Anthony Bowers – Inception of Tallant Asia

Ep 194 Anthony Bowers

Second-time guest, Anthony Bowers rejoins Derek to deep dive into his reasons for doing business within the outsourcing industry.  Anthony is the founder Tallant Asia in 2016. He’s an Australian guy who has lived in different countries in Asia for 20 years and in the Philippines for the last five years doing offshoring outsourcing.

Summary:

  • Anthony has worked in an outsourcing company and he enjoyed seeing Filipino staffs into fulfilling careers, and at the same time being able to help clients grow their business. He then decided to put up Tallant Asia in Cebu Philippines sometime in September 2016.
  • There’s a great talent pool in Cebu from the Visayas and Mindanao region. As he interviews candidates, he was impressed at their high-level English, and he found the skills set he needed for his Tallant Asia.
  • The location is a total package not only for his business but to enjoy life. He discovered that Cebu is a beautiful place with gorgeous resorts and beaches. When clients come to train staff, the island tours to resorts and diving spots like Malapascua is super bonus itself.
  • Anthony is seeing more demand for CAD engineers, and other specialized skills in graphic design, 3D Animation, and front-end production roles. He adds that with technology, there is no limit to what can be achieved online, the online production line.
  • SMEs can benefit from outsourcing in so many ways. Owners have more time to focus on growing the business. Their business can benefit from shared IT structures and talent pools at the least possible cost.

Key Points:

  • SMEs need to experience and try outsourcing as a way of doing business in the modern world.
  • The advancing computer technology opens the way to online employment or outsourcing jobs and functions that can be performed in front of a computer monitor.
  • It pays to consider outsourcing location for the total package, do business, live more and have some fun in one location.

Reference:

outsourceaccelerator.com/194

[email protected]

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Hi, and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore, and this is Episode No. 194. So today I’m talking to Anthony Bowers of Tallant Asia. We actually spoke to Anthony previously in Episode 189. So, go back and listen to Anthony’s own journey, his own story. Today we deep dive into Tallant Asia what it offers business owners in terms of the outsourcing services they provide and what he advises in terms of how to get into it, and also what are the roadblocks that he has experienced with people getting into outsourcing. We talked a little bit about the kind of articles, concerns and considerations that everyone has that seems to be so commonly raised. So, an interesting conversation with Anthony. If you want to get in touch with Anthony or know any more about this about this episode go to our show notes at outourceaccelrator.com/194. Enjoy!

Hi, and welcome back everybody. Today I’m excited to be joined by Anthony Bowers again of Tallant Asia. How are you Anthony?

Anthony: Doing very well, Derek. How are you?

Derek: Great, great! And so, we’ve got you back because I want to deep dive into Tallant Asia. We spoke to you previously about your extensive experience across China, Hongkong, Philippines, for the last almost 20 years now. You truly embedded into this society and you founded Tallant Asia which is an outsourcing service provider at the back of your kind of transformative experience, I supposed. So, without wanting to paint your picture can you maybe just introduce yourself quickly to the audience?

Anthony: Yes, absolutely. I’m staying in Asia for the last 20 years now. For the last five years has been in the offshoring outsourcing industry. So, I was working for another company up in Pampanga for a few years. And that was my first introduction to outsourcing and offshoring. It was a great experience in many ways, I enjoyed learning about the industry. I enjoyed seeing the Filipino staff into really fulfilling careers and also I enjoyed seeing the great benefits that we provided to our clients’ circumstances then. It was such that I decided to branch out and start my own company down in Cebu. I think we officially started sometime in August 2016, or September 2016, so it’s almost at the three-year mark.

Derek: Congratulations!

