Case Study: Outsourcing with Scott Marlow

“There have been tremendous ups and tremendous downs, but it’s always been a journey that… feeds my soul.”

Scott Marlow started Themco in 2012 with one of his best friends and business partner, Kyle Wakefield. They began as an affiliate business, helping clients find WordPress themes to best suit their needs.

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Eventually, Themco began to create in-house WordPress Themes, including the XTheme, one of ThemeForest’s most popular and versatile themes. The company prides itself on its high-quality products and its prompt customer service (much of which is sourced in the Philippines).

Professional success and family life are inseparable for Scott Marlow. He is undoubtedly a family man and refers to his kids with as much pride (or more) as his business success. He works from home alongside his wife who homeschools their four children full-time (he good-naturedly refers to himself as “the principal”). He enjoys being involved in his kids’ daily lives and their homeschooling because of the flexibility his business provides. 

ThemeCo’s backstory is almost synonymous with Scott’s family story. 

Scott met his wife at age 39 and it was “love at first sight.” They’ve been married for 19 years and currently live in the beautiful green hills of Tennessee. 

Not long after Scott and his wife were married, they left for Russia for a year to work as full-time missionaries — working in orphanages, prisons, hospitals and filling needs in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods. They also worked hard to share the “good news of the gospel.” 

pexels-zen-chung-5749140When they returned home, Scott got serious about building his internet business. He started out in affiliate work and made $800 in his first month. As he continued to grow his business, he knew he needed to hire affordable help. He recruited and hired his first Filipino VA (who still works with Themeco today).

Scott’s first son arrived just as business was taking off. Since Scott worked from home, he enjoyed two years caring for his son as “Mr. Mom.”

A baby girl came next. Scott’s wife wanted to be at home, full-time, to care for their growing family and Scott was more than supportive. It was something they had both envisioned for their family. So they took a leap of faith and she quit her job.

Two weeks later, the “Google Slap” hit and Scott’s business went down to 10% production overnight. He describes how during that difficult time, they “waited, pivoted and trusted God.” Over the next two years, both the business and the family grew. As the Marlows recovered from the “Google Slap” they also welcomed two more children into the family.

pexels-pixabay-263402Then came another shock. They discovered their fourth child (a daughter) had an aggressive form of brain cancer. Literally the day after she was diagnosed, she was in cranial surgery. She lost her ability to speak and was paralyzed as a result of the surgery.

After the surgery, their daughter required proton-radiation therapy. Because of their homeschool and home-based-business flexibility, the Marlow family was able to move to the Ronald McDonald house in Boston and get the treatment their daughter required. That was followed by a long year of chemotherapy and thankfully, she’s doing very well today.

When he realized he wanted to pursue entrepreneurialism

Scott comes from a legacy of grit and opportunists. His grandfather was a sharecropper. His father was the first in his family to go to college and Scott followed suit. 

After he graduated with a degree in Psychology, Scott got a job as an assistant engineer at IBM. But as he worked at IBM, he was pressured by what he describes as “entrepreneurial angst.” 

At one point, IBM put him on a ‘y2k’ project, and he took it as a sign that it was time for him to “get out.” So in 2001, he began to dabble in internet business.

Scott describes the daily morning ritual that sets him up for success

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  • In the summer, the sun wakes him up every morning around 5am
  • He starts his day with exercise. While he exercises, he watches something he enjoys to keep him motivated. 
  • He then takes 30-60 minutes to read something inspirational (for him, usually scripture). 
  • Then he takes time to journal.

On journaling: Sometimes it’s just “stream of consciousness” writing. The thing he loves the most about journaling is that when he reviews his writing, he’ll highlight themes that pop out and identify larger ideas that come together – those are the things he “takes action on.”

  • After journaling, he meets with the rest of the family to go over the day and then they break for work!

The beginning of Themeco

Scott started Themco in 2012 with one of his best friends and business partner, Kyle Wakefield. They began as an affiliate business, helping clients find WordPress themes to best suit their needs.

pexels-markus-spiske-1089440Eventually, Themco began to create in-house WordPress Themes, including the XTheme, one of ThemeForest’s most popular and versatile themes. 

Then they started creating their own WordPress themes. Cory (Kyle’s brother) created the XTheme, one of the most popular themes on ThemeForest.

They have a team of 16 people, ½ based in the US and Europe and the other half based in the Philippines and other parts of the world.

