Podcast

Episode: 52 |
Josh Boltuch:
On-Demand Ops:
Episode
52

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Josh Boltuch

On-Demand Ops

Show Notes

Our guest today is Josh Boltuch, the CEO of Fancy Hands and its subsidiary, On Demand Ops, and in this episode we talk about both firms.

Fancy Hands is a network of thousands of U.S. based virtual assistants.

You sign up for a set number of requests per month and pay a fixed monthly fee.

Each request can be pretty much anything that can be done on the Internet or by phone – whether that is calling your utility company to complain about a charge on your bill, or researching the best BBQ joint to visit on your trip to Memphis.

You don’t get a dedicated virtual assistant: each incoming request gets farmed out to the next available person who is a good fit for that assignment.

On Demand Ops was launched by Fancy Hands in 2017 and is geared more towards the enterprise customer. A key service of On Demand Ops is large scale lead generation, for example. They’ll work with a client to develop and refine a script and a protocol, and then they will make thousands of phone calls that have the goal of setting up calls with qualified customers interested in hearing about the client’s project. They have sophisticated quality control and analytics that Josh describes in our discussion.

As an independent professional you might not need this service for your own practice, but you may well have clients that are looking for a solution like this.

For those who are interested in trying out Fancy Hands, Josh kindly offered a discount code to listeners of Unleashed. Use the code Unleashed when you sign up and you’ll get 50% off your first month’s subscription.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Josh, welcome. It’s great to have you on the show.
Josh Boltuch: Great to be here. Thanks, Will.
Will Bachman: Josh, there are so many people that are interested in this kind of service that you offer, and maybe haven’t figured it out, and think how do I get some things off my plate so I can be more productive. I’m really excited to hear, both, about Fancy Hands and about your newer offering On Demand Ops. Let’s start with the firm that was founded first. Talk to me about Fancy Hands and what you do.
Josh Boltuch: Yeah, absolutely. Happy to. One is certainly a natural evolution from the other so I think we’ll be able to go back and forth a little bit. Fancy Hands is almost a decade old at this point and has grown into one of, if not, the largest U.S. based virtual assistant services. Our customers pay anywhere from $30 to $200 a month, they get anywhere from five requests to 50 requests, a request is up to 20 minutes worth of work, and they can really send in whatever their heart desires. We’ll do our best to complete it for them.
That ranges from the call up my cable company or my phone company and deal with a bill to the more traditional type administrative work like can you plan a travel itinerary, do this data entry of pulling this stuff out of a PDF and putting it into a spreadsheet, to finding quotes. Really, it’s kind of everything in between. We have people use us for finding their favorite ice cream flavor that’s no longer sold at their favorite grocery store. It really can range. The key is that what we do is we take the things off of people’s To Do List that have been sitting there for a while because they really don’t wanna do it.
Will Bachman: Do you get a dedicated virtual assistant who works with you over time or is each time it’s farmed out to someone else?
Josh Boltuch: Each time it’s someone different. There’s some caveats to that where if you have a task that was done really well and you rate that five stars, we will try to put the next task that you submit in front of that person or persons and give them a chance to grab it first. The reason why it’s a different person every time is so your task can get done faster and so you can pay what we think are very affordable rates, which is $30 to $200 a month.
Will Bachman: Okay. Let’s see. I’m trying to work out the math there. At $200 a month you could get … Does that work out to 50 requests?
Josh Boltuch: That’s correct.
Will Bachman: Wow. That’s like $4 a request and they’re 20 minutes each, so you get quite affordable … It works out to $12 an hour if you’re really maxing out all your request time.
Josh Boltuch: Yeah. Just under that. That’s right and you can use multiple requests at one time for a larger task that you have or project that you have. We certainly do that, so if something’s gonna take an hour, that would be three requests or two hours six requests. Yeah. That’s actually probably a good segue into how we came to On Demand Ops. What we saw is that there was a very, we’ll call it, power user group of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even folks who work at larger organizations who had started to figure out how to use their Fancy Hands assistants as a real extension of themselves at work.
