Andrew: Olá, lutadores da liberdade. Meu nome é Andrew Warner. Sou o fundador da Mixergy, onde entrevisto empreendedores sobre como eles construíram seus negócios. Juntar-se a mim é alguém que trabalhava em uma empresa, decidiu que quer se tornar virtual, foi avisado que não podia e encontrou uma maneira de fazer isso acontecer. E então, ela parou de trabalhar para a empresa. Estou contando toda a sua história aqui na introdução.
Andrew: Bem, acho que a transição para a maneira como você passou de lá para o trabalho de assistentes virtuais, para trabalhar para pessoas que eu acho, imagino, são algumas das pessoas mais exigentes, mas também as mais agradáveis de se trabalhar. Como Michael Hyatt, eu só conheci Michael Hyatt um pouco. Ele me parece alguém que foi tão detalhista em tudo, que se você pode fazer isso com Michael Hyatt, pode fazê-lo em qualquer lugar. Se você pudesse representá-lo bem, se tornasse sua assistente executiva, se tornaria assistente executiva de Amy Porterfield e de outras pessoas e depois criaria sua própria empresa de assistentes virtuais.
A pessoa a quem eu continuo me referindo como você, você, é Trivinia Barber. Ela é a fundadora da Priority VA. Eles são um serviço de assistente virtual executivo. O que estou curioso e o motivo pelo qual estou empolgado por ter essa entrevista é como ela passou de um trabalho para lentamente como freelancer. . . isso me parece meio rápido, talvez lento no começo e depois meio rápido, integrando essa grande agência, essa grande empresa. Você acha que é grande ou sente que não é grande o suficiente?
Trivinia: Sabe, sinto que é grande o suficiente para mim. E é realmente algo interessante que aprendi ao longo do caminho que o que é grande o suficiente para todos os outros não estava necessariamente onde eu queria levar essa empresa e isso é algo que aprendi recentemente, mas sim.
Andrew: O que você quer dizer? Quão grande é agora? Na verdade, devo dizer, esta entrevista patrocinada pela HostGator para hospedagem de sites, Toptal para contratação de desenvolvedores. O que você quer dizer? Qual o tamanho agora e qual o tamanho das outras pessoas?
Trivinia: Sim, então acabamos de 2019 em 1,6 milhão. Eu tinha grandes objetivos de querer chegar aos 3 milhões agora e, você sabe, não atingimos isso. Há alguns anos, tínhamos, o que 1,7 em 2018 e eu pensava: “Tudo bem, isso será em 2019, vamos fazer isso” e não o fizemos, mas nós acabei criando um negócio que realmente posso amar agora.
Andrew: Você é alguém que eu disse que trabalhava para uma empresa. Você tentou quando estava trabalhando para que se tornassem virtuais, para trabalhar em casa?
Trivinia: Sim, foi engraçado e comecei com um grupo de anestesia em Denver, Colorado, de onde sou, em 2000. E rapidamente, eu pensava o tempo todo como: “Por que tenho que dirigir 45 minutos por dia? dia e pagar US $ 8 para estacionar? ” Pareceu-me realmente idiota porque tudo o que eu estava fazendo era em um computador, usando a Internet, e eu podia fazer da minha casa e conversava com meu gerente de projetos e os gerentes de prática de lá e eu meio que dividia isso para eles. Eu até pesquisei uma vez e descobri como estávamos pagando por metragem quadrada no prédio de escritórios no centro de Denver e o dinheiro que poderíamos economizar e eu apresentei a eles uma grande coisa e eles disseram: “Não, não estou conseguindo . ”
E então eu engravidei em 2002, dei à luz em 2003 e eu estava indo para uma licença de maternidade, eu peguei um monte de tempo doente, férias, tomada de força, todas essas coisas e eu acabaria tendo cinco meses de folga e eles ficaram tipo, “Então você se lembra daquela coisa de trabalhar em casa que você falou? Como você se sente ao fazer isso? E então eu comecei minha primeira incursão no trabalho virtual e foi muito legal porque eles conseguiram ver que eu não estava apenas produzindo, tipo, o trabalho mínimo viável para contar. Na verdade, eu estava trabalhando melhor porque estava trabalhando quando queria, em vez de ser forçado a assistir às 7:00 e ser forçado a ficar lá até às 4:00 quando eles disseram que eu tinha terminado . Eu estava fazendo mais à meia-noite quando estava acordado.
Andrew: Não sei como, tentei trabalhar em casa ontem, é tão perturbador. Há tantas coisas diferentes para comer. Há tantas coisas diferentes que você precisa cuidar. Começo a guardar coisas quando normalmente não as guardo.
Trivinia: Isso é realmente interessante. Eu acho que é realmente necessário um tipo especial de pessoa para trabalhar em casa e é preciso muita disciplina. Eu trabalhei em casa em um pequeno escritório por um tempo muito longo. Quando minha família e eu nos mudamos para a Geórgia, há alguns anos, um dos nossos requisitos é que eu queria um espaço de escritório separado. Na verdade, eu estou indo até você de um pequeno tipo de chalé que fica em nossa propriedade e agora tenho cerca de 150 jardas a pé até nossa casa principal, e essa separação me ajuda muito.
Andrew: Sim, isso me ajudaria também. A outra coisa que aconteceu, acho que na semana passada, novamente, trabalhei um pouco em casa, e Olivia, minha esposa, trabalhava em casa e isso é impossível porque estou falando ao telefone, ela está falando ao telefone, ela terá um pensamento sobre algo que precisa para mim, vou perceber que não quero me distrair, então serei desligada e depois sou um idiota e tudo mais.
Trivinia: Meu marido trabalha ao meu lado agora, Andrew, o que é engraçado, porque quando começamos isso, trabalhamos no mesmo escritório no Colorado, meio que tínhamos uma longa mesa e Chris é o nome dele e ele. . . primeiro dia, eu gravei um vídeo disso e é um visual engraçado, se você pode imaginar. Eu trabalho em silêncio, não tenho ruído de fundo, nada, nenhum ruído branco e aqui está Chris com esses grandes fones de ouvido gigantes e você pode ouvir o techno, como bater em torno dele, e ele está quebrando sementes de girassol e apenas balançando a cabeça. “Isso não vai funcionar, querida, vá para outro lugar”, então ele trabalhou em nosso porão por um longo tempo.
Andrew: Então você começou a trabalhar em casa, a sua configuração, por que você deixou a empresa?
Trivinia: Bem, eles foram comprados por uma empresa nacional de anestesia e, nesse ponto, eu tenho trabalhado praticamente por um longo tempo e eles disseram: “Sabe, volte ao escritório se você ainda quiser trabalhar aqui, “E nesse ponto, eu tenho seis anos trabalhando em casa e fiquei tipo,” Sim, eu estou bem, muito obrigado. ” E então eu fui a tempo parcial para eles por um tempo e. . .
Andrew: De casa ou a tempo parcial do escritório?
Trivinia: Sim, todos de casa nesse ponto.
Andrew: Ok, então eles concordaram que você poderia trabalhar em casa, mas apenas se fosse meio expediente e você naquele momento soubesse: “Alguém sai agora pela porta, tenho que tirar todo o meu corpo”.
Trivinia: Sim, isso não estava indo para o trabalho e, naquele momento, tínhamos muitas coisas acontecendo, estávamos adotando um orfanato para adoção e a vida estava ficando bastante caótica para nós. E então decidimos que vamos chamá-lo, vou começar a conseguir meus próprios clientes freelancers e comecei a fazer isso. Foi então que entrei em contato com uma empresa que acabou me combinando com Michael Hyatt.
Andrew: Qual é a empresa?
Trivinia: Então, era chamado eaHELP na época, agora é chamado BELAY.
Andrew: E o que eles fazem é ajudá-lo a trabalhar em tempo integral com alguém?
Trivinia: Não, então eles são uma empresa de pessoal virtual. Na verdade, eles começaram como uma empresa terceirizada de contabilidade chamada Mag Bookkeeping, não tenho desejo de fazer contabilidade e, em seguida, eles se ramificaram para ser aAHELP naquele momento e foi assim que me conectei a eles. Mais uma vez, apenas contrato freelance trabalha meio período.
Andrew: Como foi trabalhar com Michael Hyatt? Michael Hyatt, como você descreveria o que ele faz?
Trivinia: Bem, ele é um treinador, realmente. Quero dizer, é realmente o que ele faz. Ele é um especialista em liderança e treinador. Agora, ele tem ideais e livros, programas e software, todos baseados em ajudá-lo a viver uma vida que você ama, basicamente.
Andrew: E como ele era executivo de uma editora, acho que ele é conhecido por ser a pessoa que ajuda você a expressar sua voz on-line por dizer: “Ajudo esses autores a publicar suas idéias, vou ajudá-lo a publicar. Se eles fizeram isso no papel, você o fará digitalmente, mas nós o tornaremos conhecido e criaremos uma plataforma para você. ” Como foi. . . ?
Trivinia: Sim, e quando eu comecei com ele, ele era um pouco diferente, certo? Sua plataforma de livros havia acabado de sair e ele não estava falando muito, agora ele realmente construiu um belo império. Isso me lembra muito, você sabe, John Maxwell Foundation ou Dave Ramsey Foundation, onde é esse tipo de conglomerado de várias avenidas diferentes para ajudar as pessoas em sua jornada empreendedora.
