Knucklehead Podcast Ep. 126: Never Hire A VA (Without Nate) With Nathan Hirsch of Outsource School.

Knucklehead Podcast Ep. 126: Never Hire A VA (Without Nate) With Nathan Hirsch of Outsource School.

Nathan Hirsch (00:00): I've made every bad hiring decision in the book. I hired college kids. I hired my friends and they were drinking on of the job, smoking on the job. I had to knock on their doors to get them to wake up, to actually work for me. A little wake up call went off and I had to change my management style.

Intro (00:14): Choose not to live in a world of filters. Realize your mistakes, set the foundation for your success. Get some wins, knucklehead podcast.

Stephen Colon (00:28): Welcome to another edition of Knucklehead podcast. You've got with you today. The Knucklehead Steven and Nathan Hirsch, the Outsource School. I'm going to attribute the outsource school, but I know that from the brief conversation that I had with Nathan, that's not the only experience that he has in terms of business ownership and getting some things up off the ground. But I'm going to talk about today. He's going to talk about some of the mistakes along the way, and then we're going to bring it full circle as to where things are headed here. So Nathan appreciate you taking some time, buddy. How's it going for you?

Nathan Hirsch (00:55): Yeah, Steven, thanks so much for having me. Today's going great. Just another day in quarantine and I love just sharing stories and there's no better way to learn than from failure. So I'm looking forward to this podcast. Well, isn't that interesting?

Stephen Colon (01:07): So when we start a business, obviously we're looking to solve a problem. We're looking to address a need or we're looking to also capitalize on a market opportunity as a business owner. I'm essentially one Oh one. That's what we're looking to do unless you're a hobbyist. I read this past weekend that there's somebody who all that they do is they, they make useless inventions, but the amount of inventions that they're able to make because of the quick turnaround time using three D printing, they're actually able to turn around like a ridiculous profit. It's crazy what people are doing in today's. I don't want to say just economy, but in today's entrepreneurship world, it's bizarre. So I'm curious, how do you maintain focus knowing that there's so many endless opportunities and you have the skillset to make something out of nothing, leveraging a lot of the skills and relatively inexpensive labor from across the world?

Nathan Hirsch (01:54): Yeah, it's funny. I always consider myself someone who just focuses on one thing at a time. Like no matter what that thing is, even if it's my personal life, if I'm trying to get in good shape, I'm just very focused on that. If I'm starting a business, I'm very focused on that. So I tend to not get shiny objects symptoms. I think that's more of just my personality. Like when I, when I was running an Amazon business, I was just focused on Amazon. I wasn't thinking of other business ideas, all my energy, all my creativity was focused on the Amazon business. Same thing when I started free up a hundred percent focused on that actually dropped off the Amazon business, transfer that over to a partner so I could focus on free up and now without sort of school. That's really the only thing I'm focused on when we sold free up Connor and I conduct my business partner, we started reading all these books about real estate and investing in businesses and trying to brainstorm different ideas.

Nathan Hirsch (02:41): And then once you decided on outdoor school, we just went all in and everything kind of went by the wayside. So that's more of my personality thing, but I mean, trial and error is one of my favorite things in business. But my whole thing is I'm trying to do a lot of low risk, high rewards, and you can make stuff a little risk because if I'm hiring virtual and I'm trying them out for things, it doesn't take a lot of money to see if something's working or not. And if it's working, I'm doubling down and I'm doing more of that. And if it's not working, I'm pulling back and maybe revisiting it later with a different plan

Stephen Colon (03:11): When it comes to measuring success. Cause you referenced a couple previous endeavors in the past. This is not quite podcasts. This is predicated on the idea that when you're working with other people, when you're working on things that are larger than, you know, than what you currently have, essentially you're setting goals that stretch you and you're reaching outside of what your current capabilities are to accomplish a goal. You're going to screw up, you're going to mess up and you're gonna get your skin needs. And those bloody did you ever feel in your Amazon business that you've been off more than you can chew or is there enough safeguards in place to where that's not really a thing?

