So up for ‘the land Down Under’!

So up for ‘the land Down Under’!

When I won the Paraplanner of the Year award, I said to myself, “Thank you, Lord, for the self-validation I have always been praying for.”

Facing 2018 was a challenge for me because of a personal journey I faced in 2017 which made me realise that, where you are now is where you are meant to be. And that sometimes, even hard work and determination to achieve a dream won’t be enough, especially if it isn’t the timeline God has set for you.

I feel blessed that somehow, all the questions I had for myself, with all the self-doubt and loss of confidence, now have answers. And it all finally makes sense.

Trip to ‘Straya!

Part of the award was a trip to Australia to meet my clients in MBS Insurance. The trip was set from the 11th to the 21st of January 2019 which was such a perfect time since it was still summer and the office was still not as busy.

The flight to Sydney was smooth. Since the schedule relatively coincides with my usual sleeping time, I basically just slept through the flight.

When I arrived, Ash (lead paraplanner of MBS) collected me at the airport and we went straight to the Blue Mountains where she lived. I stayed there for a night and then the following day, Sunday, we went for a bush walk up to the Hanging Rock.

It was an 8-km walk. I loved the scenery going there! When we reached the top, the view definitely did not disappoint. I was afraid that it might not live up to its “hype” and how it looked like in pictures. But nope, Hanging Rock was breathtaking. At first, I was having jelly legs. I’ve done treks to mountains before but this was by far the highest peak I’ve ever stood on.

Come Monday, Ash and I went to the city to meet Kristina, another one of our lead paraplanners. We went out for lunch at Café Sydney and again, I was in awe of the view. I had a medium rare beef tenderloin with potato puree and onion rings. Now, I can attest to its popular reviews – the steak definitely melts in your mouth!

After our lunch, I went ahead and explored the city all by myself. With a map in my hand and a good sense of direction, I managed to get around the city pretty well. I went to the Art Gallery of NSW to see Van Gogh and then decided to walk to the Queen Victoria building. Along the way, I also got to see St. Mary’s Cathedral and other amazing sites.

By Tuesday (15th of January), I went up to the MBS office to join our huddle. Then Loren (another lead paraplanner) picked me up for lunch as we planned to do the Spit to Manly Walk. When we reached Manly, it was time for lunch. The vibe there was refreshing, with all the funky cafes and colourful stores. I had a huge serving of their famous fish and chips for lunch and then a cone of ice cream for dessert to fight the scorching heat.

The next few days I spent visiting more places in Sydney – went to the Bondi Beach with Loren then to the fish market (by myself) to try some delicious lobster. I also spent another day in the office – had lunch with the team, played some table tennis and grabbed a drink at a nearby pub.

I also got to spend time with Carolyn (general manager) and Steph (client services manager). We headed out to The Rocks Market to see some local and artisanal products. Carolyn got me a photo taken by the local photographers as a sort of memento of my visit to Sydney. Such a really sweet gesture from her! We then had lunch at a nice place with a view of the Harbour Bridge. This time, I had a pulled pork bun and a “drink”. *wink

We took a walk down to the Sydney Opera House to have some drink at the Opera Bar. Though the place was filled with loud music, the vibe was so chill and very relaxing.

Then, Sunday came, 20th January, my last day in Sydney. When I found out about the day’s itinerary, I was pretty sure my Sydney trip was going to end with a blast!

I took the train bound for Loftus Station where Ash, Hannah and Helen collected me. We headed straight to Bundeena where we walked to Little Marley Beach and then bam! I couldn’t put into words exactly how to describe the amazing view and how the whole experience felt. Although it looks awesome in the photos, I feel like the pictures still haven’t done justice. It was just spectacular!

Time to go home

And just like that, it was now time for me to fly back home.

Throughout my Sydney trip, the MBS team didn’t fail to make me feel like I’m part of them. Not just because I was there physically that I felt that I was more than just an offshore team member, but I think it was because of how accommodating and warm they were to me. They even seemed to be more excited to tour me around than me being excited about visiting Sydney. Haha!

