#19 Leveraging Virtual Assistants’s with Robert Nickell
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Itunes – www.TonyJavier.com/itunes
Guest Bio: Robert Nickell had long perfected a series of systems and processes that helped launch him to the forefront of the industry. He recognized that countless investors and entrepreneurs could benefit from his workflows and proven systems — and that started with having a world-class, highly trained team in place.
Robert continues to propel Rocket Station forward with his innovative thinking, extensive experience, and entrepreneurial spirit.
More about him – https://tonyjavier.com/robertnickell
Welcome to today’s episode. We have Mr. Robert Nickell with us today. He is a virtual assistant expert. He manages over 600 virtual assistants, and he’s got a real true business, which we’re going to dive into here in a little bit. I’m excited to talk to Robert because he’s built a tremendous business that runs on its own, uh, and helps so many other real estate investors in companies with, uh, their virtual assistant. So welcome Robert, how’s it going there? Nice view of Dallas there in the background looks like.
Tony Thanks for having me, man. You’ve had so many rock stars in a row I’m seriously humbled and honored to be here. I appreciate you having me. We’re big fans of the show. You’ve had so many amazing guests lined up, just thankful that you’re able to get me on and thank you for having you.
Absolutely, man. So we connected, uh, it was probably five years ago at a mastermind and, um, you were doing some good things then, and you’re scaling up tremendously right now. So tell us, you started about 2011 with, hiring virtual assistants and then you turn it into a full blown business and you’re scaling pretty heavily right now. Um, so tell us the evolution of that. So tell us why you got into hiring virtual assistants, what the benefits are. And, um, I guess any tidbits that listeners can get with hiring a team virtually? Yeah, I started, buying and selling houses in 2008, that was both as an agent, as a realtor. And then, but the point of being an agent and having my realtor’s license was to find opportunity to wholesale and rehab. That’s what I was really doing. And, and I’ve gotten the business all excited and I was just like, you saw with a lot of people now they’re making their Facebook posts and their mains about the rise and grind and 4:00 AM workouts to be able to fit it in. And that, that was me. I was working 80, 90 hours a week, pretty much right out of the gate. And I was closing three or four transactions a month. And I was about ready to go back to my corporate job, to be honest with you, because for me, Tony, uh, and I think it’s like many people, real estate was supposed to be a vehicle it’s supposed to be a tool to a better life. And I don’t mean to be cliche, but I just don’t know very many people who are trying to be real estate professionals for the sake of real estate. I think we all want to be better husbands and brothers and sons and uncles. And I think we want to the life that we want to live, right. I just got off the phone with, uh, one of our clients. That’s an amazing real estate investor here in Dallas and she’s coaching her daughter’s volleyball team right now and she’s loving every bit of it.
And she pulled me to just talk about how she was able to do that because of the team she had there. And to me, that’s, what it’s all about. So my evolution was, I was in real estate, I’ve done everything from running the Romex and installing sheet rock and tape it at that age and put it up like every single thing to then getting some team to help banging my head against the wall, really perfecting how to do it wrong there for awhile before we put enough systems and processes in place to kind of get it right. About the time I, met you in 2000, whatever, that was about five years.
We had really kind of figured out the virtual staffing, the virtual team process and real estate is such a linear business. As a transactional business. We were able to define systems and processes. Like I said, we went through a lot of pain ourselves trying to implement for our own business. And since 2013, uh, we’ve been doing virtual staffing, virtual teams, helping other people do it officially as a business. And that’s now where I spend most of my time is helping people like, you know, I just mentioned Jamie, when she calls it’s, our entire mission is enhanced lives, better business. And that is the point of rocket station today.