Nathan Hirsch (03:42): Definitely I've made every bad hiring decision in the book. And most of those came with my Amazon business to start off. I hired college kids. I hired my friends and in my mind it was going to work out. I could trust them, they'd be reliable. And it was the exact opposite. They were drinking out of the job, spoke on the job. I had to knock on their doors to get them to wake up, to actually work for me. I had to fire my friends in college, which was a disaster. It hurt my friendship as well as my business. And even when I made good hires, I, I remember hiring someone, investing six months into training them so that they knew my entire business. And by the time that I was done training them, it was awesome. Like I was, I was less stressed. My business was running without me.

Nathan Hirsch (04:24): And so I take my first vacation in over a year and that person quits on me. So six months of training down the drain, but I learned a very valuable lesson about diversification. And even when you fast forward ahead, when I got into the virtual assistant space, because college kids, I couldn't hire them, no one in the U S they were like, no, U S adults wanted to work for a 20 year old college kid. When I hired VA's in the Philippines, I was too direct. I was too over the top. I was micromanaging. I stress them out. They tend to be more shy from, from my experience. And again, just wasting so much time and energy and money training people who just hated working for me because I wasn't adjusting to their culture and their norms. Finally, after a while, they're a little wake up call, went off and I had to change my management style, but I, again, I've made every hiring mistake that you can imagine.

Stephen Colon (05:17): So when you talk about, you know, an Amazon business or an eCommerce business, that's significantly different than dealing with, you know, a service based business. You know, for instance, if somebody is going to go start working on a project, unless they have a specialized skill set, and they're very disciplined with their time management, they're going to run into some, you know, some scaling strategies after they get maybe five or maybe even 10 customers, right? So when you look at a product business versus a service business, how did you come up with a criteria to help you not waste time or spin your wheels? Or did you have to do some of that a little bit before you gain traction on both of those types of businesses?

Nathan Hirsch (05:51): So the cool thing about Amazon is, and you've got to remember there's pros and cons to everything, but one of the pros is they have a lot of customers that are constantly on their website. So I got in during the wild wild West 2008, 2009, when Amazon was blowing up, they were just getting into other products. And I did a ton of trial and error trying to get products to sell on Amazon. I started off with selling textbooks, which did sell really well on Amazon, but then my college sent me a cease and desist letter telling me to knock it off and stop competing with their bookstore. So I didn't want to get kicked out of school. And I pivoted and I thought it was cool. I could have this Amazon storefront, and I didn't really understand how big Amazon was going to become, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Nathan Hirsch (06:32): So I started experimenting with products that I was familiar with, like sporting equipment, video games, computers like typical college guy stuff. And I just failed over and over and over. I couldn't get anything to sell on Amazon and the stuff that I could get to sell, I ran into issues for, for different reasons. Like it was too heavy to ship. It would break it in the mail. There was a lot of returns that I didn't have any place to put cause I was in my dorm room. So it wasn't until I came across baby products really by accident and just through constant trial and error of trying to find every single niche and testing on Amazon, that my business finally started to have success where I was selling baby products on Amazon. And I was selling millions of them out of my college dorm room.

Nathan Hirsch (07:14): But again, Amazon is the pro is they have all the customers, the con is they control everything. They can shut you down very, very easily. So I got my Amazon account suspended multiple times. I also, um, I was relying on other people, suppliers, other people being my suppliers. I wasn't producing my own baby products. I was drop-shipping other people. So again, I had these suppliers who I would do a lot of business with. And then one day, for whatever reason, they'd say, Hey, sorry, we can't work with you anymore. We sign an exclusive relationship with someone else, whatever it was. So I learned a lot that, Hey, I need to control my own website, control my own customers, control my own brand. And that's really why I tried to get out of the Amazon space after six, seven years. And even though I had had a lot of success there to focus on free up and now of school where I'm not going to wake up one day, hopefully, and just have outdoor school, the website like down, unless I do something crazy or stupid, but a lot of valuable lessons there.

