Today we have a remarkable guest on, and this is special in that this is an answer to a lot of people’s problems. This guest is Chris Ducker, a successful entrepreneur that moved to the Philippines back in about 2000/2001, and at that time he set up a company that actually does some unique services, virtual employees, that is virtual assistants of various kinds. This gives the ability for somebody who has a company or to doing something, to hire virtually; therefore, that’s just like an independent contractor except at a lot less money, as opposed to hiring employees.
Extremely successful. He’s appeared in everything from Entrepreneur, to Inc., to Forbes, a few others. You might want to help me with that, Chris. I’ve lost track of all the things you’ve been put in. Anyway, welcome to Life Unsettled, Chris.
Chris: Thanks. It’s a pleasure to be here. I really appreciate the invite. You did pretty good. Entrepreneur, Inc., Business Insight, Huffington Post – that was a surprise. Other than that, you’ve got everything covered.
Thomas: Okay, good. One of the things that an awful lot of people are facing, and I gave a very brief look at it, and solving people’s problems, because people today more and more so are worried about jobs and other things. Right now we have Obama Care Healthcare in the United States, etc. to add on to everything else. The increases in jobs in the United States have not been real jobs. They just generally have been jobs that are under 30 hours a week, so that the companies don’t have to worry about giving health insurance, etc.
When you have part-time jobs, people are finding that two part-time jobs of 20+ hours doesn’t add up to a full-time job, because companies don’t pay you as much. People are looking for alternatives. Could you describe a little bit better for us how a virtual person, virtual assistant works? I’ll start off by saying I actually have three virtual assistants that I’m working with now.
Chris: Yeah. I think the key element or the key discussion point here is not necessarily how VAs work, although I can go into that, but it’s more importantly on how people that are in that situation right now can utilize virtual assistants to go out, and either create their own what I call a side hustle, so something on the side away from their full or part-time job, where they can earn additional income. Or maybe it’s: “I’ve had enough of working for other people. I’m going to go out and do my own thing. I have 20 years in this industry, or this niche, or this space. I’ve got a lot to teach. I’m going to go out and become a blogger, or an author, or a speaker, or a coach, or a consultant.”
What can I do? How can I launch that side of my life as a new full-fledged entrepreneur, and not work for a j-o-b anymore by utilizing virtual stuff? I think that’s the important way to look at it, Thomas, because I think there’s a lot of people out there that have a hell of a lot to offer society in a number of different industries and spaces, but they’re being pulled back because of the exact things that you just mentioned. Wouldn’t you agree?
Thomas: Absolutely. Yes. Everybody is so concerned about the risks involved in starting their own company, but to have something on the side. That’s not to follow the mantra that’s running around all over the world, “Go follow your passion.” That’s where people become dancers, actors, actresses, singers, etc. and end up working in the Cheesecake Factory or the deli in New York on Times Square.
You have other things to offer. Whatever you’ve done and however you have built that, your experiences, etc. and sometimes even hobbies. The hobby doesn’t have to be that you like to go ballroom dancing or something. It might be something else that you’re doing, but that you can become well-qualified, become an expert, learn it a little bit more, and then supplement it.
Chris: Agreed. Absolutely. I don’t like that phrase, and I’m very loud and quite obnoxious when I talk about it, quite frankly, it's the whole cash in on your passion thing, I call a massive amount of BS on that because very rarely do businesses that are started on passion-based projects become full-fledged, profitable, full-time businesses. It’s very, very rare that that happens. I think the overall concept of: “I’m going to start a business based on my passion,” is a failure waiting to happen.
I believe that you must, at the very core of every business, at the core of every entrepreneur is a problem solver or a problem-solving product, or service, or experience, regardless of what it is. When we talk about companies that focus on experiences, rather than providing a product or a service to use or utilize… An experience.
Let’s look at that as a core aspect of a business. Let’s look at one of the biggest companies on the planet: Disney. What are they doing? With Disney World, they’re providing you an experience for you and your family. They’re providing you, as parents, the opportunity to keep your kids engaged and entertained for a day or two when you’re there at the parks or the resorts.
The reason why I bring this up is because I just did this for the first time ever last year with my wife and my three kids. We’re queuing up outside Disney Land in L.A. Me, being an extremely online savvy person that I am, didn’t book tickets on the internet beforehand to miss the queues. He decided that I was going to waste an hour of my day queuing up. There’s the first oxymoron for you right there.
