Phyllis Song was raised by a single mother and grew up in the care of Filipino maids. This childhood experience transformed into a passion, which eventually evolved into a business for virtual assistants. She joins Michael Silvers to discuss how her concern for kids being neglected by their working parents turned into a mission to transform how family and business are approached. Phyllis explains how virtual assistants can help mothers run their businesses while giving more time looking after their kids. She also talks about the benefits of doing home meditation practice daily and learning new things through suffering.
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How Single Moms Can Benefit From Hiring Virtual Assistants With Phyllis Song
We are here with Phyllis Song from Virtual Assistants International. Welcome. I’m so happy that you’re here. I want to get into the story, but tell us a little bit about the company and why you created it.
The reason why I created the company is by the divine. That’s what I want to say because I was sharing my idea about how to use a virtual assistant because I used it for ten years at that time. Somebody said, “You need to start this business.” I was like, “No, I’m a very comfortable realtor. I’m doing well with my virtual assistant. I barely do anything but collect checks. I’m good. You guys are successful. You guys know how to hire a virtual assistant. You don’t need me.” I have one friend who harasses me every day, every week. He starts sending me clients. “These people need your help.” It so happened that COVID was right around that corner too, and I was like, “Let me figure out what this is all about.”
I went into it and fell in love with it. At the very beginning, when I used my virtual assistant for my own, I love working with single moms, moms, and moms that just had babies. They’re like, “Go breastfeed.” Sometimes we have meetings and they’re breastfeeding each other. It was cool. Another side story, I grew up with Filipino maids. In Singapore and Malaysia, people have maids 24 hours. It’s amazing, but not in the United States. One thing I realized is they give us the love that they have because their kids are back home. Nobody takes care of them. During that time, many years ago, they don’t have cell phones. They don’t have video calls, so they don’t see their kids for five years, sometime two years, and then one phone call every few months. That’s it. They pour all their love into us.
I was so in tune with single moms and moms because I grew up with them. That transformed into a passion. It’s like, “Maybe I should do this business,” because now I’m helping business owners. COVID was happening at that time. I can have business owners save money and I can help those moms to work from home, make amazing money, and still be able to raise their children, so they don’t grow up without the love, without the, “What’s going on? How come my mom’s not here?” Ever since then, that has been moving me forward with my business. That’s the story of how it gets started.
A part of it is helping the moms who don’t want to leave the house, but you’re also helping the people who run businesses and can’t do it all themselves and need the help.
The truth with this, and that part too, is because my husband is very busy. I am a very Asian submissive woman. I was like, “Yes, sir,” to the point where I got overwhelmed. As a mother and a woman, I feel a lot of guilt because I can’t serve my husband because there are a lot of to-dos. I can’t serve my children because they’re very demanding. What am I going to do? When I found a virtual assistant, on top of that, I don’t have a lot of money. I’m a small business owner. How can I hire 3, 4, or 5 people? I don’t have the budget. When I found a virtual assistant, I was like, “I can live like a millionaire because I can have 3, 4, or 5 virtual assistants,” which is a fraction of the cost.
When my husband comes to me, he’s like, “Did you get it done?” “Yes, I got it done.” “You didn’t do a thing.” I said, “I know, but it’s done.” I fell in love with them and started spending time with my kids. I was like, “This is the life that business owners should have.” Not the one that’s like, “Sorry babe, I’m so busy. I can’t talk to you right now. Sorry, babe. Do you want to eat dinner? Go cook for yourself. Sorry, babe. I’m making money for you.”
Ultimately, the kids will start feeling they’re not loved enough, almost like how I grew up without my parents, even though everybody has legitimate reasons. I got to make money. What if we can change that, change the world, change how we start, do business, how we do family, and how we do work? That is the framework of how I maybe not change the world but change a person at a time, per se.
I want to take it back because I didn’t even realize this. You had this and you were in real estate. How did you get into that world?
