Flame Wars (This Cracks Me Up)

Have you been catching any of the flame wars between the two offshoring companies, GetFriday and CatchFriday?

I had a Google alert come in over the weekend and the latest just cracked me up.

See, GetFriday is the Indian company mentioned in Tim Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Work Week.”

So, you know how a lot of people are upset in the U.S. (and probably elsewhere) about offshoring to India, right?

I would venture to say the anger isn’t really at the Indian’s themselves per se. They’re just trying to make a living like everyone one else in this world.

It’s more about the idea overall of sending work out of our own country that could be supporting our own citizen’s and economy.

For the last few years, where there’s been resentment by Americans about Indians taking their work and jobs, the Indians are now up in arms over the Philippine labor force taking away their foreign business because they are even cheaper.

So in a way, they’re getting a taste of their own medicine.

Or at least, they’re now experiencing what it feels like for Americans (and others) who are having their livelihoods (and their very lives) sold down the river to the lowest bidder.

I do think the Philippine agency is pretty sleazy.

First off, they plagiarized GetFriday’s tradename, albeit, not very original in the first place and itself plagiarizing from other established Friday brands.

(The whole “Friday” thing is so cliche and such a stupid name anyway; why would they even want it? Because it is a very blatant, deliberate cash grab to siphon off the original business’s established marketshare. These are the kinds of acts that trademark/trade name law protects against. But no one said those running the infringing company were very smart.)

Also, from what I’ve been observing, it’s the Philippine agency that initiated the slimy, unprofessional, unethical and aggressive mud slinging and smear campaign.

I could be wrong, but I haven’t come across any of these exchanges where GetFriday was the aggressor. I’ve only read them posting responses more along the lines of self-defense.

Comedy aside, it’s actually pretty ugly.

CatchFriday (the infringing copycat Philippine company) even brings up religious bigotry (yes, they actually go there!), insinuating that they are somehow superior because they are Christian and GetFriday is Hindu.

What on earth does that have to do with the price of tea in China?!

And if they are English immigrants, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle (er, auntie). They sure don’t demonstrate the syntax or grammar of someone who is a native.

Neither of them are true virtual assistants anyway. They’ve just coopted a term that doesn’t represent what they do in the least.

VAs are administrative experts who specialize in providing one-on-one, continuous administrative support to clients they work with in collaborative relationship.

These two firms are more accurately categorized as call centers and virtual staffing agencies. They do not in any way provide or represent what virtual assistance is all about.

But the whole dynamic of their competition with each other is very interesting.

Competing on price is a doomed premise that guarantees failure. You will never be able to be the cheapest. There will always be someone willing to outbid you and if you try to participate that way, you will have to keep bidding lower and lower until finally there’s nothing left but working for free.

On top of that, you are creating your own failure by enabling the very behaviors in the marketplace that set about your business demise: tirekicking and priceshopping.

If this is how you are engaging in marketing, it is you yourself who is reinforcing these behaviors and training clients to focus on cheap. It’s crazy!

You are not responsible for a client’s inability to afford you. It’s not your job to “fix” them. Because you absolutely can not afford to work with any client who can’t afford you (tip of the hat to whomever originally authored that line–it’s brilliant).

So I ask you, do you offer so little value to your clients that you can’t think of any other thing to focus them on than hiring you as the cheapest bidder?

8 Responses

  1. Lu Sabal says:

    It will be interesting to see how this all ultimately turns out. Price wars are the most naive way of gaining business. As you said eventually, someone will be willing to undercut you in price and where does that leave you?

    This reminds me of two babies in a playpen slugging it out…everyone cries in the end, and eventually, someone will get moved on.

  2. Althea says:

    I’m a VA from the Philippines and this is quite horrifying to read. Sure, we all gripe how India is ruining the market for us by charging such ridiculously low rates, but to instigate a virtual war? Not classy at all. I think the VAs per se are not at fault here, but those who manage them. And I think given the Filipino nature, which is hardworking and quiet, the aggression of these attacks can only be attributed to those who manage them.

