Heidi Mcloskey of Textile Exchange says that the range of the research projects she assigns to H.Y.V.A.™ are pretty broad, yet every time her Virtual Assistants are able to unearth useful data that she hadn’t found before! (<<<— Check out the video below to find out why).
Owen McGab Enaohwo (OME): My name is Owen Mcgab Enaohwo and welcome to H.Y.V.A.™, which stand for Hire Your Virtual Assistant and today, I have one of my lovely clients, Heidi McCloskey from TextileExchange.org. We’re just going to have a conversation about her experience working with us and also to learn more about her company. So, Heidi, let’s get started by learning about Textile Exchange. What do you guys do?
Heidi McCloskey (HM): Well, Textile Exchange originally started out as an organic exchange back in 2002. And it was formed because a lot of brands decided that we needed a third party to gather our combined knowledge and make it more transparent for the industry around organic cotton. And then in 2008-2009, it became very clear that the same kind of momentum that we were creating on our organic cotton needed to be done with all of sustainable textiles. And so we were asked by our members and the industry at large to do just that and so we became a textile exchange. And we are a 501c3 non-profit, focused on inspiring and equipping people, not just companies, but people in those companies, to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices in the textile value team, whether that’s better cultivation practices, less use of water, less fuel toxics, less waste, new methods for recycling and re-purposing waste. Our job is to get people the information, the connections, the mentorship they need in order to do that within their companies.
OME: Okay, so you guys are basically providing people that have textile manufacturing plants with information on how to be more green or organic about how they go about their processes. Is that what you guys are doing?
HM: We have the great privilege and pleasure of working across the entire value chain, so we work with organic cotton farmers, chemical manufacturers, textile equipment developers. We work with manufacturers, brands, retailers, and soon, the consumer. So we get to see it all—from beginning to end. And play a role in helping everybody connect and make the world better, one textile at a time.
OME: Definitely. And so, help the viewers understand what you do personally for your company, Textile Exchange. You are the Senior Director of Communications as well as the Resource Development. Explain that, because that’s a long title!
HM: It’s a very long title. And coming from a private sector, so I worked with ___, I worked with Nike for ten years. And our titles were quite small, and our areas of work were quite boxed, if you will. And at a non-profit with less than twenty employees, you wear a lot of hats. Some of them you’ve never before seen in your life.
OME: And by your title, I see you wearing a lot of hats!
HM: Well, the beauty of working for brands that have a lot of resources is that you learn a lot more than you think you know. And when you run a small company, people are just amazed at the things you do and I’m a very big communicator. I’m a very good strategist and so I see trends, I think of things we might need, so I’m in charge of communications—both internal and external. I’m ensuring that we’re figuring out how to share communications fluidly between the different platforms. We have five of them at Textile Exchange. They range from form engagement, integrity, industry engagement, administration and organization and then my platform. And we’re virtual, we’re in nine different countries and multiple cities within a country so it’s pretty insane when you think about the time difference and using technology and it gets quite confusing. So my job is that you communicate fluidly between us so that we eliminate double work. And that we communicate not only with our membership, but in every media possible within the industry as well. And so other than web, we’re looking at ____ technology, it could be PowerPoint, it could be in-person training and it’s changing every day. Technology changes every day. And it’s our job to make sure that there are no barriers to access to the information that we can provide.
OME: Definitely. And it’s awesome that you guys have virtual team members. So it’s a great experience for a company like ours that provides virtual assistants to work with you guys who have a virtual team set-up. But I always want to go back to the beginning to discover why you felt you needed a virtual assistant?
HM: Well, I read this book called “The Four Hour Workweek”, which led me to “The Virtual Assistant’s Assistant”. And I looked at everybody who has been rated. And as a non-profit, most of the funds we get need to go to our programs, they’re not there to support just your general salaries so we are lean and mean in terms of our own operations. So hiring high-quality assistants, especially to work with me at Portland, Oregon is quite expensive. And then there’s training, etcetera, and so I had no idea about virtual assistants. I knew they were considered services but I didn’t realize there were virtual assistants that could do what you guys do. And so I was thrilled to no end, evaluated, got it down to a shortlist and decided to try three. And of the three, H.Y.V.A.™…
OME: There’s a lot of things that you’re saying that are great because people might be in the same situation as you are, and get to a point where they’re doing their research. And you said you had a bunch of options and you weeded it out to three. What factors came into that?
HM: Well, I looked at a number of things. There are some that are really more bent to be your personal assistant, let’s say. So they’ll buy theater tickets for you, etcetera, so a lot of value goes out. I’d love one of those but I don’t need it for my business. And I looked at the reviews that the different organizations got. How do they rate on customer service, how do they rate on knowledge, how do they rate on communication, strong development. And so I weeded out the ones that didn’t really meet my criteria. And I chose the ones I chose and it got down to that short list because of either organizations they had worked for, it’s good they worked for small organizations, not large ones. Did they do interesting and slightly quirky kinds of projects, because we have them. It could be looking at nanotechnology research one day to helping us figure out an executive dashboard the next day so the range of projects I was looking to delegate was pretty dramatically broad. And so I was looking for an organization that had a demonstrated track record in doing broad categories at work. And I wanted to have a nice experience because work was stressful enough.
OME: Definitely. So I like the way you gave us an example of what factors played into your decisions. So now you came down to three companies. Feel free if you want to say their names, if you don’t want, you can just give us what you liked about them and what you don’t like. It’s up to you, I don’t mind. Go ahead, continue.
