Management Coach & Hiring Virtual Assistants, Mads Singers speaking in Glasgow

A transcribed version of video below.

Thank you guys. So my name is Mads Singers, which is a super unusual name, around here at least. I’m from Denmark originally but I left about 16, 17 years ago. I’ve lived in the Glasgow area. I couldn’t find anything rougher than Greenock so I spent about five, six years up there. The last five years now, I’ve been living in the Philippines.

Now, I’ve been around the SEO world and the online business world for quite a few years. My background was very much corporate, I used to work with big companies like Xerox and IBM. I’ve done various management roles and interesting corporate things. Alluding to what Craig mentioned in the beginning, one of the things I’ve always found with Glasgow was, it was very hard to meet smart, amazing people because they are always hiding at home. So, one of the things when I first moved to Glasgow, I opened LinkedIn, searched for interesting roles. I think I messaged about 100 people. I’m like, “Hey, do you want to have coffee? I’m doing talent. I’d love to meet some cool people.” And I think about 20 said okay so that was at least the base of my network here.

I then found a whole bunch of other great avenues such as Toastmasters, and alike, where I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ll definitely echo what Craig started out by saying, and really say, get networking! When you meet people today, get meeting them again. Set up a session to work together some time. Get to know people. Wherever it’s in your own industry or different industries, it’s from a business standpoint to have been one life’s biggest successes.

Management Consultancy Company

So, about five, six years ago, I quit working with IBM and I started my own management consultancy company. I had kind of started a couple of years before, but I went full time in my own thing, and I moved to the amazing Philippines because living in this area, the sun is not what you see the most of. I figured the Philippines would be a good place to stay. When I worked with IBM, I used to manage people both in Europe and Asia, so I knew the Philippines pretty well at the time. Yeah, that was a very interesting change.

My focus pretty much since then has very much been on helping online business owners. Helping business owners really manage people more effectively. So a lot of online business owners, they start an eCommerce store or something, and suddenly they find themselves with heaps of people around, and they don’t really know how to manage them very effectively. That’s what I help them do; I help a lot of business owners become more effective with their staff.

Now, I do this in various ways. So I obviously do a lot of speaking. I talk to a lot of amazing people and help share a lot of tips as well as I can. I do a lot of coaching. I even have an online course as well. One of the key things that I’ve found being a big challenge for people was actually finding cost-effective labour.

Mads Singers Virtual Assistants ( VA’s )in the Philippines

A couple of years of after I got to the Philippines, I started an outsourcing company as well, which is currently one of, two of my… well, the second of my four companies. The outsourcing company have been really really good at helping. Initially, it was mostly my clients I was helping, but now it’s really people all across the world. So, the US, Europe and Australia primarily, and really helping get cost-effective labour to help them execute particular repeatable tasks.

If any of you works in SEO, you’ll know that one of the key things is a lot of stuff is very repetitive. Who ever written more than 1000 meta descriptions? It’s so fun, right? Hiring people to do it is a great way of getting a little bit more joy in your own life, and it’s a great way of actually getting to do more with your time, doing what adds the most value. Particularly as a business owner, it’s always about optimizing the inputs you give. If you’re sitting doing repetitive, simple stuff that other people could be doing, you’re wasting your own, and your company resources.

So, how many of you guys in here actually employ any staff today? Can I see some hands? If there is any. Okay, a few of you. So, generally my recommendation… So, I have a lot of people always asking me, “Oh, but when can I start outsourcing?” Again, particularly if you’re in the SEO world, I recommend maybe initially a place like ‘Upwork’ is really good because you can hire people for just a few hours, and you can test it out, and so on. That’s really good, but there is a lot of companies both like my own, but also many other very good companies, where you can actually hire great staff.

Out here in the Philippines, you probably start maybe four or five hundred bucks a month for a full-time person. So that means 40 hours a week, grinding really hard, and again particularly if you’re from a place like Scotland, where the salaries are quite a bit higher, you can afford to let go of staff that you otherwise would not have.

How to Scale your business?

