James welcomes to the podcast entrepreneur and author Chris Ducker, whose very recent book “Virtual Freedom” fearlessly dispels common myths about virtual staffing and provides an honest guide to building your dream business.
In the podcast:
01:17 – Chris’ hot-off-the-press book
03:37 – Who should be reading it?
05:46 – Questions answered and myths busted
07:39 – Humanizing the virtual employee
08:08 – Off to the races
09:27 – Skill first, or attitude?
11:06 – Letting people shine on their own merits
12:26 – Less hypothetical, more behavioral
14:09 – The writing process and what Chris learned
18:47 – The question Chris has been wanting to answer
20:35 – The rewards of virtual freedom
22:11 – The most comprehensive guide to virtual staffing
23:08 – Game-changing stuff
24:03 – A big James fan
24:49 – An important message from Chris
27:35 – A crucial tip
James:James Schramko here, welcome to SuperFastBusiness.com. Derick decided to introduce today’s guest Chris Ducker, how are you?
Chris: I’m good James, how about yourself mate?
James: Good. How many people confuse your name with the famous Peter Drucker?
Chris: I don’t get that many. I get more issues with the black comedian, Chris Tucker. That one happens quite regularly. I’m very quick to point out that I’m not the actor that only makes a film with Jackie Chan every time he runs out of money, you know what I mean. I would prefer the Peter Drucker one, I have to be honest.
James: Well now that we’ve got transcriptions, we should pick some nice search queries to both of them. Now you’re getting a bit famous lately, you’re getting close to the top sellers list on Amazon from the book that you launched yesterday, hot off the press, and you might want to tell us all about this book in a very short summary, and then we’re going to dig in a bit, ‘cause I’ve read the book.
Chris Ducker’s comprehensive virtual staffing guide
Chris: OK, good. I’m happy to know that. “Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business.” And it literally is the continuation of the outsourcing section of the 4-hour work week. That’s what it is.
It’s where to find, how to hire, how to train, how to manage, how to motivate, how to pay, and how to really just inject a virtual staff into your business that will run on support and grow it.
I’ve been in an outsourcing business for 10 years, and I’ve been kind of within the online space for 4 years now, pretty solidly, almost 4 ½ years. And the VA staff is what is sort of become “Internet-famous” for.
So it was right for me to come out with this book, this particular moment in time and fill in some of those gaps. And it is doing very well, which is really nice to see ‘cause I’ve put a lot effort into it.
James: I’m not at all surprised. We’ve caught up several times in several countries actually.
Chris: We have.
James: Pretty cool. Even though I sort of heard of you for a few years, and I wasn’t sure what to make of you, when I first, you know just prior to meeting you. But when I did get to meet you, I found a pretty sensitive guy there. You’ve actually got some similar view to me on the culture and get the team performing well, but also for them to be happy.
I want to discover some of the things that I picked up from going through the book. And I’ve also wanted to cover some of the topics like who is this book for.
And just before you answer that, I really, totally get where you’re coming from, as you go in deeper on the 4-hour work week, because as I’ve sort of said, you’ve got a girl Friday, and I know that the services that he recommended in that book got absolutely chucked up, because from memory, that’s when I started down this path.
About then, I put in an inquiry, and there was a big waiting list. So let’s just firstly cover this: Who should be reading this book?
Who should be reading this book?
Chris: You know, it’s everyone and anyone that is currently either (a) experiencing overwhelm in the running of a business, or (b) not experiencing the overwhelm but perhaps want to get an additional help that they know they need to be able to take everything to the next level.
It’s for SMEs, it’s for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, consultants, authors, speakers, online entrepreneurs, Internet marketers, bloggers, I mean you name it.
Anyone that’s really doing anything that could do with a helping hand, particularly an online-savvy helping hand to really streamline the day-to-day running and the growth of their business.
James: You have a business called Virtual Staff Finder.
James: Is that already starting to get busy since the book came out?
Chris: It’s still maybe a little too early to tell. I mean we have definitely seen a pretty interesting spike in sales in the month of March. I did a fair amount of podcast interviews and had a little bit other press and things like that and the run up with the book coming out. And we have seen a spike.
But it’s going to be interesting now that the book is actually getting sent out from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and you can pick it up from the stores.
Now that it’s “out there,” it’s going to be interesting to see what sort of knock on effect it has. I mean I can only assume that it’s going to help business.
James: It’s going to be massive. I think it’s a super smart thing to do is to create a fat pipeline from Amazon to be getting yourself on podcast talking about it. Rolling up a red carpet to the front door of your supply.
