say, ‘Don’t go shy on me’, and very often they would start laughing because you know their culture a little bit. Then you tell them if there’s a problem, come talk to me about it, I don’t want you to run away, we’ll look at how to handle it together. So they have that sort of perspective that might be a warped sense of honor whereby if they feel they are not up to par or something they might just disappear and never ever hear from them again in one shot. So are there any other cultural things like this or other caveats that a business owner should be aware of when they hire their first Filipino?
John: So this concept of going shy is the number one problem that people run into. And when you say it’s like a warped sense of honor, in our mind that’s correct. Have you ever heard of the power distance index or Hofstede’s power distance index? This was a study of cultures and how much they respect authority. And a big part of the study was about pilots where you have a pilot and a co-pilot and who’s in charge. So you have the first mate in charge and the second mate as a subordinate. What they found was in certain cultures where they respect authority, the second mate will never ever question the first mate. So where some of the first mates are making poor decisions with an airplane the second person will never ever say something because they’re not in charge, the first person is in charge. And so in the US we’re very low on this power distance index where like Korea it is very high. And that’s why they had to change to having the second mate in charge and the captain being second because the captain has the authority to say something when this guy’s making poor decisions. The Philippines is also very, very high on this. So they don’t want to overstep their bounds. If you’re the one in charge, if you’re the one responsible, then that’s your responsibility to make sure it’s done right. And they know that and they don’t feel like they need to double or triple check the work because it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s right. They just have to do the work.
And then there’s the pleasing side of their culture where they don’t want to let you down, they don’t want to feel embarrassed, they don’t want to feel like you’re disappointed in them. And if they feel these things then they will disappear. They would rather just walk away from a job than feel embarrassed in front of you. That’s like losing face. So what you’re saying is a really big deal. I always tell people this, I know you’re going to have a problem with this, I know that at some point you’re going to get stuck and you’re not going to know what to do and you’re not going to want to say anything to me because I know that’s your culture. You don’t want to come to me, but you have to come to me. When there’s a problem you can’t disappear, do not disappear. And that’s a big part of their culture. Just treat them well, they are not robots. A lot of people go into outsourcing thinking it’s just a robot on the other side of the world, if they’re not doing good work just fire them. They’re not robots.
Guillaume: That’s general poor leadership. Regardless how you see it, it’s just poor leadership. You’re not going to have a much loyal team, much dedication, much passion from the person. They’ll not be into your cause if you treat any human being this way.
John: Totally, and yet I see it every day from employers. They think that because they’re overseas that they don’t have feelings, they don’t have a family and they don’t need time, they’re just robots. That’s not the case. These aren’t magical humans, you’re not going to hire someone and they’re going to build your website and write your content and do a sales page and build your squeeze page and write you an e-book and do your graphic design, that person doesn’t exist.
Guillaume: Yeah. The same person does all of that, of course, the unicorn hire.
John: Right. And you’d be surprised how often I see that from an employer. They just keep going on and on.
Guillaume: That’s like 10 freelancers right there.
John: Yeah, you’re just doing six different roles.
Guillaume: Yeah, exactly.
John: So they’re not magical. They’re just people. They’re smart people, they’re educated people, they’re loyal people, they’re honest people, but they’re people. And there are some cultural things where you have to recognize that it’s not going to get done right the first time, and that’s a pitfall. Whatever you’re asking them to do they’re not going to do correctly the first time, you’re going to have to provide more training and feedback. But what I’ve seen for me is, when you’re willing to work through it with them, when they see that you care about them is when they become a rockstar. When they trust you they will be willing to go above and beyond. A big mistake that people make is that they go into this thinking, ‘I don’t know how I can trust this person’, which is super common and I did it. Well, the reality is that they have that same feeling towards you, ‘I don’t know if I can trust this boss’, but their feeling is stronger than your feeling. Because you’re getting some work done, that’s cool but their livelihood depends on you. If you don’t pay them they don’t eat and there’s no recourse in the Philippines, there’s nowhere to go for food. Their family doesn’t have extra in the Philippines. So that feeling of, ‘I don’t know if I can trust this person or this employer’, is stronger than your feeling of, ‘how do I trust this person’.
