Six years ago, Ike left behind his cozy life in California and moved halfway around the world to found and run a business in the Philippines. Fast forward to today, Staff Virtual is an ever-growing outsourcing company employing more than 100 people. From its headquarters in Makati, custom teams of professionals offer CEOs from the United States, Australia, the UK and Scandinavia a better, less expensive way to hire the talent they need in order to scale, and become more efficient and profitable.
In addition to being an accomplished entrepreneur, Ike is also a proud Project Getaway Gold Alumnus, having confirmed his involvement in the 2015 event as a sponsor. When we invited him to share a few inspiring thoughts with our readers, he enthusiastically accepted. We chatted about the sheer awesomeness of Project Getaway, moving out of California and becoming an expatpreneur, ideas that can prove to be wolves in sheep’s clothing, and his amazing staff in the Philippines, among other things.
PG: Ike, can you tell us how was your Project Getaway experience? What do you think is the main added value PG offers its participants?
I.S.: I am a big believer that innovation comes from the collision of ideas that can only come from being surrounded by talented and successful people. For me the main added value was making many, many friends for life. I think PG’s secret sauce is that the experience is 30 days. You literally LIVE with other people, and do fun things together non-stop for 30 days – this naturally causes long-lasting bonds that endure. You do crazy stuff together, help each other, have ideas together, travel together, et cetera. You can’t help but make some incredible friends. To me, traveling the world and meeting new people are the best parts of life, and that’s what PG is all about.
PG: As a former participant, why did you decide to become a sponsor for PG 2015?
I.S.: Project Getaway was one of the most unique, fun and rewarding experiences I have ever had. The teachings I received from PG, and people I met, helped propel my business to new heights, and my network of friends – especially in Scandinavia. I am grateful for this, so when asked to support PG, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I’m very proud that my company, Staff Virtual, was the first partner of PG in 2015. I also wanted to sponsor PG because I strongly believe my company’s services could benefit many of the participant’s companies.
PG: How did you start your company? Was there an “aha moment”?
I.S.: My “aha moment”, came when I realized that most outsourcing companies found online like Elance or Odesk, only provide freelancers, or VAs. This may work for a short-term project, like knocking out a logo or some small data entry job, but it doesn’t add real, long-lasting value. I soon realized the true value was to build custom offshore teams from the ground up that last years. This adds real value to your business. Business relationships, as in personal relationships, rarely yield anything of significant value unless they are long-term, and I believe if you want to win in the game of life, one must think long-term.
PG: What was the most important challenge you overcame as an entrepreneur?
I.S.: I would say leaving the USA to become an “expatpreneur”, a term I coined, was the biggest challenge I had to overcome. It’s not easy to sell everything you have in beautiful sunny California, leave your friends and family, and move half way around the world to a foreign country. When I moved to the Philippines to start Staff Virtual back in 2009, I didn’t know one person, I didn’t have ONE friend. Zero connections! All I had was an idea, a dream and sheer determination and a pioneering spirit that allowed me to create the life I truly wanted.
PG: How is your company doing now?
I.S.: We are doing very well, thank you, we are growing fast with the goal of reaching 200 employees by the end of the year. I give all the credit to my dedicated employees. They are not only passionate about helping our clients improve their businesses, they’re also selflessly supporting their families, and at the same time, contributing to the economic development of the Philippines.
PG: If you were to give a piece of advice to somebody just starting their business, what would that be?
I.S.: Focus. Focus. Focus! Avoid SOS – “Shiny Object Syndrome”. Many entrepreneurs feel the need to jump at every “opportunity” or good idea they come across. They get distracted from the bigger picture and go off on tangents – instead of remaining laser focused on one big goal. Good ideas can be wolves in sheep’s clothing, they side-track you, and you end up getting spread too thin. Instead, do one thing perfectly instead of 10 things poorly. Focus on your original idea and execute relentlessly to make your dreams a reality.
PG: Thank you, Ike, we’re looking forward to have you with us for at least a few days at PG 2015!