The Challenges of a Running a Remote Talent Team - Noel Andrews, JobRack

operations tools / process systems people and culture podcast Jan 25, 2023

In this GYDA Talks, Janusz talks to Noel Andrews of JobRack. Noel is passionate about helping great businesses to grow through hiring great people. With JobRack, Noel is telling the world about the incredible level of skills, education and cultural alignment available from remote workers in Eastern Europe.

Janusz and Noel discuss:

  • JobRack - Where Businesses Hire The Best Remote Talent
  • Why CEE? Why CEE over other regions.
  • The risks of hiring remote talent
  • The benefits of hiring remote talent
  • What JobRack does and how it does it.





Janusz Stabik  00:00

All right, good morning and welcome Noel Andrews from It was a pleasure to have you here. I'm really excited about our conversation today. It's an issue. I think that's kind of close to my heart and close to a lot of work that we do here. Before we delve a little bit deeper into that. Do I say a quick hello, and tell us a little bit about you and your business?


Noel Andrews  00:26

Yeah, sure. Thanks. Hey, Janusz, great to be here. So yeah, I'm Noel Andrews, based here in London, in England. And with JobRack, I help or we help businesses, especially agencies all over the world hire really, really great talent from Eastern Europe, bought the business in 2018. And, yeah, we've helped hundreds and hundreds of businesses hire well over 1000 really, really high quality highest since then. And it's, it's a lot of fun.


Janusz Stabik  00:51

Why I'm gonna dive straight in with why what made you buy the business and why Eastern Europe? What was the gap that you saw?


Noel Andrews  00:58

So I mean, I'd spent years in this kind of corporate technology space, working with kind of outsourced providers and kind of hiring and firing from all over the world. I'd had a little startup that I tried to launch around interview coaching and kind of helping people on that side of things. And I was getting, you know, I was trying some kind of consultancy helping remote business owners, typically kind of small to medium sized agencies and business owners hire remotely. And Job rack had been born in 2015, out of a forum post in a community I was in, a couple of guys were talking about how hard it was to hire and how they discovered hiring developers are really, really great software developers from Eastern Europe. And then together, they kind of created job work, they used Eastern European developers to create it. And they'd run it, but it was a bit of a side hustle to them. And so they had bigger things going on. And they were going to either shut it down or sell it. And it was literally like serendipity, it was just one of those perfect moments, I was looking for something, I liked the idea that it already existed. They created the custom tech stack and had a bit of a database and had a bit of a following within the entrepreneurs community that I'm in. And it wasn't very expensive, because it was doing $15 a month in revenue at that point. So it had been mothballed. For about a year it was $1 a job post, it's absolutely tiny. But it just felt like a really great opportunity.


Noel Andrews  02:19

 And as for Eastern Europe, so, you know, I love the fact that it was kind of niche down already to remote hiring and then nice down to Eastern Europe. And you know, for anyone that doesn't know, Eastern Europe is this kind of sweet spot around remote hiring with, you know, really, really well educated, very hard working people. That's the absolute kind of cliche and stereotype. But people that are really well are very kind of culturally aligned with the Western world. So very direct communication style, and just not some of the sensitivities and challenges that often come up in other parts of the world, where people just kind of have a different kind of cultural approach. And then layer on top of that, you know, you've got great hard work ethic, great English skills, great technical education, and then a much, much lower cost of living that can translate into, you know, being able to pay really fairly for people in those countries, but you know, affordable to kind of business owners in the Western world.


Janusz Stabik  03:13

Brilliant. It's, I mean, it's an issue, that's an issue and opportunity, and it's quite close to our hearts. So we've seen particularly over the past 18 months, you know, the number one problem that agencies are facing is recruitment and people and it's always been an issue, it's always been issue number four or five on the list. But for the past 18 months, you know, four or five times a day, five days a week, our clients are saying where do we find good people? How do we keep hold of people, we can't we can't afford the salaries of salary inflation that is kind of going through the roof at the moment. And everywhere, you know, our clients are global. We've seen this in the UK, in the US in South Africa and through Europe, too. And we work with a lot of businesses in Central Eastern Europe everywhere. So I was really excited. You know, I saw your value prop I saw your homepage and I was like, I need to speak to you this feels like you know, the right product at the right time for our audience. So a little bit more detail. So on that when you say Eastern Europe, where are we talking about what sort of countries.