Chris: Yeah, I mean I do want to clarify, it wasn’t the only reason I wrote the book but….
What James liked about the book
James: No, I know that. I know that. And you actually go to great pains in the book to say that (a) you point out your buyers, (b) you give people alternative choices and the approach they might take to getting people.
I know that the biggest questions I get are where do I get people? How much do I pay them? What can I reasonably expect someone to be able to do? And you covered all of these topics, which I thought was wonderful.
It’s definitely one of the most comprehensive guide that I’ve seen in terms of getting behind, especially the Philippine culture. I’d say that it has a pretty strong leaning towards that culture but that’s because it’s such an amazing place to have your team because of the English speaking and the way job are charged between Western countries.
It’s such an in-depth report and to top that off, pretty much everything I’ve read from everywhere else is utter crap, and so disconnected from reality.
They say you can hire someone for $250 a month, and I know you don’t get a flushing toilet in a crappy apartment for $250 a month in the Philippines.
You’ve put some reality into the picture, and especially, you’ve myth-busted the idea that you can hire one person who can magically do everything in their business while you just kick back in the hammock.
Chris: Yeah. I mean that was actually one of the main reason why I wrote the thing in the first place. To be really really honest with you, because I just got sick and tired of the so called “experts” or “gurus” online, saying you can get one guy from the Philippines for $1.60 an hour to do everything that you need done for your business.
And I call a massive amount of BS on that, and I have done for many, many years. And I think people now are finally starting to accept the fact that if you want bring good quality talent into the business to help grow it, they have to hire for the role, and not for a bunch of tasks.
And yet that Super VA myth, as far as I’m concerned, I’d kick the crap out of it now and say I’m done, you know what I mean.
Virtual assistants are not robots
James: Well there’s also, you mentioned something else and you’re really clear on this and I’m just nodding my head when I read this part, is that these people aren’t robots. They’re actually people.
Chris: Exactly. You don’t look at a virtual assistant as a program that you hit the start button and it sort of gets itself up and gets going. Just like with any other type of employee, whether they’d be sitting in the same room as you, or across the other side of the office from you, you need to spend time with them.
You’ve got to train them, you’ve got to motivate them, you’ve got to hold them accountable, you’ve got to be sometimes a shoulder to cry on if need be, you’ve got to be supportive, you’ve got to be a nice person to work for.
If you do all those things and a whole lot more, then you’d be off to the races.
James: Yeah. I love the races.
Chris: You do love the race, absolutely.
James: I love the race, but we’re talking about Own The Racecourse here of course; my idea is that it’s good to own things. Now, I view my team as a team and I absolutely love the people in my business. They make the business special.
They will take this podcast and they will transcribe it, and illustrate it, and publish it, and then they’ll share it on other sites and even prepare the emails that go out.
My main role is to do the talking, which is definitely the part that I enjoy the most. The power of having an amazing team who are specialists at each of the roles, and there are several people involved in the process, we’re able to create things and share the message.
So I love the message in the book. I think there were two things in the book that I have different opinions about, I’m happy to cover those here if you want to have a little showdown, or…
Chris: Yeah let’s do it. I’d love to hear it.
What should you look for when hiring?
James: OK. Number one, I’m just being cheeky by the way. I always like to put a bit of controversy. I definitely don’t want to do your run-of-the mill podcast with the author/lucky promo kind of thing. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to share a good message.
OK. You suggest a high for skill first and foremost, but I prefer to hire for attitude first and foremost, because I have a very long time frame with an employee and I’m happy to induct someone and bring out their strengths and then train them.I guess that’s one thing we do slightly differently.
Chris: Well I mean for me, an attitude for me, I mean there’s a part in the book actually, which I talked about the the most important components of a hire.
First one being skill. The second being the ability to invest in themselves. So I always ask that question when I interview somebody. What have you done in the last 6 months to invest in yourself, to better yourself? And I want to hear, “Oh, I’ve read these books.” Or I listen to these podcasts, or I went to this course in a community college or the library, or something, right?
And then lastly, I talked about attitude. Now it doesn’t mean that I don’t think attitude is important, I think it is. But I think a lot of people when they get going with outsourcing for the first time, I think a lot of people are in a bit of a rush to start offloading tasks.
Productive team = Productive business
James: Yeah I think we’ve hit on the point here. It really depends on how quickly you need the results, how long a time frame you’re approaching it, and what the long term view it’s in , if you are actually resourced and able to train.
The reason we’ve done really well is that we have been going for 4 years and we had time to bring in people, to train them, to foster their strengths, and to discover them.
