WS593: Using An Assistant To Increase Productivity & Efficiency with Elsa Palmer-Oden

Most real estate entrepreneurs could do with a few extra hours every day. One way to make this happen is by delegating the tasks outside of your skillset, like marketing, website creation, and administrative work, to a virtual assistant. While there may be some skepticism around working with a VA, today’s guest, Elsa Palmer-Oden, is here to put our minds at ease.

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We kick the episode off by learning more about Elsa’s company and some of the tasks that they help real estate entrepreneurs with. We then dive into some of the important traits a VA should possess, such as self-discipline, loyalty, and honesty. After this, we explore the types of marketing help VAs can provide. From creating unique websites to captivating social media campaigns, there are no skills you cannot find in a VA. We then turn our attention to screening and vetting. This is a key piece in the hiring process because VAs often have access to sensitive business information. We round the show off with Elsa’s final hiring tips and learning how she likes to give back. Be sure to tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Learn more about Elsa’s company, their staff, and the clients that they typically serve.
  • Some of the tasks that VAs can help real estate entrepreneurs with.
  • What VA training entails and knowing if someone is a good fit for the position.
  • How Elsa keeps track of her VAs’ time to ensure they’re using it effectively.
  • The marketing help and services that Elsa’s VAs offer clients.
  • Communicating with VAs and why it’s important for it to be an open channel.
  • Learn more about the thorough VA screening process and what it entails.
  • Getting matched with a VA and ensuring there are no competing needs in the area.
  • Elsa’s final tips on vetting a VA thoroughly before hiring.
  • The number one contributor to Elsa’s success, a recent business improvement, and giving back.

[bctt tweet=”We mainly work with real estate investors, helping them grow their business and doing all those mundane tasks and talking to the sellers and the buyers and doing the marketing for them and helping them stand out from everybody else in their area. — @elsaoden” username=”whitney_sewell”]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Elsa Palmer-Oden on LinkedIn

Elsa Palmer-Oden on Twitter

US Virtual Assistants


About Elsa Palmer-Oden

Elsa Palmer-Oden is a number one bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur. In 2011, she started a 100% American virtual assistant staffing company to assist real estate investors with their business needs. She’s been featured on international TV and on podcasts.

Full Transcript


[00:00:00] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Real Estate Syndication Show. Whether you are a seasoned investor or building a new real estate business, this is the show for you. Whitney Sewell talks to top experts in the business. Our goal is to help you master real estate syndication.

And now your host, Whitney Sewell.


[0:00:24.1] WS: This is your daily Real Estate Syndication show. I’m your host Whitney Sewell. Today, our guest is Elsa Palmer-Oden. Thanks for being on the show, Elsa.

[0:00:33.4] EPO: Thanks, Whitney. I’m glad to be on here.

[0:00:36.0] WS: Elsa is the number one bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur. In 2011, she started a 100% American virtual assistant staffing company to assist real estate investors with their business needs. She’s been featured on international TV and on podcasts.

Elsa, thank you again for your time. It’s a topic – I know the listeners know the listeners know I like talking about. It’s helped me to be so much more productive about outsourcing things, right? And hiring people that are better at things than I am. Putting these specific things over on somebody else, like you said, that could do it better than I could anyway, even if I worked really hard at it. You know, or just taking things off my plate.

But I look forward to hearing more about your company and what you all do. So, why don’t you fill us in a little bit, just maybe where you’re located and what your company does and how you all stand out?

[0:01:22.9] EPO: Well, basically, I’m based out of Charlotte, North Carolina and my virtual assistants are based all over the United States. So, we keep them all here in the States. And most of my assistants are people that can’t typically work outside the home so they have disabilities or they’re caregivers for people with disabilities and stuff like that. I give them the opportunity to do so.

And we mainly work with real estate investors, helping them grow their business and doing all those mundane tasks and talking to the sellers and the buyers and doing the marketing for them and helping them stand out from everybody else in their area.

[0:02:01.0] WS: Most of your VA’s, would you say – I’ve just wondered this personally like the ratio, men to women that are VA’s that are helping entrepreneurs in that type of position?

[0:02:10.9] EPO: We get a few males here and there but most of them happen to be females. And I’m not even sure why. But that’s just how it ends up being.

[0:02:17.1] WS: Yeah, it seems like a great position if you already have a really good skill, even if it’s just administrative, it’s such an important piece of any business that you can work from home and have a great job really. What are some of the tasks? Could you dive into that a little bit and help the listener that’s thinking about hiring a VA. What are some of the tasks that we can expect from a VA like this to do for us?

