This has been my constant motto as an entrepreneur with 2 decades of building businesses. In the beginning it meant I would pay someone else to wash my car while I focused on meeting an important deadline from the waiting bay. But ever since I hired my first offshore employee in the Philippines, that motto has taken on a whole new meaning – I now consider it a crucial part of any small to mid-sized business’s success.
I speak to a lot of business owners whose days are buried under a mountain of growing administration tasks. It’s like they reach an inflection point where they are struggling to meet the increase in demand for their goods or services, limiting the growth that they have worked so hard to achieve. Other business owners need to generate sales and achieve that momentum but are cash-strapped. In an increasingly global economy, business owners are starting to look offshore to hire virtual employees who can help them overcome these growing pains.
It was Silicon Valley companies that first looked abroad to India for coding and other software development grunt work. Soon IT services were being offered by other low-cost, talent-rich nations like the Philippines. Outsourced positions have now expanded to include help desks and call centres, web developers, SEO, telemarketing, Human Resources, and even accounting functions.
It might sound daunting but hiring employees to work remotely is only becoming easier and more accessible. There are several companies out there offering different levels of service to help you recruit overseas talent, depending on your specific needs and experience with the process. The key is to be very specific about what you are looking for, and then like any recruitment process, it becomes a game of narrowing down the talent pool.
The Philippines specifically has become a popular destination when it comes to Outsourcing, giving India a real run for its money. This is because the local population is taught English at school as one of two official national languages, and they are also culturally compatible with Western clients. The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry’s revenues hit $13.5 billion in 2012 from $11 billion in 2011. Outsourcing in IT alone is expected to grow to $25 billion by 2016. Technically savvy college graduates are eager to work for multinational companies making the Philippines one of the top destinations for IT recruitment.
In some cases hiring offshore can be 80% cheaper. While the debate rages about companies taking their work offshore, less is said about how businesses on the smaller end of the scale can actually keep afloat using overseas labour, thereby contributing more to their local economy. The reality in my businesses is that wage costs are our biggest expense. With the help of inexpensive labour we are able to enhance productivity and the quality of our business, improve turnaround time and grow larger faster.
I will say though, we have learned a lot of lessons in communication. There is an element of being face-to-face in an office that your remote employees, be they local or overseas, don’t benefit from. The emotional cues, office culture, and constant back-and-forth are obstacles that you need to overcome in the remote workplace. I have found that building in the structure of regular meetings, connecting with voice calls at least every 2-3 days, and being very specific about deadlines and expectations have helped my overseas employees work well with our local team. Like anything, it takes practice, but once you get into a groove, having an extra set of hands remotely is a beautiful thing.