We started digging into that and saying, “Okay, well, what are they asking us to do most often? What are we really good at? What do we think could be an exciting enterprise business, the B2B version of Fancy Hands?” That’s how we launched On Demand Ops. The three solutions that we currently have, which are lead generation, recruiting, and what we call supply management. Essentially, we’re doing Fancy Hands at an enterprise scale where in the case of the lead generation solution you have your own on demand BDR team that can make hundreds if not thousands of qualification calls per week.
In the case of recruiting, we can screen hundreds if not thousands of resumes, do as many phone call prescreenings. We work with a lot of transportation, logistics, manufacturing companies to set up hundreds of interviews a month for those entry level positions. Then on the supply management side, it’s really the flip side of the coin of lead gen. Calling up partners, vendors, getting their capacity, seeing if they’re gonna submit a proposal to an RFP, getting them to opt in to a loyalty or marketing program. Things like that. That’s been really exciting for us. To really be able to focus in on a few key business processes, and get really good at them, and do them at a larger scale.
Will Bachman: For the lead gen, you’re talking a large volume of calls, hundreds of calls or thousand of calls. What would some examples of types of firms be that would be using you for that?
Josh Boltuch: Sure. A couple buckets I can talk about. I think the first one that we found probably the most success, or maybe tied with the second bucket, is enterprise SaaS. I know that’s a large vertical, but within that Information Security, customer service enterprise SaaS, those types of products and services that have fairly large markets, meaning thousands if not tens of thousands of customers that are used to this sales process, sales qualification cycle, right?
They’re used to being cold emailed or cold called, given information, and then passed on to an account executive to have an introductory type call. We found that very successful. That’s where the bulk of our clients lie. Another one is commercial real estate. We’re working with different commercial real estate firms to do that same lead qualification.
Will Bachman: Commercial real estate firms that would be trying to find companies that are looking to get some more office space?
Josh Boltuch: Exactly. We tend to do more on the owner side, so essentially working on behalf of our clients, the brokerages, that help them find more listings, right? To call up property owners and say, “Are you interested in selling your property? Would you like to take a look at our market report to see if now is a good time to sell?” Trying to get them in contact with the brokers. That’s the idea.
Will Bachman: I see. It sounds like there’s probably two parts to the lead gen whole process. Would be coming up with the list and, number two is, the execution. The phone calls and the emails. How do you come up with a list? Is that something that your clients do? Or do you also work on developing those call lists?
Josh Boltuch: That’s a great question, Will, and the answer is both. We have clients all over that spectrum. Some of them really come to us and want us to do the heavy lifting. We will. I think what’s key in that scenario is just that the client has a really good understanding of their ideal customer profile, their ICP right? They have a good product market fit and they’re able to give us really clear guidelines on how to build that list, because as anyone who’s done this before knows, you can only be as good as your data. That’s really important.
On the flip side, we’re happy when our clients have a list because usually that means that they do have that good product market fit and they do have that good understanding of who their customer is. That’s one part of it. As you said, the other part is building out, what we call, the work template, which is the phone scripts, the email messaging, our, what we call, action times, which are how do we respond to common objections that we’re gonna hear on the phone or in email responses? How do we make the handoff seamless? All those sorts of things.
That really is a living, breathing organism for us and I think that’s also where we bring some value that’s different from the traditional call center. Or from a lot of these new companies that are coming up that are just doing email automation. We really build a custom funnel for each use case that can involve emails, phone calls, leaving voicemails, not leaving voicemails, in some cases we do text messages.
The idea is that we’re iterating constantly and we’re optimizing constantly. We can try to figure out what time of day or day of the week is better. We can look at different lists, and different prospect profiles, and come back with analytics to help our clients go after more qualified prospects. That is, I think, another area where we add a lot of value and clients enjoy being able to get granular with those analytics.