Anthony: Thank you. It wasn’t easy at all to start the business. We’ve been through a lot of hard work and a bit of luck and good foundation client and then start up from there. And I move from Pampanga to Cebu because I really felt that there was a great deal of talent in Cebu and that just coming from me talking to candidates, etcetera.  I felt that their English was really high level, lot of talented people that Cebu draws from around the Visayas region including from Negros and Mindanao. So, you got a wide talent pool. And I don’t think it is as competitive as you have a number of BPOs you have up in Manila. So, a lot of compelling reasons. Now, I’m having a good, stable internet here. They need some improvement on things like the road infrastructure. But I think that’s a Filipino across the country issue, and not only in Cebu.

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Derek: Yes. And for all accounts. It’s a slightly better lifestyle down there. You’ve got a good dose of beaches and sunshine on the door step.

Anthony: Derek I’ve got a lot because that was the plan. My life has been the business. I haven’t had much time for anything else, although recently I have started to explore and its’ just an absolutely beautiful place. We went out to the whole and there’s some gorgeous resorts there, beautiful beaches that are just an hour or two away from Cebu. Even in Cebu itself, if you travel up north to Bantayan or Malapascua, which is an island, again, you’re looking about three or four hours, but it is just majestic. And I just got back from Dumaguete. So, I traveled south to Cebu and travel across to Dumaguete where we went to Apo Island, most snorkeling with sea turtles and, just blown away by just the gorgeous beauty of it. So yes, that was part that I am starting to enjoy that. And also, I don’t think I sell it properly enough. And again, I alluded before that I have someone in Australia that’s trying to help me with that but getting people to come up to Cebu hopefully as well as seeing, hopefully seeing and training their teams so they can spend some time looking around at what Cebu has to offer because I think it’s got some of and it’s not just me you got, I think Cebu is like number three in the world for island paradises.

Derek: Yes. I think this isn’t a travel show, but I think the Philippines really is, it’s one of the most underrated off the radar countries in the world, isn’t it? And, you know, talking of my own experience probably 5-10 years ago, just no one speaks of the Philippines, notice of the Philippines. Certainly, from Australasia, everyone goes to Bali for a holiday, Thailand for holiday, and Thailand’s tourism are at sight or at least tenfold bigger than the Philippines. But there’s such incredible beauty here in the Philippines. The level of English language is super high. Cultural alignment is super high. And so again, I’m super positive for the future of the Philippines because I think that it can and should have the same tourism numbers as Thailand enjoys now. There’s just so much potential here.

Anthony: Absolutely. If anyone has ever been to Malapascua and know what I’m talking about and I’ve never come across such beauty and the diving instead of scuba diving and everything is just breathtaking.

Derek: Yeah. I mean it’s rated like the top kind of one, two, three dive spots in the world, isn’t it?

Anthony: Yeah. Correct. So, when we heard about clients, when they do come up and kind of enjoy that as part of it. And we do think that’s a compelling business case for it as well being in Cebu because you can offer that. So, it’s like, yes, you come up train your stuff, do the work you need to do, but also enjoy this gorgeous world class tourism and potentially with your own staff, to do an offsite somewhere.

Derek: Yeah.

Anthony: Best places to do it.

Derek: And it’s often I think if you get people to the country and actually seeing the people, seeing the people that are potentially working with it, it can be a game changer because people realize actually, there’s incredible human resource potential here. And without being kind of too blunt, it’s kind of 10% to the cost. It’s incredible opportunity, isn’t it? But anyway, so Tallant Asia, you know, you were introduced to outsourcing in about, what was it, 2013 and then you learned so much and felt that it was so kind of a transformative that you have opened your own venture called Tallant Asia. Where do you see yourself fitting in? It is obviously a BPO and you’re offering just generally kind of back end services, is that right?

Anthony: Yeah, that’s right. I mean we’re a generalist BPO and we offer the back-office services to staff, that’s why the clients, really around the world, but we only have three markets at the moment around Australia, Hong Kong and the US. But there’s no reason why we eventually can’t also branch out to UK and really wherever there’s a need. We don’t have a specialization in the beginning. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, right? I’m sorry, when I said we don’t have a specialization at the moment and I’m not saying that’s a good thing. There’s a lot that I didn’t know.

Derek: Yes, yes.