It’s a really, really good way of scaling your business because most of the SEO business owners I’ve talked to, their main problem is they can’t replicate themselves. They’re all trying, they’re like, “I wish I had an army, but I’m so busy doing all this stuff, and every time I get a new client I have to spend all this time!” If you want to build a real sustainable business, you definitely want to start scaling up one way or another, and that usually includes other people than just yourself.

Now, there’s also great service providers that you can outsource to, and get to do pieces of it. Most people tend to buy citations or buy a certain piece of work, content and the likes, which also works just as well to scale up.

In terms of other things, I generally always recommend people to try and niche down a lot. I’ve probably said that to a few people here already, but one of the challenges I see whether you’re an agency, an individual SEO, or whichever, a lot of people always so desperate to try and find work that they say, We’re an SEO. I want to help you, everyone, anywhere!” understand that desperation, however, that means every time you get a new client, you start from scratch. “Oh, I don’t know the dental industry. I need to figure out all the jargon, and to figure all this stuff out.”

Whereas, when you have to pick a niche you put yourself in a much, much better spot. You put yourself in the situation that says, “You know I had this one dentist client that was really good. I want to work with dentists.” If you build a website from scratch, you can literally build a template, and just update the colours, or whatever, make it look slightly different, but you can have pretty much the same structure. You can get content rewritten, but if you know a niche, you know what’s in there. You know it, you can build something that’s easy to copy.

Sorting out your SEO Processes

You can have solid processes whether that is for SEO, PPC, whichever it’s for. You can have very, very solid processes that become much easier to replicate, and hence, you can much easier copy yourself. Because it doesn’t become about you having to figure out every single niche, but it actually becomes about you being able to copy sustainable stuff. That’s definitely one of the biggest advice I like giving people.

It is pretty hard to pick in the beginning. Most people have had a few clients, and I always say, “Go back and look at one of them where, hopefully, you got some success, and build a case study out of it.” When you reach out when you are trying to land new clients: if you call up twenty different companies, you start emailing random companies around you, it’s a lot harder to get a client. If you say, “Oh I build websites.” Because? I’ll tell you why. Eight million other people email them that say, “Oh we build websites!” You don’t stand out.

If you email a bar and say, “Hey! We’re the company that build websites for bars.” And they say “Oh that’s us, we don’t have a website.” Your likely hood of landing a client like that is a hundred times higher. It’s much better to have a large percentage of a small market than to just struggle to get anything in a huge market. Naturally, the tendency, in the beginning, is “Oh, I’ll take any client! Money, money, money! I need money.” As soon as you niche down a little bit, your ability to replicate yourself, your ability to land a client, just increases so much. When you’re starting out, when you’re still fairly small, that’s one of the absolute top tips.

Now, one of the things we do a lot in our virtual assisting company is outreach. How many people in here have done outreach? That’s a fair few hands. It’s so exciting isn’t it? The four hundred emails you send like, “Hey, my name is Peter. I would love a link. I’ll do a guest post.” Not exciting.

Again, with those tools … I mean Ross has some good processes. Again, the more processes you can build around it, the more systems you can build, the more information can build, the better you can get around that. Labour is obviously an interesting aspect, and sometimes human beings help, but one of the things I love a lot is data. Whatever sort of staffing, outsourcing, or where ever you buy things like links – always, always look at the data. It might be that you have a higher response rate if you custom write each and every mail, but if you can send a hundred times more mail by doing it automatically. Again, you have to look at the end result, and see, is it worth it?

Some of the key things that we do a lot of outreach with are that, besides the links and SEO, is LinkedIn. Where we work with a lot of clients, trying to land new business, we’re in the digital media space. One of the key things we see working really well is individual videos, or let’s call it videos. Again, when you target the niche, it becomes a lot easier.

Outsource Linkedin Work

When you send a little LinkedIn message, and you put yourself in front of a camera, [I know it sounds scary]… but you put yourself in front of a camera – “Hey! I can see your work in the real estate industry. We work with people like you. Here’s a case study I’ve just done on another real estate company we work with, where we managed to increase the number of leads they had by eight hundred percent in two months.”

If you show off personally, and I’ll tell you why: so many people get spam in their Email box. So many people get spam everywhere, right? If you include a video, you don’t even have to say your name, but if you’re doing outreach campaigns targeting the same type people, if you do a little bit you will say, “Hey man, I can see you’re working in the automobile industry.” “I can see you’re a plumber.” Or whatever. If you make it just a little bit personable, so it feels that that video is targeting you, your success rate will shoot through the roof.