Will Bachman: What time of day is best?
Josh Boltuch: Well, it all depends. We have an ag tech client where we need to call between 5:00 and 7:00 in the morning local time, because if we call any later than that they’re out in the fields and they’re not easy to reach. We have other clients where don’t call on Mondays, that’s for sure. You wanna call later in the week.
Will Bachman: Why would that be?
Josh Boltuch: In that case with that client, I think people are just more receptive. Calling them earlier in the week is when they’re having their partner meetings and things like that. Getting them later in the week is when they maybe have a little more head space to respond or to even look at what you’re trying to send them or say to them.
Will Bachman: What have you found is some of the tips and tricks about developing the great work template and call script?
Josh Boltuch: Sure. It’s another good question. I think there’s a couple elements to it. One, and this is probably obvious but, the shorter and more succinct, the better. You really gotta get to the tip of the spear of your value proposition. Not just your value proposition, but what the pain point of your prospect is. Its first making sure that you really can describe succinctly exactly what the pain point of the prospect is so they feel like you understand them and it’s worth them listening to the call because you’re actually speaking their language.
Second, you articulate why your product or service responds to that, fixes that, brings value to that pain point. I’d say that’s definitely number one. Then trying to be a little conversational. Sometimes we get very formal sounding scripts and we have to remind people that a big part of this is just sounding friendly, and personable, and having someone want to keep the conversation going because you’re enjoyable to talk to. Making sure that runs through the script and then that’s part of it.
Will Bachman: How do you distribute this out to your distributed workforce of virtual assistants across the U.S. to train them on it?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah, so we had to make some fairly big adjustments, Will, going from Fancy Hands to On Demand Ops. Fancy Hands, most of the time you have one of our distributed workers working on it, but as we moved towards the enterprise we knew that we were gonna have to offer a different level of service. We actually hired dozens of, what we now call, project coordinators. They’re kind of like a managerial layer.
These project coordinators are employees, they’re trained, and they’re the quarterbacks when it comes to the execution of our client accounts. They are both making the phone calls and responding to emails, but they’re also overseeing the pod of workers that are making the calls. Typically, I would say it’s about a half a dozen to a couple dozen who are our best of our best who are making the calls. That project coordinator is monitoring the results and making sure that we’re hitting our key performance metrics.
They’re keeping the feedback loop really tight so if there are snags in the phone script, that those gets surfaced and fixed within 14 hours, instead of just showing up as a fail in the data a month later. Like I said, that work templates are being iterated on and that they’ve living, breathing documents. That does require skill and some training, so that’s what we’ve done.
Will Bachman: Okay. That’s great. They are distributed and then how would you … Let’s say you get a new client with a new script, a new enterprise SaaS info security thing, how would you train people on that? Do they have to do a couple dry runs with the project coordinator, or do they do one that’s monitored, or your quality control? How’s that?
Josh Boltuch: You’re right on track. Yeah, that’s pretty much how it works. They first have to take some quizzes to make sure that they’ve essentially digested the key information that we put together, so we put together overviews of the client, of the key value propositions, what they need to know in terms of the competitive landscape or other services that the prospects might use. All that sorts of stuff. They take quizzes on that.
Then they do a dry run phone call with one of our project coordinators. Then they’re allowed to start making phone calls. Quite frankly, and it’s probably not surprising, if they’re good then they get more access to more phone calls. If they’re not performing well, then they don’t. I’m sure you’ll ask about this sooner rather than later, our pricing model depends on it. A big element of our pricing is pay-for-performance. We get paid when we book a meeting with a qualified lead. It’s in our best interest to make sure that these folks are doing a really good job.