I couldn’t express how grateful I am to my whole VBP family especially to DC and DD, for this opportunity as well as to Christian, Tim, Team Phoenix and Team BabyCorp for all the support they provided me since day one.

This trip has made me experience a lot of new things – visiting a new country, bush and coastal walks, train rides, and not eating rice for almost 10 days! Haha! And of course, having had the chance to meet our MBS team, and this time, not just virtually but in the flesh, meant a lot to me. 

Life, indeed, has a lot to offer. We just need to be patient and take every opportunity as a step closer to our goals. And it’s full of surprises! Take that from me. Now, be ready for yours!

WATCH: 2018 VBP Conference Highlights

WATCH: 2018 VBP Conference Highlights

VBP’s most anticipated event of the year

It’s that time of the year again when clients from across Australia visit VBP to learn more about the value of outsourcing and of course, witness our unique and amazing culture.

Everyone’s excited!

This year, we had 20 delegates from 14 firms who joined us in our 4-day tour and conference. Just like last year, each day we ran different sessions.

Sessions:

  • Conference opening and tech updates
  • What will the advice business of the not-too-distant future look like?
  • The most effective back office you can run
  • Dealing with security of client information and how to reduce risks
  • How to scale your business
  • Getting the most from outsourcing

After the sessions, clients were able to spend the rest of their time in the office to meet and train their team members as well as talk to other staff with unique roles beyond the typical financial planning tasks. This way, our delegates were given the chance to understand our operations and gain some insights that may be helpful for their business.

They were also taken to notable food spots in the city to have their lunch and dinner. Not only were they able to enjoy our local food, this is also the time when they get to interact with their co-delegates and learn about each other’s businesses.

On the last day of the conference, we took the delegates to an island hopping trip. Of course, a visit to the tropics isn’t complete without a beach trip, right?

 

 

 

After their beach adventure, they headed back to the hotel to prepare for that evening’s event, one of the highlights of the conference, the Talent and Awards Night.

It was definitely picture-perfect – everyone dressed up in stunning Great Gatsby outfits, having fun and celebrating the exceptional talents showcased by the staff as well as the recognition of hard work and dedication of our team.

Watch the highlights from the conference:

With the efforts of everyone involved in the planning and organising, the conference was a huge success!

As we would always mention, VBP not only aims to provide great service to our clients but also build strong relationships with them.

Hosting this annual conference is our way of adding value to what we give to our clients—to help them understand our role better and to let them experience being part of an amazing culture.

 

The conference was on point and insightful, the time in the office was beyond special allowing us to see the most wonderful culture and talents that superseded any expectation. Meeting all VBP team was wonderful. The talent and awards night – WOW! Unless you are lucky enough to be a part of the evening you cannot understand the time, effort and commitment from every single person. Your culture and beliefs are evident within your entire team.

Thank you for every moment, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with VBP and have gained a massive amount of knowledge and insight from both your team and the other clients whom we were lucky enough to share our time with.

Loren Carr

Client Services and Relationship Manager, MBS Insurance

Overall the organisation, the chance to meet my team in person, the learnings from other attendees and  from how VBP operate made it easy to justify the time and the cost.

Peter Monahan

General Manager, EJM Financial Services

Great networking, positive open discussions between delegates about industry and practice operations.
Extremely well organised. Great to experience the VBP Office and it’s culture. Insightful conference sessions, being able to understand more of our VBP staff’s location and culture. Great value.

Luke Ellis

Operations Manager, UNICA Wealth

See photos from the conference on our Facebook Page:
Virtual Business Partners

Daily huddle: A 10-minute management power tool

Daily huddle: A 10-minute management power tool

A daily huddle is one of the simplest yet most effective practices you can carry out with your team.

Ideally, a huddle is a stand up meeting where the team gathers up and talk about their agenda. In our case, since our clients are offshore, daily huddles are done online either through Skype or  Zoom.

This quarter, we have a theme in our office to increase the number of clients who are doing a daily huddle with their team.

Why? We know that those who do get much better results from the team members , have less dramas and build better relationships.

What are the advantages of daily huddles?

Using this 10-minute management tool does not only benefit us but also our clients. We always value the importance of building relationships with our clients and so we believe this is a quick step to achieving that.