Andrew: E então, o que você fez por ele e o que aprendeu trabalhando com ele?
Trivinia: Sim, primeiro, era simples, era apenas atendimento ao cliente. Sabe, ele recebeu muitos emails, então eu estava fazendo esse tipo de coisa e ele se tornou seu assistente executivo, gerenciando seu email e seu calendário, sua viagem, coisas assim. E o que eu aprendi? Eu aprendi muito sobre mim, honestamente. Eu aprendi muito sobre as coisas que eu gostei, as coisas que eu não gostei, o tipo de ambiente de equipe em que eu prosperaria ou não. E acho que acima de tudo, aprendi. . . isso é interessante, eu nunca tive essa conversa com alguém. Acima de tudo, aprendi que não queria um chefe, queria um pai.
Andrew: O que você quer dizer?
Trivinia: Bem, Michael é pai de várias filhas e é um pai incrível. Ele é tão bom em como ele aparece para os filhos e é isso que ele fez como equipe, certo? Estaríamos em uma ligação com o Zoom antes de um webinar para uma promoção ou algo assim, e ele gostaria de orar, você sabe, e era como “Oh, meu Deus, ele é apenas essa boa figura paterna”. E isso me ajudou a entender que eu realmente não queria um chefe, queria que alguém fosse mais como uma figura paterna para mim. Foi interessante.
Andrew: Tive a sensação de que você era alguém que queria ser chefe desde o início, como, mesmo em tenra idade, você era um chefe.
Trivinia: Sim, eu meio que gosto de dirigir o show. Agora, eu não sabia que seria dono da minha própria empresa. Eu não tinha nenhum espírito empreendedor em que estava vendendo Skittles do meu armário ou algo assim. Mas eu sabia que queria estar no comando e esse tipo de evidência veio. . . mesmo quando eu era criança, lembro que minha avó estava passando por uma cirurgia no cérebro e minha família provavelmente é um pouco mais incipiente, se posso dizer isso com respeito, e lembro de ter conversado com neurocirurgiões sobre o que iria acontecer. minha avó na cirurgia e depois eu meio que voltando e digerindo isso para toda a minha família. Então, eu estava meio que ocupando o papel de liderança na minha família, mesmo que fosse, você sabe, eu ajudando as pessoas através de seus problemas de relacionamento ou brigas de gatos entre as meninas da escola, eu meio que dirigi o programa e realmente gostei de poder ter uma palavra a dizer sobre o que aconteceu e como.
Andrew: Chris é alguém que também gosta de ser o chefe?
Trivinia: Não, ele não é, somos as pessoas mais opostas. Se você já fez um teste do StrengthsFinder, minha força número um é a responsabilidade e Chris. . . e meu número 34, se você acha que isso é sua fraqueza, se formos honestos, meu número 34 é adaptabilidade e o número um de Chris é adaptabilidade, por isso somos incrivelmente opostos. Ele é um ótimo equilíbrio para mim, porque eu sou bastante intenso e ele é realmente descontraído e calmo, e estou enlouquecendo com alguma coisa e ele é como: “Tudo vai ficar bem. Nós vamos descobrir isso. “
Andrew: Você sabe, minha esposa e eu somos diferentes. Nós dois gostamos de ser o chefe de tudo, nós dois gostamos de decidir para onde vamos na sexta à noite, nós dois gostamos de decidir o que vai acontecer com o garoto, porque ele fez uma coisa nesse momento. E uma das coisas que tiramos da terapia de casais foi esse exercício em que devemos colocar as mãos assim umas contra as outras e então eu devo liderar e ela deve liderar e o que quer que eu faça, como , tocando as mãos, pessoas que não conseguem vê-lo, temos as mãos para cima como na posição “Não atire em mim”, mas estamos nos tocando.
E então, eu devo mover minhas mãos e ela seguirá, então ela moverá suas mãos e eu seguirei e todo o nosso corpo e nós apenas devemos nos deixar ir e voltar e descobrir quem está liderando no momento, apenas para que possamos aprender como confiar na outra pessoa para liderar, mas também assumir a liderança e não entrar em conflito. É um desafio.
Trivinia: Eu amo essa idéia, Chris e eu provavelmente devíamos roubá-la e experimentá-la, porque uma das coisas que tive que realmente trabalhar duro para fazer e de maneira alguma ainda estou lá, mas, você sabe, eu corro o Priority VA e estou dando ordens e dizendo às pessoas o que fazer e ajudando a navegar em um papel de liderança real aqui na Priority VA. Mas então eu voltaria para casa e estaria fazendo a mesma coisa lá, desligando e interrompendo meu papel de CEO para, tipo, ser mãe, certo? Eu digo às pessoas o tempo todo que eu seria um sargento infernal. Sinto que sou um sargento de broca melhor do que às vezes mãe, e é por isso que esse negócio é tão importante para mim, porque toda a razão pela qual eu comecei foi que eu queria poder passar mais tempo com meus filhos, certo? Sim, eu tenho que me inclinar a ser mãe, no entanto.
Andrew: O que às vezes significa não discutir com eles, não orientá-los, apenas dedique um tempo para chegar onde eles querem ir. Uma das coisas que aprendi com as crianças é se você precisa delas para comer seus vegetais e você diz: “Você precisa comer seus vegetais” e continua se afastando quando dizem: “Eu não gosto”. nunca vai comê-lo. Você tem que ser mais sutil.
Trivinia: Você sabe o que, um pouco fora do tópico, mas é uma coisa tão interessante que aprendi em terapia com uma de nossas filhas que nos procurou por adoção, é que quando você pergunta ao seu filho: “Você pode colocar os sapatos?” Tipo, eles vão dizer não, tipo “não”. Ou: “Você pode comer suas ervilhas?” Você pode o que for. Mas se você mudar a maneira como fala com eles, e eu descobrir que isso também funciona com sua equipe, se você disser, para nós, é “Miranda, por favor, calce os sapatos”, certo? É uma diretiva e eles sabem que eles devem fazer isso e você não está dando a eles uma opção para não fazê-lo, então a formação de equipes é como crianças.
Andrew: Eu ouvi muito isso, na verdade. Quando você estava trabalhando em período integral para alguém, eu pude entender como você tinha suas próprias responsabilidades e isso satisfez esse chefe interno. Eu me pergunto em que ponto isso aconteceu. . . que partes dele irritaram? Que partes dele você quase se acalmou e se forçou a fazer?
Trivinia: Que partes de ser um líder de emprego?
Andrew: O trabalho, o trabalho em tempo integral, sim. Não antes.
Trivinia: Oh cara. Sim, não entrar nos negócios de todo mundo e dizer a eles como devem fazê-lo, porque eu pensei que meu caminho era o caminho certo, que era realmente difícil.
Andrew: Mas você gostaria de contar ao chefe?
Trivinia: Oh, o tempo todo.
Andrew: O tempo todo? Como o quê?
Trivinia: O tempo todo.
Andrew: O que você gostaria de dizer?
Trivinia: Então, quando eu trabalhava para o grupo de anestesia, nós trazíamos médicos o tempo todo e eu fazia minhas pequenas coisas de integração com eles e eles saíam e eu fiquei tipo, “ Esse cara não vai dar certo “, e eles estavam tipo” O que você quer dizer? ” E eu fico tipo: “Confie em mim, não vai dar certo”. E então, alguns meses depois, ele seria encontrado no estacionamento do hospital com uma agulha no braço, como estendida no fentanil.
Trivinia: Literalmente, sim, isso aconteceu. Você sabia, então eu tinha esse tipo de intuição sobre as pessoas e queria que meu chefe, quisesse que o gerente de prática se desse conta disso e o visse e utilizasse. Sabe, acho que muitas vezes eles simplesmente pensei que eu era meio louco.
Andrew: Então você tem esse instinto de chefe, instinto empresarial. Você poderia ter seguido o caminho de ser um CEO ou um empreendedor, mas eu me pergunto se você não o fez por causa do histórico de origem. Você meio que nos contou um pouco, você cresceu no norte de Denver. Como foi isso? Como eram seus pais?
Trivinia: Sim, então eu não conhecia meu pai biológico quando era criança, mas minha mãe se casou novamente quando eu tinha três anos, então meu padrasto era meu pai, certo, todos crescendo. E minha mãe é empregada doméstica, meu pai era trabalhador, drywaller e morávamos no gueto. Lembro-me de quando Chris veio a nossa casa quando estávamos namorando, ele estava dirigindo e disse: “Este é o gueto” e eu fiquei tipo: “Cara, você não diz isso para uma garota que você acabou de conhecer, como, sim, eu sei que moro no gueto, é difícil. Mas, você sabe, nós crescemos meio que limítrofes. Sabe, minha avó morava conosco e ela tinha mercadorias, então eu como muito queijo, suco de uva em lata e ovos em pó. . .
Andrew: Do governo?