Will Bachman: That’s helpful. How typically does that work? They’ll give you a call list or you’ll create it and then you only get paid for the actual meetings that you set up?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah. Typically, we get a bonus when those qualified leads convert into customers for our clients. We do that to really make sure that our incentives are aligned and that it’s more about the quality of the lead than the quantity of the lead. Oftentimes, we’ll wait on the back end, on the bonus, and have that be much higher than the price per meeting, per lead. That way our incentive are really aligned.
The way the pricing works is there’s a monthly retainer and fee for generating the prospects when we have to do that. When we don’t, the fee is smaller; and for kind of making all those continuous updates to the work templates. That typically runs, I’d say, anywhere from $500 to $1,500. Then the price per lead, per meeting, can range from $100 to, I’d say, $400 depending on how difficult it is. Then those bonuses can run from the high hundreds into the thousands, again, depending on how difficult it is. That’s the model.
Will Bachman: How do you determine how difficult it is? Is it based on experience or do you do the first 100 of them or something to get a sense of how difficult it’s gonna be?
Josh Boltuch: A little bit of both. If we have pretty good domain experience, then we can benchmark it pretty well and usually that’s pretty accurate. If it’s an area that we’re not as familiar with or we’re not as sure about the unit economics is we’ll do a three month pilot period where we’ll pick an amount, probably somewhere in the middle, and say, “This is the price per lead.” Then at the end of that three months we’ll take a look and say, “Hey, does that still make sense for both parties,” and make any adjustments that we need to.
Will Bachman: What if your client just has names, but they don’t have the phone numbers for people. Do you have data sources where you can get phone numbers?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah. We’ve certainly run into that situation a number of times where they may not even have the names, but they have at least the accounts they wanna go after. Then it’s our job to work our way in there. Sometimes we can find that data, sometimes it takes a little grunt work where we’ve gotta actually call into the business and figure it out, but we’re able to do both.
Will Bachman: This is a service that probably a lot of independent professionals should be aware of. I don’t know many people that would necessarily be using it for their own consulting practice, but I can imagine a lot of people might encounter client situations where they, on the sale side … I’ve asked clients ask me about, “Hey, do you know a service like this where you can have someone make a lot of outbound calls?”
It sounds like, I think, you might also be able to, beyond just lead gen, do more information gathering calls, like if you need to call 1,000, I don’t know, hospitals or 1,000 stock brokers or something to get some piece of information. Can you do that as well? It’s like different than just lead gen, but similar?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah, absolutely. I think a good way to think about it, what is this good for, what is ODO good for? Is it, one, requires one if not multiple phone calls throughout the process, whatever that is, whether that’s lead gen, or recruiting, or, like you said, market surveying, or information gathering.
If it requires a phone call at some point, or at least multiple points to that process, then ODO is probably a good fit. Second, does it require a U.S. based person to make that phone call? Then we’re getting warmer. That means it’s probably a much better fit. Then, third, does it require scale? Does it require not just a dozen phone calls, but hundreds if not thousands of phone calls, even on a weekly basis? Then I’d say we’re red hot.
To get back to your question about what else can you use it for, yeah, we absolutely have clients, we have consultant firms, who use us on behalf of their clients to do some of the work that they need to get done. It’s funny you mention hospitals, we’ve called hospitals, we’ve called municipalities, we’ve done a blend of online research and the having to call up and get a few more pieces of information that we couldn’t find online. That’s something that we absolutely do because it checks those three boxes, so to speak.
Will Bachman: What do you find is the best way to actually get people to take a phone call? Do you typically recommend to your clients, “Hey, we should email them first twice so they’ve heard it and then we can say, ‘Hey, we emailed you, we’re gonna follow up on that.’ on the phone.”? Or what’s the best routine for getting someone to take the call?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah. I wish I could give you one answer, but it really does depend. We’ve found situations where that’s totally true. It really helps to send an email first and even send a feeler email that’s not the hard sell, but just, “Hey, I’m looking for the right person in your organization that owns your pipeline and your sales development team or whatever it may be.” Then follow up with a call saying, “Hey, I’m following up just looking for the right person.”