Guillaume: You can grant limited access. Even if it’s a website, grant access to whatever, work with copy or anything like that. For us, the Philippines are mostly for administrative, marketing and social media or producing a report for a client. Well, I might not want my super expensive guy to be working on this, a Filipino VA can do this. So for us a lot of admin and marketing stuff is done in the Philippines. It’s an easy way. Then we hire locally here in Canada or US all the engineering force because we’re working on very large commercial projects. So that’s how we’ve split it and how it’s helped us grow. It’s a model to consider.
John: Yeah, that’s cool. I talked to someone just last week who said that they have a software team and they hired an assistant for every person in the company out of the Philippines. And it just made each of them more productive in what they’re doing. I was like, that’s sweet. I have my entire development team in the Philippines. My development team, my marketing team, my content creation, my customer support, it’s all in the Philippines and they’re really really good. But I love your model, you have people local and then you have support people.
Guillaume: Yeah, which is different because we’re like a service business. We’re keeping the core expertise here to service local clients with real local expertise but then everything like admin and marketing that we can potentially delegate like marketing, we do it outside with the Philippines. If I was a product company I’d probably have everything in the Philippines with the exception of a few guys here, hire a few local superstars. Any other advice you want to give someone who wants to build a team in the Philippines?
John: Do you want me to talk about how I find good people?
Guillaume: Perhaps. Yeah, that’s a good thing because I think the first step is to realize this is a good country to outsource from and that you’re going to have the same issues that you have with people here. Sometimes the first hire is not the right hire and you need to hire again. There’s a hiring process or a filtering process which gives you more hiring power so sometimes it can help get the business off the ground. Also, from an e-commerce point of view, sometimes customers want to hear about the latest and greatest technique and strategy and what’s hot right now or what’s working right now. But I like a very holistic view and analysis of the business but very often it is actually the founder that’s blocking the growth of his own business. He needs to delegate more and that’s where the Philippines can really come in. Though you have a limited budget you can still go there and unblock your business. So filtering people would be a great topic.
John: Okay, so let me start with a couple things that aren’t how you find them. So everybody wants to hire a team starting with one person. This is different from hiring someone that’s going to sit next to you in the office. It’s a virtual thing. If you haven’t done it before, at least do it once and see if it works for you, because it doesn’t work for everybody. Like for some people and their personalities, this just doesn’t work. Next, my recommendation for people is to hire someone to do something that you know how to do, that’s the first thing. Everybody wants to hire someone to do something you don’t know how to do, everybody wants to hire a programmer, or you want to hire whatever it is that you don’t know how to do because you’re really good at what you do. For most business owners it’s the worst advice I see given, which is stick with what you’re really good at and outsource the rest.
I’m a programmer, I graduated in computer science. Should I just stick with programming or should I run my business and outsource the programming? I should outsource the programming. So my advice to people is, outsource something that you know how to do. That’s the first person you’re going to hire to do whatever it is for you. And what you’ll find is, posting your job is easier, interviewing is easier, hiring is easier, giving training is easier, giving feedback is easier, getting it done is easier, and then you get time back. Which is such a different concept than outsourcing the rest where you’re doing your work and you’re managing things that you don’t know how to do and so you’re not very good at managing it, because it takes time to do that.
Guillaume: I really like that. And if you know how to do it like you’re doing right now that will free you time. Versus if you’re not a coder and you’re going to do coding, well, you still haven’t earned any of your own time back, maybe producing reports or
John: Yeah. So that’s how I start. And that’ll make the rest of what I’m about to say much, much easier. So here’s how I do this, I’ve defined a role and I have a task in mind and so I know what the skill is. So go to OnlineJobs.ph and search. Search for your skill and spend five minutes looking at 20 or 30 profiles. You don’t have to look into them in detail, you’re looking for a couple things, number one, what skills exist here? Is this the skill that I’m looking for, is this even possible? And chances are you’re going to search for your skill and you’re going to find more than 1000 profiles with that skill. And then you’re going to start looking and noticing some patterns like, people that know this also often know this other thing. So people that know e-commerce also know Amazon AWS, or they know FBA. People who know Shopify know this or people that know Magento they also have whatever it is. So you’re looking at what skills exist and what patterns am I seeing in skills and the things that I’m looking for. And then you’re looking at salaries, because most people when they start you have no idea what to pay, what should I be paying? I’ll just tell you that I have 40 people that work for me full time, they make between 450 and $2,000 a month for full time work. And at 450 you have beginner or lower end people doing data entry. At the higher end you have people running Facebook ads for me, or a really high end designer, or a really good programmer or stuff like that, like the higher end skilled things and then everything in between.