Not only does it improve communication, (1) it also saves you time from a long thread of e-mails explaining how to do a single task; (2) it keeps everyone in sync and organised as to what is done and what needs to be done; (3) it allows you to align your goals and set expectations (4) gives a forum for FPA’s to ask a quick question or clarify a task.

Important Tip – If you need to go in to depth on an issue, don’t do it in this session. Schedule a specific time to cover this later in the day or at a time that suits you.

Why daily and not weekly?

A week is simple too long between interactions. You need to know what the challenges your team members have each day (most are related to waiting on information or clarification from advisers) and what they are prioritising. Doing the huddle daily allows you to reprioritise urgent tasks when they come up and keep the team on track.

Invest Blue is one of our clients that do daily huddles.

“The daily huddle brings cohesion in the team. It is a chance to updated everyone on what your day will look like and what priorities you will be addressing.  It allows you to address any issues/questions that may have been raised the previous day or coming day in one conversation” said Nicole Taylor, Invest Blue Project Manager.

One of our financial planning assistants, Dray, also pointed out how a daily huddle helps her work.

“Daily huddles help me a lot. I can do follow-ups and get answers real-time. I get the chance to explain why I’m stuck at a certain task which they generously help me with. More importantly, I am able to build a better connection with my client. Nothing beats a friendly conversation with someone that you work with. It makes me feel more comfortable and less intimidated by them” Dray said.

We have observed that for those clients who communicate with their team members more frequently, feedback scores are much higher. Apart from the FPAs feeling more engaged and connected, efficiency and accuracy rate is also higher when doing tasks.

Quick tips on doing a daily huddle

We call it a “huddle” because it is not ameeting. It is just a quick catch up to share the focus for the day, deal with any challenges and aligning objectives. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes of your time.

Here are some ways on how to keep your huddles short but effective:

tips for daily huddle

Take this as an opportunity to communicate with your FPA—explain any complex tasks, clarify concerns and also, commend small wins. This will bring clarity, cohesiveness, consistency and motivation to your team. Commit to it for a month as a trial and we promise you, with the result and time you will save, you will wonder why you haven’t done it any sooner. Start today!

WATCH: VBP Family Day 2018

WATCH: VBP Family Day 2018

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”

At VBP, we respect each other and embrace diversity. People genuinely care for one another. Our bond goes far beyond the typical “co-worker” relationship—we are more than just a team; we are a family.

Celebrating One World and Family Spirit

This year, we held our very first VBP Family Day. Everyone had the chance to bring their families and loved ones along. It was an amazing Sunday filled with fun activities. In the same day, we also celebrated Father’s Day. We prepared a special tribute to all dads present in the event. There were talent presentations from families–kids sang and dance with their parents. Such a precious sight!

The VBP Family Day is a celebration of one of our core values: One World and Family Spirit. As we always mention, in VBP, we treat each other like family so it is also important for us that our loved ones get a glimpse of who we are as a company.

We believe it is important that our loved ones also get the chance to connect with our business by knowing what we do and who we work with; as well as understand our culture in order to build trust and confidence that we belong in a company that does not only give us the opportunity to grow, but also values what’s important to their team.

See photos in our VBP Careers & Culture Facebook page. And the highlights from the VBP Family Day 2018 in the video below:

3 Quick tips to build and grow a strong team

3 Quick tips to build and grow a strong team

We have reached a new milestone!

Last March 2018, VBP has reached a new milestone—we are now 200 in our team! As we continue to cater to more financial planning firms in Australia, we also continuously (and rapidly!) grow our team here in the Philippines. Seems like yesterday when we were working as a team of 20. And now it’s four and a half years later and we’ve grown 10 times in number!

Being a culture-led business, growing our team and living our purpose are some of our main goals. See our Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) below:

We have a clear purpose, goal and plan, which is vital in keeping everyone aligned. (We use a one-page plan and learnt all about these principles from Gazelles coaching and from the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish.)

Every company should have a clear vision for the business and of the four focus areas: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. By far, the most important for our company is the decisions we make relating to ‘people’.

So how were we able to build, and now grow, a strong team? We focus on 3 things.

