For those of you who have outsourced workers or who are considering it, I thought you might find my story informative (perhaps familiar?). About 10 years ago I read Tim Ferris’ book The Four-Hour Work Week and was enamored with the idea of hiring workers overseas to help me with my business. Like many small business owners, I started with a virtual assistant (VA) company.
While my new team member was inexpensive, there were significant challenges with language, communications, time zone, training and work organization. I had to learn a whole new way to work with an assistant that focused on tasks, and I found it harder than I thought it would be to explain my business. The onus was on me to be a very clear communicator. Nothing could be assumed or taken for granted.
I found out that a VA wasn’t a typical employee. The first ones I worked with did not take the initiative I would expect from a US worker. They did not contribute ideas or adapt very well if I wasn’t available. It was like programming a machine rather than working with a human. I had to train them that it was OK – necessary! – to think on their feet.
I persevered and was happily in the groove when the company went out of business with no warning. My calls were unanswered, my people gone, and there wasn’t so much as a memo or message on the website from the VA company to say goodbye.
I was upset to say the least. I managed to connect with my primary assistant and hired him directly. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Now I had other employer issues to contend with like making sure he had a decent laptop, steady electricity and internet access. As a solo freelancer, he had no back up at first, and he had more than one client. This was difficult sometimes for me because I didn’t have all his time.
Then, he pursued his dream of getting a Ph.D. He transitioned me to Shem who has been with me ever since – about eight years – and things were great until I started eGrowth Partners® in 2015. Suddenly I needed to scale quickly for our account management, account assessment and audit services.
Shem helped me identify a VA company capable of staffing us up quickly. We had two shifts a day on weekdays and one shift on weekends. She trained and managed the team. That worked well for about three years until…workers started leaving. This was frustrating because we spent extensive time training them on Amazon, Seller Central, compliance, etc. It takes months for us to train a new analyst fully. I needed to figure out what was wrong and stop that trend.
When I learned how little my team members were being paid in comparison to what I was paying the VA company, I was stunned (They were charging us 5X!!!). I insisted that the company pay my people more, and they insisted on raising our rates significantly more to cover it. It was stupid to lose good people for $100 a month. They thought they had us over a barrel. [insert long, ugly situation here].
I won’t get into the legal wrangling or the fees they charged me to acquire the right to hire my own team – it was a hot mess – but last Fall I pulled my team out and started my own company based in the Philippines called High Touch Smiles™.
I took everything I learned from nearly ten years of outsourced workers and put it into creating a company that specifically supports Amazon sellers and the other platforms they sell on. I designed it to reduce common outsourcing headaches and risks. My goal was to create a team of workers for my clients, not just task-robots. I wanted to help sellers achieve the outsourcing dream of cost savings and get back to making money.
High Touch Smiles™ provides online sellers:
- Amazon Savvy Workers – We get you. Among our workers we are lucky to be able to recruit from Amazon’s seller support team and eBay’s seller performance team locally, and then we train them on compliance and account management. This means they have a good background understanding for any task you need from them in your business. We at eGrowth Partners have spent years training people on how to keep sellers from being suspended. We are the industry leaders in reinstatements and compliance. You will not find our depth of knowledge and Amazon expertise from any other team in the business.
- Dedicated Team – You will not be sharing your worker with another seller. No wondering if your worker is giving research to multiple clients or sharing trade secrets. This person is a full-time employee for you. We specialize in building cross-trained teams for our clients so you’re still in business if they take vacations or get sick.
- Friendly, Cheerful People – One of the things I have always admired about Filipino workers is how much they want to work and to please our clients. Their culture of loyalty, friendship, hard work and passion for their job provides a noticeably different experience for us and our clients as compared to workers in many other countries.
- Multi-Channel Support – While Amazon tends to be the biggest channel for our clients, we also provide support for eBay, Walmart, Shopify, Jet and more. We handle customer service wherever your buyers come from. We make outbound calls (when allowed) as well as respond to emails.
- Shared Office – Rather than a disparate group of freelancers, our workers are in an office. This makes training, management and supervision much easier. It also helps foster a team spirit and improve problem solving among workers. They are not alone.
- Local Management – No more staying up half the night to supervise your team. Once you train us on what you need, we’ll take care of training future hires and making sure the work is done to your satisfaction.
- US Management – Need to talk to someone in the US? We’re here for you.
- Recruiting – We’ll find the right worker for your job. No more rolling the dice with freelancers on Fiverr or reading through dozens of resumes. We’ll whittle down the field to the top few for you to interview. We’ll check their resumes, references and skills.
- Stability – Our team members are paid well by local standards and highly motivated to perform for you. This reduces turnover and turmoil.
- Confidentiality – Our team members sign an extensive confidentiality agreement to protect your processes and trade secrets.
- Legal – We take care of the taxes, benefits and all the labor compliance requirements for your workers. We are a registered business in the Philippines as well as the US.
- Reliable – We have two separate internet accounts, a back up electric generator, VPNs, a robust phone system, new laptops and a dedicated IT department to help make sure your team is operational and ready to work.
- Wide Range of Services – While eGrowth Partners® is specifically focused on compliance, High Touch Smiles™ provides all the other services you need from a worker from customer service to research to reports to account management to sales to bookkeeping/payroll to a personal assistant and more.
Successful outsourcing requires structure, processes, patience, training, communications and oversight. With those key elements in place, it can be a real boon to a business. If you are interested in learning more about High Touch Smiles ™ , fill out this form and one of us will call you back quickly.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
We are known for helping suspended sellers get reinstated, but our goal is to keep sellers from being suspended in the first place. We have more than 25 team members passionately working 7 days a week to protect Amazon sellers like you.
Contact us for specific advice on your situation:
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- ecom Chicago. Cynthia returns to Chicago in October (October 16-18, Elk Grove Village, IL).
- FedEx breaks up with Amazon. Amazon announced last week that they will no longer be using FedEx to deliver packages. The move comes amidst an ongoing effort by Amazon to develop its’ own transportation and delivery network, competing directly against FedEx and UPS. You can read about that here
- Amazon launched a new program called Sold by Amazon last week, which lets the company control third-party product prices in exchange for a minimum payout to sellers. You can read about that here
- Under pressure from several different European and US Authorities, Amazon is preparing to introduce significant changes to the US Business Services Agreement in August – in about a week from now. There is a lot to unpack with these changes and they will be the subject of an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned.
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