Trivinia: Do governo, sim. E meus pais trabalharam muito. Eles me ensinaram o valor do trabalho duro, porque seus trabalhos eram físicos, certo? Quando chegaram em casa, estavam cansados. Mas também me mostrou que eu não queria ser assim, certo? Que eu não queria viver de salário em salário e queria. . . você sabe, naquela época nos anos 80 e início dos anos 90, tipo, Keds eram os sapatos legais, certo? Eles eram legais e Z Cavaricci era a calça legal e nós simplesmente não tínhamos esse tipo de coisa. Eu usava roupas Kmart. Você sabe, minha mãe iria para o Kmart no final do ano letivo e, por exemplo, colocava coisas de lado para que eu pudesse ter coisas para o começo do ano letivo e era como se você tivesse três roupas e o fizesse funcionar , certo?
Andrew: Uau. E então você sabia que não queria ser isso, meu senso é. . . e este sou apenas eu teorizando aqui, para que você me corrija. Meu senso é que se você tivesse ouvido uma entrevista como essa, se tivesse conhecido alguém como Amy Porterfield e visto o que era possível, sua vida poderia ter desaparecido. . . talvez não em uma direção diferente, mas você poderia ter conseguido isso, construindo sua própria empresa mais cedo. Estou errado sobre isso?
Trivinia: Sim, acho que se eu tivesse visto algo como empreendedorismo, sabia? E você deve se lembrar, tudo que eu vi foram meus pais fazendo trabalhos, como ir trabalhar, você sabe, trabalhar 10 horas por dia, e continuar dedicando tempo e talvez você possa tirar férias um ano depois de ficar lá por um longo tempo. Eu acho que teria colocado um pouco de brilho nos meus olhos para começar algo por conta própria, porque me sinto muito como um empresário acidental. Eu não tinha essa ideia brilhante de começar esse grande negócio. Realmente meio que veio até mim. Sabe, eu estava no grupo de anestesia e estava combinando médicos em hospitais. Bem, isso é tudo o que estou fazendo agora, estou combinando empreendedores com assistentes executivos.
Andrew: Certo, o mesmo processo de correspondência, exceto que não é apenas. . . esqueça de ganhar mais dinheiro, mas agora está dando a você mais controle para criar a vida que você deseja. Mas você esteve no grupo de anestesia por 12 anos e depois esteve com Michael Hyatt, de acordo com o seu perfil do LinkedIn, por mais ou menos três anos? Mas há uma sobreposição. Como você passou do trabalho com ele para dizer: “Vou conquistar outros clientes?”
Trivinia: Então, uma escritora que trabalhava para Amy Porterfield, que também trabalhava como freelancer para Michael Hyatt, sabia que Amy estava contratando e eu fiquei com Michael durante 20 horas por semana, e pensei: “Bem, preciso de mais clientes, Vou levar mais ”, então comecei a trabalhar com Amy. E as dela eram umas 5 ou 10 horas por semana no começo e, em seguida, começaram a aumentar e aumentar, e logo chegou ao ponto em que eu tinha que decidir: “O que você vai fazer?” Todo mundo quer o seu tempo, certo? E eles são empreendedores muito intensos e eu fiquei tipo: “Tenho que decidir, quero trabalhar com Michael o tempo todo ou quero trabalhar com Amy?”
E lembro-me de conversar com Michael e dizer: “Se eu pudesse reduzir cinco horas por semana, mais cinco, isso me permitirá um pouco de espaço para respirar”. Nós tínhamos um filho adotivo na época que era criança, então eu pensei que isso me ajudaria a respirar e ele disse: “Você sabe, tipo, você quer ficar só dentro ou fora? Como, o que você quer fazer? ” E naquele momento, eu sabia que não podia fazer as coisas que Michael precisava ou queria.
Ele estava começando a aumentar sua equipe e eu sabia que ele queria, você sabe, ter uma equipe próxima a ele. Lembro que ele me perguntou: “Você vai se mudar para Nashville?” e eu fiquei tipo “Não”, sabia? E foi então que decidi entrar com Amy e fazer isso por alguns anos até que, da mesma forma, sua equipe estava crescendo de uma maneira que eu não queria ter um chefe e queria ser minha próprio chefe e então, você sabe, eu entrei no Priority VA.
Andrew: Você sabe, um pequeno detalhe que eu amo sobre ser meu próprio chefe é a menor coisa que não importa para ninguém, a idéia de que eu poderia trabalhar em algum lugar aleatório em São Francisco amanhã sem precisar contar a ninguém. Que eu posso pegar minha bicicleta e depois ir ao museu do Exploratorium e não dizer: “Bem, eu levo meu laptop comigo” ou, seja o que for, vou fazê-lo no meu telefone na frente e isso é uma grande coisa para mim. O que é isto para você?
Trivinia: Sim, acho que para mim são algumas coisas. Não é preciso digitar o canal do Slack fora do escritório que eu preciso ir ao banheiro. Definitivamente é isso. E mais, é sobre eu estruturar meu dia. Sabe, alguns dias eu acordo às 5:30 e eu sou uma bola de energia e posso fazer uma tonelada de coisas e depois às 11:00 e não toco no computador e outros dias, Eu nem começo até as 2:00, porque é assim que meu dia é moldado. E isso, eu acho, é o que o empreendedor realmente significa para mim, é realmente projetar minha própria vida. Você sabe, estamos fazendo isso no que, no primeiro trimestre de 2020, tirei as últimas seis semanas de 2019 completamente fora da rede, não verifiquei o email, não verifiquei o telefone, nada e fiz que por design e eu não seria capaz de fazer isso trabalhando para outra pessoa.
Andrew: Então foi Amy quem começou a conversar com você. . . falar sobre você nos podcasts dela e começar a aumentar seu perfil um pouco?
Trivinia: Sim, Michael havia me mencionado algumas vezes em seu blog e talvez alguns em seu primeiro podcast, mas Amy realmente falou sobre mim e o apoio que eu trouxe a ela e foi aí que as coisas começaram a decolar. Eu recebia e-mails ou mensagens aleatórias no Facebook e era quando eu pensava: “Ok, acho que posso ajudar essas pessoas”, porque o que eu estava percebendo é que, no começo, todo mundo fica tipo: “Você tem mais tempo?” e eu fiquei tipo: “Eu vou me colocar no mesmo barco que eu fiz com Amy e Michael, não posso fazer isso”. Mas o que eu percebi é que eles não se importavam comigo, eles só queriam alguém em quem pudessem confiar. E é exatamente isso que todos os empreendedores querem, eles querem um tipo de parceiro que seja sua esposa ou colega de trabalho em quem possam confiar quando as coisas estiverem indo bem ou não.
Andrew: E então eles estavam vindo para você, encontravam seu endereço de e-mail?
Trivinia: Bem, sim, eles encontram meu e-mail aleatório, como me contatam através do meu e-mail trivinia @ amyporterfield e então eu ficava tipo, você sabe, meio que conversava com eles como: “Ah, não me mande um e-mail aqui, como, envie um e-mail para você, meu e-mail Priority VA ou, você sabe, pesquisando meu perfil no Facebook. ”
Andrew: Mas na época, eles estavam caçando você antes mesmo de você ter o Priority VA? Ou você tinha o Priority VA. . .
Trivinia: Sim, eu tive que iniciar o Priority VA porque, obviamente, eu estava trabalhando como contratado, certo? Então, eu queria ter uma entidade comercial e foi aí que a Priority VA entrou nela, mas era apenas eu, você sabe, tentando ser um negócio legítimo trabalhando como contratado, não fazia ideia de que ela se transformou em uma pequena agência boutique .
Andrew: E então, em algum momento, você disse: “Não posso fazer isso, mas aposto que posso encontrar alguém para você”.
Andrew: E você cobrará alguma coisa, cobrando diferente entre o preço?
Trivinia: Não no começo.
Trivinia: Andrew, eu era tão estúpido no começo, era realmente ruim e eu meio que queria uma prova de conceito, certo, tipo, “Posso fazer isso?”
Andrew: Então você já estava começando a pensar: “Isso pode ser uma coisa que eu faço.”
Andrew: Entendi, ok.
Trivinia: Não foi necessariamente “Isso pode ser uma coisa que eu faço”, veio realmente de um coração de serviço, como, “Bem, eu poderia ajudar as pessoas”, e é por isso que, inicialmente, eu não cobrava qualquer coisa para isso. E eu fiz várias partidas e as coisas meio que estavam indo bem com essas pessoas e então nós conseguimos. . . Não me lembro exatamente da história de como tudo aconteceu, mas recebemos o Social Media Examiner e fiquei tipo: “Oh, isso é como uma empresa real que nos quer, tudo bem”
Andrew: Peguei para quê?
Andrew: Peguei para quê? Como cliente?
Trivinia: Sim, como cliente. Sim, eles queriam que combinássemos com eles. . . Phil Mershon foi o segundo no comando do Social Media Examiner e ele estendeu a mão e nós o conectamos com o seu EA. Depois, algumas outras pessoas em sua equipe queriam assistentes executivos e colocamos vários com eles. E esse foi um momento tão engraçado, Andrew, porque eu era tão nova e tão verde e Michael Stelzner era brilhante e ele disse: “Eu não estou assinando um contrato” e eu estava tipo “Ok”. Eu fiz totalmente sem contrato, foi tão terrível.
Andrew: Foi terrível?
Trivinia: Foi terrível mais tarde, porque quando eles começaram. . . você sabia que eles tinham mais EAs trabalhando mais horas e depois queriam comprá-los, e eu não tinha nada para recorrer. Então, sim, foi uma boa experiência de aprendizado para mim e eles foram honrosos, mas aprendi a arte da negociação de uma maneira nova e consegui. . .
