In this episode, listen to Mark Scott of Encore Realty as he shares his experience using a Virtual Staff member and how it impacted his business to his advantage.
It’s time to learn more about the great advantage of hiring virtual assistants to your business! Feel free to book an appointment with today so I can help you strategize all throughout the process!
Anne: Hi, my name is Anne Lackey. I’m the co-founder of HireSmart Virtual Assistants, and today, we have Mark Scott. He’s the broker of Encore Realty. Mark Scott’s been licensed since 1994. Can you believe it? Good for him. He’s been a broker since ’96. He looks like he just graduated. He’s got that young face. He’s been managing property since ’94. He’s a past president of his local association of realtors. He’s been involved in the state, national level. He’s been managing around 200 doors for a little over two years. He joined NARPM at the end of 2017. He actually is our Cal NARPM president, and more importantly, he’s a great HireSmart Virtual Assistant client of ours.
Anne: So welcome, Mark. Talk to us a little bit. Is there anything I missed as far as your background that you want to share with people?
Mark: No, I think that’s good enough.
Anne: That’s great. Well, listen, we are so excited to have you on the show today. Today’s just really casual. First of all, I want to say congratulations. Your virtual assistant actually won top VA newbie of quarter three. How exciting is that?
Mark: Awesome. She deserves it. She terrific.
Anne: I love it. I love it. So for those of you that might not be familiar, part of what we do to create a company culture is celebrate excellent customer service. And so in order to be even considered for top VA, they have to go through a lot of hoops. They have to have a client recommendation. They have to be flawless in their documentation. And really, we have very high standards in general. These VAs that make the top VAs are actually the cream of the crop. They’re the people that have excellent communication. And so we’re so delighted that Belle got nominated and actually won.
Anne: And she is a superstar. So tell us just a … for a little bit, how was it, when you got started working with Belle? I mean kind of I share with our people because that’s always the question that people have. Like, “Okay, I know I want to do this, but I’m really nervous. I don’t know really how to get started.” Oh, I don’t know. So tell us about your experience in hiring Belle.
Mark: So I’ll try to succinctly summarize it. I had an office assistant for a lot of years now in the realty business, and then it transitioned into property management. She was costing about $4,000 a month. I was wanting to implement certain things of end of day reports, and I’d like our maintenance structure to look this way. No, it’s too hard. It’s impossible with the internal office staff. I was in New York on a college trip with my daughter when Belle started, so I did not have time to train her.
Anne: Which is not recommended as a way to start.
Mark: No, it’s a terrible for me, and to Belle’s credit, she watched the videos that I sent her. I spent a couple of minutes with her, gave her convoluted instructions, and now I start getting emails of “This has been done. That’s been done.” Belle started and was able to make some decisions that I told her, “Please make decisions.” She could call a staff member in my office if she needed help, and I didn’t have her Skype phone line set up. I was a disaster.
Anne: But it still worked.
Mark: Belle succeeded. She started implementing things that my office staff was opposed to, at like a quarter of the price, and I’m getting, I don’t know, 20 times production. It’s been a big, big, big difference, and I didn’t realize how much money I was burning the way that I did it. I had met you Anne at, I can’t remember which conference, but I liked you, and I thought, “I’m going to give this a go,” and can’t believe I resisted doing it.
Anne: You know, I hear that all the time. People are like, once they get… and I tell this to people. Once you start the process and you go through it, you’re like, “I’ll never hire traditionally ever again because it’s just too hard.” But something about that first step. I wish I could teach people more like it’s okay. Like I got your back. Like I’m going to help you through the process. And the VAs that we hire are amazing because we pay them well, we have healthcare. I mean there’s lots of things we do on the back end to make it, again, our culture. Even though we’re all kind of all over the Philippines, we’re real remote, I think we do a good job of supporting our people, which helps our clients, right? So because that’s important to me that we have this community online and available.
Anne: But tell our listeners a little bit about, so what are some of the things that Belle does? Because that’s another question I get all the time. Like, “Well, I just, I don’t know what they can do.” So what does Belle do for you?
Mark: So I’m super excited. We switched our lease form, and I don’t know how to put it in AppFolio. Belle watched some videos, and she sent me a PDF of what it looks like. I didn’t have time before the call to see because I gave her the task this morning, although we started talking about it a couple of days ago so she educated herself on how to do something that honestly, I don’t know how to do, in uploading a form. Our lawyer who I bought the form from said it takes a long time to get it set up in AppFolio, but once you do, you’ll love it. So I thought, “Oh, I’ll give Belle a shot. She seems talented.” So I think she’s done that, and… Help me with your question again?