Other times we’ve found that emails are completely useless and they don’t help at all. It’s much better to just call multiple times in a row. It really does depend and that’s part of, I think, why we’re helpful and valuable is because we have the ability to be disciplined, and figure that out, and do that for our clients at a scale that they feel like, okay, we’ve done this with enough data, that there’s a real pattern here, then we can pour the gasoline on it and do it at a larger scale, and an accelerated pace.
Will Bachman: Yeah. I suppose if you call too many times, people can really get upset. How do you think about leaving voicemails and getting so they don’t just block your caller ID and so forth?
Josh Boltuch: Sure. We are definitely sensitive to that. I’d say more often than not, we don’t leave voicemails. Maybe we leave one throughout the process, but typically not more than one. We just try to get a yes or no; as I’m sure many of your listeners know, maybe is the worst answer, right? We just try to make sure that we’re quickly figuring out whether they’re a good fit or not. Yeah. We need to protect our own brand as well as our client’s brand. It’s not in our interest to hound a person. If they don’t respond after a couple tries, then we leave them be, because there’s probably a reason why they’re not responding.
Will Bachman: Now, is it transparent? When you call up is this, “I’m Joe from On Demand Ops calling on behalf of client X, Y, Z?” Or do you just say, “I’m Joe from X, Y, Z” from your client?
Josh Boltuch: We’ve done it both ways. Some clients want us to be a little more opaque and say, “I’m Joe, I’m calling on behalf of Company.” It’s not like they’re mentioning ODO within the call. Then we have some clients who actually prefer us to say, “Hey, I’m Josh from On Demand Ops. Our client is doing X, Y, or Z, dah, dah, dah.” Sometimes it adds a little bit of gravitas that you’re having this other company call on your behalf. Kind of counterintuitively we’ve found that it actually can help a little bit to state that this is this third-party service they’re using.
Will Bachman: Okay. You mentioned the pricing model. Is there some minimum volume that you need to be at to use a service like this?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah. I would say minimum, there needs to be in the thousands of prospects that we’re going after. I say that, I guess, with a slight caveat that there are a few cases where maybe that would be less, but for the most part you have to have a decent market size that you would typically maybe have one or two BDRs or more. A whole BDR team going after and qualifying. Or said another way, I think you have to have a budget, or a product or service, that supports a budget of paying, let’s say with the performance fees, somewhere around $2,000 a month minimum. Maybe that’s a good way to think about it.
Will Bachman: Okay. Just before we wrap, I’d like to return a little bit to Fancy Hands as well.
Josh Boltuch: Sure.
Will Bachman: You have an interesting model where the task each time would go to the next person available, right, who fits the qualifications. Some people probably like to find one virtual assistant that they’ll build a relationship with and get to know them.
Josh Boltuch: Sure.
Will Bachman: If you think about different tasks, what are some tasks you think that are really appropriate for a Fancy Hands model where you don’t need that dedicated person who gets to know you but can be done by the next available representative?
Josh Boltuch: Sure. I’d say the tasks that are more and more objective and they’re conversely less and less subjective. Meaning, a data entry type task, right? Or a very straight forward, I need you to go to these 100 website and pull this information type task. Those tasks are really good for us, right? There’s a very clear outcome, you don’t necessarily have to have any sort of personal knowledge of the client to do a good job at it, or anything like that. We can do them well, and fast, and pretty affordably.
Will Bachman: What are some of the challenges that you face, the CEO? I’m kind of curious where you’re investing now and what are the biggest opportunities that you see and some of the biggest challenges that you’ve had?
Josh Boltuch: Sure. A constant challenge for us is quality assurance. That’s something that we’re always working on because there’s really no ceiling here. You can always get better with your quality. Admittedly, on the Fancy Hands side, that’s more difficult because there’s just such a broad array of tasks that people can ask us to do. We have a peer review system that does a pretty good job of providing that quality assurance, but it’s constantly tweaking there.