Amazing. So, you know, there’s a lot of people that are in this or any business really, and they get sucked into the details. You know what you said probably resonates with a lot of business owners, 60 to 80 hours a weeks, you know, wake up early work until you basically you go to bed and you know, there’s this big change in mindsets. I feel like finally that the less you work and the bigger businesses with the less you work, the more balanced you are, the more successful you are, which is amazing. So it sounds like that’s what you’re really trying to push, not push, but provide for entrepreneurs, especially real estate investors is to get them to get out of the details of the business. Right. And a lot of people think that to hire a team is super expensive. Right? So tell us a little bit about that because anytime like I run a mastermind and I talk a lot about the virtual assistants that I have and how crucial it is for them to, uh, for them to be a part of the business in they’re super affordable. So kind of talk a little bit about that and, and how that can how people can transform maybe a staff that maybe they’re overpaying, that’s not producing to a staff that may be is way more affordable, can add to their bottom line and maybe Provide better results for them.
Yeah. If you look at the real estate business, the number of things that have to get done on a daily basis is crazy just to close one deal, right? So yeah, you’ve got a market and the phone’s ringing, you have to respond and you have to follow up and you have to qualify. And how many of those people are actually worth spending time with, and you’re putting your CMA packets together, and then you have to your transaction coordination, which is the same process every single time. Right. And how many times does your title company email you for the corporate docs? So you already sent them then earlier. So it’s just like your entire day. There’s, so much going on, but when you look at it, how many of those tasks are truly revenue generating tasks or what’s truly the highest and best use of your time. And for me personally, when I looked at my day, if you were to ask me to Tony, you know, whenever I was in the middle of my real estate business and flipping houses was the core of my business. If you were to call me and give up, how was your day? I would say it was great. It’s a great day. But if you ask me what I did all day, I’m a hard time telling you because I’m just so busy and I had so much going on and I’m answering the phone and I’m just kind of doing everything. I’m just kind of doing it all. And so to stop and like, think about what I’m actually doing. Sometimes that’s painful. And I think a lot of people are in that mode where you’re just crushing it all day. You’ve got so much going on. There’s so many different things to do.
So that, that feeling that people have, I think is super common. I think most of us have been there, but I think the real key and the real power is whenever you can take a step back, you can evaluate what you’re doing for me personally, highest and best use of time was meeting with sellers. Like I just needed to be sitting at the kitchen table. I needed to be negotiating deals and then working with some of our buyers to make that happen. Right? So we were both rehabbing and doing wholesaling was, was the core function of my real estate business. And for the most part, if I wasn’t meeting with sellers, we weren’t getting contracts and, and the business wasn’t really moving. So there was so many things that had to get done. They’re all important, but I just, they weren’t the highest and best use of my time. For me Tony I wish I could just tell you that I started right away and had 80 to 90% of the business taken off my plate because it’s all done on a phone or computer and somebody, but the truth is it was a progression for me and my business. I started on the marketing and lead management side. I was driving from house to house, trying to meet with sellers and trying to do deals. And the whole time I’m in the car, the phone’s ringing. And I’m trying to talk to leads and qualify them and fill out my lead sheets. And, but I couldn’t because I’m driving. So the first thing that I did was, was hire somebody to get on the phones. And that’s what opened my eyes because Tony, they were terrible. The first hire man, it was whenever oDesk and Elance were two separate companies and I hired somebody just off a whim. They had experienced, they sounded good. And, uh, they were terrible on the phones, but I still close more deals than I was doing previously with somebody terrible on the phone. And that was my big aha moment to be totally candid with you was way back in 2011, having somebody that could screw up some lead calls and I still do more transactions. I was like, wait a second. If I just train them better and they were good, then they would change my whole business. That was my personal aha moment is someone else could answer the phones, even if they weren’t as good as me, I can do more deals, do more transactions, which was kind of the point of my business. Every time transactions were done, we got paid, right?