Anne: So what are some of the things that she does on a day to day basis?
Mark: Oh, what she does, yes.
Mark: So she was able to do that. She does all our maintenance coordination. I have a client where we’re seeing, I think four properties tomorrow with an appraiser, and she scheduled all of those appointments, and those are apartment buildings so each of those, there’s probably 16, 17 clients there. We have a response from all but one. It’s not from lack of followup that we’ve not gotten her. Belle, in every end of day report when we speak over the phone or over Skype, she says, “I’m still trying to get that last tenant.” And it’s, I think, her goal to get 100% and 100% accuracy always.
Mark: And so she’d been terrific picking the vendor. She’ll call me, “Hey, I have this. What vendor do you think? Do you think, is this Carlos or is this Scott? Is this this guy or is it that guy?” And with very, very few exceptions, I think, “Oh, maybe we should send the other person,” so she’d been terrific at making decisions, which was maybe my biggest fear is that I’d have to make all the decisions, which means I may as well do it. I have to make the decision, it’s a button for me to push. But I’ve not had to do that. She’s been great interaction with owners, with tenants, with our maintenance coordination. I just can’t say enough.
Anne: Well, I love to hear that. So every owner that I deal with is different. Some of them have very strict guidelines, and some are more like you, like kind of just figure it out. And so I think it’s always important that if you’re going to be the kind of, “Hey, figure it out,” is to give your virtual staff or your internal staff, I don’t think it matters really, empower them, that it’s okay to make a mistake because you know what? There are times that when you ask somebody to make an independent decision, if you don’t have a good decision tree, they may make the wrong decision.
Anne: Too me, that’s okay. I would rather have people make a decision and do something than to not make the decision and put the monkey on my back because I’m like you. I don’t have time for that. But if you’re working with virtual staff, you’ve got to empower them, so you don’t make them feel bad if they make the wrong decision, you can just say, “Okay, not this decision I would’ve made. Here’s my thought process, how I would’ve handled it. Let’s try better next time.” Do you find-
Mark: I do that with in office staff, the same as with Belle, of “Oh well I’m glad you made a decision.”
Mark: “Maybe it wasn’t the best one. Here’s what I would’ve done,” and why. And sometimes, the why gets too long with me, but she puts up with me. The … I don’t even want to say biggest mistake because it was just a … it was nothing. Sorry. I thought I turned my phone off.
Mark: She’s not made any mistakes that I’d even classify as mistakes. I don’t even like the word because it was just a different way to do things so I’ve just been … I just can’t say enough of the overall experience of the, from hiring. I got to interview three candidates. One was having little difficulty with her internet, and that hurt her. I think she would’ve been fine. The next one would’ve been terrific, but she was too nervous-sounding over the phone, and hopefully, she’s gotten over that and hired somewhere because I think she would’ve been terrific.
Mark: And then Belle was my third interview. She was nervous but could manage through that and ended up being a terrific choice. I think all three of them would’ve been, but I’m super, super happy with the virtual assistant that I have. And when time to hire another one, I for sure am going to hire more.
Anne: Well that’s great. Obviously, I love to hear that. I always like to hear how people have implemented, and I love the fact that you really empower your people. You talked about kind of the explanation of why or how you got to make a particular decision. I think that that’s super important. Again, it doesn’t matter whether it’s internal staff or remote staff. When we get to a point with our staff that we asked them, “Well how did you make that decision?” or, “Share with me your rationale as to how did you get there?” Sometimes honestly, when they rationalize out how they got there, I’m like, “Okay with that information, I would’ve made the exact same decision.” And again, a lot of times, it’s not like life or death. I mean very rarely in our world-
Anne: -is it that, but I think because we get a lot of people that are like, I came from a corporate background. I’m from corporate, IT, HR so I’m used to kind of policies and procedures, but I find a lot of property managers kind of just fall into this type of a role as a broker and an owner of a company. Let’s face it. Nobody teaches us how to own a company, nevertheless how to manage one, right? And so the reason I love these talks with different owners is because I’m hoping that somebody can hear, “Oh man, maybe I can incorporate that in my business,” or, “Hey, that was a nugget that I could use to help me be better in my company or my … “
Anne: And so for anybody that’s out there, if you have a challenge with feeling like you have to do it all, that’s a mentality that will keep you small, your whole existence. And that’s okay if that’s your choice. But I wanted freedom. That’s one of the main reasons I went to virtual assistants is I didn’t really want to work in my property management business. I much have more fun in HireSmart, which I love. That’s my favorite business out of any of the businesses I’ve started. It’s absolutely where I plan to hang my hat at the end of my journey.
