Russell Meiselman – Building an inspiring workplace – Clark Outsourcing
Last updated August 28, 2019
We talk to Russell Meiselman, founder and CEO of Clark Outsourcing. They are based on a massive warehouse located in Clark City which has a lot of desks. It has space for about 450 staff, has a statue of liberty and containers that are being reshaped into private offices. So this is a really incredible facility and I’m excited to share this episode with you.
They are an American owned and operated business process outsourcing company strategically located in the heart of the Clark Freeport Zone in the Philippines. They aim to help small and mid-sized companies leverage their business by offering the global resources that were previously only available to the Fortune 500 companies.
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 another episode of the Outsource Accelerator podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore and this is episode number 236 so today we are talking to the founder and CEO Russell Meiselman. Here’s the founder and CEO of Clark Outsourcing. So this is an outsourcing supplier out in the Clark and it’s an outsourcing supplier with a difference because you should just really check out their facilities. They are based in this massive warehouse. The warehouse of course has a lot of desks in it. It has space for about 450 staff, but it also includes a duty to haul. It has a statue of liberty and it has a lot of container container containers, that are being reshaped into private offices. So it really incredible facility. We actually recorded a video live with Russel, so if you want to go and check out youtube, then please do. And of course we actually did a BPO tour of this facility. So you can also check that out on our website or on youtube as well. So an interesting conversation with Russel. He has been in the Philippines down for many, many years and he has a lot of experience and a lot of lessons. So I really enjoyed this conversation with Russell and I hope you do too. If you’re on any of the show notes then go to outsource accelerator.com/236. Enjoy it.
Derek Gallimore: Hi and welcome back everybody. Today we are joined by Russell Meiselman. Hi Russell, how are you?
Russell M: I’m fantastic. How are you doing?
Derek Gallimore: Good, good. And we’re actually on site unusually so people might hear a little bit of difference in the, in the sound. but we are in your facility, which is called Clark Outsourcing. It is in Clark, which may be, you can actually even explain what Clark is to the listeners and how it differs to, to Manila. but I suppose initially, so you know, we’re in your facilities and incredible facility. People can also see this on youtube, so they can see, the, the striking difference of your place. and it’s just really fantastic to see, you know, modern new, really interesting work environments coming through. And again, it flies in the face of people thinking that the Philippines has some sort of backwater or a sweatshop or, oh yeah. So it’s super somewhere. Yeah, for sure. So Russell, I suppose initially a few wouldn’t mind just introducing yourself and, and a little bit about Clark Outsourcing. Yeah,
Russell M: Sure. so my name is Russell Meiselman and catch up on the last name. I’m originally from Arizona. I’ve been Philippines now eight, nine years. Clark Outsourcing is, we really specialize in small to medium size businesses. we don’t really work with very large companies. I would say the main reason it’s just our model works better with a small to medium sized companies that are striving to grow their businesses and so that’s our main target. and we, we really do try to focus more on the customer side of things. versus, you know, scaling. We’re not a very large company and we’re not tens of thousand employees. We’re very, we’re very small. We have the small business feel, and when we like to think that we have, big business results, so that’s kind of our thing. So, yeah, it’s it’s, it’s an interesting space. You mentioned the space, and all of that, which I’m sure will.
Derek Gallimore: So just to explain a little bit about Clark free port zone then for, because the majority, I’m based in Manila and you know, I’m slightly biased towards me a little bit. This, there’s a whole country out there. Yeah. And so what is, what is Clark?
Russell M: Clark is interesting. Clark is the old American air force base, it used to be run by the Americans back in the eighties and nineties, I think in the 90s is when they gave it back to the Philippine government. And essentially it’s a, it’s a free port zone. so the infrastructure and everything, water, electric, Internet, everything is run separately to, its surrounding areas. It’s about an hour and a half north of Manila. A lot of people don’t know about it yet except for the most recent developments, which I’m sure you’ve heard about the New Clark city development and, and all of that. the Philippines is starting to take a look at Clark as the, the, the new growing city of the Philippines really.
Derek Gallimore: It move some of the government offices at Arizona.
Russell M: Yeah. The infrastructure is the biggest thing, right? So in Manila, as you know, traffic, right, it kills, I mean, they’ve, there’s, there’s a a hundred story skyscrapers in that, but I’m out here just the way that things were built. you know, lines are running under underground. roads are wider naturally. There’s more space. it’s, it’s less, it’s not near the beach. It’s kind of been more of a secure area. And so really that’s the attractiveness of Clark. And to be honest with you, for most people that are out here doing business, it’s the fact that it’s a eco zone. So there’s tax and duty, tax and duty free. there’s a lot of incentives and you can also own 100% of your business as a expat were a foreigner that is not a, a local Filipino. You can actually own 100% of your business.