I was a real estate investor. We invest heavily in single-family, and we were flipping and doing hard money loans. I’m very good at leveraging and delegating, so my VA does everything.
You didn’t start off with the VA, though.
She has been with me for many years.
You had your VA before you did it?
Why did you get your first VA?
I have been running the business for many years, and I knew that I needed leverage. At that time, we were working with AT&T and there were a lot of contracts. I don’t like contracts, and we also need to do a confirmation call. At that time, I had already hired a virtual assistant. I’ve been using virtual assistants for many years. Sometimes people were like, “Virtual assistants are like robots. They can only do one thing.”
I said, “No,” because all my virtual assistants come with me and learn everything. When I was in real estate, being a realtor, I was only focused on getting customers and marketing myself. My virtual assistant went into like, “William, how do you do CRM? How do you do contracts? How do you make sure that I’m licensed? How can I get paid? How do I do the listing?”
All that was done by the virtual assistant. I didn’t learn a thing about that. We got the intervention. I lost my credit card and was upset because I lost my people. I have to call the company. When I called the company, I was like, “What’s your name?” I think the person said Abraham. I said, “What’s your last name?” “Lincoln.” I was like, “There’s no way your name is Abraham Lincoln. Come on.”
After that, I was like, “I’m curious. If the big company’s using somebody in a foreign country, I must be able to do something about it.” I started researching it, and then I found out that there’s this thing called the virtual assistant people. A lot of the big companies used to offshore people from India, the Philippines, and Russia to outsource all this work. I was excited.
I went straight in and started testing out different countries. Where I am now, I think I have tested out at least 1,000 virtual assistants in the country, their speaking, culture, work ethic, what the expectation is, and then I was like, “This is cool. I can hire them immediately.” When you post ads, it’s like 300 people all over the world applying for the job. I was like, “This is fun.” At that moment, I was a recruiter for AT&T door-to-door sales. I was very good at recruiting already. I used whatever I’m using, cutting it short and then doing it online. I started to hire one, a 2nd one, a 3rd one, and a 4th one.
I love it. They’re college graduates. They love working. They’re like, “Boss, what else? Can I get more?” You work 40 hours. It’s like, “Can I do 50 hours?” Some of them work 60 hours. One of the girls, I was like, “In America, we need to take care of life and wealth. Please only work 40 hours.” I found out that the person got a second job, a part-time job. I was like, “If you’re working for a part-time job, work for me.” She was like, “That’s what we do.” I was like, “Fine. I honor your culture. Forget about the 40 hours, but just work for me.” The rest was history. I started to see all the potential. I have people in accounting, bookkeeping, social media, copywriting, and customer service. Pretty much anything that I don’t like to do, anything that got to me, I delegate and leverage it out.
Are there failures? Of course, because culturally, we’re not the same. Fast forward to when I was in the real estate business, when we were writing the loan, the VA was doing it. When we were doing the contract, they were the ones that were doing it. When we are doing the flipping, we have a big spreadsheet with how many fans and tiles did you buy. I’m not good at those details. I hate those details. They know. “Remember that house we bought with two fans? What is that? When is that?” “Here’s the receipt. This is the fan.” “What time is it? How much is it? What kind of discount did we use? Where did we buy it from?” I was like, “This is cool.” Ever since then, I’ve been in love with virtual assistants because I live like a millionaire.
I wake up in the morning. I open up my phone, and it’s like, “Today, I need to do this and this. I need to hang out with my kids at 4:00. Do not call me at 4:00. This customer needs something. Go talk to them and figure it out. That’s it. Don’t talk to me. I don’t want to work.” Sometimes I’m like, “I need to eat my lunch. We need to write this email. Why don’t you write? I’m eating.” I would literally be eating and they type it. “No, I don’t like that. Yes, I like this. All right. Cool. Perfect,” and then it’s set. Sometimes they’re my therapist. Sometimes you get in a fight with your husband or things don’t go well, so I just talk to them. I say, “Light up a candle virtually.”
