In this episode, listen to Mark Scott of Encore Realty as he shares his experience using a Virtual Employee and how it impacted his business to his advantage.

It's time to learn more about the great advantage of hiring virtual employees to your business! Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you strategize all throughout the process!  

TRANSCRIPT:

Anne: Hi, my name is Anne Lackey. I'm the co-founder of HireSmart Virtual Assistants, and today, we have Mark Scott. He's the broker of Encore Realty. Mark Scott's been licensed since 1994. Can you believe it? Good for him. He's been a broker since '96. He looks like he just graduated. He's got that young face. He's been managing property since '94. He's a past president of his local association of realtors. He's been involved in the state, national level. He's been managing around 200 doors for a little over two years. He joined NARPM at the end of 2017. He actually is our Cal NARPM president, and more importantly, he's a great HireSmart Virtual Assistant client of ours.

Anne: So welcome, Mark. Talk to us a little bit. Is there anything I missed as far as your background that you want to share with people?

Mark: No, I think that's good enough.

Anne: That's great. Well, listen, we are so excited to have you on the show today. Today's just really casual. First of all, I want to say congratulations. Your virtual assistant actually won top VA newbie of quarter three. How exciting is that?

Mark: Awesome. She deserves it. She terrific.

Anne: I love it. I love it. So for those of you that might not be familiar, part of what we do to create a company culture is celebrated excellent customer service. And so in order to be even considered for top VA, they have to go through a lot of hoops. They have to have a client recommendation. They have to be flawless in their documentation. And really, we have very high standards in general. These VAs that make the top VAs are actually the cream of the crop. They're the people that have excellent communication. And so we're so delighted that Belle got nominated and actually won.

Anne: And she is a superstar. So tell us just a ... for a little bit, how was it, when you got started working with Belle? I mean kind of I share with our people because that's always the question that people have. Like, "Okay, I know I want to do this, but I'm really nervous. I don't know really how to get started." Oh, I don't know. So tell us about your experience in hiring Belle.

Mark: So I'll try to succinctly summarize it. I had an office assistant for a lot of years now in the realty business, and then it transitioned into property management. She was costing about $4,000 a month. I was wanting to implement certain things of end of day reports, and I'd like our maintenance structure to look this way. No, it's too hard. It's impossible with the internal office staff. I was in New York on a college trip with my daughter when Belle started, so I did not have time to train her.

Anne: Which is not recommended as a way to start.

Mark: No, it's a terrible for me, and to Belle's credit, she watched the videos that I sent her. I spent a couple of minutes with her, gave her convoluted instructions, and now I start getting emails of "This has been done. That's been done." Belle started and was able to make some decisions that I told her, "Please make decisions." She could call a staff member in my office if she needed help, and I didn't have her Skype phone line set up. I was a disaster.

Anne: But it still worked.

Mark: Belle succeeded. She started implementing things that my office staff was opposed to, at like a quarter of the price, and I'm getting, I don't know, 20 times production. It's been a big, big, big difference, and I didn't realize how much money I was burning the way that I did it. I had met you Anne at, I can't remember which conference, but I liked you, and I thought, "I'm going to give this a go," and can't believe I resisted doing it.

Anne: You know, I hear that all the time. People are like, once they get... and I tell this to people. Once you start the process and you go through it, you're like, "I'll never hire traditionally ever again because it's just too hard." But something about that first step. I wish I could teach people more like it's okay. Like I got your back. Like I'm going to help you through the process. And the VAs that we hire are amazing because we pay them well, we have healthcare. I mean there's lots of things we do on the back end to make it, again, our culture. Even though we're all kind of all over the Philippines, we're real remote, I think we do a good job of supporting our people, which helps our clients, right? So because that's important to me that we have this community online and available.

Anne: But tell our listeners a little bit about, so what are some of the things that Belle does? Because that's another question I get all the time. Like, "Well, I just, I don't know what they can do." So what does Belle do for you?

Mark: So I'm super excited. We switched our lease form, and I don't know how to put it in AppFolio. Belle watched some videos, and she sent me a PDF of what it looks like. I didn't have time before the call to see because I gave her the task this morning, although we started talking about it a couple of days ago so she educated herself on how to do something that honestly, I don't know how to do, in uploading a form. Our lawyer who I bought the form from said it takes a long time to get it set up in AppFolio, but once you do, you'll love it. So I thought, "Oh, I'll give Belle a shot. She seems talented." So I think she's done that, and... Help me with your question again?

Anne: So what are some of the things that she does on a day-to-day basis?

Mark: Oh, what she does, yes.

Mark: So she was able to do that. She does all our maintenance coordination. I have a client where we're seeing, I think four properties tomorrow with an appraiser, and she scheduled all of those appointments, and those are apartment buildings so each of those, there's probably 16, 17 clients there. We have a response from all but one. It's not from lack of followup that we've not gotten her. Belle, in every end of day report when we speak over the phone or over Skype, she says, "I'm still trying to get that last tenant." And it's, I think, her goal to get 100% and 100% accuracy always.

