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EFP 44: Building A Profitable Business Through Leveraging The Philippines

Justin Cooke April 25, 2013

A few weeks ago, Joe and I hosted our Philippines mastermind right here in Davao City. In addition to getting (and giving) some great feedback about our businesses, we had the chance to sit down for a round table discussion with Chris from and are sharing that conversation with you here today.

Leveraging Your Business Using the Philippines

There’s literally nobody we know that is more involved in outsourcing to the Philippines than Chris and it’s always great to be able to get together and swap war stories. Today, we wanted to share with you some of our most successful experiences and tips when it comes to leveraging the Philippines to grow and scale your business. This episode is filled with value-bombs and is a must-listen!

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

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Topics Discussed This Week Include:

  • Our latest teambuilding, island-hopping extravaganza!
  • Working through cultural differences with your virtual team
  • Key strengths that are unique to the Philippines
  • Mythbusters: The Super VA
  • Blending onshore/offshore staff (and how to make it work)
  • Our answer to the “sending jobs to foreigners” question


  • Chris @ – Tips and strategies from a guy who is absolutely CRUSHING IT here in the Philippines.
  • Virtual Staff Finder – Chris’s Virtual Assistant “matchmaking service” that pairs up skilled/talented VA’s with growing businesses.
  • 2 new 5-Star itunes reviews – A big shout and thank you to our latest iTunes reviewers!
  • James Schramko – James has 80+ VA’s at work for him in the Philippines and has one creating his unique, awesome images for all of his posts.
  • Spotify – Our ninja tip for using Spotify music services outside of an approved country.

And a big shout to Ryan from for giving us an awesome video review for IntelliTheme…check it out!

Have you used virtual assistants from the Philippines to grow your business? Have any tips you’d like to share? Let us know on Twitter or feel free to share your story in the comments!


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Speaker 1:                           Welcome to the Empire Flippers podcast. Are you sick and tired of gurus who have plenty of ideas but are short on substance? Worried that eBook you bought for 17.95 won’t bring you the personal and financial freedom you long for? Hey, you’re not alone. Join thousands of others in their pursuit of niche profits without the bullshit, straight from your hosts, Justin and Joe from Empire Flippers.

Justin Cooke:                     Welcome to Episode 44 of the Empire Flippers podcast. I’m your host, Justin Cooke, and I’m here with Joe “Hot Money” Magnotti. What is going on, my man?

Joe Magnotti:                    Hey everybody.

Justin Cooke:                     We’ve got a fantastic episode lined up. We’ve got a great sit down round table with Chris Ducker from We’re gonna be talking about how to build a profitable business, leveraging the Philippines. So this is whether you’re in the U.S. or in the Philippines or elsewhere, how to use agents here to grow your business.

Joe Magnotti:                    And Chris is a great guy to talk to about that stuff for sure.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah man. It’s a great episode lined up. But let’s get right into our updates, news, and information. First thing, we’ve got two new five star iTunes reviews buddy.

Joe Magnotti:                    Hit me up.

Justin Cooke:                     The first one says, “You guys rock.” It’s from Hazardous Wasting. “I’m a truck driver driving my way out of the business. Discovered you guys a week or two ago. Went through all the episodes. Not a huge feat I suppose when you’re driving eight to ten hours a day.” Man, ouch.

Joe Magnotti:                    Do you think he drives hazardous waste? Is that why it’s Hazardous Wasting?

Justin Cooke:                     I think so, man. That’s probably the gig. Anyway he says, “You guys keep it real while keeping it motivational, a tough balance. Keep it coming. [Devow 00:01:27] next May.”

Joe Magnotti:                    Okay just make sure you keep your eyes on the road, because hazardous waste sounds like a terrible car accident.

Justin Cooke:                     Don’t bring that damn waste with you either. Next one’s got a five star review from Ted the Doorman. “Awesome podcast. Very inspiring. I’m now working on site number nine. Thanks for the inspiration.” That’s great, Ted. Make sure to let us know how your sites are doing, man. That’s really awesome.

Joe Magnotti:                    Love hearing those updates, too, from people when they’re following our process and saying, “Oh, I tripled my income on this site,” or did that. That kind of good stuff.

Justin Cooke:                     Speaking of which, we got a great video testimony. I was wondering if you paid this guy, man. It’s really good. Have you been paying this guy under the table, Joe?

Joe Magnotti:                    No, it wasn’t that bad. He just reached out to us and said he’d love to do a testimonial for IntelliTheme. So we said, “Hey, go ahead and do it.” He did an awesome job. Obviously being from, he knows how to do some speaking.

Justin Cooke:                     Anyway, let’s listen to the review on IntelliTheme from Ryan at Check it out.

Ryan:                                    Hi Justin and Joe. My name’s Ryan. I’m from Just wanted to give you a quick review about your IntelliTheme and how it’s affected me and my websites. Since Saturday morning, so I’ve had Saturday, Sunday, Monday, just three days, I’ve actually made my investment back. My click-through rate for my main niche site has more than tripled. I can see some clear winners when it comes to the themes there already. Three days, I’ve recovered my investment and now it’s just all cream on top for me.

                                                I’m not one to buy themes for WordPress. I love going the free route, but boy I wish I’d bought the IntelliTheme much quicker, because then I would’ve been making so much money already. Once again, thank you so much for IntelliTheme and I never thought I’d be happy to spend money on a WordPress theme. So thanks guys.

Justin Cooke:                     Awesome, man. Ryan, really appreciate it. That’s cool that he talks about he normally uses free WordPress themes. I’m the same way. Whatever I can use free, that’s great. The fact that he tripled his CTR is pretty sick.

Joe Magnotti:                    yeah, when you think about it, when we started off, we were completely free with the themes that you used on our site. We just wanted some more feature and functionality. That’s why we created IntelliTheme.

Justin Cooke:                     I think it’s a leveled up thing. Don’t be the guy that’s always constantly just buying the next shiny new object. Be the guy who products that you know specifically what you wanna get out of it. When you know that you need that particular thing that’s worth purchasing, before that, go free man.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, and if it doesn’t deliver an ROI, there’s really no reason to have it. If you’re not gonna use it, the ROI is negative.

