As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Jonas.
John’s website, OnlineJobs.ph, is the largest online job board for finding and hiring Filipino virtual workers. In addition to creating a space where employers and Filipino virtual workers can connect, John has taught ten of thousands of business owners how to outsource “the right way.”
He’s been married to his wife, Kim, for almost 20 years and they have 5 kids. Most of the time, you’ll find him hanging out with his wife, goofing off with his kids or on the golf course, working on his drive.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve actually shared this story in a previous publication, but for anyone who isn’t familiar with the fluke that started OnlineJobs.ph, here goes! All of my outsourcing success began with a simple fact: I suck at being an employee. I can’t stand it. I can’t handle someone else dictating my schedule, telling me how to do things, controlling my paycheck and only allowing me 10 vacation days a year. Plus, getting paid the same amount (salary) regardless of the quality of my work just doesn’t sit super well with me. So I started my own online business back in 2004.
Before I understood the real power of outsourcing, I hired two guys from the Philippines to help me with menial tasks. I was paying them each $250/month for full-time work (that was well over a decade ago, now I suggest researching and starting Filipino teammates at the current average wage in the Philippines, (plus generous raises and bonuses).
Back then, I had no idea that they were going to make me so successful.
They’d worked for me for about 18 months (I had spent lots of time training them) when my wife, Kim, was diagnosed with a potentially fatal condition. To complicate things further, she was pregnant with our third child. Out of sheer necessity, I handed the day-to-day operations of my online business over to my two Filipino employees.
My new job was “Mr. Mom.” I was chasing two toddlers, up to my elbows in bath times and Kraft macaroni while trying to juggle the household work and take care of Kim. I barely thought about my online business for three months.
After Kim’s recovery and the baby’s safe delivery, I returned to work, expecting to find a huge mess. I was more than surprised to find the opposite — my business was totally functional under the direction of my two Filipino employees.
I couldn’t believe it! I had worked maybe a grand total of 10 hours in three months, and my business was still functioning AND profitable. It didn’t take me long to realize that between my workers’ “self-starter” attitudes and all of the previous training I’d given them, they were able to pick up the slack while I was caring for my family.
I originally hired my virtual workers to do menial tasks and basic programming. I had NO idea they were competent enough to run my business. I had totally underestimated and underutilized these guys. So I started looking for more online business opportunities, and I hired more Filipino workers…
I’d tried outsourcing before (through India, Pakistan, Upwork etc…), but never with such success. As my businesses continued to thrive, I witnessed a pattern: because of the work ethic and moral code, specific to FILIPINO culture, almost every Filipino worker I hired was adept and hard-working.
So I started yet another business — teaching hundreds of thousands of business owners how to achieve success by outsourcing to the Philippines. And now my focus is primarily OnlineJobs.ph — a marketplace where business owners can recruit hard-working Filipino team members, and Filipino workers can find great job opportunities.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
YES. The first business I ever built was totally illegal and I had no idea. I mean, it’s funny now, but it was a pretty painful learning experience that came at the high cost of my time. (Time is my favorite and most closely guarded commodity — it’s also the driving force behind the outsourcing movement).
Anyway, after months of hard work, the only compensation I received was a historic personal failure and a valuable lesson to pass on to my five kids: Don’t be an idiot. Know your stuff. If you want to create a business, you need to understand the playbook first. Learn the details of the field, the rules, and the players. Review everything that might go wrong before you waste your time. And in the meantime, try not to break any laws or violate major business codes.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
If you follow me at all, you know that everything I do really took off after I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. In his book, Tim introduces the concept of creating your ideal life by outsourcing the things you don’t want/don’t have time to do. I remember thinking as I was reading, “he’s describing my life!”
The way Tim laid everything out in that book… It was exactly the push I needed. So I set about creating my own four-hour workweek (side note — now I probably work closer to 17 hours/week. If you love what you do, only working four hours a week gets a little boring). And when outsourcing turned into such a game changer for me, I wanted to teach the world how to do it. So that’s what I started doing.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My purpose in creating OnlineJobs.ph is pretty simple: to make people’s lives better. When I learned to outsource the right way, my life drastically changed for the better. I became financially successful. I could outsource the tasks that I hated doing, and I knew they’d get done. I had more freedom for creativity in my business, and more manpower to implement that creativity. But the best part was that since I wasn’t a slave to my business, I got my family life back. I think every entrepreneur deserves that same kind of freedom, and outsourcing makes freedom more affordable and accessible to the masses.