[0:02:39.3] EPO: Basically, the big one is the lead generation. Bringing in the leads to you. We have a few different ways that we go about bringing in leads to investors. And a lot of it saves on research time. We’re all about productivity. We’re all about research times. If a virtual assistant can’t find a new property within 15 minutes, they’ll just stop so that there’s not going to be a bunch of research with no production after the end.

We try to make sure that everything’s done with a local phone number. We get every client a local to them phone number for the virtual assistant to use. They can keep that number no matter what. But the number makes it look more legit when that virtual assistant calls. Because it makes them look like they’re right there in town.

And the virtual assistants have to go through extensive training to be able to talk to sellers and talk to buyers. Most of ours have gone through specific real estate sales training. They’re really good about it. But they have to pass the test and understand exactly what it is investors are looking for before we can bring them onboard. And then they handle all the seller calls. They can handle incoming calls from yellow letters or other marketing. Screen buyers for the investors as far as like lease purchase buyers, tenant buyers, type of thing.

And we can do all the marketing and social media marketing and getting them out there and getting their name out there and the properties that they have.

[0:04:04.3] WS: We’ll get into the marketing a little bit. And I feel like, maybe a lot of them are focused more on like the wholesaling investor, you know, real estate investor that’s doing wholesaling or flipping or things like that. You know, in our industry, we’re not probably making as many of those calls like that because we’re working with brokers for the most part.

But as far as the training. I have wondered about that. What type of training – Let’s say outside of real estate or how do you test their ability just to know how they’re going to be a good fit with somebody depending on what they’re needing?

[0:04:32.4] EPO: Well, one of the things that we want to make sure is that they have self-discipline. That they can actually keep track of their time and be time efficient with everything. We monitor our virtual assistant’s time so that all time has to be verified before it can be billed to a client. We’re very particular about that. But that’s one of the things. When a virtual assistant come onboard, we have to screen them, we have to monitor them, and we have them do test phone calls to try to schedule appointments and stuff like that.

So that they don’t realize it’s a test call that they’re doing, but that’s what they’re doing. And screening how they’re going to handle certain situations and whether they can handle an irate person versus a nice person on the phone.

[0:05:17.2] WS: Thats interesting. Well how many clients are each virtual assistant going to have? Is it usually one to one and would it be two or three?

[0:05:24.9] EPO: It really depends. Because it depends on how much time a client wants. If a client only wants five or 10 hours a week, then a virtual assistant may pick up two or three clients. If a client wants 30 hours a week, well then, they may only have the one client. Or they might have another part-time client on top of that. It’s however much time they feel comfortable working.

[0:05:45.7] WS: How long on average does one assistant stay with one client? I mean, years or months?

[0:05:51.2] EPO: Usually years. I mean, its as long as the relationship wants to continue.

[0:05:56.7] WS: And then, you mentioned you all monitor their time. That’s interesting. I thought I really good feature. You know, that you all watch that as well. How is that done?

[0:06:04.8] EPO: Well, a lot of what we do is done through Google Docs. It’s keeping track in the spreadsheets, logging everything that they’re doing. That timestamps everything. The phone system that we use, we use Vonage Business. Using Vonage, it keeps track of every phone call, length of calls. We monitor and see how much production they’re getting in that time. If anything looks fishy at all, we’re going to be actually digging in and really checking.

[0:06:34.3] WS: It’s just neat to know. Because a lot of people say well – a lot of people’s hold back from the very beginning, “Well, wait a minute. You know, this person’s working states away, how can we make this work?” I’m sure you get that question all the time. People ask me,” How do you know that they’re actually working?” I think personally it goes back to some of the hiring process and feeling like I’m getting somebody I can trust. But it takes some time, right? To build that trust and to know.

Dive into the marketing a little bit. I know there’s lots of listeners who are trying to brand themselves and are trying to grow their network. How do you see your VA’s helping people to market and brand themselves?

[0:07:08.9] EPO: Marketing, to me, is critical in any business. That branding to get your name out there and to basically set yourself apart from all competition. We’re real big about – when it comes to websites. Updating websites or creating websites that are not cookie cutter. That are different than everybody else’s. I could have similar information but different website design and setup.

