Fred Tshidimba – Staff extension outsourcing with Eastvantage
Last updated August 28, 2019
We are talking to Fred Tshidimba of Eastvantage, which is an outsourcing supplier here in the Philippines. Fred is a seasoned professional in the corporate life and then moved into outsourcing, there’s a lot of value here for people that are outsourcing or people that are considering outsourcing and everything in between.
Eastvantage business solutions
Eastvantage is a Euro-Filipino outsourcing firm that specializes in the areas of Customer Care, Business Support, and Software Development & Maintenance. Headquartered in Manila, Philippines, they serve multiple clients in Europe, Australia, and North America.
With a decade of operations, they have over 500 happy employees and pride themselves in having crafted a good record in providing a cost-effective, integrated and fully-functional customer relationship management solution, managed by leaders that have a solid understanding of industry best practices.
Derek Gallimore: Welcome to the Outsource Accelerator podcast. This is a short format podcast where we explore business and outsourcing mastery. My name is Derek Gallimore and I am really excited to bring you the leading podcast in outsourcing.
Derek Gallimore: Hi and welcome to episode number 247 of the Outsource Accelerator podcast. Today we are talking to Fred Tshidimba of Eastvantage, which is an outsourcing supplier here in the Philippines. Fred is a seasoned professional in the corporate life and then moved into outsourcing, which we’re going to hear the full story and of course dive deep into his executive experience in outsourcing and also in the business world. and there’s a lot of value here for people that are outsourcing, people that are considering outsourcing and everything in between. So I hope you enjoy, if you want any of the show notes, of course go to outsourceaccelerator.com/247.
Derek Gallimore: Hi and welcome back everybody. Today I am joined by Fred Tshidimba of Eastvantage. Eastvantage’s in BGC here in Manila, Philippines and is an outsourcing supplier that does the full spectrum of services. And I want to get a Fred into a conversation about how they differ from the other outsourcing suppliers and, and also his personal journey and how these outsourcing suppliers can really help enhance people’s own businesses and their business journeys. So, Hi Fred, how are you? And thanks for your time.
Fred Tshidimba: Hi Derek. glad to be here with you.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, absolute pleasure. And, so I suppose Fred, you’re French if I can pick up the accent and, I’m Australian, I like to start this just by really asking you to share your own personal journey and what brought you here to the Philippines. Because I imagine a few years ago you probably didn’t expect to be sitting in Manila.
Fred Tshidimba: Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. Derek. so when I arrived here with my wife and two kids, we, we plan on being here like for two years on me. we speak French, we come from Brussels, from Belgium. And we originally thought like, okay, so after 10 years in working for blue chips companies, I was thinking as a marketeer, I was thinking maybe like, it’s time for me to open up to sales and to go a little bit more like in the eastern countries. And I wanted to discover Asia. And, so we took this two years assignment. I came as a trailing spouse. So I said to my wife, I’ll resign from my company. So we had like two cars, two kids and two houses. And I said to my wife, like, maybe it’s time to get in the risky zone again and try to challenge ourselves. Otherwise we’ll just end up like potato couching. And so that’s why, we came here for two years and, and we’re still here like 10 years after. So probably something, something was really more exciting here in this region.
Derek Gallimore: Wow. Incredible. And then, so with your corporate background, and that was more of a marketing angle, wasn’t it? You used to sort of seized or saw the whole BPO and outsourcing thing happening. What was it about this industry and sector that caught your attention and so much so that you got into it yourself?
Fred Tshidimba: So, yeah, it’s interesting because, my friends and my business partner got me into this actually, rather than I decided for going for the BPO while being here, like my, former agencies, I was a marketeer. So I was in contact with digital agencies. They told me, Fred, you’re in the Philippines, don’t you have any PHP developer or any wordpress or any graphic designer? You’re in Manila. This is the mecca of outsourcing. I said, oh, I don’t know. I’ll look around. And then it kept coming because I was like, for the first, two to three years, I was in a digital agency here in Manila, starting to work with local companies, but like with the, French global group. And, they kept on asking me about this. And then eventually my business partner told me, oh, back then it was just a friend who told me like, look, I have a client that wants to start now. Probably it is time for us to evaluate, like if we want to venture into outsourcing because like there’s so many requests. We’re talking about like back in 2009 and 2010. and then we evaluated and then we launched the Eastvantage in end of 2010. and yeah, eventually, like it’s still growing today, from this original idea.