Mark: And so she'd been terrific picking the vendor. She'll call me, "Hey, I have this. What vendor do you think? Do you think, is this Carlos or is this Scott? Is this this guy or is it that guy?" And with very, very few exceptions, I think, "Oh, maybe we should send the other person," so she'd been terrific at making decisions, which was maybe my biggest fear is that I'd have to make all the decisions, which means I may as well do it. I have to make the decision, it's a button for me to push. But I've not had to do that. She's been great interaction with owners, with tenants, with our maintenance coordination. I just can't say enough.

Anne: Well, I love to hear that. So every owner that I deal with is different. Some of them have very strict guidelines, and some are more like you, like kind of just figure it out. And so I think it's always important that if you're going to be the kind of, "Hey, figure it out," is to give your virtual staff or your internal staff, I don't think it matters really, empower them, that it's okay to make a mistake because you know what? There are times that when you ask somebody to make an independent decision, if you don't have a good decision tree, they may make the wrong decision.

Anne: Too me, that's okay. I would rather have people make a decision and do something than to not make the decision and put the monkey on my back because I'm like you. I don't have time for that. But if you're working with virtual staff, you've got to empower them, so you don't make them feel bad if they make the wrong decision, you can just say, "Okay, not this decision I would've made. Here's my thought process, how I would've handled it. Let's try better next time." Do you find- Mark: I do that with in office staff, the same as with Belle, of "Oh well I'm glad you made a decision."

Anne: Correct.

Mark: "Maybe it wasn't the best one. Here's what I would've done," and why. And sometimes, the why gets too long with me, but she puts up with me. The ... I don't even want to say biggest mistake because it was just a ... it was nothing. Sorry. I thought I turned my phone off.

Mark: She's not made any mistakes that I'd even classify as mistakes. I don't even like the word because it was just a different way to do things so I've just been ... I just can't say enough of the overall experience of the, from hiring. I got to interview three candidates. One was having little difficulty with her internet, and that hurt her. I think she would've been fine. The next one would've been terrific, but she was too nervous-sounding over the phone, and hopefully, she's gotten over that and hired somewhere because I think she would've been terrific.

Mark: And then Belle was my third interview. She was nervous but could manage through that and ended up being a terrific choice. I think all three of them would've been, but I'm super, super happy with the virtual assistant that I have. And when time to hire another one, I for sure am going to hire more.

Anne: Well that's great. Obviously, I love to hear that. I always like to hear how people have implemented, and I love the fact that you really empower your people. You talked about kind of the explanation of why or how you got to make a particular decision. I think that that's super important. Again, it doesn't matter whether it's internal staff or remote staff. When we get to a point with our staff that we asked them, "Well how did you make that decision?" or, "Share with me your rationale as to how did you get there?" Sometimes honestly, when they rationalize out how they got there, I'm like, "Okay with that information, I would've made the exact same decision." And again, a lot of times, it's not like life or death. I mean very rarely in our world-

Anne: -is it that, but I think because we get a lot of people that are like, I came from a corporate background. I'm from corporate, IT, HR so I'm used to kind of policies and procedures, but I find a lot of property managers kind of just fall into this type of a role as a broker and an owner of a company. Let's face it. Nobody teaches us how to own a company, nevertheless how to manage one, right? And so the reason I love these talks with different owners is because I'm hoping that somebody can hear, "Oh man, maybe I can incorporate that in my business," or, "Hey, that was a nugget that I could use to help me be better in my company or my ... "

Anne: And so for anybody that's out there, if you have a challenge with feeling like you have to do it all, that's a mentality that will keep you small, your whole existence. And that's okay if that's your choice. But I wanted freedom. That's one of the main reasons I went to virtual assistants is I didn't really want to work in my property management business. I much have more fun in HireSmart, which I love. That's my favorite business out of any of the businesses I've started. It's absolutely where I plan to hang my hat at the end of my journey.

Anne: But again, a lot of the same policies, procedures, guidelines come into play. I'm dealing with human capital. We are in property management too. We've got tenants and owners, and they all have their own agenda, and those agendas don't necessarily align. I've got, in my HireSmart, I've got owners, I've got workers, and sometimes, they need a little bit of help in that communication too. It's kind of interesting to see the parallels.

Anne: What piece of advice would you give someone who is either on the fence about hiring virtually or might be minimally exposed to it? What would you share with that person?

Mark: So I see this in realty and property management, we're kind of birds of a feather in a lot of ways, and is there, and maybe many of us start as realtors and end as property managers or vice versa. So I think the crossover is there. What I see always is, "Yeah, but it's not me doing it. Therefore, I can't do it," and, "They won't do it like me." Yeah, they'd probably do it better in reality.