Justin Cooke:                     Anyway, next point. We’ve got version 2.0 of IntelliTheme. It should be out by the end of the week. If you have a copy, it’s gonna be an automatic update. Just log into WordPress. You’ll see the update and you can update the theme automatically.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, very excited about this update. It integrates more with the AdSense API. It makes creating ad units a little bit easier. It’s not completely 100% automated, but it is pretty cool in the way it approaches it.

Justin Cooke:                     It’s getting there. Okay, enough about IntelliTheme. Let’s get back into our stuff. Responsive design on should be fixed. Please help us check it out. If you’ve got a tablet, iPhone, Galaxy, a whatever, take a look at with your phone or tab and let us know if it’s working now. It should be.

Joe Magnotti:                    Oh my God, the last three days. I have looked at our site and so many pages of our site on so many different devices, I am sick of looking at it. I know right now we have one little error which I think’ll probably be fixed by the time this podcast is out there, but if you guys find something, make sure to send us a screenshot. Send us the OS you’re using. Send us the browser you’re using and send us the screen resolution you’re using. If I have those things, we can fix it. We can recreate and fix it. If you just say, “Oh, the logo is messed up on my computer.” I can’t-

Justin Cooke:                     We don’t know how to fix it, yeah. The thing is, it’s crazy how responsive design. I’m not gonna have a theme for, is pay 30, 40 bucks and get myself a nice, clean, responsive layout basically. But when you create it from scratch, oh my God. It’s a nightmare. There are guys that are able to just knock that out really quickly I think. We have to fumble our way through it.

                                                Our last point that we wanna get to is we had a team building, island hopping experience, extravaganza, this last weekend. We took out team out. Joe unfortunately wasn’t there. He was off in Manila. But we were able to take the team out, a good probably 15 to 17 of us and do some island hopping. Do a little fun in the sun. Have some drinks and it was a great time. Everyone asking about you, man. They were like, “So where’s Joe, man? What’s going on with Joe?”

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, I’ll make the next one. I’ll make the next one, but I’m hopeful we can get the entire crew out on the next one. Maybe we can have an even bigger boat.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, man. It was really fantastic. I think we might be going again this next weekend. It’s one of the benefits of being here in the Philippines. Speaking of which, let’s get right into our interview with Chris Ducker. You’re gonna love this one. Check it out.

Speaker 1:                           This is the Empire Flippers podcast.

Justin Cooke:                     We’ve got a great interview lined up today. We’re sitting down with Chris Ducker from He is kind of the V.A. guy. He runs a company called Virtual Staff Finder and helps businesses in the U.S., Australia, and stuff get V.A.s for their businesses. Chris, great to have you on the program.

Chris Ducker:                      Thank you. Happy to be here.

Justin Cooke:                     We’ve got a great episode this week. We’re talking about how to build a profitable business leveraging the Philippines. Now, we’ve got five points we wanna go over. The first one is cultural differences. Chris, talk to be a little bit about what you thought the Philippines was gonna be like as far as the agents that are working here and what the reality was. What was different for you?

Chris Ducker:                      When I first got here, I didn’t really know what to expect. Everybody was telling me, “Oh, you’re gonna get culture shock. You know Southeast Asia, coming from London. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it didn’t really hit me until I started my own business. Because even though I was working with Filipinos, I was managing Filipino people, I guess I learned a few things like raising your voice doesn’t generally get a whole lot more done and all that sort of type of stuff. Managing. But it wasn’t really until I was running my own business, I really discovered the true cultural traits within the workplace.

Justin Cooke:                     What I think is different for people that work with V.A.s from the U.S. is the not wanting to say no. If you just kind of assume that they’re gonna say yes, you give them directions and they start working on something and they don’t really know how to figure it out. They’re scared to tell you no just because they don’t wanna cause that conflict or that friction with their boss. It’s kind of like, yes, yes, yes, I can do it.

Joe Magnotti:                    I think a good Tim [Ferris 00:07:48] trick for this is to have them rephrase what you said in their own words. If they give you the yes sir, yes sir, yes sir, that probably means no. I don’t really understand. To make sure and then not to be a jerk about it. The best way is to say, “Hey, can you just rephrase what I said in your own words so that I make sure that you understand.”

Justin Cooke:                     Once you’ve been here a while, you can pick up on those subtleties and it’s so much better in person. Because you can kind of see their body language. But if you’re working with someone on Skype and they’re just Skyping you back, yes sir, no problem. You’re like, oh it’s taken care of man. Good. Right?

Chris Ducker:                      Right, right.

Justin Cooke:                     All of a sudden a week later, shit doesn’t get delivered and you’re like, yeah that didn’t work out very well.

Chris Ducker:                      It comes down to the trait the Filipinos I believe they still call it. It’s pronounced [hee-ya 00:08:35], but it’s actually spelled as if [hi-ya 00:08:37]. H-I-Y-A. It means to not embarrass their superior or something along those lines. I found the Filipinos generally don’t wanna look embarrassed. They don’t wanna look like they’re kind of stupid or something like that with their bosses. That’s why they don’t open there mouths when there’s a genuine problem. They would rather try and take four or five hours, trying to figure something out on their own.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, it’s interesting you should bring that up as a cultural difference, because Korean Airlines had a plane crash because of that. The co-pilot didn’t wanna tell the pilot that he was doing something wrong because of a embarrassment factor and a superiority factor. He allowed the plane to crash. Then they had to retrain their entire staff to say it’s okay, even though culturally we usually don’t do this kind of thing to our superiors. When the plane is danger-

Chris Ducker:                      When there’s 160 souls, as they call it, on the plane and it’s going towards the ridiculous speeds, it’s probably a good idea to open your mouth at that point.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, that’s a big one. It’s not Philippines specifically. That’s kind of an Asian thing, right? But yeah, no that’s definitely what it comes down to, important things. Even with small projects that people are working on, over time you’ll start to learn when they’re telling you no and when they’re actually saying yes.

                                                Second point we wanna talk a little bit about is the strengths in the Philippines. Now there are a tons of strengths in working with Filipinos versus people in India or Pakistan or Eastern Europe. One of them, for sure, is the fact that English is so prevalent here. Everyone speaks English to some degree. If you’re under 30, you probably speak English pretty well.

Joe Magnotti:                    And then not only… We talked about cultural differences in the first point, but honestly, I think between the Philippines, Pakistan, and India-

Justin Cooke:                     Oh my God.