Derek Gallimore: Wow. It’s incredible, isn’t it? And you know, the industry is about 25 years old, but I think there’s really been an inflection point about 10, 15 years ago. and the growth has just been incredible. And you suddenly see it in the economy here. It’s been growing year on year at 6%. You see it in the, in the cities here because it’s just new skyscrapers appearing almost every week. what have you seen the transition for the country in the last 10 years and specifically in the outsourcing industry? is, is it just more of the same or is it increasing in sophistication and delivery models? how have you seen the industry change over the last 10 years?
Fred Tshidimba: yeah, I believe that the industry has, gotten dramatically more sophisticated than it used to be. Like when we started, we, we were pretty lucky because we were like, really tinkering and trying to, adapt, the kind of services that we were offering to whatever that, was the client, asking us. So we, we, I’m going to say there was more like craftmanship, in the origin in the the first days and over the last 10 years, what we’ve seen is like increasing, sophistication in the, the service, that are provided increasing compliance, as well, the turnaround time for any kind of service that you’re delivering as well. And, and, some pressure on the cost as well. so all the things, uh, brought us to, let’s say, like what was a blue ocean to a red sea today.
Fred Tshidimba: and, yeah, we’re, we’re grateful, for being into business for close to nine years already because we have all these economies of scales and all these learning curves that we, we could, climb up already. I think today it’s, it’s much more difficult to open a shop, and, and start from scratch while. a lot of vendors, really have to do to show different compentencies today that are much more evolved than the, than 10 years ago. So the whole industry as a whole is still very competitive, still very attractive. but it, it, it requires a even more, to say like more, solid foundations now, like to, to have like a, a good BPO that could deliver for, for you.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah. The, the sort of technical requirements of running a good operation, are rising all the time, really aren’t they. And so I suppose there’s, there’s kind of higher barriers to entry all the time and people are expecting more and more, in terms of I think we’re very, very, very aligned in terms of reaching out to the West all of us want to try and get as many people outsourcing as possible. and you’re from Belgium a little bit, little bit different. there’s obviously a language barrier there. Where are the majority of your clients from? Is it from Europe generally or?
Fred Tshidimba: We started mostly with clients from Europe where we have contacts and we, we, we got the first request from, but eventually, very fast. It grew into Asia Pacific. we have like as many clients in Asia Pacific today than in, in Europe. And, but then there’s still the first source for all market, is still the U.S So as soon as, usually even with our French accent and everything, we get with very specialized as well in, in some kind of startups. the Silicon Valley startup, coming to us a a lot. And, there’s some entrepreneurs as well from Australia and Europe find the right mix with us, which is, entrepreneurship. we have like tailored fitted solutions and we, we have a very strong operations layer. So it’s not only about like having great location, which we have that when in BGC, like in the latest business district and then adding to these like, outstanding staff and having a good recruiting process. it comes as well with an operations layer where our own business partners are going to manage your team and make sure that the integration within the clients on shore operation are very smooth. And, and that’s eventually like we, work with the same kind of tools and the same KPIs and the onshore team. So this is really what makes it a very specific, and special like to, to work with Eastvantage.
Derek Gallimore: Right, right. And what is the key to outsourcing because there’s still so many small and medium sized businesses out there that are maybe interested, intrigued or maybe a little bit kind of worried about all the changes to employment. How would you sort of summarize outsourcing, for someone that is a really a little bit green and then also how did you make it work for people so that it’s not quite so scary? Not quite so big.
Fred Tshidimba: I believe like every one of us, like we, we do outsource a lot of our task, to the like on day to day business all day to day, everyday of our life. So this is first that we shouldn’t be scared. Like when I asked to my, uh, to my son to, to bring a his daughter, uh, to, I don’t know, to the counter and let her order the ice cream that she wants, eventually I’m outsourcing a task, that I could have done myself. So, so first, first of all, like outsourcing like it’s a, it’s a big word, but like I would say, we, we just call it a growth management or let’s see like, sometime we see like insourcing or sourcing anyway, so it can happen to everyone and it can be done very easily.
