How to Manage Your Virtual Agency: The Complete Blueprint

A virtual agency can help you create a global business with a remote-only team. Learn how to manage your virtual agency team in this article.
It’s a trend that’s impossible to miss:
Remote work.
What used to be limited to buzzy Silicon Valley startups is now a dominant trend (some would say, a movement) across the world. More and more people are working remotely than ever before, and bigger and better companies are going remote only.
For agencies, remote work opens up a whole new world of opportunities. You’re not limited by your local talent; you can build a virtual agency filled with A-players from around the world. This gives you access to a global market, not just the businesses in your city.
The office rent savings and zero commute time are just added bonus.
But building a virtual agency is easier said than done. From hiring to management and everyday communication, going remote changes everything you know about running a business.
In this guide, I’ll demystify the virtual agency management process. You’ll learn how to build systems to make management easier, and how to develop processes so you can operate with maximum efficiency.
What It Means to Manage a Virtual Agency
The traditional agency model is built largely off presence. You find clients among the businesses in your city. And you hire from your local talent pool.
This is why large agencies make it a point of pride to have offices in many cities.

Havas has offices in virtually every major city across the world, including several offices in New York alone.
While this “on-location” model has its disadvantages, collaboration isn’t one of them. Problems are so much easier to solve when you can get people together in the same room.
This gives traditional agencies significant leeway in terms of processes and systems. You don’t have to invest as heavily in, say, building a knowledge wiki if you can walk down the office and ask the concerned person directly.
If you’re building a virtual team for your agency, your approach will be completely opposite. You’re not limited to local talent; you can hire from across the globe. But you also can’t walk down the hall and hash things out in the conference room.
In other words, while a traditional agency can get away with limited systems, a virtual agency team can’t. You have to obsessively focus on developing processes that help you collaborate and communicate better.
This is the gist of the approach to managing a virtual agency. Your priority should be to:

Develop robust systems and processes that help you communicate and collaborate better
Hire people with the values and skills to follow these systems and processes

In this systems-first approach, you wouldn’t rely on ad-hoc measures and individual initiative. Rather, you would have processes built into your management structure to facilitate collaboration.
For example, in a typical agency, project managers aren’t obligated to share lessons from each project with others. It is largely up to individual initiative.
But in a systems-first agency, you would make debriefing a core part of your project management system. A project wouldn’t be considered complete until the manager completes a post-project analysis.
By focusing on systems and hiring people who can thrive within them, you’ll not only make remote work easier, but also help your agency scale faster.
In the next section, I’ll focus on this aspect of building a virtual agency – setting up management systems.
Managing a Virtual Agency
When you’re building a virtual agency, it can be tempting to just find clients, hire a few people, and figure things out along the way.
This approach is essentially built on poor foundations. You don’t have the underlying systems to help you scale, especially in an online-only context. You might bag a few clients, but once you grow beyond a “2 pizza team”, you’ll struggle to keep track of things.
Which is why I encourage entrepreneurs to think deeply about their processes, systems, and practices before they reach out to a single client or potential hire. Build a strong foundation and you’ll find growing, and managing your growing agency, much easier.
Here are a few of our best tips for managing your virtual agency.
1. Build your agency around collaboration
Far too often, businesses make the mistake of thinking that “collaboration” is all about buying the right tools.
In truth, collaboration can’t be bought with tools or weekend workshops. It’s not something you can tack onto your organization.
Rather, collaboration has to be built into your company’s DNA.
Think of how you communicate between and across teams. If you don’t have a culture that encourages idea sharing and casual “water cooler” conversations, no number of chat tools can help you collaborate well.
Being collaboration-first is particularly important for virtual agencies. After all, you can’t collaborate in-person; you have to do everything in virtual spaces.
Some ways to do this are:

Make goal setting a collaborative exercise. This turns the goal into a sort of “contract” between management and employees.
Involve team members in key decisions so they get a sense of ownership in the project.
Factor in each employee’s wants and career trajectory when setting team roles. Not only will this give them a stronger sense of ownership, but it will also help reduce your attrition rate.

Make communication as seamless as possible. Adopt tools like Workamajig where team members can communicate directly within the project space.
Adopt transparency as a core company value. People are more motivated to work together when they know exactly what they’re working towards and what they, the company, and the clients stand to benefit.
Hire and encourage team players instead of individual star performers.

