#008: Gilbert Ballow on “Responsible Outsourcing” [Podcast]

Craig talks with Gilbert Ballow of Staff Virtual about a socially accountable strategy to reducing overhead and improving efficiency.

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Staff Virtual

Cliff Ravenscraft

Virtual Assistant Podcast

Is Windows Phone the One? 

Contact Gilbert

LinkedIn Profile: Gilbert Ballow 

Phone: (310) 962-4562

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Craig:     This
is Legal Leader’s podcast episode eight with Craig Huggart, Gilbert Ballow on
“Responsible Outsourcing”, a socially accountable strategy for reducing
overhead and improving efficiency.

[music] Welcome to
Legal Leader’s podcast. The show by and for legal administrators, IT directors,
and other law firm leaders. Today’s leaders on today’s topics. [music ends]

Craig:     Gilbert
is VP strategic corporate partnerships for staff [name]. One of his firm
specialties is legal services. I first heard about Gilbert when he was
interviewed by [Cliff Ravenscraft 00:00:26] on the virtual assistant podcast
and I was so impressed with him that I decided to find out a little bit more
about him and found his linked in profile and lone behold he was in Orange County,
that’s where he lives and although I live in Burmington, Alabama, I was in
Orange County the same time so we got together and had a great conversation
over lunch and that lead to today’s interview. So I’m excited to find out more
about Gilbert and Staff Virtual, so Gilbert how are you doing today?

Gilbert: I’m doing
great Craig. Thank you for having me out, it’s a pleasure to be on your show.

Craig:    Well
it’s great to have you on! So tell us just a little bit more about yourself so
our audience can get to know you a little bit.

Gilbert: Well sure, I am originally from the
Great Pacific Northwest. I grew up north of Seattle in the San Juan Islands.
But moved in the late 90s down to the Los Angeles region. As you just mentioned
a moment ago, I have moved even further south to Orange County where I lived
with my wife and we just found out some great news, I didn’t even tell you last
week, but we’re having a little baby girl that will be arriving this fall. So
we’ve got some big things happening on our end.

Craig:    Well
that’s wonderful. Well congratulations, there’s nothing better than little

Absolutely. We’re very

Craig:     Well
that’s great. Well before we get into today’s topic, I wanted to let everyone
know that after this segment we have two short features: Law firm laughs and
today’s tech tip. So Gilbert just, tell us a bit about Staff Virtual and then
we’ll dive into some of the more detail information there.

Gilbert:  Sure.
Well to put it into layman’s terms, we are a staff leasing company and our
operations work somewhat similar to that of a [Temp 00:02:48] agency, if one
was to hire one. With the major exception being that our employees are full
time and work remotely from our offices. With respect to the daily activities,
uh, and work flow, a Staff Virtual employee will act and she’ll, uh, like one
of our clients own employees that they have on site, uh, all the way down to
recording and integrating into their culture as they – as they need it and we
work very closely with our clients to make sure, uh, that we accomplish that
fir in a way that is suitable and successful for them. Uh, and then on the back
end, the great thing about Staff Virtual is that our clients have no legal
exposure to, uh m the Staff Virtual employees. That means no payroll taxes, no
insurance cost, uh no legal NHR cost, uh, not to mention the office desk and IT
cost, as one would typically have to deal with with a regular on-site employee.
And then when looking at the true employee cost, when you factor in all those
cost or what is known int the industry as the “loaded rate”, utilizing Staff
Virtual services, typically net our clients have cost savings of 50% in as
little as three weeks time. So its a pretty exciting, uh, business that we run
and the clients that we have on board really love us. We got started in 2009
and we’ve really been ramping up we’re, uh, over 50 employees now and I found a
really good niche working with companies in that ten to one hundred employee
range. And that’s pretty much a very high altitude overview of what Staff
Virtual is and how we work.