Noel Andrews  04:14

So we cover 24 countries, in total, you know, everywhere from Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine to a little bit of Russia, but our focus is really probably 80-90% of our candidates are from about six or seven countries around the Balkans. So places like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, and then a little bit in kind of Bulgaria and Romania as well that kind of is like the sweet spot for us of the quality and the cost of living where, you know, they haven't joined the euro. They haven't joined the EU that often kind of translates into, you know, significant kinds of cost of living increases and therefore salary increases.


Janusz Stabik  04:54

And what sort of skills you mentioned, kind of digital skills, I think and agencies what are we talking about.


Noel Andrews  04:59

So pretty much everything from you know, really, really great virtual assistants, executive assistants, everything through the kind of the marketing sphere. So, you know, SEO, PPC, right from analyst, right up into really, really technical specialists, we do a lot in kind of operations managers, kind of client account managers, customer success, things like that, and then getting into, you know, a lot in the software development space, you know, as you'd expect, so everything from the junior work to WordPress developers, right up to AI, machine learning, you know, front end, back end, full stack, you know, very, very kind of technical and senior developers. And, you know, unlike other parts of the world, you know, we can actually find these people, it's hard work, you know, good people, the best people are not hanging out on job boards, we're just waiting to see, you know, to see an agency's job post appear. So it does take a lot of hunting, but they're available. They're high quality. And that's the key thing I often have to explain, when we talk about salaries in some of these regions, people can naturally assume well, well, I must be getting worse quality. And the irony is, oftentimes we're getting better, equal or better people and we could hire, you know, locally in the UK, or US and Canada, etc. But for, you know, 50-60% of the rates.


Janusz Stabik  06:12

I'm going to be a pain in the ass in a moment and be a client and throw some, you know, challenges and questions to you, that I certainly had I think when we ran our agency before we did that, and what do you do? What is a job board? Do you go out and search for people? How does your service work?


Noel Andrews  06:30

Yeah, so it's a good question. So and I don't, you know, recruiters, right? When people think about recruiters, they often think of the kind of traffic wardens and real estate agents, right, we put them into that same kind of bucket. So I think we're a hiring service, and we help people hire. I have an incredibly complicated strategy that is for us to be helpful and friendly. And that's the approach I take. So it's very much about helping people, we do have a job board. So for some roles, that's absolutely great. You know, you can pay a couple of $100. And you can post a job ad. But actually, for the vast my focus. And for most of my team's focus, it's all about what we call our done with you service, which is helping people hire. So being like your, your mountain guide, helping you navigate the hiring process, as well as your sherpa is actually doing all the hard work carrying the heavy load of especially when it comes to sourcing candidates, but then actually, you know, kind of getting them through the process, and actually getting you to that end result of you've got your person and beyond helping you make your successes and as well.


Janusz Stabik  07:27

All right. So first question for you. I've tried it before it didn't work. I think it is because we run a few kinds of roundtables and mastermind groups with our clients and peer to peer coaching sessions and, and hiring remotely is obviously a hot topic in these roundtables. And the question always comes up, you know, we've tried this before we tried recruiting a team in the subcontinent, you know, or wherever, and we're really excited about it, but it just didn't work. It was difficult to manage them and difficult to manage them remotely. The work ethic was different. You mentioned cultural alignment before so we've tried it before it didn't work. You know, why? Why is this different? Why would it work now?