Andrew: Michael é bom assim. Michael vem até mim como um cara. . . se você olhar para o site dele, parece um blog padrão com um bom modelo que ele tem há anos. Eu não acho que ele use chinelos, mas ele usa muito uma camisa havaiana, então eu sempre presumi que ele é como um cara legal e casual.
Trivinia: Ele é.
Andrew: Eu tinha apenas algumas pessoas para almoçar em uma conferência, ele está, mentalmente e verbalmente, avaliando tudo na conferência, avaliando: “Quanto custaria fazer isso? Como eles estruturam isso? ”
Trivinia: Ele é brilhante.
Andrew: Ele está constantemente no nível em que você não acreditaria. Converse com ele sobre qualquer coisa relacionada aos negócios, você percebe que camiseta ou camiseta é apenas para conforto, o cara está todo de terno na cabeça.
Trivinia: Absolutamente, mas foi uma ótima experiência de aprendizado para mim. Eu sinto muito desse negócio, sabe, desde 2012, 2013, eu tive muitas lições muito aprendidas sobre o que fazer e o que não fazer, e essa foi uma delas, sabe, não faça coisas sem contrato. Não importa quem é a pessoa, você ainda precisa voltar às coisas legais para garantir sua proteção.
Andrew: Sabe, acho que há momentos em que você não pode dizer: “Tenho que enviar um contrato, assinar isso ou outra coisa”, aqui está um bom backup para isso. Um e-mail com entendimento onde você diz: “Tudo bem, eu entendo que você não quer contratar, então escreverei rapidamente as coisas que discutimos em nosso entendimento de como trabalharemos juntos” e então você terá como sete pontos de bala. Mesmo se você tiver 12 pontos, é claro e todos entendemos, você volta a se basear nisso e, de certa forma, é ainda mais útil do que o documento legal.
Trivinia: Sim Sim. No fim das contas, isso não importava, porque Michael é um homem justo e isso funcionou. Mas, novamente, acho que, como muitos de nós, empreendedores acidentais, tropeçamos nessa arena, acho que precisamos olhar em frente para o que poderia acontecer, certo? Eu não achei que algo iria acontecer, então, sim, boas lições.
Andrew: Tudo certo. O primeiro patrocinador é uma empresa chamada HostGator. Estou olhando para a primeira versão do seu site, aquela que tem o seu número de telefone e o número de Chris. É como um site realmente básico, que alimenta o primeiro patrocinador, o HostGator. Se alguém por aí está fazendo algo como freelancer e não tem um site para isso porque você acha que o LinkedIn e o que quer que seja e o Instagram são suficientes, eu realmente peço que você tenha um site.
A razão pela qual acho que você deveria ter um site é que parece mais real para outras pessoas que estão analisando você, pois permite controlar sua mensagem de uma maneira que é mais profissional do que esperar que alguém apareça no LinkedIn e o certo isso e confia exatamente isso. O principal motivo para fazer isso é porque você recebe um endereço de e-mail, o que adiciona outro nível de profissionalismo ao enviar uma mensagem do seu próprio endereço de e-mail. Por um longo tempo, tive um cara chamado Sachit Gupta e, mesmo assim, acho que já estivemos. . . Você conhece ele?
Trivinia: Eu o conheço.
Andrew: Ele repps meus anúncios há anos e anos. Isso aconteceu casualmente por um tempo lá, ele estava usando seu endereço do Gmail, eu dei a ele um endereço @mixergy. E por um longo tempo, o que ele fez foi dizer: “Eu também posso representar outros podcasts, também posso representar outros criadores”, e acho que as pessoas simplesmente assumiram que ele era meu cara em tempo integral ou algo assim ou que ele era. apenas fazendo isso do lado. Então ele continuou, criou seu próprio site, seu próprio endereço de e-mail e, quando começou a enviar e-mails para as pessoas, eles entenderam: “Ah, ele é o cara que representa criadores”.
Eles clicaram para ver o site dele, porque somos todos pessoas inteligentes, sabemos tirar as coisas antes do @ em um endereço de e-mail, ver os domínios, ver do que se trata a pessoa. E eles fizeram isso, e ele foi levado a sério e permitiu que seus negócios crescessem. If you’re out there listening to me and you don’t have a website for whatever it is that you’re doing, forget business, even if it’s a side gig, even if it’s just a passion project, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, you can very quickly create a website for it and then who knows where it will go? Maybe it’ll just be an interesting website that you have that will be a relic of your past or maybe it’ll grow up the way that we’re hearing here today, into a business that takes over your life and allows you to live the life that you want.
hostgator.com/mixergy is the URL you go to. Frankly, I’m going to tell you the number one benefit is to me, I hate to say it but it’s true, you’re going to give me credit for sending you over which will do really good stuff for my relationship with my sponsor, but number two, you will save some money but their price is already so low that I’ll be honest with you, you only going to save a few pennies a month by using that URL. Still, it is an upside and what I’ve noticed is entrepreneurs love saving money. So go do it, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, you’ll see a list of features, I’m not going to go through that list.
They’re good people and if you ever have a problem with them or any of my other sponsors, just contact me and my team will take care of you. We’ll help you out. hostgator,com/mixergy.
So you’re starting to get clients. At some point, you say, “I think I can charge a little bit more for the VA’s work than I am paying the VA,” so you’re going to start to get the payment directly to you?
Andrew: And then what’s the spread? What were you charging? What were you paying?
Trivinia: Yeah, I was charging clients $20 an hour and I was paying EAs $18 an hour.
Andrew: So two bucks an hour? And what did you think of that?
Trivinia: Two bucks an hour and I thought, “Hey, you know, I’m not doing much,” right? It’s like I make the match, I just have to kind of do the invoicing, no big deal, didn’t even take into consideration the 3% credit card fees. It was rough. And I remember Michael Hyatt, again, he’s told me some little golden nuggets throughout the years but he’s like, “I don’t like low margin businesses, Trivinia, like, you got to figure out a way to get those margins up.” Certo?
So I learned a lot about that too but, yeah, I mean, I did I think what all kind of novice business owners do, like, I went to 99designs, and I got a logo, and we got our website and I was so convinced that if I didn’t have a logo, I wasn’t a business, right? Like, “We need a website, like, we’re not a business if we don’t do it.” I was everywhere. I was in every Facebook group known to man. I was scouring Craigslist for EAs or for clients who wanted assistance and just doing a ton of cold outreach trying to grow this thing.
Andrew: Cold outreach to get your . . . wait, so what’s the problem with just making $2 an hour? Two dollars an hour for . . . let’s just suppose you were to book them for 40 hours a week, which I know would end up being less than that, it comes out to $80 a week per VA. What’s the problem with that?
Trivinia: I think it just was . . . and I used to say this as sort of a badge of honor, right? I was like, for me, it’s going to be less about margin and more about volume and that was fine and it was great. There were periods where we had, you know, over 100 clients and like 80 executive assistants and it just got chaotic to manage all of those relationships, right? And then at $2 an hour, I didn’t have a lot of margin to then pay other people to start managing those relationships for me and it worked great when it was just all me, like, it was totally fine. But when I wanted to start to grow it and step out of more of the day-to-day, I ran out of time and money and so we had to figure out a way to increase our revenues and really be able to add more value to the clients as well, you know, because I didn’t want to be a task-based service. That was like problem number two is that we were all things to all people.
Andrew: All right, let’s come back to all things to all people in a moment, because I think that that’s an interesting problem to solve. But you were cold outreach, you mentioned earlier, to get customers. Who did you cold outreach to and how did you get customers?
Trivinia: Yeah, so Facebook groups were huge, at that point. I would be answering . . .
Andrew: What type of Facebook groups?
Andrew: What type?
Trivinia: Any kind of entrepreneurial Facebook groups, there’s a ton, there’s hundreds of virtual assistant Facebook groups where clients, potential clients would pop in and they’d say, “You know, job op, I need an executive assistant to do my graphics and my social media and my podcast editing,” and all the things and I’d respond like, “My company is Priority VA, here’s how I can help you.” So we did a lot of that. Similarly, on Craigslist, I would be searching for keywords, I use “IFTTT” a lot to have things sent to me so that I could respond to people who were looking for remote executive assistant or administrative assistant and then I’d teach them about virtual assistants. Yeah, it was pretty scrappy.
Andrew: What worked best?
Trivinia: The Facebook groups, for sure.
Andrew: Facebook groups?
Trivinia: Yeah, because I felt like I was already on Facebook, right? I had a lot of . . . not a lot, you know, but I had a few thousand kind of friends on Facebook, so I looked kind of more legitimate. They could see that I was, you know, working for Amy or Michael, I felt like I kind of legitimize myself a little bit there. Cold outreach on Craigslist was probably the worst because you would get some real interesting people and then you were like, “I don’t know, you know, now they have my personal email address or whatever, I don’t know if I should have done that.”
Andrew: Did it work at all on Craigslist?
Trivinia: Did it work well?
Andrew: Were you able to get any clients on Craigslist? It’s so hit or miss.
Trivinia: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: You were? So it was a lot of trouble but it was worth the trouble?