Derek Gallimore: Right. So it’s another, you know, the significance of that is it’s just easier doing business here. It reduces the friction and again, for then that passed this on to the client. So it’s just an easier, yeah.
Russell M: The Philippine government focuses on foreign investment, right? They, they’re pushing it, they support it. They, they tried to reduce the amount of red tape. Of course it can’t be completely eliminated. But yeah, that bureaucracy is much less inside of Clark. And then there’s little to no corruption in Clark into comparison to the Manilla has or other places that you can outsource to.
Derek Gallimore: And then sort of Clark Outsourcing since then it’s been going well and you say it’s small, but you know, again, I think we have different perspectives in the west, you know, and kind of all right, 10 people as a small company maybe, or maybe that’s a medium size company, whereas you’ve got how many, how many staff, which is right here, almost 300, almost 300. Just so in that perspective in the West where, where a larger company, right? But, in comparison to some outsourcing companies that do exist, I’m not only just here in Clark, but in the Philippines in general, they are in the tens of thousands of employees.
Russell M: And so, we consider ourselves small to be honest with you. It’s not, you know, for us it’s not an insult. We want it. We want to be small. I know, you know, I won’t say 100, 90 something percent of our staff first names and I, I know where they’re from and I, I have, I personally have a relationship with the, almost every employee here. So that is something that we want to continue. We don’t really necessarily want to have employee 1000, 136 that works for customer eight or whatever it is, right. It’s just, it’s just not the structure that we really wanted to build.
Derek Gallimore: True. And, so you know, one of the most striking things about your office obviously is that it doesn’t really feel like an office. Yeah. There’s a statue of liberty out there. There’s containers, shipping containers out there, a trampoline out there, and a Jujitsu hall.
Derek Gallimore: So what’s your, what’s your end goal with that?
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Russell M: Really the biggest thing is his employees. we’ve been doing outsourcing for a long time and you know, when it comes to outsourcing, people think of customers, customer support or tech support or you know, telemarketing, right? That’s when people didn’t tell American. That’s the first initial reaction. What we do is we specialize in more high level staff. So high level accountants, financial paraplanners engineer’s and autocad operators, nurses, is a big one that we really focus on. So when you’re talking about that type of staff, like in any country, even in the last, those types of employees or what you consider professional level or higher level paid employees and they just expect more, right? So if a call center, just like in the West and call center job as a ton of marketing rep is a lower level position.
Russell M: Not, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just, it is, it is what it is. And, with that they accept working in a cubicle situation. But with us, when you started, you know, you start talking about financial paraplanners and high end engineers and architects, they need space. They need space to be creative, they need space to work, they need space to be able to walk around and, and let their creative work. And, and so what we found, in our previous facilities where the cubicle space wasn’t conducive to the abilities of the staff. And so what we build, like you said, the containers and the trampoline and the Jujitsu gym is we focused it primarily around those higher level people that need a good life, work life balance that, that operate in a very high level, that need to be able to, to take, you know, a 10 minute break and go sit on the couch or go sit in a, in a, in a nap pod or you know, go to the yoga class and one of the younger classes that are held each day or the Jiu Jitsu and then let some stress out and be creative with the graffiti balls and all these things. Right? And so that’s what we really drove us to, to building a facility like this is the creative mindset. Right? Right. Of course. Google helps.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah. Google having a, a, a sort of sit in the bar work environment,
Russell M: right? Yeah. Google setting the bar and kind of, driving that, the atmosphere, right? So there’s Google, there’s, we work at other big companies that have these dynamic workspaces. And if they’ve proven it, they’ve tested it, that it works. And there’s a reason they do it and there’s no by accident. And so, having that, you know what, we don’t have to spend tens of thousand dollars investing in testing stuff out. we can, we can follow the big boys and then look and see what they are, what’s working for them, and then kind of model it from that.
