Aderson Oliveira: I've spoken with Jason Ohrum about his many years of experience with outsourcing. One of the things that he brought to my attention is the importance to build long lasting relationships with his outsourcing team. One of the tools that he uses to communicate better with his team is the Myers-Briggs personality test, which helps to fine tune communication preferences that different people will have. On top that, we also had time to do a tough call.
Hello, hello, Aderson Oliveira here. This is another interview for the OuchSourcing Podcast, and I have today, with me, Jason Ohrum. I hope that I pronounced that right.
Jason Ohrum: You did.
Aderson: Great. Jason is the President of JAZ Design Company, and I guess let's start there. Can you tell me where you are located and tell me a little bit -- a short briefing of you and your company?
Jason: Okay. Thanks for having me on, Aderson. Yeah, so my name is Jason Ohrum with JAZ Design Company, a company I started in 1999 and we've been doing website development, internet marketing ever since. Now, I brand the company as "We make businesses look great online". That's kind of what we've evolved into, and making sure the company has a -- it looks great with their online reputation, meaning they're social, they're searched, their website, itself, all makes up their online reputation, so we help businesses with that. I'm located -- you asked me where I am? I'm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It's kind of where I live. So, a little south of you, Aderson.
Aderson: Got it. At least we are in the same timezone.
Jason: Yeah, that's what's been nice with working with you over the years that we're in the same timezone.
Aderson: That's a great segue because I'd like to give just a little bit of background history of me and Jason. I've known Jason for, I think, seven or eight years now. We haven't been in touch lately, but actually, I used to provide some outsourcing services to him and his company as well. The funny thing is that about five years ago, Jason was the one interviewing me about outsourcing though. So, it’s an interesting thing that's happening here. But, let me ask you this - no pressure at all - what is the secret of being successful with outsourcing, Jason?
Jason: Oh, wow. I've made enough mistakes that I should have a really good answer to that question. Yeah, the secret to being successful with outsourcing. Well, I've been outsourcing for a long time, probably about as long as we've know each other, seven or eight years maybe. I've been through the ups and downs and everything in between. It's been an interesting ride. When I first started doing it, I learned or I thought that the only place I should go to find people to help me was the Philippines. That's what I did and I used some of the resources back then.
But, I found out, over the years, it really doesn't matter where in the world you're finding people to help you. It could be in the next town over or it could be in India or wherever. What you really want to do is establish a good relationship like you would with any employee, and give them very easy-to-follow instructions, and if you can do that and build a relationship with someone, then what I found, since I've been doing it for so long, is now I don't need to look for more people all the time. I used to try to find new people all the time because somebody didn't work out, and a lot of times it was me. I was the problem because I didn't, I wasn't fair to them. I didn't interview them properly or whatever the case was.
It was a pretty steep learning curve for me. I got scammed a couple of times just, you know, not doing my diligence really. When I found somebody and just assumed that they were going to do a great job when it turns out that what they're doing was trying to scam me out of money through Western Union scams. I came across that a few times. You should really be watching out for that type of thing, being very cautious, doing your diligence, creating relationships with people that are going to last a long time is how I've been most successful with it.
Aderson: Okay, so let me ask you that. You said that creating a good relationship, and most of the time, we're doing outsourcing with someone that is remote to us. It's not located in the same city, it's not located next door. You cannot see them every time. So, how do you go about creating a good relationship with someone that is working remotely? What are some of the things that you usually consider for going about that?
Jason: Yeah, that's a good question, and really when I think about it, I think about them first as person, not a commodity. Because, you can look at it either way. You can look at them as a commodity, because there are so many people available to do basically whatever you need to do. But, when you look at them as a person and you care about them like you would an employee sitting in your office, then I think that's really what allows you to create that long-term lasting relationship. I used to have lots and lots of different people doing different things.
Now, I've narrowed it down to just a handful of people that do very specific things for me that have been with me for years, and I don't feel like I need to be constantly looking for the next best person. I think that's really the key aspect of building your team. If you don't have the ability to hire somebody and sit in your office, then virtually hiring them and creating that long-term relationship because it relieves a lot of headaches.
Aderson: Got it. Okay, okay. I don't know how involved you are with that anymore, and I don't think you are too much involved at all on that side anymore. But, I saw that -- you've published, a few years ago, an e-book, a booklet called Outsourcing Demystified. Do you still recall any interesting points from that publication that you have put together? I started to read about -- I get to download that and I started to read it. What was the idea behind that publication there?