So you’ve determined, does the skill exist? How much should I pay? The next thing is to post the job at OnlineJobs.ph and then let people apply to your job. When you are looking at profiles you are going to look at 20 or 30 profiles and it shouldn’t take you very long, each of them is going to take you only a few seconds. If you find ones that you really like you can pin them. And then after you post your job you can go in and message them directly those ones that you pinned and say, “Hey, I’m looking for a person that can do this, are you interested”? So the wrong way to do this or the way that people love to do this is to look at a bunch of profiles and pick out, “Oh, you’re the one I’m going to hire. I’m gonna message you”, like you narrow it down upfront and then you never hear from that person. Because that person that you just found is working for you or working for me, and a great thing that you said about the Philippines is that they’re very loyal. So that if they already have a job and you message them the chances of them not responding to you are pretty high. They don’t just jump ship when they get another job offer. That’s a big deal.
So instead, contact a bunch of people and you’re not looking for the best person, you’re looking for the best available person that you can work with. And that’s important because you’re hiring a person here and personality matters. Like that guy that I hired in 2005 still works for me today. I love him, I love working with him. Well, I’ve had other people that were really skilled but I just didn’t like working with them and that’s really hard when you’re talking about I’m going to work with you for 10 years.
Guillaume: Yeah, think long term. If it’s not working well will you tolerate this for the next 20 years or 10 years? The answer is no, he was a wrong fit. So somebody may be super-skilled, but it’s just not a match. Or sometimes even in a company you have some kind of a rockstar but the guy is toxic so you’ve to get rid of that superstar even though productively he was awesome because he’s demoralizing the rest of the company and their whole productivity is going down. So there has to be a fit there for sure.
John: And you can find that out in the recruiting process. So here’s what I do next, when I am lazy, I mean, nobody wants to hire. And so I developed my entire process here based around how little time can I spend doing this and still get a great result? So when I go to hire someone, I mean, I’ve done this enough times now, I don’t really question, ‘Am I going to find someone great’? I’m pretty damn sure I am. So here’s what I do, people apply and everybody who follows my instructions in the job post I will reply to them. And I will reply to them with 2, 3, 4 questions and I’m going to let them respond to my questions. And I’m going to do this five to 10 times where I send them varying questions in an email and I’m going to watch them respond. The reason I do this is because this is a virtual relationship and it’s going to be virtual. I’m never going to have a face to face conversation with my team. I don’t do it. I mean, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten on a phone call with them since 2005.
Guillaume: Wow. Brilliant. So you’re a writer?
John: I am not a writer, I don’t like writing. But I don’t like the idea of let’s schedule a meeting, let’s get on a meeting, let’s talk this out. I don’t like that concept more than I don’t like writing.
Guillaume: Then I’m just too interested to now ask, how do you communicate? Is it just like [Inaudible-33:59] whereby you record a video and they watch it whenever they
John: Yes. Almost always. To me five people in a one hour meeting is not a one hour meeting it’s a five hour meeting. Was that worth five hours of time? That’s so much and so I don’t do it. I don’t have deadlines in my businesses so that’s a big deal. We don’t have urgency unless the website’s down or something.
Guillaume: Yeah, you’re already a published successful product and you just roll it out whenever you want to roll out.
John: We roll updates, we roll out features, you’re right. So here’s what I see in this virtual relationship. I’m going to recruit virtually and here’s here’s what I’m looking at, if I send you four questions in an email and you only respond to three of them, well, the chances of me assigning you four tasks and you only doing three of them is really high, it doesn’t work for me. If I send you an email today and it takes you three days to respond, well, three days to respond after I’ve hired you just doesn’t really work. I don’t see you coming into the office and that doesn’t work for me. But if you respond twice a day, like, if you respond to me once when you first get to your computer in the morning and you respond again at night then that’s awesome, twice a day that’s so great. So that’s another thing I’m looking at.