A lot of people who I started for one thing, ended up in something else ‘cause we have a philosophy in our business. If you can identify a part in the business that you would rather be doing than what you’re doing now, let us know. So we can move you around and then we can replace the role you were doing.
Chris: And that right there is the exact reason why you’ve been so successful with your virtual team. I guess it’s that focus on cultivating that culture within your company and allowing people to shine on their own merits and do things that they like to do.
Somebody’s going to be way more productive, is going to bring way more value to your business if they’re doing what they enjoy than if it’s just “doing a job” or “doing a task,” you know what I mean. So I love the fact that you have that little guideline internally, it’s great.
James: I actually picked that up from a mega company that I used to work for. I was that person who wasn’t allowed to move from one role to another, and I ended up leaving the company.
Chris: There you go.
James: We don’t have much churn, which is the people who come and go, because we let people move around, and we hire really well.
So second point, and again just being cheeky here…
Chris: I love the way you keep saying it out like that. It’s great!
The art of interviewing
James: Right. One of your questions, I just grin and say oh that is just so Chris. So how are you going to help my company? And it’s very focused. And I know it’s all about you, but when we’re hiring, I like to focus more on the candidate and their behavioral history.
So less hypothetical, more behavioral history. So it’s like, when you come aboard, what are you going to do? I think it’s really easy to answer that one or to fidget.
It’s much harder to answer, so in your last role, what sort of challenges did you have, and what happened, and then what happened, and what did you do then, and how did you react, and how did that make you feel?So these are more behavioral-based questions. It’s really just a refinement on the technique that you outlined.
Chris: Yeah, I think you bring out some good points there. Everybody has their own style, and that’s what makes interviewing such an art form and it’s just like anything else.
Once you do it enough, you get it down. You know what works and what’s not going to work. And for me, you don’t do it pull punches actually.
When you get feedback, and you’re teaching and coaching and doing all the stuff you could do so, so well at such a high level, you don’t pull punches. And I’m the same kind of guy, but I think I have a little bit more brash attitude.
James: Yeah, you have more show I think. You’ve built such an incredible business because of that. Oh, this just sounds like a lovefest. OK, let’s move on.
Putting the book together
James: Now, I’m interested in how long did it take to put this book together?
Chris: Oh, too long, too long. This is probably a conversation for another episode completely.
James: Well, I’m just going for the gold here because a lot of the people in my audience, myself included, are interested in the process you’ve just been through, and we’re happy to do a second episode, especially when you got more data ‘cause it’s day one and I think it hit the top 500 or something.
Chris: I think we’re sitting at around 308.
James: Whoa! Smoking hot! And I’d love to see you hit the top. It’d be good if every single listener immediately goes to Amazon and buys the book. That would give it a nice little spike.
Chris: It wouldn’t hurt.
James: Because you deserve to go up. But what it does do is, it’s basically a great positive result in our community where someone who has significant expertise has taken the arduous task of documenting and putting forward good information where it’s sadly lacking, and gets it out to the market, and the market receives it and says, “Yes. Yes, Chris this is a good book.
We’re going to buy this book because it’s good.” I actually bought the Kindle of it as well. I can’t have too many copies of this thing. I’ve got the advanced copy.
But I want to see you successful because it means everyone in our community could do a similar process and I think we absolutely should have a follow-up interview as to the process and what you learned from the launch, and what you’d do differently perhaps.
The toughest part of writing the book
Chris: Yeah. The planning of the launch was not that tough. Like I kind of knew what I needed to do, how I was going to do it, and who I was going to call on to help me execute it.
Actually, the toughest part of this entire thing, James, was putting the book together itself. Writing a book is not like writing fifty 1,000-word blog posts.
James: Man, I don’t write one blog post. I talk.
Chris: I see. Now, that’s something that I did for about 40% of this book. All of the case studies, all of the spotlights in the book were interviews that I did, with the entrepreneurs that I highlight for their success, and to tell their stories of virtual freedom.
I’ve had so much great feedback from people in regards to those case studies. I ended up cutting three or four out, I wish I didn’t now; I should’ve left them in there.
The fact is that those were recorded and then sent to my editor, who basically had them transcribed and put them into sort of more conversational flow for me to then go ahead and tweak.
Looking back on it, I probably should’ve done more of the dictation and that kind of flow of things, rather than less tapping away on keys. So that was the first kind of learning point.
The toughest part of this whole thing was not, actually looking back, it wasn’t actually writing it. Even though it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, it wasn’t the writing of the book.