Jason: It's kind of funny because I wanted to see if I could outsource my outsourcing project. So, I did, but I had final say in it, but I actually had somebody write that book. There are a lot of good points in it though. One of the biggest things, tools that I've used over the years when I'm not finding somebody like on Upwork, for example, and I don't have a lot of information about them is that I'll have like an interview sheet that I’ll make them fill out so that I can get to know them a lot better, and that's one of the tools --
Aderson: Sorry for interrupting you, but is that the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator. Is that the one?
Jason: It's based on that. Yeah, we came up with that through a friend of mine who does the Myers-Briggs. He is a leadership -- he goes in and helps organizations work better together. When I was working on this project and I started talking to him about how you do communicate and what the worker preferences really are, and that's kind of what his profession is. So, we took that and created sort of a questionnaire so that we could learn what the preferences are of the people that we're hiring or that I'm interviewing.
Outsourcing Autopilot was the product. That was the information product that I put together about five years ago. Things have changed a lot since then, but there's still some really good concept in there. It's outsourcingautopilot.com. You can check it out. Their blog articles are pretty good. Actually, our interview's up there that I did. I think I sent you the link to that, Aderson, from five years ago. It was fun to watch that.
Aderson: Yes. It was fun.
Jason: There's a lot of good resources on there still.
Aderson: Got it. Let me go back here to the questionnaire, because one of -- the whole point of the OuchSourcing is because outsourcing can be a pain, and I'm talking to you so we can take this pain away for our guest, for me, for people that are watching this. One of the aspects of taking that pain away is providing tools, providing techniques, providing approach of how people can go about selecting a good candidate, selecting someone that will stick for the longer run. My question there on that questionnaire, Jason, is how that questionnaire help you to say, "Hey, this individual might be a good fit, or that individual may not be a good fit." Are you able to pick and choose based on how they answer some of those questions that you have?
Jason: That was the idea with it, yeah, and it just helps you understand. Like the Myers-Briggs identifies how people prefer to be treated, if they are more emotional or if they need direction. There's two complete ends of the spectrum of how people prefer to work. Basically, their preferences is what we're looking for. Somebody might be more creative, so you let them be creative and not have such stringent guidelines of what they're supposed to be doing, but somebody else might need those stringent guidelines and need to have that 10-step process that they will follow every time, because that's just the way they prefer to work. It helps identify that, and maybe if they don't prefer to work that way and the task is a 10-step process, then they wouldn't be a good fit for that if they are in the more creative end of the spectrum.
Aderson: Got it. I like that because it helps us as clients. Again, their preferred mode of communication and see if that mode is something that we can work with or if we don't want to work like that. I like that.
Jason: Yeah, it's the usual toll at a higher level, especially if you want to find somebody that's going to be with you for a long time to enter the relationship. Understanding that really helps a lot.
Aderson: Got it. Let's get down to some specifics here and move on a little bit, Jason. What, right now, as of now, what do you outsource? Which types of task, which type of projects do you outsource right now?
Jason: Okay, sure. Let me give away all my secrets here. It's okay. I don't think I'm unique but I have an administrative assistant that does tedious things that I don't feel is necessarily worth my time doing, like going on social accounts, Not posting for me, but say on LinkedIn for example, if somebody requests to connect with me on LinkedIn, I'll ask her to go through and accept those requests and send out a message, preformatted message, that drives them to my website. Something that anybody can do. It's tedious and repetitive, so she's been doing that for me for I don't know how many years.
Aderson: From where is she? Where is she located?
Jason: She's particularly in the Philippines.
Aderson: Just a wild guess there. Why do you think that there are so many great VAs out of the Philippines?
Jason: For one, they speak English as their sort of a second language. They're familiar with Americans, because there's been a military base there for a long time, and their cost of living is so low that they don't need to make a lot. So, you can have somebody for just a few dollars an hour doing these tasks for you that are happy to make what they're making, and they can't really make that where they're living. So, you're actually helping them and they're helping you at the same time. A Number of reasons. But, some of the more technical things, I found that like website development, things like that, there aren't as many Filipinos that are good at that. Let's just put it that way.
Aderson: Got it.
Jason: So, for my website development projects like WordPress development, I've been working with a guy on the east coast of India for almost five years now. He is awesome. His response time is about 24 hours because of the time difference. I've built up a relationship with him that he knows what I want. I know what he wants. We're on the same page in terms of the process that we have done. I don't know how many websites; must be hundreds by now together. That relationship's been great. We don't really talk that much, but we've created a good system that when I get a project, I can have him help me with that at a programmatic level, and then also stylistic, he's pretty good with that.