The second driving purpose is to make life better for the dedicated workers of the Philippines. Many people don’t realize that the Philippines is a third-world country. The unemployment rate is high. The welfare systems are broken. The frequent natural disasters destroy lives. For those lucky enough to have a stable job, the daily commutes and conditions can be brutal. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of Filipino remote workers secure jobs with Westernized companies, which means they can work from home and be with their kids while earning a stable, competitive income. It’s a win for everyone involved.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Whenever I’m faced with a new business opportunity I ask myself, “Who’s ultimately going to do the work? Does it require my time, or is it something I can outsource?” That’s the principle that guides most of my business decisions. I’m not interested in opportunities that require my personal time in the long run. To me, time is way more valuable than money, and I’d rather spend my time eating lunch with my kids or going mountain biking with my wife than sitting in front of a computer screen.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I already work from home and my family’s already used to it, so not much has changed in that sense. The bigger change in our lives is that my five kids are home, full-time. They’re great kids and they’re the best part of my life, but they’re human too. I think the anxiety and changes created by Covid-19 has impacted most of the world, and my family is no exception.
So to get outside of ourselves, we’ve actively searched out opportunities to serve others. When I learned from my team that food was running low in the Philippines due to the pandemic, we sent money to help. We also spent time helping out at our local food bank when they were short on food and volunteers. In real times of struggle, I think the best thing we can do for ourselves and others is to turn outwards and find ways to help. See how it makes you feel; for us, it’s the antithesis to fear and anxiety.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Honestly, I don’t think there is a Post-Covid economy, so to speak. I think it’s more a question of how are we going to deal with these circumstances long-term? It’s possible that living with social distancing and other precautions is the new normal.
But I do believe there is Post-Covid opportunity for so many people, if they’re flexible enough to find it. Take working remotely: I talked to one business owner yesterday whose office lease is up in June. Since working remotely has been a positive experience for their team, they’ve decided not to renew their lease — and now their rent money can be concentrated in other areas of their business.
Unfortunately, I think there will be a struggle in commercial real estate. But on the other hand, I’m really interested to watch new companies emerge and thrive in ways that support remote work. Just look at what’s happened to Zoom! But it’s not just them. Look at home office supplies, home gyms (try to buy weights right now, you can’t because they’re all gone!), cycling, dirt bikes (or anything recreation). There’s definitely opportunity in the arena of products and services that support work from home and a more flexible lifestyle.
And with people working from home, some forms of entrepreneurialism are thriving (online business in particular). It’s a good time to start an online-based business. When you work from home you’re working more efficiently and effectively and you have extra time, so why not seize the opportunity to create a business? Shopify is booming as people are signing up and ClickFunnels has grown since the pandemic started, which means there are people taking advantage of their time at home. That’s another Post-Covid economic opportunity in motion.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I don’t think Covid-19 is going away this year or in the near future. I think we’ve woken up to a new reality in regards to infectious disease. It wouldn’t be surprising if preparing for and navigating infectious disease is a new part of life. But I think the chaos will settle social distancing will become normal, we’ll get better at precautions, schools will open back up with those precautions in place, I think it is the new normal.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy? Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Because OnlineJobs.ph is already based online, business has remained pretty stable. We’ve been really blessed that way.
My advice to others would be to explore new ways to contribute to society and the “new normal.” If you’ve been waiting to build that eCommerce store, go for it. If you have a great idea for a service or product that will help people adjust to isolation or working from home, create the prototype. If you still have your job and you’re able to work from home, embrace the extra time and convenience you have and use it to enrich your relationships.
Success is often based on our ability to evolve with demands and circumstances — this might be the creativity-charged chance you’ve waited for. And when you figure out what you want to do, hire an affordable, Filipino remote worker to bring your vision to life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“No other success in life will compensate for failure in the home.”
No one says on their deathbed that they wish they had spent more time at the office. That thought drives me. I could do more professionally and make more money, but to what end? Nothing matters more than what I do at home, teaching my kids, supporting my wife and building my family relationships. That’s where I find my greatest fulfillment and joy. And that’s why I make the business choices that I make.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I just published a book detailing how and why hiring virtual workers in the Philippines is the way to go. I’m giving it away free for a limited time at www.OutsourcingLever.com.
You can also visit our blog at OnlineJobs.ph, sign up for our newsletter when they create a free account, follow us on FB, Twitter, and check out the OnlineJobs.ph YouTube channel.