Trivinia: Exactly. It was worth it because at that point, what I was trying to do was figure out what were the types of things we wanted to be doing to serve people, right? So what kind of clients do we want to have and what kind of talent could I get to be paying them, you know, 18 bucks an hour? And then at that point, it was like, “Well, could I pay them $15 an hour? You know, what was the lowest threshold that I could get to still get good talent?”
Andrew: And so you kept that model and what you needed to play with, if I understand, was what you were paying and what you were collecting.
Andrew: That’s it?
Andrew: Okay, you never switched to task-based services. I know that there are a few people who do that. Não?
Trivinia: We tried. You might be familiar with Ari Meisel, maybe?
Andrew: Yeah, I know him but I didn’t know he was in this space in any way.
Trivinia: So he owned a virtual staffing company at one point, it was very much task-based, and then he split with one of his partners and I hired him as a coach for a while and he suggested that we do a very much task-based, Fancy Hands-ish, you know, type of thing. And we tried and just the management of it was so cumbersome for what we would get. So we tried for a year in 2018 and I killed it. I was like, “This is a piece of work and not very [inaudible 00:33:46]. ”
Andrew: What are some of the tasks that you would do?
Trivinia: Anything from, you know, putting Facebook pixels on websites to, you know, booking a hotel or a flight, doing things like, you know, research. I’m like, “You need a research company to be doing research, you do not need some random executive assistants,” so it was so random. And the challenge for us became I am very much relationship-focused and having this sort of nameless, faceless person doing a thing for you when all I’m doing is preaching that you need your person that you can trust that has training so you can get traction and then I felt like I was doing the exact opposite thing with this task-based service.
Andrew: Yeah, wonder how Fancy Hands does it? I find that the task-based services are really good when they’re dealing with one type of thing. Like, if it’s someone who handles Infusionsoft email, all they do is that, a task that you send them is, “Here is my Google Doc, turn it into an email and send it out.” That makes sense but I don’t know how Fancy Hands goes to anything, including, like you said, research. We’ve used them to research some guests in the past, they do decent work but . . .
Trivinia: Yeah. I’ve often said that anytime something requires subjectivity, I think you need your person, right? I think you need someone consistent who’s going to get to know Andrew and his brand and his sort of, you know, little methodologies of doing things. If it’s rote, then fine, you can have somebody else do that or you can use offshore support that you’re paying six bucks an hour. But when you need someone who’s going to represent you and your customers . . . or to your customers, man, you’ve got to have someone who’s actually invested in knowing you and them.
Andrew: And my way. Like, for example, somebody who put together my Google Doc, it’s Andrea, my virtual assistant who I’ve worked with now for the better part of a decade, she knew that I would want to see what your website looked like in the early days and so she got me that and those types of things that you need to know and it takes some time to build a relationship for. You were managing all these people . . . actually, you know what, you told me earlier that you were doing everything for everyone, I wrote a note to come back to that. How did you figure out what to focus on?
Trivinia: You know, I was in a mastermind with Todd Herman and he was giving me a really hard time and he’s just like, “You need to pick a niche, Trivinia, you have to pick a niche,” and I was like, “Yeah, yeah.” Because we were Infusionsoft-certified and we were DigitalMarketer-certified and I was going through his 90 Day Year certification, I mean, I was just like, “We’re going to rack up all these certifications so that we can just please everyone.” And what I realized is that we were doing really good at getting the volumes of people in but they wouldn’t stick around, once their little thing was done, then they were gone, right? And I just wanted those long-term collaborative relationships.
And so what we looked at is at our spread of clients, those who had been with us the longest, those EAs who really had great reputations with us and we were like, “What are those people doing?” And it all came back to very traditional executive assistant stuff, manage my calendar, my email, my projects, my life, right? Manage me as an entrepreneur and that’s where we were crushing it. And so we stopped trying to do, you know, graphics, social media, podcast editing and all of that and, like, just did away with all of that stuff and went back to kind of tried and true EA work.
Andrew: You know what, email is something that keeps coming up in your conversation with my producer, Arie, in our conversation here today. What do virtual assistants do for email?
Trivinia: Yeah, a lot of them will use their own branded emails, our contractors use their own emails, we don’t have them . . .
Andrew: No, what I mean is what type of email work are they doing?
Trivinia: Oh, my gosh. So, yeah, I like to say that . . . I learned this from Taki Moore, he said at random comment in a Facebook group probably six years ago and he said, “You know, what if instead of us trying to get to inbox zero, we had zero inbox?” And I was like, “Ooh, I like that, how can I make that happen?” And so I really went on a mission to do it for myself, like how can I truly get out of email? At that point, I was only getting maybe 30 emails a day, it was not a ton but I still wanted to do it. And so for us, we worked at creating a process on how we could teach our EAs, my EA specifically at first, how to handle and process my email.
And so a lot of it was using something like Help Scout, right? So all the email goes into Help Scout for us and then I would just like comment on notes like, “This guy is part of mastermind talks community, I want every single email from this person,” right, because he’s sort of a VIP in my world. “This is junk, you can just unsubscribe from this.” And it took a little bit of back and forth but it’s just deciding what to do with that email, creating a process around what happens with that email and then documenting that, right? And then, really, just detaching from the outcome and trusting that your team is going to do with it what you have, you know, trained them to do.
Andrew: Right now for many people who are listening to us, their email is a Gmail inbox and they’re going into it themselves. You’re saying move it from there into Help Scout, which is collaborative email meant usually for customer support, and the benefit of that is we can leave messages for our virtual assistant on people’s messages so they know what to do with it.
Trivinia: Exactly, and then there’s a record of it too, right? So, if someone comes into my email, a new email, let’s say Gary emails me, well, my team can search in Help Scout, “Oh, look, well, there is, you know, the last time Trivinia talked to Gary and this is what they talked about,” and so it just allows a little bit of transparency of what’s going on. Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have Help Scout. I think this is absolutely doable just, you know, sharing your credentials of Gmail and letting your EA get into your inbox.
Andrew: Actually, Gmail has a way of passing on . . . I forget what it’s called, of authorizing someone else to answer your email without giving them your username and password, right?
Trivinia: Exactly, and they can, you know, create . . . my EA used to be able to, you know, just reply as her but from my inbox, right? And so she’d be like, “Hey, this is Kate, I saw this before Trivinia did,” so it’s super transparent, it’s not like . . .
Andrew: Right, but with Gmail, they have to say that that’s who it is. I wish Gmail was better about putting, you know, “Someone via Andrew’s inbox” in the “From” line but they don’t do that versus Help Scout which does allow that type of thing to be done more easily. You know, the first time that I noticed that happened was Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox, he and I were emailing and then at one point, I emailed him about something like, “Do you want to come over for scotch at my house?”
I don’t think that’s too personal, it’s just that his assistant jumped in and said, “He’s not here that day,” and I said, “That’s great, I got a quick response, she’s checking the email, this is wonderful, but who knew you could have somebody else check your email?” And the thing that went to my head was, “Isn’t he worried about the dangers, the risk of handing over his email?” Aren’t you? Shouldn’t I be? If somebody is looking at my inbox, they have access to everything at that point. They really could screw me over.
Trivinia: Well, I think then that goes back to your hiring process, right? And are we hiring people just based on, like, interest and availability and affordability, or are we hiring people because they’re passionate about you and what you do and they have a purpose in their business, you know, and they’re actually proficient at what you brought them on to do? I think that if we’ve got the right people on our team, we’re not going to get it right 100% of the time, but I think that’s less of a worry if you’re hiring somebody you can actually trust. And I’ve never had that problem of being like, “Oh, I don’t want Sara in my inbox,” so then that’s the wrong fit for you.
Andrew: I have someone that I trust and that’s true, I still had a lot of trust issues around it. It’s not even about trusting them, it’s what happens if somebody sends me a personal message about an issue, I don’t know, that they don’t want anyone else to know about. And then, I just have to accept it, I can’t live the other way, if I’m in my inbox all the time and I’ve got . . . and I literally was at 150 a day at one point, it’s just too much, nobody gets a response including a person who has this personal issue for me and then my assistant stays away from those.
Trivinia: One thing that you might consider and some people do this is that they have . . . I have one now as well, but it’s called a lockdown email. I learned this when I worked with Michael and it was just a very private email, you know, my husband, my accountant and a couple other people had it and if it was something that, like, I absolutely needed to see and respond to, then my assistant would, you know, push it to the private email. Or if it’s something that, you know, is super private, then people know, you know, they’ve got to email me at that private email but not everybody has that, a handful of people.
Andrew: I did that and I couldn’t maintain it, I realized that the people who really need me privately are going to text me and if my wife has a really long thing to do, she can tell me about it at dinner or she could text me a Google Doc link.
Trivinia: It’s just better to have no inbox, so don’t worry about it.
Andrew: Yeah, actually, I literally wrote down that phrase that you mentioned, “Instead of getting to inbox zero, have zero inbox.” That’s the future, that’s the way to go. All right, let me talk about my second sponsor and then I want to come back in and see how you grew this business beyond just using Excel spreadsheets to manage it. My second sponsor is a company called Toptal. I told you before we started that I was going to use Toptal as a sponsor and you said that you refer people to them. What type of people do you refer to Toptal?
