Neville Samuels – Technology as a Powerful Tool for Outsourcing
Last updated August 30, 2019
Derek is joined by Neville Samuels in this podcast episode. Neville is the founder and owner of VirtualStaff365 which is virtual staff outsourcing solutions provider. They will discuss Neville’s business background and what brought him to the Philippines.
- Neville is a qualified chartered accountant back in South Africa. Then they moved to Australia in 1994.
- He has been working with virtual staff and offshore teams since 2009 and two years ago he started VirtualStaff365. They help their clients recruit, onboard and retain great virtual staff. Mainly, their focus is on the Philippines but not solely.
- Neville was first introduced to the concept of a VA when his business partner suggested the idea. He then employed his first VA from India. However, it was when they started employing Filipino VAs that there were able to scale their business because they had some structural problems when they outsourced to India.
- They also talked about the apprehension towards outsourcing – that it takes away jobs. But actually, it enables better growth, better prosperity for companies so that they can pay more taxes they can hire more people they can expand more.
- After that, they discussed the growing awareness to outsourcing and fortunately, there’s a whole new wave of a generation of young guys that have their eyes open.
- There is the apprehension towards outsourcing that it takes away jobs. But actually, it enables better growth, better prosperity for companies so that they can pay more taxes they can hire more people they can expand more.
- Technology is enabling a more democratized access to outsourcing
- There is now at least, a low-grade awareness towards outsourcing.
- Outsourcing is really just employment and it’s really just forgetting about where they’re sitting and you hire people now based on meritocracy which includes the cost of that service or within the meritocracy kind of ranking.
Hi and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore and today this is episode number 119. Today we’re joined by Neville Samuels of VirtualStaff365. That is as it says so on the label a virtual staff outsourcing solutions provider. So Neville has a great business background and has been involved in outsourcing about as long as I have actually. So we have a great conversation about you know about our varying experiences. I will leave you to it. We obviously introduce Neville in this episode so I hope you enjoy. If you want any of the show notes, then go to outsourceaccelerator.com/119. Enjoy
Derek: Ok welcome back everybody. I am lucky today to be joined by Neville Samuels of.
Derek: OK. Welcome back everybody. Today I’m super excited to be joined by Neville Samuels of VirtualStaff365. Hi Neville, how are you?
Neville: Hi Derek. Very good thanks. Hi listeners it’s great to be here today.
Derek: Yeah. Thanks for joining us. And Neville as the name might indicate owns a company called VirtualStaff365. And today we’re going to deep dive, we’re gonna look at Neville’s kind of business background and what brought him to working within the outsourcing industry. So you know I had a chat to Neville and there’s a lot of interesting kind of learnings here so I’m sure whether you are looking to use his services or not then there’s certainly a lot we can get from this conversation. So Neville thanks again for joining us and I suppose you know initially Judas want to give us a quick introduction to who you are and what Virtual Staff 365 is.
Neville: Sure. Well I’ve been in Australia since 1994. I qualified as a chartered accountant back in South Africa got married my wife and I came straight over to Australia. So, I’ve been here 23 years. I’ve been working with virtual staff and offshore teams since 2009 and two years ago I started VirtualStaff365 essentially to help give people a time back which usually results in them using their time to get more worked done. The business is a virtual staffing business as it’s named and we help our clients recruit onboard and retain great Virtual Staff. Mainly our focus is in the Philippines but not solely.
Derek: Fantastic and so you’re already a bit of an international guy you’ve come from South Africa and your or your in Australia and you know you’re now dealing a lot with the Philippines and also you know it’s no coincidence that South Africa is quite a prominent outsourcing destination as well so.
Neville: Yeah. We can discuss that, we get into that at some point. So, Virtual Staff is the Philippines for quite a few reasons. South Africa is not there yet in terms of virtual staffing. But it’s certainly an up and coming that’s a bit of a rising star in terms of BPOs and outsourcing and and you know deeper into our conversation… doing in South Africa as well.
