Are Filipino SMEs Ready for Virtual Employees?

Telecommuting, remote work, home-based jobs are terms that we use in working virtually.  This virtual team structure is growing in popularity in organizations.  To some extent, we are already practicing working with people who are not in our visual proximity although we are in the same building or premises. 

We utilize instant messaging, emails, video conference tools to collaborate with our team.

Many organizations who are flexible and adaptable have already explored a virtual office environment as one means of achieving goals and project objectives. 

BPOs in the Philippines are virtual teams of their corresponding HQs in the US or Europe and not only dispersed geographically but also in timezones.

Here are some advantages of virtual teams:

  • Reduced time and costs in travel
  • Higher productivity, more time, and fewer distractions.
  • A higher degree of employee engagement and freedom from office policies
  • For companies to leverage talent across geographic boundaries.
  • Lesser overhead cost of office space for organizations.
  • Quicker decision making, less face to face meetings.
  • Improve detail due to documented instructions and notes

Disadvantages:

  • Some people work well with physical interaction.
  • Employee behavior diversity in virtual teams leads to cultural issues.
  • Employees who need training, encouragement, and motivation.
  • Weaker control and some employees don’t have a conducive workspace.

I am writing this because I am not sure of the answer. Maybe it depends on the industry, culture, nature of products/service, or ethnicity. This post is also to officially announce that Hilsoft, being an advocate of change adaptation and innovation is going virtual. This move is also in line with our recent initiative to go complete SAAS by the end of 2020.

Since last month, I started experimenting being virtual by living in a nearby province and less face-to-face meetings with the team at HQ.  We already have initiated a survey internally with the employees who are willing to work at home, which 50% responded yes and the 25% others responded either option would do.  The rest, which is new employees, wanted to work in the office, which makes sense.

This coming week, I am about to finalize remote work policies, control procedures, and performance measurement.  There’s so much more to consider, from hiring, face-to-face team meeting schedules, training, sales calls, client visits, etc.

I will document and publish the progress, hoping to provide value with entrepreneurs who are considering this strategy.

Innovation is Infinite

I just turned 39 and my fire to innovate keeps on burning. Creativity never stops, and I feel haven’t even started yet. Here are 39 sample innovations you can do to your life. It is endless.

1. Break your routine, your commute route or your habits.

2. Refrain from eating rice and replace it with sweet potatoes or any good carbs.

3. Download free home bodyweight workouts.

4. Try self-hypnosis.

5. Allot 20% of your income to pay debts.

6. Google passive income opportunities.

7. Try the Pomodoro technique at work.

8. Try Bullet Journaling technique.

9. Learn how to sell. Selling talent = Income Growth.

10. Identify your personal brand and enhance it. Brand is a long term asset.

11. Grow your network online.

12. Google hobby list and try some hobbies at least once a month. It can be your business one day.

13. Focus on one market niche at a time.

14. Be mindful in spending time with your spouse and your kids.

15. Connect with your relatives and friends at least once in a while.

16. Browse through your contact list and randomly send a “How are you?” text.

17. Declutter your desktop at least once a month.

18. Create a YouTube channel and document your business or life adventures.

19. Create an Instagram account and post every food you eat, refer from calorie content apps and put calorie captions in your post

20. Buy a sketch pad and try doodling or sketching. It is therapeutic.

21. Try waking up at 4am and sleeping early. Or vice versa.

22. Listen to podcasts while in traffic.

23. Message influencers or celebrities and offer them your service for free, video editing, copywriting, website development,

24. Connect with at least 10 LinkedIn accounts a day. Message them and offer your service.

25. Organize a small group dinner at least once a month.

26. Not fond of reading? Try audiobooks.

27. Practice labeling every action you do. “brushing teeth”, “sitting down”, “listening”, “washing face”, it improves your concentration skills and makes you be present.

28. Try something new at least once a month. Something you are scared of like public speaking, riding a motorcycle, etc.

29. Sleep naked.

30. No motivation to workout? Start small by walking in a park. Gradually increase your time.

31. Search self-motivation or self-affirmation on YouTube. Listen to it when you’re down.

32. Replace your negative thoughts, worries, fears with positive affirmations. As long as you take actions to overcome those challenges, then you have nothing to worry about.