I vomit at them like, “This is what’s going on and what happened.” They always say like, “It’s okay, boss. We’ll do it together.” That’s exactly what I need to hear. Sometimes, when you talk to your husband, he’ll be like, “Okay, what do we need to do? How do we need to fix this?” I was like, “No, I don’t need to fix anything. I just want to tell you what’s going on.”
I feel like a virtual assistant is the only way to leverage you and get things done. There are some details on what kind of virtual assistant to look for and how you find the good one. When you find that perfect one or a few of them, and I have 40 of them now, I feel like I’m living the dream. Now, I’m traveling all over. I went to India for 30 days, a retreat, and no tech. The business is running smoothly. I don’t have to worry about anything. As I said, it is the only way.
How do you have a business that runs with virtual assistants? You got to be connected, and you are now offline for 30 days. How does that even work?
I will introduce this book by Michael Gerber called The E-Myth. I love it. It talks about how McDonald’s became so big in such a short period of time. It talks about every business is a system-based business, not a people-based business. One of the big highlights for me is that in the McDonald’s manual, the system that they have is when you put the patty on, seven seconds, you flip it over and then you take it up, put it in the bun. It’s very specific. That’s why they always hire lower wages because anybody can do it.
What we did most of the time is we don’t have systems and then we had to pay more for people to help us. What I did with my company is that I have systems and also backups. Anytime somebody’s gone, it doesn’t affect me at all. Everybody helps each other out. We always get a system that overlays each other. If somebody’s gone or somebody makes a mistake, there is someone to catch it.
It’s almost like a hierarchy. They all know each other’s jobs. If this person is primary, this person will be secondary. They might not know as well what this person’s doing, but if this person’s gone, this person will be able to catch up immediately. I always have a Lego, like a puzzle thing. It works well for me. Everybody’s loyal. To me, it’s like what Bill said, “Invest in relationship.” I invest in them in a relationship. They know that I love them and I care about them. They make good money. It never goes wrong. They always tell you. Sometimes they have a gossip in the company. I always tell them, “If you like drama, go Netflix. I don’t want to hear it.”
Once in a while, they will notice about something’s off with the culture in the company. People will immediately let me know. They screenshot them, letting me know so we know who we need to fire or communicate to. The challenge virtual assistants have is they’re shy, but what it is, they’re very shameful. They’re afraid that they’re not good enough. Maybe they did something wrong, so they don’t speak up, but then they speak among each other. That’s one thing I always catch.
“Don’t speak among each other because neither one of them can help you. If you speak up, then we can fix the problem because we’re not perfect. If you don’t tell us, we don’t know. If you tell us, we’re going to fix it together and I’ll give you a bonus for it.” That’s how I created the culture. Truth be told, in my first year in the virtual assistant business, I did well over $1 million. I don’t know how I did it, but it’s teamwork that makes the dream work.A healthy workplace culture invites people to speak up if there are problems. This way, everyone can come together and fix those issues. Click To Tweet
Thirty days silent retreat in India, what did you learn about yourself, life, and business? What was the transformation you went through?
I love it. I don’t think I can say it. It will take me three days to tell you everything that happened. The very first I realized is that we are all addicted to suffering. Suffering makes us feel informed. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s like when I’m doing something good, my mom always focuses on what else do you need to improve on. That is love. You then start growing yourself, “I’m doing this well,” but immediately go to the next one and the next one. You never stop to celebrate. You have a lot of judgment in your head, whether it’s to other people or yourself. That judgment stack and stack.
Eventually, you’re just running. You know that you’re running toward something good, but you have no idea why you’re running. The truth is, you don’t even know where you’re running. You just know that you’re running. The craziest thing that the teacher said is, “You are running, but did you realize that you are running on a treadmill? You’re not running toward anything. You think that you are, but you didn’t.” That was the most amazing thing.