Stephen Colon (08:12): Have you ever asked yourself why you haven't started a podcast? Well, I already know the reason. So to you, you don't feel like you're tech savvy. You don't feel like you've got your message wired site. And quite frankly, it's just, it's all this mystification going on. Quite frankly. Uh, our process helps to demystify that we're push button for podcast. We're not go ahead. Why knucklehead? What we lead with the fact that you don't know what you're doing. We do. We've been there. We've actually been in your shoes. We take your spoken voice. We literally give a human voice to your website. You want to bring dead leads to life. Well, then you need to talk to knuckleheads. Essentially what we're going to do is we're going to take you through our process and we're going to help take your human voice and increase the process for you going from dead leads to life. How do I, how do I do well? You

Stephen Colon (08:56): Essentially just take your human voice, put it in a directory and let people consume more of you. Give your audience the ability to Netflix on you. They want to binge watch you. They want to binge listen, give them the ability to take your voice along on that commute with them. So you can get in touch with us, Steven at knucklehead podcasts, or if you've got a really cool story stories at knucklehead podcasts, you can find us on LinkedIn and on Facebook and not go promotions, LLC, and get in touch with us. Don't be a beta about the process. Don't let the fact that you don't know, prevent you from getting some wins. So don't be a beta, get some wins and contact us at Axiom.

Stephen Colon (09:32): Well, I mean, you just touched on two things. One in particular is once you've decided that, for instance, let's just back up a second to pre-internet where you can't just jump on Google and go and search something. You had to test the efficacy of information within your personal circle. So your network of people that were relatively close to you, that's still exactly the way that people do things nowadays. However, the time and the frequency in which they can test that information. It's, it's just so quick, you literally touch a piece of glass and you can find any piece of information that you want at a moment's notice. The challenge is, is how applicable is it to your business or your situation at the time? And then how quickly can you implement it? So being able to decipher what's good. What's not, you know, what works and what didn't, how did you set up these controlled experiments whenever you pivoted over from free up now to, to outsource school?

Nathan Hirsch (10:24): Yeah, I mean my Amazon business, it was a lot of, I mean, I was a young entrepreneur. I had no idea what I was doing. So it was all a lot of trial and error and just seeing what works and what doesn't work. There weren't really good systems. But then as people started to quit on me and there was turnover and I realized that when they quit on me, all that one on one training that I did, they were just walking away with that knowledge. Then I realized that I had to create systems and processes. And then I kind of developed my 90 day rule where I picked something up for that first month. I'm throwing it against stuff against the wall. I'm seeing what's working. I'm seeing, what's not working by the end of that first month. I have a pretty good idea of what's not working.

Nathan Hirsch (11:00): And I spend that second month documenting processes, fine tuning it, maybe starting to interview someone and then hiring someone in that third month and passing the process over to them. But also, and this is a key that I learned is giving them ownership of the processes so that they keep it updated over time so that if they quit the processes, haven't, I, they, haven't just not been updated for years. They're, they're constantly being updated every quarter. So we, we do that in all aspects. And I mean, moving from Amazon to free up while we like B2B a lot more and we didn't have to worry about Amazon. We didn't know anything about marketing. We know how to hire really well because we had made all those mistakes for five years, but we didn't know anything about SEO. We didn't know anything about Facebook ads. I remember for our Amazon business, we once tried to start our own website. And our idea of marketing was like going to a farmer's market and passing out flyers for our website. It made no sense we were 21 and we had no idea what was going on. So we had to learn about podcasting and we never really ran ads for free up just because of the business model. Um, but podcasting, SEO, partnerships, joint ventures, like all these different things. And again, just doing trial and error and seeing what's worked then building systems and then delegating them to virtual assistants

Stephen Colon (12:13): That discipline of essentially that 90 day rule. What I'm hearing is, is I'm hearing a lot of the pain associated with folks leaving or folks going through the motion of training folks that weren't staying. I think there's a leadership expert. And I said this in a previous podcast named John Maxwell, who talks about the only thing worse than training people and having them leave is not turning them and having them stay. And so the mindset that you're wasting the time, you're actually training yourself on the proper way to build systems and processes. Whenever you went on vacation that one time after six months and your buddy left and not friends with that person anymore, or are they still, you know, a good person that just wasn't a good business fit?