Joe Magnotti:                    Philippines is much more culturally the same as America or the U.K.

Justin Cooke:                     Oh my God. Absolutely.

Chris Ducker:                      Oh, without a doubt. What you gotta do really is to figure that one out is go to the movies over here. In India yes, they like their Hollywood films and stuff like that as well. But ultimately, it’s the Bollywood movies. Here you go into like a ten screen theater, nine of them are gonna be Hollywood movies. The tenth screen is gonna be showing some cheesy [inaudible 00:10:48] comedy or action comedy from Manila or something like that.

                                                Stuff like the movies and stuff like… And also, I’ve been taught very recently, the hundred peso bill, the Philippine peso bill has actually got the Stars and Stripes on there. They changed the money recently and now it doesn’t have it on there, but it did at one point. That was a way to say thank you to the Americans for giving them the independence.

Joe Magnotti:                    What do you think is the biggest strength in the Philippines? If you have to pick just one.

Chris Ducker:                      I think that if we’re talking about the people, I would say their ability to or their want and their need to please. Whereas I feel that ultimately, let’s say in the West, not just the U.S., but U.K., Australia, or anywhere basically, Western world. I don’t feel like employees really, as a larger group… I feel honestly that you couldn’t get 100 people from England together, employees together and the percentage of people that are genuinely wanting to please their bosses, out of that 100 people, would be way lower than here in the Philippines. I think it’s that focus of wanting to please and do a good job that is one of the contributing factors as to one of the reasons why I’m even still here after 13-

Justin Cooke:                     I love the want or the need to please, but I think that something that goes along with that is the adaptability. You’ll have a voice agency. You know this because you run a team of hundreds of voice agents in Cebu. But you’ll have an agent that doesn’t understand the Australian accent at all and then picks it up. Speaking like an Australian in a couple of weeks and in the campaign it’s amazing. They’ll adapt their understanding of culture when they’re on the phone or handling customer issues or whatever to that person’s culture and that’ amazing. You don’t see that I think anywhere else. Americans are like, “I’m an American. I’ll do it my way.” You know what I mean? And there’s some benefits to that but there are some downsides, especially when you’re dealing with customers, I think.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, I agree.

Justin Cooke:                     Our third point, and I love this one. We’ve railed on this. You’ve railed on this. The myth of the super V.A. I think it’s so frustrating, because you have these guys out there that are selling, outsourcing as some kind of magic bullet. They’re like, “You just outsource and you’re gonna make a ton of money.” They don’t explain exactly how to do it or they say that you can send your programming needs and your content writing and they can do a little personal shopping for you online and do all these things for you through one V.A. It’s bullshit. Everyone, they’re sold on this idea that you can do that. The truth is, you can’t find those people in any country and the Philippines isn’t this magical land of super person.

Joe Magnotti:                    Even worse than that is the build a business for me V.A. Oh, okay, I have this idea to build a business and I bought this eBook for 12.95 and you just follow that and build a business for me that makes several thousand dollars a month?

Justin Cooke:                     I want my V.A… I the idea guy. Can’t I make my V.A. the get it done guy? Can’t he just go out there and make me money?

Joe Magnotti:                    But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a General V.A. that can just do a whole bunch of things for you. Maybe you don’t have enough to occupy 40 hours, but you have a bunch of little tasks that are kind of general tasks, not very specific-like.

Chris Ducker:                      Well that’s the one role. That G.V.A. as I call them or a General V.A. That is the role that every single entrepreneur on the planet should absolutely without a doubt have working. They must have a G.V.A. setup. The G.V.A. will do your email filtering. They’ll manage your social media. They’ll do your online research, your transcription. They’ll book your flights. They’ll manage your calendar. They’ll do all these things that every single entrepreneur needs done on a day-to-day basis. It’s not like they’re shitty jobs. They’re just busy jobs. They suck your time as an entrepreneur. I always say that time is our most valuable commodity as entrepreneurs. Money will come and go but once you’ve spent or you’ve invested that time, it’s gone forever.

Joe Magnotti:                    It’s interesting you bring up shitty tasks, because that’s like-

Chris Ducker:                      No because that’s a lot of people say they are. Like why don’t you give the shitty jobs to the people in the Philippines. It’s bullshit.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah it’s terrible. You shouldn’t do that. If it’s that tasks then why are you doing it.

Justin Cooke:                     Maybe you shouldn’t be doing it at all. That’s I think another thing that happens with the V.A.s is that people will send the crappy tasks or the tasks that aren’t great off to a V.A. But that’s problematic, because even though it’s cheap, if you’re still spending on things that don’t need to be done, you wanna send jobs that need to be done to your V.A. If they don’t need to be done, no one should be doing it, even your V.A.

Chris Ducker:                      Right, absolutely. Agreed. It’s like anything else, you wouldn’t hire a roofer to come and fix your leaking pipe. You’d hire a fricking plumber. The super V.A. or the super employee does not exist in the real world, then why the hell would it exist in the virtual world-

Justin Cooke:                     Can I program this tool for you? Can you do some Photoshop for me? Plus I want you to do some audio editing.

Joe Magnotti:                    It just doesn’t work.

Justin Cooke:                     Not gonna happen. If you need all those things done, then you’re gonna have to hire separate people and you just have to understand it. They’re gonna have different skill sets.

Joe Magnotti:                    You might be able to have a General V.A. look on oDesk and find those talented people to help you manage different types of listing, whatnot. Work with Virtual Staff Finder to go ahead and set up interviews for these new for of specialized programmers, developers, or people that you need. But I think the first step is definitely a General.

Chris Ducker:                      The rule of thumb here, hiring period, whether it be virtually, whether it be in an office or whatever, in the Philippines, anywhere else. The rule of thumb is to hire for the role and not for the task. It cannot be any more simpler than that. You hire for the role, not for the task.

Justin Cooke:                     Here’s the pro tip, I think, is that you’re not gonna find a super V.A., somebody who’s magic and can just do anything for you. But with great process and documentation and training, you can get people to do pretty amazing things. We’ve seen problems with that where the worst clients are the clients that don’t have their process laid out. They just kind of say, “I think I want it to be this way. Can you just build that for me?” They come up and they go, “I got this screen cast. It’s step one through step nine.” And they sit down with their V.A. and go through the process and make sure they understand it, get the feedback and then have them roll it out. That’s when you get close. It’s not a super V.A., but you’re amazed at the work that’s able to be done.