Trivinia: Yeah, again, this became that whole thing where we were trying to do all of the things, right? “And do you know someone that knows CSS? And do you know someone that knows Drupal?” and we were just like, “Oh my gosh.” And at first, I would try to find people and I’m like, “I don’t know how to do this. I wouldn’t even know how to vet if someone actually had the credentials to be helping you with this kind of development stuff.” And so we just started . . . I looked and asked a client of ours, his name is Dev Basu, and I said like, “Who would you refer to for these types of things?” and he said, “Hands down, Toptal.” So that’s how we got to know them.
Andrew: Toptal is phenomenal. I’ve talked a lot here about how if someone out there is looking to hire a developer, Toptal is the place to go. I’ve talked a little bit about how . . . Trivinia, I had this issue where we were bringing in more and more revenue but profits were going down. I said, “What is going on?” And I went to Toptal and I said, “Can you bring somebody who can help me figure this stuff out and I need an outside CFO,” and they introduced me to someone, to Jack, and frankly, four other people. Usually they only give me two people, in this case, they gave me five because I think I wasn’t clear about what I wanted.
I ended up with Jack, not only was he helpful in helping me cut costs, like you mentioned earlier, credit card fees are really high. Whenever I hear Walmart complain about credit card fees being high, I think, “It’s them, that doesn’t really relate to me,” and then I realized, “No, we had that issue too.” Jack kept looking at it and he goes, “These numbers are really high, let me take a look and see what I can do.” We negotiated those down. I had no idea you could negotiate those down. So they ended up being in the thousands and thousands of dollars, that type of thing that you don’t notice because it’s just a few pennies at a time and it often doesn’t even hit QuickBooks until much later.
Actually, what happens is if we charge $25, we see in QuickBooks $23, so there’s not a clear line item saying here is how many thousands of dollars we’re taking away from credit card fees. Anyway, he got obsessed with it, he noticed it, he helped us improve our bottom line and that’s the beauty of Toptal. Yes, they have developers, I’ve also talked a little bit about how they have designers, but they also have finance people, people who work for some of the major finance companies and business management companies. Or people who’ve just gone through MBA school if you need someone who is younger and newer to help you increase your profit, help you organize your business, help you think through the future and also help you, if you’re raising money, organize your data in a way that will allow you to communicate well with investors.
Go to toptal.com/mixergy and when you do, you’ll get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit for free when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no risk trial period. They’re not offering this to anyone else. If you need this, use this URL, it’s “top” as in top of your head, “tal” as in talent, T-O-P-T-A-L dot com slash M-I-E-X-E-R-G-Y, toptal.com/mixergy.
When you got to 20 EAs, you told our producer how you were managing all those relationships. How are you doing that?
Trivinia: Yeah, Excel spreadsheets and Evernote and I thought it was so cool. I really thought that I had such a great system down.
Andrew: I bet you did. Can you describe what it looks like? Before we talk about how you got better, I want to see how you were thinking when you were using these simple programs. What you do in Excel?
Trivinia: Yeah, so I had tabs of EAs and potential clients and the EA tab would link to the potential clients I thought they might work with and then I had other tabs of like their personal information and other clients that they worked for. And I had all of these, just millions of tabs in Excel, thinking that I was organizing the information in a way that was going to have me be able to retrieve it fast because that’s what I needed, right? I’m looking at one client and I’ve got 70 resumes here and like, “Who am I going to position them with?” And I’m an incredibly visual person so I thought, “Okay, I’ll just get it all, like, lined out in Excel.” Then we switch to Zoho and I thought, “Oh, this is cool. I can have like a little card for each person.”
Andrew: Zoho has a . . . anything that’s out there, they will basically copy and make cheaper. I interviewed the founder of Zoho, I said, “Can this really be a business model?” And he told me about how much money WordPerfect was still making and goes, “Yeah, you might think that everyone is using Microsoft Word but let me tell you about these other companies.” So that’s his model. You used his CRM?
Trivinia: Yeah, we used him CRM and then, again, this is one of those things that I thought . . . I was working with Amy and she was on Infusionsoft and I said, “Oh, I guess I think I need Infusionsoft,” right? I made a list of like 200 people and I started paying for Infusionsoft because I thought we might as well just build all of our campaigns and, like, build it from the ground up instead of like having to do it more complicated later. And I would use Evernote to put my presentations together for the EAs when I was, like, pitching an EA to a client and just say like, “Here’s who we chose for you and here’s why,” and I’d use all of their personality profiles and have their picture up there. It was very scrappy. It was so scrappy. Now that I look at it how we used to do things and it just was messy. I mean, I felt like it was great but it was very messy.
Andrew: And somewhere around 20 virtual assistants that . . . we keep using VA and EA almost interchangeably and it is, a virtual assistant is someone who works for you virtually, not in your office, and the work that they do is executive assistants work, meaning email and . . .
Trivinia: So let me clarify, though, because a lot of your listeners may have had experience with virtual assistants or executive assistants. Think of virtual assistants as assistants, not people but as an industry, think of it as an industry because you might have graphic designer virtual assistants or copywriter virtual assistants, right? We focus on the executive assistant in that space.
Andrew: Your prices are pretty high, 1,600 a month for 40 hours a month.
Trivinia: They are.
Andrew: I’ve seen people charge low like a third of that. Why high? Yeah, why high?
Trivinia: We chose to go high because I want it to be the best that we could provide as far as quality and service for what we are getting. Again, when I started, I was charging $20 an hour and I was paying $18 an hour. And then, I started finding the level of clients that were coming to us, you know, Todd Herman is looking for an executive assistant, he did not want an $18 an hour virtual assistant, right? He needed somebody who is going to be performing at, like, a $40 an hour virtual assistant level.
And so, you know, for a long time, we had EAs that we were charging 30 and then we bumped up to 35 and then it went up to 40. I found that 40 is our top. We can’t really do higher than that and still make it make sense financially for people to do it, especially because we have a 10-hour per week minimum requirement, but 40 is because I think that’s what I’m confident that our EAs are worth.
Andrew: I went for one of the cheaper services, I remember I read “The 4-Hour Workweek” and at first I thought, “Oh, this whole thing . . . ” Before I even read it, I dismissed the whole book and then I read it and I understood, “Oh, yeah, he’s kind of using an interesting title to get attention but it’s talking all these little life hacks that he uses.” And so I thought, “I’m going to try some of the cheap virtual assistant services that are in India or Eastern Europe and all that,” and I couldn’t make them work. And then finally, I sent a message to Ramit Sethi and I said, “Where do you get your virtual assistants because these people that I’m working with, I can’t make it work?”
And then he blew my mind, he said, “I just work with people in the U.S. and I pay them more,” and I go, “Right, he’s a cheap guy, if he can’t make it work on the cheap, then maybe I can’t either.” And then I ended up through a friend finding somebody who was here in the U.S. and it cost more but it was worth it, the quality . . . I’m not saying that you can’t get somebody great in the Philippines that you’re going to end up boasting to your friends that you only pay $4 an hour to. I just wasn’t able to make it work for what I needed and I needed somebody who was basically going to be me.
Trivinia: Well, right, and that I think is the differentiating factor. Again, we go back to that whole idea of rote tasks versus subjective tasks, right? I say all the time, I believe that entrepreneurs should be outsourcing outcomes and not tasks, right? You want tasks, go to Philippines and do all that, that works great for a lot of people. But what many of us need if we’re really going to grow our businesses is really a strategic partner and you’re not going to get somebody who’s going to be caring as much about your business as you do when you’re paying them, you know, 8 bucks an hour or 12 bucks an hour or whatever. They need to be making a decent wage.
And I can say that because I was the lady working for very high intense entrepreneurs, where people would actually say, “I want you to be available 24/7 but I don’t want to pay for it.” And I felt that having been in that EA seat, I want to pay these men and women who are working for me a living wage. They’re contractors, right? So they’ve got to pay taxes on all of that too and I want them to be able to wake up every day and come to work for us knowing that they’re getting treated the way that I believe that they deserve to be treated for the work that they’re providing.
Andrew: So now you’ve got people . . . I’m curious about software because you told our producer that that’s something that you just didn’t know at first. I think the first version of your website was pretty basic but it worked. At some point, you learned about Leadpages for creating landing pages, right? What would you use a landing page for?
Trivinia: My husband would just create landing pages on Leadpages for us to do opt-ins and things like that for us. We did a lot of webinars for our team, for our EAs, right? So we would host these, like, training webinars for them and we would have them . . .
Andrew: And you need them to register so that they could learn your way?
Trivinia: Yeah, so that they could, you know, get to understand our methodologies and what we would do. We also had a pretty significant amount of time where we would bring in different trainers to come, so I might bring in somebody about creating visual graphics, right? And so we want our EAs to register for that webinar, so we used Leadpages a lot for that. So our little tech stack has changed a lot over the years, Leadpages and the cheesy WordPress site to now where we’re pretty in bed with Airtable, it’s a huge part of how we do our business.
Andrew: What do you do on Airtable? Airtable is like . . . they call themselves like a spreadsheet with superpowers, but I think that’s because they don’t want to intimidate people. It’s a database.
Trivinia: It is.
Andrew: Right? And so what do you do with it?
Trivinia: So all of our hiring process goes through Airtable, we’ve created a really robust process for, you know, applicants hit our website and they interview or they fill out their little form for us.
Andrew: And when they fill out a form, it goes into Airtable, just like if you use a form with Google Sheets, it goes into the Google Spreadsheet. Then, what’s the next step? What did you do with it?
