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Take the Guesswork Out Of Hiring and Managing a Virtual Team – A Tech With Heart Interview With Nathan Hirsch

“Hiring is necessary to scale” – Nathan Hirsch

Imagine a team of 10+ VAs working seamlessly together running the entire operations of your business. Is that a dream or what?!

Once you have the system to hire and onboard your first VA, you have the power and knowledge to build a reliable team of VAs to manage your entire business.

Instead of being the one that creates new processes and gets stuck within them, become the owner who quickly passes the new process off to one of your VAs. Over time, you can even set up levels of leadership within your team of VAs so even less depends on you.

Learn How to Hire, Train, and Manage Virtual Teams from Co-Founder of Outsource School, Nathan Hirsch on this episode of Tech With Heart with Host Michelle Calloway, CEO of REVEALiO Software and Media Solutions.

In this interview you will learn:

  • How to identify when you need to start hiring an assistant or team
  • The difference between a follower, an expert, and an agency
  • How to manage a team of virtual assistants

About Guest Nathan Hirsch

headshot of Nathan Hirsch

Nathan Hirsch is a 30 year old entrepreneur that's been scaling businesses since 2009. Nathan's first business, Portlight, sold over $30 million in sales through Amazon. Nathan then co-founded FreeeUp.com with an initial $5,000 investment in 2015, scaled it to $12M per year in revenue, and it was acquired in 2019. Today, Nathan is a co-founder of OutsourceSchool, a company working to educate entrepreneurs on how to effectively hire and scale with virtual assistants through in-depth courses. With all of his businesses, Nathan has hired and scaled with hundreds of virtual assistants and freelancers from all over the world. He shares his roadmap for scaling businesses with virtual assistants through OutsourceSchool. Nathan has built himself into a social media personality online, he has appeared on over 300+ podcasts, and has spoken to thousands about remote hiring at industry events.

Outsourceschool.com - Outsource School is an education platform for entrepreneurs that want to learn how to scale their business using reliable virtual assistants. Outsource School offers courses on hiring, using and retaining high quality Vas.

Transcript of Interview Below

Hello, welcome to Tech With Heart. I am your host, Michelle Calloway, and I am the founder and CEO of REVEALiO software and media solutions, and we are all about empowering business success in a rapidly changing digital world.

And if you're like many other business owners, you have to figure out how to work effectively, especially during the days of Covid, with other people virtually because we're not allowed to be in each other's communicable spaces anymore. So, we have to rely on technology in order to communicate and stay in front of, and meet together regularly and grow our business.

Well, I have a very special guest with us today. He has done it and done it again. I mean he has just excelled in the area of organizing and managing virtual teams. So, with that, I want to introduce to you Nathan Hirsch, the CEO of Outsource School.

Thank you so much Nathan for being on our show.

Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

So a little bit about Nathan you guys, he started a company called Free Up, which was very similar to Fiverr or Upwork, where it's a gig economy, where you go in and you search for who it is that you need, and then they try to help you bring up a bunch of people that could potentially fit. Nathan did a great job in creating an algorithm that really matched you well with a virtual assistant, so that you didn't have to spend so much time sifting through a bunch of different profiles.

He ended up starting that company with only five thousand dollars and then grew it all the way up to like $12 Million, year after year, to the point where, you know, somebody else wanted it because it was doing so good. So, he sold it. Now he's out there teaching what he did, and I love the fact that he's teaching.

So, Nathan, first question:

We all know we need virtual assistants, so how do we figure out what our first step is?

Yeah, so I always said that there's a few steps you should go through.

So, first of all the hiring process: I like to break it down into interviewing, onboarding, training, and managing. But, before you interview there are some basic steps.

The first step is understanding the different levels of hiring.

So, there's three different levels - you've got the followers, you’ve got the doers, and you you’ve got the experts.

So, with the followers. When I say the word virtual assistant, I'm talking about the followers, five to ten bucks an hour. They're there to follow your system, your process.