Nathan Hirsch (12:50): Uh, that particular person that, that quit, I haven't talked to in a while, although I think we're still Facebook friends, we're on good terms, but I was able to, um, a lot of my friends, I ended up firing in college. I did rekindle those relationships down the line when, when we both met,

Stephen Colon (13:04): I heard a little bit, well, good. That's, that's, I'm glad to hear that. And it sounds as if even some of your experience working with different cultures, uh, the interpersonal skillset that's required in order to actually build relationships. Uh, it's, it's universal. You can, as long as you have at least a little bit of understanding of different cultures specifically with, uh, you know, I spent some time with Marine Corps over in that part of the world. So you, you get exposed to so many different customs and traditions that you can really overlook. I mean, it happens here in the United States, too. I mean, if I'm going through certain neighborhoods, uh, even in the city that I live in there's customs and cultures that you gotta adjust according to where you're at, if you know what I'm saying. So, you know, with that being said, let's talk real quick about maybe some egg on the face moments when it comes to, when you feel like you have a process dialed in or a system dialed in. So in this instance, do you have a project? You have a VA who's essentially assigned these 10 particular tasks. Let's talk real quick about these playbooks that you've been releasing lately. I mean, was there an egg on the face moment that helped you document these things? Or was it the building of software? Talk to us a little bit about some screw ups along the way there.

Nathan Hirsch (14:09): Yeah. I mean, it kind of, like I said, we've made every hiring mistake. So I think that the first part of it is how do we make a hiring process where we're not just kind of crossing our fingers at the end and hoping that the person is an a player when they show up, because we had so many moments where he'd hire someone and we were pumped up and we're like, Oh my God, this person is, is awesome. And then the first two weeks were like, Oh my God, we made a terrible decision. And then we've had other times where we'd hire someone and we were kind of on the fence. And I remember a particular time where it was our busy season. We had someone quit on us during busy season. We hired this guy for customer service. We found out the last minute that he had been arrested for weed or something small, but we really, really needed someone.

Nathan Hirsch (14:48): We were like, if we don't hire this person, like we are service is going to blow up. We hire him. And he ended up being one of our best hires working for us for years down the line. So we had no idea like what was going to come out of our interview process. So we really sat down and we dove down into breaking down our hiring process, into interviewing onboarding, training, and managing. And that's what we call the fundamentals. We call it cracking the VA code, which we teach at outsource school. But once you learn the fundamentals, once we had that process and we could consistently spit out a players, which was awesome, then we had to realize, okay, working with a graphic designer is different than working with the developer, which is different than working with a customer service person. So there were certain things that I was really good at.

Nathan Hirsch (15:32): Like I've been very good at customer service for awhile. I could work with customer service people, graphic designers. I had no idea me trying to get my creativity to a graphic designer and get them to hit due dates and due times and factor in revisions and all of that. We then had to develop specific processes for all these different things, whether it's developers, video editors, lead generation, podcast, research, whatever it is. So you learn the fundamentals. Then we started creating all these different playbooks that our members at outdoor school can get. Um, but you have to learn the fundamentals first and then kind of the software component that you alluded to where, Hey, there's going to be SOP that we can't teach you. I was just talking to a member yesterday who he's a real estate agent. I've never been a real estate agent. I can give you as a piece, how to get on podcasts, which will help you as a real estate agent.

Nathan Hirsch (16:19): I give you SOP on how to do lead generation, how to have a VA run your inbox. Like all these things apply, but there's going to be stuff I can't teach you. So that's when we developed this tool called simply SOP, that allows you to build and create SOP easily, update the needs, lead video texts, share them with other people, had them all in one place. And in the fundamentals, we're going to teach you how to make really good SOP easily. SOP is that a lot of us to be able to sell a business because they were that rock solid, but, and we'll give you all of our SOP, but you then have our software to go create your own using our process. Does that make sense?

Stephen Colon (16:55): Yeah. And so, to be real specific, for those of you who are listening, think about a time when you played the game telephone and you're simply just verbalizing some instructions and those instructions could be a sentence or two. And by the time it gets to the 10th person, which let's just say, it happens to the same person, 10 times, that message gets completely diluted. Now imagine your entire revenue generation engine is predicated on your ability to efficiently go through that process, right? And over again. Then if there's any chink along the way, not only do you lose margin, you lose time, which indirectly affects your margin. So what I'm hearing is, is rather than writing an SOP down on a Google doc, somewhere in a folder, thinking that you're going to come back to it whenever you need it, having it in one place where all the subsequent trading material and all of the essentially other standard operating procedures, that's all stored in one place in your platform that, right.