Mark: Belle, she cares so much to get it right that I was a little worried that she would be, have paralysis of analysis and not want to make a decision because she wants it to be always 100% accurate. She's been able to make decisions. I made a mistake and used ... I think the word ignorant offended her because she thought I was calling her stupid, but she just didn't know whatever I was talking about. I heard her voice tone change. I said, "Oh no, let me explain myself." But that's been our only ... and I think it was that word, but it was not a very commonly used word, certainly not a word in the industry, but that's been our only little communication thing, but you got to do it and take action. And if it's a bad decision, it's not like there's tons of money on the line. You can undo it. But if you never do it, you won't see how great it can be. I think with Anne's training and HireSmart's training, that I couldn't believe how well-versed they were in the computer, in ... She put a an Excel spreadsheet together for me because I wanted to track certain numbers so I gave her "Hey, here's kind of what I have, but it doesn't really work because it's a static document I send to you, then you change it, and I have to save over save." No, there's like, I don't even know what it is. It's Google Docs. I don't know what it is, but I pulled it up, and I can read it. It's the work order spreadsheet. It has notes, and I can track how many days open. It's really super, very simple, and I don't know how to do that. Belle did that. I knew that the document could exist that way, but I don't like the computer much in reality. And it's really super simple. She's ... I thought I knew Excel pretty well, and she knows it better. I know certain things about it, maybe a little different, but she knows it better. And so why not let her do it, and then I don't have to spend my time trying to recreate something that someone very, very talented and really cares. I've been surprised how much they care about me and my business and our company. I've not had her ... Do you know when I started, Anne?

Anne: I can look it up. I think it was about five months ago.

Mark: July or something. June. Oh, maybe May. May, June.

Anne: Yeah, somewhere around there.

Mark: But she's one of us, and I've never seen her in person. I've seen her on the computer, but she's an integral part of our company and got there quickly, really through her talent. I don't know why I was surprised at how self-starting she was, but I assume that if they're in HireSmart's and Anne's pool of people that they would be of similar kind of mindset and similar training so that, what are you waiting for? You should do it. That's my advice to all my friends. Well, thank you. It's this June, by the way. June 10th, that's her anniversary. Junes, yeah.

Anne: You will remind you of. That's one of the things that I think is so important. So you know, it's interesting. We've been in business about four and a half years, and I have had VAs that have been working with me for four and a half years. Literally the first group of trainees I've ever had are still, a lot of them are still placed. So I had the client that long and the VAs that long, which has been great.

Mark: That speaks volumes.

Anne: I think it's so important that when people think about, because again, now, when I started this, there were almost no choices. There was maybe one big gorilla, and that was it in the industry. Now, there's several that have kind of popped up. But what I think, from my perspective, again, I always treat clients like I would want to be treated as a client. One of the things that I think really makes a big difference is in the testing process and in the making sure that you've got the right people for that right position.

Anne: You talked about having three candidates. Any one of those three could actually do the work is who did you like, who did you feel like you could relate to? And then of course, we put them through the paces for the soft skills.

Anne: So interestingly enough, I just did my numbers because again, I'm a process numbers person. I like to understand, and I like things that are duplicatable and replicatable. So this time last year, I had about a 20% fallout rate for my certification class. At that point, we'd only been doing a new testing process for about six months. Well now, we're a year and a half, so we're 18 months in. I really dig into that data quite frequently to make sure that what my gut tells me is actually what's happening.

Anne: And so now, I'm down to fall out of my certification class down to 12%. so from 20 to 12. And those, so now, I analyze why are those 12 not working out? It really comes down to two reasons. One is they don't have some of the soft skills, which you don't know until you start working with somebody. Until you start putting them through that ... Some of my competitors train for eight hours. I'm sorry. Eight hours is not enough. Somebody can fake something for eight hours. You can't fake something for 40. It's almost impossible.

Anne: And then so that, and then the second part is they don't realize how hard it is because I put them through the paces as if it were my company, and so I'm pushing them really, really hard, and they're like, "Well, this was more than I anticipated." Which I'd rather find that out early on. If you don't have the moxie to to do what, like you were saying that you like Belle, she's a decision maker, she takes action. And not every role requires that. I mean again, every client's different. Some people want somebody just to kind of go through the process, and I got, I can hire for that or I can hire a generalist that can think and make decisions.

Anne: So it all comes down to really, the better the client's expectations with me up front of what they need, the better the results that we're going to have in the placement. Just again, knowledge is power.

Anne: What would be one of the, kind of the biggest a-ha moments that you had when you were working with Belle over the last few months? I mean what was it you went, "Oh wow. I never thought that was possible?"

Mark: I was really surprised at her commitment to us. She's part of the family and just seems to care so much. I was afraid that, I think in part, what separates me is that I care. I do it for money. No question, but-

Anne: Of course. We're all in business.