We’re outside the park, and we get to the cashier kiosk and it’s two adults, three kids, whatever it was. I can’t remember exactly how much it cost now, but it was probably $600-$700. Whatever it was; I can’t remember the cost now. I remember complaining about it. It began right at the beginning of the day where it was like: “Holy cow! How much? For just..? Oh my god.” Then you spend even more money throughout the course of the day; $20 hamburgers, $10 bottles of water, this, that, and everything else that goes along with being at Disney Land.
As I was walking out of the park at the end of the day, and I saw the sheer joy and tired, yet extremely entertained looks on my kids’ faces, I turned to my wife and I said to her: “That was awesome. I’d do that again tomorrow.” Because the kids had so much fun, and we had fun as well. That experience is golden.
I want to clarify that right out the gate. It doesn’t matter whether you’re providing a product, a service, or an experience. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you have something inside of you that you feel you can have some kind of an impact on someone, then it’s worthwhile pursuing. But based on passion alone, it’s not worth pursuing. I think it must ultimately solve a problem. Every good business solves a problem at the end of the day.
Thomas: I have got to regress just for one minute to clarify and make sure of something. I don’t know whether you could hear me almost belly laughing in the background. I was holding my breath. It had to do with the fact that when people hear this, already will have been released an episode that you haven’t heard yet because it won’t be released for the next 36-48 hours. It is entitled, “Passion Sucks the Life Out of You.”
Chris: I love it. Sounds good.
Thomas: It is funny. I just wanted to make sure that everybody listening to this realized that Chris hasn’t even heard this yet, but it is so much in line with what I’m saying. You’ll enjoy it.
Chris: It’s okay to be a passionate individual. I’m very passionate about what I do, why I do it, who I’m doing it for, how I’m helping those people, how I’m serving my community, my audience. I’m very, very, very passionate about that, but I don’t let the passion get in the way of profits.
Chris: Always profits first for me. Always. I believe if you go into things with that mindset, you have a way, way bigger chance of success and less of failure.
Thomas: Exactly. Actually that’s one of the things and some of the things I mentioned in there, and people have to go back and listen to it, an experience where I literally ran into garbage men/sanitation workers, whatever they’re called, and the passion they had with what they were doing… This was in downtown New York City in Manhattan in the lower east side, very close to the dock areas. They were just so happy and pleased, describing what they were about to do while we were sitting in a hotel getting coffee.
When I was younger, I worked as a waiter. Most waiters, what do they do? They spend their time talking to each other, etc. I looked at it as an opportunity to make people’s evenings special.
Chris: There you go.
Thomas: You can imagine, I got great tips. All the other waiters couldn’t understand how I got such big tips compared to them.
Chris: I love it. I love that story. That’s great. Let’s get back to your initial question.
Thomas: That’s what I was going to suggest, too.
Chris: Digressed ridiculously. Wow, talk about a segue. To get back to your initial question: how can virtual assistants help us? They can help us by ultimately buying us more time. I always say, as entrepreneurs, time is our Most Valuable Commodity. It’s our MVC. I truly, truly live by that rule, that law of my life. Everything that lands on my desk, anything that lands in my inbox, I ask myself the question every single time, I kid you not: can someone else do this for me? Because I’ve developed that team already, Tom. I’ve already put that team together.
Can someone else do this for me? Does it need to be that takes action on this particular thing? If it does, then no problem. I’ll get into it. But if it doesn’t, then why am I going to do it? My time, as the head honcho in my business, is more important to me. Ultimately, virtual assistants and building a virtual team, and the concept of virtualization and making your business a much more fluid, more flexible entity by utilizing people from all around the world, not just in your backyard – it enables you to buy more time and become more productive.
I believe, not just in America but anywhere in the world, that is the number one big, fat, hairy problem that entrepreneurs have. How many times have you said to yourself, “There’s just not enough hours in the day”, “There’s no way I can get this done”, “There’s not enough hours in the day”? Everybody said it to themselves at some point, and it’s true, there isn’t. That’s why you’ve got to buy more time by creating this team around you that can help you out.
Thomas: It’s interesting because you’re actually like the orchestra conductor, in essence, because you have these various pieces to your business. This is what I like that I don’t think most people understand. For example, I have one virtual assistant that works for me half-time on a variety of different tasks. Some of them tracking some of the things. I don’t need to go in and check certain websites to see the performance of my podcast, etc. Have them do it. How are the rankings? Am I still ahead of Bloomberg, and MSNBC, and all these others? Okay, great. Good, I’m on the right track. How do I move up to the next thing? They put the numbers out, I take a look at them.