33. Grow your idea muscle. Force yourself to think of 10 ideas a day.

34. Learn how to code.

35. Learn a new dish at least once a month.

36. For the singles, there’s no harm trying online dating.

37. Spend on travels than hoarding material things.

38. Engage with social media by liking, commenting or giving sensible opinions on their posts.

39. Establish an evening routine by evaluating what has transpired in your day, ask yourself what would somebody you look up to do with your current challenges, congratulate yourself and identify three important tasks to focus on the next day.

What is Your Ability To Innovate?

It was January 19, 2004, when there was an outburst of passion that exploded in our condo office unit. We saw a new article from eBusiness news about our product, the first-ever fully web-based accounting software in the Philippines. At that time, the term SAAS was named ASP or Application Service Provider.

We partnered with Ayalaport, a newly constructed data center in Makati to host our software and offered the tool in the market as subscription per month model.

We had our first client for the product, a bus company who used our accounting tool connected to a RAS dial-up connected to AyalaPort. But they only agreed to use it if we will develop a mobile bus ticketing application for them. It turned out our focus went to software development instead of product development.

Our second client was an accounting firm who has a team of accountants who is well-versed in Solomon software. They forced our product to be customized according to what they were used to be using.

We were supposed to be a product company but turned out to be a service delivery company. That has been our DNA up to this writing.

The term DNA in a business organization refers to the organization’s ability to perform and innovate. It can be its core values, culture, personality, or how the organization behaves as a team.

DNA determines the company’s productivity, profitability, and overall performance. But at times, the market behavior dictates the DNA of the company just like life and evolution. We evolve by adapting to change, the survival of the fittest. If you don’t adapt, you die.

It is the job of the company leader, or the founder to choose the company’s DNA based on his or her preference. If the leader mindlessly pursues projects without analyzing its effect on the organization, then it is when the market define you and not the other way around.

Hilsoft, for the longest time, has been around because of its customer-service centric nature. We construct and custom-fit solutions according to the customer need. Relevant to my recent post, “The Ugly Truth About The Customized Software Business,” there are challenges in that model that is not supposed to be complicated. It should be easy if the customer and the vendor, work harmoniously as a team, and very reliable.

With this realization, I am proud to announce that we are gradually steering the company towards being product-oriented as initially planned. We are going 100% SAAS in 3 years.

Hilsoft ERP Connect
http://www.hilsoftinc.com/erp

The Cash Flow Friendly Way to Start and Run a Business

“We developed our first product in a 28sqm condo unit in Makati. It’s not so quiet as we hear the city train pass by every 10min. It’s comfortable, but it was not that conducive for work.

Our initial budget was P100k. I was the one who opened the checking account in Metrobank and cut checks to buy our first desktop workstation and a small computer table. The 80×50 whiteboard behind us was the one we purchased at National Bookstore in Glorietta, which we had a hard time loading in the cab.

It was 2001, and I remember the fall of the twin towers were all over the news at that time while my brother and I just resigned from our employment to pursue the business. We both started with an allowance of about P5k each per month, rent and utilities financed by our uncle. We operated in very minimal monthly expenses.”

If you have a great and promising idea that you are itching to start, then here’s the most cashflow friendly way to start and run a business:

A. Do not formally register the business yet without a product and initial traction, especially if you are in a bootstrap mode. Registering the company only makes sense if you have either a financier or revenue.

B. Do the business registration yourself. You don’t need to hire a full-time admin or an accountant yet. We have guides on every public office from the SEC, or DTI, Cityhall, BIR, they have detailed instructions on how to register the business. You may need to talk to a friend who has the experience, get a list of requirements from him/her.

C. Get a virtual office. You can get a virtual office as low as P1,500 per month in Makati. All you need is to register the business with the address that you can put on your website. These virtual offices offer a conference room that you can rent on a per hour basis if you need to meet people or customers on-site, ranging from 1-2k per hour.