Mark: Yeah, and profit is not a dirty word, but I love to help people. I think Belle exemplifies that of that she truly cares. We're a world apart, and she cares as if I can scream at her from my office door so I think that that's what I've been most impressed with is her commitment to our success, and if she doesn't know something, she learns it so quickly that I feel a little silly saying, "I don't know how to do this, but I know the program does it. Can you look into it?" She looks into it, and before I can get a chance to look at it, and so then I said, "I don't even need to know how to do that." Belle did it for me.

Mark: And so I've been surprised at how committed they are to our success. We think, "Oh, they're doing it for only whatever the fee is." But they're making a lot of money compared to their counterparts. Now when I hear that I'm at a call center, I start asking questions of the person at Microsoft or whoever I'm talking to, and so ... and I started asking them, and maybe my gig isn't so bad.

Anne: Well you know it's really funny because you mentioned that we've all been talking to the Filipino people for years, and most people have never even known. I mean because one of the things that we get all the time is "Well, I'm not sure about their English." I'm like, "Well their English is amazing." But you know, and again, that's part of the screening process too because they're not all amazing. But ours are. The people that I place are amazing or neutral or they're not talking on the phone, they're doing some other technical skill that doesn't require great verbal communication. So that's awesome.

Anne: Well I always ask my guests, what's the one thing you're proud of? And I love the fact that this was your answer, and you says, "I'm proud of the great job we do for our clients and that we will always keep doing right thing." That's actually one of our core values. Our core values are smarter and under the E is ethics and integrity, which I define as doing the right thing, even when no one's watching because that's ... whether you're going to get caught or not doesn't matter. Ethics and integrity are always about doing the right thing. I think when you do the right thing, you're going to be blessed. So all of our VAs kind of commit to those core values.

Anne: If anybody's interested in knowing our core values, they are listed right on our website, so you can go to HireSmartVAs.com/about and our core values are literally posted there because I think it's super important that again, we talk about that company culture. So we want our VAs to kind of buy in to that.

Anne: Actually, when we had our quarterly meeting, every time I go through our core values again, just to make sure that they understand kind of what we're looking. But that lends itself to the quality of people that we attract and that we maintain.

Anne: So Mark, is there anything else that you would want to share with our listeners today? And again, I appreciate you being on the show.

Mark: Yep. No, thank you for having me. If you're at all thinking about hiring a VA, you should, without question, and I wish I had done it sooner. I'd have a lot more money in my pocket because I would've saved 3000 bucks a month for 10 years. But I didn't realize we could still get that close customer personalized service and be a world away. We've not experienced that, and so I think you should do it. It frees up your time, and you won't regret it.

Anne: Well, thank you for that. Well listen, if you're interested in finding out more about us, you can go to HireSmartVAs.com, and you can have the same results that Mark does as well. Of course, if you are listing and you're looking for a great property management company, I would encourage you to check out Mark Scott, the broker at Encore Realty. His contact information, I'll be following shortly. Thank you and have a great rest of your day.

Mark: Thanks, Anne. Thanks everyone.  

In this episode, Donna with Disciple Property Management near Savannah talks about her experience using a virtual employee and how it has impacted her business.

Just like Donna, you too can recreate the value of time while enjoying your business by hiring an excellent virtual employee with us today! Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you set up from start to a new start!

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to HireSmart Virtual Assistant newest edition of Company Spotlight. We celebrate the best in our clients and want to recognize them for the leaders that they are. We hope you enjoy listening in, and that you're able to pick up some words of wisdom that you can apply in your own business. Welcome to the show.

Welcome. My name is Anne Lackey, I'm the co-founder of HireSmart Virtual Assistants, and today I have the pleasure of introducing Donna Walden.

Hello.

And she is with Disciple Property Management. And actually she's new to property management at least with Disciple. I don't know, did you work in property management before then, or is this totally new to you?

I did not, this is new to me. I've been in property management for about a year and a half.

So how exciting, I don't know that any of us necessarily grow up and go, I want to be a property manager. But you know what? You're here and that's amazing. And so, you shared with me a little bit about why you went into property management and I had to chuckle because you said you made a change to be less stressful and have more time with your family. So I don't even really... I mean, I think you were in children's ministry before this.

Yeah, yeah.

I mean, to even think that their property management has more and less stress makes me laugh. And so, one of the things that I personally like about Donna is she's just always upbeat and always responsive to me and my team, and that obviously is something that we love to have in our clients. People that are really our partners, because that's how we view this relationship, is that we are your staffing partner and help you through the process. So some other things you might want to know about Donna is of course she has been married for 26 years. So she's got me a couple of years and has three beautiful daughters, all pretty much on their way out of the nest. And even her dog is a girl. So her guy, he’s patient. So something else you brought up when we were getting prepared for this, and so I laugh is that she is part of the Rebel Legion of Star Wars. Now, you have to explain that, because I certainly-

Okay.

I think it's pretty funny because I'm the geekiest person I know, but I think I might've found somebody that is as a comrade in arms here.

