A guide to hiring virtual assistant services

Hiring Virtual Assistants

Why and when should you use virtual assistants

People think that the reason to hire new a Virtual Assistant (VA) is to free-up time. That is so wrong! The reasoning behind this is that it will cost less to pay someone to do a task than do it yourself, because the cost of an hour of your time is greatly superior than what you would pay your VA.

I disagree with this reasoning, because it will lead you to hire the cheapest help you can find and limit the growth of your business. Rather than helping, it will become an obstacle — because you will get stuck focusing on saving money, and having a poor team. You should focus instead on building a team that will help you become more productive, more profitable and ultimately, wealthier.

I personally like to add a second element to the equation, which is far more important and neglected: How much wealth will my VA generate for me.

Unless I can do something with the time I’d will recover, that will create double the wealth than the cost of the VA, I will do it myself. Why? Because I like to also save money and my time doesn’t always is worth same.

Now, Notice that I used the word wealth, and not money. While this two are related, they are usually mistakenly interchanged. Wealth is the combination of things that make you feel fulfilled in life. And while that varies from person to person, it is always a combination of:

  • nurturing good personal relationships,
  • being healthy, taking care of your body and soul
  • have freedom to do the things you love.

Money, usually helps us build wealth, but by itself it will never provide it. It is but an enabler.

So if I have some time in my hands, I can decide, if at that moment, it can be used to have better relationships, health and enjoyment, or it can be used to generate more money.

— For example:  last year when I moved from Bilbao to Barcelona I took a train and made a 6h (or so) r journey. I was “stuck” there for the good part of a day, I had already written and read a lot and had nothing better to do while I was seated waiting for my destination. So I decided to save a few bucks, and do some tasks by myself.

But once I was settled in Barcelona, 6 hours of free my time suddenly became way more valuable than 6 hours seated on a train. I decided that I would rather have someone else take care of my email while I walked around discovering the city.

It is not about the amount of money you are paying your VA, or how much you could save, but the wealth you generate with your time. You must focus on saving time so you can later invest it wisely.

Remember: Time is the ultimate currency, not money.

Spending more time in Barcelona is one of the best uses I’ve made for VA, but I didn’t always get ir right.  Once I tried to save some bucks on a task. We had migrated about 1,200 records from a really complex database that was poorly designed, just to find out that we needed to add some extra information to each record. That information wasn’t available on any database and needed to be searched for and manually imported. I decided that I could automate it by writing a spider/crawler (that’s a small piece of software designed to run autonomously) instead of paying a VA to do it manually. While I managed to write it and fix the data, it took me about 72 hours (my whole weekend). If measured in wealth, those 72 hours, cost was way beyond the cost of what a VA would charged to do it.

So choose wisely — we humans are terrible estimating time and effort. And remember, hiring a VA only to save money is a big mistake and it will surely backfire.

Hiring your Virtual Assistants

Rates and Savings

The process of hiring VAs should be treated as carefully as hiring any other member of your team. Don’t try to be cheap.

While one of the benefits of using VAs can be reduce your overhead, it is usually a bad reason to hire them. If you are tempted to calculate how much money you will save, don’t put their hourly rate in the equation, instead think of the other costs of having non remote employees: such as working space, computers, electricity, in some cases insurance and benefits and so on. Eliminating all those costs are already enough savings. Never go cheap on hourly rates, or you will end up with cheap results.

Remember: Virtual Assistants are there to help you generate wealth, not save money.

Write down a great job description

In order to get the results you are expecting, make sure to come up with a good job description, and I mean a really good one. If you read Spanish, you can find some great tips at Startup Jobs. If you don’t here is a general idea:

1. About You/Your Company:

Write a short paragraph describing what is your mission, what are your personally trying to achieve — or if it’s the case, your company’s mission.

Describe your culture: how is it to work with you or your company, what kind of values and behaviour is expected from your team and yourself.

The “Sell”, why should anyone want to work with you instead of anyone else (make sure you put a lot of love into this last one).

2. About the Job to be done

Their mission.

This is the most important aspect of the job description. Be concise and clear about what is the purpose of their position. Focus on the expected goal rather than in just a task.

For example: when I request help with managing my email, the goal is not to achieve inbox zero. It’s helping me to keep effective communication with my peers. That means that I need to get and reply to the most important messages with the least amount of time and effort.

Activities and Expected Results:

This are the tasks and what you expect from them. Still with the email example this would include:

  • open up my email everyday at 9am of my current timezone,
  • add meeting reminders to my calendar,
  • Reject to any invitation that is not related to the city I’m currently in
  • Mark as important/to read/to reply personally any email that matches the following rules (insert here my personal set of rules)
  • Delete unimportant messages.

Required Skills

Finally, an inventory of soft and hard skills they will need to excel at their work. This includes software they need to know, language they need to be proficient with. etc.

Considerations While Hiring

Choose their location wisely:

Depending on the work you require your VAs to do, you might want to pay attention to the time zone differences. If you need urgent tasks to be done, you probably don’t want to request them to be done at 3am, and likewise, you don’t want to be disturbed at 3am by your VA in order to make a decision. This is especially important when you have tasks that require constant and quick communication.

For Connovo, we have a weekly meeting every monday at 9 am. While I was living in Paris it was already 4pm for me, 7 hours later . While it was a brief interruption, it did break a bit my afternoon routine. But now that I’m Mexico, and I sometimes have to meetings with the London team at their 9am, I have to end up having calls at 2am. That is some bad planning on my side.

This doesn’t mean that you should only hire people in your timezones, this differences can also be an advantage, for example, if you hire someone who is 12 hours behind you it can be quite productive to send a task by the end of your day, just to find it completed by the time you start your next day, literally overnight.

So before hiring, decide what kind of communication you will have with that VA and include your time-zone requirements in your job description.

While Interviewing use the same tools you will use to work

Normally, people will tell you to always use Skype or Google Hangouts to interview your VAs. I personally don’t recommend it.