Craig:     Well
thanks for that. I think that’s a great description, you know, it brings to
mind a lot of things, uh certainly – I mean the reason people, I think,
initially look at virtual assistance is cost savings and – Well I only know one
thing about law firms, they’re looking on how to save costs. That’s certainly
the case but, you know, almost in the same breathe when I talk to people about
virtual assistance, they’re like “Yeah but aren’t you really like encouraging
things that maybe we don’t want to encourage.”, you know? And one of the things
that comes to mind is that maybe the quality of life of these virtual assistant
is not that great but from what I remember from the podcast and from what our
conversation was, your firm really seems to give a good quality of life to the
virtual assistants that they employ. Can you tell us a little bit more about

Gilbert: Sure,
and you know that’s definitely a conversation that I have had with every single
client that we have dealt with and it’s a legitimate concern and as America has
learned over the decades from the larger corporations that have unfortunately
taken advantage of some of these, uh, workers or employees ion other cultures,
uh, outsourcing or off-shoring is kind of, kind of – the name has been
tarnished and we’ve really been working hard to create, uh, or recreate that
image through what we call responsible outsourcing or business process
outsourcing. And that not only includes, uhm, taking care of our employees in
the Philippines, we’re located in Makati, Manila, and uh, it also includes not
harming the American, uh, environment as well as far as, as far as jobs go. So
we really focus on, on outsourcing the jobs that Americans are not, no longer
interested in or there tends to be a lot of high turnover. Uh, those jobs
typically are customer support, client management in data and order processing.
Or the very time consuming, tedious type of jobs, uh, that all of us find are
necessary on a day to day basis but really do not have the time, or really
honestly like to do, and that really comes down be a cultural difference, where
Americans are taught at a very early age through the school system to be, uh,
out of the box thinkers. Uh, these, these tedious time consuming tasks really,
really kind of tend to be our Achilles’ heel if you will. Where as in other
cultures, uh, they kind of grow up embracing these other jobs. So there happens
to be a natural fit right there, where we are taking jobs that Americans don’t
want and we’re giving these jobs to, uh, employees on the other side of the
world that actually really do like these jobs and want these jobs. In addition
to that, we take extremely good care of our employees and part of our responsible
outsourcing, uh, includes, uh, making sure that they have an attendance bonus,
which means if they continue to show up over the course of the year, on time,
uh, and everyday, that we’ll give them a bonus on that attendance. A
productivity bonus which we have to detail, uh, specifically per client, so
that one kind of varies. Not to mention an anniversary bonus, so every year
they get their anniversary bonus, 15 day vacation leave, 10 days sick leave,
one day birthday leave. And then we also like to give, uh, a 13th
month pay so at the end of 12 months, they get that additional month pay, which
we give out at our annual Christmas party. Not to mention, we give out full
health benefits, medical, dental, vision, and fitness. We give life insurance
and we even give out company loans and what, uh, we kind of take for granted
here in America is that you know, anyone can go out and get a credit card in
cover of a situation in lets say an emergency. This is not the case, uh,
throughout the rest of the world and so with our company loan program, we’re
able to assist our employees when they have emergencies come up, whether it be
with one of their children or a spouse or, or an unfortunate passing of a loved
one, we’re able to provide them with a loan, uh, that, uh, allows them to take
care of the necessary cost of whatever that may be and still, uh, focus on
their work. So we really take in value the employee experience of our employees
in the Philippines and that’s very, that’t very evident in the fact that we have
employees that have been with us since day one in 2009 that are still with us
here today.

Craig:    Wow
that was so impressive. I was sitting here thinking, “You know I wish I work
for somebody that has all of those benefits”

Gilbert:  Well
you know I actually joke around with my clients, but it’s not really a joke. My
employees, or our employees actually have better benefits than I have, so.

Craig:    Well
absolutely. And since I’m a contractor, you know, I can’t gripe because I love
what I do and I make  good money but the
benefits are all benefits that I buy so it all comes from me.

Gilbert:  Right [laughter]

Craig:    Well
lets take this a step further. I know that you guys do business with a number
of different types of firms but lets talk specifically about services you offer
for law firms.