It talks about a lot of us tend to think that we are getting a lot of things outwardly because it will heal us inwardly. The truth is it will never heal us inwardly unless we look into the inside and see, “Why am I,” whatever that is, “Why am I not feeling love? Why am I feeling I’m not successful or I’m nothing?” Whatever that is, you have to look into it. Look at the core, and then fix it from the core. When you’re fixed, then you can go achieve whatever you want to do outwardly.
I was the classic case. I grew up with my mom and my dad, and people were saying that I was an unlucky child because my dad got into drugs and never came back. When I was a child, “What did your dad do? Your dad would’ve quit because of you.” That was a big label on me. I was always trying to achieve so I thought I would get more luck. Maybe it’s $1 million. Maybe it’s $3 million or $10 million.
I was running and running, and then I had something inside of me. It’s like something’s off. I feel like this is a hole that I can never fulfill. That’s why it made me want to go to India and figure it out. I will suggest you listen to Jon’s podcast, whatever Jon does. At the same time, figure out what is inside of you. Love, relationship, and fulfillment are right around your corner. You never realized it or acknowledged it. The time that you would realize it most of the time is maybe the week before you are passing or you found out you have cancer. At that time, it would be too late for us to fix anything that we wanted to fix.
Did you bring home meditation practice with you or maybe you had it before? Do you have one now?
Now, we practice meditation every day because that will help us calm our brains and connect us with the source. Before that, I did some meditation, but I didn’t understand why we were doing meditation. When I do meditation, there are so many talks inside my head, that conversation. It’s going over. I was like, “I don’t understand why I’m doing meditation for.” There are always so much to-dos to do. Now, when I’m doing meditation, my brain is so quiet. It energized me with what I needed to do.
When you start your business, you need to ask, “Why am I doing this? What am I trying to solve? What am I trying to solve inside of myself?” If you can get that fixed or get it close to, not perfect, but close to where you think it’s good, then you can start figuring out what you want to do and helping other people and things like that. You’ll move so much faster.
That is totally where we have been in the business for years. We always think that the next business is the better business. The grass is always greener on the other side instead of grass is greener where you water. Everybody was successful at every business that we left, but then what we realized is it was us. The problem was us. Now we’re starting to inwardly fix ourselves. Thus, I have a magical first year, more than $1 million, without noticing what it is. Ultimately, I know this is not a spiritual show, but I think that divine God was helping me and bringing me along to what I needed to do. I’m very aligned with my passion, my goal, and what I need to do, and he’s bringing me all the right people, the right community, and the right proximity.
It feels so easy. It’s like I’m in the candy store and I can have all the candies in the world. I don’t have to work so hard and things keep coming. I love it. That is my passion. I want to show business owners that it’s very easy if you make it to be. If you don’t know something, it’s not about the how. It’s about the who. Get to know the who, that doing what you don’t know. Know your outcome and what you want to do.
If you need help, I can definitely help you with virtual assistants. Again, with the virtual assistant, it’s not about the money. It was because then I can help other virtual assistants to live the life that they want to live so that they can love themself and things like that. I’m trying to get this win-win. I’m a kid in the candy store. I want everything that I want.
You can have everything that you want. If you don’t think it is going to fix things, you’re making people’s lives better, the virtual assistants, and the people that need them. It’s so beautiful. One last question. How do you define success?Success is serving yourself first so you can serve others, do what you want, when you want, and with who you want. Click To Tweet
Success means that you live happily every single day. You live with your heart every single day. Do what you want, when you want, with who you want. That is the big key. This is one thing that Tony Robbins teaches us because, in the past, I was just the responsible girl. I need to be a responsible mom and wife. I need to do this. I do everything for everybody else and forget about myself. Success is serving ourselves first so we can serve others and do what we want, when we want, with who we want, and live our life on our terms and not anybody else. Not even your husband or your kids. I know it’s hard, but I promise you, you can do it. If not, reach out to me. I’ll tell you how to do it.
Phyllis, thank you so much.
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