Chris Ducker:                      Right and the other thing is, I consistently tell clients to throw a curve ball at their V.A.s, regardless of what they’re doing. They could be a General V.A. They could be a web developer, an SEO guy, a writer, whatever. But I consistently say, “Throw a curve ball.” Just every now and then. Not too often, but every now and then. If you’ve got a General V.A. throw them a little SEO curve ball. Let’s just see whether they can handle a little bit of SEO.

Justin Cooke:                     That’s cool. Well because it challenges them a bit and it makes sure they’re paying attention.

Chris Ducker:                      You’d be surprised how much untapped talent every single employee that you have right now working for you, that you have no idea that they can do that. Like my SEO guy recently did a couple of graphical elements, like sidebar images for my blog. I had no idea. He’s been working with me for like two years. I had no idea that he could use Photoshop that well and now I’m like well, shit that’s great. Now I don’t need to go to to get a couple of things done. Or I don’t need to worry about giving this to my V.A. to find somebody on oDesk to do it, for 30 bucks or something. Because my SEO guy can do it, you know what I mean?

Justin Cooke:                     I heard someone else talking about this. James [Schramko 00:18:02] had… I think it was one of his girls that worked for him and he was getting some custom images done for every one of his blog posts or whatever and then he just asked around. She was kind of bored with her job or something and she has this amazing ability to draw these little cartoons and stuff and she started pumping them out. I think he actually offers it as a product now or something.

                                                We did something similar from our last mastermind in Cebu until now, over two months, we put a lot of autonomy towards our people, especially our supervisors and our agents to work a bit on their own. We knew mistakes would be made and actually, surprisingly, very few have been made when we let off the reins or started challenging them a bit and have them do things that we didn’t know they could do and they’re doing this kind of amazing shit. Especially when it comes to creativity.

Joe Magnotti:                    And I think the mistakes that have been made are correctable. So that’s good stuff and you’d be amazed the IQ level seems to go up when people have more responsibility.

Chris Ducker:                      Yes, I think it’s a sense of ownership, is what it is. They truly feel like they own that part of the business and if you I’ve them that much… A lot of people say, “Well, if you give them enough rope they’re gonna hang themselves.” I don’t think that’s right.

Justin Cooke:                     That’s the negative cynical look.

Chris Ducker:                      I think if you give somebody enough rope they’re gonna turn into a cowboy and start lassoing that shit.

Joe Magnotti:                    The thing I like about the curve ball idea too, is that it keeps them interested in their task, in their job. If you do the same thing over and over, year in, year out, you just get really bored.

Chris Ducker:                      That’s gonna get mundane no matter what you’re doing.

Justin Cooke:                     I’ve noticed this too. We’ve been a bit oppressive. That’s a little over-

Chris Ducker:                      Oppressive?

Justin Cooke:                     That’s a little over [inaudible 00:19:33]. But no, if we are giving them just really basic tasks, have them work it out, and we’re not really allowing them room to grow or stretch them with curve balls for examples, then that’s our fault, not theirs. Taking a step back and letting them reach a little bit, letting them do some things that they’re capable of doing that we didn’t know they were capable of doing-

Chris Ducker:                      That goes back to the cultural element of Filipinos in general. They might know full well that they can help you with A B C-

Justin Cooke:                     And not tell you.

Chris Ducker:                      And they won’t tell you, because they just-

Justin Cooke:                     They don’t wanna overreach. They don’t wanna be like, “I’m smarter than you.” So you have to encourage that. We have some agents on staff that I think we’ve been like, “Look, tell us what you can or can’t do. We’re cool with it. Tell us no.” We have a couple now that are comfortable doing that. It’s outside of their cultural norm, but they kind of know what we like because we’ve worked with them for years now. They’re a little more bell ringers.

Chris Ducker:                      But then there’s also the flip side of that coin is, you ask somebody to do something and they dismiss it straight away that they can’t do that. I recently had that with one of my IT staff when I asked them to do something that is not necessarily connected to USB cables and putting software on a computer. He just dismissed it immediately, like, “I can’t do that.” So I was like, “Well, you’ve been with me three years. Let’s give it a go. Let’s try to do it at least. Don’t sort of low ball me immediately just like that.” And you know what? He freaking did it. And he did it great. So now he’s editing videos, whether he likes it or not.

Joe Magnotti:                    Being a little insistent is a good idea. Don’t take the first no as an answer.

Justin Cooke:                     I feel like myth busters here. The super V.A.? What do you think?

Chris Ducker:                      Busted.

Joe Magnotti:                    Busted.

Chris Ducker:                      Without a doubt. Busted.

Justin Cooke:                     Definitely busted. Our fourth point is blending offshore and onshore staff. Joe and I had some experience with this in the U.S. where we had a huge staff in the U.S. and that was kind of like working with our staff in the Philippines. Sometimes, not only like the cultural friction, but just the fact that you’re not in a room with someone or the feeling of, I don’t want them to take my job or I wanna keep my specific knowledge or someone that’s not used to managing people offshore, can be a bit difficult. What are situations you’ve seen where that blend of onshore and offshore have been successful? What are the keys to that, you think?

Chris Ducker:                      I think ultimately there’s the potential for it to be successful every single time. It just comes down to the way you set things up. I think the big flaw for a lot of people that do it and they don’t succeed is trying to mix and match that onshore and offshore team right out the gate and not taking into consideration things like, obviously different time zones. There’s the culture element to that as well. Different skill levels.

                                                Also, I have seen over and over and over again, the onshore staff, let’s say they’re in the United States for example’s sake. They start looking at the offshore staff as a threat. Because they know they’re getting paid less. If their skill levels and their talent levels are to a certain height, a certain level, they start looking at that like a real threat. Like shit, I need to make this person look worse than me almost.

                                                The times where I’ve seen this work out well, to be very frank, is when you’ve got one person in the domestic office, let’s say in the U.S. and that one person is the go-between in regards to the local team and then the offshore team. Literally that one person is in the domestic office managing the offshore team and the work that the offshore team are doing. You’ve only got one point of failure really at that point. If that person is hired specifically to manage that team, he or she knows then at that point that-

Justin Cooke:                     Their success is tied to the success of that team.