I’m looking at how well does what you’re saying in your responses correlate with what you wrote in your profile? Because it’s reasonable to have a friend to help you write your OnlineJobs.ph profile, but it’s not reasonable to have a friend respond over and over again. And what I have found is that if I get 30 people applying to my job post and I go through this process which takes, here’s another piece, a live interview takes 30 minutes. Maybe it takes 20 minutes for the interview and it takes 10 minutes to schedule and show up and get it going and bring it down, so it takes 30 minutes. It takes me 30 seconds to send an email. If that’s so, especially if I copy and paste, the first set of emails goes off really, really quickly. Then what I find is, the more I ask the more people drop themselves out of the recruiting process, the more I drop people out because I don’t like what I’m hearing. Then I also get to see their virtual personality, like, am I excited to get an email from this person? Or, oh, I have this cringy feeling that I don’t want to open this email. That’s not the person I want to hire. And I’ve seen that if I go through this process I will end up with one to three people that are going to work out super, super well for me.
Then I give a test task. Here’s the other side of the live interview, Filipinos don’t want to do a live interview with you, they’re scared, and this comes back to ‘shy’. If you try and do this in the beginning, you’ll try and schedule 10 interviews, five of them won’t schedule, they’ll just drop out. Then of the other five that do schedule three of them won’t show up. And that’s because they’re scared. They’re scared of being embarrassed in front of you. They know they’ll understand you because they watch American TV, they watch the NBA in English, they watch Dancing With the Stars, like they understand English really, really well. Their word, you won’t understand them even though some of their English is just flawless. Some are not. But if you do this at the end of the process, once you’ve emailed them a bunch of times they start to trust you and now they’re willing to get an interview. Of those who you feel good about you can spend a little bit of time with instead of doing it with 10 people.
This whole thing takes me two to three hours total time across a few days to find a great person. And then you know you’re negotiating salary, you’re negotiating time off, you’re negotiating working hours, you’re negotiating whatever it is you want to negotiate, when are they going to start and then you say, ‘When can you start’? ‘I can start tomorrow, sir’. ‘Sweet. Here’s your first task’.
Guillaume: Yeah, I really like that technique. Because you can also template and standardize it, by the way I use it too. But we had only three such templates before getting them on the interview, I see you go way further. But you’re right, you just pre-template it so you just take 30 seconds to send an email and see whether they replied, and all those questions you would ask them in an interview. Here in America with the super hot job market that it is, right now it’s an employee and not an employer market, it’s not as good especially if you’re talking about engineering jobs and so on. I mean, you cannot do that here right now because they’ll have another job in two days already and you cannot make people jump hoops in this kind of market here right now. But I see that what you’re saying works in the Philippines right now even in this market, because we’ve been doing it with OnlineJobs.ph with the saved templates there in your system. And this way we could filter out people like where it says, ‘This job requires attention to detail. If you’ve read this line, send me back whatever’. So that’s another way of filtering people if it’s truly a job that requires attention to detail.
John: I put that in every job post. Every job post has something that says when you apply, make the subject line of it, role name dash your name or whatever it is, or I might say include the word Cadillac in your title.
Guillaume: Yeah, put a photo of a pink Cadillac there.
John: Not a photo of a pink Cadillac. Maybe like the third email I’ll ask that as one of my three questions in that email, I’ll say, “Hey, will you attach a photo of a pink Cadillac to your response”?
Guillaume: How do you think the person who reads that for the first time will react?
John: Okay, so this is really, really telling. And this is important especially in like the power distance index and the culture. So if they ignore it, it’s not a good thing. They said, ‘This is weird I don’t think he meant this, I’m not going to do it’. That’s not a good response. A good response is, ‘This is weird. Okay, I’ll do it. Here you go, attach a picture of a pink Cadillac’. A really amazing response is, ‘Here’s a picture of a pink Cadillac, but why did you ask that? That’s super weird’. Then you’ll know that they’re willing to question. That’s awesome. That’s super cool. And that’s why I do that, that’s why I do something really weird like that.
Guillaume: So you want to see which level of execution they’ll give you on that. Ignore or reply or also try to understand why? Why did he ask that?
John: And it’s rare that I’ll get someone that will question it. But when I do, at least I know that their power distance index is lower, which is awesome. It doesn’t mean that they’re the right person. You still have to deal with personality, you still have to do with skills.