Anthony: You don’t really know until you actually get into it. I had thought that within a year we would have eventually formed around an industry vertical and potentially an industry role in that vertical, it just hasn’t happened. So, we’ve got very garden variety BPO work where it’s customer service and our very first client who’s still with us, we provide 24/7 customer service for that client, that’s still going strong. But then it branches out into different areas. So, we have really successful outbound marketing and business analysts’ roles. We have very successful graphic design and front-end production roles. I’ve got accountants working for Hong Kong accountants. I have this really brilliant one. So maybe you want me to deep dive into it. My favorite role is probably the CAD Engineer.

Derek: So, I actually from a bird’s eye point of view, I see so much, so much demand for CAD engineers, a 3D animation. What’s your view on that as a supplier of those skills then?

Anthony: Absolutely, there’s a wonderful place for it. I don’t know what it is, I’ve been looking into it. I think it’s because there’s a massive ship building industry in Cebu and there’s also a ton of construction works. And so, it’s really a large pool of very skilled CAD jockeys or what we call architects and we already got one at the moment, and it’s been really successful, and I just love it because it shows what can be achieved. So, the Australian company is a German guy who lives in Australia, stayed there for years and he has a fabrication line in Sydney. So, architects and other people will send Word data, etcetera to our guy who sits in Cebu. What I didn’t realize was that his role is also to argue with the architects and go, “No, you can’t do that because the whole thing will collapse.” Which I thought was fascinating, so they do their backwards and forwards in. Eventually, they come through a decision that it’s all going to work. He then does his work on advanced steel, which is either an AutoCAD thing, and produces work, clicks the button, and that is sent to the shop floor in Sydney and steel is produced that ends up in construction sites. I just think it’s a really beautiful example of what can be achieve.

Derek: And that’s a large part of that effect for its production line over the internet, isn’t it? Large power production line executed by the highly skilled staff here in the Philippines.

Anthony: Yes, entirely. And again, it goes back to technology. The technology is such now that it can be done online.

Derek: Yes, yes.

Anthony: Where I’d say even up to maybe six, seven years ago, it couldn’t have been full sizes now even for things such as category or stage where online is an option.

Derek: It’s now becoming irrelevant, isn’t it? Where people are sitting and, almost it’s just becoming irrelevant and we suggest that basically anything that can be done in front of a computer monitor can and potentially should be outsourced and more and more functions, more and more businesses are all being done in front of monitors, aren’t they? That’s all kind of everything’s at computer interface now.

Anthony: Completely. There are no location barriers anymore. Only artificial ones. But with the technology the way it is, I really think in 10 years we wouldn’t be talking about offshoring or outsourcing. We should be talking about employment.

Derek: Absolutely.

Anthony: And I think that’s going to be one of the major shifts and what I think is also fascinating is shifts of where countries may have been a production center such as India who announced going into marketplaces for production centers. An example of that is that we service a Hong Kong client and that client is in the financial services space, and one of their market is India. And they’ve been very successful with the team with us selling into India. That thing is wonderful. Maybe payback for the calls from India, but it’s really interesting to see that type of fluidity and what can be achieved.

Derek: And again, that is the nature of outsourcing, isn’t? And maybe why you haven’t specialized because the sky is literally the limit and literally any role can be outsourced. And so, it’s not just about getting dodgy call center drop outsource, but essentially about business solutions and figuring out strategies for businesses to prosper, isn’t?

Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. And we have staff who have virtual assistants for small businesses back in Australia and Hong Kong and they’re incredibly critical to the success of that business and they committed to the client. We already did full time roles, so that staff member really views himself as an integral member of the client staff. The client also in time feel that and that’s a real win-win. The other area where it helps the client businesses is that it provides a focus on understanding and documenting the workflow and procedures of the company. Now for a startup and a small business it’s quite often never done. And also, surprisingly for larger businesses, they don’t have proper runbooks things aren’t written down. So, when you ask them, like, well, “where’s the manual for this?” “Oh, there’s no manual. This is always the way that Jeremy’s done it.” Or, “this is always the way that Kathleen has done it.” And, that’s just how it is. Now, that’s really difficult for a company to scale under any circumstances. And it’s certainly when you try to offshore it, it puts a really hard focus on it, which is beneficial for the clients’ business.