The doers are graphic designers, video editors, writers. You're not teaching them what to do, but they're not consulting with you either. They're there to do that one task.

The experts are there to bring their own systems, their own process to the table, their own strategy.

So, as you kind of understand, these are the different levels, and you need systems and processes.

When you're dealing with the followers, the next step becomes figuring out your budget. We actually have a free, VA calculator. If you click here  you can download the VA calculator. You can do the math yourself by figuring out how much money do I make. An average virtual assistant is five to eight bucks an hour, and then from there figuring out hey how aggressive or conservative do I want to be? Do I want to be investing 20%, 30% of my net profit into hiring?

So, once you figure out a budget, then it becomes creating a list of all the tasks that you know how to do, that you have processes for, and all the tasks that need to get done, but you don't know how to do. That second list is for the doers and the experts. The first list is for the followers. Then it becomes figuring out which one should come off your plate first, and that's, your starting point yeah.

So how would one go about figuring out what comes off their plate first?

Right. So, every business is a little bit different. So, what I personally like to do is take the tasks that I hate doing the most, or the easiest tasks, and get those off my plate first.

But there might be other businesses out there that they need that marketing expert before they do anything else. But the way that I like to look at it is, you should learn how to hire the followers first, because eventually, you're gonna have to hire all three of them.

And, if you don’t know how to hire well, you're going to make some expensive mistakes with the doers and the experts. So, it's a lot better to start off with the followers. Master hiring the virtual assistants, and then apply that, and tweak it to hire the doers and the experts once you really know what you're doing.

So, we'll start with the followers first. Take all those tasks that you know how to do that you have systems for. Put them in order from easiest to hardest. Start with the top of the list, with a goal of getting five hours a week back. If it's one task, if it's three tasks, try to get five hours a week back, because you're gonna learn so much in that first five hours.

It’s gonna become fun. It's gonna become addicting. You're gonna wanna do it more. You can always increase the hours or hire a second virtual assistant, but get in the mentality that you're going to get five hours a week back that you could spend with your family, or you can spend on higher level tasks And that's your starting point.

Thank you so much for kind of giving us that guidance, because just the concept of having five more hours back to my week just makes me kind of levitate a little bit. It makes me feel amazing at just the thought.

Yes, yes, having more help. I mean so many of us are experiencing that critical point where we know we need to outsource, and it's just been a little bit, kind of muddy, trying to figure out what to do.

First, I love the fact that you mentioned, you know, figure out calculator-wise, you pull it out, you even give us a map on how to figure that number out so that we aren't guessing in the dark.

I love that you have created Outsource School, I mean, I’m a big advocate on, you know, teaching what you've just learned that's just crushing it. You know, don't keep it to yourself, share it with others. So, that's what you've done.

So, I applaud you, and I thank you again for joining us on the show and sharing your insight to business owners, who are in that place where they so desperately need to get that one thing off their plate.

All right. So, let's just say you found a couple of followers, that's what you said, the first ones are the ones that can just take some tasks off now. Let's take it to the next level. You're looking for somebody to kind of more or less help you manage some of these teams.

So, how do we find that one that just seems to click, and what is your process?

So, how do you find a VA that can manage your other VAs? Is that what you're thinking?

Sure yeah, because you know you don't just need followers. Like you said, you need some more upper level ones that are gonna understand your company culture, and make sure that they're sticking with your brand, but able to kind of be like an employee, but they're not. You know, they're, a virtual assistant.

Right, and I actually still put those under followers because I like to promote that internally. Now you can always go out and hire an expert, hire someone externally, but there's some risk to doing that, and it's harder to do in my opinion, because you have to find someone who already knows how to manage people, and then you have to hire them. You have to spend time teaching them your business and then you have to hope that they were able to manage people that have been there for longer than the person that you just hired. Not impossible. Just not my first choice.