Trivinia: So, if you think of Pipedrive, like, you can run people through Pipedrive to, like, get to the next stage of what they’re doing. So we do that, some of it is automated, some of it is manual, my team is clicking through and approving someone based on a test that they took, you know, for whether or not they could . . .
Andrew: Because what would happen is they fill out the form with Airtable, not only can you have a standard spreadsheet view, but you can also have column views. You use each column as a different step of your hiring process so as soon as they fill out the form, their data goes into column number one, somebody takes action on them, maybe they decide to move them in and ask them to take a test or maybe they decide it’s just not a good fit. If they do, they move . . . if they think it’s a good fit, they move them one column over, if they think it’s not a good fit, maybe they automate something that sends out a message saying, “Sorry, it’s not a good fit right now.” Got it.
Trivinia: Exactly. And then similarly, we do this with our clients, right? So my team is on the call, it used to be me all the time but my team is on a sales call with a potential client. We’ve got some information already in there that they filled out pre-phone call and then they’re typing in, you know, notes from their call and then at the end, it’s like a drop-down menu, right? How many hours per week? You know, what’s the contracted rate? What’s the setup fee? All of that. They click a button and then it’s automatically sending a contract via HelloSign, populates welcome emails via Infusionsoft. Eu amo isso. It streamlined things for us so much.
Andrew: Yeah, I didn’t know this. So HelloSign sends out contracts to people and you could automate that using Zapier if you’re paying for the HelloSign software, instead of using the free version. How do you get into this, into all of these different software? You’re someone who seems at the beginning to not have known about it all?
Trivinia: I’m not, and this is the beauty of hiring people that know how to do things better than you. So my husband is absolutely incredibly techy and he and a gal on our team who is now our chief operations director, Monica, she loves Zapier. She was learning it and she said, “I just want to look at all the tools that Zapier might be able to help us, like, knock out hours.” She was working, you know, 20 hours a week for us. We implemented Zapier and a lot of the automation, it took down, like, automatically like four hours a week of work for her. And so it just helped us do more faster and it works great for us.
Andrew: I feel like almost Zapier programmer will at some point become not a job title, but a job, somebody who can just fix your business using nothing but “coding” using Zapier. That’s a thing.
Trivinia: Yeah, and I think it takes a different type of mind too, right? So I would sort of look at things and be like, “This just seems very cumbersome,” and like, “How come we can’t do this different?” And Monica is just like, “We can cut out this stuff, this stuff, and this stuff,” right? And so it takes a certain mind to be able to see how to use Zapier but, man, it’s efficient.
Andrew: I don’t know what it is but I feel like that would be a whole interesting business, “Hire our people to automate your business, hire our people to use Zapier but do nothing about that.” By the way, you mentioned Chris, your husband, working with you a lot, at what point did he come into the picture?
Trivinia: He came in in 2014, I think, because, yeah, we’re going on Year 6 of him working for us, and it’s been probably the biggest challenge is figuring out his role because I want him to do stuff that challenges him and that makes him feel like he is like a man, right? That he’s not just, you know, my little lackey or anything like that. And so we’ve done a lot of stuff, he was doing our operations for a while then and then he started doing a lot of the Infusionsoft stuff. He was doing some Ask Method certification stuff, that’s when we were on our kick of “We’re going to be certified in all the things.” And now, we’re kind of just playing with it right now. He’s doing some sales stuff right now. We don’t know where he’ll end up, he might actually end up doing his own thing, we’re going to figure that out.
Andrew: What brought him into the business? What was it that you’re going through?
Trivinia: Well, our adoption stories, right, are pretty insane and crazy, adoption through foster care is rough and it’s kind of all hands-on deck and it felt very much like that. But more than anything, I just wanted to be with him because I was at home all the time and he was in a corporate marketing career, he worked for a national furniture chain and he could have died there. I mean, he was so set there but he wasn’t going to go anywhere until someone else died or retired and he’s often says, he said, “I was just kind of dying inside,” right? He’s just doing the same thing over and over again.
And they were on . . . I’ll probably mess up, they were on a software called Quark there, it’s like a design software and they refused to even, like, upgrade to, you know, Adobe Photoshop or whatever it is. And he was just like, “They’re using these antiquated systems and they don’t want to grow,” and he was like, “I just want to be able to grow.” And so Priority VA kind of gave him a blank canvas, like, “Create your job, what do you want to do? Just figure it out.”
Andrew: I see even in the beginning, the first mention that I see on your website, on priorityva.com, is him just being the tech guy without a clear description and at the time, he must have been focused a lot on WishList Member, which was, I guess, the platform that your clients would go to to see their data, is that right?
Trivinia: No, WishList Member is actually a membership site that Stu McLaren and his partner started years and years ago. And, actually, Chris still works in a contract basis for them just a few hours a week doing some project management stuff for them but he’s got a great relationship with WishList and we used to encourage all of our people to go to WishList if they were building out courses.
Andrew: And so then, you had somebody through him who understood the software really well and could take care of your clients, I see.
Andrew: All right. Let’s talk about some of the problems that you’ve had as a business owner. One of them was you had a client who was a really big customer of yours, he was an Amazon reseller. This was back soon after you quit working with Amy?
Andrew: What happen to that person?
Trivinia: That was probably the most terrifying part of being a business owner. So, you know, we have this great Amazon reseller, he was scaling really fast and I remember talking to him and he had brought on five or six EAs and he wanted to, you know, bring on like four more and I’m like, “Oh, you’re going really fast, you sure you can onboard all these people, you know, at the same time? Do you have enough bandwidth to manage them and all of that?” And he ended up having 13 executive assistants with us, some of them were working, you know, 25-30 hours a week. It was a lot, and it was a huge chunk of our revenue.
And I remember I got a call from my accountant, her name is Jessica, and I was in my kitchen. She said, “Hey, what are you doing?” and I said, “Nothing, what’s up?” And she said, “I think you should probably sit for a second,” and I was like, “What’s wrong?” Like, I’m thinking who died, right? And she said, “You know, I just got off the phone with,” enter is his name, “and he needs to push pause,” and I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “He’s out of money,” and I was like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying, like, he has 13 people.”
And basically, he needed to terminate his services immediately. He had, according to what he said, over $1 million in inventory, like, stuck in China and he couldn’t do it anymore and it was the worst day of my entrepreneurial life. It was the beginning of May, school had just let out for a lot of people and I had to get on Zoom calls with each of those 13 women and say, like, “As of today, you have no work and I don’t know what we’re going to do.” It was horrific looking in those ladies’ eyes and basically firing them, you know, just telling them their contract had ended right there. It was rough.
Andrew: You ended up also finding new types of work for them. You tried to rebuild it. One of the things that I . . . again, I’ve heard from Arie, our producer, was that under pressure, you’re really good. You may not know that you’re good under pressure but once the pressure comes on, you’re really good. And so Arie told me, one of the things that you did was you started looking to make up new jobs, new positions, new work for them, like what?
Trivinia: I was posting on Facebook and Instagram and I’m like, “Do you need your Dropbox organized?” I mean, it was literally anything that I can do because, you know, I’ve often . . . people think I’m joking when I say this but I’m like, “There are literally men and women whose diapers on their babies’ butts come from the work that we provide,” and I take that very seriously. And so that was such a gut punch for me, it was like, “All right, kind of like roll up your sleeves and, like, what are we going to do?” And I was calling . . . I went through our database of, like, clients that maybe had a consult call with us and didn’t sign and, you know, we had that 10-hour per week minimum and I was like, “What if we did 5 hours a week? Are you okay with five hours?”
You know, I mean, I just doing anything and ended up that . . . I think, nine of those EAs ended up staying with us, sort of sticking with us and waiting until they were reassigned a new client. And there was one gal, she was a hairstylist that had gone to, like, business school. She actually went back to doing hair because she just couldn’t . . . you know, she couldn’t wait for us to find clients for her. But it was like when your back is against the wall, it was like what are you going to do? You know, the whole idea of ingenuity comes when you’re faced with a crisis and I just like, anything that we could pull, we tried to keep those ladies afloat.
Andrew: I like the organize your Dropbox idea, that’s something that . . . I’ve got to find a way to do that on my own. By the way, Amy, what was it like to leave her when you were finally ready to go off on your own?
Trivinia: You know, it’s so funny is like you wouldn’t . . . your guests or your listeners aren’t going to be able to see this but if I go to my voicemails and I have a saved voicemail from Amy, March 3rd, 2017, and it was like her . . .
Andrew: Do you still have it?
Trivinia: I still have it.
Andrew: Don’t hold it up to the screen just in case I show up by accident. No, don’t, don’t, don’t, I don’t want to see her phone number but it didn’t show up.
Trivinia: Oh, I was like, “Oh, I’ll show it, I don’t care.”
Andrew: What was it? So this was from her voicemail to you after you said what?
Trivinia: Yeah, it was just my last day, you know, it was my last day and she said, “You know, I’m so glad that I got your voicemail,” and, you know, it’s just her thanking me for helping her along the way. One of the cool things about Amy is that she . . . no matter what, whether it was like the first in-person meeting that I had with her or every kind of subsequent time I’d ever be in San Diego, she’d always be like with all of her team, “So what’s going on in your business? Like, how can I help you in your business?” You know, she was always . . . like, she knew that I wasn’t going to be there forever and that a lot of her other contractors would probably move on to other things and she was always encouraging us to continue and push, which then many people will have noticed if they follow her, that she has since builds an in-person team, right?