Noel Andrews  08:16

So I think a couple of things. One is, as an agency owner, right now, you are probably more practiced at communicating remotely than you've ever been before, right? The last couple of years with the pandemic has forced most businesses, if not all businesses to adapt and actually communicate better without being face to face. So that's the first thing. The second thing I'd say is, you know, figure out what you need, and then figure out where you can get it from, right. And it's not just about where can I get, you know, a Shopify developer? Or where can I get a PPC specialist, right? It's about what else actually leads to success of the person in that role and for your, for your business, your agency. And you don't have to do that on your own. There's lots of people that can help and, you know, talk to your peers and masterminds. And, you know, I'm always happy to jump on calls with people and just help them figure that stuff out. Regardless of whether, you know, Eastern Europe is a fit, and I will be the first to say, Hey, that doesn't sound like it's a fit, you should look here or there. And I'll kind of try and signpost, people. So I think, yeah, there are lots of people who have had bad experiences. There's also a huge number of people that are having game changing and business and life changing experiences through hiring remotely. So you know, whereas pre pandemic, there are a lot of businesses that were like, Oh, that's not for us. Yeah, it's not for us to go remote. Now, I think we've proven that pretty much anyone can work remotely. There's a huge number of benefits. And if anything, there's not many agency owners that I think have the luxury of not considering remote right now. You know, you mentioned the kind of great resignation on top of that post pandemic. You know, it's not just about people changing jobs. It's also about people saying, Hey, I don't want to work five days a week anymore, or I don't want to work 14 hours a day or I don't want to commute anymore. So they're changing their lives, which again leads to, you know, scarcity of resources. And then just for 2022, we've got some interesting stuff going on with inflation and price increases, etc. And then just there's kind of the icing on the cake in the US, especially as you know, we've got the kind of software developers coming out of a university looking for like six figure salaries as a junior developer, which is, to me, staggering and insane, but they aren't getting it. So someone somewhere is banged up. So, you know, there's just this huge opportunity for agency owners who already have squeezed margins, let's be clear, you know, to become more profitable, have a nicer life of it, and have a better business that's delivering better results by you know, going where the best people are not just sticking sticking locally.


Janusz Stabik  10:37

You mentioned there actually, he's here somewhere where it might not be a good fit, you know, what's your experience of that, you know, what, when might your service or recruiting from Eastern Europe not be a great fit?


Noel Andrews  10:52

Yeah, so if you are running a an agency on the West Coast of the US, or the East Coast, actually, and you want a client facing account manager, who needs to be and you've got very needy clients, we've all got some of those that want to be on calls, and you need to be so responsive that you have a telephone presents nine to five US time, right? That's going to be tricky. And I do have clients like that, and I'll be the first to sound like, Hey, you know, either look locally, or look to Latin America, right, because the timezone is a great fit. Equally, I've got a lot of clients that say, you know, what, actually, it's not that bad. And we have flexibility with our clients. And so you know, we just kind of batch the meetings in the mornings. And then afternoons are for asynchronous work. So I always say you want a minimum of two to three hours of crossover with your team, and your team members depend on where they are. So you know, Eastern Europe, to the US West Coast, getting two to three hours across is really straightforward. With east coast, getting kind of five, six hours, it's pretty straightforward, without needing people to work, what I would refer to like, as a night shift, or a very late night shift, you know, the people in Eastern Europe, anywhere in the world, and no different from us, right? There's not many people that actually want to work till midnight, every night, that way, you will always find people that will do it. But I challenge that premise and go, you know, the best people don't want to do that. They want to have a hobby, they want to go for a swim or see a movie or hang out with friends in the evenings, not be kind of working all the hours. And so, you know, when clients say to me, Oh, well, will they work us hours, I'm like, we can find people, but I don't recommend it. Because long term, they're going to look for something else unless you're paying them an absolute fortune. So, you know, we encourage people to be asynchronous where they can. But if there is a true synchronous need, you know, let's say you I've got one client, for instance, who we hire a lot of roles for. But one of the roles they wanted was outbound telephone sales calls in the evening in Toronto time. Right? Well, that doesn't work for Eastern Europe. And I'll be the first to say. So the vast majority of roles will work. But sometimes it's a no, you just need that synchronicity. But it's increasingly rare, the vast majority of roles, enough crossover and the rest is golden.


Janusz Stabik  13:01

All right. One of the challenges I see. And this isn't just I think with recruiting people remotely, particularly typically, a lot of our clients, they all of a sudden find themselves running a business, you know, where they're good at doing something, but SEO, PPC or video, find that find themselves running the business. And delegation and management skills is certainly one of the things that they come looking to us for. And there's a tendency, and I'm casting aspersions here that I apologise for, there's a tendency to kind of throw stuff over the wall, you know, we find somebody, be it an employee, be it and you know, a partner, somebody that we're outsourcing to a bit of, you know, remote employee, we get a thank God, we filled that gap now, there you go, and we turn our back on them and wait for hope that they'll deliver and then get really, really frustrated when they when they don't. And what advice would you give to anybody that's considering recruiting somebody in Eastern Europe to make that process a success to make this recruitment process successful? And not one that ends in? You know, a little bit of frustration at best?