For search engine optimization work that I do, I'm overseeing a guy, he also happens to be in India, and he's in like Northern India. His English is almost perfect. That was one of the biggest things. I've worked with people that do SEO in the past that have poor English, and it gets me in trouble sometimes because if they're producing things and my client sees it, then it makes me look really bad. I oversee what he's doing and approve everything that he's doing, but he's doing the bulk of that SEO work that is just time-consuming. I'd pay him a little bit more than maybe I could be paying somebody else, but he does such a great job and his English is so good that it's worth it, and he shows result. Who else? Then, I've got a guy that I've been using for a couple of years that is really good at creating logos and branding, so I hire him but that's sporadic. We don't do a lot of that. But, when we do do it, I can put out a really good product. That's kind of my key, the SEO team, my manager there oversees one or two other guys to help on that.
That's kind of in a nutshell, what we have right now. That person in the Philippines also has done some research for social media posts. She doesn't actually post, but she will go out -- again, she's one of the people that you really have to get very specific guidelines of what you're looking for. She's not very creative, but when you give her a task, she's good at getting it done. That's, I'd say, the nutshell kind of where I'm at with outsourcing right now.
Then, we have -- there's three of us that are owners of the company working in full-time and my cousin, actually, Nigel - you'll probably see him online. He's Nigel Ohrum. Pretty well-known in the social media space as being somewhat of a guru, and he lives in Virginia, but I considered him almost outsourcing too because he’s not full time. He has one tasks or two tasks that he does all the time but he's here in America. He's just one state away. That is an example of outsourcing, in my opinion.
Aderson: Got it. Let me ask you this, Jason. Is there any particular task or work right now that you wish you would be outsourcing, but for one reason or another, you're not outsourcing that yet?
Jason: Yeah, well, phone call follow-ups is something I did do, I outsourced for a while to a company the next town over. Two reasons I don't do it anymore is, one is cost and, two, I feel like I do a better job. I'm sort of, for right now, thinking that out of the mix, but I may put that -- depending on like if I'm doing a marketing campaign that I need to call a lot of people and I can't do it myself. That will be an example of that.
Aderson: Got it. Let me you a quick question here. A few days ago I was talking to a friend. He has regular employment. He doesn't understand this outsourcing too well, and he asked me this question, "How do you know if that person, if that individual is really doing the work that you are paying them to do it?" This is the question I'll throw at you. How do you know that they are working on what they're supposed to be working? How do you track that? How do you manage that?
Jason: That's a great question. I was a little resistant, at first, to use Upwork because they take up a percentage that costs us a little bit more. But, I found that as a couple of my people that I've been using, going through that helps me manage just what you ask about there. So, especially with SEO work, I can look and see what he's doing through Upwork, because it takes screenshots when he's timing himself. So, I can see that way, and I can see that he's doing something. Otherwise, with us, it's results. Are the websites coming up the search engines more or not. If they're not, then there's something wrong. Back in the day, I used to have a tool that I would require all of my people to fill out daily and a sheet like, "What did you do today?" and they would have to email that to me every day or I didn't pay them.
Aderson: Just curious about, you mentioned Upwork, and I also use a lot Upwork. But, I'll be honest with you. I never, ever look at those diaries, you know. You brought a good point, which is my answer to my friend was just that I see what they are doing. I know their output. We don't measure them by the input; we measure them by the output. Are they producing? Are they doing what they're supposed to be doing? Yes or no? That's it. But, do you keep looking at the screenshots? Do you go that granule there?
Jason: I do occasionally, yeah. It's easy for me to go in and look. I'm not studying them, I just scroll through occasionally, and just make sure he's actually doing what he's doing. I know he is. I keep in constant contact with him, and he's really good on top of things, and I trust him, so that's a big aspect of it too.
Aderson: Quick question for the novices out there, I mean the people that are just getting a taste of what outsourcing can do for them, based on your experience, how do people fail when they try to outsource? What are the biggest barriers or the biggest traps that people fall when they're trying to outsource for the first time?
Jason: I think it's just making an assumption that they're going to do what they're supposed to be doing. That's like what we were just talking about. You really can't assume it, and if you've just met this person, you really have to be on top of them. I've been burned. I mean, you have to use other people's examples. I'm guilty of this too. When I first started, I said, "Hey, I need this and this done," and then I thought I can just hand it off and go sit on a beach. That's not the wisest thing to do.
