On this episode Josh spends time with Dean Soto, President of Pro Sulum. They discuss the benefits of having a virtual assistant document your processes and putting that into place.
Dean is President of Pro Sulim – a company that specializes in having virtual assistants that do documentation and systematize your business. For years he has had the pleasure of helping small and medium-sized business owners enjoy their businesses again by introducing them to system and process virtual assistants.
In today’s episode you will learn:
- What’s the best way of making a virtual assistant to do some specific things?
- How virtual assistant can make processes out of specific tasks?
- Is there a difference in this process if you are a small business or franchise?
- What are the benefits of having systems established in your business?
- How to make a virtual assistant feel like they’re part of your company?
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.
Today, we’re going to cover two of my favorite topics. One is virtual assistants and how you can use them effectively, especially in larger businesses. Second is systems which is one of the five areas of sustainability. If you listen to me speak at all, you know that I am a huge fan of systems even though I don’t like running them myself. Today, our guest is Dean Soto. Dean happens to have a company that specializes in having virtual assistants that do documentation and systematize your business. I want to bring Dean on right away because I think this is a big deal and a fun thing to talk about. Let’s bring him on and we’ll start the conversation.
Hey, Dean. How are you today?
Dean: I’m doing well, Josh. Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Josh: It’s my pleasure. I’ve actually been looking forward to this conversation because anybody who’s used virtual assistants has probably had a problem documenting the processes that you want them to do. Let’s start there. We’re not going to talk about why you should use a virtual assistant. I’ve covered that a zillion times. Let’s say, we need a virtual assistant and we want them to do some specific things, what’s the best way of making that happen?
Dean: That’s a good question. To me, the best way is to do it by video. People tend to train, via video, their virtual assistants. What they’ll do is they’ll say, “Okay. Hey, I’m going to show you how to do this.” And then, they give the video. That’s the training for the virtual assistant and they leave it at that. Where the real power is when you can have that virtual assistant actually take screen shots of that video and then document step by step, every single thing that you’ve explained in that video. The reason being is because – well, it might’ve taken you five or ten minutes to create that “training”. The virtual assistant, it generally takes about an hour to two hours to for one five-minute video to document. That could be you, as a business owner, doing that. Once it’s documented, you never have to do that thing ever again. It’s way better than video training or video process as well because the person you give it to doesn’t have to keep on rewinding, rewinding, and rewinding. They have a step by step thing that they can print out next to their desk and so on and so forth. It becomes an asset for your company.
Josh: Let me just see if I have this correct. I have a process I want done. Let’s say it’s posting a podcast, just for fun. I would do a five-minute video of me posting a podcast–
Dean: Correct. Yes.
Josh: –and then they would document every step that there is along the way?
Josh: Now, it would take me, normally, 15 to 20 minutes to post a podcast – to do all the different things that are a part of that. Then, I break that up into three or four five-minute segments?
Dean: It depends. Sometimes we see a process and we see the whole thing done when there’s actually three different steps, or two different steps, or four different steps in that podcast. If there really is four different actual processes – I should say processes, in there, then what you would do is actually do a video for each of those processes. And there would be four processes in the system of uploading your podcast.
The other is, the reason why I always say five minutes – it doesn’t have to be five minutes. You can go onto Camtasia and do it. There are programs out there like Jing that allow you to take five-minute videos for free. And so, I try to keep it down to like five minutes just because it’s easy. Everyone has five minutes. You do it. And so, if it is something that takes 15 minutes, yeah, just three five-minute little videos showing those different things that you’re doing. Once that’s done, it gets documented and you never have to do it again.
Josh: I might show him, “This is how you’re going to [inaudible 00:04:23] and make it live.” And then, how we take that and we copy it into our program we use for posting podcasts on my list. That might be step 1. Step 2 might be, how do I take the CTA and insert the CTA in the podcast. Step 3 might be how I take the transcription and I put the transcription into the podcast. And Step 4 would be how I take the podcast and I promote it on social media.