Fred Tshidimba: That’s the first thing. Second is, when we, when, when you want to start with, with some task that you want to eventually delegate to someone. First of all, you have to look at that. You have a delegation model in place. So if you have never done this, as an entrepreneur it’s going to be more difficult. But if you’ve already liked to see an assistant or someone in your team or a developer or someone who’s not the job, for instance, to answer tickets, let’s see, from your portal because you became more successful and some of the developers are starting to answer some tickets and the receptionist and, and some people from the marketing. So this is already like, you have a delegation model in place. You realize that these people have to log in a couple of hours on Zendesk to answer to consumers, this is already a good sign.
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Fred Tshidimba: So the model is in place. Then the next thing is to be ready to give this away to some people who’s really, it’s the profession that’s gonna professionalize and make it even better than you probably were going to answer these tickets. All these chat inquiries, like better than your developers because we’re going to be less assertive or are we going to be more, open to consumers complaints. And then the last thing is to eventually let it to people that are, that have experienced with this and that would even like innovate, and, and bring the right support. So we, we have as well, like people that are experts in their fields, whether it’s like software development or maintenance or chat and, ticket support. it’s really, it’s really where you can start to have like the, the first, successful delegation model in place. and then having eventually like, the right team to deal with the right tasks.
Derek Gallimore: And there’s, there’s a big stigma, I think about the outsourcing industry that it’s call centers and only really applies to like the fortune 500 with hundreds of people in the, in the, in the back office. but you mentioned Silicon Valley, you mentioned startups, you mentioned tech. What are common roles now that you see outsourcing? and who are the sort ideal candidates to, to start this outsourcing?
Fred Tshidimba: So anyone that needs, anyone that needs a developer’s team, let’s say like you need like two front and, let’s say like with angular js, one or two developers in python and one QA, pretty much like everyone needs this. and, and you have a team that is really innovating. You have the, you’ve launched your, you, you’ve launched your beta version, you, you’ve launched and your first market version. And then eventually you want to keep on, growing fast in R and D and innovating in new modules. But eventually you need to maintain the existing modules. This is the first thing. You can also outsource to us. You, we would have a team of developers that would work with you integrating with our scrum master and we could, we will be able eventually to uh, assign, be assigned like the, the right user stories and develop some things for it.
Fred Tshidimba: That’s one example in development. another thing that we do is like you have a, let’s see, another your ecommerce shop and then you’re getting too many inquiries. I’ve mentioned it already like CRM, we do that as well, like chat support, email support. and then we don’t do voice, not too much like only on on demand, but we’re really expert into non-voice. And then the last thing is, what we see is like people then our clients, they deal with a lot of payables, receivables. and then there’s some HR and, and payroll or whether it’s like a general HR as well inquiries. We can deal with this as well, which is the normal business support that we can provide to our clients. So this is for every company. I was going to say that has like a more than 20 employees or, and that, is, is no evaluating to keep on growing on the flexible and variable ways. So eventually this is, this is the best way for them to have the team doing. One of the things with us, it’s pretty much open to everyone and, it’s easy and, eventually it, doesn’t, it keeps your capital available for other investments you want to do.
Derek Gallimore: And coming back to the sort of, because I can talk very, technical and deep with people, but then it quite often like with prospects and clients, but it quite often comes back to the simple things like the delineation of tasks and who manages the staffing. And I suppose that comes to, as you were saying before, like the service offerings, you have fully managed services, and then you have, staff extension services. and can you maybe explain for people that aren’t as familiar, the basic things, like how free are they dedicated staffing, how do they know that they’re working when they’re in another country and they’re not sitting beside them and then who manages the management of, of things?
Fred Tshidimba: Yeah, that’s, that’s a, that’s very important in that indeed Derek, like, the first thing in the first key criteria in outsourcing is having a good communication. So, that’s why we have the Evox system, which is like our integrated operations support system where we have everything that’s related to, your team. So every, every team logs in, with, like we have the biometrics, we have the attendance, we have the, the leaves, and then we have like the performance indicators in Evox, that’s our central operating system. so this information is available to the team leaders and to our clients. Now, when it comes to starting up, there’s, there’s two questions. you want to, you want to ask, do you want a desired outcome? or do you want, eventually to be hands on and really like know the name of the people you’re working with and you’re going to give them the task on a daily basis.
