Kevin Thompson – Philippines: Creating Opportunities and Transcending Diversity

Ep 127 Kevin Thompson

Derek is joined today by Kevin Thompson of Open-Look. They will deep dive into Open-Look and discuss the services that they offer.

 

Summary

  • Kevin is originally from Southern California, then he moved to the Philippines back in 2010 for work.
  • Open-Look started in April 2012. Open-Look is focusing right now on clients from US and Canada. They have 250 employees and about seventy-percent sixty to seventy-percent are in their telemarketing department.
  • Open-Look’s services include; audience development work or telemarketing, graphic design, and data research.
  • Kevin mentioned that most of their clients come from business to business background. In these cases, subscribers have to qualify to receive the publication and it’s a qualification based on profession. They are then required to call these people to confirm and get their opt-in to receive the publication.
  • Kevin briefly discussed how Open-Look generally works and the overview of the prices of their services.
  • The biggest value that an offshore model provides is that it is very cost effective.
  • Kevin mentioned that they are looking into the idea of Open-Look producing its own publication because they see some opportunities in creating their own magazine. This will also further justify their business model

 

Key Points

  • According to Kevin, the benefit of the offshore model really is the price. It’s more cost-effective.
  • The beauty of the Philippines is that your businesses do not sacrifice much and that the cultural differences are not what many people would expect from a foreign country.
  • Their ambition as a company is creating opportunities. They also love the idea of being able to work with people that may not have other options.

 

Resources

 

Transcript

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Hi and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast, my name is Derek Gallimore. And today we are joined by Kevin Thompson of Open-Look. Kevin joined is in the previous episode discussing more about his personal journey and thought on the media sector. Today where doing a bit of a deep dive into Open-Look which is a, what is it publishing niche publishing for niche sectors, predominantly U.S. facing and effectively they have all of their backend operations here. It’s a really interesting conversation. Even if you’re not into sort of print media or that sector, there is huge amount that you can learn here, a specialized outsourcing opportunity and how that can be engineered from another country across the other side of the world. So really interesting conversation, I enjoyed my time with Kevin. If you want any of the show notes then go to outsourceaccelerator.com/127.

Derek: Hi and welcome back everybody. Today, we’re lucky to be joined by Kevin Thomson again of Open-Look. Hi Kevin

Kevin: Hey Derek. Thanks for having me.

Derek: Pleasure, pleasure. Thanks for joining us. And Open-Look is, I’ll let Kevin explain this. But it’s a niche a continent publisher basically so Kevin you have been in the Philippines now for about 8 years now. You were down in Cebu which is the, I suppose the second City of the Philippines and you’ve seen a lot of changes but can you just introduce yourself and you know how you found yourself in Cebu.

Kevin: Yeah definitely I’m originally from Southern California in the U.S. and have moved out here. I was moved out here in 2010 to be permanently stationed. It was supposed to be one year. Ah man. Eight years later I’m still here what brought me out here was working with the company that wanted to establish an office. And sent me out here to help build the team and then I’ve kind of taken that and we created Open-Look about. Almost six years ago back in 2012. We decided to form Open-Look. So, kind of changed the plan and kept me here a little longer.

Derek: Yeah, Fantastic. And just sort of reframe that I suppose the group you first came over with, that was a captive where they were doing it for their own requirements. But then you saw the potential in effectively offering as an outsourced service to other clients directly.

Kevin: That is correct, yes we were strictly offshore model back then when I was working with the previous company just providing the services internally basically.

Derek: Right.

Kevin: So, we saw that opportunity and branched off on our own.

Derek: Fantastic and Open-Look now has been going since 2012 did you say?

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Kevin: That’s correct. Yeah we started April 2012.

Derek: And well there’s three of you partners, three of you from the U.S. Can I ask you? What is your client base? Like you typically focusing just on the U.S. or do you find that you are kind of truly international service offering now.

Kevin: We have done from some international work but our main focus currently right now is U.S. based, U.S. and Canadian.

Derek: Right, good and what is the essence of your product then? How, how does it differ from I suppose like content agency or a design agency.

Kevin: We’re kind of all three in one. I guess so one of our uniqueness is we really cater to the publishing world. The magazine world specifically and, and kind of the three functions that make up Open – Look would be what we refer to as the audience development work and traditionally kind of work traditionally refer to as telemarketing. A lot in the circulation work. We’re doing a lot of us subscription renewals and then the second a major function would be graphic design. We’re doing complete magazine design and layout for both printed and digital copies. And then these third element would be data research. So, we’re doing, I kind of try and say it’s kind of the step before after automation. So we’ll take list same really review them. Any kind of make sense of them or find some missing pieces that are, that are overlooked by some software out there and capture specific date a point where there’d be contact information or demographic information. Things in that sort. So, those are kind of the three main functions that we cater to.