I learned this from from Matt Mullenweg — the wordpress guy. Unless the task demands your VA to use skype or phones, there is no need too. Instead, you want to find out how the communication works exactly the way they will when you are working. This avoids a the common mistakes of interviewing and hiring, like being biased by how someone looks or talks, when their job has nothing to do with those factors.

I once hired an Indian team over Elance to help us out with some custom coding Everything was going well until we had to discuss a certain feature by Skype. Man.. their accent was SO bad. I couldn’t understand a word they said. They could have sworn they english was perfect, since I was the only one in the call that couldn’t understand a thing. It was so bad that I had to end the call and ask we continue the conversation using text messages. This voice communication problem however, had nothing to do with the quality of the work they delivered. Had I decided to hire them or not, based based in a Skype call, I would probably never choose them and have lost a great team of developers.

But I have to be honest with you guys… I avoid Skype / Hangouts because I hate talking. I dislike it so much I don’t even own a mobile phone.

So unless your VA needs to use skype or similar tool to do their job, don’t use it as your first or main tool to interview them. Instead use the communication tools that you will use in a day to day workflow.

Cultural Fit and Trials

First of all, make sure they get your company’s or personal culture and values. While you are interviewing someone ask all the questions you need to confirm that they “get” you, your organization and what you are trying to achieve.

Specially if they are going to be acting on your behalf, using your name or being your assistant, they will represent you before the rest of the world. You don’t want someone that doesn’t represent your values being the voice of your organization.

In order to make sure you are hiring the right person, provide them with a small task that can help you measure up their performance against the rest of the candidates, that you have good communication and that they can be a good cultural match.

You can take a look at this scorecard to give you an idea of what you should be measuring. Just remember to change each evaluation criteria to match the task in hand. For each different position, you should design a different Scorecard.

Cultural Differences

An important aspect of cultural matching is not only between your AV and your company or yourself, but also with the culture your were brought up. If you are german, you might probably strike a VA from Philippines as cold or perhaps even rude. Take in account that your VAs are people too and as with any other employee you should take consider the emotional aspect of your relationship.

If you decide to go for a international VA rather than a local one, here is a pro-tip for matching cultures: look for countries where the food is similar to that of the country you grew up with. Food and Language are one of the most loyal chroniclers of any culture. If you food looks similar or uses similar ingredients it’s highly probable that your social interactions follow similar rules.

Working

Trials

While your new VA might have experience in similar jobs or serving customers in your industry or profile,  they can’t read minds.  Be sure you provide a clear description and understanding of how and what things are expected to be done.

Work closely during the first few weeks and then give them autonomy as your relationship matures and you “get” each other. During this process, you will also want to put a maximum budget per each task, you don’t want to return the day after just to see that your VA reported 20 hours to complete a task.

Knowledge Base

Remember provide all information for any given task and have a Knowledge Base (KB) to share. In this knowledge base you should have generic information your VAs will need to excel at their job, such as personal preferences on food, music and travel, personal internet accounts like Amazon, email accounts, calendars. Medical information such as allergies, doctors contacts,  past and current medical conditions. Pre-defined budgets for discretionary spending, gifts, education, travel etc.

This will save them and specially you TONS of time avoiding the dreaded email ping-pong where your VA replies your requests with more emails until they have the information they need.

Imagine yourself traveling abroad and request your VA to make a dinner reservation, without this KB, you will start a series of emails with questions like: “what’s your budget, what kind of food do you like, if I can’t find anything for your requested hour, what should I do?”  etc. 

Along with this KB, provide a FAQ and general guidelines for the most common procedures and decisions you need to make or get requests for clarification. Don’t worry if you don’t have a solid roadmap of procedures and FAQs. Most of us start from zero, and you can build it while on the go.

Derek Sivers — CD Baby’s founder — had micro-meetings for every new question an employee came up with. “Derek, a customer wants his money back, should we return it?” Derek, a customer is making a special request, what should I do”. During this micro-meeting he gathered all employees that could have the same question and he answered only once.

Likewise Tim Ferris gave a blank check to his employees in order for them to make decisions that cost less than $50. They had full authority to make the call, that way he wasn’t bugged with repetitive questions, but more importantly, he made sure his customers received a prompt and satisfying service.

While I’m not personally running  a company this days, I’ve given VAs full access to my Amazon account, with simple instructions, use Kindle Unlimited as much as you consider it necessary to achieve your goal — even if its to buy a title for themselves. And you can buy any book that costs less than 35 dollars for me without asking.

Consider this, you will usually be the middleman between your VA and your common goal. That being making a reservation or contacting customers, or taking care of your household. Avoid being the middle man by providing them with all what they need to be independent, including communication to other VAs and the rest of your team.

 

Screen Recording

When it comes to tasks that can be considered a bit technical, I like to record myself doing the task once, and explaining each step out-loud. I’ll then just upload and send the video attached to a request. This works wonders as you need to explain it only once, even if you happen to change VA or need to add more VAs to your current team.

For example, my family has a small magazine that has been published for more than 30 years. When we started to improve the website, I personally configured and setup wordpress as the backend and the theme. This required that for every article posted, specific information was included in the backend. Instead of sending a checklist in an email template, I recorded myself posting 5 articles and then send that as a “training video” for the journalists.

If you are on Mac, you I recommend highly Screenflow I can’t remember what I used before it, but since I tried it about 3 years ago I haven’t needed any other recording software. It also works great for recording presentations, online calls and conferences. It’s only $99, and if you think it might be expensive, think again… It will pay itself with the first time you need to explain a complex task to your VA, and by the second time it will already be generating time-profit.

If you are on PC, I’ve heard great things about Camtasia.

Automate Before and After Delegating

I can’t stress this enough. Before asking something to be done, evaluate the possibility of automating it — specially if it’s not a one-timer. For example, you might consider requesting a VA to pay your bills every month using your credit card. While this is a way to save some time, your bank probably already offers a similar service.