Fred Tshidimba: If you want a desired outcome, then eventually you’re going to be ready for managed services. Where we’re gonna eventually designed with you a solution where we’re going to identify KPIs with you. When we say going to say this is the dashboard that you’re going to look at every week or every day if you want and this is the kind of result that are going to get, if you say like a, I don’t know, email campaign, you’re going to get open rate, click through rate. If you look at chat, you’re going to have like as well, like an answer time, turnaround time and all these kinds of things. So we’re going to look at this and customer satisfaction of course, and then we can look at this dashboard. This is desired outcome or if you go to development is going to be like the defects rates and these kinds of things.
Fred Tshidimba: So it can go on with examples. So desired outcome is on the one hand, and this is the managed services. You say, Fred, please take a team and, and, and this is what you’re going to do and I’m paying you so many, per hour, for doing these. The other one which is more usually a preferred by, people in Europe and in Australia. they say like, you have a clear idea of what you want to do. You have your own team already, but you want to outsource a non-core task to a especially it’s like us and you come to us and you see, okay, Eastvantage. Can you please, find me a team? And as I mentioned of five people or something, or three people that we’ll deal with, our chat support that will deal with all customer support or vendor support or even with our software maintenance and answering on Zendesk, with the question that they have.
Fred Tshidimba: And, and then you will have like a team that you would identify that we would recruit for you, that you would know. and that would have like where we would manage their performance, their attendance and their adherence to your processes. But eventually you would have the last word on let’s say like the tasks that are endorsed to them and you, we would review this, we a team lead that will be here of shore and that would lie as everyday with your onshore team leader or project manager. So this is, this is two different, we are all the desired outcome or then like having an integrated team, a staff extension,
Derek Gallimore: right. And people can switch between models and also these aren’t, this isn’t for a fortune 500 company with 200 people sitting in a room. These are flexible models. and you can start with small teams. Yeah,
Fred Tshidimba: yeah. Indeed. We started with teams as small as two people and usually like we have to start in staff extension for some to get to a desired outcome when it’s really more complex. While for some, let’s say like a more, straightforward operations, we can, we can start right away with the managed services. For some, we would start, we would require six months in staff extension. Let’s see if you have a difficult, uh, product management or product development, uh, then we would still like start from one model and evolve and graduate to the next one. That’s more evolved, but do you can always like move from one to the other. you can, eventually, evolve. You can add, more, verticals. You can blend the, so this is, this is the beauty with us. Like eventually, like we shape your own solution. We have like a 40 different clients, a 550 people and so, eventually we’re always happy to shape the solution to the clients and we, we, we have a very tailor made, approach to it.
Derek Gallimore: Right, right. And what are some of the, the, because outsourcing is different to standard management, isn’t it? There’s, there’s nuances, there’s different considerations and as you say it early on. There’s also the fact that you need to learn to delegate. You need to build processes and process mapping and also get that information out of your head into the head of the, the team and, and the people. what are some of the sort of, I suppose, tips or sure fire, advice that you have learned over the years to get people that are beginning outsourcing to get those quick wins early so that they’re not frustrated?
Fred Tshidimba: Yes. so usually like we look at, so it’s important to yeah, to, to be able to delegate. if, if you’re a good at delegation, it’s always easier being, having someone organized and a dedicated like that can I allocate 15 one, five person of, his or her time to this, to the supervision on the team to get into a Skype call everyday or standup call everyday, with, with a team leader is essential. We’ve seen like so many CEO’s that says, oh, well I’ll do that. I want to also those that I want to delegate that, but then eventually the time for them to, explain like, oh, structure the task, the, the framework. so that we can know where like, how to manage, I don’t know, like, these specific tasks is something that they’ve underestimated.
Fred Tshidimba: So first learn to delegate. Second, have someone that will be doing a, like the followup, at least like a two afternoons a week or like the equivalent or a couple of hours, like one hour per day or just kind of things very important. And then the last thing is, and, and it’s a little bit a funny, but like the, the fact that you have experienced with this already, like some experience at these with outsourcing. and again, it can be that you have someone that you delegate it to. It can be a local vendor, it can be someone that, that has done that for you so that you have at least some metrics in mind to gauge like the reliability and, the productivity of your, of your own, vendors. So this is really important and these are the three things that we check upon.