Derek: Absolutely. So, in terms of the business side or the business end, we have done a white paper on this and we’ve effectively aggregated the number of SMEs, small to medium size enterprises, in the high-class English-speaking world. There’s about 35 million of them employed, about 100 million people with a 60 trillion-dollar combined revenue. And I suggest that none of them are outsourcing maybe, maybe half a percent, maybe 1% of those SMEs and most of the BPOs and most of the growth within the outsourcing sector I think has happened with the SME sector. But why isn’t everyone outsourcing already? And you had been involved in B2B sales, outsourcing now for some years. And of course, no doubt a major part of your business development in your own outsourcing is getting people to try it. Where do you see the major hurdles in outsourcing and why isn’t everyone doing it already?

Anthony: I think there are multiple reasons for that. I’m just thinking about the numbers. I’m thinking of I’m okay with a few percentage points.

Derek: That’s big, that’s big numbers.

Anthony: Huge numbers. There are many reasons, so let’s have a look at it. There are a couple of obvious ones that people go to like colloquialism and trying to protect, project jobs etcetera. I think it may be a more fundamental business reason for that. We only have startups and small clients at the moment, a few growing into more medium size, so we understand that space pretty well. I think the number one issue and why it holds people back, not just in looking at offshoring but in all aspects of the business that if you’re a startup or a small business owner, you can very easily get caught into working in the business rather than on the business. And what I mean by that is getting stuck into the day to day running of the business. I understand that because I fight against it, which is kind of funny being in the offshore industry myself, right? But I often find it’s really difficult for me to be able to step back and have a looked at the bigger picture stuff, the vision, where do I want this company to go? Especially if you are a small business owner, if you’re running your own show, it’s really hard, isn’t it?

Derek: It’s hard, isn’t it? It really is hard. I think we all buckle up with that.

Anthony: It’s massively hard. And also, being able to let go and to properly delegate is a massive issue and I think that’s probably the number one thing about why small and medium or startup is small, and some medium businesses haven’t looked at offshoring because they simply don’t have the time, or they don’t have the head space to look at it. Whereas for larger enterprises have teams of 100 dedicated to offshore. Now what has happened is that there’s a trickledown effect where larger enterprises have shown that it can work. So, I forget when the genesis was in the Philippines. I think it was 1992 with Accenture in Manila. I may have…

Derek: Yes. It’s about right in ’92, ’94 is about when it started.

Anthony: And that was the genesis. So, it’s taken good two decades.

Derek: Yes. And also, businesses couldn’t afford it previously. Certainly, SMEs because it took a hell of a lot more infrastructure, lot more capital investment. Whereas now I think it is just turnkey again because of the technical interface and dropping costs of…

Anthony: Entirely. You don’t have to have enterprise level IT to be able to globally sourced and have global work done anymore, it’s just how it is. So, there’s been a trickledown effect there where the larger enterprises have shown that it can work. And then if you’re a small business, why shouldn’t you have access to the same talent that the larger people have, all right? If it’s available to you and it can be done properly, there’ll be teething problems, may have staff issues here and there, like everywhere.

But in the long run, you do get a very effective team who previewed, producing really high-quality work for you. Just why wouldn’t you? Right. It just makes total business sense. And then you get into whether, what is it that is a barrier. Then you start to get into things like, well, outsourcing is wrong because you’re a slave driver, right? Now, the genesis of Tallant and where it all started, even back when I was working for another company was the work that I had done, and my business partner had done with abused domestic helpers in Hong Kong, right? We’ve seen some horrendous trend of stuff that people knew, I mean if people knew what was going on there, but that’s a real sort of story right there. I mean, [inaudible 00:20:40], but there were some pretty shocking cases about the Filipinos and Indonesians. And so, in what way can we potentially provide an option for people?