Anne: But again, a lot of the same policies, procedures, guidelines come into play. I’m dealing with human capital. We are in property management too. We’ve got tenants and owners, and they all have their own agenda, and those agendas don’t necessarily align. I’ve got, in my HireSmart, I’ve got owners, I’ve got workers, and sometimes, they need a little bit of help in that communication too. It’s kind of interesting to see the parallels.
Anne: What piece of advice would you give someone who is either on the fence about hiring virtually or might be minimally exposed to it? What would you share with that person?
Mark: So I see this in realty and property management, we’re kind of birds of a feather in a lot of ways, and is there, and maybe many of us start as realtors and end as property managers or vice versa. So I think the crossover is there. What I see always is, “Yeah, but it’s not me doing it. Therefore, I can’t do it,” and, “They won’t do it like me.” Yeah, they’d probably do it better in reality.
Mark: Belle, she cares so much to get it right that I was a little worried that she would be, have paralysis of analysis and not want to make a decision because she wants it to be always 100% accurate. She’s been able to make decisions. I made a mistake and used … I think the word ignorant offended her because she thought I was calling her stupid, but she just didn’t know whatever I was talking about. I heard her voice tone change. I said, “Oh no, let me explain myself.” But that’s been our only … and I think it was that word, but it was not a very commonly used word, certainly not a word in the industry, but that’s been our only little communication thing, but you got to do it and take action. And if it’s a bad decision, it’s not like there’s tons of money on the line. You can undo it. But if you never do it, you won’t see how great it can be. I think with Anne’s training and HireSmart’s training, that I couldn’t believe how well-versed they were in the computer, in … She put a an Excel spreadsheet together for me because I wanted to track certain numbers so I gave her “Hey, here’s kind of what I have, but it doesn’t really work because it’s a static document I send to you, then you change it, and I have to save over save.” No, there’s like, I don’t even know what it is. It’s Google Docs.
I don’t know what it is, but I pulled it up, and I can read it. It’s the work order spreadsheet. It has notes, and I can track how many days open. It’s really super, very simple, and I don’t know how to do that. Belle did that. I knew that the document could exist that way, but I don’t like the computer much in reality. And it’s really super simple. She’s … I thought I knew Excel pretty well, and she knows it better. I know certain things about it, maybe a little different, but she knows it better. And so why not let her do it, and then I don’t have to spend my time trying to recreate something that someone very, very talented and really cares. I’ve been surprised how much they care about me and my business and our company. I’ve not had her … Do you know when I started, Anne?
Anne: I can look it up. I think it was about five months ago.
Mark: July or something. June. Oh, maybe May. May, June.
Anne: Yeah, somewhere around there.
Mark: But she’s one of us, and I’ve never seen her in person. I’ve seen her on the computer, but she’s an integral part of our company and got there quickly, really through her talent. I don’t know why I was surprised at how self-starting she was, but I assume that if they’re in HireSmart’s and Anne’s pool of people that they would be of similar kind of mindset and similar training so that, what are you waiting for? You should do it. That’s my advice to all my friends.
Well, thank you. It’s this June, by the way. June 10th, that’s her anniversary.
Anne: You will remind you of. That’s one of the things that I think is so important. So you know, it’s interesting. We’ve been in business about four and a half years, and I have had VAs that have been working with me for four and a half years. Literally the first group of trainees I’ve ever had are still, a lot of them are still placed. So I had the client that long and the VAs that long, which has been great.
Mark: That speaks volumes.
Anne: I think it’s so important that when people think about, because again, now, when I started this, there were almost no choices. There was maybe one big gorilla, and that was it in the industry. Now, there’s several that have kind of popped up. But what I think, from my perspective, again, I always treat clients like I would want to be treated as a client. One of the things that I think really makes a big difference is in the testing process and in the making sure that you’ve got the right people for that right position.
Anne: You talked about having three candidates. Any one of those three could actually do the work is who did you like, who did you feel like you could relate to? And then of course, we put them through the paces for the soft skills.
Anne: So interestingly enough, I just did my numbers because again, I’m a process numbers person. I like to understand, and I like things that are duplicatable and replicatable. So this time last year, I had about a 20% fallout rate for my certification class. At that point, we’d only been doing a new testing process for about six months. Well now, we’re a year and a half, so we’re 18 months in. I really dig into that data quite frequently to make sure that what my gut tells me is actually what’s happening.