HM: I’m not gonna say the companies names but what I didn’t like about them is that I did the same project for all three, which was to combine two research documents that we have created on issues associated with the plucking of goose and duck down or the apparel industries, so down comforters, down jackets. And I wanted a broad spectrum of things that were covered and I want them merged in one cohesive document. With the other two, as I was trying, I didn’t hear from them again. Until they sent me back like, a hundred. In one case, it was 100 pages of just pasted stuff. And I have gone out to them saying, “Do you need any assistance?” and a day later, I might have gotten a response that says “We’re fine, we’ll get back to you.” So there was no communication whatsoever until I got these hundred pages in my lap. And by that time, there was nothing I can do. It was more effort to sift through the entire pages than it would have been to do the thing myself. And with HYVA, I was immediately contacted by you. And you set up Basecamp for me, which I love! I use that with our website designers. And I get morning emails saying “This is what we’re working on today”. I’ve hired you for 40 hours a month, so that’s two hours a day. Every day, I get “This is what we’re working on” and every night I get “This is what we did” and that includes varying issues. I might not have been clear in telling you what I want you to do because I want to get better at delegating so we have a fluid relationship, and he would track your progress. So if your progress stinks for some reason and you’re going off in a wild direction, I can say “You know, guys, this is awful. Let’s fix it and go this way. But you haven’t invested a hundred hours of work before I see it, to redirect you in case it’s not right. But in every case, it’s been right or at least close to being right which is really helpful for me. And the one thing too, is that I sent you our brand guides, so you have all the fonts we use, all our colors, so that you were able to provide it to me already formatted, which is great!
OME: Definitely. And to all of you who’s listening, she’s talking about the VA that was assigned to her. And so one of the things I noticed is that in your case, we do a lot of research for you, how exactly did you create a process around how to do research for you? And how is it working with the VA’s doing your research based off your process?
HM: Well, I actually went to a former librarian in order to research on research. To get access to one of the best places to get information on market trends, business trends, etcetera. And I gave that to you. You guys are doing the same kind of searches. I also gave you access to my local library that has a number of databases that you can access for free, that normally you have to pay for. And so on our behalf, you guys will delve into databases that are quite specific to the information that we’re looking at. I’m also very clear about what I want to see and what I don’t want to see. And where I think you could look and not. And I have to say my virtual assistants are incredibly resourceful. And they would often come back with “Hey, I found this and what do you think?” so I’m not only getting my morning and evening “This is where my status is” but I’m getting pinged throughout the day. “We found this, is this right?” “We found that, is that right?” And you managed to unearth some stuff that I didn’t even provide.
OME: And the reason I mentioned researching and having processes around it is because one of the things that you did that we love is that you came to us with very clear details of what you wanted and not only that, a process on how you want us to deliver it. And I’m just mentioning that to anyone who’s listening, that you can get the right information but you have to understand that the act of doing research is that there’s a process around it. And if you don’t have a clear process or expectations for it, you’re not gonna get the results you want. And we’re glad that you stuck with us, and you’ve been giving us what we need to be able to deliver what you need.
HM: Well, it’s setting you up for success and it’s setting me up for success. It’s like hiring any employee. You want to tell them “This is what you need. These are the tools you need to be successful and I would do the same for you”.
OME: Definitely. And so, anyone who’s listening right now, probably having any fears or reservations about getting started with hiring a virtual assistant, what is that one thing that you can leave with them, based on your experience with us that you feel can encourage them to get started?
HM: So the thing I took advantage of with all three is the free trial. Now, one of them had a 48-hour free trial that was already over before we even started. And you had a week so I was able to see how you performed within that week. I was set up on Basecamp, had emails, you had the documents, you guys were merging. You were able to give me something I could look at before the trial was up. And by then, I was ready to sign up. And you also have three different plans. And I was originally thinking something with a lower amount like maybe 20 hours a month. But actually, there’s quite a lot for them to do at 40 hours a month. And it’s a fabulous value for your money. So a free trial is always helpful, and that way you can see if it’s gonna make sense, even though it takes time to get to know your virtual assistants, for them to get to know you. And for the most part, they might not even have subject matter expertise. In might case, that doesn’t really matter. It’s the groundwork that I need in order to work my magic.
OME: Anyone who’s been listening to us, if they want to get a hold of you. How best can they get a hold of you?
HM: Well, the best thing is through my email because I have an iPhone and it just goes right there. They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OME: I really appreciate it. Thank you for being a client. Thanks.
HM: Thank you so much, Owen.
Do you want to learn more about Textile Exchange and what they do?
Textile Exchange (formerly known as Organic Exchange) is a non-profit organization incorporated in 2003. They operate internationally and are committed to the responsible expansion of textile sustainability across the global textile value chain, with a special focus on organic cotton. They are headquartered in the USA with staff and contractors located in nine countries.
They envision a global textile industry that protects and restores the environment and enhances lives.
Textile Exchange inspires and equips people to accelerate sustainable practices in the textile value chain. They focus on minimizing the harmful impacts of the global textile industry and maximizing its positive effects.
What they do:
- Convene, inform and build capacity in our membership base and across the industry
- Advocate product and industry integrity
- Help bring positive innovations to scale
- Improve organic farmers’ visibility, access to stable markets, and better develop business capabilities through education
- Create partnerships that accelerate sustainable practices across the global textile industry