Now if they still want to be OFWs and they want to work overseas, great. You’d go right ahead. Because it has provided an awesome source of income for the Philippines, but so has offshoring. The offshoring I think has overtook OFW remittances in 2016, if I remember correctly, I may be corrected. There maybe was…

Derek: Yes, that’s quite right, yes.

Anthony: And so, we thought, well, this is a great industry if it’s done right, and if it’s not exploitative, then I want to be a part of it. Now, given the background of Tallant, the fact that we started this because we saw exploitation in its worst form. We wouldn’t, or I personally wouldn’t have anything to do with anything that was exploitative, that’s not happening. But if I can provide really good work for people, provide meaningful careers for people, provide career growth, great office work, great environment, and also provide an excellent service that provides growth and scale to the client countries and the client companies and effectively will save them in a globally competitive environment then I’m really comfortable with what I do. And I would stand up in front of anyone and present a case of why it’s really important. And why there is nothing in this world that is going to stop it.

Derek: Yes, absolutely. No, and it really is, and I think it’s difficult for whatever business people or communities in the West really to feel very empathetic about you helping people out in the Philippines because it’s another tribe, it’s another country. But you know, it’s better than charity, isn’t it? The effects of outsourcing are profound. People are getting educated, they’re sitting in high quality offices there on a career ladder. They’re able to properly educate their children and it’s pulling what was a pretty desperate developing country into the first world. So, it’s really an incredible turn of economic event, isn’t it?

Anthony: Yeah, it certainly is. And I’d go back to what I think we touched on before, it is profound for the client company. So, but profound for the production countries and whether that’s the Philippines, Vietnam, India, wherever it is. The effects are massively beneficial. And likewise, the effects on management, massively beneficial for the client companies and the client countries. This is about protecting Australian companies in a globally competitive environment and that has to be had at home because you go back as to why more small businesses or startups have done this. And I think it’s because I have a misconception about what it’s all about. That by employing people in the Philippines that they’re somehow contributing to an exploitative arrangement, nothing could be further from the truth of the talents. And I think for the vast majority of BPOs Derek, I can’t speak for all of them, but I think the vast majority are providing really great careers. And also, you’re allowing your company to compete and to thrive and it just should be the… and again, I think that it is changing, will change where we’ll not been talking about offshoring and we’ll be talking about employment. I would not shy away from the word outsourcing. I think a lot of people have policies of not to mention the word, I don’t agree with it. You know, let’s not try and be what, what’s that Harry Potter guy? Baltimore or whatever he is. I mean we shouldn’t have a fear of mentioning the name because I don’t there’s anything wrong with what we do.

Derek: Yes, absolutely. It’s a branding issue as well, isn’t it? Part of what we’re trying to do is essentially brand and position the Philippines as the Swiss banking of outsourcing because I feel that everyone, as soon as you mentioned outsourcing, everyone says all those dodgy phone banking, customer service calls that are so frustrating. I think it is kind of a hangover from when it started 20 years ago. I’m sure quality was probably pretty bad, but this is ongoing hangover that really isn’t fair or representative to the industry anymore. And the Philippines really, and this is why I think like Tallant Asia, people buying into outsourcing, they’re not just buying a bum on a seat. They are buying into your experience, buying and tapping into the 20 years executive experience that the Philippines has in outsourcing. And that’s huge kind of expertise that goes along with that.

Anthony: Absolutely. And one of the things that I guess was eye opening when I worked for another company, in Pampanga and its eye opening always. It’s the amount of experience and business knowledge that is fed back to the client company. So, it’s not just where there’s this information being taken from the client company to the Philippines, which happens at the beginning, but when things go well and if the staffs were trained properly and if they have an environment where they are okay to open up, then you see massive input going back into the client company in a positive way. And I think that was really something that open my eyes.