You also want to automate your requests whenever its possible. For example, you can setup a feed using IFTTT to send an email to you VA requesting the purchase of an product whenever you tweet about it using the hashtag #tobuy.

IFTTT started as a simple service to automate internet services, and has become a really powerhouse to connect physical objects, services and people. Take a look at their channels (services it can interact with) to see in how many ways you can take advantage of it.

They are part of your team, treat them as such.

Team Building

Remember how we talked that saving money is a terrible reason to get VAs? That is because you don’t want cheap people working for you, you want to strengthen your team. Likewise, VAs while remote, also want to feel they are part of a larger team, working for a common goal. Make sure to include them, and treat them as part as such.

Pay a fair wage, a bit more than the average salary in their country goes a long way, but that’s not enough they need to feel part of your organization and be motivated, and more money usually doesn’t do the trick.

If they aren’t kept in the loop, Virtual Assistants can feel like second-class workers, or that they are not part of your team. Even if you use Va’s for a few tasks a week or a month, you want them to feel included, engaged and to become part of your company.

If you ever happen to visit the city your VA is, invite them for lunch or simply to meetup and have a cup of coffee, almost no one will ever do this and you will both benefit from having some face to face quality time.

Make sure you are sending reasonable amount of work, if you overload your workers they might accept the extra paid hours, but eventually it can fire back, by decreasing the quality of work or start making mistakes. If you have more work to be done, consider hiring extra  people rather than over-working your team.

Give creative with bonuses, usually small things plane tickets to a weekend getaway is very well received, if you need to go small surprise them with gift cards. When I can’t afford large bonuses, I give full access to use my kindle unlimited account on Amazon. To my surprise, this was one of the most appreciated “bonuses” if we consider it as such, because it provided them with the tools to learn new skills and become better at their work, for which they can later use to more money.

Upgrading Virtual Assistants to Remote Workers

It’s not only for small tasks, companies like 37signals and WP Curve rely on full time remote workers. If you have a virtual assistant that has provided a high quality service, consider hiring them full time.

The first one, as the names suggest, is assisting you, to make your life easier and free up your personal time. Whereas the latter, requires more independence, has more responsibilities.

If there is a job in your company that would normally require a part-time or full time person, maybe you want to skip the VA’s and go directly for Remote Workers.

I asked Dan Norris from WP Curve if they used any VA’s and this was his answer:

We have 4 full time admin people. All of our team work remotely so I guess you could call them VAs, we just call them the Admin and QA team

If you are an entrepreneur, it can get tricky to differentiate what do you need, since you usually do every thinkable task. A simply way to define what you need, — a VA or a RW — simply ask yourself:

“If we had all our positions covered would this task be done by my assistant or a different person within the company?”


So, I think I’ve covered as much as I can think regarding my experience hiring VAs to recover time and be more productive. If you have any question or topic that I haven’t covered please do send me a message hjbarraza@gmail.com or @hjbarraza and I’ll reply ASAP.

Bonus: Tools and Resources

Books

If you want to learn more about VAs and Remote Workers take a look at this books:

 

Where to get VA’s

Software

  • IFTTT: automated internet services.
  • Screenflow (mac) and Camtasia (pc): Record your screen and voice.
  • Gmail: the most efficient email service, remember to setup tags and aliases.
  • Google Forms: Use it to have VAs deliver reports
  • Slack: Team chat, it’s our main communication tool at Connovo and Talentia.

Use these Learning Hacks for fast skill acquisition

Learn Hacking

Since I’m interested in numerous range of topics and I get asked a lot, how do I become knowledgeable on most of them.

The last time I spoke about this in a public conversation was at Ingenuos —  Alberto Tello’s Podcast (es) — where we touched this area, and how I designed/hacked a process to be able to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Yet we didn’t had much time to speak about the details because the conversation was oriented towards Social Innovation.

Before we go into details of learning hacks there are two things that need to be clarified:

  1. Knowledgeable vs Experts:
    While you can become quite knowledgeable on any topic, you won’t become an expert in a month. That takes real effort and dedication. Yet, this will get you well above the average person.
  2. Knowledge vs Experience:
    You can become quite knowledgeable on any given topic, but you won’t become a real expert until you put that knowledge into practice. You can read and write an encyclopedia on swimming, but it will never replace a good day at the beach

That being said, let’s get into it.

 

Learning Hacks

0. Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivations

While this might seem obvious and unnecessary to list, you might be surprised how much this can affect in the long-term your ability to effectively learn anything. Make sure you want to learn something new for the good reasons.

For example, if you want to learn how to raise llamas because you met a girl on the bar that is really into llamas, you will probably won’t get very far and end up blowing it by saying something that sounds stupid.  That is just an extrinsic motivator, and those wear out pretty fast.

By contrast, if you happen to be captivated by a delicious pie you had in the weekend and find yourself watching a lot of videos on how to make pies, you have a great intrinsic motivator to start learning something new which enjoyment will last a lifetime.

 

1. Subscribe to the most popular 5 blogs/authors

The only problem with fixed knowledge such as books and online courses is that they can become obsolete in relatively short amount of time. That is why I keep tabs on sites that constantly generate new content and knowledge on the topic I’m Learn-Hacking.

I highly recommend Feedly, which has become the default rss feed manager. You can either bring your own blogs or use it’s quite handy blog suggestion feature that will help you discover new sources.

Geek Alert

Sometimes I get so much into a topic that I create my own tools to discover and manipulate sources. For example, I wanted to keep track on specific topics but feedly did not’ provide a practical interface nor sources, so I created my own aggregator that could present information I wanted to learn clean and in a single view. (and then released it for generic topics). I also started to follow several youtube channels, but I hated how I had to lose a lot of time changing channels — So I created a tool that would display all the videos that I would watch in a single page.

I did things on the web, because the information I’m looking for is there. You can choose any media to manage the information. The main idea is to make the process as efficient as possible.