For most people, you can publish a video in five, ten minutes. Don’t mind that it is rough, the more human it looks, like if it’s perfectly edited and all that, it doesn’t look right. If it is you sitting at home… perfect, right? Make it look real, make people think you talk directly to them, and you will get a ton more success.

Outsource your Web Design

The third thing we do a ton of in this outsourcing company is, we build a lot of websites. And oh my god, I hate that industry. If you build websites, I definitely recommend putting something reoccurring in the back of it because every time you finish building a website, and you have to start looking for new clients, that’s a pain in the ass. Tell everyone that wants to start a web developing company, “If that’s what you want to do, you better be a sales guy, not a web developer, because its ninety-nine percent sales.” For most, ACO’s we work with, and most, sort of digital agencies we work with, I always tell them, “Your best friend should always be web developers. They’re always hungry for money.” If you’re an SEO, and you need clients, go and make yourself web developer friends. Because they build a lot of websites, they gain a lot of trust from people who they build websites for, and most web developers do not know SEO and a lot of these clients.

Clients always have this idea that when they build a website, magically customers will reappear. So, exactly a month and a half after a website is finished and built, you will want to call them up and say “Hey, Russ gave me your number, and he said he built you an amazing website. I just wanted to check if you’re having all the magical time you expected, or if you do not.”

So again, particularly from the website niche, even though we still build a few sites, and I’ll tell you from my experience that that is one of the most horrible industries I’ve worked in. Clients are never happy, but again the key thing we found is that these cookie cutter templates, like build something really good for dentists or whatever, and just copy the same thing. If that’s not what the customer wants, great, that is the wrong customer. But if you can do something with a cookie cutter technique, works great. ‘Webdev’ is a good entry, and I spoke with a couple of people here actually, who do ‘webdev’ upfront and sell SEO, and so on. It is a good entry, but you don’t want to do that as your only thing, because you need reoccurring income to make sure you can go on holiday’s and have a good time without having to struggle with your ‘webdev’.

So that was a little bit of experience from my journey so far.

What would be the difference between using your company, or using something like Upwork?

What’s the difference in using our company as someone like Upwork? The key thing for us is, we only do full-time people. One of the key things for me is when you hire people less than full-time, there are two aspects.

One, they keep also working for other people, and you run the risk of them someday being offered a full-time job with some else. Meaning you have spent months, and months, and months, and months, they know your stuff, and then suddenly they’re like “Oh I can’t work here anymore, someone else wants me full-time.” So, that’s one of the things.

Seconds of all, our focus is very much about finding amazing people. Skills are one thing, but again, for SEO for example, I mean… the actual knowledge… the actual processes of SEO is not particularly difficult. What we’re looking for is really amazing people with the right mindset and the right mentality that can show up every day. Most SEO processors individually are pretty easy to work. Our area in general is high in great people. We have a huge advantage of being underground. We generally help all our clients to make sure that things like, “Oh the Internet’s not working”, “The powers out”, “It’s my grandmothers 3rd birthday this year”, and all those great excuses, you sometimes get from withdrawn systems that they don’t come up. Obviously, sometimes life does happen, but generally, we are underground. We work with people much closer and have the ability to get great people and help manage them the right way. Our clients basically just focus on telling people what to do and how to do it. So, that’s the main difference.

 

Questions and Answers with Mads Singers

Any others?

How do you cope when you hire programmers because each programmer has their own style of writing code. They just say they’ll work for you for a few years, and you’ve done about 100 clients, Then what happens is, they get married, and saying the husbands¬† The husbands says, “No, no you need to stay at home.”

You start over. No.

What you want to do when you find developers in the first place, is you want to make sure that the type of code they write is easy to understand for other people. Obviously, if I’ve built something from scratch, I will know it better than anyone else, no doubt about that. By the way, I am no developer, we have hired a fair chunk of developers.