Oh, yeah. Listen, I can bring the geek. But yeah. The Rebel Legion is a costuming group and it's a worldwide organization and we have literally set quality costumes. You have to pass inspection.

Wow.

Yeah, yeah so the Rebel Legion are the good guys, and the 501st are the bad guys, but they're all fantastic people and our buddies. But we do charity events, and parades, and raise money for our Make-A-Wish Foundation. And it's just fun. I mean, it's just stupid and fun and we have a blast.

Well, it's always interesting to me because I'm like, how do these things start? I'm not as much a Star Wars fan, as I'm a Star Trek fan.

Oh. I'm a Trekkie too.

Long and prosper.

That's me actually. I was Tasha Yar for Christmas a few years ago.

I could see that, I could see that. Yes.

My husband was, I think he was Data. I don't remember. We both had the little and it's so funny because if you ever heard us speak on stage or you've heard my husband Mark and I share a little bit about who we are and how we help people, part of what we refer to is the Star Trek's prime directive. Because a lot of people ask us, as a couple, "How do you guys work together 24/7 and not kill each other?" And it all comes back to the prime directive. What is it that we're trying to achieve in our business? And as long as we are operating in, this gets us closer to that prime directive, we don't have a... There's not a battle of wills. So it's funny that we can bring that love of Trek and Star Wars together.

Let's I guess, transition into business here a little bit. And so you've worked with Disciple Property Management for a year and a half. They've been in business for 19 years. And one of the things that you mentioned that you were proud of is 19 years in the business is a nice long time serving with integrity and respecting your homeowners, your tenants, vendors, and or your community. So you guys are a real community type property manage-

Yes. Very much so.

Share with us a little bit about what that's like in the industry and how you transition that core values out into the community.

Okay. Well, as you were saying, our mission is to operate with integrity and with quality. And that's where... We want that to be present for our homeowners, for our tenants, for our vendors, for everybody, because that's who we are, that's how we want to be known. And I think that is how we are known. Our town that we're located in is just outside Savannah. It's a small town that's gotten a lot bigger in the last 20 years-

As they all.

Yeah. But it still has that small town feel to it in your reputation. How you operate locally really does have a large impact for our ability to attract tenants and to attract homeowners.

Yeah. That's great. And of course, Disciple has a connotation with Christian values, I would assume. Yes?

Yes, yes.

And has that impacted positively or negatively in this world where everything is politically correct? How has that been received?

I think positively because I mean, clearly we operate with everybody regardless of belief system and it's important to us. That's part of where that whole respect and integrity comes in. Because regardless of who we work with, or belief system, we want to represent well, because we do have the word disciple in our name. So that's almost even an extra reason to be upstanding.

Yeah. Higher accountability, I would think. So you guys have gone through the HireSmart process, but before we talk about that, share with us a little bit about your structure. So how many people do you have on staff? How many doors do you manage? Share people about your team.

Okay. We have about 270 doors. We have a small office staff. Our total people are seven, including our VA now who is fabulous. You're welcome. We're arranged departmentally, so we have leasing department, maintenance department, accounting, and then some overlap. We have some independent vendors that we use for inspections, but we're basically departmentally organized.

You obviously hired a virtual assistant and so share with us and our clients a little bit about what are the tasks that she does for you guys.

Okay. Our virtual assistants name is Kelly, and she has become a really integral part of the Disciple team. One of the primary things that we hired her for was staying on top of our lease renewals so that we can reach out to the homeowners in a timely manner, ahead of time. Hey, your tenant's lease is coming up due, we want to make sure that you were okay with this and blah, blah, blah. Reaching out to the tenants in a timely manner. Making sure that that rents were stepped up appropriately, according to the leases, that kind of thing. We'd gotten all caught up, and we wanted to stay caught up, and have a system in place so that we didn't get behind on this. So that was a big pull of why We got her. But she's done so much more as we've grown in what we're asking her to do and really just in realizing what she's capable of doing.

She handles all of our management agreements as far as sending them out, making sure that they're done properly, notated, recorded. She does all of our marketing now, all of our online marketing. With our vacancy, she communicates with homeowners once a week with an update so they know what's going on. When we have a property re-keyed, she tracks that and helps us with the appropriate billing to the accounting department. All of this using our systems. And she's just a pleasure to work with.

That's probably one of the most common themes that I hear from clients once they make that initial, like, okay, I can do this. The thing is that their attitude is just so pleasant and their ability to service. The other comment I get is, "They can do a lot more than I originally thought." And you're just finding that as well. Right?

Yes.

So share with me if you can remember back, gosh, I guess it's been about nine months at this point, when you were starting this process, what were your hesitations, and now, what advice would you give yourself now that you've done it for nine months? What would you tell yourself then, now that you know?