Josh: I would be doing, basically, four different videos about how I want this to be done. Your person would then document that. Now that it’s been documented, how do we go about having a virtual assistant hired to run that thing for me every week?
Dean: With our company, that virtual assistant is dedicated to you. Not only do they document, you actually have them to do it as well over, and over, and over again. The benefit of having these things documented, and now you have that as your asset – that’s yours, is that if you wanted to, you could then go hire an intern. You can get someone for free. You can have your neighbor down the street do it if you want, if they needed a few bucks.
It really doesn’t matter who does it because the document is so step by step and so detailed that it’s almost like McDonald’s. McDonald’s doesn’t necessarily care if someone who’s flipping burgers had a vast experience in burger flipping in the past. They just care that they can follow instructions. And so, it’s that same concept that, because it’s step by step, you can really have anybody in there. For us, you already have that person dedicated. Once they’ve documented it, now they can do it from then on – forever. And they’re yours dedicated.
Josh: I’m also assuming. Let’s say I run a larger company and I have like eight or nine — in my case, I had 90 employees working with me, and me wanting to put together a manual for how to fill vending machines, as an example, because I used to own a food service and vending company and I had 90 employees there. We documented all the processes it took to fill and clean a vending machine. I could basically go and do a video about how to fill a machine. Talk about it for five minutes. And then your person would document that for me?
Dean: Yup, exactly. That’s absolutely right.
Josh: And then we start having a systems manual for how vending operators should fill vending machines and how they should clean the vending machines?
Dean: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, because we had like one client and very similar. It’s a restaurant franchise called [inaudible 00:06:47]. It’s a multinational franchise. They can take an iPhone video of what they’re doing in the actual store. Just take an iPhone video of what they’re doing, prepping some kind of food item or something like that. And then, they take that. It gets written into a document. And then, from there, that becomes the franchisee document for all the other franchisees.
Josh: You only have one franchise who’s doing that with you?
Dean: No. I have multiple. That’s the only one that didn’t make me sign an NDA.
Josh: Here’s something which is really interesting from your business point of view, you may know this or you may not know this. I kind of call myself a niche-a-holic. The reason I call myself a niche‑a-holic is I think that niches are the strongest way to build reputation and to stop doing one off’s when you’re running a business which is one of the things I talk about a lot. Since you’re doing franchises– I mean, essentially, when you’re doing a franchise, you’re buying a business in a box. From your point of view, somebody who’s developing a franchise document and a systems document – man, they’re crazy not use somebody like you to do it.
Dean: Yeah. it’s very, very true.
Luckily, I have a friend who’s a consultant for franchises. His customers were like, “[gasp] Please give me this. Give me this.” And so, they jumped on board. It’s definitely growing in that field because they know the pain. When you have, especially as a small growing franchise, that’s a franchisor that’s trying to get more of their stores but they feel the pain of whether it’s the owner having to do the documentation of the franchise or if it’s a marketing director or some high-value person that they’re paying a lot of money to have on staff to do things that are more high-value. One company had their business developer basically creating these documents when they should be developing the business. Having them do that, it’s hurting the company ultimately. Once you can free that task away from that company, then, boom, you see massive, massive profits after that.
Josh: How do you make a virtual assistant feel like they’re part of your company? I think that’s a big deal, frankly.
Dean: Prior to getting very dug into the systems and process type of thing, I used to outsource a lot. I probably would not have been able to answer that question before. I know it would’ve been some flighty type thing. In reality, interesting, people tend to think that, “If I am focusing just on these repetitive tasks, and systemizing, and printing this documentation that my virtual assistant’s going to get bored. They’re not going to like what they’re doing. They’re not going to enjoy their work.” It’s actually the opposite. What I’ve found is that when you can give them a framework to work in, when you can give them, “This is how we do X.” Or, this is how we do whatever it is in our business. What happens is they feel safe in that business.