Derek: Right, so just, deep diving instead a little bit further. Effectively, your product is content publishing or almost magazine publishing to make it seem simple. But you then do far more intense. If you actually create a user base. So, you’re actually reaching out to people you or you’re kind of following it up with the revenue side of the model as well.

Kevin: That’s correct, I mean we can’t. You know our product is pretty much is manpower right that’s what we’re offering but the services cover on a broad scale pretty much any function that’s required to put a magazine together from start to finish. We offer the one thing that we don’t do a lot of is content generation in terms of actually writing articles. But myself and my two business partners we all come from the traditional publishing world. So, we’re very familiar with the different, you know elements that it take the put a magazine together so. That’s kind of how we structure the company in a way they really caters to the three. To those three areas east.

Derek: Fascinating. And the common sort of business case then and is that it’s. You’re producing like industry periodicals like a kind of monthly publication that you would get industry players to sign up for subscription. Is that the kind of typical business model?

Kevin: That is correct yeah we kind of you know we kind of just kind of landed in that industry where a lot of our clientele always coming from that business to business background. So, in these cases these subscribers have to qualify to receive it and it’s a qualification basically by profession. So if you need to be, you know a specific job title or job function. Our company functions so we’re required to call these folks and confirm and to get their opt in to receive the publication.

Derek:  Right, right and are many of them sort of fascinated about this whole fact about how many of them paid publications for a lot of is there is a lot this free media or with advertising funding.

Kevin: We do both but there’s a very big market for the free publications. And the way they do that is they audit they’re not to get too in-depth. But these publications will hire you know an auditing firm that basically come in confirm their readership, their circulation. And in order to do that, you need somebody like us that’s going to you know one of the ways you do that I should say is to get a company like us that’s actually able to physically call these folks and get their opt in. And then at the same time we’re capturing some definite demographic information related to their business that can mean very, quite, you know substantially depending on the information the publishers looking for.

Derek: Fantastic and is that common is that a common business model to kind of like wrap to the publishing function with the customer outreach, customer developments, that side of things. Or is that something that you have evolved into because you know as you said you’re in the kind of the human resource kind of game I suppose.

Kevin: Right so you’re seeing to go that way. I mean what our value is I mean. We’re working with publishers that have circulation of in the tens of thousands fifty sixty seventy thousand. So it requires really high call volume. You know, so in the more you call from the publishers aspect the more you can define their audience and capture this data and make sure these people getting really do want to receive it. It just increases the value of their product. So but it requires a lot of people to make those phone calls.

Derek: Yeah, yeah. That must be intense, huh? And what is your call right because I suppose it’s an interesting kind of function because you’re not actually you don’t really selling on the call are you? You know you’re actually just kind of connecting with the user base.

Kevin: Correct yeah it’s not for new employees and such you know we really position the type of work is it’s not a cold call. In many cases these folks that we’re calling on a very familiar with the publication or at the very least it’s very relatable to their profession. So there’s that aspect of it. And then the secondary you know it’s very survey like you know we have typically three to five questions that we’re asking then specific to their business. Nonintrusive, it’s very you know high-level type of questions so. You know it’s very easy call, in the in the sense of comparing it to some of the traditional telemarketing which are really hard selling and you’re having to capture you know credit card information and things of that sort. You know we were blessed we don’t have to deal too much with that and except from the pain side of things.

Derek: Yeah how many call agents do you have yeah but.

Kevin: So we we’ve got right about two-hundred-fifty total employees and about seventy-percent sixty to seventy-percent. I would say are you know telemarketing department. It’s our biggest department.

Derek: Yeah, it’s huge huh? And for all the entrepreneurs out there is there an opportunity to do you actually can you, for the people that have a, you know very viable and successful business model. But no magazine and no mailing is necessary to do you offer the service of effectively creating that and creating the mailing list.

Kevin: Oh yeah.

Derek: So you can take it from scratch.

Kevin: We can yeah we’ve done that a few times and I’ve helped people kind of develop their audience of who they want to go out to so we definitely can work with that.

Derek: That’s fascinating model and then sort of course we’re just bring this back to outsourcing. Could you see the model ever reversing and you moving back to the States and having your 250 staff based there and doing the same functions? How do you compare the sort of pros and con of you doing it in Cebu versus the U.S.?

Kevin: It’s definitely something that’s, I can’t say it’s necessarily in the business plan. As of right now, but it’s definitely something that that’s been discussed. And it’s there’s a lot of value. That comes with it because not everybody’s comfortable with this offshore model and you know we respect that. So in order to have the onshore. You know workforce is definitely valuable and it adds another element of uniqueness. You know. And then of course the benefit of the Offshore model. I mean it’s it really kind of boils down to the biggest thing of being price, right? It’s more cost effective with this model. The beauty of the Philippines is you don’t, sacrifice much you know that the cultural differences are not what many people would expect just simply being in a foreign country. So, not much trouble.