So it went from just having somebody as a lead manager to then I taught them how to run comps because 90% of running comps is the same process every single time. So we put a structure in there for running comms, same thing for transaction coordination and the disposition part of it. So the evolution of going from doing, you know, 60, 70 hours a week to now, whenever you set on managing several hundred team members, that it’s a very loose, I don’t personally really manage any of them. We put structure in place to do that, but it all comes from the systems and processes that we’ve built from day one. So we force a, and I know you know this, but we force everybody that we work with to go through a system and process development phase, because we think that that’s the foundation to success. Most people do it backwards. Do you feel some pain or you’re getting busy, you got a lot going on. You just go hire somebody, you throw them in the fire. And then you’re upset that they’re not doing what you want them to do. And then managing them becomes really hard and you hate driving into the office. We just think that’s backwards. If you work with somebody like us to build some systems and process identify the most important needs in your business. Now finding somebody to fill that role and be productive for you and, and be successful manager becomes a whole lot easier for sure.
So what I recommend people do is to document what they do throughout a day, or even throughout a week, if they can, you know, go through that whole process and take the things that are very high, dollar productive and that they love to do take, you know, top two to three things that are the high level things that produce a lot of income and then take the things that are, you know, at the very bottom and start getting rid of those first. And it sounds like you had a dollar productive thing which was answering phones, but it was sucking a lot of your time. Right? And I think there’s this notion that people say, well, you know, no one could do it better than I can. Right. And for me it’s like, and I’ve said this many times and people, you know, my audience may be sick of me hearing this, but I would say if somebody does it 50 to 75% as good as I do, I’m okay with that. Just like you said, you were able to close more deals, even though they sucked. Right. So how do you get a business owner, I guess, first of all, to sit down and document their systems that they’ve never done before, which I’m guessing most of them probably don’t have those in place and get them, um, to the, to, I don’t want to say the finish line, but closer to the finish line of being mostly out of their business or getting rid of a lot of stuff in their business. So they can take more time off or spend more time with their family or just work a reasonable 40 hour work week.
Most people get most entrepreneurs, their success comes in a large part from their will, from their desire, from the ability to run through a wall every single day and run yourself. Right? I mean, that is for most entrepreneurs that it feels like that’s where their success comes from. So to get people to slow down and take a bird’s eye view of their business and evaluate what’s happening, sometimes that is more emotionally painful just to do it, then it then, right. So I totally understand that concept of, Hey, I’m too busy to stop and slow down, but I heard a great, great quote last week from, from one of my mentors. And he said, if you’re always putting out fires, that means there’s not enough structure and stability in your business for you to be success and fires are not a badge of honor. They’re an opportunity for progress. And so we really take that to heart. So the other example I like to use is anybody who has kids or has ever picked up kids from school and you say, Hey, how was your day? Tony? Every single time. It’s good. Good, good, good day was good. Okay, great. What’d you do today, Tony? What’d you do at school stuff? Things. I was busy. I was, it it’s the same thing for us as adults. When we get to work. If I was to ask most of our client partners before they came to us, Hey, what does your day look like? They’re almost offended because they’re so busy and they have so much now, what do you mean? What does my day look like? I had 15 calls I’m over here at five listing appointments and showed me, you can have all these things going on. So the thought of slowing down and what do you do all day is like most people it’s just too overwhelming to do that. Because it feels like you have too much to do. And so we like to start with those systems and process. So whether you do it yourself, which, you know, sometimes it’s really hard. So like I personally was not good at developing systems and processes. I had to find people that could help me, but I understood very quickly that if I wanted somebody to answer the phone, they had to know what to say. And they had to have a sheet to fill out and they had, there had to be an idea of what the outcome was supposed to be. And so I could either sit there and bang my head against the wall and try to verbalize it to someone and train them personally. Or if I put some structure in place, then all of a sudden the team members could be successful writing scripts.