Okay. Our hesitation probably was just getting our documentation in order. Getting stuff out of our heads and onto paper, so to speak. Or into a process so that someone, thousands of miles away can step through this logically and have questions and ask us. But really just getting that organized was our hesitation because that's a lot of work, that's a lot of preliminary work. But on the backside, I have to say it's so worthwhile. And even in that process, it has helped us think through, okay, how can we better systematize things even that Kelly doesn't touch right now? How can we think through this better? It really has just given us a different perspective in how we're looking at the business process. And with anything that we do now, regardless of what area it's in, part of our assessment is what part of this can we carve off and potentially give to Kelly? Because she has proven her worth. So that's been very helpful.

So if I understand you correctly, you were nervous about the processes. It was worth doing, you still think it was a lot of work from the get go? Is that...

Yes. And part of that is just from where we were. Coming from having a lot of stuff in our heads and wanting to do better with that. But that's just where we were as a company.

So now looking back, so a lot of that has been documented and done. If you were to bring somebody else to take over some of what Kelly was doing and move her into a different role, do you think that would be easier than it was the first time?

Oh, my word, yes. Yes.

She essentially made you a better business, because now you have a process. It's not dependent on any particular person, although Kelly's amazing of course. The reality is part of what... And I totally agree with you. I guess the only difference is because I had some of the processes, having a VA tested those processes and made them better?

Yes.

Mine, weren't all done. I didn't wait until it was perfection because otherwise I'd never get there. But to me it was worth it just to say, here's what I got, you make it better, you document it. Because what I found is, I'm not the best person to... Me personally, I'm not the best person to do it. I'm just not. But that's why I surround myself with people with different skillsets that are great.

Exactly. Right.

Tell me a little bit about what was your aha moment when working with Kelly? Like, man, that was amazing. I never thought this would happen, or I never thought I could get this.

It was actually with a little side issue. Because we'd been very intentional, because she also does a lot of our application processing. We've been very intentional with these things, and we use AppFolio for our management system and AppFolio added a feature on the property page where you could list fixed assets. And we we're like, Hey, this is really helpful. This will be great when we're doing inspections, or with maintenance, blah, blah, blah. And man, wouldn't it be awesome if somebody could go through all of our online inspections and list all of the serial numbers from the appliances. And it was like, Oh my word, Holy cow, Kelly can do that. And she literally, in between other tasks, if she had any downtime, she would go into our inspection system and just appliance by appliance.

And then once she did that, we were like, you know what? This is great. Can you go through the owner statements for the last seven years and see when the property had been repainted? Or when new flooring had been put in? So we have that documented. So when we have a move out now, we literally can go to the property page and go, "Oh, it was painted on this day and carpet on this day." And that was a ton of work. It just looks like magic now.

Wow. I'm not good with that detail.

Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And so that really got us to, okay, what else could... Looking at any process, let's look at it through the eyes of Kelly. What could we give to her? What could be helpful?

Oh, that's great.

Yes. That was huge.

So if you had to give advice to someone who's on the fence of using a virtual assistant to either... either pro or con, what would you tell them?

Pro, if you are... For us, as we were looking to make better use of the time of our existing staff, trying to figure out what are things that we have to do here, that we need to be able to locally have boots on the ground, versus what somebody else could do? A VA, for us, bringing on a VA versus bringing in another body into the office was super helpful. Honestly, part of it is financial. But also, as we've already discussed, just in helping us as a business and organizing our processes. That was an unexpected benefit.

Cons would be... And again, as you said, I'm a very positive person. My glass is half full. Cons would be, it was a lot of work before we brought her on to get ourselves organized. And even in the transition process of figuring out how to best communicate this with her, and how to ask her questions in a way that she can feel comfortable saying, "Yeah, that doesn't make any sense," which I guess that's just part of building the relationship. They're not really cons as it is just things to be aware of.

And so how would you shorten somebody's learning curve for that? What would you tell them to make it easier for them?

Honestly, I don't want to sound like a suck up, but the information the two guys provided was really, really helpful. And the stuff that we embraced well was very, very helpful. And there's parts of that, that I wish we had embraced better. Because the guidance that we were getting from people who had already been there and done that, if we had implemented it a little bit more, I think would have made the transition more smooth.

Interesting. I appreciate it. It's funny because I also am constantly trying to improve our service, and make it better, and give people more value. And so I'm the kind of person that if I have a problem with a client, I'm going to fix it. The reality is I fix it through training, or I fixed it through assets, or I fix it through conversations. And part of the reason we're doing the spotlight is to help other business owners understand that this is a viable option. A lot of people that go, "Well, I couldn't do that in my business." And I'm like, "What makes you say that?" And they're like, "Well, they're not smart enough." Well, that's certainly not true. It's interesting. So again, I'm a very processed person. I have a hiring process, I've got a 10 point hiring process that I go through.

