Fairly recently, James published an episode about building and running a virtual team, specifically from the Philippines. Having worked with his own VAs for a decade, and currently running a VA recruitment company with his wife, this is something he was well-qualified to talk about.
Tega Diegbe came across the episode, which he shared and commented on, saying he and James had similar values around how to build a great team.
In this guesting, he and James discuss their common mindset towards managing a remote team and being a good boss.
They talk about the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant versus being a solo business owner.
And they offer tips for leading your team and maintaining good remote team communication.
Table of contents
1. A similar sort of mindset around team
2. Does the term matter?
3. An emotional investment in the people
4. Finding that business sweet spot
5. Making the decision to downsize
6. Taking responsibility for the outcome
7. Artificial intelligence and the impact on team
8. James’s policy around tools
9. Letting people grow by allowing mistakes
A similar sort of mindset around team
Tega’s interest in building a business stemmed from reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad at 18, and discovering the Cashflow Quadrant.
From his reading Tega realized a real business needed systems and people. He learned about and implemented systems, then tackled the people part, recognizing that business could be more than just him – he could bring in people to do things he didn’t want to do or wasn’t good at doing.
Years in internet marketing taught Tega the importance of language, content, positioning, and framing. Building a team, he decided, meant he had to speak differently and use different terms, to avoid being lumped with shady characters as just an internet marketer.
For instance, Tega does not like using the term “virtual assistant” – in his opinion, it’s a term that’s overused.
Does the term matter?
The term “virtual assistant,” Tega argues, limits the scope of what these workers can do, and it can lead to employers treating them like machines or AI tools. As a result, these workers may feel undervalued and seek other opportunities, leaving the employer in a never-ending cycle of hiring and training new employees.
Instead, Tega prefers to use the term “virtual team member” to emphasize that these workers are part of a team and deserve to be treated as such.
James suggests that the term “virtual” may be problematic because it implies that these workers are out of sight and out of mind, making it harder to treat them as team members.
Tega believes that calling them virtual is not the problem, though another word could be remote. It’s ultimately the mindset of the employer that matters.
James asserts that he treats his virtual team members as full-on integrated team members, just as though they worked under one roof, and Slack is their office.
An emotional investment in the people
James is open about his emotional investment in his team and their well-being, having been to their country and observed their struggles firsthand. He emphasizes the importance of being a good leader and employer, and takes pride in building a strong team.
James believes that success is achieved through teamwork and collaboration, and feels a sense of pride and emotion when his team accomplishes something great together.
James also expresses concern about the difficulties that remote workers face, such as difficult bosses or poor working conditions, and encourages his own team to have a good life outside of work.
He feels a responsibility to educate people and be a better employer and leader, recognizing that his success is tied to the success of his team. Moreover, he discusses the importance of collaborating with a team to achieve greater success, rather than trying to do everything on one’s own as a solopreneur.
Finding that business sweet spot
Between solopreneur and big businesses making $10 million plus, James believes the ideal is a business with three to five team members that can handle the tasks the owner dislikes or isn’t good at, leaving them free to focus on what they enjoy.
Tega’s viewpoint is that the business should support the owner’s desired lifestyle, with growth being secondary to that goal. James acknowledges that a larger business brings more complexity and responsibility, while a solopreneurship can limit the owner’s ability to delegate unwanted tasks.
The six- to seven-figure range is James’s sweet spot for helping clients grow their businesses while still maintaining a desirable quality of life.
James emphasizes the importance of having a good team and systems to leverage growth, with people and systems being critical to success. Bringing in senior-level help, he says, may be necessary when a business reaches a few million dollars a year, as managing the people and systems becomes a full-time job.
Making the decision to downsize
Tega turns the tables by asking James a question: How did James go from one-man band, not wanting to have a team, to taking on the team? And how did he decide how big or how little to keep that team?
James built his business due to the pressure of a high-paid job and the looming recession. Upon matching his salary with his online efforts, he quit his job.
James had two hires that marked the start of his having a team: a temporary receptionist at Mercedes-Benz who helped him write a job ad and ended up becoming his article writer, and a support person who set up a support desk for him for $1,000 a month.
Then James read The 4-Hour Workweek, and was inspired to seek a VA from India. He submitted his details, but the waiting list was long.
A friend told James he should look at the Philippines. Initially unsure of what he needed, James agreed – he hired someone and showed them what he did.
He eventually scaled up to a team of 67 people, manning a website business and SEO services. James, however, lately sold those divisions, due to outside forces, client demand, and his own preference. He kept a core team and still has team members from 13 years ago.
Taking responsibility for the outcome
Key there, says Tega, is even when James didn’t know what to do, he trusted himself to figure it out.
James made a promise to himself, he says. If he quit his job, he promised to always innovate and be responsible for his own outcome, because he did not want to go back.
James emphasizes the need for self-awareness and the courage to make decisions that align with one’s goals, even if, for instance, it means turning off income streams that don’t contribute to the bigger picture.
James also shares a three-step approach to decision-making: getting Data, making Decisions, and then Doing. He believes that many entrepreneurs struggle with this kind of insight, and that being responsible for one’s own outcome requires being present-minded and adaptable.
Artificial intelligence and the impact on team
James and Tega touch on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on businesses and employees. While some people fear the potential loss of jobs to AI, others see it as a tool that can enhance productivity and create new opportunities.
James stresses the importance of communication between employers and employees, reassuring them that AI is not a threat to their jobs, but rather a tool that can augment their work. In his own team, everyone knows they’re needed, and while AI has helped speed up processes, the final product needs their human touch.
Our experts also highlight the importance of exploring and experimenting with new AI tools to see how they can be used to improve work processes.
Tega shares his experience of introducing Jasper, and then ChatGPT, to his team and how he communicated its benefits and how to use it effectively. The team members who were given access to the tools were able to see the potential and use them to enhance their work output.
James’s policy around tools
James has a policy around tools, which involves using only the best in class tools that the team critically needs. He subscribes to tools on a monthly basis, and is constantly reviewing the tools list to ensure that they are being used properly and effectively.
He has his team apply tool rules, which involve only using tools they can’t survive without, making sure to learn how to use them properly, and always looking for the top two or three tools in the market for each category.
Over time, James and his team have found limitations in tools and have either replaced them with something else or nothing at all. They have even learned how to code their own plugins when necessary.
James believes that there are too many AI tools in the market and that many won’t exist a year from now. Therefore, he relies on his community to alert him to great tools, and he makes sure to screen out and filter through them before committing to anything.
He also looks at the Profit and Loss statement by line item of every product, every cost, including labor, to make sure that they are getting the most value out of each tool. Ultimately, James’s policy around tools is to use them only when necessary and to use them properly to get the best results possible.
Letting people grow by allowing mistakes
A key element of James and Tega’s team management approach is letting employees learn and grow through their mistakes.
Tega emphasized that it’s important to hire good people and give them the freedom to grow into or out of the role. He mentioned that mistakes are learning opportunities and create a positive working environment where people are not afraid to make mistakes.
James shares his experiences of mistakes made by his team and himself, and how they dealt with them. He emphasized that the way you handle errors will determine whether a person will stay in your organization long-term.
Tega and James agreed that creating a supportive environment that values learning and growth leads to employees who are loyal and committed. They both said that giving employees the resources to do their job effectively and not berating them for mistakes is key to keeping them motivated and engaged.
James also pointed out that retaining employees for a long time is the ultimate evidence that something is working.
Tega helps people build great virtual teams to support their businesses – look him up at tegadiegbe.com
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