For example, my general manager, he knows the ins and outs of my business not because I spent hours, and hours, and hours training him, although we do have weekly meetings and so on. He knows my business because I have detailed exactly how I want things to run in my business. Because of that, what happens is every single person, including him, that’s in my core four people, they have taken so much ownership of my business because they know how it runs.
They know exactly what needs to be done, that they actually end up worrying more about my business than I do. When a new customer comes in or someone just signed an agreement, if I don’t answer, if I don’t do something quickly enough, my guys will start jumping in, and get antsy, and start doing stuff. And so, really knowing that, having that framework of safety, with processes and with systems, provides that sense of, “Okay. I feel safe. Now, I can kind of move out of the box and be a little bit more creative” and own part of the business, if that makes sense.
Josh: That makes a lot of sense, actually. I actually learned this in my vending company. The less choice we gave employees, the happier they got.
Josh: It’s a completely non-intuitive, the way I live in the world, because I really have a hard time going A – B – C – D in life. I tend to go A – D – C – B – Z and I jump all over the place. That’s true with most private business owners. As a result, they think their employees want the same thing. The truth is your employees want to know what they need to do for excellence and your customers want to know that what they can expect on a consistent basis from you. If you’re jumping all over the place, they don’t know either.
I mean, it’s great for a visionary – the person who has the vision for putting the business together but you can’t build a big business or you can’t build a successful business when everybody is freelancing on their own.
Dean: For sure. For sure. You’re spot on.
It’s interesting because I’m the same way. I was going from not understanding systems, to then understanding it, and then to building everything around this whole concept of the five-minute videos and having the VAs document and everything. My initial reaction was, “Oh, my gosh. They have no freedom, no creativity. Nothing like that.” But as soon as I started seeing the results, the results speak for themselves.
Personally, with my business, the whole system of this particular business was completed in about three hours’ worth of video. Now, all I do is talk with customers. Make the sale. Once the agreement’s done, I do nothing except for maybe send gifts, call customers and see how they’re doing and everything like that. Thing that I like doing.
My team loves it. They’re like, “Okay. Cool. Dean, we got this. We know exactly what to do. We’ve got it. We’re good. We’re good.” They’re the ones giving raises to the VAs. They’re the ones who are asking if the VAs can get bonuses. Things like that. They’re the ones handling customer support. They’re doing all of that because it’s all documented – every single thing, and all systemized. I never would’ve expected that, ever.
Josh: It’s an amazing thing.
Now, one of the things I found with the virtual assistants I work with – I have three and I love all three of them, is that I have to be communicating with them on a semi-regular basis. You can’t hire a VA – at least this is my opinion. You can’t hire a VA and then forget about them and expect them to do good work for you. Like all human beings, they want to know they’re appreciated. They want some TLC – some tender, loving, care. They want to know that you care about them as a person and not just this $6-an-hour, or $7-an-hour, or $9-an-hour person living in the Philippines. They have a life. They have families. They want to be treated well. When something’s going wrong in the Philippines like there’s a natural disaster, they want you to contact them to say, “Are you okay?”
Dean: That’s for sure. It’s interesting. I never would’ve expected this either, is that when I saw my guys so independent because of the systems and everything that’s going on, I let them off for a while. They actually were the ones who came to me and said, “Hey, can we have a weekly meeting?” Like, “Sure.” And then, from there, they said, “Hey, can we do one-on-one meetings?” My core guys at least. “Can we do one-on-one meetings?” Every month, I have a one-on-one meeting with each one of them.
You’re spot on that they desire that. Every single time, we have those one-on-one’s, it – boom, motivates them to do more. And then, they’ll come up with ideas. They’ll say, “Hey, you know, what if we put on our site testimonials from our VAs along with the customers’?” Because, when they’re recruiting, they want VAs to see that this is actually a good company to work for. That’s something I never would’ve thought of. It gives them that motivation to feel comfortable to bring new ideas. Feel comfortable to improve the company and stuff.
You’re spot on. I never expect that systems would also breed the need for them to also feel because they feel like they have ownership of the company so they also want to communicate more as well.