    Which confirms my decision not to sign up with any agency. Especially by those who take advantage of our great skills and profit from them. It’s always best to go independent. You can set your own terms and set your own rates. At least, if something goes wrong, you’re accountable for everything and not blame somebody else.

  3. Hi Althea,

    In the interest of accuracy, it’s actually the Philippine agency that is doing the attacking, not the Indian one.

    I agree with you on going out on your own. Agencies are for people who want jobs. Which is okay; everyone is different and some are happy with a life working for others. Some people aren’t cut out for business ownership; they don’t have the fortitude or business sensibility. But they’re an exploited commodity, they aren’t going to make much money, and they don’t have the same kind of lifestyle, freedom and flexibility that a business owner running her own business can create for herself.

  4. Anza says:

    Great article! I wondered how much Tim’s book effected the Virtual Assistant industry. His book was one of the first books I read when I decided to enter the Virtual Assistant industry. I was surprised that he was advocating off-shoring services.

    The bottom line for me is value. If someone expects to get services for little money, it often times comes down to you get what you pay for. Setting expectations correctly will help prevent disappointment. Hiring someone to do tasks is very different from hiring someone who can partner with you to run your business.

  5. “Hiring someone to do tasks is very different from hiring someone who can partner with you to run your business.”

    How right you are, Anza. You need to have that on your website, if you don’t already. Wonderful line!

    You’ve hit on exactly what I try to help those in our industry understand: being in business to offer ongoing administrative support is a very different solution from what secretarial services or virtual staffing agencies are in business to provide. They’re different solutions, they are provided differently, and the entire character and dynamic of the relationship is completely different. Those in the admin support biz must understand this themselves so that they can then articulate those differences (and value) to clients accordingly.

  6. Anza says:

    Thanks, Danielle! I have been working on my website this week to make it a more powerful tool. I will see if I can work that in to some of my re-writes!

    I am finding that people seeking VAs expect to treat them more like an employee. In fact, I turned down a client due to philosophy differences.

  7. You know why that is, Anza?

    It because of the VA term itself. People only understand the word “assistant” one way: employee.

    Assistant is a term of employment, not business. Therefore, it’s not surprising that clients approach the relationship acting as if they are employers instead of clients.

    The other problem is that it’s VAs themselves (following the lead of some of the organizations out there) continue to make these idiotic comparisons to employees. They talk to the marketplace as if they were employers, not clients. They market themselves as if they are employees trying to land a job. They constantly use employment terminology instead of business language and try to convince business owners to switch to “virtual staff”. As a business, you are not part of any client’s staff; and this is not semantics as these are legal distinctions that have legal repercussions. We as an industry cannot afford to be using terminology inaccurately. Plus, it’s just plain stupid and lazy for us to do so; as business owners our language needs to reflect our competence and accuracy and intelligence.

    And they keep trying to bribe potential clients to hire them with the idea that VAs are somehow cheaper than employees, which isn’t necessarily true anyway, and it’s an apples to orange comparison that is the wrong conversation to be having with clients if they want to be viewed as a business peer and administrative expert.

    So, the message that is coming across to biz owners? That Virtual Assistants are no different than employees, just cheaper.

    If Virtual Assistants want to have clients approach them as clients and not as employers; if they want clients to understand that they are professional service providers and not employees; if they want clients to understand that they are hiring administrative experts, not trading employees in for a cheaper alternative, they simply must change their conversation. When their conversation changes, they are going to educate and inform in a way that draws and attracts clients with the right understandings and the right alignment of interests and expectations.

    Get clear about who you are (are you an administrative expert or a cheap, affordable flunkie) and what solution you are in business to provide, and you will be able to craft a vastly superior and more distinctive, compelling marketing message on your website.

    Let me know how it goes, Anza!

  8. Anza says:

    WOW Danielle,

    You just said everything I’ve been struggling with as I have gone from site to site or forum to forum. You just gave me some amazing things to consider as I revamp my site!

    When I first started that was a compelling selling point on the surface, but it seemed to undermine the premise of partnering.

    As we touched on earlier, cheaper isn’t necesarily better or the right solution.

    Thanks so much for your insights!

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