For example, you want to learn to cook the best steak in town, you can create a private newsletter and invite chefs and cooks to share 1 recipe a month, so you can all share techniques without much effort.

 

2. Buy top 5 Books on Amazon / Courses

The first and quickest way to get started is acquiring knowledge that has already been prepared presented as a product. This means going to Amazon.com and buy the top 5 books on the topic. There are two ways you can choose your top 5. Bestsellers and Top Rated. If you choose the latter, remember to ignore reviews below 4, they are usually made by people who rate low everything. Just make sure you like the positive reviews.

Books:

Then either summarize or rewrite everything you learned from them. Using Highlighting feature can help a lot if you want to share notes, although I still recommend writing a few notes by hand. You will amazed how much you can retain by writing physical notes.

Courses:

Sometimes, the knowledge you are looking for is a bit technical or someone has already been packed in a better presentation. For example, I love skillshare and General Assembly. As part as my “Responsive Web Design Learning Hack” I purchased Meng To. Online book/course.

3. Talk to experts

So, now that you have actual knowledge and your own opinion on a specific topic, find some experts to share insights with. These experts can be the same people you have followed online, or someone you admire. You would be amazed how many people that seem hard to reach are quite accessible — if you approach with something smart to say.

If you have no direct way introduction to them, you can always try to send a old school snail-mail letter, even better if it’s handwritten, since they have about 80% open rate than email.

4. Do Stuff

Now things get to start interesting, you need to take what you have learned and get real. Build something, put things into practice if you haven’t, make prototypes and break stuff. Remember, all the knowledge in the world will never be a substitute for real world experience.

After reading 3 books and 2 online courses on responsive web-design I started to build new themes from scratch for fun. I skipped the talk to experts phase for this one, since I already speak with designers on a daily basis. Although I did share my designs with them to receive feedback.

5. Iterate until you are satisfied

You probably won’t get the level or results that you want on the first try. That is not only normal and ok, but it’s great. Mistakes, while you are learning are a great thing, they are more of iterations and variations of the knowledge you are acquiring. Think of them as small experiments that allow you to explore variations and let you develop your skills.

Keep practicing until you get the results you want, and when you get there, you will find that there are almost infinite amount of new exploration lines you can keep on learning for any given topic.

Choose any one of those you like, or if you are like me. You will get into a level that you become better than the average, you don’t really want to become the best of class for any amount of valid reasons. For example, if you are a manager, you don’t want to become the best developer, but knowing the skills will allow you to be a better manager, communicate better and grow your team.

What you learn and the amount of specialization you develop is up to you.

 

Bonus:

Build your Own Tools

I created my news aggregators and parsers after learning responsive web design. Although I could have used and match several existing tools to achieve similar results. It doesn’t matter if you build them from scratch or piggyback on existing solutions, always evaluate the possibility of using existing tools to make your learning process more efficient.

Outsource tedious activities 

Sometimes I need to learn stuff that requires repetitive and tedious tasks, in that case I usually rely on virtual assistants which can take care of them so I can focus on using my time on more valuable things, or even doing nothing — enjoying my time. For example, you can a virtual assistant to do the research on which books and courses are the best and buy them for you. Or have them identify the experts on any given field.

Remember Learn Hacking  is all about of being able to acquire knowledge and develop skills in the most efficient way possible. Get creative!

 

Your Implicit Brain vs your Explicit Brain

explicit brain system

When we are under pressure and don’t want to fail, our brains make us act cautiously and deliberately.

Imagine you’re at a party, holding a glass of red wine filled to the brim. To your horror, you realize that to greet the host you have to cross an extremely expensive white carpet. So what do you do? Probably, you’ll slow down and focus on each and every step. But why?

It’s important to understand that the brain is made up of two systems:

The first is called the explicit brain system. It is rather slow, and it is activated when we try to consciously control our movements, for example, when we are performing a tap dancing routine for the first time and need to memorize the steps and control each movement of our feet.

The other system is called the implicit brain system, and it is active when we perform tasks automatically, without concentrating on what we’re doing. It allows us to control our movements quickly and fluently, and it can even process multiple tasks simultaneously.

Once someone has mastered a task, that task is taken over by the implicit brain system, meaning that they are then free to focus on other tasks.

But when people are under pressure, they often revert to the explicit brain system and begin to monitor every single movement they make.

Of course, important tasks are prone to inducing pressure, especially if failure in them would cause unpleasant consequences. This is why people sometimes behave strangely when they’re doing something very important; they are afraid of failing.

For example, as you carry that wine glass across the precious carpet, you’re afraid of spilling it and angering your host, so you revert to the explicit brain system that you normally only use when learning completely new skills, and hence walk very slowly and deliberately.

Cómo diseñar tu vacante para atraer el mejor talento

Uno de los elementos clave en Connovo es lograr encontrar a las mejores personas para que formen parte del equipo de nuestras empresas. Especialmente en el rol de Co-Fundadores.

La trampa es que la persona más brillante no siempre es la persona más adecuada para la posición.

Ademas, los gerentes también cometen errores que suceden cuando:

  • No se tiene una clara idea de que es el trabajo a realizar.
  • No hay una fuente solida de talento.
  • No se cuentan con las herramientas para elegir candidatos que parecen similares.
  • Pierden  a candidatos que realmente quieren unirse a su organización

Por eso, diseñamos nuestro propio proceso de reclutamiento que llamamos cariñosamente “The Hive” que esta compuesto de tres etapas, pero por ahora compartiremos con ustedes las herramientas de nuestro proceso para que modifiquen a criterio.

“The Hive” usa como principal herramienta para evaluar candidatos un scorecard cuyas variables se diseñan para cada puesto individualmente. El proceso es el siguiente

1. Diseño de Vacante

  1. Definir tu Cultura Organizacional: Para analizar la relación entre las personas y sus posibles equipos de trabajo en la empresa.
  2. Definir Responsabilidades y Habilidades: Para evaluar que tan adecuada es una persona para las responsabilidades de su puesto.