Gilbert:  Oh
absolutely. Yeah, uhm, we do work with a number of firms, a wide variety
whether it be graphics designs or manufacturing firms, but, uh, to be honest,
our biggest and most successful, uh, clients have been in the law firm
industry, so it’s very exciting to, uh, be on this podcast because we really
think we have something to offer, uh that uh – perhaps many in a law, law firm
industry have not been exposed to and what it comes down to is utilizing Staff
Virtual can be, can be a – it can really open a lot of doors  and not only in the cost savings but also in
stream lining, uh, processes that may or may not already be in place. One of
our – Actually our largest client by far and I can’t go into this super detail
on this individual but uhm, they focus on workers [comp 00:10:42] and we do the
client and case management for this client. When he came to us a few years ago,
he was doing, uh, just over 200 cases a month. Uhm, he was really looking to have
some redundancy set up, with respect to hiring on Staff Virtual, and  he wasn’t looking to, uhm – wasn’t looking to
necessary replace or improve but just really – just have a safeguard in place
and kind of check us out and we were very excited to have this opportunity to
work with this client and in very short term we were able to get set up and
sending out welcome packets for this client. Gathering information for filings
and extensions. Now for this specific client, we would do data-entry, uh, from
documents into their CRM, they’re using, I believe, “Practice Master” and we
got our employees all up to speed so they knew how to use a CRM properly and
that’s a cost we all, we absorbed on our end. And then we also processed
request to the appropriate attorney as it was a large firm. Uh, at the end of
the day we ended up creating a 600 paged manual. Uh, it ended up putting it
online in a PDF format so it could be, uh, accessible not only by our client
but by those on our team, uh, while they’re kind of going through this process.
And really what this manual – 600 paged manual sounds large and it is – it’s a
very micro managed – it’s a very, very detailed, uh, manual and it’s in the, as
I’ve said  the micro management style
which is really how our employees like to be given information, they’re not out
of box, figures they really want to be told of very clearly what to do, how to
do it. And we fit on that – many in a legal industry share that same, uh, type
of process so it seems to be a good marriage in that respect. We also sort
scanned mail, we forwarded it out to the appropriate parties. And then we all
do this, uhm, by logging in remotely to a USB server so we can, uh, so there’s
no concerns or fear over information being shot out, uh, unnecessarily. And in
addition to that we also have other clients we’ve worked with. Uh, we can do
summations, uh, and we can definitely bring on paralegals at a much more, uh,
affordable rate kind of work under a team leader if you will. And with out
clients that are larger such as these ones I’m describing, we will have, uh, we
will have what we call a “shift-coordinator” who is in charge of each team and
that shift coordinator manages the ten individuals on the assignment. And there
were clients – Where we have clients of 20 or more which is also the case in
some of these explanations here are – I gave you. We have what we call a
“client services manager” who’ll oversee the entire team as well as the
shift-coordinators. And that really just helps, uh, our reporting and our management
on our end although our clients have direct access to these, uh, to these Staff
Virtual employees throughout their day’s activities.

Craig:   Well
that’s great. Sound like you’ve got all the basics covered and some of the
things the law firms are certainly certainly used to do day in and day out that
your folks can do them and it sounds like you have the processes in place so
that they can do them with a level of quality that meets the expectations of
the clients, that sounds great.

Gilbert: Absolutely.
And, you know, our offices as I’ve mentioned earlier in, uh, Makati, which is
the financial district of Manila in the Philippines, it’s kind of like being in
downtown Manhattan, uh, in New York. Uh, we have, you know, we’re in a very
high secure building. Uh, you need card scan access just to get in and then we
actually have biometric access to our suite and we don’t share our office with
any other offices, it’s just the Staff Virtual team. So we’re very secure,
we’re very safe, to be honest we’re actually more secure and more safe then,
uh, majority of businesses located in the United States. And we have tons of
redundancy in the terms of power and backup so, uh, if there’s any sort of
rolling, brown-outs or, or, or natural things going on in that part of the
world, we’re in a building that is up to speed to withstand those types of,
those types of issues. So yeah, it works very well for our clients. They’re
very happy, uh, with us and uh, and like I said, it’s really a good fit for the
legal industry.

Craig:   Well
that sounds great. Any other thoughts that you’d like to add?