Derek: Yeah absolutely. And tell me a little bit about your background. I know that you’ve been involved in business and commerce generally what you know what is the genesis of your involvement with outsourcing.
Neville: Well I worked as a chartered accountant in Australia til 2005 and in 2005 I bought my first business which I sold and exited in 2009. It was then that I bought along with a partner a small business in e-commerce. We kind of saw the market of online retail. We saw it as something that was going to really boom and take off and we bought a slow little business that sold video games and it sold video games on eBay. And my responsibility was the operational side of the business which included customer service. My partner’s role was very much the I.T. and the buying and sourcing of the product. And I had to answer customer service emails and video game buyers who buy their video games online they are very passionate individuals. And for every one game that we might sell, we market two to three maybe even three to four emails from the consumer asking questions whether it’s about the product or about the logistics when we’re going to ship is he going to get it yesterday those sort of questions. I do answer those emails and that was that was almost the beginning of the end because I was answering 50 emails probably every 4to 5 hours. If I didn’t answer those emails, four hours later there’d be another 50 emails in the inbox. It literally just kept flowing. When I woke up in the morning, I do answer 50 emails before I actually got in the car and went to the office. And this went on for about six to nine months. And then my partner said to me Neville, get yourself a virtual assistant. And I did actually it was the first time I was introduced to the concept. I didn’t actually know what it was and then a little bit of research eventually we employed a VA to help me based in India. And it took about I thought it was going to take about three months to work two to three weeks and just.
Derek: And it put them up to speed?
Neville: To get him up to speed. And he actually took over took over. He took over the Customer Service. I didn’t have to worry about my weekends because on Monday morning he would come in here to answer the first three to 400 emails to get them done. He might have even logged in on the weekends to his email so he had it easier on Monday. But that was my introduction.
Derek: And it really is quite life changing isn’t it in terms of how liberating it is. And you know I mean part of it is the fact that you’re outsourcing and that’s great and it’s affordable. But but also I suppose you know the kind of nascent scaling of the business so that you can leverage your time data and do higher value add activities instead of being tied to the email inbox.
Neville: But it’s really interesting that concept because from the time that I was able to free myself up from that particular role in the e-commerce business. And for anyone who is a video game a gamer who’s bought games online, our business was called Dungeon Crawl. It’s the biggest seller of games on eBay and there were times when it was just completely out of control and what it did was it actually allowed us to open up other online retail businesses. We ended up opening up a tool site that sold power tools that we imported from the U.S. and China. We ended up opening in…store because the opportunity presented to us but we had the ability to scale up from the time that we started taking on and using virtual assistants.
Derek: And do you really put it down to that so you sort of put that into scale because of your access to this resource.
Neville: 100 percent. And my partner would agree with that. We had different VAs full time employed by our business doing different things that allowed us to scale. I’ll give you an example. We’ve got a container load of product coming in from China or the U.S. and we have to get that product online and to get that product online and to comply with eBay’s requirements when listing product there was a huge amount of data that had to get entered into the system. The only thing you need to do is you need to do that is you need to have time.
Neville: It also it allowed us to get the photographs directly from our suppliers and handed over to our graphic designer in-house graphic designer who was working in the Philippines to actually enhance those images and make them e-commerce ready, then better.
Derek: It seems that you know you’ve got this first chapter in India and then it just kind of everything clicked and it all fit in place. And then you were just, were you just kind of adding as many staff as you could as quickly as you could? Well it’s like a bit of an addiction, isn’t it?
Neville: Well it only really clicked when we left India and went to the Philippines.
Neville: That’s when things started to change for us.
Derek: So what was your first Indian?