What I like to do is train higher virtual assistants and give them ownership of the SOPs, the standard operating procedures, the system that I built, and we can talk about building SOPs if you want. But once I train them, I tell them hey, this is your SOP. It's your job to keep it updated. It's your job. If we tweak the system, if we make it better, to update the document. We use a tool called simply SOP that we built, and on top of that, if you come up with ideas and feedback, we want to hear it.

So, if you're giving your virtual assistants ownership of the SOPs, certain VAs are going to stand out over time. So, you don't want to wake up down the line and say, “oh, my God. I have 10 VAs that are all reporting to me. I need someone to manage them.”

You want to wake up and say, “Okay, I need a team leader. Jane has done a fantastic job managing the SOPs, taking ownership. Now, I'm going to talk to Jane and see if she's interested in that leadership role, which is going to come with the raise, but also additional responsibility.” That's how I go about it, right from day one. We did this with outdoor school, and ideally you get this right with your first hire or two in your business, which makes it a lot easier.

But with Anna, our virtual assistant, we hired her for a follower role and then she was just scheduling my meetings, handling my calendar, responding to my inbox. I gave her ownership of the SOP and she’s proven to be a rock star. And now she manages the entire Outdoor School Team. So, that's my preference, and obviously, if you don't have someone you can always hire externally.

Well that was awesome! Thank you, because I do know you have to kind of warm into it, you know, you have to start with many, many followers, and then just see who's starting to shine a little bit brighter.

It's the same concept when you're looking for, like I have a non-profit, you know, Tech With Heart is actually a nonprofit. I'm looking for board members. I'm looking for advisory board members. The same thing, let's see how they do on a volunteer level, and then we can just, you know, it's kind of like dating right?

It accomplishes two things. First of all, as you build it out, you don't want to own all your SOPs, where you have to go in and update everything over time. Like, when we sold Free Up, we had 35 VAs and it wasn’t 35 VAs reporting to Nate. We had four team leaders and two assistant team leaders on the different teams, but we also had all of our systems constantly updated by our virtual assistant.

So, when we went to sell Free Up, we didn't have to just scramble and put our system together and update everything. Everything had been updated every month for the past four years by our virtual assistant, so we could quickly grab it and hand it over. So, it accomplishes a bunch of different things.

Awesome all right. So, let's just say you want to expand a little bit more on the SOP, because I know you also came up with some software that helps with the SOP part of it all. So, can you explain a little bit about that for those that are watching and listening?

Yeah, so the software is designed to be the easiest tool out there to create, update and share both video and text SOPs with your virtual assistants. Making it so you don't have to hire video editors, you don't have to refilm stuff.

The basic SOP that we teach, and we have a playbook for this, breaks SOPs down into three parts: the why, the steps, and the important reminders. If you can keep your SOPs in this format, whether they're video or text, video is usually better, but it could be either one, you will have much better success than actually teaching someone.

What a lot of people do is they jump into the steps. This is step one, step two, step three, without giving their virtual assistant an overview of why they're actually doing the task, and what success looks like. So we'll give the VA background on our business. This is why you're doing the task. This is how it impacts the big picture. This is how your role could evolve. Um, if you do this task well and help us improve it over time, these are the opportunities it could lead to.

We'll put what failure looks like. If we let go of two VAs in the past for this role, we'll let the VA know what those VAs did wrong and what we expect. So, before they even start on the task and start going through the step by steps in the video in our simply SOP software, they know the why, and then they go through the steps.

But all the really important stuff, the stuff that we'll be really frustrated with if they mess up, we don't hide those in the steps. They're there, but we also take them at the bottom, and we list out all the important reminders, because if you hide them in the steps and the VA misses it, and It's something extremely important that they don't know is important, you're, going to get frustrated. You're, not going to want to hire virtual assistants anymore.

So, make sure you break down your SOPs into the why, into the steps, and into those important reminders, and you'll have a much better chance at training a virtual assistant.