It was the editing of the book that really kicked my ass because I was contracted to do 45,000 words by my publisher, and I told him right at the gate, “It’s not enough for this book, you’re going to get more than that.” “OK, well do you what you think is right, and we’ll just look at page count, and edit.” “OK great.”
So I submitted almost 70,000 words. It then got cut down to just over 61,000. And that’s what we finished with. But there’s a huge resource section in there, there’s tools splattered throughout the entire book as you know as well.
So I wanted to add all these things in there, which are going to be really actionable, which I did some of when I was writing, but a lot of, within the editing format.
Man, I think we went through 4 different edits on the book before the manuscript was actually approved by the publisher to go to print. So, the editing was the side of it that really kind of, it just seem like it was dragging on and on and on. It was tough man. I’d be frank with you, that was the toughest part of the entire process.
Now if I had self-published, I would have had obviously the book edited. But I don’t think it would have been as painful as the task as it was going through a traditional publisher.
James: Yeah. I’ve basically taken one of my courses and had it transcribed and had it edited, and it’s close to being done. But I hadn’t had to type a single word, which is…
Chris: I love that.
James: Yeah, definitely the way to go. Now, let’s get back really on the topic of this book and the core of it. Firstly, you’ve done a few podcasts and interviews and that led up to the book and the launch of the book right?
That one question
James: What was the one question you’d really wish someone had asked but they never did and you really had something to say about something?
Chris: That’s really good question right there in itself actually. I think nobody actually asked me what I wanted the book to do long term.
James: Chris, what do you want the book to do long term?
Chris: It so looks staged now, but I’ll take it anyway. I mean I wrote the book to change the mindset of the generation of entrepreneurs that have been led to believe by a society that the definition of success is working yourself into either a hospital bed or a freakin’ coffin, you know what I mean.
I was that micro-managing, 16 hour-a day, 7-day a week, stressed-out entrepreneur, suffering from the superhero syndrome that I talked about inside the book. That was me.
In 2009, I hit a brick wall, burned out, and was absolutely no good to anybody for anything. And that’s when I put the plan in place. To really remove myself from the business by the end of 2010, and that’s exactly what I did.
So what I guess I’m trying to do with the book for the long term is really to get people thinking about, genuinely sitting down and thinking about how they’re running and growing their businesses. Should they be doing everything that they are doing day-to-day from a business owner’s perspective?
If the answer to that is no, then delegate it to somebody else, and focus on the stuff that you should be doing. And I mean that’s what I did, and I now work a 4-day work week, not a 4-hour work week, but I work a 4-day work week. I have done for over 3 years.
I do no longer work Fridays. I have a 3-day weekend, and I love it, and so does my family. And I work maybe 8-9 hours a day. That’s because I enjoy what I do. I enjoy being around my team, I enjoy working on my blog, on my podcast and the rest of it. I know you work a lot less than that.
James: Yeah, it’s a choice now, you know.
Chris: It is, yeah.
James: I bumped into my friendly surf instructor out the front here today. Every day he just looks at me, yesterday he said, “I want your job ‘cause you’re out here more than I am.” And I said, “At least you get paid.”
And then today, he goes, “You really are the definition of a local, you’re in the water every time I come here, this is your patch.” I said, “It is my patch.” And then I went up to the girl that he was instructing and I said, “This guy is the best surf instructor in the world. He taught me to surf just last week.”
And then I paddle off and catch a great wave and disappear. And it’s true actually. He did teach me to surf last week. It’s the first lesson I’ve ever had.
Chris: That’s great.
James: He can’t figure out why I’m always out there. I’m like a fish. And that’s the way I want. I want to wake up, have breakfast, surf, check emails, have lunch, do some content, surf, have dinner, watch a movie, go to bed. I’m happy with that day, and really the message of the book is, it’s a guide.
If you want to do that, you can implement because you’ve revealed probably for the first time ever, and I haven’t really taught this outside very closed groups.
But you’ve revealed what you can actually expect from people, who you would need, what their job roles might look like, how much you would have to pay them, where you would find them, what tools you’re going to use, and what you have to contribute, and how you hold it all together.
And I think that that’s the most comprehensive guide that I’ve ever seen on the topic. I love that you recognize these people are humans and not robots.
At the same time as helping people understand they don’t have to be workaholic, I think you’ve also explained to people that they have to do something.
At some point, especially in the beginning, you’re going to have to put in a little bit of effort for that payoff, and to get to the phase that I’m at. It’s only taken me 4 years. But I’ve gotten there through continual progress, and I might add, 10 visits to my team.