And part of that is testing them on basic math and basic verbal skills. You have to have a score in order to even be considered. If you get below that... And my score honestly is higher than what the average US property manager, so people that are here in the States, property manager score. So I don't even use the bottom score of that. I go up a step above. So when I have somebody that goes, "Well, they're just not smart." I'm going, okay well, I don't know what you're on because all of my candidates... I mean, there's lots of people that don't pass my test and a lot of people don't pass my certification, but it's interesting to me when people have that preconceived notion. And usually it's because a different country. The other thing is, well, I'm not sure about their English. So have you ever had anybody complain about not being able to understand Kelly or anybody in your staff?

We have not. No. Kelly does not do phone stuff for us because we don't have a VoIP system set up for her because I love the system too. So Kelly is completely written as far as her communications with our tenants and homeowners, but we Skype regularly. But no, she communicates very well and very clearly.

See, I love that. How was the HireSmart process for you as a client? Did you feel like it was super simple? Did you feel like it was comprehensive? Did you feel like you wish you would have had something different? Share with me your thoughts about that. The hiring process specifically and interviewing process.

Once we as a company decided to pull the trigger, because really the hesitation had been with us, but once we got there, it was very smooth. Everything was, "Hey, we're going to email you this and I need this back from you," and if I had a question I can ask it and nothing was awkward. The interviews themselves, I thought was very helpful because even in between the Skype interviews and you were talking to me and Beau, our broker, and you were like, "I think what you're asking for is this, and if you phrase it this way..." And it was like, "Oh, thank you." Because I knew what I was trying to get, but I didn't know how to get that in my head and into words. So I thought that the process was very smooth.

So let's compare it with a local hire, because I think that is something that is interesting too. So if you needed a similar role locally, approximately how long do you think it would take you from the time you made the decision to hire to the time you actually had a qualified candidate come through your door and start working?

At least several weeks because we would have to... Well, you got to put together a job description anyway so I guess that would be part of it regardless. We've got to advertise it in the appropriate places. We have to receive the emails. We've got to receive the resumes. We have to vet the resumes and figure out our criteria, and then figure out how we're scheduling bringing them in. Yeah. I don't love hiring. It's not my favorite. So yeah, the fact that there were already vetted candidates and here's... Because you had three and actually Kelly was a fourth add on. And honestly, I think any of the four could have worked for us, but I think she ended up being the best fit for us. But the fact that we didn't have to go find those four was huge, especially because we're hiring somebody because we need help. We don't have time for this.

A lot of people say, well, you have a placement fee. Because it's no surprise that I need to get paid for my work because we do a lot of testing, and we do spend a lot of time with the candidate before they ever reach the thing and so in property management, once I've put it into the terms that they understand. So I tell them as a homeowner you can put a for rent sign out. You can take the applications, you can figure it out. But here's the thing, you don't have all the tools that a professional property manager has. You don't know what to look for under the hood. When you're screening, you know how to read when I see this, this is usually a problem. Because you've done it hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of times. So you just have some innate skill in that.

But you have costs associated with finding a good quality tenant. Right? And so you want to be compensated for that. And so I tell people I'm the same way. Yeah, you could go find a global person yourself, but you don't know what you don't know and you may have a very bad result and then you've wasted a ton of time doing that. And then after my clients make their selection, I spend 40 hours beating them up. Are they going to be amazing? And a lot of that is of course, can they pick up skills? Can they look up tasks, all of that, and have a broad overview.

But part of it is testing their communication skills. Part of it is just making sure that when I ask a question during a working hour, are they going to respond to me, and how quickly? And if they don't, and I give them the correction and I test them later in the week, will they have learned from that? To me, they're not going to all be out of the gate, amazing. Part of my job is to forge them to amazing and to reinforce that. And so anyway, I love doing what you don't like to do. I love hiring people. I love placing people. I love finding that perfect fit. And I'm so glad and honored to be able to serve you in that way. What other last thoughts would you want to share with someone about the process? HireSmart, virtual assistants in general? Give us a wrap up of what you feel like somebody would need to know.

Overall, we could not be more pleased with our virtual assistant. Truly. We could not be more pleased with how the process went. I could see us potentially picking up another assistant in the future as we figure things out and continue to grow. Because we are actually positioned to grow now, because we're not bogged down, because we've determined the things that we have to do locally versus the things that can be delegated. That's opened up new avenues for us. As far as HireSmart, I'm a fan. Anytime you see me on Facebook, whenever anyone is asking questions and I'm like, "Listen, she's the real deal." Sorry, I'm not fantastic with words at the moment.

You're amazing. Thank you so much.

Well thank you, but we're sold.

Well, again, my goal is always... We all have our own personal things. So my personal mission in life is to leave people better off than before they met me. Whether they do business with me or not, it doesn't matter. I want to help them with education, or I want to help them accomplish whatever it is. And I'm very proud to say most of the time that that happens. Again, whether they use me or not. The clients that use me and stay in contact with me, and come to our monthly office hours, and have just much better results. Because again, you're just plugged into something that's bigger than your organization because I touch hundreds.