Well, your energy is really awesome. I hope that those of you who are watching and listening in here, if this is all a new concept to you, that you'll take take heart in knowing that Nathan has created Outsource School just so he can provide you his system, to create systems and hire VAs.

So, if you're interested, you can always go and join his Outsource School organization, and get schooled yourself on how to do all this effectively because he's done it again and again and again.

I know that you work with a lot of your VAs out of the Philippines. can you speak to us as to why the Philippines?

Yeah, so I personally just have really good experiences from the Philippines. I mean they speak English, and they speak English well. They learn it in school.

The rate is obviously a factor. Minimum wage is $12 a day in the Philippines. So, it's not that hard to beat it. I pay my VAs between five and ten bucks an hour usually. Although, I’ve had VAs that make more than ten bucks an hour, and that doesn't mean you don't have to treat people well.

When we sold Free Up, we took five hundred thousand dollars from the sale, and gave it to our 35 person team in the Philippines, and made sure that they were taken care of, along with keeping their job.

So, I'm not saying you shouldn't treat people well, but it's very affordable to hire from the Philippines. Also, work ethic and family wise, it is tough to beat. I'm all about creating a family in my team. It's the best way to reduce turnover. If they like each other and get along, and they're all about family.

But, you can take everything that I teach you on this podcast or at Outsource School and go hire from any country if you want. There's plenty of great VAs in different countries. My biggest tip is first.

I think Philippines is a great place to start if you're new to hiring VAs. But if you're going to pick someplace else, stick with the same country. Because, if you’re hiring two VAs from the Philippines, and two from India, and two from South Africa, even if they're all really great VAs, it adds an extra level of work on your end. It’s going to take you a little while to learn the cultural differences to be able to communicate with them in a style that works for everyone.

And you're just going to be adding more work to your plate so start with one country, master it. Get really good at hiring virtual assistants from that country before you branch out to multiple ones.

That's, a good point. It's a lot. I think about the culture. It's not only about the clarity of them being able to speak English, which most American’s Nate, you know, have English as our first language, but it is culture, it is absolutely culture.

I mean, I'm in the software space, so I work a lot with people in India, and so I understand now a whole lot more about Indian culture than I ever would have before, had I not been so involved in their culture by working with them on a day-to-day basis. So, agreed.

So, the difference between say having an intern working for your company versus a VA. Do you have the ability to speak to that? Because I know I have my opinion, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Guys, yeah, so, here's the deal… unless you are a larger, and this is my personal opinion, so people can disagree. Unless you are a larger company that is very revenue positive, that has time to create an internship program, and put someone in charge of an internship program, where it's not just someone that's doing the work of what a real VA or employee in your company should do… you should not have an intern. You should not have an internship program. It is distracting.

You're, going to be investing in time. You're going to be investing time into someone who 50/50 chance whether they stay on or not when they graduate or do whatever they're doing on the side. They might want one day to go do something else. Maybe you'll keep them around, but it's a much better investment to invest in a VA who might even be cheaper than an intern.

Now could you get free interns? Yes, but if you are using a free intern to do the day-to-day work of your business, just because you don't want to pay someone, that's actually against the law in most states.

It doesn't really work either. So if you're just using the word “intern” to save money and get someone to do the work in your business, save money even more but hire your virtual assistant who, when you invest time into them, you're going to get them for years to come. If you do it properly, is a much better use of your time and your energy.

Now, if you are a bigger company, and you want to have a real internship program where you hire someone to run that program, and teach people, where it’s a win for the intern and a win for you, and eventually you are able to groom them, and that's a good investment for your larger business… that makes sense.

But if you're just doing it to not have to hire someone for real, either in the U.S. or in the Philippines, it's not going to work out.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned along the way that you see entrepreneurs or business owners doing again and again, that you just wish they would not do, and if they just knew these few things…

One of the biggest things is meetings.

I mean we have a meeting Monday with everyone with all our virtual assistants. Each team has a meeting each week, the billing team, the customer service team, the social media team and we actually divide it up between our partners and then we do one-on-one performance meetings with each virtual assistant once a quarter.