Josh: Yeah. That makes absolute sense.
One of my other five things that it takes to create a sustainable business is to have clearly articulated values with clarifying statements around them. When I hire, today, we put a short description of what the job is and a long description of what our values are. I have found – this was a complete surprise when I hired a local assistant to be in my office, is that the best people we had – all of them said the reason they applied was because of our values statement, not because of what the job description was.
Dean: [laughs] That is awesome because with that you know you’re getting someone who is aligned with those values too.
Josh: In my opinion, I teach people how to hire. I’ve used a very simple system or the last 37 years. It’s a values-led system. It is called Can Do – Will Do Fit Factor. The fit factors which are the values of your company and how well does somebody line up with your values is absolutely the most important part of a hire. If you don’t pay attention to that, you’re likely to get what I call the brilliant jerk in your company.
Dean: [laughs] I might’ve been that brilliant jerk.
Josh: Well, I was a brilliant jerk. I was a terrible human being. I was 24 years old when I started my first business. I mean, an absolutely terrible human being. It took me four years to figure out, if I didn’t stop being a terrible human being, I was going to ruin my company and go bankrupt.
Dean: [laughs] Oh, man. I know the feeling.
Josh: Usually, about brilliant jerks is, nobody ever tells you, “you have a brilliant jerk in your company”.
Dean: Yeah [laughs].
Josh: You have to figure it out yourself. And when you finally get around to firing them, at least that’s happened with me, I have a line outside my office saying, “What took you so long, jerk?”
Josh: I’d say, “Gee, was there something that got in the way of your tongue working?”
Josh: That was where I started going down the road of saying, “We really need to be paying attention to values.” I think it’s absolutely true with your virtual assistants also because, if they don’t exhibit your values, it’s going to be almost impossible for you to work well together.
Dean: For sure. Yeah, you’re spot on.
That’s one of the reasons why we actually had had these very amazing, very detailed, very, very, very good “workers” who were able to do– they passed all of our tests. We had this guy and he was great on paper. Not even just great on paper, he went through our tests. He passed everything and so on. This is when we didn’t have a six-tier hiring system. We had about like– it was basically like a four-tier hiring system.
We never worked with the person. One of the things that we do now is we work with a person because of this guy. He was great. He passed everything, did everything, and went and started working with one of our clients. He was great with the client but he kept on telling my general manager to basically, “Back off. Stop being my coach. Stop talking to me.”
He was just a jerk. I’m like, “What is up with this guy? This guy is messed up.” He ended up saying, “Hey, well, if you don’t give me a raise, I’m leaving.” And all of my guys were like praying that I said, “pound sand.” And so, I said, ”pound sand” and they were super happy.
It was actually after that, my guys suggested two things. One was like a secondary phone interview. They do all the interviews. And then, the other was to have them work for us. Every single person works for my company for a while before we to somebody else.
Josh: Hey, Dean, unfortunately, we are out of time. I love what you’re doing. I’m hoping that people who are listening, some of them are going to call you up and want to do business with you but they need to know where to go to do that.
Dean: If you go to prosulum.com, P-R-O-S-U-L-U-M .com. They can go there. There’s a spot to schedule a 30-minute consult. It is a consult. No matter what, if you become a client or not, you’re going to leave better than where you were.
Josh: Okay. Cool.
I also have an offer for you. About a year ago, I released my first book. It’s called Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. It’s a novel. Lots of stuff that we talked about today, you get to flush out in the book. You can get it at Amazon, it’s a print version or a Kindle, either way. Or, if you go to my book website which is sustainablethebook.com and you buy the book there, you get a free 20-minute consult with me. Again, it’s a free one. I will guarantee you one thing, that you’re going to get at least one piece of take-home value that you can use in your business. The second thing you get is, because it’s a novel, I didn’t really write the how-to book, I wrote a 37-page how-to guide, how to implement all the stuff that we talked about in the book Sustainable.
This is Josh Patrick. You’re with Dean Soto. You’re at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.