Fred Tshidimba: and these are like, this is how we avoid pitfalls with clients. but of course, like we’re always, for us, like we, we do a long discovery, we take our time as well to prepare. the, the transition with our clients. there’s a lot of clients that usually, that, that I would say like a usual, a discovery would take like two to three month. not ongoing always, but like, let’s say like in a, in and out discussing these kinds of things. Yeah. So, yeah. Where, where, it’s, it’s a, it’s a journey. It’s a, but it’s something that everyone, everyone will get to also’s some task at, at the time. Now, like in any kind of businesses, we see more and more small and medium enterprises in the Western world and Asia Pacific. This is the best way to stay flexible. And, this is variable costs. Yeah. Just like, this is just OpEx, like, so we’re talking about the variable costs. We have like a no exit fee. We’re very flexible as well. we, so this is probably the best way to have growth. and, and sometime we work with seasonalities let’s say like mother’s Day or Christmas, and we, we beef up the teams like for all clients for these specific periods and we, we can absorb and expand, all these different elements. So it’s very flexible.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, it’s incredible. And in terms of the, the ramp up times you, you mentioned the discovery phases two to three months, is that how long it takes to set up teams or you have the team there and then that is the process of refining and, and setting out the, the processing
Fred Tshidimba: The onboarding I think usually like 30 days. But, what I’m talking about is like, yeah, the discovery is like with the senior management and uh, so discussing with our clients on how they want to do it. visiting sometimes with Philippines or seeing several vendors, this is like a process that we, we invite, clients and people to come and tour and visit some vendors having an, an opinion. and usually with us, like the more people see different vendors, the highest chances that they will choose us. And we know this because we eventually were a, I was providing like premium services and we’re providing like a operational excellence. So if you haven’t compared like you, you probably won’t see like how big is, the, oh big as the range of the services that you can get from different vendors. And that’s why we like to partner with Outsource Accelerator, to be eventually in this big marketplace where different people would compare and look and find the right, the right vendor for them.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah. It is a big marketplace now, isn’t it? And there is, there’s so many different ways of, of basically kind of, of presenting the same thing I suppose. So there’s, there’s a lot of noise and as you say, it’s, it’s really like the fundamentals are important. and yeah, just kind of focusing people on that I think. and in terms of the different structures, and you’ve got two main core structures, for people that really don’t know anything about outsourcing and how is outsourcing priced? can you give us an indication of how, how much the whole thing cost?
Fred Tshidimba: So, when we speak about like, outcome based, then it’s a very straight forward or forward model where we speak in, in US dollar per hour. and it can range from, it depends on the kind of profile that you have, but like, uh, for us like any, any, anything between $6 or can go even as high as supervisor at $12 per hour. this is for outcome based kind task and, and we would we would just, manage, the whole, process for you. When it comes to seat leasing. we have like more like a, a fee that we, we, add, to the total employment cause this is pretty much like the industry standard and depending on the kind of team that you need, you will, you will end the, the shift, you would get anywhere between 475 to 650 USD per employee.
Fred Tshidimba: And then you would have like the total employment costs that would be passed through and then the service fee that we would charge you for the staff extension and all the things that eventually they include already, like, the onboarding costs, the startup costs, even the exit fees and this kind of thing. We want to have a very transparent model where you exactly how much you, you would be paying from the beginning. and it’s our, it’s our role to keep you happy. So our clients, we have a happiness model in place, so if clients aren’t happy, there’s no lock in period in these kind of things. There’s no straight forward contracts. So there’s a contract business not looking contracts so they can get out like, any time, just giving us three months notice because it’s our role to keep our clients happy. So today with this, we have like 3% churn within our client base, so it’s very low. And, we want to keep it this way
Derek Gallimore: and it is incredible, isn’t it? I mean, you mentioned the $6 to $12, and that is an all in price. And I think that that is worth repeating because people might compare that to a base salary in the US and, and they don’t sort of look at the whole picture of employment costs. There’s a lot of, on top of the costs, there’s office costs there is capex. employment is very expensive. Yeah. And when you get an all in price, it really is hugely competitive. If you, if you kind of add everything up and of course then you not only get into the staffing and the job done, but you’re getting your executive experience and, and the, the kind of process mapping and the strategy behind it. Yeah.