2. Diseño del Scorecard

  1. Diseño de tu Scorecard
  2. Evaluar a cada candidato usando un Scorecard

 

1. Diseño de la Vacante

Describe tu Cultura Organizacional

Lo primero que debes hacer al diseñar la publicación de una vacante es presentar a tu empresa. Curiosamente es lo que la mayoría de las empresas olvidan.

La descripción de tu empresa debe de estar compuesta de:

  1. Misión de la empresa: El proposito de tu empresa
  2. Cultura: un párrafo que describe los valores y como se comporta tu organización
  3. Sell: uno o dos párrafos que “enamoran” a las personas para que describe los beneficios de trabajar para ti.

Misión de la Empresa

Este es el proposito de tu empresa. Pero no vayas a escribir algo como: aumentar el valor de los accionistas aportando al beneficio de la sociedad, siendo eficientes y profesionales bla bla bla.

En cambio, tienes que ser honesto y tener un diferenciador claro del porque existes.

Cultura Organizacional

Este es un concepto que por más obvio parezca,  la mayoría de las empresas  desde startups corporaciones suelen pasar por alto. Toma muy poco esfuerzo, y los beneficios de tener una cultura definida van mucho más allá del proceso de reclutamiento.

Para definir tu cultura, reúne a los líderes clave en tu organización y pide que respondan una simple pregunta:

“Que adjetivos describen a nuestra organización”

A los pocos minutos tendrás una idea de quien es tu organización. No olvides verificar que esto no solo sea una visión de los líderes, sino que las distintas ramas y jerarquías de tu empresa validen que es verdad.

En ocasiones te darás cuenta que tienes a personas o proveedores que no estan alineados con tu cultura. Este es buen momento para evaluar si la posición es tan importante como para reemplazarlos.

Una persona que no comparte la cultura de la organización afecta el “bottom line” lo cual se traduce en dinero o recursos.

Anécdota:

En cierta ocasión trabajando con Humana, teníamos un cliente cuyo proyecto nos emocionaba. Hacíamos todo lo posible para poder ganar el contrato, pero a la mitad del proceso (que la llevaba dos meses) nos dimos que nuestras culturas organizacionales era opuestas.
 
Tuvimos que detener el proceso y nuestra participación antes de que terminaramos ganando el contrato y el proyecto se convirtiera en una pesadilla para todos.

En lugar de verlo como dejar pasar la oportunidad de crear un impacto a gran escala; evitamos el que un muy buen proyecto saliera mal y dañar la reputación nuestro cliente y nuestra.

Sell

Aquí es donde presumes todos los beneficios de trabajar para tu empresa, como la gran comunidad, buen ambiente, el super nintendo en el comedor y las cheves de los viernes.

Este párrafo es usualmente el que determina si una persona seguirá leyendo el resto de tu publicación o decide aplicar a tu vacante o no.

¡Así que échale ganas y escríbelo con amor!

Describe el Empleo

Ahora toca el turno de describir lo que esperas de la persona que vas a contratar. Ésta parte de la vacante esta compuesta por:

  1. Misión del Empleo
  2. Resultado / Objetivo
  3. Habilidades Humanas
  4. Hablidádes Tecnicas

Cuando tienes problemas para atraer el talento correcto es usualmente debido a que el trabajo no se esta comunicando de manera correcta.

Ninguna persona con gran talento se vería atraída por una publicación cómo:

buscamos desarrollador movil
- angular.js
- experiencia en rails deseable

escribir a alguien@algunlugar.com

El mejor talento disponible no esta buscando trabajo, por eso tienes que atraerlo incluso cuando está contento en su posición actual.

Misión:

Es un resumen del propósito de la posición, es la razón de que este puesto exista en tu organización. Procura que sea corto, escrito en palabras comunes, sea claro y único.

Un mal ejemplo de misión es algo como:

La misión del “executive officer for good living” es maximizar el valor de la empresa, mientras minimiza los riesgos de su departamento.

Un buen ejemplo sería:

La misión del “executive officer for good living” es garantizar que todos los miembros de la organización cuenten con los recursos necesarios para tener una carrera profesional extraordinaria y vidas plenas.

Resultados / Objetivo

Describe que es lo que se espera que la persona logre al final de un periodo de tiempo.

Ej.

Generar $100 millones en ventas para el final del 2015.

Noten que establece un número específico y una fecha concreta para cuando el objetivo debe de ser alcanzado.

Es importante establecer objetivos altos, pero razonables. Esto automaticamente filtrará a candidatos que no esten a la altura del reto.

Por otro lado, noten que no es una lista de actividades que la persona realizara (hablar por telefono, visitar clientes, etc etc.). Este concepto se centra el lo que la persona tiene que lograr, no lo que tiene que hacer para lograrlo.

Habilidades:

Esta es una lista de habilidades y competencias que esperas que la persona cumpla lo mejor posible.

Debes incluir “habilidades Humanas” y “Habilidades Técnicas” por ej.

— Habilidades Humanas:
Integridad
Eficiencia
Proactividad
Auto-organizado

— Habilidades Tecnicas:
Angular.js
Ruby on Rails
UX/UI Design
Service Design

Resumen

Tu vacante hasta ahora debe de tener una estructura más o menos así

  1. La Empresa
    1. Misión
    2. Cultura
    3. El Sell
  2. El Trabajo
    1. Misión del Empleo
    2. Resultado / Objetivo
    3. Habilidades Humanas
    4. Hablidádes Tecnicas
  3. Instrucciones para aplicar

 


 

Diseña tu Scorecard

El scorecard nos permite dar un número concreto a cada uno de los criterios que hemos definido, pero también darle un peso a cada uno.