Yes. And with the monthly office hours, I log in every month. If it's nothing to do with how we use Kelly right now, I still log in because I want to hear it. I want to know other possibilities. There was something you mentioned. I think it was funny because this last one or the one before, you mentioned some software that you use for flow chart, I'm using it now. It has nothing to do with VA's.

Lucidchart, Yeah. Lucidchart.

Yeah. Yeah.

I mean, that's a great example where you can learn something new. You may not do it the same way, but yeah, that was this last one that was creating a process. And I like to do it using Lucidchart because it helps me map out the flow. I also have a big old whiteboard over here that I use. I use both of them. Sometimes I'll start on my whiteboard and then I'll transition it over. So, that's great. And again, it's a lot of collaboration and tools. Well, Donna, thank you so much for spending your time with me today. I truly appreciate you as a person, as a client. I'm just thankful to have you part of the HireSmart family, and we do believe it is a family. Our clients are our friends and that's the way I want it.

That's the beautiful thing about being the co-founder and owner of the company. I can choose who I can do business with. And certainly, I am glad that you chose us and that I can continue to build that relationship with you. And certainly look for many, many, many years with Kelly and her growing with you guys as a company. And if and when you decide you're ready for that next hire, certainly we will be here and available to you. So for those of you that want to get to know more about Disciple Property Management, the contact information is going to be down at the bottom as well as following this particular video. So certainly, if you are looking for a property management company in the Savannah area, I hope you would reach out to them because they are amazing. Thank you so much for being here and have a great rest of your day.

Sometimes, you have an issue with your Virtual Employee. How do you handle it?

Your mother said there would be days like this…

There are some days when nothing seems to go the way you want it to. For me yesterday was one of those days. People let you down. It is part of being a business owner. Whether you have internal or external staff, there will come a time when someone drops the ball. It is inevitable.

The question becomes, how do we handle these situations? What can we learn and how can we grow from it.

First, evaluate what is really the problem:

Was it a training issue?

Personnel performance issue?

Is the system broken & inefficient?

Training Issues are the easiest to fix.

I use training issues to strengthen my systems and policies. We create a training library and just add to it as needed. The main thing is to have a filing and naming convention so that trainings can be easily referenced and found.

Personnel performance issues are a little bit trickier.

Let’s face, we can’t be on our “A” game every day. There are days when I miss the mark as well. If your virtual employee is just having a less than stellar day, but overall has been amazing, then maybe you have a heart to heart and call it a day.

If however, the problem is more systemic, follow this simple evaluation:

Ask a question to determine the root of the issue. Sometimes, your virtual employee is in over their heads and are embarrassed to tell you. While it may seem silly, there are times when your virtual employee just doesn’t know what to do next and ends up either doing nothing or doing the wrong thing.

Are they overwhelmed? Ask what needs to happen to help them get it resolved. A lot of times, we have high expectations of our staff, but honestly don’t equip them well enough to meet those expectations. Having an open communication can often time lead to better expectations and procedures.

Are they communicating regularly? Force your virtual employee to communicate with you. Most problems arise when you allow communication to slip. Your virtual employee has been trained to provide you with a daily recap of their work. When clients allow that drop, it almost always ends up with an issue. Your virtual employee should be reporting on the most important tasks of the day. Take a minute or two to review it.

Are you providing regular feedback? Positive and negative feedback are a key component to overall successful communication and a positive relationship. Everyone needs a pat on the back in addition to constructive criticism. Make it a point in the first 90 days to devote the time to building this into your meetings with your virtual employee.

Is your system broken or inefficient?

There is no doubt that having a virtual employee will make your systems stronger. However, there are times when the system really needs to be evaluated. What works on a small scale in the office, doesn’t always work with a remote staff member.

I have found that there are a lot of times internal staff make due with inefficiencies rather than fix a broken system. People are naturally resistant to change. When you are using a remote staff member, they aren’t as “plugged in” to the “fixes” and therefore the problem is highlighted. Unfortunately, often the problem is blamed on the virtual staff member rather than the broken system.

Evaluating your systems regularly allows for innovation and efficiency.

Every time my virtual employee make a misstep, I look at it as an opportunity to grow. What can I do to improve? I rarely blame my virtual employee. I either use it as a learning opportunity, training opportunity or an opportunity to better my systems.

If in fact my virtual staff member made a mistake, I take the time to discuss it with him or her, make them part of the solution for the next time. I demand daily communication so that I can feel good about the work they are performing for me.

Overall, I remind myself even on the most frustrating of days, that having my virtual staff handle the tasks that I don’t want to do is a huge blessing for me. They are efficient, kind, and want to do a great job for me. Because I am willing to put in a little effort, I get to do more of the tasks that I prefer.

To your success!

Anne

PS If you have ever thought about hiring a virtual employee, I would love to have a conversation with you - Book your appointment today!