Derek: Yes. And now it’s all on a positive trajectory, isn’t it? So then in a sort of nuts and bolts kind of functional application then if people are convinced, if they want to give it a go, if they’ve got over there, assumed ethical issues with outsourcing and they want to get started, how do they engage with you? What is the common engagement? How does pricing work? What do you suggest help people get their foot into outsourcing?

Anthony: All right. It’s really interesting one. All of our clients have tried outsourcing in some ways. So, they have normally gone through one of those outsourcing websites…

Derek: Like Upwork.

Anthony: …Upwork or something like that.

Derek: Which really isn’t outsourcing, isn’t it? Well, I’m trying is to differentiate between the two…

Anthony: Yes, it hardly is. So that’s what they did They dip their toe in the water of some type of remote work and really next step along the line, we have quite a few steps along the line and where people want a managed work environment. They want people working in offices. They want data protection and all those sort of things. And then they understand that there will be an increased fee because we have a management fee that we put on top of the salaries and the other really important thing is that we comply with all Philippines like laws on taxes and all those things and sort of that stuff. And I think that’s a very important part of our type of BPO.

And so how do you engage? I think the first thing people are interested is that we don’t have a long-term contract. It’s basically the first thing that I say to an interested person that’s looking at our services and again, it’s about alleviating the fear of being stuck with us for a long time. Yes, we ask people to give us a try for three months and then if they want to leave, they can give us 30 days’ notice with the understanding that if the staff member hasn’t worked out for whatever reason because sometimes it doesn’t, they won’t also be stuck with that staff member for three months. We don’t often get that happening, but sometimes it happens that you go through the whole background checking and interview process with the staff here and with the client and if it doesn’t work they’re not stuck with it, we’ll find another work for that person and then you can try somebody else.

Derek: And how does the pricing structure work with you then? Because there’s so many different pricing structures in outsourcing as there are probably outsourcing roles. What do you have, do you have a range, do you have like a menu system? Are there kind of flat prices or how does it work?

Anthony: It’s a flat price structure. I mean, we often thought that potentially we should change that to maybe tier pricing for different roles because once you get into some of the higher end software development roles, they’re running some fairly good money. And therefore, our fee becomes a very small percentage of that. But at the moment we have a flat fee so the way that It works is that you take the salary of the candidate. We multiply that by a percentage and that percentage takes into account the government mandated benefits, Pag-Ibig, SSS, and whatever. It also takes into account that we provide private firm HMO for all of our staff, and that’s non-negotiable. So, we have a platinum level HMO with one of the large providers here and it’s really important for staff retention. And so, we take that salary and we have to multiply for benefits then we have a flat fee. And that fee covers the seat costs. It covers the cost of doing business and then there’s a very small leftover for our profit. We break that down to the clients. So, it’s totally transparent. We want them to see the whole thing. And then there’s a final, the total of those three components is the final costs.

Derek: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much. An amazing insight. And again, I think if we’re certainly both convinced, but I think it really is people just need to give it a go. People need to, I believe, at least, just consider this thing. And it really is one of the most transformative tools in business today. And if anyone wants to get into touch with you Anthony, how can they do that?

Anthony: Well, they can go to our website which is tallant.asia. That’s tall ant. So, it’s T-A-L-L-A-N-T.asia. Or they can send us an email at [email protected]. And we would be happy to talk to anyone out there that’s interested, and we do try to make it as easy as possible for people to give it a go and without being oddly committed and hopefully the actual experience will get them committed to looking at offshoring as really an integral part of their business strategy.

Derek: That was Anthony Bowers of Tallant Asia. If you want to get in touch with Anthony or know any more about this episode go to outsourceaccelerator.com/194. And if you want to ask us anything then just drop us an email to [email protected].

Listen to more podcast episodes here:

  1. Top Twelve Tasks for your Virtual Assistant
  2. Eileen Juan – Takeaways in Operating a Business in the Philippines
  3. Angela McDonald – Building an Effective Recruitment Structure

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