Now, on the On Demand Ops side, quality is obviously of the utmost importance, but because we’re just doing one thing, let’s take lead gen for example, it’s a little easier when it comes to quality assurance because you can really focus in on one side of the task. The flip side of that though is that we’re having to recruit differently because the type of person who’s a really good sales person on the phone isn’t necessarily the virtual assistant who said, “Oh, I would love to be a virtual assistant for Fancy Hands.” That’s been something that we’ve been investing in and focusing on.
Then, I think the other place that we’re really investing in is our own proprietary technology that we’re building up. We have a CRM system that we built that sits on top of our work management platform, if you can visualize that. That sends the tasks into the work management platform to get done and then they go back into the CRM system so we know where they are in the cycle, if they need a phone call, email, etc. If we got a positive response, how that works.
We’re excited about that because at some point we’re gonna start handing the keys over more and more to our clients. They’re gonna have a pretty cool interactive experience that’s dynamic as they can see their leads being qualified, what’s going on, make adjustments, dah, dah, dah. Right now, that’s really all behind the scenes on our end, but eventually that will be, I think, a really cool dashboard and product for clients to have.
Will Bachman: Yeah, that’d be nice to be able to see. As they see the spreadsheet of all the different ones and where they’re at. I’m curious, where are the folks located and what kind of folks are you hiring?
Josh Boltuch: Yeah, they’re all over the place.
Will Bachman: Are there concentrations-
Josh Boltuch: They really are spread through-
Will Bachman: … Or parts of the country?
Josh Boltuch: No, it’s not like we have one big call center in Utah or Florida are anything like that. They’re based all throughout the 50 states and there isn’t one profile, I’d say, but I would say what is surprising to a lot of people is that a little over half have college educations. They’re, I think, a little bit more skilled than people maybe would think and that is a benefit. That’s a good surprise. They typically are less often in urban centers and I think that’s one of the cool, exciting parts of our mission and what we get excited about going to work every day.
That we’re really using this new technology that really is connecting the world and we’re using it to connect typically American businesses, although we have a few international; but typically American businesses to this untapped brain power in American workers. When you talk about the macro trends of some of these manufacturing jobs going away. Well, we think we’re on the forefront of providing new jobs that will give workers who don’t necessarily live in big cities the opportunity to earn a good living and use their brains.
Will Bachman: Yeah. It sounds like often slightly more rural populations or smaller towns. What’s the typical wages that you pay?
Josh Boltuch: The phone calls for the distributed workforce are typically around $10.50 an hour. That’s the typical rate.
Will Bachman: Got it. Josh, one question I always like to ask guests is what are the one, or two, or three books that you have gifted most often?
Josh Boltuch: That’s a good question. Well, I like to gift fiction, so it’s different every time. Let’s see. What did I gift over the holidays? Actually, it’s funny, I didn’t give a gift of fiction over the holidays. It was non-fiction. It was the new Ray Dalio book I gave to my father-in-law. I haven’t read it, but I gifted that to someone. “Principles: Life and Work.”
Will Bachman: It’s great, actually. I’ve been listening to the audio book version. For anybody who has a choice, the audio book version actually has Ray doing most of the book. He has this great Long Island accent, so I strongly recommend the audio book version just for that.
Josh Boltuch: Yeah. Then I like to read business books as well. Something that I’ve certainly got gifted and gifted before, even though parts of it go against the, I think, cold calling and I would disagree with is “Predictable Revenue”. That’s a pretty famous book. Yeah. There’s another one for you that maybe your audience has heard of.
Will Bachman: Fantastic. Well, Josh, this was fascinating to hear a little bit about how your business works and what you do. I can imagine there are a lot of listeners who have a client who could use a service like this.
Josh Boltuch: Yeah, well I hope so. Of course, feel free to get in touch.
Will Bachman: All right. Thanks. What is the best way for folks to get in touch with your firm?
Josh Boltuch: Well, they can always go on the website: ondemandops.com. Or they can email me, Josh@ondemandops.com and I’ll get them to the right place.
Will Bachman: Fantastic. Thank you very much.

Related Episodes

jay-altizer-bain-alum-dallas-tx

Episode
440

Food Industry 101

Jay Altizer

Episode
439

Craig Beal on the Travel Business

Craig Beal

Episode
438

Rob Ristagno on Customer Segmentation

Rob Ristagno

Episode
437

Equity Research

Neeraj Monga