Offshore Talent With David Nilssen
David Nilssen is the Co-founder and CEO of DOXA Talent, a company that helps small to mid-sized organizations build highly-skilled global teams with the goal of scaling the business. David is also the Co-founder and CEO of Guidant Financial, an industry leader in small business financing, and the Global Learning Chair for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). His mission is to help entrepreneurs create the life they want through small business success.
Welcome to The Future is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen, we feature top entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world, those who bring a global mindset and a unique perspective to their life and business. Now, let’s get started with the show.
David Nilssen 0:22
Hey, David Nilssen here, I’m the host of this show. Here, I connect with business leaders from around the world who have what I like to refer to as a borderless mindset. And these leaders share ideas, innovations, experiences, and ultimately helping us build best practices that will help us lead and grow in a rapidly changing world. Past guests we’ve had on the show, including Amanda Knox, Lex Sisney, Ben, and many, many others. Today’s going to be a little bit different. Instead of me interviewing our guests, we flip the script. And I have Chad Franzen here from Rise25, who has done thousands of interviews with successful entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs. And that’s how we’re going to move forward today. So Chad, welcome to the show.
Chad Franzen 1:03
Hey, David, thanks so much. Great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity. Before we get started, I’ll let everybody know that this episode is brought to you by Doxa Talent. Doxa Talent helps businesses to source full-time highly skilled workers from all over the world. And as a result, these companies can scale faster, increase margin and improve culture. The most common roles that they help companies fill our virtual assistants, finance professional, sales and service, help desk and even software engineers. To learn more about how Doxa Talent can help your business leverage borderless talent, go to doxatalent.com. Hey, David, thanks so much for allowing me to be a part of this. Let’s get into what you guys do for your clients and maybe past clients that have used you and benefited from your service. Tell me about one client maybe that you can think of and how they found you.
David Nilssen 1:51
Yeah, well, so my business Doxa Talent helps entrepreneurs, business leaders from all over the US, UK, Australia to build high-performing global teams. These are dedicated, highly skilled workers that are working in their business and with their clients and team members. As you know, today, there’s war on talents, there’s a shortage all over the world. And leaders, when I talked to them are worried about whether they can find talent, if they can find it, they’re worried about can they retain it, and also if they can afford it. And so we provide this unique opportunity for them to augment some of those challenges. Yeah, we work with lots of different types of companies. One that comes to mind, for me specifically, is a food services business that came to me about a year ago and said that they needed to scale up their accounting department. But like a lot of businesses, they were struggling with the demand you were seeing because of COVID and their need to scale up. And they thought that we represented a really cost-effective way for them to build more capacity in anticipation of future work. So it was an interesting one, because then when they came to us, their team was a little bit concerned about the idea of working with offshore talent and what it meant for them what it meant terms of security, could you really find highly skilled, dedicated individuals. And we work with that team to actually build out multiple accounting professionals that can be instantly installed on their team and give them that capacity to go ahead and continue scaling as an organization. But it wasn’t an easy one at first, because there was a lot of apprehension on their part.
Chad Franzen 3:28
Yeah, what were some of the questions you got from them in the beginning, if you can recall?
David Nilssen 3:31
Well, one of them was, can we find people that understand US accounting? That was a big one, obviously, going on, you’re talking about hiring people that are going to do that type of work, you want to make sure that you’re not having to teach them the basic fundamentals. Otherwise, you just go find someone fresh out of school. Another one was like the time zone? Could we find somebody that would work at least some of our hours, so we didn’t have to worry about exchanging information via email or videos in off-hours? Another one was simply based on cost and turnover, like what are we able to retain these people long term? So there was a lot of questions initially that they had, that we had to just sort of overcome one by one.
Chad Franzen 4:12
So what were some of the, since they were lacking these people doing this for them, what were some issues that they were having?