Neville: 2008, 2009. And we started in the Philippines in about 2000 probably late 2010, 2011. I don’t have exact dates but the Philippines was where we really were able to scale. We had structural problems in India. The staff were fantastic. We went through an agency and to tell you the truth the biggest problem was that when we gave these guys a bonus or an increase we never heard from them, nothing. It was, it was radio silence, it was just business as usual. And one day said to one of the guys. Shaba, I’ve sent you an increase, I gave him an increase or a bonus yet you haven’t said thank you. What happened? He said. He said to me in their contract for the first two years any bonus or increase that is provided by the client goes to the agency doesn’t go to the staff. And that actually killed it for us. That left a very bitter taste in our mouths.
Derek: It just shows an immense kind of short sightedness doesn’t, you know, hurt you and unfortunately you know I don’t want to get to typecasting but very commonly in the developing nations you get this tendency to look at short term gains instead of kind of building a long successful relationship, don’t you? And so that’s what you noticed within your.
Neville: Well that’s what that’s that’s quite right. And what actually happened when we went over to the Philippines we just got a sense that they understood what we were trying to achieve. It was a much better experience for us. We were able to source great staff and we had guys doing lots of different things for us. So, one of the things in the video game industry is release dates of product is critical to sales because when Call of Duty a new game is coming out everyone wants it at that time. We would have we had a we had one VA who was essentially, she was a VA to our buying manager of the video game business. And he was scouring the Internet for news. That’s what he did he scoured the Internet. He updated new release schedules. He kept our buyers informed all the time of what was going on. We had data entry guys that were skilled at creating new listings for us the way we went to the new listings created and what did that mean? It meant that my partner and I could go out and we could forge relationships that would help us sell more for example by providing drop shipping solutions to other businesses or tapping into other markets marketplaces you know. Suddenly we’re selling on trade mean New Zealand we’re selling in Amazon in the US. All these sorts of things what we were only allowed to do, only able to do because of this because of the guys that we were employing now
Derek: So you’re really leveraging your time and you’re doing the high value stuff but also then you’re affording space so you can go into your markets and you can basically penetrate, you guarantee revenues on new markets. So it’s I mean it’s fascinating isn’t it in that and because you know there’s there’s a lot of fear and apprehension about outsourcing within whatever the home country is and that that it takes away jobs. But actually it enables better growth better better prosperity for companies so that they can pay more taxes they can hire more people they can expand more. And it really is a win win for all us.
Neville: Well, it is and again it comes to the shortsightedness when people say you’re taking jobs offshore you take it away from Australia. What it actually did was they actually made our business for that period of time more robust gave us more opportunities. We had to employ more people in our warehouse to ship out more goods. We couldn’t have done that without those people and we even got examples off my clients. I’ve got one client that employs VAs in the Philippines doing lead generation. Now lead generation means different things to every business but essentially because of the lead generators that they’ve got in the Philippines they need more people in Australia to make their calls and they need more BDMs in Australia to actually go out and see all these leads. Not all leads are willing to to see to see these guys but they’re making a whole lot more appointments because they’ve got a whole lot more leads. So they need more BDMs to front up to the appointments. So it definitely can and does make businesses stronger and more robust in Australia.
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Neville: There is another side to that that people seem to forget. And everyone seems to forget the little man the small business the mom and dad mom and mom and pop shop working somewhere in Australia are trying to pay the bills. Now we all know that Telstra outsources to the Philippines. We all know that we read the papers we hear that Qantas are moving another 300 people to Malaysia or wherever and no one actually thinks about the smaller guys. How are they supposed to compete with the corporates that have got not just teams in the Philippines you just walk down Ayala Avenue in Makati and you see the minds of these businesses Macquarie bank is high up on one of the buildings. AXA Insurance.
Derek: Yeah, yeah.
Neville: We see them. How is the small guys supposed to compete with? And that’s my market. My market is helping small to medium sized business find more time so they can do whatever they want with their time whether it’s growing their business or going to play golf.