D. Use LinkedIn, UpWork, or other free platforms to source for people. Use virtual administrators, recruiters, creatives, SEO specialists, programmers, or even sales lead generators who can work remotely. It is essential to pool people in your online network, so you have reserves in the case of wrong hires. If possible, engage with them on per-project commissions or incentives and not on a monthly or hourly fixed compensation.

Balance the tasks to delegate. Admin tasks that are urgent but not that important are ideal to outsource while important/urgent tasks are the ones you can do yourself.

E. Invest in learning social media strategies, personal branding, SEO/SEM. It is the best time today to do FB or IG ads as they are really cheap compared to Google Ads or SEM.

Matching your revenue and expenses is the key to cash flow management. Improve collection, remove the urge to spend non-essential things, and invest back your profits to your company.

The Ugly Truth About The Customized Software Business

Commissioning someone or a company to develop software from the ground up or customize an existing one have always been the default option for companies who couldn’t find an off-the-shelf software to fit in their needs.

On the other hand, a lot of software companies, especially startups or young programmers, offer their services without seriously considering proper software engineering and development process.

And even for a mature service provider, if one hired wrong people to execute the process, software development and implementation are doomed to failure. As I always say, it should be a collaborative effort by both the customer and the provider to make it a success.

Here are some scenarios that you should be careful of when engaging with a software development project:

Scenario A – Both the developer and the customer have minimal or zero experience in software development. In this case, the customer will provide their needs; the developer will listen and do the requirements without any documentation, possibly execute in a waterfall approach and upon delivery, the customer will ask the developer to make a significant overhaul of the software.

Scenario B – The developer has vast experience, but the customer demands to do it their way. In this case, as the developer, even how proper your documentation is, specifications are well defined, and test scripts are well written, if the customer does not realize the value of the methodology and executes the way they wanted it, then projects get delayed and will result in a loss. This customer profile is typically the mom & pop or a small company who is governed by owners or managers who are close-minded and who antagonize the software developer during implementation.

Scenario C – The customer has an expert project manager who’s executing the project, but the developer assigned the wrong person/team. Even how good the software company is in terms of their system process in software development, but if the person executing it is stubborn and do not follow, then, in the end, the project gets delayed and eventually be re-assigned to another person or team. Yes, it is the company’s role to train and guide the assigned project team, but in reality, people are at times unpredictable.

Scenario D – Both the developer and the customer are working together harmoniously and do not offend each other. Both parties agree on the process/system; they both trust each other and has the genuine intention to make the software implementation a success.

The key takeaway here is; as a customer who is looking for a software or a software provider to help them, make sure you are ready. Prepare your team and resources. It is your job to encourage your employees to work harmoniously with the software provider. When choosing for a software provider, a reference check with their existing reputable customers is enough. If your reference check says that company was able to deliver, then extend your trust to the company 100% and do not see them as the villain during implementation. If you think this is not your profile, then opt for an off-the-shelf software or a self-service SAAS platform and do it yourself because a customized software is not for you.

As software developers, during pre-sales, it is your job to explain to the customer how you will execute the project. Make sure they understand the predicaments of doing the project. Do not engage if your gut says the customer will be a pain in the ass. You also have the right to screen and fire your customer. Because in the end, no matter how much effort you make to make it successful, and the other party is just does it their way, then you won’t be able to help them and you’ll both just lose money. It is also your job to check the early signs of employee lapses. Do not tolerate the problems that you see internally. Establish a strong HR and operations team and build a good culture. I know it is difficult to do especially the way young people work nowadays but it is what it is. But if you think you don’t have the energy to work with people then create a self-service SAAS software instead and focus on this customer segment.

Why Would You Reinvent Yourself and How?

I’ve reinvented myself so many times from an 8 to 5 employee to a startup, from a full service IT company to an enterprise software business and now going for a SAAS company. I’ve tried photography, music recording, video editing, blogging, drawing, writing, triathlon, and I know for myself that I will never stop innovating and reinventing myself.

We all have a way to measure our life, business, or at work. Income, for example, is a decent measurement stick. Some people measure their life by their emotions like happiness, regret, energy, etc.