Chris Ducker:                      Precisely.

Justin Cooke:                     How that team does is how well they’re gonna do.

Chris Ducker:                      I’ve seen that work very well over and over again.

Joe Magnotti:                    That’s interesting, because we have an outsourcing customer that does it that way and that’s one of our most successful clients. Yeah, we always talk about onshore versus offshore integration, but the onshore versus offshore integration could be just that. One person.

Justin Cooke:                     When we did it, we started off with something that was not related to the core process. It was like a third party kind of task that didn’t require integration and we tested it that way. Then we started adding… We broke up the process into bits. We took those bits and would take a piece offshore and a piece offshore. That’s how we integrated it successfully.

                                                I have to say though, too, and I’m gonna go out on a limb here a little bit and say that if you’re in the U.S. and you’re at a company where they’re taking monotonous jobs or data, manually pulling data out of somewhere and somewhere else, and your company’s gone offshore a bit, you should be worried. If that’s your job and you don’t have anything that’s more complicated or you can’t level yourself up, then you should be worried about your job because it’s probably gonna go offshore. And over the next few years, that is gonna continue.

Joe Magnotti:                    Especially as technology gets better, because if you think about it Justin, when we did that process, breaking that process apart into little bits and having it done offshore, yeah it wasn’t managed completely onshore. It wasn’t integrated. But we had technology to track it. Even when it was done onshore, the guy that was having the one piece, D, done, he didn’t know what person was in the cubicle next to him doing that. Or was it someone in a cubicle 7,000 miles away? He had no idea.

Justin Cooke:                     So let’s cut the shit a little bit. Let’s get into our fifth and final point here. It’s a big one, because we get this a lot. I know you get this a lot Chris and you do a lot of speaking engagements and stuff. In the U.S., you’re gonna get this question. Why are you taking my jobs offshore? That’s a question you get. Why are you stealing all of these American jobs?

Joe Magnotti:                    We’re so evil.

Justin Cooke:                     So evil.

Chris Ducker:                      It’s one big world domination plan, is what it is.

Justin Cooke:                     We’re putting it together, baby. No I mean, your answer to this is, what would you say?

Chris Ducker:                      My answer’s been the same for years and years and years. That is the fact that I don’t care whether it’s the U.S. economy, the U.K. economy, or any other economy for that matter, 98.9998% of any economy is fueled by small businesses. We know this. They’re the ones that pay all the taxes. They’re not the ones with the offshore corporations for tax havens and all the rest of it that goes out there. The small business owner has a direct responsibility to him, to his country, to his family, to everything that he does with his business to save as much money as possible so that he can keep that business alive-

Justin Cooke:                     Open.

Chris Ducker:                      He can open and he can generally and genuinely grow that business both locally and overseas. Let me just say something right now. It’s not offshore anymore. This is B.S. This is not an offshore job. This is still an employee. They just happen to be in another country. That’s global arbitrage right there. That’s global economy right there.

Justin Cooke:                     There are Americans and [Limeys 00:26:25] and everyone-

Chris Ducker:                      Limeys! He just called me a Limey. That’s awesome. You Yankee bastard.

Justin Cooke:                     Americans and British that are living abroad, that if they hired them, they’re going offshore, right? I mean, they’re hiring them offshore. You’re now taking jobs and putting them over there. Yeah, I don’t get that. A business owner, a small business owner’s job is to keep their damn doors open.

Chris Ducker:                      Absolutely.

Justin Cooke:                     By hook or by crook, right? They gotta keep it without stealing or robbing people. They gotta keep their doors open. Then, when they get through their hard times or whatever, if they’re growing, if they’re alive, if they got through the hump, they’re gonna hire more people. They’re gonna continue to grow their business with onshore or offshore people.

Joe Magnotti:                    For years and years and years, these countries have had their top jobs and their top talent taken by the people from our country. It’s just a little bit-

Justin Cooke:                     That’s a good point. I think the protectionist attitude here, it’s weak. Good luck with that. In the next five to ten years, good luck.

Chris Ducker:                      Big time. Let me tell you a quick story. This happened to me. You know how you get this Super Shuttle in U.S.? You know the big blue buses that go between like-

Joe Magnotti:                    The airport.

Chris Ducker:                      Hotels and airports and stuff. It’s 4:00 AM. I’m leaving San Francisco after a business trip. I’m on a Super Shuttle and I get talking to these ladies, middle aged ladies. Very nice ladies, we’re talking. “Oh, you’re from England? Oh my God. That’s where the Queen lives.” Really, I had no bloody idea. That’s brilliant. Thanks for the info. But yada, yada, yada, right?

                                                So then they go, “So where do you live?” “I live in the Philippines.” “Oh, where’s that?” “It’s over in Asia.” “Ah, okay. So what do you do over there?” “Actually I run a call center.” And she goes, “Wait a minute. You mean like, outsourcing?” And I was like, “Yes.”

                                                So after a really pleasant 15 minute conversation-

Justin Cooke:                     Turned on you.

Chris Ducker:                      Didn’t talk to me! At all. Would not say another word to me for their entire 20 odd minutes of the trip.

Justin Cooke:                     I think a lot of times, let’s say that your father or your husband or wife or whatever lost their job-

Chris Ducker:                      That’s gotta be-

Justin Cooke:                     It’s so personal that it’s hard to see it objectively when it hits you at home. I do understand that and it’s a tough situation. We’re joking about it because we’re thinking about it globally and objectively.

Chris Ducker:                      I think the other thing is this. Particularly in the United States, the general view of outsourcing is not what we’re talking about here. The general view of outsourcing in the U.S. is-

Justin Cooke:                     Citi Bank.

Chris Ducker:                      Thousands of employees losing their jobs to quote unquote foreigners in some sweatshop. That’s the general idea of it. What we’re talking about here is small business owners utilizing virtual staff to build and operate-

Justin Cooke:                     Enhance.

Chris Ducker:                      And grow their business. That’s right.

Joe Magnotti:                    I think especially in middle America, they’ve been hit hard by some of the manufacturing outsourcing, by some of the low level customer support outsourcing-

Justin Cooke:                     It kind of just blends it together. It’s all-

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, so when people buy a pair of sneakers that fall apart and they come from Thailand, they blame it on outsourcing. When people call their bank and they get transferred to some guy that doesn’t speak very good English and can’t help them, they blame it on outsourcing.