Derek Gallimore: And is, it’s a big education piece, isn’t it? Cause I, I’m an, I was in New York, I’m in last week and I was in a, we work talking to companies within we work. Yep. And trying to explain that outsourcing isn’t just telling sales. It is all of these incredible professions now. And you know, it’s, it’s high in value, roles that, that can add to your business. And equally, you know, they’re not sitting in these kind of, you know, factories that they’re sitting in really exciting environments, at least as cool as well. He works, you know, so it’s, but people, and that’s where I think there’s such value in our discussions and video of his team to try and bring people over to Philippines
Russell M: I’m really excited that there are people like you out there that are doing these videos. I think that has the biggest thing. I mean, even myself, yeah. I used to outsource myself, when I was in Arizona with outsource our telemarketing and to India and the Philippines and it’s good. You know, it was fine. That was my perception of outsourcing and that was, it’s fine. But there’s, there’s exposure that needs to be had in this industry. People need to understand that just because you are a three to five person business in Oklahoma or, and you know, West Adelaide of Australia that you can have an accountant to track your books. You can actually see if you’re profitable or not and see where you’re losing weight, you’re bleeding where you’re not, and it’s not gonna cost you an arm and a leg. And it’s important for people to understand. And I think that’s, that’s the biggest change in the entreprenuerial atmosphere is that, you know, whether you want to believe it or not, you know, accounting, digital media, having a website presence, all that stuff is important but is not necessarily affordable unless you do it with, you know, outfits like this.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The smell. Like people are able to build a bigger company better, quicker, by accessing these resources and it’s, and so you would, we were talking previously about how you onboard your team and a lot of it is about, you know, the, the, the sort of typical entrepreneur in the west, they’re obviously very successful, but they don’t quite realize how to plug outsourcing into their business. Yeah. and that takes a little bit of hand holding a little bit of education. What is the process that you normally go through to make sure that a prospective clients get the best out of outsourcing?
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, I would say that that’s probably the number one reason why most companies don’t outsource, to be honest with you. After speaking with people like they have the fears about it or not, there were country or international wires and there’s always these, face value type of insecurity is that companies have the real core reason is they have no idea what they would do and if they did, how much would it cost and how, how much of a claim margin and all that sounds crazy and nobody wants to play with their company money, but how much can they lose to try it out? And that’s really what the concern is. I think for most people they don’t, they don’t really understand how to integrate it. And so, the way that we do things, I mean it’s right or wrong or best practice or not.
Russell M: I think that the biggest thing that we tried to do is, I personally will go out and visit our clients, and, and spend anywhere from a week to three weeks depending on if they get annoyed at me and they want me to leave or, or a or what are, if they have outsourced before or not. But essentially, what we do is we’ll go in to spend time working with their teams and those departments that are going to outsource their graphic design or that or whatever it is right there with their engineering team, for their cat operators to find out what it is that they’re lacking. What does the work that is actually going to be done. And how does that communication from the staff home, you know, HQ staff, employee to the outsourcing police, how does that communication work? What are projects that should be outsourced?
Russell M: What are projects that should not? And so spending the time with them and understanding their business is what we primarily try to do. And then when that’s all said and done, I come back and I just, I’ll spend a week or show with my team and onboard them on the client. What does this company want to accomplish? What, what’s being outsourced to us? What is the objective and how these communication lines are going to work. And my team will take that and they’ll run with it and they’ll get everything on board. And so by the time that the client actually has their first company, you start with that everybody’s on the same page as far as how to pass projects back and forth, what the communication is going to look like and really what to expect as far as production.
Derek Gallimore: And do you see the clients, you know, obviously start small? I assume you encouraged them to start small with them very quickly. They see the opportunity and it balloons up.
Russell M: Yeah. Yes, yes they do. but we, we try to regulate that. As, you know, some people say it’s crazy like, hey, if somebody wants to add or start with you with 50 seats, would you do it? The answer is no, because that’s just not, to be honest with you, we haven’t lost the client almost two years and I don’t plan on starting now bringing on a client that has 50 seats has never outsourced before or just a recipe for failure, right? So small problems start with small teams, so you don’t have that small team first. Sort out all your issues. we call it the three assets. You, you sustain it, the success and then you scale it, right? So there’s a lot of, different things that you can do, as far as, securing larger campaigns and having them, you know, grow quickly.
Russell M: But to be honest with you, I think a fair, reasonable, especially for small, medium size businesses or even up to an SME size of company, no more than five, five to seven employees a month. If you’re scaling more than that, you’re probably having chips fall and missing gaps or cutting corners that you probably shouldn’t. Right? So I think that’s, I think that’s a reasonable amount, not, obviously Amazon wouldn’t be able to do five or seven. see, you know, they would need a five to 700 a quarter is what is looking up for that type of company. But again, that’s not that type of companies that we targeted.