  1. Find the right people. The first step is, obviously, to hire people. As we are in a specialised business, we make sure that we find the right people for our team. Our recruitment team has developed detailed job descriptions for our open positions and makes sure they gather important data and assess the candidate’s competency. Of course, we also value culture fit. Aiming for cultural fit doesn’t mean that we are into the same kind of people and character, it isn’t a deal-breaker. However, we also consider this in order to maintain harmony beyond our growing number and diversity. We have adopted our recruitment methodology from Topgrading.
  2. Develop their competency. The next step is to use effective training strategies in order to develop your employees’ skills. Learning should never stop. With our growing number of clients, it is important that we expand our service offerings as well, and with that comes more training and development for our staff to make them indispensable to our clients. We encourage our people to be self-leaders and help one another by giving support or assistance to others regardless if they work with the same firms/teams or not. We want our team to flourish and not become stagnant in their profession. We have adopted ‘situational leadership’ as our framework for managing our team. Each of us learns about this through the book Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager.
  3. Give them a reason to stay. Once you’ve built your A-team, it’s time to focus on how to keep them. Building a strong culture is our way of showing our staff that we care—through employee programs, engagement activities and different reward systems. We make sure they feel comfortable in our office, not feeling restricted from anything, whilst maintaining a secure and professional workplace. Little treats keep us happy—beer Fridays, free breakfast, table tennis area, board games, karaoke—these are simple yet effective things to make your staff feel at home and have a nice working environment. You can learn more about our core values and culture here.

Hear it straight from our team on how they feel about working at VBP:

As we now focus on our next milestone to reach 300 staff by 2019, we remain focused on continuing to develop our people’s skills, to commit to improving advice delivery processes (via better use of technology) and maintain our unique business culture. This helps us with the longevity of our staff and the stream of people being referred to work with us.

How we nurture good employee behavior – the result: 4 years of perfect attendance

How we nurture good employee behavior – the result: 4 years of perfect attendance

Meet Mike, he is one of our employees who, for 4 years, has had perfect attendance—no lates (not even within the 10-minute grace period) and no absences and sick days. That’s just impressive, isn’t it?

Apart from addressing negative employee behavior, we focus more on recognising the best employee practices in VBP.

Rewarding employees for their performance is a given. Work performance is the easiest to assess because of the set criteria and key indicators directly linked to goals and expected outcomes. Recognising behaviors, on the other hand, is another thing and mostly overlooked by a lot companies but actually has a huge impact on productivity.

Employee recognition should not stop with meeting the required performance stats, but should also extend to acknowledging employee behaviors that consistently contribute to their overall productivity and efficiency.

It’s not just about performance, but behavior as well.

Recently, one of our staff, Mike Mirasol, received a recognition on punctuality and attendance (we call it PandA, inspired by Zappos). Mike received a 4-year PandA award.

The VBP PandA award is given to employees who achieve perfect attendance for one full calendar month— ‘perfect’ means no lates and no absences (excluding plotted leave). PandA rewards include redeemable free hours that we can use for whatever purpose, may it be to take a nap, take an extra hour over lunch, arrive an hour late or leave the office early.

Mike was recognised for getting 4 years of perfect attendance—no lates (not even within the 10-minute grace period) and no absences and sick leaves. That’s just impressive, isn’t it?

See, things like this are mostly overlooked, thinking that getting a perfect attendance for an entire month is easily achievable, not knowing that the employee has been consistently doing this since the day he started working with the company.

Recognising these little WOWs is important to us because this is one type of employee behavior that contributes to the excellent service that our company provides to our clients.

So how does recognising achievements like this benefit the company?

Well, simple–this results to happy employees. And we all know that happy employees are what we need to serve our clients better.

Appreciating your staff is perhaps one of the simplest yet most effective ways to motivate them. Recognition makes them feel important and relevant. Thus, pushes them to be their best in what they do, increasing productivity—do all tasks with accuracy, finish every task assigned and even go above and beyond of what is expected from them. Going the extra mile won’t be a pain since employees will be more pro-active and engaged with work.

So the next time a team member does great on a task, give him a pat on the back.