Guillaume: But you gain points there and the total for who’s the best candidate available to hire right now. Okay, I do like that process, it works well and it saves a lot of time. And again, you want to save your own time in recruiting people. Okay, let’s say, what about working hours? Is it reasonable to say, hey, you should work on US Eastern Time Zone or should you try to sort of avoid that and what kind of impact does it have maybe on their family lives and all that?
John: So that first person I hired the agency said to me, “Do you want him to work on your time”? And I was like, “I didn’t know that was an option? Sure” And so they said, “Great. He will”. And a couple of weeks in he was awesome. But he sends me an email and says, “Sir, I’m so scared but I need to ask, would it be okay if I worked on my time zone instead of yours because it’s affecting my health and it’s affecting my family and it’s affecting my work, it’s not working very well for me, but I’ll continue to do it if you want me to sir”. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, there’s nothing you’re doing that requires you to be on my timezone. So yeah, you can work on your timezone”. So what I’ve seen since is, these are humans and working the night shift is hard. However, there are a lot of people in the Philippines who work the night shift and they’re used to it. There’s a lot of call centers there. You have T-Mobile and Comcast and tons of people that have call centers in the Philippines and so you have a lot of people already working the night shift. And if you require someone to work Eastern Time, then in your job post say that, that this is an Eastern Time shift. And I want you online during that time, so I would prefer someone who’s already working that.
So the Philippines is different from Montreal. They’re on the equator, the sun comes up really early and it gets hot really early. So it’s not uncommon for them to get up at 4:30am, it’s just normal. So they’ll start working at 5am and 5am is sometime in the afternoon for me. And what I find is other people are night owls and they just want to stay up all night and so they’ll start working at 4pm and that is 9am for me I think. So I find that most people will overlap with me at least for a couple hours each day. So if I want to communicate with people live I can, I almost never do. So we have some people who work the night shift, customer service so we can cover around the clock shifts. But most of my people just work whenever they want and I find that I overlap with almost every one of them.
Guillaume: So just a few hours of overlap daily would be like a reasonable ask, maybe they’ll work a little bit in the evening but at least they don’t have to do like a crazy night shift and affect their health and all that.
Guillaume: That makes sense. And when you pay them would you say that you should offer something extra like health insurance and all that or we just go straight with like, ‘Well, you just pay that off with your salary, here’s your monthly salary’?
John: So in the beginning I just recommend that whatever you worked out, just pay it. Don’t go overboard. One of the great things about this is, there’s no requirements here. That first person was through an agency. I was paying them 750 bucks a month and they were paying him 250, I didn’t know that and he didn’t know that. And today it’s like, you’re going to pay the agency $2,000 a month and they’re going to pay him $600 a month. So there’s that piece of it, it’s not that big of a deal but it sucks. It sucks for them, it sucks for you.
Guillaume: Yeah, especially if the agency is making more than the guy actually doing the work, you know?
John: Yeah, which they always are. There’s always at least a three times markup.
Guillaume: Borderline unethical.
John: Well, I mean, it’s hard to run an agency.
Guillaume: I mean, if it was just staff placement not if it’s actually agency work. That the middleman agency is responsible and liable for the quality of the work and has guarantees and warranties then surely markup three times.
John: Even staff placement is hard. I’m not going to get into it.
Guillaume: Yeah. Okay, I agree.
John: So when you pay people or what?
Guillaume: Yeah, do you pay extra, let’s say for their health insurance, their entry, and so on or you just say, pay that out of your salary or you offer an extra amount per month for that?
John: So when he quit, one day he came to me and said, “Sir, I can’t handle the office politics at this agency, so I’m quitting”. And I was like, “No, you’re not quitting. That’s not reasonable at all, I love you and I will double your pay”. And he was like, “Okay, sweet”. So he started working for me at $500 a month, which was awesome. That’s all I did, I just paid him 500 bucks a month for years. Then one day he said, “Hey, sir, the dollar was at 50 pesos when you hired me for 50 pesos per $1, now it’s at 38”.
Guillaume: I was already thinking about that before you even said it.