You really have to be on top of them, and make sure, especially in the first period of time, couple of weeks or whatever, that they are doing what they're supposed to be doing. If you're just starting to outsource, a lot of the people are like, "What do I outsource?" They're outsourcing the wrong things, I think can be a mistake, outsourcing too much of what you should be -- if you don't have a system for yourself in place to do that, then how are you going to outsource it? So, creating systems internally.
Aderson: Let me ask you this, Jason. You said outsourcing the wrong thing. What do you mean by that? I mean, can you give me an example of something that you tried outsourcing and it was not the right thing to outsource?
Jason: Yeah. I'm trying to think of an example. I know I've done it before.
Aderson: In general.
Jason: I don't know if it was necessarily a wrong thing. It was just too many assumptions were made on my part that it was going to be done the right way and I didn't manage it correctly from the beginning, and then it got it out of hand. The person wasn't doing what they were supposed to be doing. So, in a sense, that was the wrong thing for them to be doing, wrong thing for me to be outsourcing to them. I think it's taking the wrong person for the project is a big part of it, but also knowing what you should be outsourcing. Yeah, that's always coming back to that.
Aderson: Got it.
Jason: Yeah, like I said. If you don't have a system in place to do it for yourself, then you can't really outsource it yet.
Aderson: You said if you don't have a system in place. Can you dig deeper a little bit there. I just want to understand what do you mean by system? I mean, is that a process? Is that a tool to manage that? What do you mean by system?
Jason: Well, there is a process that's involved with creating a website, for example. The way my system is to make sure I'm very thorough to outline every aspect of this project so that I can hand it off to my programmer and he'll know exactly what he's supposed to be doing. If I don't do that, then he has to make a lot of assumptions, and therefore, there's a lot more back and forth, and it causes headaches for both of us. So, going into a project, taking the extra time initially reduces lots of headaches down the road.
Aderson: Got it, okay. Jason, I want to try something here. This is the third time that I'll be trying that and this what I call a "tough call". A tough call is a role play that we're going to try to do right now. I will be a developer providing services to you as the company. But, things are delayed, you know. It's been over a week and the project was supposed to be finished a week ago. Now, again, you don't know what's going on. You want to sort things out. You want to clarify where things are. So, we will have a tough call. You're going to be the client, I'll be the provider, and I'll have to just find myself there. Let's give this a try?
Aderson: Perfect. You can call me Anderson. Anderson is my code name, my role playing name, okay? So, here we go. I'm going to just give you call. This is, again, my impersonation of a ringtone. Hello, Jason?
Jason: Okay. Hello, Anderson.
Aderson: How's everything?
Jason: It's going okay. How's everything with you? I haven't heard from you in a little while.
Aderson: I'm sorry, man. I haven't had too much time lately. My mother is sick right now and I'm having to bring her to the doctor, to the hospital, so I'm really sorry about that. I mean, how can I help you?
Jason: Well, the project was supposed to be done a week ago. I understand your mother's sick. Is this something that you're not going to be able to handle at this point? Where do we go from here?
Aderson: Oh man, I just wished that I was able to inform you. I'm sorry for not keeping you in the loop, but I may have to sleep with her in the hospital for the next two nights, so I won't be able to do much for the next two days. But hey, after that, I'm pretty sure that, within a week, I should be back on track and we'll get the project moving again. Does that work for you? I'm really sorry about that, man.
Jason: Well, that really doesn't work for me, unfortunately, because we're already a week behind. My client expected this project to be finished. I'm really sorry about your mother and that you're going to have to spend time with her. But, what I do need you to do is send over what you have now, because I do have somebody else lined up. I apologize, but that's kind of what I have to do.
Aderson: Okay, Jason. Yes, we can just, I guess, at this point sort out the final payment that is pending there. But, you know what? Because it's delayed, I'll just let it go and yeah, I'm really sorry about that. I know that we just met about a month ago, and this is not the impression that I wanted to give to you, but we got to do what we got to do, and yeah, I'll send you the source, and you're going to have that by tomorrow morning
Jason: Okay. Well, when you do send that over, I'll be sure to pay what's going what's remaining on there. If I don't get that, then obviously you're not going to get that. The other thing about that, I understand things happen in life. But, I'm running a business here and I want you to be successful in the future. So, if everything works out well here, then I'll give you a good review. If it doesn't, it's going to be the opposite and that's really going to hurt your chances of getting a lot more work. Let's part as friends for now and let me get on and get this project finished so my clients are happy.
Aderson: Appreciate it. I really appreciate that, and I'm truly sorry about that. I should have communicated beforehand, but things just got out of control. But, as I said, I'll be sending that, the source code in the morning. Thank you very much, Jason. I'm really sorry about that. I hope that we can work again in the near future.