Wasn’t that big of a deal. So we most like you mentioned, most people, even the publicly traded companies that we work with, come to us with very few, if any systems or processes or structured built, because most people will not take the time to slow down and do it. But if you are, if you’re willing to work with somebody like us or work with your team and spend a little bit of time, it is absolutely the foundation to your success. Not only being able to get more done within the day to day, but also being able to leverage other people’s time so that they can help you. Right. Uh, I know you’ve got a great team, Tony, and you’re a great leader and a great manager. And part of that comes from the structure that you provide your team so that they know what success, and they know what the outcomes look like. Right? So this system and process where people get so tired of sick of hearing it, right. System, system, system. And because for most companies, that word system doesn’t really have a whole lot of meaning. There’s not a lot of tangible assets behind that, but we force every one of our client partners to go through a system and documentation process, because that is literally where everything else is built off of. Right.
So why would someone go to you and hire virtual assistants through you as opposed to hiring them through, um, another agency not necessarily other agency, but just finding them on their own. Right. Because there’s a lot of virtual assistants out there. They can train them themselves. They can go and do that whole thing. Why would they go through you?
Yeah, we are truly the done for youe easy button in virtual staffing and virtual teams. So in any business, any phase of the business of real estate, whether it’s lead management, marketing, transaction, coordinating CMA packets, running comps, work in dispositions, we’re truly experts in those process. So you can do it yourself. You can recreate the will. You can attempt to become an expert at that. Or you can just punch in an easy button it’s done for you. So we have a couple of things we’re screening over 4,000 resumes a month, and we’re hiring less than 2% of those. The last thousand 36 resumes that came through, we hired them, uh, 26 people. So it’s where we’re hiring the best of the best, our recruiting team’ is amazing. We have a giant infrastructure around recruiting and training. So all the things that everybody wants, background checks, resume screening profiling we do all the checkboxes to get the people in. And then they’re on our platform for six to eight weeks training learning, going through scripts. So you’re never going to hire somebody for us as a lead manager who hasn’t taken several hundred, if not thousand live calls, working seller leads before we ever talked to us. If you need somebody to run concert at your backend dispositions or become an executive assistant for, for you and your company, you can just fill that role. So we have a couple step process. First is we document all your systems and processes that creates the roadmap to what success is going to look like. And then we’re plugin play. We’ll send you three or four or five candidates to interview, just like on this zoom call, our team facilitates the whole thing. And then we stay with you for the life of the account. So we’re not only getting the best people. We have the best training. We’ve invested an insane amount of money in the infrastructure to make sure that happens in successes is not only possible, but there every single day. And then we stay with you for the life of the account. So definitely an option for people to go by themselves and try to just go figure it out. But if you want the done for you expert process, that you can know that what’s happening is truly from experts. That’s why people come to us.
Very cool. So you’re right. Like documenting stuff’s painful because like it’s not dollar productive. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It takes a lot of focus, which a lot of us, you know, business owners don’t have, especially real estate investors. What do you think the return on time is like, if someone sits down for the, for the time that they, you know let’s call it a half a day or a day and just documents all their processes and systems, what do you think the return on time is? Do you have, I mean, do you have any thought on like
Put a dollar value on it? It’s, it’s, it’s priceless. I don’t mean to be cliche there, but it’s the truth because it is the source of your freedom. There is leverage is not possible. Being able to do more than whatever you can pump out at 40 hours really is not possible without having structure. And once that structure is in place, now everything else falls in line. So for me, the biggest compliment I ever got was whenever we had a, an account in Memphis and it snowed a couple of years ago and it never snows in Memphis. And I got a call at eight o’clock in the morning because client is just overwhelmed with emotion because he didn’t have one of his US people show up in the office that day. But his entire team was there, crushing it with no management oversight from his office, because there was enough structure, systems and process for his team to just crush it every day and they didn’t lose any, they didn’t, they didn’t retreat momentum whatsoever because 13 knew exactly what they were doing every single day. So there is, there’s not a way to put a number on it. The biggest thing to me, Tony is the emotional capacity. You get back the ability to work and focus on the most important things in your business by having clear outcomes, instructor, you’re not putting out fires all day, you’re not having to train people and tell them what to do all day. You’re not having to manage the individual tasks. It opens up your entire day in a way that’s just not even possible without that structure there.