Things to do with data entry, etc., the same kind of thing. I have a bookkeeper. The bookkeeper, I’ve never met her; it’s a virtual assistant. Does very, very well. I just send her my bank statements, send her my credit card statements. She puts it all in. Anything that’s not clear, she sends back a scratch report with the list. I just jot down what those particular things are for, she puts it in. She hands it to the accountant who I also never met who’s also a virtual assistant, for all practical purposes. You call it an accountant, but that’s what it is. We’ve never met. She’s in Arizona. I’m outside Seattle.
It’s really orchestrating. I’m always looking for things. I can’t find the right, and sometimes can’t define well, who I want or what I want. Trying to identify those, and once I get them identified, then I can find somebody. It could be half-time, it could be full-time.
Chris: You’ve just proven right now, by mentioning things like bookkeepers and accountants, and whatnot, that there really is no role that can’t be outsourced. There’s really no role that can’t be handed off to somebody else. I know in the United States, of the beautiful country that is America—I’m a big fan of the U.S., as you know—that word “outsource” or “outsourcing” is a horrible, nasty word for a lot of people. I think it’s slowly dying a slow death. I think that it is.
The idea of outsourcing is no longer about just rows, and rows, and rows of call center workers anymore in the middle of India or something. Outsourcing, in general, has been around for decades. People have been outsourcing in America for decades with things like IT support, and accounting, and HR. What do you think recruitment firms are?
Thomas: Exactly. Actually, if you take a look back a little ways, you can look 20, 30, 40, 50 years at the automotive companies, they’ve been outsourcing forever. Some of those companies were companies they previously owned or something, but many of them were companies that every little piece was outsourced. Delco Electronics feeds into different companies.
Chris: Exactly. There’s absolutely no real position or role that you can’t find someone to handle for you. The only thing that you can’t outsource, truly, is you and your personality and your expertise. When we talk about things like setting up a side hustle, which I just love that term because it’s exactly what it is, when you set something up on the side or when you are really focusing in on building your own business, that is what you should not be outsourcing.
I often say: “Do what you do best. Delegate the rest.” It’s very true. In my business, I am the voice of our companies. I am the face of our companies. I write the blog content. I record the podcast content. I’m on the videos. I’m travelling, speaking in front of audiences. It’s not my management team. It’s me. That’s what I do best.
Do you think that I do everything else in my business? Do I handle HR, recruitment, payroll, training? I don’t handle any of that stuff. I get people to do all that stuff for me. I have almost 300 people working for me now. There’s no way in the world I could gallivant around the world doing book launches, signings, and keynote speeches if I had to be worried about who was hiring the next worker that we need.
It all comes down to really focusing in on what you do best, and focusing on that, and doing that and that only, then palming off the other tasks that you might have to handle yourself.
Thomas: We should pursue a little bit further, possibly some of the time too, the kinds of details, etc., that different people have and different people can do. As I look at it, there’s pretty much anything you can get done, because you can get website development, you can get… Some of those things—this is one of the keys—is somebody needs websites, a website or website work. Once the website is up, there’s very little extra to do.
Chris: True. Absolutely.
Thomas: Is that a consultant or an assistant?
Chris: At that point, once the website is up, you’re not going to be making any major tweaks or changes to design or anything like that, but you still want it maintained. You still want to make sure… Let’s say you’re using a WordPress, and a lot of sites now are being built on WordPress, you still want to make sure your WordPress is safe and secure, that your plug-ins are up to date, that your forms are working correctly if you want to install new forms for collecting email addresses and things like that.
Having somebody that you can go to as and when you need to is always a good plan of attack when it comes to the ongoing management of your website. That doesn’t require a full-time role, not unless you have 20 websites you’re managing, and then it ends up being way easier obviously. Some people, believe it or not, do have 20 websites and a lot more.
Ultimately, for me personally, it comes down to day-to-day tasks. It’s things like doing my online research for content that I might be creating. Right now I’m working on my latest keynote presentation that I’ll be doing in Las Vegas in April, so I have my VAs right now looking at a lot of statistics, a lot of researching of ideas and concepts. I even have one VA right now, and I kid you not, looking for one-liner jokes that I can insert into that presentation. That’s one of her tasks that she’s working on right now, that very specific topic within the conversation. All those things they can do, hands down, no problems at all.