Derek: And it’s really critical because I’m I’m trying to get as many as well I mean obviously I’m focused on the SMEs in the West as well. And outsourcing has been happening in the multinational conglomerate you know the big boys league for 25 30 years now and you know it’s like hedge funds used to be only accessible to the elite billionaires. It’s like you know a lot of tax dodging is only available to the big corporates. And you know outsourcing also was to and I think now the technology is enabling a more democratized access to outsourcing. We’re getting a turning of the tides and all of you know I mean you see Donald Trump suggesting that people shouldn’t now outsource yet his companies have been outsourcing for 25 years. And this kind of like this mentality I think the big boys have been doing it for a long time but now that everyone’s getting into it people are saying no no no we shouldn’t we shouldn’t really allow this. It’s. But yeah. It’s sort of been such a standard process for the big companies for so long. And what I’m trying to say to the SMEs out there is that this thing is real and this thing is probably one of the biggest transformative tools that you can use for your business. And it really needs to be considered. It’s it’s it’s incredible that people still overlook it.
Neville: Well I’m actually finding more and more people to understand what I do when I tell them. So, you know in 2009 when I was introduced to the concept I had no idea what it was. And my previous business was an online business that sold SMS text messages. I was involved in essentially IT and high tech industry. But I knew nothing about this. Whereas now in 2017 going to 2018 and everyone I talk to when I tell someone someone says What do you do and I tell them their eyes open up and they get quite excited by the idea that tell me they know someone is doing that or they think it’s Fantastico. Or they want to know a bit more how do you do it. What is your secret sauce.
Derek: It’s really it’s kind of untrained at the moment I think it’s finally getting to the point where there’s at least kind of low grade awarenesses, isn’t there? And and so people are eager to hear a little bit more. But you know we’ve done a white paper actually on this and a cross kind of 10 primary English speaking Western countries there’s about 100 million SMEs. Sorry 35 million SMEs that employ about 100 million people and you know very clearly just from those numbers I would suggest only kind of one percent of them would be outsourcing if that you know there’s still a huge long way to go isn’t there both in terms of awareness and and active adoption I think.
Neville: There is a long way to go but also I think there’s also that we are also fortunate we’ve got a whole new wave of new generation of young guys coming into business that have their eyes open that they have, they’re a completely different generation. And I look at the way things are doing and I have to embrace anything that’s new. So I think I think the future is bright for for outsourcing. I think the world is getting smaller.
Derek: Yeah absolutely.
Neville: I mean it’s easier to do. And I think it’s more accepted more widely accepted.
Derek: Yeah it’s really becoming one marketplace now, isn’t it? And I think you know a generational, the last generation it was you know you’re from Australia so you do business in Australia with Australians whereas now the kind of youth they’re trading off they’re learning from platforms like YouTube I don’t know, the Internet like there really is no borders anymore, is there? You know they’re buying from Amazon from across the world. And it’s really becoming quite irrelevant where people are sitting.
Neville: Yes I’ll tell you an interesting thing Derek if I knew now what if I knew then before I sold my first business which was an SMS text message business. If I knew then what I know now about what the possibilities were with outsourcing I probably would have never have sold that business.
Derek: Right because you could have leverage things.
Neville: Done things I could have done things with that business that I didn’t think at the time was possible. And in my mind it wasn’t possible but natural fact. Had I known someone like myself and been able to pick up the phone and phone myself in the future and say NEVILLE How would you do this. These are my hurdles. These are pain points. I would have say woah let’s build up a team for you. Let’s build up a team for you offshore. Let’s find our own place. Let’s build up a team and we manage that business that way.
Derek: Absolutely because it’s what we preach this is rather it’s not just cost savings. I mean you do get the cost savings but it’s actually a rocket fuel to your business isn’t it? You know it’s it is the lead gen that you can now afford is the new business development it’s the new markets that you can you know dive into there is so many opportunities, you have better access to more affordable results.