Para ciertos puestos, el que una persona tenga una buena alineación con la cultura de la empresa, puede ser más importante que una habilidad técnica (o vice versa)

Este es un screenshot de nuestro scorecard con valores genéricos. Pueden ver que usamos columna “Weight” (seleccionada) para modificar la importancia que tienen cada punto para este puesto en específico.

Si quieren una copia de este documento para modificar, envienme un mensaje por twitter a @hjbarraza

4. Las 4 Entrevistas

Usualmente tendrás entrevistas para platicar con tus candidatos y poder llenar cada uno de las variables en el scorecard. El libro “Who: The A Method for Hiring” recomienda tener 4 tipos de entrevistas:

1. Filtrado:

Es una entrevista corta de 10 a 15 min para filtrar candidatos “B” y “C”. Dónde te responden preguntas concretas como:

  • Cual es su plan de carrera
  • En que son buenos, y en que son malos
  • Como los van a calificar sus jefes anteriores cuando les hables.

Si te agradan sus respuestas, pueden pasar a la segunda entrevista.

2. Topgrading

Es la pregunta más importante de las 4, y esta basada en el best-seller Topgrading de Brads Smarts con el mismo nombre.

Es básicamente la historia cronológica de la carrera profesional empezando por el empleo más reciente. Para cada empleo haces 5 preguntas:

  1. Para que los contrataron
  2. Cuales fueron los mejores aspectos del trabajo
  3. Cuales fueron los peores aspectos del trabajo
  4. Como van calificarlos sus jefes cuando les hablen
  5. Porque dejaron el trabajo

Esta entrevista puede llegar a ser larga, de 2  a 5 horas dependiendo del candidato. El objetivo es conocer quien es la persona y sobre todo como opera.

3. Enfocada

Esta entrevista se diseña para ser realizada por algún miembro del equipo de trabajo del candidato y se enfoca en preguntas para poder valorar dos cosas

  1. Las habilidades técnicas usando el scorecard.
  2. Su capacidad para entregar el resultado esperado.

4. Referencias

Esta última entrevista es con referencias del candidato, para corroborar la información que el candidato ha proporcionado.

¿Qué hacemos distinto en Connovo y Hive?

En Connovo, tenemos la oportunidad única de elegir como co-founders a las personas más brillantes de nuestra generación (Millenial). Sabemos que un método tradicional como entrevistas,  no siempre nos dirá todo lo que hay que saber de nuestros candidatos.

Por eso modificamos este proceso para reemplazar algunas entrevistas con algo más divertido y que brinde valor a cualquier persona que forme parte de nuestra comunidad de posibles co-founders.

Reemplazamos las entrevistas por una experiencia, donde individualmente y en colaboración, los candidatos tienen que resolver distintos retos con los cuales podemos evaluar su comportamiento y desempeño.

Es increíble la cantidad y calidad de información y lo que aprendes al interactuar con los candidatos y verlos interactuar con otras personas.

Esto no significa que todos deben de hacer este tipo de ejercicios, pero si les recomiendo que tomen este proceso y lo adapten para las necesidades específicas de su organización.

Si tienes alguna pregunta o sugerencia de como realizar este proceso de selección para startups y empresas sociales hazlas con confianza en los comentarios. Toda aportación es bienvenida.

The 4 Hour Customer Insight Hack

hacking customer insights

Design a better best selling product with only 5% of the effort.

In Business Innovation School, we get taught that in order to get great customer insights, we need to talk with tons of people, sometime spending thousands of hours and cash. While this is a great way to increase your probabilities of success, it is heavy on time and resources.

Last year while re-visiting one of Tim Ferris talks on Creative Live, I realized that you can use the same process he uses to design his wildly popular bestsellers, like “The 4-Hour Chef” and apply it to any other product.

Please note, that while this is indeed and amazing hack, it works amazingly well when you want to design a new product, but it’s harder to make it work when you want to disrupt an Industry. Why? Because we are going to be exploiting existing and underused insights that people already give for products they already consume.

Exploiting existing customer insights.

Tim uses one of his most useful principles: If you study any process well enough, you can get 95% of the result with only 5% of the effort.

He wanted to write a book about learning anything and he used cooking just as a metaphor. Since cooking was at the center of the book’s theme, he needed to create one of the best cooking book out there. While the process was used to create a series of bestselling books, you can hack it to virtually any product.

Hacking Customer Insights

Instead of spending thousands of dollars and hours talking to customers, he did something wickedly smart. He hired a few virtual assistants and asked them to do the following:

  1. Visit every best selling cooking book on Amazon and go to the reviews section
  2. Filter the reviews and take note of the top 10 most useful reviews (both good and bad). But remember, they need to be amongst the most useful.
  3. Ignore the bad reviews that haven’t been mark as useful, Tim’s team found out that those people simply hate everything and leave nothing but bad reviews.
  4. Take note of what are the most common requests and suggestions. Such as what content did the customers felt was missing, what annoyed them and most importantly they loved.
  5. Once you start figuring out a pattern of things that work, and things that are missing, your are set to design a superior product.

Is it really that easy?

There are a lot of questions and critics that may arise from this pr0cess. Specially about the information’s depth and resolution, or how about all the insights and stories that we are missing. I agree, this is not the most solid customer insight gathering method. Specially if you want to design a service or a non commercial project. In which case I would advise not to use it.

Yet, when it comes to design a better commercial product, this process is the leanest and most effective insight discovery process. Why? Precisely because you are not exploring an entire universe of insights, you are getting a laser-focus on what matters while creating a commercial product: only the best-sellers.

¿ Why would you need insights on how to improve the worst selling products, when you can focus on improving what generates the most revenue, and with only 5% of the effort?

I was a bit skeptical, at first. So I had to make sure it really works as good as Tim claims. After reviewing Tim’s selling numbers, and start using the process myself, I’m now an evangelist.