Right. So from a standpoint of who you work with and, um, how long it takes them, I think I may have kind of gone into this a little bit, but how long it takes someone to go through that whole process, to where they feel like, um, they’re more free. Is it usually within the first month they see like a lot of pressure taken off. Does it take several months, you know, as real estate investors want big returns and a small amount of time. Sotell us a little bit about that.
Yes, I think if you want to go through this process yourself? I don’t really know how long that would take you. I think a little while. I think so. It takes some time to recruit, to try to get somebody
For your process through you that I’m talking about specifically through you.
In a couple of days, right? So we will have your systems and processes documented within a week and then your team member will be up and running at full capacity within that second week. So by your third week, you should have full production from your team, through us. So I think on your own, it’ll take you several months through us. It’ll take you three weeks max, to have a team member running at full capacity.
Wow. So from a standpoint of what the VA’s do, there’s, I mean, in the real estate investing specifically, there’s transaction coordination, there’s inbound calling and there’s outbound calling there’s marketing, there’s, uh, analysis, there’s disposition, there’s, you know, there’s all these roles. Is there anything that you don’t train on? I mean, is it pretty much from, from A to Z any position you can think of with real estate investing for the most probably you train on.
We specifically do not do so if you look at the real estate business, 80, 90% of it’s done online and it’s a transactional business, and I keep saying that, but it’s the same steps have to happen in a linear fashion in order for deals to close, right, for transactions to happen. And you look at all of those steps and you just mentioned almost every single one of them besides getting the contract is the only thing you didn’t mention there. That’s the only thing we don’t really train. So we do the, all the administrative side. So the marketing, the lead management, the setting of all the appointments, doing the constant CMA packets during the transaction coordination and disposition management, and then the back end administration piece, you know, closing out reconciliation to bookkeeping and in your monthly close out statements, we do every bit of that. The only thing that we don’t actively push and train our teams to do is closed deals over the phone. And I’ve seen people do it. I know that there are people doing that. We have clients who are using our teams to do that. It’s just the only thing we don’t actively train our teams to do is close the deals over the phone. But all the other tasks that you mentioned are right within our wheelhouse.
Cool, good stuff. So let’s talk to the talk about the business part of it again. So you preach or you, um, uh, I guess act what you preach. So you want real estate investors in company owners or companies that you work with to have more help, to have a team, to take more time off, to be able to run a business like a business, and you’re doing it yourself. Like a lot of people who teach that aren’t doing it themselves, it seems like, um, what is that secret? I mean, obviously VA’s right. I mean, you know, you’ve got VA’s but
Well, I’ll say three things really. So the first is we spend a lot of time on our system and structure. So as things happen, we’re always evaluating. Uh, my brother came from the air force Academy as an associate athletic director out there. And he made, he, uh, laughed, said something like we have after action reviews, AAR’s, we’re constantly evaluating or systems and processes, boat. We’re religious about having strict systems and processes within the organization. Because what that does is it provides transparency. Everybody knows exactly what’s happening, which creates a alignment So when everybody knows exactly what’s happening, we can act in accordance and everybody’s acting on the same page. And then all of a sudden Tony culture, this mysterious thing that everybody likes to talk about this culture, like how do we build amazing culture? When you have a team in alignment with total transparency, culture is this amazing thing that happens as a result of that. So for us, we are very, very strict about systems and process documentation and following that. And then the second thing is putting the right people in place. So you mentioned that I’m a business owner and I run my teams like a business owner. I have essentially four people that I manage and they run the entire business from there. So we’ve got very clear expectations and goals with those four team members. For me, it’s my CFO, the finance team, the vice president of operations. It’s my marketing director and my director of business development. Those are my four team leads that I communicate with on a daily basis. And they literally manage and run every other department. So they’re based out of Dallas. They’re they’re well paid. They’re well compensated. They’re, you know, they’re, they’re great, amazing team members that have really strong systems and processes to go execute.