So, those are three meetings that you should be having in your business, especially up front. When you are working with a new virtual assistant, you should be meeting with them daily until they're able to take it over themselves. Usually, when I ask people when they’ve had issues with the VAs, and I ask them how often they're having meetings, that's usually something that they're just not doing. Or they did it once, and they haven't talked to their VA in a month. You need those meetings.

Now, eventually, you can have team leaders take over those meetings, but those meetings should be happening every single week, and every single quarter. It's okay.

So, meetings are one thing, that obviously makes sense. Communication is huge. So, you're. talking like a face-to-face meeting, virtually, not face-to-face. I'm talking a virtual face-to-face meeting or a call meeting, or how do you do it?

So, we don't recommend you doing anything via Zoom video unless the role has to do with Zoom video. Like if you're having your VA actually talk to clients on Zoom calls. I had a VA that took phone calls, outgoing phone calls via skype, but outside of those we do everything on slack.

So, our interviews are on Slack. Our onboarding is on Slack, and every meeting and every communication outside of email and emergencies for Viber is on Slack. That doesn't mean that you can't do like a quick “hi” for five minutes. Like, get to know your VA, or see them in person, but the reason for this is a few different reasons.

So, first of all, some of the best VAs that I’ve ever hired were just not good on camera. They were shy. They didn't like it. They didn't want to be on camera. I would have missed out on some of my best hires if I had interviewed them or forced them to be on camera. Second, you're having these meetings with multiple VAs that are in different places, with different internet. Have you ever tried to do a 30 person, or 10 person, or five person Zoom meeting, with five different people in the Philippines? Doesn't work out that well. Slack is a lot better.

It's also a lot faster when you're doing interviewing, to see their response time. How they respond. How they understand what you're saying. Can you get on the same page quickly. Most of your communication when you're just talking your VA or giving them feedback or whatever it is, it's probably going to be on Slack, or some kind of texting channel? It could be Skype. It could be whatever.

So, keep your meetings there. Keep your interviews, keep your onboarding there. It's going to be a much better reflection of how they are as a virtual assistant, and, lastly, it allows you to have everything in writing. Like yes, you could record Zoom calls, but then you have to go through and watch all these Zoom videos. It's much easier to just be like hey, we talked about this. Here's a screenshot from our meeting.

So, for all those reasons keep those on Slack

Perfect. So, you do use Slack. I know that in your systems for Outsource School, you talked about Trello. I know my team, we started off using Asana. So, can you speak to us like, okay, so you're using Slack to communicate with your teams. Are you using Slack to also provide the tasks and whatnot for your teams, or can you talk to us a little bit about the technology that you're using?

Yeah, so Slack is the communication channel, so that that's just for day-to-day conversations, for meetings, for 1 on 1 stuff like that. We use Trello for projects and that's more for the creatives. So, our video editors, our graphic designers, we have a whole Trello system we actually teach. We have video editing and graphic design playbooks.

Our VAs will use it a little bit, but this is kind of what we do, is we give our virtual assistant their own Trello account and it's just their job to mark tasks as daily, short-term, long-term. When we assign something, we let them know whether it's, long-term, short-term, daily tasks and they keep track of them there.

So, we don't really care how the VA gets organized there, as long as they have that there, along with simply SOP. So, they can have the SOPs at their disposal and update them along with slack for communication and Viber for emergencies, which is a free texting tool they have on their phone.

We also use Jira for our dev team. It's a Trello, but for developers.

Understood, okay. Great well, thank you for touching base on a few of the tech systems, because we always like to empower our entrepreneurial audience with technology. Does Trello have a free account? I know Asana and Trello are very similar.