John: Yeah, “I took a 20% pay cut. So I’m just letting you know”. I was like, “Oh, that sucks, let me pay you more”. So that was something I had to recognize, I need to pay attention at least to the exchange rate somewhere. So there’s these four things that are potential here and I’ll talk about this really quickly. ‘I would like to pay my PhilHealth’, which is their socialized health insurance in the Philippines. It’s not health insurance. It really just lowers their bills when they go to the hospital and it is something they all want to pay and something that they’re all supposed to be paying and it’s pretty cheap. And I was like, “Okay, cool. I’ll add a stipend to your salary”, it was like $30 a month or something like that. ‘I want to pay my SSS’, which is their Social Security. And I was like, “Okay, cool. How much is that”? It’s like $10 a month. “Okay, I’ll pay that”. And then years later, I found out about PAG-IBIG, which I had no idea what it was. But it’s like their home loan fund that everybody pays into and then when you go to get a loan, you can get a loan from the government. It’s like $6 a month. I was like, “Oh, yeah, okay, I can do that”. So I started doing these three things and it’s not that much money and you can’t pay it directly, you can’t pay the government. So we add it to their salary and ask them to send us a receipt. And I asked my team, “What about someone forging receipts and just taking the money”? And they’re like, “Why would you do that? You’re just cheating yourself, that’s so dumb”. So I don’t know, maybe they could be forging receipts and sending it to us and just pocketing the extra money, whatever, you know, that’s not my issue. I did it so that they could pay their SSS and their PhilHealth from their pocket.
Guillaume: Pay whatever you want with it.
John: Yeah, I’m paying for his benefits, it’s cool. It’s super easy for me, I just add to their salary. Years later, our team started asking about health insurance and so we started doing that. It costs us $400 per person per year and that’s pretty reasonable. And this is like HMO, it’s like when you have a copay when you go to any doctor or whatever, it covers them pretty well. So again, these are totally optional things. You do not need to do this in the beginning, keep it simple until you realize, ‘Oh, yeah, I have this amazing person here and I love them and I want to take care of them’. Even then I never talk to an insurance company. I told them to find the insurance company, tell me what you want to do and we’ll pay. We’ll just give you the money and you send us the receipt.
Guillaume: Right. Sounds good to me. Let’s say when you want to pay your staff there are various options, what do you think is the best option? Also if some of those options have fees then who do you think should take on the fees? Should the Filipino get the fee if you use PayPal or do you also cover that fee for them?
John: There’s a bunch of different options. PayPal is the most well-known. But the more people use PayPal, the more they realize this is crappy. Like there’s a lot of fees involved here. PayPal takes 5-7% of the exchange.
Guillaume: Yeah. It’s important to break it down for your audience because it says 2.9% on the website but that’s not exactly it because there’s also a 1% extra for international, and then you may have additional fees to look into as well.
John: Yeah. So the two that I always recommend are Wise.com, which is really, really great. It takes a little bit more setup than PayPal because you’ve already done the setup work of PayPal. It’s still pretty simple. Wise is a really great service in general. We built EasyPay and that’s why I’m telling you second so that I give you something else first. We designed EasyPay, we partnered with Payoneer and it’s built into your OnlineJobs.ph account, when you’re on an OnlineJobs.ph account it’s free and it still works, you don’t have to have a subscription to pay your people with EasyPay. So we negotiated with them a whole bunch of things, we push them on things so there’s no transaction fee. Wise and EasyPay are about the same on their foreign exchange rate and they’re both the best in the industry, it’s about a 2% foreign exchange cost. Otherwise, it’s not like Xoom which is owned by PayPal. I would advise people to never use Xoom. I still hear people using it. I know that over the years they’ve just kicked people off because they say, we’re our family remittances and you may not send business transactions. You’ll be using them and then all of a sudden one transaction won’t go through and you’ll be like, ‘Well, what do I do’? And there’s going to take you two weeks and then your person is struggling to eat.
Guillaume: Yeah, I guess Xoom is sort of like Western Union more or less?
John: I don’t know what their deal is. They were intended for family remittances which Western Union is similar to. Western Union is another option for sending money. Actually over the years Western Union used to suck, they had like a $20 fee or whatever.
Guillaume: Sometimes even more than that and they’ll ask you a question, they’ll cap you and then it’s hard to send the money but it works.
John: We used Western Union a few times and they were pretty reasonable, like their fees and stuff were all pretty reasonable. We don’t use it. So we use EasyPay or Wise, and EasyPay is built into OnlineJobs.ph. So when you mark people as hired, it’s right there, you just pay and it’s super simple. Wise is also pretty simple.
