Last week Preston (my brother) and I traveled to the Philippines to oversee the establishment of our new call center operation there. We have been working with the Philippines for the past year, but this was my first trip to the island nation and boy was it eye opening. As we got off the plane we were greeted by two men holding a sign that read “Bryce Maddock”. One of the owners of a call center that we use for a lot of our work had told me he would send someone to pick me up.
But unlike most airport pick ups, which are done at baggage claim or curbside, this one happened right off the plane, before we crossed through customs and immigration. The guys who picked us up were not drivers, they were airport officials, paid to walk us trough the airport without ever being stopped. This level of corruption permeated the rest of our trip.
We stayed at the Renaissance in Makati for a few days, taking meetings with some of the major call center operators in the city. Preston and I set up shop at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (they don’t have Coffee Bean east of the Mississippi, but they’ve got it in the Philippines!) and held one meeting after another. The meetings went well overall. The main focus was SEO, web design and social media marketing, areas where the Philippines seems to be slowly catching up to India.
Next we drove three hours (in Manila traffic) south of the city to Cavite, where we stayed with Francis – the manager of our new operation – and his family. Francis’s neighborhood is the authentic developing nation experience. Wandering the streets around his home felt like something straight out of a late night infomercial for Feed the Children. Many of the kids that roamed the streets without shoes had never seen a white man in person before, so when they saw us their eyes lit up and some began to follow us around the streets like we were celebrities.
Francis introduced me to the team – all of whom were excellent. From Kate who is an incredible writer and researcher to Jason who is ex-American Air Force, and earned two Purple Hearts in his multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was shocked at Francis’s ability to bring together such talent in a region plagued by poverty. I saw the building where we will be building our office. A far cry nicer than the TaskUs offices in Santa Monica – it has a spiral staircase to a roof deck, a balcony, and is surrounded by plush greenery and beautiful blue skies – in total the office is costing us $200 per month!
I left feeling very fortunate that we had found such an incredible set up – both in our office and our team. The Philippines itself was beautiful, but less impressive. To sum it up, when we arrived for our flight from Manila to Tokyo, we had to bribe an official just to avoid waiting in a one-hour line to get into the airport!