So I like people to know exactly where they stand. I don’t think it’s fun to guess. I don’t think it’s fun to be in an unknown state. So we provide a lot of clarity for our team members of what success is supposed to look like. And then I let them go get it. I let them go run and crush that because my job is not to micromanage them in their day to day. My job is just to provide them the resources that they need to be successful. So for me personally, that’s the way I run my business. I only pay attention to a few things. That’s, that’s the people in the organization. So I work at the org chart, making sure that I have the right leadership teams in place. I make sure that the infrastructure is solid, so that systems and processes and technology in order for the business to be able to run, and then I’m looking at our data. So the, just the back end reporting at all times to make sure that the business is making money and profitable and heading in the right direction. So outside of those three things, I don’t do anything because it’s the team’s responsibility to implement from there.
Right. Well, cool. Well, we’ve covered a lot in a short amount of time. We could dive like really deep into, virtual assistants and things like that. But if anything, I just hope that this opened people’s eyes to the, the, um, ability to be able to hire virtual assistants that aren’t in your office to be able to take a lot of the administrative work off your plate. And even some of the, the sales stuff, you know, because you guys obviously hire salespeople as well. Is there anything else that you would like for our listeners to kind of know, or that you’d like to kind of finish with that would help them in their businesses? I think a lot of people that are listening to this are in real estate, but maybe just business owners in general. Um, what else would you, would you say that they could help help them kind of run their businesses more efficiently?
Yeah, for me, I just like, I’m not the person that recreates the wheel, right. I, I don’t come up with just random, brilliant ideas and go implement them. I learned from really smart people like you and all the guests that you have on your shows. And that’s why I go to masterminds and, and I’m always absorbing and the learning is as much as I can. And I think that that is the key to always growing right, and learning about leverage and learning how to scale every successful business that I’ve ever admired. Every business like yours, that I’ve ever tried to reach in and try to build a business like that. You mentioned, you know, running the business. That’s been my goal. I’ve always been trying to learn absorb from, from other people that that can make that happen. So, leveraged to me and growth just comes from identifying what works and I’ve found that every successful business has found a way to be successful, leveraging other people’s time and managing people really well. And that management structure is always built upon well-defined systems and processes. So, we’re not doing anything that’s, totally crazy. You know, the nothing is, is totally out in left field. It’s just the implementation of the basics, the foundation. And that’s what allows you to have success. So there’s nothing super sexy about building teams and systems and processes. But if you want, my opinion is the dream is to go on vacation, come home. And there’s more deals closed than when I left. And the only way to do that, especially in my real estate business, was to have strong systems and processes and then a great team to be able to go crush it. So anybody who’s interested in that we’re happy to talk more. I know we talked a lot about very high level things that you’re right. We could go on hours about several of these topics, but we’re happy to work there. If anybody’s curious how that applies to them personally, we’re more than happy to spend some time not trying to sell you on our teams, but just explaining what’s possible and how things work.
Very cool. We’ll put a link down in the show notes to a rocket station. And you said something key there that I want to reiterate is that, um, you know, leverage, and this is the reason that I do this podcast also is to, um, sharpen myself by being around some of the sharpest people that I know in the industry. So that was a good piece of advice is surrounding yourself with the right people and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There’s people that, uh, either have something that they’ve created. That’s similar to what you want and then have businesses like yours, Robert, that can help you to get there. It’s not about the, what it’s about the who, who can help you get there. So I appreciate your time with us. Robert, hopefully people reach out to you and check out your services and look forward to connecting again soon.
Thanks again for having me on. It’s great to see you, Tony.
My pleasure, man. We’ll talk soon.