Noel Andrews  14:06

Yeah, so I think, you know, this is applicable wherever in the world you're hiring for, it's all about expectations. So the first bit is figure out what you want and what you expect, and then actually communicate it. And so I'm a big fan of employee scorecards. It's not a great name, but just so you know, we have like a one pager that we use that sets the KPIs and the metrics for each role. And we monitor that we use it in our kind of one to ones so we have like a casual fortnightly one to one, and then we have a more formal monthly one. And as part of that we have a set of questions that we get each team member to answer before the session, and then we go through it. So it'd be things like how do you feel about the month? What do you think we should start or stop within the business? What do you need most support for next month? And what are the areas that you kind of want to grow? And so it drives a much better one to one conversation than they often kind of unstructured type chats. But the big thing for me is expectations. So here at JobRack, we have a way of working documents that goes down to some, arguably, you know, some would say insane detail. So it's things like when you start work, just say, Hey on Slack, right? Pretend like it's an office, right? This, hey, hey, what's going on? Things like we use Google docs in the G Suite an awful lot. So it's like, Hey, you know, if you want to comment on a doc, use the comments feature and assign the comment to someone like if it's a task. So right down to the nitty gritty of how we like to communicate what tools we use, setting those clear expectations. We're working on our values at the moment, too. So again, we can be really, really clear without going as a team and in each other about kind of, you know, what we what we expect. So that's the big one. The most important thing though, is communication. Spend time with people. And when you have a remote team, or even a remote team member, you just have to be more intentional than you would if you're in an office together, because you don't get those random water machine, coffee machine type moments. So you just have to be intentional. So we have afternoon tea every Friday at 3pm. It's half an hour, everyone comes in and just hangs out and just chat. And it's just people getting to know each other on really random topics. So being intentional about effectively doing things that will lead to the kind of culture that you want within your business. But yeah, communication is key, and asking them for feedback, right. So when they frustrate you, and they will, it will normally be your fault. Or our faults, say, ask them how could I have delegated that better? Delegation is a skill and I'm a big fan of actually investing and becoming better at delegating. I've been doing a lot of work on that this year. And it's paying massive dividends. But it's, it's tough, because it's not that it's not a natural skill that you'll have.


Janusz Stabik  16:46

So few natural delegators, natural managers that can behave naturally and have those skills, you know, just don't exist. And I think often what we see with delegation is a one way affair. You know, delegation can often mean, Oh, thank God, there you go. Delegations, you know, process. It's been clearer with expectations and following up and checking in, and it's not just throwing stuff over the wall. No, I've got one more question for you. And context is, I'm an agency owner, I employ 25 people, we've got a really full pipeline, I need to recruit quickly. We're short on digital skills. I've got 12 months worth of recruitment frustration behind me. I'm not getting the candidates through the door, or I am, and we're getting to a point of offer. And then, you know, we're getting dumped by somebody else. I've been considering looking into Eastern Europe or considering partnering with somebody. What would your advice be to me to, you know, give me the confidence, I think that this can work like I'm, I feel a little bit nervous, a little, you know, a little bit full of trepidation for doing this. I don't want to destroy the culture and the values that we have within the agency. But I can see all this resource over in Eastern Europe. But I just don't want to take that leap.


Noel Andrews  18:09

So a couple of things we do, we jump on a call. And we'd have a kind of really open conversation about those fears, and kind of the success stories of other people. I share kind of, you know, case study videos, and an awful lot of people say that this is like game changing and life changing for them. And I'm almost my own testimonial. You know, I've scaled my own team from five people to 15 people in the last five months, I'm putting a lot of effort into it like you did, like you'd expect? And I think, yeah, we've got just the evidence that there are people that are doing this really, really, really well. The two kind of key things I'd say is, you know, how I help people specifically, is I act as that sounding board that helpful friend, to kind of, you know, it will be alright, we've got you, we're going to look after you. And then the other thing I would say is just take a breath. So the worst thing you can do when hiring is to rush it. Right. And especially in and I have tonnes of agency owners in exactly that hypothetical scenario, you just said, you know, Oh, my God, I've left it too late to hire an agency owners typically do wait till they're at 110 or 120% of capacity before they hire. So service is already suffering, because they're waiting for that to be profitable enough to say, right I can afford I'm confident enough to hire. So we work at pace, but we don't rush, because we're all about long term team members. You know, we don't do freelance, we don't do short term stuff. We're about hiring team members that are going to work for the long term. And so, you know, we will be very open, we'll say, Hey, we're not going to do this in three days, right? Typical timescale is probably four to six weeks depending on the role, but that gets you someone that's committed and it's really going to last for the long term. So they're the key things but that just take that breath and focus on it long term. The other benefit of Eastern Europe is when you're paying considerably less than, you know, 50%, maybe or even maybe even less than you'd be paying in the US. You can afford to hire earlier. You get into that model of being able to hire when you're 60, 70, 80% of capacity. And if you're anything like me, you know, I will, when I'm not confident in our ability to deliver because we're getting a bit stressed, I self sabotage, I stopped doing sales follow ups, right? All of those kinds of things, because I'm just nervous. And I realised that last year, and I will never get into that situation again. And obviously, I hire my own team for Eastern Europe. And so I'm hiring at, you know, when we're maybe 50 or 60% of capacity, because it takes time, but because I always want capacity, because then I'm not having to get in my own head about it. And I think that's a lot the same for a lot of agency. And so, you know, leveraging the cost side to be able to kind of do that quicker, is great.