Asana does offer quite a bit for free, and so does Trello. Also, yep, so does Slack. We don't pay for our Slack channel

Okay, great. Yeah. So, when I first came into building my tech company, everybody was using Slack then too. So, I think that those are three very powerful tools, for various different reasons. Go ahead and take a look at those if you're listening and see how you can use them. I use Asana as kind of like our intranet for our organization.

So, I'm able to communicate and store different resources that need to be available, and perhaps Trello may be a better fit for the project management. But I'll find out because I'm getting ready to scale myself, and so I’m very excited about utilizing your Outsource School on your systems that you've created there.

So, organizing, because my brain, like I said, I am not that person where I just love to put together systems. But I can speak to this… that if you find yourself doing a task repeatedly in your business, that, if you just had an assistant, they could do it for you, because you've done it so many times. All you do is create a step-by-step system for that assistant, and that is one of those things that you can get off your plate through a virtual assistant.

Somebody said a long time ago, “Only do what only you can do,” as a CEO, as a founder, as a leader in your business. That's going to be how you scale up to get some of those tasks off, get those five hours back. Use those five hours to do what you do best.You know, connect with people, get on stages, speak more.

So, hey Nathan. Before you go… thank you so much again for being here. But, what is one thing that you really want entrepreneurs and business owners to remember in the realm of hiring and managing a virtual assistant or team.

Yeah, I mean the only way to scale your business is with hiring. There's very few solo, multi-million dollar entrepreneurs out there, it just doesn't exist at some point. You're going to run out of hours in the day. You're going to need to take a break or get burned out.

You need to hire if you want to go to the next level, and a lot of people they're focused on marketing tactics and sales and all this stuff. But if you can't hire, nothing else matters. Learn how to hire first. That's going to help every business you start for the rest of your life. Virtual assistants is a great, lean, affordable way to do it, and you don't hire a them full-time.

You can hire teams part-time. You can build a Rolodex of different specialists. You can have experts on monthly retainers. You have the pure flexibility to hire as you want, which is one of the beautiful things about living when we do now, but you have to learn how to hire if you want to be able to scale a business.

You've been an excellent guest. Thank you so much for joining us today, and for giving such a tremendous value. How can people reach out to you, Nathan? Or reach out to Outsource School? How would you like them to reach out to you?

Yeah go to Outsourceschool.com/insider. You can grab a free trial of our membership Outsource School Insider. You can book a call with us if you want to talk to us. Feel free to connect with me, Nathan Hirsch, on any social media channel you want.

Yes! Great guys! Go ahead, reach out to him. He's actually responsive. Thank you so much Nathan for joining us today, and for all of you listening and watching… if you are interested in ever being interviewed as an expert influencer in your industry, please reach out to us at Tech With Heart network dot com, or just join our mailing list there, and you’ll also be notified when we have such experts as Nathan joining us, to bring you even more value to help your business grow in a digital era.

Thank you for joining us bye.

About Host Michelle Calloway

Michelle Calloway Inc

Michelle Calloway is a Multi-Media Expert, International Speaker, Bestselling Author and CEO of an innovative software and media solutions company called REVEALiO.  

REVEALiO helps business owners attract clients through unique, robust interactive storytelling experiences that literally make your message COME ALIVE right before their eyes!

Michelle has been featured in Inc. Magazine, and praised by Kevin Harrington, of ABC’s Hit TV Show, Shark Tank, for providing small business owners with a unique differentiator that creates powerful organic conversions.

She is driven by success and determined to help forward-thinking businesses gain the ultimate competitive advantage by captivating their audiences and influencing buying decisions with media storytelling and interactive branded experiences.

Michelle is also Founder of the Tech With Heart Network, an online business community and TV show. Her Tech With Heart Network further empowers small business owners to achieve rapid success leveraging the power of media exposure and celebrity status. The power of this network can take a new business owner with no pre-existing track record and create instant credibility in any market.

About Tech With Heart Network

Tech With Heart is a community of heart-centered, forward-thinking business professionals who want to use technology to quickly grow their business, but also want to keep human connection at the core of everything they do. 

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