Justin Cooke:                     Well, you like your MacBook? You gotta blame that on outsourcing too.

Joe Magnotti:                    Exactly.

Chris Ducker:                      Designed in California, made in China my man.

Justin Cooke:                     Another question, and this isn’t part of our five points, but let’s say that I’m a business owner and I’m just getting started. I’m an entrepreneur. I got the fire in my belly and a gleam in my eye.

Chris Ducker:                      Yeah!

Justin Cooke:                     I’m getting it going. When is it right to start offshore? When is it right to start looking for virtual assistants to help out my business?

Chris Ducker:                      When is it start… When is it right to just start employing? Period. Doesn’t matter whether it’s locally or overseas or whatever. Obviously the overseas way of doing it is more cost-effective, so a lot of startups, a lot of bootstrapping entrepreneurs-

Justin Cooke:                     Boot strappers.

Chris Ducker:                      They go that way. My answer to this, I don’t know about you Joe, but my answer to this is the right time to do this is when overwhelm hits. When you’re doing those 14 hour days. When you are replying to the same emails over and over and over again. When you are having to update all your social media yourself. When you can’t sleep because of ideas rolling around in your head all the time. It’s overwhelm. When you’re working six, seven days a week, that’s the time to employ someone to help you.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, but I wanna get ahead of myself. I don’t wanna wait until overwhelm hits, because then I have to train up this person. I have to get them on to-

Justin Cooke:                     And you’re already working 14 hour days.

Chris Ducker:                      That’s another way to look at it.

Joe Magnotti:                    I’m gonna say that you’ve gotta be ahead of yourself a little bit here. I will use the mortgage business that we had from 2005 to 2007 as a perfect example, when we started hiring assistants. We started hiring virtual assistants to help us with Craigslist ads and going out and helping us find loan officers way before we were overwhelmed with it. We just looked at the work in front of us and said this is-

Justin Cooke:                     This makes us money. I think this goes back to something that you and I hammer all the time, Joe, is have a profitable process first. You can’t, please just build me a business or whatever. They’re should be something that you’re doing, from step A to step Z, that you do that makes money. That’s your business. Now you start to take pieces of those that are time-consuming and that can be done offshore or onshore and you start pushing that out.

                                                If you’re V.C. backed, you’ll probably hire designers and stuff in the U.S. because you’re looking for quick scale-ability. If you’re bootstrapped you might look offshore for cost savings. But either way, that profitable process has to be in place first.

Chris Ducker:                      But the thing is this is that most entrepreneurs that I’ve ever come across in my life has all got, at some point, they’ve all suffered from superhero syndrome. They’ve all suffered from working the 14 hours. It’s all very well saying, let’s plan in advance. Let’s make sure that we don’t get to overwhelm. Trust me, you’re gonna get to a overwhelm, 90% of the time, overwhelm-

Justin Cooke:                     Before you know it, right, right.

Chris Ducker:                      But then, the difference between your level of success and how fast you actually get there comes down to when you pull that trigger. How long are you gonna accept overwhelming your life?

Joe Magnotti:                    But if you… What my point was, was that if you have those resources available as you start to get overwhelmed, they’re already part of your group. It’s easy to pull those resources in and train them up and make sure it happens, whereas if you get overwhelmed and now you have to go out there and try to hire a person and find out the right person and see how they work and get used to them. You already have Judy as your right hand man or woman and she’s a big part of your organization. Now you just make her a bigger part.

Chris Ducker:                      Right. There’s two ways to look at it. For me-

Justin Cooke:                     I love this. Hot Money and Chris just battling it out. Boom.

Chris Ducker:                      Well, you know he was the champion of the [kapow 00:32:53] and [devow 00:32:54] right?

Justin Cooke:                     Ah, kapow and devow.

Chris Ducker:                      I’m starting to run a little now, talking about… Here’s my thing. I truly believe that most entrepreneurs in the bootstrapping stage don’t have the foresight to realize they need to plan in advance for that shit. I’ve just seen it so often and every single week, I get emails and messages and tweets from people saying, “I need more time. You must help me.” And all this sort of stuff.

Justin Cooke:                     I love this thought, because I really got this out of your guys back and forth. You’re at your 14 hour, stressed-out period or whatever. Taking on a V.A. or a hire, it’s time-consuming. How are you gonna fit those hours in? Answering that question, it’s an individual question. Answering that question is critical for your business to go to the next level. How do you fit in more hours in the day to train someone to help you. Well if you don’t, you’re gonna be a contractor forever. You’re not gonna have a business. You’re not gonna be anything more than self-employed. Answering that question is key.

                                                We’re getting into the next part of our program where we talk about niche business ideas. I think a lot of our listeners dig it because it gives them ideas on businesses they can start that could potentially be profitable and there’s a need. We’re able to fix problems that are outstanding.

                                                We talked a little bit about before the show, talking about what kind of niche business ideas you might be able to share with us. Chris, hit us up, buddy. What do you got?

Chris Ducker:                      Alright, so this is something I’ve thought about for the last couple of years. A lot of it comes out of demand or at least inquiries from clients or people on the blog and stuff like that. That is the ability to be able to support their V.A.s on the ground here in the Philippines. It’s not thing to be able to train them and manage them and spend time with them over Skype or whatever, but the ability to be able to support them in not only work related stuff but also lifestyle related stuff. Personal stuff as well.

                                                Things like, we get a lot of inquiries from people, say well, it’s my V.A.’s kid’s birthday, or my V.A.’s kid’s christening. Or something like that. Can you send some clothes for the child? Or their wedding anniversary is coming up and I wanna get them a couple of nights for my V.A. and her husband or whatever at a nice resort there somewhere. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s nice, what’s not nice. That kind of thing.

                                                Kind of like a V.A. for V.A.s concierge kind of deal.

Justin Cooke:                     Concierge service.

Chris Ducker:                      But other things like also the tech side of things as well. If you want your V.A. to say, be on a Mac, okay? They know their Macs here in the Philippines are pretty pricey. The chances of this… All types of-

Justin Cooke:                     You’re wondering if you can send a Mac over or something.