Then there’s things like social media. This is like you’re doomed if you do and you’re doomed if you don’t. I have a definite love/hate relationship with social media because it is a time-sucker, but in today’s very online social world, it is a requirement for every business to be active if you don’t want to get swallowed up by your competition.
We’ve streamlined as much of our social media as we can, but the one thing I cannot get one of my VAs to do is be the person that interacts with my community, with my customers, with my audience. That has to be me. I actually do 30 minutes a day in two 15-minute stints on social media. I do one in the morning, and then one late afternoon before I sign off for the rest of the day. That’s how I manage my social media. Things like updating on your Facebook page your latest blog post or podcast episode, all that stuff is done by one of my VAs.
Then there’s other simple things like wanting to go out and find additional freelancers. Let’s say I need a logo designed or some transcription work done, I’m not going to go and find that VA myself. I can get one of my VAs that already knows me, what I’m all about, and the culture of our company and what I’m looking for in my people that work for me, whether it be part-time on a project or task, full-time, whatever, I get one of my VAs to go out and find that person for me, to post those job ads, to do those initial interviews, and to ultimately end up hiring somebody and getting that work done. There’s a lot of different things they can do.
What I’m doing is I’m spreading myself out, working on what I should be working on when the rest of the people around me are handling everything else.
Thomas: I’d like to pull out something that I think you just said, and I want to make sure I’ve got this right. It sounds like you have a lot of VAs that are really working part-time on your stuff.
Chris: I have two full-time general VAs. This is the one role that I feel every entrepreneur, particularly online entrepreneur, should have, like an actual full-time GVA. They’re just such a time and lifesaver for me. I have two of those full-time. Everyone else that works with me, in terms of my virtual team, is either part-time or they’re on some kind of monthly retainer where I can just fire something off to them quickly, or they work on either a task or a project basis.
I haven’t hired or worked with a new VA now for probably two years. Even those people that are not on a part-time or a full-time basis with me are still getting regular work from me throughout the course of a quarter or a year, but I pay them per task. I always go back to the same people because they know what I want, how I want it done, and all that sort of stuff.
Thomas: The reason I ask it that way—and that was a perfect answer—is what I want to put out there as an example and as a starting structure, in essence, is that somebody thinking of getting into business, there are a ton of tasks. They might have to identify them, they should be able to evaluate them before they turn them over to somebody, but by having a general VA, they can start then from that point, going and that person can not only coordinate with other quarter-time projects, individual projects, or finding somebody… By the way, I forgot to say I don’t have three VAs now. I actually have a fourth that started about a week ago, and is doing the transcriptions for these podcasts.
You can build, as being a new entrepreneur, or building your side business… You said side hustle, and I just want to clarify that what you’re saying is hustling on the side. There’s another more negative connotation to the word “hustle” sometimes. I assure you, audience, that Chris would never, ever insinuate that.
Chris: No, this is not a scammy type of business at all.
Thomas: No, not at all. The biggest companies the world are using, etc. The key thing is that setting up your company, part of your design is going to be: “Yes, I can get as big as I want by having now, not employees but general VA, other assistants doing all this other work for me.”
Think of it. I don’t have to do bookkeeping, I don’t have to transcribe my podcasts. There’s other things I’m starting to do and starting to put out to other people. You have then, at some point, a general VA that basically is responsible for the coordination and the supervision of these other projects. Sound about right?
Chris: Yup, that’s it. That’s 100% correct. It’s almost like a project manager role, to a certain degree.
Thomas: Right. You can go and picture yourself that you want to start a business, you know what it is, you’re already working full-time, you only have so many hours, etc., as you’re doing it. As you’re starting out and you’re starting to build it, you really can have a structure. In this economy with the tax laws the way they are, this is great because you’re not having employees, you’re not having to worry about those legal problems, employee problems, employee handbook, OSHA and everything else that exists. You have other people that are actually working for some other company, and you’re paying them directly or indirectly. It’s not an employee anymore.
Chris: That’s it. That’s the way to look at it.
Thomas: Good. I don’t want to keep you too long. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else, first, that I’ve left out or I should be asking?
Chris: No. I think what you’re doing with your audience is showing them that there is another way. I’m not American, as my accent is a dead giveaway.
Thomas: Gee, I thought you were from New Jersey.