David Nilssen 4:19
What was things like, get paying people on time, right there was making sure that, when they received invoices, those were processes, they were processed, put in the system, and then paid on time. Another one was making sure that they got their financials closed out at the end of the month in a timely manner so that they can make good business decisions with accurate real-time data versus waiting weeks and even months after the fact. So those are a couple of what I would call the symptoms of the capacity issues.
Chad Franzen 4:46
And then what did you end up doing for them?
David Nilssen 4:48
Well, we ended up hiring a couple of individuals to join their team. So what’s really interesting about the Philippines is that there is abundant of finance talent. So in this particular case, they were curious, would there be people out there that understood US accounting, the answer is emphatically yes. And in fact, what’s really interesting is a CPA designation is also relatively common in the Philippines, whereas that is like a unicorn here in the US. It is something that you could find relatively easily in the Philippines. Now, I don’t want to represent that they’re the same CPA because the Philippine CPA is not exactly the same as a US-based one. But the reality is, it is definitely a skill set that can be implemented immediately within generally any organization.
Chad Franzen 5:30
What was the outcome then for this client?
David Nilssen 5:33
Well, I mean, the symptoms that I talked about earlier, those have gone away. And what’s actually interesting is they’ve had leadership turnover. And I can’t even imagine what that would have done to their business. If that turnover it occurred a year ago, when they didn’t have the capacity and everything was sort of falling on this individual. We were able to sort of expand that capacity so that they could get the real-time accurate financials, they were paying people on time, finance department wasn’t a bottleneck anymore. But interestingly enough, we became a hedge against future turnover risk for them domestically in the meantime.
Chad Franzen 6:06
And then some of the issues are like some of the questions they had at the beginning, like the timezone issue? How was that overcome?
David Nilssen 6:13
Well, it’s actually pretty easy. With the BPO Industry, I should say, BPO is business process outsourcing. So the outsourcing industry in the Philippines runs 24/7, because it represents about 15% of their GDP. So it is a huge contributor to their economy. And for that reason, the government has made massive investments in infrastructure, and it literally runs around the clock. So what you’ll find is that people literally work just about every hour of the day, meaning that their shifts start constantly throughout the day. So it’s not uncommon actually, for people in the Philippines to work US hours, which means that they just work a night shift, and then they sleep during the day. So one of the things that we actually feel, I think passionate about is that if in the case that it’s appropriate. And I think in general, if you’re not serving the customer, meaning you’re not a customer, service agent, or salesperson during a specific time, it’s great if companies can be flexible, let them work what we call as a split shift. Now, I’m on Mountain Standard Time, so you’ll have to make adjustments or listeners will have to make adjustments for that. But how that works then is that somebody starts in the Philippines, the split ship, they started two o’clock their time, and it goes to 11pm their time. Sorry, this is our time, two o’clock in the afternoon to 11pm my time, but for them, it starts at 4am. And it goes until about 1pm. So yes, they’re getting up early in the morning, they’re working that morning shift, but they have plenty of daylight time with their family dinner with their family, and a little bit more normalcy. So we always encourage people when it is appropriate to consider that because they’ll get two or three or four hours of overlap in the afternoon to do one on ones and meetings and have a chance to review work product, do some training, and then they have plenty of focus time for production purposes. And finance roles are great for something like that.
Chad Franzen 8:03
I’m sure you’ve answered this question before. How did you kind of get interested in doing this?