And then when it comes to actually the marketing, social media. Really big, get out there, constantly. At the right times of day, which are critical as well. If you do it at the wrong times of the day, you’re not going to get a whole lot. It really matters on setting the times and getting the marketing our there consistently in front of everybody that you possibly can.

[0:07:57.2] WS: How do we hire somebody like that? Is that – maybe you can help the listener think through that. If they want somebody that can administrative assistant that helps with maybe numerous tasks. But then also, they need them to have some skills in social media. Is that an option or would we have two different assistants for those roles?

[0:08:13.9] EPO: We usually set them up separately because we have the people that are specifically trained to handle the social media marketing and websites and all of that. That’s separate. And that way it also doesn’t take away from the production time on the other side. Because it’s always more fun to do the marketing so they could just easily decide, “I’m going to spend more time on that,” and then you’re not getting the production at the same time.

[0:08:38.8] WS: What about as far as the marketing is it going to be different social media platforms per VA as well or is it like one person can handle that?

[0:08:45.3] EPO: Yup, one VA for everything to do with your account for marketing.

[0:08:50.4] WS: How do you recommend the communicating with our VA? Once I hire somebody through you all, how do you plan for us to communicate?

[0:08:58.0] EPO: However, you’re most comfortable. Some people are most comfortable with emails, some with texting, some with phone calls. So, however you’re most comfortable is how you work it out with the VA. The VA’s available however you are comfortable dealing with them. But I do insist that there’s always communication. If you start lacking in the communication then that’s when things start slipping and that’s when things don’t end up working out as well.

[0:09:24.7] WS: What are some of the biggest ways or maybe some of the people youve worked with where the ways that theyve used VAs to help promote their business or grow their business the fastest?

[0:09:33.9] EPO: Setting up their website and SEOing the website. That’s the most critical thing is getting the SEO out there. And then promoting it through the social media sites. I suggest also doing YouTube videos and just promoting yourself in a video and putting that on the website but also promoting the YouTube video. And the VA can help with all of that.

[0:09:55.5] WS: Something I was thinking about too is you all have a hiring process and it would be great if you elaborate maybe a little bit on how you know who you’re hiring. I know a lot of people want to hand off let’s say email and things like that. And could you talk to that a little bit just a security of giving somebody access to things like that.

[0:10:11.6] EPO: Basically, we do an initial pre-screening of people. Making sure that they are in the United States, that they speak clear English and so forth. Then, as long as they pass that, then we send them over for a little bit more thorough. And because it is real estate then we also send them over training. So, we put them through an extensive training course that takes about an hour and a half to go through. They have to go through that course and take a test.

If they can make it through that and then we have to do an interview with them asking some additional questions and that is where we’re really diving in screening on them. Then we put them through some what we consider a training account, where they actually have to make some phone calls and go through a process. If they can pass all of that and we listen to the recordings of these phone calls that they do.

So, if they can complete all of that, and half of them if they are not going to make it, we lose them through the process, it is not even that they didn’t pass it, it is they stopped on their own. And then we could bring them through that, then we will send them a contract to come on board with us. And then we monitor them very heavily for about the first two months.

But most of our VAs, once they come on board, they stay with us. And we have been around for eight and a half years. In the past eight and a half years, we’ve had several VA’s that have been here the whole time.

[0:11:30.5] WS: How are we matched with that VA? How do you all do that or is that something we look through a list of assistants or how does that work?

[0:11:37.6] EPO: We go through based off of what you’re wanting, what you tell us that your needs are because we customize everything around every individual investor because everybody does things slightly different. So, we customize everything around each one. We find out what your needs are and your criteria area. Then, we find out what VAs are available that can fit those needs and have the time available, but are not working in other client in the same area because that was not allowed either.

So, we make sure they’re not working another client in your area and that they have the skillset that you need then we’ll match you up. If you don’t feel comfortable with that VA, we will get you a different one.

[0:12:19.3] WS: Cool, okay. So, you mentioned like in the same area. And, I was even thinking well what about if we are in the same industry and maybe we both work nationwide. Is that something that maybe you and I would talk about while we are hiring somebody or thinking about who else they work for?

[0:12:35.6] EPO: Absolutely. Though always are willing to sign an NDA if necessary. That is always available.

[0:12:41.7] WS: Any other advice that you have to help the listener to feel more comfortable hiring a VA?

[0:12:48.6] EPO: For one, especially if it’s critical information and phone call stuff, keep it in the United States, is a definite big one. IT work, web stuff, that you can get cheaper overseas. But as far as technical stuff whether it is contract dealings with or appointments and phone calls, keep it in the United States.