Derek Gallimore: True. Yeah. And then because I’m fresh back from New York, I’ve got a lot of, common objections that people bring forward. And it’s funny because, I think to us it’s almost, we can see it, but then people that can’t necessarily feel or touch it, it’s sort of ambiguous and you know, they own your own suggest for people to think of outsourcing really just as employment. you know, don’t really think of it as any, any, any thing different in terms of relationship, but people are concerned maybe how, how do they know that people are working? How do they know they’re doing the work? Do they need to put in fancy softwares, you know, and how do they gauge the sort of output and relationship when people are sitting on the other side of the world? Totally.
Russell M: So, you know, with more of the traditional type of business models, right? Remote workers or workers, people that work from home is not a common thing. But in today’s society, even, you know, if I’m in, Phoenix, Arizona and I have somebody that’s working for me in San Diego, right, so it’s the same country they employed by me, but they work from home. there I have ways to regulate that. To easily answer your question though, is I think is transparency. That is the biggest key. So, for us, you hire the staff and they work directly for you. We have like the communication I was talking about earlier of how do you communicate with their staff. usually, but via a Webcam we have cameras set up on almost every workstation to where you can log in anytime and senior staff working for you.
Russell M: No, you, you don’t need fancy software. We have account managers here that that’s tend you weekly reports and attendance and tell you what tasks were accomplished by your team to this weekend and what things weren’t and so on. And you should have daily communication and you, you know, it’s like if you were talking about my, my number one answer I guess or my, my question to employee two declines we do this is if you were to employ somebody to work from home, what would you do? How would you do it? That’s exactly the same thing here. The only difference is instead of them being down the road or, or being a couple hours drive away there on the other side of the world, other than that, it’s that same concept, right? These are your employees that work in our office and we just help to make sure that they show up and do the job that you need them to do. And essentially that’s, that’s the way that we run things. We try not to get too complex shortages or softwares and things in all of this. Yes. If that’s what you want to do, great. We’ll help you do that. But I think most companies just want to know that there’s somebody there watching her staff. Right?
Derek Gallimore: Absolutely. And then the interaction and the gray areas between what a BPO does and then the staff and then the client, how do the three interact? because why, why, for example, kind of client just go and get a staff member. what are the value props for a BPO?
Russell M: Yeah, good question, the best clients that I could ever want are people that have gone out and hire freelancers to work for that because that answers all the questions I objection just goes right out the window. That inconsistency is the unreliability as far as connectivity. Maybe there’s power outages or internet or I’m sick today or I can’t work or that project was delayed or whatever issues that every single person has ever hired a freelance employee has ever experienced. Is there a reason you would go with the BPO? We insure all of that. We, we keep a very high end infrastructure. We keep a very close knit and interaction with every staff employee on the 10 minutes and what they can and can’t do and we verify their, their sickness and these things that do a show the value propositions really easily. What’s that, what’s that relationship look like with the clients when they contact us in particular? I don’t know if that’s pretty sure. Most in the same fashion is they need to be prepared to deal with the staff on the day to day operational side. What are the tasks? What are the projects, what are the duties point? Everything else we handled from payroll to HR to legal, to it, to equipment to whatever it is that you could possibly think that first five Christmas bonus was Christmas party, retention, the swag bags or you know, a backpack full of cool
Derek Gallimore: Creative act community so that right there, month after month.
Russell M: Exactly and so all of that is what we do the day to day operational projects and stuff. That’s what the clients think you’d be prepared to, to deal with. We don’t, you know, it’s like this, some companies, BPOs, they have a system where they charge hourly $9 an hour. We’ll do your process for you. Well, how does that kind of work? How do they know your business? So for us it’s, we’re not even going to try to pretend and act like a, we can come in and do the work for you. You know your business, you know how to manage your staff the way that you want to manage them. You do it.
Derek Gallimore: It’s a short term sale isn’t it? It’s easier to sell that in the short term, but then it’s not a long term solution.
Russell M: They can be because there’s no cookie cutter in business. Right. So it doesn’t matter what business you are, your processes for every industry and every brand is different from the next. So to think that a company could figure that out and do it successfully, it’s, it’s really under the stick if you ask me.
Derek Gallimore: Absolutely. And then, you know, you mentioned the freelances and upwork freelancer itself, the platform, Tim Ferris. I think that, that, that whole sector of society has done a lot for outsourcing because it’s raised awareness, but then people try it, they go, I’ve, I’ve used that work and it doesn’t work. So the Philippines, it’s rubbish results, untrustworthy. and it takes a huge reeducation to say that that’s not outsourcing. You know, it’s like trying to find some dude in central park at midnight to do your tax returns and it’s not going to work.