Nathan Hirsch (17:50): Yeah. And there's a video component for a to, I mean, people, a lot of people learn from video more than they learn from text. And a lot of people, if you have video and texts, that's even better, but there was a major issue that we ran into is that videos just get outdated so quickly. SOP is get outdated quickly. Like if you're running startups, which I run startups like six months in all your stuff is updated. All your processes have improved. And if you have a Google doc, it's very easy to go and update it. If you have a video, you have to refill the whole thing or hire a video editor. And we wanted an easier way. So with simply SOP, as you're recording a video, you're marking steps as you go. So if you need to replace step three, you could easily replace step three in the software. You can then add text if you want to. And it just makes it a lot easier to keep updated over time. And you can even give your VA access and say, Hey, you go update this step, which is what

Stephen Colon (18:41): Very cool. Well, all right, let's address this. This is essentially, I'm going to be where we're going to wrap. I'm going to ask you, what was it about entrepreneurship? What was it about this crazy experiment that you started to run whenever you were about 20 years old, that captivates you as opposed to, you know, working, you know, in a much more, let's just say stable as a ward in a much more stable or foundational type of, I guess, traditional employment. What stopped you from essentially going wholesale in that direction? Cause folks that build a career, they do some great things with their, you know, over the course of their lifetime too. So what was it about entrepreneurship at this crazy experiment that you were running that caused you to go that way?

Nathan Hirsch (19:18): So growing up, my parents were both teachers, so I was very like focused on education that was kind of engraved into my head. Although I kind of rebelled in school for courses I didn't care about. I knew I was never going to do anything with biology, anything with physics. So I was like, why am I spending all this time in this class? I've always kind of valued my time at a very high level. So I used to butt heads with teachers, butt heads with my parents over that, but I was always a very hard worker and things I cared about. So one of the things that I cared about growing up is I want to be able to buy stuff for myself because my parents were teachers. They weren't rich, they weren't poor. They were somewhat middle class. And a lot of my friends, they had everything.

Nathan Hirsch (19:54): Their parents were doctors, lawyers, dentists. So I need to be able to buy my own PlayStation, my buy, my own video games, my own bike, whatever it was. So I started getting jobs from when I was 15, 16 up and I had always been decently good at talking to people. So I landed this $12 an hour job working at Firestone, which was like a huge deal. None of my friends were making more than minimum wage and I'm making 12 bucks an hour and I'm working 40 hours a week. Every summer, every winter I'm making bank as a 16 year old, but man, I learn how much I, it just suck having a boss. Like I just hated having a boss more than anything else. And that's when I first realized it was like, I can't do this. This is a sneak peek of what it's like after college.

Nathan Hirsch (20:34): And if I have to do this for 40 years, I'm going to be miserable. So when I got to college, I felt like I had already had a sneak peak of what the real world is like, and I want to know part of it. So I started hustling and I looked at college as I had four years to create a business, or I was going to go into the real world and have bills my parents, weren't going to let me live at home. I was going to have to pay rent and get a job. So that's kind of what fueled my

Stephen Colon (20:57): Good for you. And how'd you come across the partner that you're with now, because let's maybe talk about that as a wrap, even though I referenced the last question as a wrap, but as you come across the guy that you do business with now,

Nathan Hirsch (21:08): The funny story. So I, I needed to hire someone and I posted a job on Facebook and I, he responded, he was a man business law class and he said, I don't know what you do. I need a job. And I said, all right, you're hired. I didn't even interview. And on this first day of work, I lived in a frat house off campus. He's like an hour before his shift. He texted me. He's like, Oh, by the way, I don't have a car. I need a ride. So like, who is this guy? And for some reason I drove and picked him up and drove him back. And he ended up being this unbelievable hire. And what's cool is the car ride is when we really bonded. We started to talk about business and entrepreneurship and Amazon at the time and all the fun stuff that we want to do. And that's how we built a relationship. And I eventually made it my business partner and we've been working together on every business sense. So he was one of my first hires that, that actually worked