David Nilssen 8:08
Yeah, it’s funny. So right now I live in Boise, Idaho. But for the last 25 years, I’ve been in Bellevue, Washington or Seattle, Washington, where Microsoft and Amazon and Costco and Boeing and these mega employers exist. And there’s only 800,000 people within the city of Seattle. And so there’s this huge amount of demand for that talent. And for that reason, over the last decade, you’ve seen the cost of living skyrocket, income has skyrocket, and people had to move further and further outside of the city in order for them to be able to afford to live. And the reality is, it’s one of the worst places for traffic in the entire country. And so, I had this business, there was 100 and some odd people, downtown Bellevue, Washington. And we had people that were commuting two and three hours a day to work for an eight-hour job. And it was becoming tough for us to compete as a business services company with all these venture-backed startups and these mega employers like I named just a second ago. And so we started looking at other alternatives. And we ended up deploying a few different strategies. One was we opened up another campus in Boise, Idaho, an emerging area of the country. We also started looking at outsourcing or offshoring as an opportunity and in the process of doing that, I learned a lot of things along the way. One thing that I felt was really important, though, is that as I was traveling around the world, I went to Bangalore, India, went to Kazakhstan. I was in China, and then ended up in Vietnam, and then finally the Philippines. And what I constantly saw is that people were treated like product, that the work conditions were fine, but they weren’t great. The technology was okay, but it wasn’t fantastic. The hardware was behind the times. It just felt like it was such a massive opportunity, and yet, it hadn’t really evolved to where it should. And then there was this big gap in the market in terms of there’s Lots of companies out there that want to support businesses who want to hire 100 to 500 to 1000 people or are willing to sign multi-year contracts, but for small business owners. There wasn’t really anybody there was like, “Yeah, go ahead, hire one person, get it right. And then you can scale from there.” And so over the course of five years offshoring, we finally decided, you know what, it’s time for us to do this our way, in a way that lifts up the communities that we’re working with, and still represents this amazing opportunity for small business owners.
Chad Franzen 10:28
So you personally have interacted with the people from different cultures who are being hired offshore?
David Nilssen 10:35
Yeah, many times. Yeah. And it’s interesting, most of them are very grateful for the work. But you can tell there’s still this sort of gap between, I go to work for this outsourcing business, and I’m just sort of a number. And what we wanted is we wanted people to go to work and know that they were working in our business and with our clients, but we were still taking interest in their personal development, we were taking an interest in making sure that they were learning more, so they contribute more, so they can earn more, and that we were creating a culture that valued them as people first. And we felt like if we did that, if we became a destination employer, and we’re really more the conscious capitalist in this industry, that we would become a destination employer. And that would mean we would have the best talent, and thus, our clients would get the best value.
Chad Franzen 11:19
Final question for you. What do you find most enjoyable about doing this? You get to interact with your clients here, you get to help solve a problem. And you get to interact with people from other cultures, what do you find most enjoyable?
David Nilssen 11:30
Well, because I’m an entrepreneur, I’m going to break the rules. And I’m not going to give you just one, I actually think you hit on a couple of them. So first, by nature, I’m a problem solver. So getting a chance to work with, the other day I was talking to a company that is a franchisor. And they’re having some real challenges building out their sales and service center to support their franchisees naturally, I should say. There’s a software firm that we’re working with right now, who’s had a hard time recruiting software engineers, because there’s this sort of pressure cooker here in the US and the need to augment those recruiting efforts. And that to me, like getting a chance to go into a business and understand what’s working, what’s not, and thinking through what are the ways that we can sort of help them solve this in a unique and interesting way that helps them scale faster, but reduces costs as a percentage of as we go, that, to me is really exciting. But I will say this, for me, the number one sort of thing that I enjoy most is meeting the power people in the Philippines, we’ve also got people in Vietnam, and just seeing sort of how their life has changed since coming to be a part of Doxa Talent. We say we want to be a destination player, we say we want to take interest in their development, but to really feel that that’s coming to life from them and just sort of see how it’s impacting them and their families, that to me is my favorite part.
Chad Franzen 12:44
All right, great. Hey, David. I really appreciate the conversation. Thanks so much for letting me be part of it.
David Nilssen 12:49
Oh, man, it was great to have you back on the show. I hope we get to do it again sometime.
Chad Franzen 12:52
Absolutely. So long, everybody.
Thank you for listening to The Future is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen. Be sure to click subscribe to future episodes so you can hear from more top entrepreneurs and thought leaders, and we’ll see you again next time.