Janusz Stabik  20:44

100% you know, what you just said there about self sabotaging really resonates, you know, I think particularly with, with the clients that were with directly or those in the mastermind groups, the often there's a sales challenge, there's a sales and marketing challenge within agencies and working with either the MD or the CEO, or the or the sales director. And invariably, probably once a month, the conversation comes up about, you know, we've got, we've got these leads if you're really, really strongly about them. But you know, we're just at capacity, and it's, I don't want this to be your, your problem, your challenge to think about, you know, I want there to be a little bit of internal conflict, and for us to solve this, this resourcing problem, because I want you to have the bit between your teeth and to go and sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, particularly when you know, the sun shining, and we've got the opportunity to make, make a bit of hay with it. So I think that that self sabotage is a really strong message. I think that resonates. We don't make recommendations like I used to in the past and got burned, you know, we recommended an accountant or recommended another consultant or so and so forth and relationship for sour and you know, sometimes it reflects badly on it. But, you know, I think I just want to mirror what you said about Eastern Europe. It is a big area, with the agencies that we work with over there. They're excellent at MDS, the CEOs are excellent, their English is better than mine, hard working, diligent, amazing communicators, the skills that they have is incredible. I say the same about South African agencies as well, you know, for any agency in the UK, or the US looking for resource, South Africa and Eastern Europe and absolutely brilliant places to go and have no issue recommending, you know, to UK clients, look over there because you know, the you will find the talent there. It does exist. So I have no problem recommending Central and Eastern Europe as a place to go hunting for talents. Before we wrapped up, I didn't know anything. I should have asked you any, any kind of stone we've left unturned?


Noel Andrews  22:51

I don't think so. I think we've, we've done pretty well there I think, yeah, for any, you know, agency owners out there that are sceptical, hesitant, etc. Then, you know, talk to people around you, you know, whether it comes to delegation, whether it comes to hiring remotely, I get a lot of inspiration from the people that I'm around. And I think Tim Ferriss is right for our work, we said, you know, you're the average of the people you surround yourself with. And so when it comes to delegation, especially having conversations with people around, like, what are they delegating, like? How are they using their assistant? And you know, if you don't have an assistant, then you are the assistant, right? And so you're getting good at kind of delegating, that is well worth it. And yes, and naturally, you know, if anyone ever wants to have a chat, you know, I don't do any kind of sales and how that but always helping people just get in touch and you know, having to jump on a call and just help people out and guide them. And if I think Latin America, South Africa, somewhere else locally in the US is better, I'll say, so, if anything could be a fit, I'll let them know.


Janusz Stabik  23:48

I'm going to quote you later today. No, I have a couple of clients who I'm advocating need an executive assistant. And I love that if you don't have an assistant, you are the assistant quite often, you know, we find particularly you know, our clients, running large agencies, spending 60-70% of their time doing $5 an hour type work, you know, and that's to charge themselves out that won't be charging them $5 or $10 an hour.


Noel Andrews  24:17

Yeah, the headspace that you get from having a really great assistant is just phenomenal. And ironically, I'm a relatively recent convert to actually getting my own recently hired really amazing person who is I've actually gone kind of high level of components like a virtual office manager. Yeah, like in their combined EA and it's just amazing. But yeah, the rates you're talking kind of typically for us maybe like $6 to $8 an hour. It's not a lot of money and the range of things you can get done the responsibility you can delegate is huge and they just have your back and give you headspace.


Janusz Stabik  24:50

Brilliant. It's been a pleasure speaking with you, thank you so much. is your business, that's how they find you.