Jason: Okay. Thank you, Anderson.
Aderson: Cheers. Okay, so let me ask you this. What's wrong with what I did as a provider? What did I do wrong? In your mind, what did I do wrong here?
Jason: This is so typical. It's amazing how many times I've run into that over the years. That's the best way I know how to deal with it. But, what you just demonstrated there probably 30% of the time I've hired somebody has happened in some way. So, that's why I think, like I said earlier, it's so important to create that relationship with whoever's going to be doing this so that type of thing doesn't happen. They're in constant contact.
I mean, I've heard the mother in the hospital story how many times, and versions of it. You have no way to prove it, but what you do have is, especially if you're going through Upwork, if you've never met the person before, don't hire them on Craigslist. That's a huge mistake. Hire them in a reputable site that you do have some traction that you're going to be able to, like I said, reviews are really important for these guys. So, if you're going to leave them poor review, they're going to get less work. That's a big thing. The payment, obviously, is escrowed, so you have the option to release that or not release that based on their performance. You kind of have a lot more, and you do that a lot more control using those tools.
Aderson: You know what? Let me tell you. I think that a lot of the problems that we have with working remotely, it's really about communication. You know what's the problem here on this role play that we had? The problem is not because my mother is in the hospital and I need to take care of her. The problem is that I didn't tell you that upfront. As soon as I didn't find that, ''Hey, I have a deadline coming Friday. It's Thursday. I have a problem. I cannot deliver," I should tell you. I should tell you as soon as I know that something is going on, because then you can get ready with your client, with whoever you need to provide that feature, that site to." It's all about communication and early communication. People are afraid of pissing the other person, but they end up pissing even more the other person, you know?
Jason: Yeah. That's why when I start a project, I always get an indication of when they can deliver it and also open up that communication and tell them upfront, and I don't have to that as much anymore because of my guys that have been with me for so long. But, if something comes up, please tell me. My programmer, when I first started with him, something like that came up, and he just disappeared for like a week, and I was supposed to deliver a project. An identical scenario came up. I didn't fire him because it was just a miscommunication, so I wanted to learn from that. It turns out now communications is way better.
Another thing that often will happen too if people just lose touch completely is natural disasters. That's happened to me, especially in the Philippines, a lot. There'll be like a hurricane or whatever, and you won't hear from them because they just can't communicate because their power is out. That happened to my programmer a couple of years ago. There was a tsunami that came and hit India and, luckily, I had no projects going on at that time, and he was so apologetic when it was a week and a half later that he got back to me. But, stuff like that does happen. If the person's good and they lost contact, maybe it's not them. It could be something outside of their control, I've found a lot. So, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you've been working with them for a long time.
Aderson: Got it. I mean, that happens, that happens. So, Jason, we are coming towards the end here. If there's one thing that you'd like people to leave this interview knowing more about outsourcing, is there any one single point that you'd like to really make about outsourcing that, "Hey, this is, if nothing else, if the person can leave with this point. That would be a great result for me."
Jason: Yeah, I think the most important thing is to know what you want to outsource before you start outsourcing. Create systems that are replicable so anybody can do the project. Document the system, be careful who you hire, interview them, find out what their preferences are, and try to create long-term relationships with people if you are going to be using them over and over again for projects. In my experience, that's been the key of outsourcing.
Aderson: Very good. Jason, if anyone wants to reach out to maybe talk about outsourcing, or maybe talk about your business, maybe use your services there, how can people reach out to you?
Jason: Sure. The website is JAZ Design Company with one Z, jazdesignco.com, and feel free to fill out a request on there. I'd be happy to talk to you. We're also on Facebook and Twitter. Those are the best ways to get ahold of us.
Aderson: Perfect, perfect. Jason, I can only thank you a lot for this doing this. It's so good to catch up with you after so many years and doing an interview about that topic again.
Jason: Absolutely, yeah. This was fun. It's fun to talk about it. It's so routine for me anymore, I don't even think about it. It's how I run my company and I have been doing it for so long. I feel lucky that I've been able build the team that I have and I don't have to worry about it as much anymore. It used to drive me crazy because I was making a lot of mistakes in how I was managing people, but now, after doing it for so long -- that's why I created that Outsourcing Autopilot product back in the day. That's still out there, so if you do want some tips, downloading that e-book is a good start and I do some follow-up emails that give you more tips after that.
Aderson: Very good, very good. Very good, Jason. Thank you very much for your time, and I hope I talk to you again at some point. Thank you very much. Bye.
Jason: Okay. Bye, Aderson. Thanks.