They primarily sell software – they’ve sold over 200,000 licenses for the XTheme and even more for the ProTheme that can be purchased directly from the Themeco website. They also offer high-quality and rapid support for their themes.

Themeco’s first Filipino hire

Kyle and Scott worked to market the XTheme and direct traffic to ThemeForest, and it became one of the most popular themes very rapidly. After a few weeks, they were swamped with customer support needs that could only be addressed by the XTheme’s creator,Cory (because of the technical nature of the tickets and questions). 

Eventually, Cory became swamped by customer support demands. They knew that in order to move Cory back into development,  the company needed to hire help.

They found and hired a support specialist from the Philippines (who’s still with their company) and they’ve grown from there. 

The rest of the team

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“We all come from different cultures and different parts of the world, and we all do things, because of our cultures, differently.”

At Themco, they strive to create a “thrilling, satisfying, experience for customers.” Their customer service team responds to customers within 1-3 hours. Scott accredits the quick response time to their amazing, rockstar team (many of which are based in the Philippines). 

Many of the workers who initially started in customer support have now been moved up into the development team and have become leaders in the business. But Scott emphasizes that leadership is not always where the buck stops – some people like to stay in technical proficiencies and they love and appreciate those workers too.

The loyalty of Filipino VAs sticks out to Scott as one of their team’s strengths. They’ve never had a Filipinio worker leave Themeco once they’ve been hired. In turn, Themeco strives to create a positive and inviting culture where Scott hopes his team will want to spend the rest of their careers. He refers to their Filipino team members as “part of our Themco family.”

Tips from Scott on how to create an edifying and thriving work culture

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  • Give generous raises, and give them every year.
  • Have very honest discussions – be sure to deliver the information or correction with grace and love.
  • Match the hours they want to have. (When new VAs start out at Themeco, they usually have to work customer service through the night. But Themeco works to accommodate their VAs as much as they can).
  • Pay them more than what they can make locally in the Philippines. They’re worth it.

Scott’s recruiting and hiring process

In Scott’s opinion, auditioned hiring is the most loving and effective way to get the right person into the right job. 

He refers to Themeco’s hiring process as “the gauntlet.” The system is so rigorous that it can take applicants up to two months to complete. But almost everyone who makes it through the two-month gauntlet gets hired long-term. 

pexels-zen-chung-5749151They start with two entry points: an ad on OnlineJobs.ph and an automated form where applicants can take a timed quiz that’s relevant to the position. The way Scott describes it, half of the applicants who start the quiz won’t finish it. And according to him, “that’s ok! There’s probably another place where they need to be.”

Then each remaining applicant takes a series of specialized quizzes. Those who pass and make it to the end will interview with a hiring manager who works directly for Scott. After a personal review, the final applicants are put on a one-month trial period with very specific tasks to accomplish. 

Their performance is evaluated at the two-week mark…then again after a month…then the applicants are either hired or given feedback and reviewed again after another two weeks.

According to Scott, the applicants who make it through the gauntlet are those who put in the extra hour and go the extra mile. 

Managing tips from Scott

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  • Pay your workers above average wage so they don’t go looking for other jobs or try to work extra hours and ultimately get burned-out. Give them the security of a good paycheck and adequate rest and they will perform at their best and be happier employees.
  • Themeco has created their own discourse forum tool that they use to communicate with customers, but they “live on” Slack and Monday for inter-company management.

Great advice from Scott, for business and for life: 

“Right before a breakthrough, there’s a difficult step.” 

Scott explains that when he’s building something – or when his team is building something – the intensity of the pain, energy, misunderstandings, stress and pressure all come to a crux right at the end, and that’s when they know that something great is about to happen. 

pexels-thirdman-5961127Every single time there is something to accomplish that is big and new and worth it — whether it’s a new product, a new company or a new business partnership that’s being forged…the pain intensifies just towards the end. You almost want to stop and say, this just isn’t worth it, but you don’t realize how close you are.

Wake up each morning and come up with what you need to do, pray about it and do it! Your emotions can be replaced by the bigger goals. 

Nothing has ever come easy. Sometimes the ideas come easily, but making everything wire together is difficult. If you know you’re supposed to be doing something, be encouraged. The ones who actually go on to create their vision are the ones who can endure that last 10% of pain. Then there’s celebration.

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.


Shelane

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.

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