Chris: See that right there, that’s game changes stuff right there. That’s what every business owner that’s working with virtual staff here in the Philippines should do. Maybe not 10 times in 4 years.
James: No, absolutely go and visit them face to face at least once. You will double whatever you’re getting. Once you’re real. Because culturally I think, they’re a little bit scared.
And when they can put a real person to you and they realize you’re human and not a scary robot, then I think that makes everyone have a better relationship.
Chris: Yeah. You’re doing it right. And thank you, for saying all the kind things that you said on the show about the book. You are one of the guys that I genuinely follow. You know this. I’m a big James fan myself.
That’s because you don’t talk BS, you give it straight and the value that you provide for your audience is second to none. So to have you say those nice things about something that I really put blood, sweat, and tears into for well over a year, it means a lot to me man. So I appreciate it.
James: That’s alright. And I want to see this book go well because having a team of 50, I can read through that book and I can agree or disagree with everything in there, and I could say that this book is as close to how I would have liked to have I been able to write a book if I was doing one on that topic.
So you’ve done a great job. Now, is there a message that you really think should be put across if someone were to listen to this podcast, obviously the action step today is go and buy the book. That’s the action step.
But is there something else that you would like to add on that would really enhance the value from someone listening to this conversation.
A message from Chris
Chris: Yeah there is. It never ceases to amaze me how many people skip over this. But right at the beginning of the book, and you’ll see when you get it, there’s an exercise that I asked everybody to do, which is called “3 Lists to Freedom” exercise.
And that’s just something that I did myself when I hit that wall back in 2009. I didn’t realize it at the time, I didn’t give it a name at the time, but now it’s called “3 Lists to Freedom,” ‘cause it’s actually what it did to me.
And I sat down and I put those three lists together, and I talked about how to do it properly in the book and walk you through it and a lot of stuff.
But it still never cease to amaze me when I meet up with people that I’ve spoken with before, I presented in front of the conferences, or they’ve heard me on podcast, and they’ve heard me talk about “3 Lists to Freedom” exercise, and they say, “You know I just don’t know where to get started.”
I don’t know where to get started, I don’t know what to outsource, I don’t know who to outsource to. And I always ask the question, “Have you done your 3 Lists to Freedom?” “No, I haven’t had the chance yet.” Well, that’s where it all begins, as far as I’m concerned.
So that would be my last piece of advice on this. If you do pick up the book, thank you. But more importantly, do your bloody 3 Lists to Freedom, because I come back to those exercises over and over and over and over again throughout the course of the entire 300 pages in the book because it’s that darn important.
James: Oh and just to add some weight to that, in my business, in fact in my highest level mastermind, we have something a 4% activity checklist, which is very similar. And we do it every 12 weeks, and it’s how you continually make refinements or recalibrate.
What are you focusing on, what shouldn’t you be touching at all. And using that, I’ve ratcheted myself away from the things that I suck at or I don’t want to do.
And then I’m only doing stuff I love. I love talking to you so that’s fun, as much as a Filipino loves getting a nice “pasalubong.” How did I go?
Chris: That was good, that was bang-on mate. You’ve been practicing. I like it.
James: Oh yeah. I’ve been practicing. Those little stuffed koalas keep piggy-backing me so I can take them through countries.
Chris: I bet they go a long way here for sure.
James: Yeah. I’m going to give a tip too, alright. How about that? Extra value here. If you have a staff member in another country, please, actually have a conversation with them and find out a few words in their own language.
Be interested in them because it stuns me, occasionally when I speak to someone and they might have had a team member for a year or two, and never once spoken to them on Skype, not know a single word, and have no idea where they live, nothing.
And just that little act of finding out will get you a long way down the track to starting that relationship that’s going to grow your business and get something really good happening.
So, thanks for coming along to the show Chris. I think it’s the first time I’ve interviewed you on SuperFastBusiness, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Chris: It is. It is the first time. And it was all my pleasure mate. I very much appreciate it.
James: You have produced a wonderful book. So head along to Virtual Freedom, and it has a really long extra title, what is it?
Chris: It’s “Virtual Freedom: How To Work With Virtual Staff To Buy More Time, Become More Productive And Build Your Dream Business.”
James: Yeah, and it’s an easy read. I read it in one session. It was easy to whip through and it’s all laid out nice and clear. So thanks very much.
We will catch up and find out what happened on stage 2 if you’re publishing this. For all those publishers and experts out there interested in going through this process, I’d love to get the goods on that one.
Chris: Yeah, it would be my pleasure.
James: Thanks Chris!
Chris: All right, mate!
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