Neville: It’s partly affordability but it’s not only affordability. I’ve got one particular client who’s got eight tech support people here in Australia he pays in between 80 and 100 thousand dollars a year and he just can’t find the right guys to do the job. He says it’s just not possible. He wanted to bring guys in with a 4 5 7 visa that’s tightening. He’s having the real problems sourcing people that can do exactly what he needs to do. And it’s all around hardware and software and customer service tech support. He is absolutely struggling. So what’s his option. He’s now come to me and he said to me Neville we need to build up a team that can support my Australian team because Australian guys are overworked and under-resourced and I need to give them support and I said to him I said to the client. I said, what is the driving factor. What are you trying to achieve here. Is it, are you trying to save money. He said no. He’s not trying to save money. He’s trying to just provide additional support to his team so that when his customers call in with support queries he can give great great customer service and great support to his current clients which he’s struggling to do. So in his case it’s actually more about knowledge. It’s more about having the right people that have got the knowledge and the ability to do it.
Derek: Yeah absolutely. And what I found find with outsourcing as well you know. It’s really just employment and it’s really just forgetting about where they’re sitting and you hire people now based on meritocracy which includes the cost of that service or within the meritocracy kind of ranking. And you know people that are still sitting in Sydney looking at their local geographic pool to fulfill their needs they’re really are limiting themselves when there’s another probably 1 billion qualified or capable people on the planet that people aren’t considering because they’re not within the geographic borders of whatever town people are sitting in. And you know there’s this huge power there isn’t. And when you can kind of suddenly open up your job canvassing to another 1 or 2 billion people.
Neville: But you’d be amazed. You’re absolutely right. And I also think I think maybe the coworking space or the move to coworking space in Australia and elsewhere is actually helping educate businesses. That natural effect location, geographical location is not critical to getting the work done. But I think there’s a long way to still go. I’ve got one client that’s got, they’ve got three staff with, through me of which two are geographically located somewhere in the Philippines nowhere near each other. And the third is really so critical they’ve got him in a BPO in the Philippines because his work requires him to be essentially BPO based. Whereas the other two they work from home, they’re virtual staff. So he’s kind of learned that particular client has learned that they can have staff anywhere as long as as long as the guys can do the work. It doesn’t matter where they where they are.
Derek: Yeah absolutely. There’s this incredible kind of evolution to this isn’t there. And it’s all just positive. You know it’s such a fantastic kind of sector to work in because it’s just almost miracles happen doesn’t it.
Neville: Well the exciting part is when you introduce the concept to a client and it works. It doesn’t always work for everyone. And I’m actually at great pains to tell people it doesn’t always work for people. Some businesses think it’s a great idea because they do see the dollar savings but sometimes just not right for them. But when it is right for them and it just opens up a whole new world to them there is no better feeling than a client that suddenly sees what opportunities they have in front of him because of that. And that’s the rewarding part.
Derek: Yeah absolutely. I agree. It really is quite a, quite an exciting sector. You know when you see people really kind of click and it works for them and they have great staff for you know not a lot of money. It’s really quite exciting. So yeah Neville you’re the guy that has you know you started outsourcing to scratch your own niche then and then you moved into you know into the industry yourself and you now you now have a sort of successful and thriving business within the industry. And I want to get you back and on another podcast episode coming up soon to dive into that. Because you know it’s a common path I think that a lot of people take because outsourcing is so compelling. So again that is VirtualStaff365 and I really look forward to talking to you again about that. If people want to get in touch with you Neville In the meantime to discuss anything or go and see your website. How did they they do that?
Neville: So, the website is www.virtualstaff365.com.au/. My email is [email protected] or you can call me on 0402116606..
Derek: Fantastic. And that’s Australia of course. And of course I will put all of these contact details in the show notes. So thanks so much Neville and I look forward to talking to you again.
Neville: Thanks Derek. Thanks everyone.
Okay, that was Neville Samuels of VirtualStaff365. If you want to get in touch with Neville or you want to know anything about this episode go to our show notes at outsourceaccelerator.com/119 and if you want to ask us anything or get in touch and please just email us [email protected]. See you next time.