So, we basically, some of our testing includes checking out their code, and making sure it’s easy for other single developers to read, so that other people can go in, and take over. The worse scenario is not if they have worked with you for three years. The worse scenario is if they do ninety percent of a huge project, and then disappears. Generally, making sure that the code is fairly easy to be readable by other people. We usually have a head programmer that use to do some testing, and looking at the code from other people because again, I am code handicapped. That is also a key way of trying to ensure that that’s useful. With ‘WordPress’ you can quite often get away with it because ‘WordPress’ quite similar, and that’s if you have someone custom build a blog in, or something. You can often get away with it. If you’re going in to develop, or custom work, you definitely want to make sure that its something someone else can go in, and read and understand.

Treat VA’s as Human Beings

Number one is to treat them as a human being. And that might sound very simple, but what happens a lot of the time when people pay a lot less for labour, they tend to treat it a lot less. And the problem is, again, I mean… if you started a company, and you get paid the least, and therefore people treat you a lot less, do you think you’re going to do amazing things? Likely not.

What I always recommend is to treat people exactly the same. You want to make sure you do the same thing, you want to spend the same amount of time with them, you want to treat them like a regular employee.

That is probably the number one area where I see most people fail, and where I see most virtual assistants losing value. It is not necessarily because of their skill, but it is much more of how they are being managed. People look at the costs and they’re like “Oh well, if I don’t talk to the guy for three weeks, I don’t really care, its not that expensive.” But the thing is again, in your current job, or any other job, if your boss doesn’t talk to you for three weeks, it’s kind of off-putting, and it’s definitely not something that is going to help you improve your performance.

Again, number one is really making sure to treat them like a regular employee. And again, when people are not physically with you, like if you walk into an office every day and you talk to people, like “How’s it going?” You get to know people. You need to do something similar when people are remote. You need to make sure that you actually spend good time talking to them, getting to know them, like getting to know the name of their cat, and their dog, and the husband and the wife, and whatever. Again, treat them like a regular employee.

“How do you get the most out of them?” Most people love hours, and while that can work, my key focus tends to be output. Again, one of my favourite sayings is “Someone helps me maintain ground, I am happy to pay them more.” And what I mean with that is if I can tell them what output I’m looking for, I don’t really care how long it takes you to do it. Like if I had someone and I said ” I need you to do forty links per month. I don’t care how you do it, but I need these forty links.” If they deliver forty links, or if they deliver fifty, or sixty, I am super happy.

If they do it in five minutes, by paying someone to do it, I mean honestly I don’t care, I focus on the output. Now obviously time has relevance, and sometimes you are doing things that can be very hard to measure output, and time can be relevant. We do occasionally use a tool called “Time Doctor”, which can be pretty good to track time, but I’d say when you can try to focus on the actual product output. If its writing meta descriptions, well how many meta descriptions do you write per day. We do have at SEO as well, and we have some managers that manage allowing individual sites, and their goal is very simple, how much money is the site making? When this site makes you a thousand a month, you get a pay raise. When it makes two thousand a month, you get another pay raise. You can do it in your time book, but the faster you do it, the more you get paid. The more you can do like that to encourage them, similar to yourself.

One of the key things for me is, most people look at their employees and say “Oh they’re totally different than me.” But they’re not. In most cases what encourages you, and helps you, will help a lot of potential, or current employees of you. Look at yourself, like what helps motivate you? Again, at the end of the day when you are a business owner, you have a natural motivation that very few employees will have. But fundamentally you want to see what other things are working for you.

Just to give you a couple off the top of my head, number one is time with the boss. Actually, boss man is sitting down, showing that he cares about me, and takes the time to help me, or answer some questions or that sort of thing is very important.

One other thing, in most of the countries where you outsource, is that whatever money you pay them, they disappear. It works the same here, but here it’s in the pub. When you outsource, money disappears. Sometimes instead of giving them a bonus, if you do a little upgrade to the internet, or you do an upgrade to their computer, that might both give you better performance, make your staff happier, and generally, get you much better output. This is a little bit technical, but some of the things that we have done as bonuses for would be upgrading peoples hard drives to an SSD, because it makes it much faster, which means we get much better work, which is great. Or adding additional ground, or buying them a second screen or something like that. It’s all things that people like because they feel like its a big reward, and they feel valued, but also it helps your productivity. It’s a great double benefit.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 17 years.

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