Vincent Aguirre is the owner of Distinct, a marketing and web design company based in Greencastle, Indiana. The bulk of Distinct’s creative work is done in the Philippines by Vince’s capable team of Online Filipino Specialists. Vince shares his experiences of building trust and systems with his team that have contributed to their success.
Tell us about Distinct
- Distinct was founded as a tech company doing everything from hardware repair, digital repair, and digital marketing. Today, they focus on digital marketing for small businesses, namely web design and social media management.
- It was by accident that the company started. After Vincent graduated from college, some friends asked him to get involved in a “project.” They were in a small community that had a lot of needs in the tech area, and Distinct was made up of the right people at the right time to fill those needs.
Tell us more about your mission statement to “Support small businesses in the competitive battle against corporations.” – from becomedistinct.com
- Digital marketing can take on so many different roles. Large corporations can afford teams of full-time marketing experts. Small businesses don’t have that capacity. They may even be paralyzed because they don’t know where to start . Distinct works to empower small businesses with affordable online marketing tools and services.
What do you love about what you do?
- Vincent loves when Distinct can provide designs that visibly inspire their clients. When clients see how Distinct’s designs embody their brand and their ideas, they get excited. When you’re in the day-to-day of your business, it can be hard to remember your values and aspirations as a company. When design work is done right, everyone takes a minute to pause and say, “this is good. This reminds me why I do what I do.”
- He also enjoys feeling inspired by his designers’ work.
Tell us about the kind of clients you work with
- On a yearly basis, Distinct works with roughly 90 clients. Their clients’ companies vary in size, ranging from $200,000/yr to $33 million/year in revenue.
- Clients’ areas of expertise are just as diverse–from doctors and dentists to restaurants, party suppliers and trucking companies.
- Rather than focusing their services towards a particular industry, Distinct focuses on serving geographical niches. Within that, their clients are very different, but their marketing needs are similar. The most common needs usually include a website and basic marketing materials. Each client that they work with is an expert in their niche, so Distinct focuses on pairing clients with a marketing specialist who can showcase that expertise.
You’re actively involved in the economics of your personal community. Tell us about how that shapes your business
- Local economies create opportunities – the same way Vincent’s community created the opportunity to develop Distinct. The healthier a local economy is, the more opportunity they provide to small business and entrepreneurs.
- Those opportunities don’t always exist when you don’t foster local small business. Large corporations create jobs. But they’re not the same. They don’t have the same values and they don’t support rural communities (like where Distinct is based). “It’s indisputable the impact that small business has.”
- Vincent read somewhere that about 70% of jobs come from small businesses. If that starts to fade, he’s afraid of what that will look like for small towns and any community that’s deprived of the small-business job growth.
Do you have any business philosophies that have directed your business growth?
- “Trust is the most important thing.” Clients will evaluate their web designers similarly to how they evaluate their doctor or their mechanic. They don’t want to be the expert themselves. They just want it done right and they trust you to do that.
- Cutting costs without cutting corners is another philosophy Vincent follows. Small businesses run on small margins. They don’t want fluff. They don’t want to be charged a huge hourly rate – so Distinct finds ways to be a sustainable business with a focus on affordability.
Tell us about how you were introduced to outsourcing and how you felt about it?
- Vincent first heard about outsourcing between the time he graduated from college and when he started his business. He read Tim Ferriss’s thoughts on outsourcing (the same way John Jonas, creator of OnlineJobs.ph, learned about it).
- Vincent started out using UpWork and it was “ok, not great.” Then he tried Fiverr and it was a “horrible experience.” He’d worked with some Filipino VAs, but he struggled with managing them and understanding “how it should work.” When he found OnlineJobs.ph, Vincent felt like the website’s focus was less about just finding VAs and more about how to evaluate, hire and work with them.
- “I’ve known about VAs for so long, but never know how to do it right, how to build a team, how to have a happy team and how to create that. That was the difference when I found OnlineJobs.ph.”
- Vince currently works with 4 VAs “with the hope to grow that [number] pretty rapidly throughout the rest of the year.”
What do your VAs do, specifically?