Chris Ducker:                      Send a Mac over. But you don’t wanna buy it in the U.S. and then put it in a FedEx box.

Justin Cooke:                     Ship it over. Well, because they’re gonna end up paying a ton for customs.

Chris Ducker:                      Customs is gonna kil them. Kill them. We can go out and we can potentially buy the MacBook Air and then L.B.C. it, which is the local version of FedEx here in the Philippines, across without any problems.

Justin Cooke:                     Funny enough, Chris. We have a bookkeeper and she supports a kid near Cebu-ish. She actually asked us. She was like, “It’s kind of a pain and I don’t wanna lose this stuff. Can I give you some money and buy some stuff for this nine year old and send it to him or whatever?” We took care of that for her. It was not a service we offer, but she was just asking for it.

Joe Magnotti:                    Our U.S. bookkeeper. She has obviously someone she takes care of here as part of a charity. So that was really interesting. I like the idea. I’m not so sure about the presents, like buying gifts for your V.A.s. That could lead to a whole other scenario where I’m not sure if it’s great.

Justin Cooke:                     Think about this, Joe. I don’t know man, because a V.A. here, a lot of times they’ll work and they give a good portion of their money to their family. It’s very communal, communal property and communal earnings or whatever. So if you get them a gift, they can’t give that money to their family. That’s a gift that they… It’s for them. It’s not communal property. It’s not something… I kind of like that.

Joe Magnotti:                    The issue that I have with it is, if you have three V.A.s and you buy a birthday gift for V.A. One’s little boy and then the birthday comes along for the kids of V.A. Two and Three and you either… You’re strapped for cash or they’re under performing, it could cause a little bit of a jealousy factor.

                                                But I do love the support staff idea. Everything from MacBooks, which are very expensive, down to cheap things, like pens and pencils, and headsets. We know that when our people work from home, Justin, I’ll try to call them on Skype. I don’t have a headset. My headset’s not working, sir. It’s still the headset I had from ten years ago. Okay, I’ll go out and buy you a headset, no problem. It’s only 600 pesos. But they don’t have that money and then making sure that they’re not going to the mall and focused on buying that. They’re actually focused on doing your work and you have a service that just sends it right to their house.

Justin Cooke:                     It’s interesting. I’m not entirely sure there’s a business there. But it’s interesting and it’s needed.

Chris Ducker:                      I think there is a business of sorts, but what the margins, what the profitability of that business is probably one of the reasons why I’ve not pulled the trigger on it. If you think about it very logically, Virtual Staff Finder, lots of clients through there. Lots of V.A. contacts. Thousands of V.A.s on our books. It’s kind of like we’re in the perfect position to set it up. There’s an office facility. We could even store certain pieces of kit, like headsets and things like that in advance, knowing that people would need that sort stuff.

                                                I guess the main reason why I haven’t pulled the trigger is because I just don’t feel that there’s, for me, for me personally as a entrepreneur, I don’t feel like there’s enough profitability factor involved in that kind of business. Whereas where I can provide other services or other products or things like that online, there’s more margin in it for me. There’s only so many hours in the day, right? So you gotta work on what’s more profitable.

Justin Cooke:                     The co-location or co-working space in Cebu, location 63, something like that… Because you have, with Virtual Staff Finder, you have agents that work all over the Philippines, right? Maybe providing those executive suites or co-location spots for people I think is good. You’re already doing that, but that’s probably opportunities for other people to work with you or talk to you about it.

Chris Ducker:                      Oh yeah, for sure. I’m wide open with that stuff.

Justin Cooke:                     So anyway, Chris, it’s been fantastic having you on the show. I really like this episode, man. It was really fun. Anyone wants to check him out, you can go to He runs an awesome V.A. service through We’ve used your services because we wanted to test it out for other people. If we wanna recommend it we wanna make sure it’s legit and it is.

Chris Ducker:                      Right, yeah. Is this guy full of shit or not is what it really is, right?

Justin Cooke:                     Well, getting to know you, and I’m not kidding here. We view you as a bit of a mentor. You’ve done an amazing job in Cebu in building up your call center business, but the Virtual Staff Finder stuff is on point, dude. There are so many people that are full of shit about virtual agents in the Philippines and elsewhere and you’re not. You’re one of the guys who knows what he’s talking about. It’s so cool to be able to sit down with you today and do this podcast. I really appreciate it, man.

Chris Ducker:                      My pleasure.

Joe Magnotti:                    Thanks a lot, Chris.

Chris Ducker:                      No problems, Joe. You wanna go outside and wrestle on the grass to try and sort out this whole threshold thing? This whole overwhelm thing?

Joe Magnotti:                    We’re gonna battle it out now.

Chris Ducker:                      El [Greco 00:39:47]. Roman Greco style, right?

Joe Magnotti:                    I’ve got a little bit of a bum knee, but you know. I’d take you up on that.

Justin Cooke:                     Let’s move right into our tips, tricks, and our plans for the future.

Speaker 1:                           The Empire Flippers podcast.

Justin Cooke:                     Alright so a few months ago, Joe, I was looking for music, man. I wanted to listen to some music and everyone was raving about Spotify. Now, whether you’re in the U.S., U.K., Australia or abroad, you’ve probably heard about Spotify.

Joe Magnotti:                    I had heard about it but I had never tried it out. I love the idea of internet radio where I don’t really have to choose my songs. I just listen to other people’s playlists and other people’s stuff. But yeah, you said you weren’t able to get it to work.

Justin Cooke:                     Here’s the problem. If you’re not in the U.S. or some of these other countries that are approved, you cannot download Spotify. So what I did was I tried to V.P.S. in. I was able to sign up and then go premium and I was able to get on my laptop that way. But I had to use a V.P.S. and it was kind of a pain. Then I couldn’t get it on my phone. I wasn’t able to download it from the Playstore with Android, so I wasn’t able to put it on my phone. I was like screw this premium stuff and I’m only able to use it on my laptop.

                                                But Joe has the fix. Tell me Hot Money. What’s the deal?

Joe Magnotti:                    The first thing is, definitely make sure when you sign up you use your Facebook account from a U.S. I.P. and then upgrade to a premium account. That will make it work on your laptop or anywhere overseas because premium users are allowed to do that. I think it’s $10 a month or whatever.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, nine or something like that.