A final note:

In this case, we used Amazon because it has an Amazing product review system. But if your market/product is elsewhere there is no reason why you can’t use it there. Simply go where your market share reviews about the products and follow the same process:

  1. Find the most useful reviews
  2. Look for patterns
  3. Design a better solution

You can hear a bit of the process by Tim Ferris himself in this conversation extracted from Creative Live.

3 Book Summaries for Social Entrepreneurs

I’ve shared 3 book summaries on ImpactoSocial.co/libros. In contrast of the usual summaries shared at thebooksummaires.com, focused on business innovation, this are meant to be for aspiring Social Entrepreneurs, or anyone who wants to learn more about the topic:

– Social Entrepreneurship: What everyone needs to know:
Social entrepreneurs do what they love and love what they do – changing the world for the better.

– Creating a World Without Poverty (summary)
Social Business and the Future of Capitalism Social business has no profit motive at all. Its goal is simply this: to change the world.

– Banker to the Poor (Summary)
Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty How Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus pioneered microcredit to make a revolutionary difference in the lives of the poor.

Enjoy

Puebla: What I’ve been up to (Sep 5)

Museo del Amparo - Terraza

I’m on my way to México City and then Puebla. I want to visit a couple of designer friends. Carmina from TocToc, Esteban and Sylwia from Cazuela. Besides being designers, they all teach at local universities, so that should be fun.

Hopefully, I’ll manage to get into Puebla DataUp (because I didn’t secure my ticket on time).

On my way back, I’ll try to Rendeveouz with Miguel Melgarejo, also from TocToc and Fuera de Contexto. More importantly, he is Cirklo’s most recent acquisition. If I liked Cirklo’s work, I’m sure it will be more interesting from now on.

Conversations

I went to holla Luis Alvarez, from El Narval. They work on civic innovation at street level. And I really mean street level. They help neighbours organize and empower themselves to make a city a better place, one block a time.

El Narval has matured their process, but more importantly, their civic innovation and particpation tools. Hopefully, by next year they will have a complete toolkit to help anyone learn how to organize and improve their community.

If you are interested in Neighbour Lead Civic Innovation, add yourself to the Civic Hacking FB Group and sign up to the newsletter, and check out the civic innovation (spanish) at impacto social.

Publishing

This is what I’ve wrote this week, so far:

Ulysses

I started using Ulysses for my writing. And you won’t believe the increase in my productivity.
It uses markdown syntax, which simplifies the entire structuring process, and then you can export to html, pdf, txt or even epub. You can decide how simple you want your experience.

Get a copy at www.ulyssesapp.com

Ulyssess App Ulysses App

Podcasts

Last month, I’ve retaking the habit of listening to podcasts. This three have caught my attention.

Disruptivo: Covering disruptive businesses in México and Latinamerica

Alberto Gomez Tello: Conversations with the creative class. This week’s conversation was with Andres Oliveros from Astrolab

Fuera de Contexto Design conversations with Miguel Melgarejo and Jose de la O.

Books

How to Study Public Life: How do we accommodate a growing urban population in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and inviting Luis Alvarez, recommended this book, I’ve already in my iPad but to be honest haven’t started reading it

Profiling Machines Summary

Find out what private data marketers collect about you, and how, and why, and what you can do about it (not much).

Get a Copy from Amazon

Consumers are increasingly asked their opinion on every imaginable question. Consumer feedback technologies are everywhere. Yet few analyze the impact of consumer feedback on the culture. Sweepstakes, entry forms, online enrollment forms, discount cards with bar codes, consumer surveys, rebate forms, contest entries, online memberships , all these and more demonstrate the creative, continual push toward finding out exactly what consumers think. Still, scant literature exists on the impact of consumer feedback technologies.

The term “surveillance” hardly seems adequate to describe the interactive technologies that systematically ask consumers to reveal their opinions and their personal information. Profiles Collecting consumer profiles requires getting people to divulge personal information. These profiles depict consumer likes, dislikes and tendencies. In many cases, gathering this information is automated within the general consumer activities of purchasing goods, commissioning services or consuming media. Profiling provokes several serious social concerns.

Consumer information can be stolen and used in identify theft. People may be offered products tailored to their tastes based on their profiles, making it more difficult to decline disadvantageous offers. The rewards offered to spur sales (free magazine subscriptions, free T-shirts for signing up and such), may give way to punishments later. These might include automatic bank account withdrawals or credit card charges below the consumer’s radar screen, like automatic subscription renewals. This affects consumers via junk e-mail, phone solicitations and even compromised credit ratings. Profiling focuses on collecting, processing, storing, analyzing, networking and eventually distributing demographic, psychological and behavioral information.

This systematic cataloguing of information covers the desires and habits of individuals and groups. For example, American political pollsters who wanted to target suburban swing voters invented the term “soccer mom.” Such profiling leaks from politics into minivan commercials, and then influences television news coverage and sooner or later affects the culture at large. Aware consumers wonder how niche markets are identified and targeted.
Why do producers fail to capture some audiences or markets? How far can profiles be pushed to predict consumer behavior or forecast general social trends that shape buyer decisions? And what privacy rights do you have as society’s quest for surveillance data grows more pervasive? Panoptic Surveillance Panoptic means “all-seeing”.
Today, consumer actions are tracked with meticulous precision, thanks to barcodes, credit and debit cards, and computer databases. Someone somewhere knows what you buy and when, what you pay for it and even when you return it. Your transactions are noted, stored, analyzed and processed, and the data is sold and distributed.

Panoptic surveillance, a sort of continuous, all- pervasive observation, dates back to seventeenth century architectural plans for an all- seeing prison, devised by Jeremy Bentham. Dubbing the jail a “panopticon,” he envisioned prisoners living around a central watchtower that continually observed them.

In 1977, Michel Foucault wrote an influential analysis of the panoptic prison in a review that made a tremendous theoretical impact. Today’s interpretations of the panoptic model focus on three aspects. Architectural and theoretical elements of surveillance , This theory tends to transfer ideas originally applied to prison surveillance to general consumer observation and data gathering. The general goal with prisoners was to gain control over a group’s behavior through careful observation.