Guillaume: And there’s bank wire transfer as well which has downsides.
John: Yeah, that’s more complicated though. Because usually there’s more fees. A wire transfer is going to cost you $45 for the international wire transfer. My bank charges me $45 for an international wire transfer. So that makes it prohibitive right there. But maybe yours is better.
Guillaume: Well, the default package was for that and they have different packages. So I have one at 15 bucks per wire now, so that makes sense. But you have the default one which is in the 35-45 range depending on the bank and the package. Same bank, different package, 15 bucks per transaction. So that kind of makes it available as an option as well for us. That’s pretty good. So a shotgun question, anything else top of mind that you’d like to share with a company that’s going to start hiring people in the Philippines?
John: Yeah, I have two things. We have people listening to this that are at varying stages. You have people that are super experienced in hiring who know exactly what to do. You have people listening to this that have never hired someone and it’s their first time. If you’re still nervous about hiring someone, you’re nervous about making mistakes I’ve laid out my hiring process in detail, like, all the questions that I ask, and what I think about and how I choose the first task and whatever. That’s all available at onevaaway.com. It’s $49, one time ever and you can use it as many times as you want. But once you go through it once you’ll know exactly what to do. I guarantee you’ll find someone great or I’ll give you the $49 back. It’s really good. So that’s one thing.
Number two is, this isn’t for everybody. I said that already but I’ve seen enough personality out there of people that are like, ‘Oh, man, they suck. I sent them this simple thing and they did it all wrong and I’ve fired him’. If you have no tolerance for mistakes or for people or whatever, then this isn’t going to work for you. And for a lot of people you kind of don’t know where you fall in line if you’ve never had people working for you until you try it. So it’s a leap. It wasn’t a leap for me, at least. The first time I hired someone it was definitely questionable for me, it was hard. It’s something you just don’t know until you try it. You have to try it. And whether you use an agency or whether you use OnlineJobs.ph, or whatever, I don’t really care. I just love to see you try and hire someone because if it works for you it’s amazing.
Guillaume: Yeah, I agree with that and it is really about hiring people. So a great summation as you said, we can hire people there and it’s giving you more leverage, because you can say, maybe I can afford a person that would free my time here locally. I can afford to have someone here to help me and then you start the process and as the business grows, you will also hire some people locally and you will also grow the local economy. So it’s just like a win-win situation for everybody. And, of course, it’s hiring people so it’s not a magic bullet. So you go into this and you click resume and boom, I’ve hired and the magic bullet guy is going to just fix my business for me. You still have to put all the effort into structuring it, and the process and the training, and so on. And yes, for your pitch there’s the One VA too, I didn’t use it but it has very reasonable pricing overall for all of your recruitment offers there for the crazy amount of content that you’ve put on it. So it’s actually a great work that you’ve done because I don’t know if there’s a lot of other people that I can say they’ve impacted that much like a country alone. You’ve built a whole OnlineJobs.ph website and now you have millions of people using it. There’s an impact even at the country level from the website, it’s pretty big.
John: Yeah, with 2 million Filipino profiles it’s like 8% of the workforce that have a profile there. And I know that we’ve brought hundreds of 1000s of jobs. I mean, there’s 100 million people in the Philippines. It’s a big deal and it’s cool for me every single day.
Guillaume: Yeah, you’re literally helping people’s lives. I think there’s a good human mission on the side of the product mission there, which is a very nice combo. So we’re coming on top of the hour, anything else top of mind that you’d like to share with people, John?
John: You just have to jump in. Most people listening to this are going to say I’m not ready for that, which is cool. I get it. That’s what I did. I’ve never had someone say to me, ‘Oh, I wish I would have done this later’. Almost every day I get an email from someone that says I wish I’d have done this sooner. This is so amazing. But you have to do it with your timing.
Guillaume: If somebody wants to get in touch with you, John, what’s the best way?
John: Yeah, so the best way is through email. You can email me [email protected] I hate social media but you can contact me through social media. What will happen is that someone on my team will take a screenshot of it and they’ll email it to me and I’ll respond to your email. Because I don’t log into Facebook or Instagram even though I post on there all the time. I think I don’t really know, email is the best.
Guillaume: All right. Well, thanks for sharing all your knowledge with us today, John, thanks for being here.
John: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s been fun.