Russell M: It’s probably not the best decision. Exactly. Right. so yeah, it’s freelancer, upwork, Odesk, whatever. All these other platforms are out there. they brought outsourcing to the forefront of people’s, you know, small entrepreneurs mind. I think that was what’s important. But what people don’t really realize, I don’t think is outsourcing in the fashion that we do things in a BPO setting or where some of the larger companies do. It’s been around for a long time. Adam Smith, the inventor of economics, actually wrote a book the wealth of nations, right? And he talks about the division of labor and this was back in the [inaudible] or whatever. And so he’s talking about letting the professionals do the professional work. If you are a mechanic, be a mechanic, but you hire an accountant, you hire a sales guy and do your sales. And that’s the process, right? The division of Labor.
Russell M: And so, I mean, Boeing and Airbus is probably the number one, the most productive outsourcing, company in the world. They don’t build a single thing for a single part of the airplane. They have the professionals of the glass and then knows and the seats in the seatbelt guy, all of these different contractors build all of these very high end products and ship it in and they assemble it and they slap their sticker on it. So they figured out outsourcing to the extreme, right. To the point that I get that I think that I’m trying to make though is that outsourcing is, is meant to help enhance a company and these freelancers and things, they’re just there to, to make a buck. Right. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Brought it to the table and they brought their awareness. but there are two different things or two different industries. If you ask me, hiring somebody to work from home and hiring a company like Clark or, or anybody else to hire a staff and work in our facility. Just two different, two different games.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah. And as you say, I mean Philippines and I tell people that overseas, you know, people think that coming to a developing nation and but the level of sophistication here is incredible. You know, people have been outsourcing for 25 years. and their, their expertise at optimizing business processes is, is second to none. Yeah. Yeah. And this is where I think the small and medium size businesses can get introduced to outsourcing and they can really be, taken to the next level because they, they’re sort of almost forced to mature processes.
Russell M: Yeah. You know, one of the biggest things that we learned, in doing this and then the consulting that I do with it, with our clients, and also once we get them onboard at the best part, really, truly the best thing that we do is, is, some of our clients will actually outgrow us. We get to the point where if you’re at 50 seats, in our opinion, 50 to a hundred seats, it’s time that you move on to getting what we call them. You know, getting your own facility. You have a hundred employees and a, and another country. It’s time that they’re in your office with your brand on the wall. Right. But, the best thing is, is that you’re right. They, they evolve. So as companies grow, they grow their teams here. But it’s really an awesome thing to watch. Like we’ve had companies that come in and they’ll hire one one person right though, hire an accountant and over the course of the last three, four years, they now have a team of 25 and their business went from $1 million a year to 10 million. And it’s just because they were, they were able to document. Right. So most of all businesses, and I think he, most people listening in Washington to your show would probably agree with this. How many people have an actual sop, standard operating procedure?
Derek Gallimore: Things are just ad hoc currently in the west more it’s kind of like people use intuition and figure it out. Whereas over here it’s, it’s startrek process. You don’t like map your process of structuring?
Russell M: Yeah. During the procedure. I mean like, you know, I’ve, I’ve asked every, every, almost every company that we work with. Can you send me the document of how you onboard a new employee? What do you mean onboarding? Like, Hey, when you hire somebody new, like what’s, when you give them, what’s the process? Who does what, who creates what inputs into the database and data? What’s the step by step process of onboarding employees? What do you mean? Well, look, you just don’t, when they start the next day and we add them on the payroll and there’s done no, there’s a process, right? Like there’s, there’s a, there’s a right way of that employing. There’s no, there’s, there’s a ad hoc way of doing it. And so, yeah, I think helping people understand that, that documenting process and everything, that’s, that’s the, you’re right. It’s probably the, the biggest difference between what smaller companies do in the West and how almost every company here operates.
Derek Gallimore: Yeah, absolutely. Amazing. Russell. So we’re going to go and have a look around your facility now. So everyone out there in podcast, I encourage you to go and, go to youtube and check it out. Yeah. and so thank you so much for your time. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, if they want to know any more about you or Clark Outsourcing, how can they do that?
Russell M: Really simple. Just go to the website, clarkoutsourcing.com or you can send us an email in [email protected] very simple.
Derek Gallimore: Thanks so much.
Russell M: I appreciate it. Thank you.
Derek Gallimore: That was Russell Meiselman of Clark Outsourcing. If you want to get in touch with Russell or know any more about Clark Outsourcing or anything that we mentioned in this episode, go to our show notes, which is an outsourceaccelerator.com/236 and as always, if you want to ask us anything, then just drops an email to [email protected] See you next.