Joe Magnotti:                    It’s totally, totally worth it for all the music that’s included. But then for your phone, if you have an Android phone and this will not work on I.O.S.

Justin Cooke:                     With your new Mac I know you’re going iPhone soon.

Joe Magnotti:                    No way.

Justin Cooke:                     You’re going to the dark side, buddy.

Joe Magnotti:                    I am not. But no, if you have an Android phone you can just search for Spotify A.P.K. A.P.K. is the package extension for Android installs. Download that to your phone. Make sure you allow installs not from the Playstore, which is a setting in your Android phone. Then you’ll be able to set up Spotify on your phone, log in with your premium account and you’ll be able to play from anywhere in the world.

Justin Cooke:                     Cool. So, for anyone outside the U.S. or outside of a place where it’s available, that’s your quick hack of the week to get Spotify on your phone and on your laptop.

                                                Well that’s it for Episode 44 of the Empire Flippers podcast. It’s been great having you. Make sure and check us out on Twitter @empireflippers and we’ll see you around.

Joe Magnotti:                    Bye bye everybody.

Speaker 1:                           You’ve been listening to the Empire Flippers podcast, with Justin and Joe. Be sure to hit up for more. That’s Thanks for listening.



  • Julia says:

    Hi Guys,

    Nice episode and quite a few new insights.
    Apart from odesk/elance or the mentioned virtual staff finder – what would be your favourite services or websites to find VAs?
    Do you have specific suggestions or recommendations?

    Thanks in advance

  • kenyon says:

    I recently discovered you guys and thrilled. ive been based in the phlilippines for 3 years now, and recently started up a consulting business as well as just two days ago my first call center. starting small but thinking big. its great to hear guys out here who are real and sharp and doing good things, as you know its not easy to find. I am based in manila though. i see so much opportunity here my mind can’t rest. im am really excited to be breaking into this biz. ive been in show biz out here for the last few years. this pod cast as well as the others is right on. you guys are great.
    i am in davao regularly, now even, do you have any get to gethers soon. i love to meet in person.
    thanks again for doing what you do

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Awesome, Kenyon!

      You’ve been in showbiz in the Philippines? That sounds pretty interesting…would like to hear more about that!

      Yes…a ton of opportunity in Asia over all and specifically the Philippines. The PI beat out China last quarter in terms of GDP growth…I really think the country is in a great position for explosive growth in the next few years!

      • kenyon says:

        Thanks for getting back Justin,
        Ya i got allot of experience here in the film, tv and modeling biz. allot of pretty crazy stories about just how unorganized it is too haha. but allot of great contacts came of it, but its certainly not anything i can rely upon for the future. I have been to every Asian country and your right the Philippines has something special, in quality of life and lifestyle design, as well as opportunity. look forward to diving deeper into your work, and making some great new connections.
        Thanks guys for what your doing

    • Steve says:

      Hello Kenyon..Good luck with your venture. I have a similar goal and wanted to discuss the possibility of collaborating with you.


      • kenyon says:

        sounds great steve,
        Building a solid network of like minded people is very important, specially out here, where we are the minority.

  • I second the “throw your VA a curve once in a while” assertion. You may end up with an assistant that’s competent in an area he/she never thought about before, even though it actually isn’t that far from their core competence. Last year I worked with a Pakistani VA who very quickly got the hang of spintax and saved me hours of precious time each week.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Totally agreed, Gus. It’s great to find hidden skillsets your team has that you didn’t know about!

  • Joe Norton says:

    Nice episode guys! I like hearing more about outsourcing, very interesting stuff. I’ve had mild success going through sites like odesk and elance. Nice to hear about other options. Anywho, good post – keep’em coming!

    • Joe Magnotti says:

      Thanks Joe, we’ve been lucky in that we had exposure to outsourcing early on. So it was easy to leverage that later in our online business. Hopefully you can learn from us so you don’t make the same mistakes we did when we started.

  • ilias diamantis says:

    Hey guys , what’s up ?

    It was a pleasure to hear all three of you .
    I have finally decided to pull the trigger and hire . Being a control freak all my life, even the idea of delegating tasks makes feel weird to say the least . But I understand, that if I want to expand my business , I will have to do it .

    Anyway , we’ll see how it goes .

    Be healhty and smile.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Ilias! You were at that meetup in Berlin, eh? The DC guys can be pretty convincing that hiring is the way to go, hehe.

      Keep in mind that it’s a learning experience and it may take some time to find the right people and get the engine running. Even if your first experience doesn’t work out so well, keep it up…it’s THE best way to build out a true biznass.

      Best of luck!

      • ilias diamantis says:

        Thanks for the advice Justin . I’ll keep it in mind .
        DCBER was an amazing experience . I left with a plenty of ideas . And inspiration .
        Unless something terribly wrong goes , I’ll be in DCBKK .
        See you there . 🙂

  • Taylor White says:

    Nice to see the change recently from Adsense Flippers to Empire Flippers.

    We currently employ a few female VA’s from the Philippines and while it has taken some work finding team members that fit – its definently worth the time investment.

    I find its very important hold Skype (voice) interviews, weekly (voice) meetings, and to make sure VA’s know exactly what you expect from them. Once you build up some trust – then feel free to challenge them as Chris recommends.

    While I would agree “most” Philippine VA’s speak English well – a much bigger percentage than you might imagine don’t like actually using voice – just writing. Make sure in the interview process you make Skype voice calls mandatory.

    If they come up with some excuse why they can’t (head set broken, boyfriend won’t let them, etc) its most always because they lack the confidence to use voice.


    • Justin Cooke says:

      You’re spot-on about the reason they may be uncomfortable talking with you over Skype. If they know their English is a bit off they’re likely embarrassed about it. I always like to mention it upfront and let them know they’re MUCH farther along than me…they likely speak 2-3 language and I only speak one! (with a bit of Spanish, hehe) That helps to ease their worry…

      • iain says:

        I never thought of something so simple, but when you’re dealing with a different culture there are bound to be some things you need to think differently about.

        Justin, that sounds like a great way to get them to relax a bit and not to be shy.

        I haven’t hired a VA, but it is something that I like the idea of. I would have to go through the things that I don’t sit down and do and see what a VA could do.

        Great podcast gents. Look forward to the next one.

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