Derek: Fantastic it really is incredible and I mean the sort of comparable salaries must be significantly different to what you what you’d end up paying in California.

Kevin: Correct, yes you know. So our kind of competitor on from an onshore model would be the freelance model which can work. Definitely you know and that’s kind of one of our thing is we never kind of wanna force the client into a particular way to get the job done. You know. But one of the differences between you freelance model and our type of model is you know in an outsourcing model the employees are your employees and they come to the office five days a week. Just like you would you know, in a traditional setting? Where freelancers in many cases they’re working multiple project so on and so forth. So you know they’ve definitely pros and cons to both models. And you know just I think people just wait whatever works best for them. You know.

Derek: Yeah, absolutely. And yeah it’s a fascinating model. Is it common within your sector to have both of the sort of publishing function but also then the like client development function?

Kevin: We yes, we do. We do see some clients cross over and you know they’ll start working with us under one function and then add in some of the other functions that we offer. So that’s. That’s kind of our goal. Yeah.

Derek: Fantastic. And well and can you give people a, If people are interested again with viable business is out there. How does it generally work? What is the engagement like? And then also, can you give an indication on prices?

Kevin: Oh gosh it’s really tough because of the services is in the needs differ so much and kind of one of our things that we really we because we’ve seen this says in as in you know an industry of opportunity and unserviced. You know we really want to try and make it work. Our ambition kind of as a company is creating opportunities. So we love the idea being able to work with people that may not have other options. So, we’re flexible when it comes to that. So really kind of the, you know order to get started. You know one of my partners Mike he kind of focuses on the Open-Look client development aspect. So, typically the process starts with him and we kind of review needs in and things of that sort and see what kind of solutions we can bring for them. You know. And of course we have. You know you we have a cost that we need to cover and everything like that. From a design standpoint, our prices range, I would say from twenty dollars US to thirty plus. Depending on the complexity of the job, from a telemarketing standpoint you’re ranging. It can really vary, I hate we like the price out per record. That’s kind of effective for us and what that means is basically, we only charge the client first successful calls. Meaning if we are able to capture the information they want us to. And you see all pretty wide spectrum there is well of anywhere from about a dollar us to for five dollars again depending on the complexity.

Derek: Yeah that’s incredible value, isn’t it? Because I’ve done a little bit of telemarketing in the past and it’s actually. It’s just difficult to in touch with people, isn’t it? It’s difficult for people to pick up the phone.  It’s difficult to get past… And if you’re actually just getting paid for the result it’s that’s incredible value, isn’t it?

Kevin: Yeah it’s and it is challenging it definitely you know the game is changing we’re having to evolve a little bit with it. You know but again having such a niches that we work in and really targeted people helps. You know kind of combat some of those things right off the bat.

Derek: Yeah absolutely, absolutely and yeah one final question. But I mean it a lot of people come out here scratching their own niche. And as you did with the original company. But do you also produce your own publications. What do you just find it sort of cleaner and simpler to just be an agency for other businesses?

Kevin: It’s interesting, we have produced some of our own some kind of special issue things over the years. We’ve produced are own a partner of mine does produce a magazines and the U.S. as well. That you know uses our services for. We are kicking around the idea. We see some opportunities out there to actually create a new magazine right now. So we definitely thinking about it. It’s something I would love to get into. I think it just further justifies the business model. When you’re not only you know not only producing it for other people but producing it and using your own services for yourself as well. Yeah and you know again, we’ve seen some audiences that I think we can cater to as well with some pretty valuable content and information. So something we’re definitely giving a really hard look at and hoping to get off the ground here in the coming year.

Derek: Yeah, it’s fascinating that, it’s just also on trend as well, isn’t it? The whole kind of monthly subscription the kind of like the drip feed of things. It just seems to be all so on trend, isn’t it?

Kevin: Yeah the subscription model make sense from a revenue standpoint no doubt.

Derek: Fantastic okay incredible thank you for your insight Kevin and if people want to get in touch and want to know any more about you or Open-Look, how can they do that?

Kevin: Definitely, you can always check out our website at open-look.com or more directly with me. You can email me at Kevin my first name @open-look.com.

Derek: Fantastic and of course all of that be in the show notes. Thank you so much Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you Derek appreciate it.

Okay. If you want to get in touch with Kevin or find anything then go to our show notes it’s at outsourceaccelerator.com/127. And as always if you want to ask us anything then just reach to us on email that is at [email protected] See you next time.

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