In any case, one primary reason for reinventing ourselves is when these indicators are not happening as you expect it to happen.

Another reason is when you are meeting your goals, but you want growth. Or yes, you are achieving your income goals or you have a lot of money, but your happiness level is low.

The time factor is important in considering reinvention. Is it too soon or should I cut the losses?

Some people are content and complacent with life already, which is the best scenario, especially when they are already happy. But some others, like me, always have the itch to grow.

So the first step is to DECIDE that you are reinventing yourself. Accept the fact that it will not be easy to change things, especially when you are used to what you’ve been doing for years.

It may not necessarily be starting from scratch. If you have a business, change your business model, change your methodology, or change your culture.

If you’re an employee, then look for functions in your company that you think you will excel, and you will be happy, then go for it.

Once you have decided to reinvent yourself, then prepare yourself by setting a 3 to 5-year target. You won’t be able to achieve anything significant overnight. You may need to take one step backward to move forward two steps ahead. Save money and stop spending things you cannot afford.

The next step is to spend hours learning about the path you wish to take. Read books, join webinars, and be an expert of that thing that you want to pursue.

Once you know the basics, then join local communities of the subject. Go out every day to learn and build your network. Offer services for free until things build up through word of mouth. Then you can start thinking about revenue goals.

Manage your expectations. As they say, things may fail, but the important thing is getting up, learning from mistakes and reinventing yourself over and over again.

Practical Ways to Try Things You Might Love

I gave up a million-peso company twice!

The first time was during the growing days of our family blinds business in 2011, and I decided to sell my shares to my brother. We started this business during the transition of the company Omega to Hilsoft as a contingency.

My mother started it during our college years, and my brother continued it in our hometown in Lucena City. I remember it was during the Ondoy storm in 2009 when I took photos of the blinds swatches, I put up a website in Google Sites at the time, then promoted it online with Google Ads and simple SEO techniques for the Metro Manila market.

It had immediate traction. We were generating sales that we didn’t forsee coming. We then decided to put up an 8sqm kiosk in Waltermart in Makati. The business kept on generating income. Similar to most companies, sales growth is equal to operational issues. Our family had disagreements; each member who was involved in the operations had conflicts.

Yes the money was there but I thought I was not passionate about it, so I decided to sell my share and moved on.

I had another opportunity after a few years to go back to this business when a dear friend asked me for help to start a business and offered a chance to put up a kiosk in a mall for a very cheap cost.

And so, I repeat the same process, the business grew and was generating good profits. Long story short, I decided to give up the company because I wanted to focus more on the thing I am passionate about, solving business problems through computerization and automation with Hilsoft.

Steve Jobs said, “It’s hard to tell with these Internet startups if they’re really interested in building companies or if they’re just interested in the money. I can tell you, though: If they don’t really want to build a company, they won’t luck into it. That’s because it’s so hard that if you don’t have a passion, you’ll give up”.

I want to dive deeper into this thought and ask, why would you want to find something you might love? My answer here is similar to Jobs, to do something that you enjoy so you won’t work a day in your life again.

I love so what I do so much that I am not thrilled anymore about the idea of going out to travel anymore or have a vacation. I know I should also consider my family and their passion, and so I entertain their needs from time to time.

So if doing what you love every day is what you want, then you might want to try these practical ways to try things you might love.

  1. Deduct hours you spend on your passion for consumption like tv, Netflix, social media, drinking, etc. Then add hours on your passion for creating things such as business, arts, music, writing, good health, relationships, etc.
  2. Choose your top 10 here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies
    and https://grit.ph/business-ideas. Sort them by priority and then try what works and discard what’s not. Do it on a monthly or a quarterly period.
  3. Master the hobby you chose by spending at least 10,000 hours doing it.
  4. Register it as a business, put up a website, build your community, and initial loyal customers then advertise.

To end, I would like to share this poem a stumbled upon while writing this;

“You know a dream is like a river
Ever changing as it flows.
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes.
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores.”

“The River” by Garth Brooks, Victoria Shaw