- Graphic design, social media management, website design and content updates… They have someone working Daytime EST and nighttime EST. The one working during the daytime takes care of client tickets and the one who works at night focuses on the bigger projects.
- They also have a VA who was hired to focus on quality assurance. She’s so talented, Vincent is training her to be a project manager for the day-to-day tasks so he can focus more on the big-picture issues of the business.
What’s the balance between stateside employees and your Philippines-based employees?
- Vincent is the only traditional stateside employee in his business. He also employs 2-3 sales-based contract workers in the US who help manage client relationships. They’re “the face” of the client relationship while Vincent and his online Filipino Specialists are the behind-the-scenes force.
- Vince’s goal is to focus the majority of Distinct’s creative work in the Philippines. “The relationships are great, the work is fantastic and it really fits our business model.”
How do you communicate with your team?
- “We’ve found there’s a great synergy between our remote team and the Zoho suite of tools.” They’ve recently become a Zoho reseller. They use Zoho for all of their internal processes, ticketing, communication etc…
- They’re currently building out “best practices” and a help desk as a knowledge base…figuring it out as they go.
- What Vincent has found is that as long as he “has a process in place, everyone can follow that process and do their job really well.” When he tries to expand services or do things before he’s thought about the process, everyone, including Vincent himself, struggles a little bit. “That’s been a learning experience this year, but having the right tools in place really helps.”
How long does it take to train your VAs once they’re hired?
- Since taking the One VA Away Challenge, Vince’s hiring success rate is now at about 80%.
- And since he’s learned to create processes to follow and he’s gotten better at hiring, he feels like everyone can perform well within just a couple of weeks of being hired.
What’s your hiring process like?
- Vince took The 7-Day One VA Away Challenge to help orient himself with the best hiring practices. “The tools I learned in [the One VA Away Challenge] really helped me to understand the right questions to be asking [and] how to ask them.”
- Then he took it a step further and used the recruit tool in the Zoho suite. There he created an additional questionnaire and application process where he could give Filipino applicants additional challenges to evaluate their skills.
- He even goes so far as to give them access to one of his websites where they can build on the server so Vince can review their work. Or he gives them access to a graphic design project that they can upload and work on.
- According to Vince, by the time the process is done, you really get a sense of who’s the best and who’s the most dedicated.
What was the most important thing you learned when you took the One VA Away Challenge?
- The thing that stood out most to him was “ask the right questions.” Questions he hadn’t considered before, like, “Do you have power outages?” “What’s your internet speed?”…
- Prior to the One VA Away Challenge, Vince administered more personality-based interviews, but now he does things differently.
- It was valuable to him to learn that a lot of VAs wouldn’t be comfortable speaking in video format. “In my business model, VAs won’t have to interface with clients at all, so why does it matter how their video interviewing skills are? It doesn’t.”
- He still does a video interview at the very end of the process, but only if he’s ready to extend a job offer.
Is there anything you would go back and do differently?
- One thing he learned early on is that he should’ve had a process in place for more hands-on management. His initial “relaxed” managing style had to change as he learned to hold workers more accountable for getting their work done. He does monthly evaluations and regular check-ins with his workers now.
- He’s had to get specific with his communication and expectations, which he says is important for any manager, anywhere.
- “[Outsourcing’s] an absolute no-brainer. But you have to be patient with yourself and with the process. You can’t have unrealistic expectations.”
- “If you’re expecting to find a VA and give no process and no tools and have them running your business in a week, that wouldn’t happen no matter who you hire. You could hire someone straight off of a fortune 500 advisory board and they couldn’t do that.” Be patient and reflective.
- “Having access to this fantastic talent pool using Onlinejobs.ph is great. But if you’re not doing the right things to make sure your team performs, you have to work on that as well.”
And if you want to see more videos, check out our YouTube channel or our Facebook page for more outsourcing tips. You can also check out how to get started on hiring Rockstar Virtual Assistants.
About Shelane Tuttle
Shelane Tuttle has worked in content development with John Jonas and the OnlineJobs.ph team since 2010. She’s a mother of four, book devourer, beach bum, wannabe music and art connoisseur and she thrives on learning/teaching others about new things, like outsourcing.
If you liked this you’ll probably also like reading