Anne: And so now, I’m down to fall out of my certification class down to 12%. so from 20 to 12. And those, so now, I analyze why are those 12 not working out? It really comes down to two reasons. One is they don’t have some of the soft skills, which you don’t know until you start working with somebody. Until you start putting them through that … Some of my competitors train for eight hours. I’m sorry. Eight hours is not enough. Somebody can fake something for eight hours. You can’t fake something for 40. It’s almost impossible.
Anne: And then so that, and then the second part is they don’t realize how hard it is because I put them through the paces as if it were my company, and so I’m pushing them really, really hard, and they’re like, “Well, this was more than I anticipated.” Which I’d rather find that out early on. If you don’t have the moxie to to do what, like you were saying that you like Belle, she’s a decision maker, she takes action. And not every role requires that. I mean again, every client’s different. Some people want somebody just to kind of go through the process, and I got, I can hire for that or I can hire a generalist that can think and make decisions.
Anne: So it all comes down to really, the better the client’s expectations with me up front of what they need, the better the results that we’re going to have in the placement. Just again, knowledge is power.
Anne: What would be one of the, kind of the biggest a-ha moments that you had when you were working with Belle over the last few months? I mean what was it you went, “Oh wow. I never thought that was possible?”
Mark: I was really surprised at her commitment to us. She’s part of the family and just seems to care so much. I was afraid that, I think in part, what separates me is that I care. I do it for money. No question, but-
Anne: Of course. We’re all in business.
Mark: Yeah, and profit is not a dirty word, but I love to help people. I think Belle exemplifies that of that she truly cares. We’re a world apart, and she cares as if I can scream at her from my office door so I think that that’s what I’ve been most impressed with is her commitment to our success, and if she doesn’t know something, she learns it so quickly that I feel a little silly saying, “I don’t know how to do this, but I know the program does it. Can you look into it?” She looks into it, and before I can get a chance to look at it, and so then I said, “I don’t even need to know how to do that.” Belle did it for me.
Mark: And so I’ve been surprised at how committed they are to our success. We think, “Oh, they’re doing it for only whatever the fee is.” But they’re making a lot of money compared to their counterparts. Now when I hear that I’m at a call center, I start asking questions of the person at Microsoft or whoever I’m talking to, and so … and I started asking them, and maybe my gig isn’t so bad.
Anne: Well you know it’s really funny because you mentioned that we’ve all been talking to the Filipino people for years, and most people have never even known. I mean because one of the things that we get all the time is “Well, I’m not sure about their English.” I’m like, “Well their English is amazing.” But you know, and again, that’s part of the screening process too because they’re not all amazing. But ours are. The people that I place are amazing or neutral or they’re not talking on the phone, they’re doing some other technical skill that doesn’t require great verbal communication. So that’s awesome.
Anne: Well I always ask my guests, what’s the one thing you’re proud of? And I love the fact that this was your answer, and you says, “I’m proud of the great job we do for our clients and that we will always keep doing right thing.” That’s actually one of our core values. Our core values are smarter and under the E is ethics and integrity, which I define as doing the right thing, even when no one’s watching because that’s … whether you’re going to get caught or not doesn’t matter. Ethics and integrity are always about doing the right thing. I think when you do the right thing, you’re going to be blessed. So all of our VAs kind of commit to those core values.
Anne: If anybody’s interested in knowing our core values, they are listed right on our website, so you can go to HireSmartVAs.com/about and our core values are literally posted there because I think it’s super important that again, we talk about that company culture. So we want our VAs to kind of buy in to that.
Anne: Actually, when we had our quarterly meeting, every time I go through our core values again, just to make sure that they understand kind of what we’re looking. But that lends itself to the quality of people that we attract and that we maintain.
Anne: So Mark, is there anything else that you would want to share with our listeners today? And again, I appreciate you being on the show.
Mark: Yep. No, thank you for having me. If you’re at all thinking about hiring a VA, you should, without question, and I wish I had done it sooner. I’d have a lot more money in my pocket because I would’ve saved 3000 bucks a month for 10 years. But I didn’t realize we could still get that close customer personalized service and be a world away. We’ve not experienced that, and so I think you should do it. It frees up your time, and you won’t regret it.
Anne: Well, thank you for that. Well listen, if you’re interested in finding out more about us, you can go to HireSmartVAs.com, and you can have the same results that Mark does as well. Of course, if you are listing and you’re looking for a great property management company, I would encourage you to check out Mark Scott, the broker at Encore Realty. His contact information, I’ll be following shortly. Thank you and have a great rest of your day.
Mark: Thanks, Anne. Thanks everyone.