Fred Tshidimba: That’s what we offer, like scaling of our company. So we, we talk to entrepreneurs who are entrepreneurs ourselves. so people that want to scale up, they’ve, they’ve had their first success with the, their, their first product and services. They want to scale up fast. so don’t get into a, I don’t know, buying a expensive warehouse. And these kinds of things, like you can stay pretty lean with a good team like core team and then eventually like endorsing some of your tasks to us and it’s going to save you under rent a on the mortgage on any kind of thing that you might do. Aircon and utilities and now that you mentioned like all the different packages that you need to find for keeping your employees happy, mobile phones and cars and all these kinds of things. So, while yes, indeed, like the 6 to $12 and we’re talking about that all in price, which is a, the cost, the, it’s helping you to stay free from all these, big, big worries and scanning up and down very fast depending on the season that you have and the success that you’re encountering in different markets.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, it’s incredible, Huh? I’m just so excited about outsourcing the potential and also what it can do in transforming people’s businesses. And I think it’s just people are slowly becoming aware of outsourcing, they’re slowly seeing some of their other business friends explore. And try it. a lot of them are, are aware of Upwork and freelancer. but it’s just really getting them to go a little bit further and, and try real professionalized outsourcing and then it can just absolutely transform businesses.
Fred Tshidimba: Yes, indeed. And, so it does a thing like a, the message to people that listen to us. Like if you’re, you’re tired of upwork, people that don’t show up that runaway with half of your money without doing anything. Or, if you, you cannot sleep at night because you signed this big contract that’s 24/7 and you need to cover for APAC and you don’t have anyone there all you’ve been like as well, like usually growing so fast that you have like SLA’s that you realize that you cannot keep on, support like with the existing team because they’re working like already like three shifts or these kind of things. this is the moment to outsource. These are the, all the, the parameters are out there to tell you that it’s time to outsource. And this, there are very professional vendors, like in the Philippines that are ready to, to onboard your, your next team and help you grow faster and on a lean way.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah. It’s incredible isn’t it? And it’s just to take that first step and it’s not as scary as people think. It’s no really no different to just standard employment. And it’s just kind of getting them to take that step and then it’s almost like it becomes compulsive, doesn’t it? People are just so excited to, to build their teams and to bring more things over.
Fred Tshidimba: Yes, yes, indeed. Like we have a, this, that’s how we grew. We started with like, newsletter, email management. and then we had developers and then we did like accounting and eventually like, ah, as we grew, we had to start organizing the verticals and eventually, really like stay in software development and CRM and business support, but like a, yeah. So there’s so many things you can do remotely. and, depending on the different vendors that you would, uh, work with, you would see that, the whole range of, the different businesses are covered, from the Philippines. Like this a one point, 1.5 million people that work in this, industry where the largest, where he and the largest outsourcing city of the world, like, so with the largest, English speaking talent pool. So this is, the really the sweet spot here, like a to, to have your team and, and to start outsourcing.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah. It’s incredible, Huh. And, and it really is it’s not just back office. There’s this highly, highly qualified, highly motivated, highly skilled people here. Now it’s, it’s, it’s just, it’s an incredible opportunity, isn’t it? but so thank you so much and I didn’t really properly introduce you when we started, but you are the Chief Inspiration Officer of Eastvantage. I’ve certainly been inspired, talking to you. So, thank you so much. And if people want to get in touch or want to learn more about Eastvantage, how can they do that?
Fred Tshidimba: So, yeah. so just, uh, Google us eastvantage.com and then you will have the opportunity to see some videos or, some, some of the case studies that we have done in the past. So thank you very much Derek for having us today. It was exciting and I hope that more people would, will enjoy our, like outsourcing to the Philippines. thanks to, this podcast.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Fred.
Derek Gallimore: That was Fred Tshidimba of Eastvantage. If you want any of the shownotes, go to outsourceaccelerator.com/247. And as always, if you want, ask us anything, then just drops an email to [email protected] See you next time.