Stephen Colon (21:55): Now in college. Well, very cool. Those are fortunate sets of circumstances. Whenever you can come across. I mean, those happen probably a little bit more frequently than not, especially when you're dealing with younger age folks in college, you just have so many people in such a close proximity for such a small period of time that you can end up making some pretty incredible relationships. Military is very similar in its kind of shared culture that helps to facilitate those relationships. So very, very cool. Nathan, let's real quick. Let's wrap this with telling people where they need to go and then why they would need to leverage either your skillset to go in and help them hire a staff, augment their staff or your training to help them develop the skill sets that they need in order to have a virtual staff.

Nathan Hirsch (22:35): Yeah. So check out algebra school, you can grab a free trial of what we call outdoor school insider right on the site that gives you access to our hiring process. All our SOP is, uh, gives you access to our software simply SOP. And if you ended up joining, you get access to our support and our community, you can check me out on social media at Nathan Hirsch on Facebook or LinkedIn, real Hirsch on Instagram or Twitter. And you can also schedule a phone call with us right on the outro school site. We're there to answer any questions you have. And our whole goal is to help entrepreneurs do more, grow their business while working less and build better systems and processes for their business. So I look forward to helping any listeners that are interested.

Stephen Colon (23:10): Very cool. Very cool. Well, I appreciate you taking some time with us this morning. Anything else you want to leave these folks with other than all those places that you just made available to them?

Nathan Hirsch (23:21): Yeah. Don't give up on hiring just like you wouldn't wake up one day and say, Oh, marketing is not for me. I'm not going to market my business. Don't do that with hiring. I see entrepreneurs do that all the time where they're like, Oh, it's faster to just do it myself. I can't hire people. I can't manage people. You can, it's not rocket science. I don't have an MBA. You just need good systems, good processes. And if you want to avoid the trial and error and the wasted years that I spent a bit, a lot of entrepreneurs spend figuring out how to that's what outdoor

Speaker 4 (23:46): School is for. Very cool. Well, I appreciate you for those of you who are listening new episodes coming at you every Tuesday nights and just sat there and walked you through several real life. Examples as to how you can take his hard-earned lessons of wasting that time in hiring a virtual staff. And he can save you a significant amount of time there. So it tells you exactly how to get in touch with them. Everybody else, we will talk to you soon, have a great rest of the week, go out and get some wins this week. We'll see it.

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Going through a painful experience from bad hiring decisions, Nathan came up with a proven system and process that help businesses scale by hiring virtual assistants.

In this episode of the Knucklehead Podcast, Stephen and Nathan dig into the details of how Nathan progressed from being an Amazon seller to a Co-Founder at Outsource School. They will also talk about the struggles and mistakes he committed during the early years of his business and what fueled his entrepreneurial fire.

Nathan Hirsch is a serial entrepreneur and expert in remote hiring and eCommerce. He has been selling online for over 7 years and has sold well over $20 million worth of product through his eCommerce business. He is the former founder and CEO at  FreeUp Marketplace and now the CO-Founder at Outsource School. They are determined to be the top destination for business owners to learn how to scale their marketing and operations with the help of virtual talent.

Enjoy!

Favorite Quote

“I’ve made every bad hiring decision in the book. I hired college kids. I hired my friends and they were drinking out of the job, spoke on the job. I had to knock on their doors to get them to wake up, to actually work for me. A little wake-up call went off and I had to change my management style.”

                                             -Nathan Hirsh

In This Episode

1:41 – How Nathan stays focus from the many endless  opportunities in the market place

3:42 – Instances when he screwed up in business

5:51 – The pros and cons of doing business with Amazon

10:24 – The evolution of Outsource School

14:09 – His approach to creating a playbook in the hiring process on different areas of expertise

19:18 – What captivates Nathan to go through the path of entrepreneurship rather than the traditional employment

21:08 – How he found and created a relationship with his longtime business partner

23:21 – His piece of advice to businesses in hiring people

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