Gilbert:            Well
I think we kind of covered it all pretty specifically there, is there anything
you feel I’m leaving out?

Craig:   No
I think that’s great. I just continued to be impressed, I mean, like you said,
I mean, there is a bit of tarnish on terms like virtual assistance and
outsourcing and off-shoring, but it really sounds like that your firm has
really made a choice to employ good people, put in great security practices, and
really make it a place where people can trust you day in and day out to
accomplish mission critical tasks at a rate that is a fraction of what they
could with U.S. Employees.

Gilbert: Absolutely.
And you know we are, uh – whether people out there like it or not, we are a
global community, it is the future of business. Uh, when all the large fortune
500 corporations are tapping into this global pool, it’s absolutely necessary
for the smaller companies to, uh, embrace some of these, uh some of these different
methodologies if you will. And you know, lots of people are very quick to
embrace a new piece of technology that may eliminate a job here or there
locally, uh, without a second thought. But when it comes to quote and quote
“off-shoring or outsourcing”, they tend to slow down or stop and we’ve really
put a lot of effort into insuring that when clients or companies are utilizing
Staff Virtual that they can rest assured that we’re gonna be taking care of
jobs, again, that Americans are no longer interested in and we’re gonna be
taking care of our employees over in the Philippines in a way that far exceeds,
uh, how employees in the United States are taken care of on a grand scale.

Craig:   Yeah,
I think that you are absolutely right that we – as smaller firms, we have to
think like the bigger firms, I mean, I’m solo entrepreneur and I have two
virtual assistants. One’s located in the U.S. and one is outside the U.S. and
they just do different jobs and I’m happy with both of them. So, I’m certainly
embracing that and that again is part of the reason that I wanted to have you
on the call.

Gilbert:Great, great. Well I was happy to be
here. It’s a pleasure being on your show.

Craig:    Well
great. Well, we’re going to transition in and I’m gonna give us our law firm
laugh for this show. Not long ago, I was doing a class on best practices for
formatting word documents. It’s a class I’ve done many times but I had someone
say something that I have never had anyone say before. One of the participants
in class spoke up and said “I hate it when words move my monopoly houses.” And
that really startled me and I’m like “Well tell me more.” And she explained
that what she meant was the indent markers on the ruler, so I’d never heard
them called monopoly houses but I don’t think I will ever forget.

For today’s tech tip, I wanted to talk about cellphone choices. I mean
we live in a land of huge choice -and for those of you who have listened to
some of my other podcasts, you’re aware I’m a technology pluralist. I use a
Windows 7 laptop, I use an Ipad, and I have an android phone. So I’ve got a lot
of choices and I’m about to pick a cellphone, in fact I’ve already picked one
unless things change before I actually buy it, but I considered Iphone, windows
phone, and android. In the end I picked the phone that runs all the apps I
can’t live without and gives the best overall experience at the least cost. So
if want to learn more about this, I wrote a blog post, it’s called “Is windows
phone the one.” And that’s my blog at alawfirmtrainer.com. And of course I’ll
put a link to that and other things that we’ve mentioned in the show including
links to Staff Virtual and other things we brought up. So Gilbert, how can
people get in contact with you and is there anything going on in your world
that you’d like people to know about?

Gilbert:  Well
if people would like to learn more about Staff Virtual or just speak with me
directly, they can go straight to our website which is www.staffvirtual.com and then there they can make a request, they
can download a wait paper, uh, and if they make a request directly for myself,
Gilbert Ballow, uh, I’ll be happy to reach out directly. Uh, also if they’d
like to call me, uh, I can be reached at 310-962-4562.

Craig:    Well
great, thank you, I sure do appreciate that. If you enjoyed today’s show,
please share it with the folks in your network and we’ve made that real easy,
you can go to legalleaderspodcast.com/share and with two clicks you can share
the show either via facebook, LinkedIn, or twitter. So Gilbert, thanks so much
for being on the show today.

Gilbert:  Thank you Craig.

Craig:   Well
good deal. Well that’s a wrap for episode 8.


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