And also, the communication. I mean to me communication is the key to success in any business. So, keeping that open communication and being honest. If you are not comfortable with something say something. That is what we are here for. We are here to always work with everybody and make sure everybody is happy.

[0:13:31.6] WS: What kind of expense should somebody expect or hourly or could somebody be salary as well or is it always hourly and what should we expect?

[0:13:40.4] EPO: Always hourly. But everything is done on a week to week basis. So, you can turn everything on and off as needed. So, if you are on a tight budget you can go every other week. You can do things however you want to keep things within a budget and each service is its own set of pricing. So, you can turn different services on and off as needed.

[0:14:01.2] WS: Okay, well thats helpful. If we just needed say some website work, were not going to need that every day.

[0:14:06.7] EPO: Right. You are going to need that initially and then maybe maintenance every six weeks, eight weeks. Whatever you need.

[0:14:13.3] WS: Say you start with somebody, because this happened to me a couple of years ago, I start with somebody that is an assistant and they are working say a couple of hours a day. And then, all of a sudden, I am filling that schedule up real fast. You know they already have other clients and so they can’t take more time just from me, so I had to switch. I just wondered how you all would handle that. I assume you would have to switch to another VA that had more time and how that maybe transition would work as well.

[0:14:35.6] EPO: Or we can add a second VA to the account. And the VA you’ve been working with stays as your primary. And then you just have a secondary that is kind of filling in the rest of the time, if necessary.

[0:14:49.9] WS: Any other success tips before we move to a few final questions?

[0:14:53.2] EPO: Basically, like I said the communication. I mean that is the biggest thing.

[0:14:57.9] WS: Give us your best tip on vetting that person that you are hiring. We are trying to hire somebody, what is a question or two that really helps you to understand somebody maybe a little deeper than just the resume?

[0:15:09.1] EPO: Well, I want to know have they ever worked from home before? Do they have distractions? You can have kids and be able to still work from home. If you can work it out where there are quiet times is when your work time is. The same thing with dogs. Or if it comes to answering a phone call, if the dog is barking don’t answer that call. Call that person back when the dog stops barking. It is things like that that I look for.

If they are just going to play this as, “Oh, this is a hobby,” that’s not what you want from somebody. You want to know that they are motivated to actually want to work and be a serious part of your business, not just like employee, but a part of your business.

[0:15:53.7] WS: What is a way you all have improved your business that we could apply to ours?

[0:15:57.7] EPO: Not falling for the excuses. You can get some really interesting excuses for why somebody can’t work. We have been through quite a few that I have actually in the book that I wrote because they are actually hilarious to think that somebody would actually think that they could get away with it.

So, you got to watch for what the excuses are and how often they’re using excuses because those are key things that can trigger that this might become a problem.

[0:16:24.9] WS: Whats the number one thing thats contributed to your success?

[0:16:27.7] EPO: Dedication, motivation and God.

[0:16:29.9] WS: And how do you like to give back?

[0:16:31.6] EPO: I love giving back to the community in a lot of different ways with contributing to different fundraisers and so forth. Me, personally, I have MS so I am a big advocate on medication that I use that keeps my MS under control. So, I kind of give back on that aspect and trying to help people that can’t typically work outside the home.

[0:16:51.8] WS: Yeah, you are providing lots of jobs for people. That is for sure. Elsa, I am grateful for your time, grateful for you sharing with us about virtual assistants and some ways we should think about using them and how we can get started. But I am just going through this hiring process again, very recently, and so it is fresh to me. But if you don’t have a VA then you should strongly consider and I hope you’ll look Elsa up and her company.

But tell us, Elsa, how to get in touch with you and learn more about it?

[0:17:15.9] EPO: The easiest way is My website has pretty much all of the information on there. And it also has a place where you can schedule an appointment to talk to me. And I can also be reached at 855 to get a VA.

[0:17:30.3] WS: That’s a wrap. Thank you very much.

[0:17:32.3] EPO: All right. I appreciate it, Whitney.


[0:17:34.0] WS: Don’t go yet, thank you for listening to today’s episode. I would love it if you would go to iTunes right now and leave a rating and written review. I want to hear your feedback. It makes a big difference in getting the podcast out there. You can also go to the Real Estate Syndication Show on Facebook so you can connect with me and we can also receive feedback and your questions there that you want me to answer on the show.

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