Chris: Yeah, that’s right. [Laughs] I’m a Jersey boy. I used to hang out with Tony Soprano and the boys back in the day. No. I have more friends in America than I do in the U.K., to be very honest. In terms of a day count, I even probably spend more days in the U.S. every year than I do in the U.K. as well. I understand the struggles over there. Although a lot of the people that I hang out with do have successful businesses and are working for themselves, it’s so obvious to see that the large majority of Americans are struggling, and they’re struggling not only for work and for income, but also for lifestyle because it’s all rolled into one.
When someone says to you that your personal and your business lives should be kept separate, that is the biggest crock of crap there is, because everything rolls into each other. If you’re having a tough time at work, you’re going to take that home. If you’re having a relationship issue at home, it’s going to hit the workplace in some variety.
What I truly want to try to advocate here above and beyond everything else is that there are other ways for you to be able to create that lifestyle that you feel you deserve. You don’t have to conform to what society deems as “a success.” Society, for the longest time, particularly in a place like America, has deemed success as working 60 hours a week and driving a BMW, and walking around with a Rolex, and having a big house – I don’t believe that’s the definition of success.
The definition of success for me is having the lifestyle where I am financially comfortable, yes, because without it, it is stressful, but the focus should not necessarily be on flashy cards, watches, and big houses. The definition of success for me is being able to spend plenty of time with the people I love, to be able to go on date nights once or twice a week religiously with my beautiful wife, and being able to get beaten up by my kids, step on Legos, and do all the other stuff that every parent enjoys. That, for me, is the definition of success.
Family is more important than you will ever, ever understand and accept until the day when you truly start prioritizing them, and then you’ll understand exactly how important family really is. It all starts with what you’re doing day-to-day.
There’s another way, man. There’s another way to make it happen. You don’t have to conform to society. You don’t have to go out and get that j-o-b. You can go out there. If you have any amount of hours or years in any industry, there are people out there that are just starting out in that industry or that space that need your help.
We are in a position today that we’ve never been in before in the history of Western civilization where we can get them to find us easier and part with money easier for us to help them in a genuine, high-value way than we’ve ever been able to do before. That is something that should be grabbed, grasped, and not let go of until you’ve tried everything you can.
Thomas: Right. Exactly. Right now, I know people that are literally in small towns, etc., that really, they don’t have a population big enough in their town to really be doing a business or their business, but now they’re doing things all over the world. It could be teaching, training, supplying things. There’s so many different things that they could do, and it’s all possible.
Chris: It is. Absolutely.
Thomas: It does necessitate people to step out of their comfort zone. (click here for episode 15 on the comfort zone) Don’t quit your job to do it.
Thomas: Start it a little bit on the side, but it can be.
Thomas: Right now, my biggest concern is all the people that really are, still during working years, they’re in their late 40’s, 50’s, and early 60’s, they’re still in working years, but will they have enough and will they be able to build something enough so that they eventually will have the passive income or the income without a great deal of work to make it until maybe 90 years of age today?
Chris: Right. A lot of the time, it doesn’t take a lot more. A lot of the time, it’s just an extra $1,500, an extra $2,000 a month. That’s all it takes for a lot of people to create that financial stability and freedom. Nowadays, I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it is certainly easier than what it has been before to be able to create that additional income. Whether it be passive completely or not, it has become a lot easier for us to chase that additional income down, compared to where we were even just 5 or 10 years ago.
Thomas: Right, exactly. Actually, back in 2007 or 2008 they had done some study that if people had had an extra $500 a month, 70% of the bankruptcies in the United States would not have happened.
Chris: That statistic is so ridiculously huge. It should not be ignored.
Thomas: It should not be an impediment. It shouldn’t be an impediment.
Chris: Yeah. $500, in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. But if 70% of the people could avoid bankruptcy because of it, that’s huge.
Thomas: It shows how just a little bit of extra money can be so much. Instead, if that little bit of extra money, $500 or $1,000 a month was put aside or done something to build something, to build a business or to build further income, that makes a huge difference.
Chris: Sure does. Absolutely.
Thomas: Let me thank you very much, Chris, for a wonderful episode. I really appreciate it. There’s so many takeaways, and this is really good. I’ll send you a note just before it’s released.
Keep in mind, folks, he didn’t even know about the passion episode when he heard that and said all those things.
Chris: I think that it’s seriously cool, the fact I had no idea about that is great.
Thomas: Yeah, exactly.