Because I think that that happens for a lot of us where we start out with this virtual kind of contractor stuff and then as our businesses grow and scale . . . you know, she’s I think, you know, doing like $7 million a year or something now. She can afford an office space and buildings and all of that stuff but working with her was fun. She is so funny. I often say like she’s the sweetheart of the internet but she is sassy also. And so it was really fun to kind of be able to see her grow and her transformation as she went on to build her little empire too.
Andrew: How would I describe what she does? I think according to her Twitter profile, she’s an online marketing trainer.
Trivinia: Yeah, so she actually started teaching people how to do Facebook ads and then as that grew, she was like, “You know, I don’t want to be teaching Facebook,” so she’s taught people how to build online courses, how to build their email lists, and then how to use webinars to then sell those courses to your email list and she’s got a really incredible podcast that’s pretty popular called “Online Marketing Made Easy.”
Andrew: Yeah, I didn’t know much about her and then every interaction that I had through Mixergy interviews with her, with her people just been amazing. I don’t know how she can be so caring with so many people as her business is growing and I’m sure she’s got her own issues too, you know?
Trivinia: She’s a good human and ultimately, I think her role in life is to encourage men and women that that little dream that they’ve got in them can actually be real and so that’s really beautiful to see her be like that.
Andrew: And you see, when you say stuff like that, the part of my brain that went to NYU to study business, to crush others, was like, “Yeah, she’s probably taking advantage of people, that’s just not . . . ” I don’t know.
Trivinia: I didn’t say she wasn’t a capitalist.
Andrew: No, she’s definitely a capitalist but I’ve talked to people who’ve gone through a program, entrepreneurs who I respect who have gone through her program and are friends with her and I’ve realized that, “Andrew, just calm down, not everything has to be like a New York fight in an alley.” But one of the things that I heard was when you were leaving her, you were still a significant portion of her business, this was when her business was smaller than it is today. You said, “I’ve got a plan, I’m going to give you six months, I’ll make sure that we’re going to make the transition go well,” and so on. Three months into it, you realize, “Hey, my business is growing too much, I can’t do this,” and you went back and you had a conversation with her. She wasn’t just understanding but she gave you something as a gift. Do you remember what that was?
Trivinia: Absolutely, I remember because it made me cry like a crazy person. Yeah, very randomly, I got a big box in the mail and I opened it and it was a beautiful Louis Vuitton bag. And I still have the note and it said, you know, like, “Trivinia, thank you for all your support, every kick ass entrepreneur needs a Louis and I knew you wouldn’t buy it for yourself,” which is so true because I would never in a million years buy a Louis bag.
Andrew: But now you got it.
Trivinia: Yeah, I still have that bag and think of her fondly whenever I take it out.
Andrew: All right, let me close it out with this. Imagine somebody listening to us who says, “You know what, I’m not doing virtual assistants but I’d like this model, I’m going to do something like maybe what Andrew suggested, I’m going to do the automation for you, I’m going to be the Infusionsoft person, whatever it is. But I don’t want to build a one-person operation where I’m doing freelance on my own, I want to build up a company the way Trivinia did.” What advice would you give them for how to go about that? Turning this idea of the thing that maybe they’re doing already or that they know they could do into a business that has multiple clients, multiple people doing the work?
Trivinia: Yeah. I think one of the things that I had to determine and it took me probably a lot longer than I wanted to, was who I wanted to be in the business? Like, did I want to be a $10 million business or did I want to be, you know . . . was I happy with being a smaller business but not requiring all of my time? And so, for those, I think, that are wanting to start their own thing, their own agency, agency life is hard, okay? And you will have churn and one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in this business is not taking it personally when people leave.
I still sometimes will cry if a client that I feel like I’ve built a great relationship with leaves because they can’t afford it or they want to hire . . . even when it’s good, Andrew, when they want to hire their EA out full time, right, they want to buy out a contract, I still take it personally like I’ve somehow failed. And so you’ve got to have thick skin when it comes to this and I think you’ve got to do everything in your power to separate you from the success of the business. Like, no matter what, you have to be able to have a line that, like, your worth and your value is very different than what the success or failure of the business is. It’s not a personal reflection of who you are as a human and I think if you can start there, it’ll help.
Andrew: I’m looking for more specific work things, but I’ve got to tell you what you said completely resonates with me. There was a period when my success was the business and the business success was my success and I thought that was the only way to go because who needs a distraction of outside stuff. And if I’m more excited when the business is well, then I’m going to want to keep feeding that excitement by having the business to do better. The problem with that is there are always outside forces that, you know, you can’t predict, you have no impact on, and they’re just kind of random, like what happened to you with the person who worked for . . . who did the Amazon business who just suddenly left, outside of your control.
If then your confidence takes a hit, if your sense of self-worth takes a hit because of that, then you can’t bring it the next day and really be at your best. And so I have learned to do things like take up running or some . . . actually for me, it’s running, any outside passion project I think is worthwhile. Having friends, which I wouldn’t have thought I’d want friends outside of work but they know you outside of work, you don’t feel that they have changed their opinion of you based on how your work is doing and it helps. It helps a lot. But mechanically, if somebody is doing this . . . here’s what I’m taking away, number one, it helps to have these high-profile clients.
So, if someone’s going to do . . . I don’t love this necessarily as a business but let’s say they were going to do Zapier as an automation company for clients, it’s worthwhile going after the big names like you got with Michael Hyatt and Amy Porterfield. Again, I went back to the early version of your website, I saw you use their names a lot for credibility and it does add credibility, right? I know Sachit Gupta uses my name a lot for credibility and say, “I represent Andrew, go call him, you should work with me.” So that’s number one.
Number two, that hustle mode is try everything to get new clients and start looking to see if you could figure out your niche, your thing that you’re doing, and maybe you start out doing Zapier but you realize, “No, it’s automating businesses or systemizing businesses,” and go from there. Number three, we learned a lesson from Michael Hyatt, which is low margin business is stink. You might be happy that you’re making $2 now without working but then you start realizing there are all these hidden expenses that you don’t understand until you run a business. Certo? O quê mais? What else am I taking away from this that I missed?
Trivinia: I think documenting your process. We talked about that all the time with the clients that we work with, but you as your own business need to document it too, right? So you’ve got to get down on paper the things that you do even when you’re just like, “But it’s just me.” If you will get in the process of documenting it, when you want to grow a team and bring on your first person, it makes that onboarding process so much easier.
And then, I think one of the other things that people don’t realize they’re doing when they’re building a company, is you’re building a culture even when you have a person of one, right? So, if you’re blowing past deadlines or you’re working till midnight and getting up at 5:00 or whatever every day, that’s the culture that you’re building in your company before you ever hire your first person. So I think that’s really important to kind of nail down the culture you want first.
Andrew: I want to say this about documentation, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I feel like we talk a lot about documentation through documentation, but documentation through systemization seems to be even more effective. What I mean is you talked about your Airtable system where everyone knows what steps go into handling a new onboarded or potential virtual assistant, but they don’t need to go through a Google Doc to understand it, it’s just automated in the system. There’s something that triggers an email, there’s something that then has to happen next, right? What do you think of that?
Trivinia: Yeah, well, you know, this is a really good example. I have my own podcast and we built a system within Airtable and Zapier for my podcast that literally all I have to do is go and record the episode, put it into Dropbox, and put that Dropbox link into Airtable and then click a little button that says, “Ready for editing.” And it automagically goes off to where it needs to go and I do not touch it, I’m not posting on social about it, I’m not doing any . . . I’m not creating show notes or anything about that and it was because we looked at what is that outsourced outcome that we wanted to have happen.
I want an episode to drop every Tuesday, right? And then we sort of reverse engineered it to what was all of the systems that we needed to have in place to make that happen. And so, if you can look at the end goal that you want to have happen and then reverse engineer it from there, it doesn’t end up being a 30-page Google Doc because what you find is that you can use software, system, tools to kind of get a lot of that done for you.
Trivinia: Yeah, not to say that Google Docs don’t have their place but if you could automate it in a place where the system makes sure that everyone knows the next step, I feel like there’s a lot of value in that. All right, we’ve talked a lot about your business, for anyone who wants to go check it out, the best way to do it is to just go to priorityva.com, Priority, V-A as in virtual assistant, dot com, right?
Trivinia: That’s it.
Andrew: All right. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen, the first, if you’re motivated by this, if you’re excited by this and you’ve got some idea, just go do it right now, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. You will get a good low price from them, you’ll get a quick trial period so that you can see if it makes sense for you and an opportunity to experiment to see maybe your next idea will be the one that you end up spending . . . how long have you spent, Trivinia, on this business?
Trivinia: We’re on seven years now.
Andrew: Seven years, maybe that’ll be the business that you spend the next 7 or 70 years on. And if you’re looking for a developer, I can tell you that there is no better place, there is no better place to go to get the best developers than Toptal, go check them out at toptal.com/mixergy. Trivinia, thanks so much for being here.
Trivinia: I appreciate it.
Andrew: Thanks. Bye. Bye, everyone.