About Winnors Remote Staff
In this episode, Derek talks to Ali Afzal, the founder and head of Winnors Remote Staff—an outsourcing company that helps SMEs scale up their operations.
In Derek’s 48-minute chat with Ali, they exchange conversations about the foundation of Winnors Remote Staff, the challenges of setting this company up, the remote work, and the benefits and downsides of outsourcing.
Ali said the “[Winnors Remote Staff] was created on the back of a need to get back into self-employment.”
When Ali was still working for another company, he was one of the staff who “set up a remote back office for [a] financial services company.”
He then got “a few requests from some [of his] friends who had smaller businesses and were asked if [he] could do something similar for them.” This drove him to set up his own outsourcing business that caters to SMEs’ unique business needs.
While both have knowledge of the ins and outs of outsourcing, the two are focused on the challenges of setting it up in the marketplace.
How Winnors Remote Staff expanded
When Winnors Remote Staff was founded, Ali initially rented a “coworking space” in Pakistan to house a few staff from friends’ referrals.
But the coworking space posed significant problems with utility, facility, and costs.
“We couldn’t control the bandwidth on the internet usage, we couldn’t control the AC units,” He says
“[The management] would turn the AC off whenever there was a power surge, and we couldn’t control the facilities.” He added.
Although the Winnors Remote Staff founder knows these difficulties are the common “challenge[s] for any business,” he persevered to have their own building.
He has two things in mind: “Get a big office with visions for the future” or “Get a small office that meets your current demands.”
After much deliberation, Ali got a larger building rather than a coworking space for the long-term vision.
“I just decided we’ll get a bigger office. So we went and got our own detached building, a villa in the commercial district of Lahore. And we just thought, right, let’s just make it, [and] go for it. Luckily, it paid off,” he tells Derek.
Winnors Remote Staff’s focus on accountants
Ali set up an accounting firm in Dubai six years ago when value-added tax (VAT) was introduced.
And since Ali has an accounting background, Winnors Remote Staff initially focused on accountants as a core function.
He then hired accountants from Pakistan. However, accountants proved difficult to convince of the value of outsourcing.
“Accountants are a tough gig to crack, because they’re extremely busy professionals and business owners. To get time with them is the first challenge, let alone present your proposition,” He says.
Luckily, the UK government’s “Making Tax Digital (MTD)” initiative “[pushes] accountants to become 100% digital.” This has provided an opportunity to open them up to outsourcing.
The Winnors Remote Staff founder recalled when an accountant approached them and said he needed somebody to answer calls on their behalf.
This was when Ali started to introduce the idea of staggered staff augmentation.
“[The] whole concept of staggered staff augmentation is where [the client] would push his work down to his employees, and his employees would push the work down to somebody overseas,” he explains.
“This is a natural evolvement of where outsourcing or how outsourcing should take place within the small business environment.”
Does working remotely work?
Although Ali is open to “the whole idea of remote working and remote management,” he was still adamant about telework’s full potential because of “the challenges of remote working.”
“We don’t have people working remote, we have people working from a business center in Pakistan. And every country has their local challenges when operating in the business environment,” Ali says.
The Winnors Remote Staff founder is convinced that “one of the challenges of remote working, or building a remote team, is about trust.”
“Data is a big challenge [for companies]. You’ve got a person who works 1000 miles away? How do you know that your data is safe?” he says.
Why you should not scrimp when outsourcing
“From the outset, it seems like when you’re remote staffing or offering outsourcing services, you’ve got to make a margin on the price that you charge to the salaries that you pay. And everyone assumes it’s a very profitable business,” Ali tells Derek.
But people don’t know that “the operating costs or capital costs before you bid when you take on a client, can mean that it can take three to six months sometimes to actually realize a net profit per seats per month.”
But “at most levels” clients on a “small budget go to low-cost operators who don’t have the systems and processes in place to make the [work experience] enjoyable.”
This “then creates that negative stigmatism around outsourcing. So you either spend the money and do it right or try to do it on the fly,” He tells Derek.