Read the entire Profiling Machines Summary at TheBookSummaries.com

What I’ve been up to (Aug 31)

IMG_2950

.After Paris, I moved to Spain for a few months (bilbao and barcelona). For the last three months I’ve in-between cities in México. Mostly Mexico City, and Monterrey with a brief detour to Leon and guanajuato. Puebla, coming up next.

I’ve lost my third iPhone this year so screw it. I printed one and that will be my phone for the rest of the year. I never use simcards anyway.

Work

For the most part of the year we have been working on Connovo Social Business Builder / Developer. We have planned the launch of one company by Q4 2014. Naya Jeevan, Microinsurance for urban poor.

We have also launched ImpactoSocial.co a site with news and resources for social entrepreneurs in Latinamerica. New resources will be added weekly. If you are interested, remember to like the fb page to get updates.

We started using Slack for team communication. A great recommendation of Mike Ramirez, CEO of Talentia/

Writing

Speaking of which, here is a nice list of top books for social entrepreneurs.

I was speaking with Lea Vasa from La Ruche, she is working with the the 10em Arrondissement in Paris. She wanted to learn how was our experience so far with replicating social businesses. So I wrote this post for her and La Ruche Folk: Four Lessons on Replicating Social Business.

Conversations

I spoke with Alberto Saenz from funkalab about the differences between social business, social innovation and non profit models. Also my personal proces to learn anything. You listen to the podcast here. (spanish)

Learning

Responsive Web Design:

For a few weeks now, I’ve been learning Responsive Web design, from all the books and courses I’ve taken the most useful have been designcode.io a book and community by my new buddy Meng To. It’s oriented towards design and development of mobile apps but it has a lot to teach for Digital UI/UX. Treehouse courses have been quite useful too.

Books

I’ve started reading a) Rayuela, in it’s normal order and b) Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Proust.

Games

Watchdogs

I finished it, they made a great work integrating interaction patterns from several games. Don’t expect much of the story. thou.

GTA V

After postponing it, I’ve started GTA V. You can immediately notice the amount of love and dedication invested in this game. The level of detail in the design of every inch of the world is amazing.  A good story as well. What I can’t handle is all the extrapolation of “trash culture” which is pervasive in all the game.

I can’t play it for more than 30-45 min at a time before I get tired of all the swag/gansta’ ambiance. You can also notice a really smart move, by dividing what used to the evolution of a single character into three different personas.

crm -2147220970 errorcode SOLVED

crm -2147220970

La semana pasada tuve que ayudar a unos amigos a resolver el error CRM -2147220970. Después de batallar durante horas, encontramos la solución:

Buscamos muchas soluciones, y la que nos funcionó al final del día fue decirle a ILMerge dónde encontrar mscorelib:

.\Tools\ilmerge.exe /t:library /internalize /targetplatform:"v4,$env:windir\Microsoft.NET\Framework$bitness\v4.0.30319" /wildcards /out:$baseDir\RequestReduce\Nuget\Lib\net40\RequestReduce.dll "$baseDir\RequestReduce\bin\v4.0\$configuration\RequestReduce.dll" "$baseDir\RequestReduce\bin\v4.0\$configuration\AjaxMin.dll" "$baseDir\RequestReduce\bin\v4.0\$configuration\StructureMap.dll" "$baseDir\RequestReduce\bin\v4.0\$configuration\nquant.core.dll"

Mat Wrock tiene una explicación MUY exhaustiva que si realmente tienes tiempo de leerla por completo te la recomendamos, y el equipo de MSBuild habla más de esta carpeta aquí here.

 


Muchas otras personas les funcionó una descarga que parcha el servidor que no fue configurado para usa licencias VS — VS Licenses. Puedes descargar los paquetes correctos aquí . Muchas otras personas mencionaron que su problema en realidad se resolvió

  Yes, this technically can go wrong when you execute code on .NET 4.0 instead of .NET 4.5. The attribute was moved from System.Core.dll to mscorlib.dll in .NET 4.5. While that sounds like a rather nasty breaking change in a framework version that is supposed to be 100% compatible, a [TypeForwardedTo] attribute is supposed to make this difference unobservable.

As Murphy would have it, every well intended change like this has at least one failure mode that nobody thought of. This appears to go wrong when ILMerge was used to merge several assemblies into one and that tool was used incorrectly. A good feedback article that describes this breakage is here. It links to a blog post that describes the mistake. It is rather a long article, but if I interpret it correctly then the wrong ILMerge command line option causes this problem:

  /targetplatform:"v4,c:\windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30319"

Which is incorrect. When you install 4.5 on the machine that builds the program then the assemblies in that directory are updated from 4.0 to 4.5 and are no longer suitable to target 4.0. Those assemblies really shouldn’t be there anymore but were kept for compat reasons. Unfortunately the C++/CLI #using directive still depends on those assemblies, hard to fix. The proper reference assemblies are the 4.0 reference assemblies, stored elsewhere:

  /targetplatform:"v4,C:\Program Files\Reference Assemblies\Microsoft\Framework\.NETFramework\v4.0"

So possible workarounds are to fall back to 4.0 on the build machine, install .NET 4.5 on the target machine and the ultimate fix, to rebuild the project from the provided source code, fixing the ILMerge command.


Do note that this failure mode isn’t exclusive to ILMerge, it is just a very common case. Any other scenario where these 4.5 assemblies are used as reference assemblies in a project that targets 4.0 is liable to fail the same way. Judging from other questions, another common failure mode is in build servers that were setup without using a valid VS license. And overlooking that the multi-targeting packs are a free download.

Using the reference assemblies in the c:\program files subdirectory is a rock hard requirement. Starting at .NET 4.0, already important to avoid accidentally taking a dependency on a class or method that was added in the 4.01, 4.02 and 4.03 releases. But absolutely essential now that 4.5 is released.

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