This covers just the basics, of course.
2. Prioritize communication as a core value
Virtual agencies, more than most businesses, can’t afford to ignore communication. Your entire business depends on your ability to communicate ideas quickly, precisely, and succinctly.
Just like collaboration, you’re not going to get much mileage out of adopting better communication tools. Rather, you have to make it a core company value.
In practice, this can mean letting go of an otherwise good performer if he/she doesn’t communicate well. Or make building communication plans a core part of your project management approach.
Everything you do, from the people you hire to the way you manage projects, has to be seen through the lens of communication.
Some ways to prioritize communication in your virtual agency include:

Make communication skills a key quality when assessing new hires.
Encourage “over-communication” right from the moment you onboard new hires.
Make working “together” a priority. This can be something as simple as turning on the webcam for an hour so everyone can see each other while working. This can mitigate the isolated nature of virtual work.
Bake communication into your project management approach. Along with the risk management and financial plans, make communication plans a key part of your project planning process as well.
Hold daily standups over video. Not only does this make your team more accountable, but it also gives you valuable one-on-one facetime.

And of course, using better communication tools doesn’t hurt. Use Slack, HipChat, Zoom, or whatever else fits your agency’s needs better. If your team is working out of different time zones, tools like Spacetime.am can help as well.
3. Document processes and turn them into templates
Blame it on their creative DNA, but agencies have typically been averse to the idea of “process”. They’d much rather wing it than dumb it down into a proven checklist.
As a virtual agency, you can’t afford to adopt the same approach. “Winging it” can’t really work when you’re working in different cities and even timezones.
Instead, your approach should be to:

Document everything you do, and
Turn anything you do multiple times into a template

For instance, every agency follows the same few steps when creating a project proposal. In a process-oriented approach, you would break down all these steps into a list of to-dos. You’d then create separate templates for all the different types of proposals you need to send.

This approach removes the possibility of human error and also makes your agency easier to scale. When you – and your employees – know exactly what to do and how to do it, you will have an easier time growing.
More importantly, a process-oriented approach removes the “fog of war” that often runs through virtual workspaces. No one worries about what to do when they have checklists and templates to follow.
Do this before you start hiring and you’ll have a much better time running a virtual agency.
4. Automate as much as possible
Automation goes hand-in-hand with the process-oriented approach I outlined above. Once you start breaking down every process into its constituent tasks, you will find that you can automate many of them.
For example, one of your to-dos might be to remind freelancers about an upcoming deadline two days before the delivery date. Instead of doing this manually, you can create an automated reminder that works for every project, not just the current one.
Apart from productivity gains, automation also reduces human error. Your team might forget to send reports and email reminders; an automated reminder won’t.
Go back to the processes you created earlier. Categorize the constituent to-dos in each process as follows:

Recurring and periodic, i.e. the task is repeated on every project and recurs at specific intervals, such as sending weekly reports.
Repeating only, i.e. the task is repeated on every project but happens only once, such as sending a project proposal.
Unique and periodic, i.e the task is unique to a particular project but recurs periodically, such as a special report sent out weekly to specific stakeholders.
Unique, i.e. the task is unique to a particular project and does not repeat.

Any task that falls into Category #1 and #2 is a prime candidate for automation. Use tools like Workamajig which offer built-in automation rules to make the entire process easier.
5. Make project planning a top priority
Construction firms and manufacturing companies focus obsessively on project management and planning. But for many agencies, planning is an afterthought, a way to get things done with some semblance of control.
Little wonder that nearly 51% of project failure can be attributed in part to inadequate project planning.

Virtual agencies, in particular, live and die by their ability to plan and manage their activities. The lack of one-on-one interaction – with clients as well as employees – can impact visibility and leave you wondering “what’s next?”.
The solution is to buffer up your project management capabilities, especially how you go about planning.
Ditch your ad-hoc plans for an integrated project management approach. This involves gradually developing the project’s scope and purpose through a project charter, project scope statement, and project management plan (in that order).

At each step, you would add project details and get feedback from stakeholders to make sure you fully understand the project.
In an integrated approach, you would pay as much attention to change management, project monitoring, and project debriefing (aka post-project analysis) as you do to the actual execution. Some ways to do this are:

Developing a change management plan to accept and monitor change requests. This gives you a formal framework to deal with updates and scope changes, instead of responding to Skype chats and long email threads.
Creating a reporting framework to create all the reports you need to send during the course of a project – status reports, performance reports, etc. This framework should identify the minimum requirements every report should meet, and what’s a must-have, good-to-have, and nice-to-have in your reporting standards.
Monitoring milestones and daily activity to make sure that everything is on track. Something as simple as a Gantt chart can give you a great deal of insight into a project’s progress. Project management software that lets you track your team’s productivity is also a huge bonus.
Developing a knowledge repository to document all the learnings from successful and failed projects. This should be a part of your post-project analysis where you break down the project to see what went right and what didn’t. Anything you learn should be added to a centralized knowledge bank that you can tap into for future projects.

Managing a virtual agency requires a very different set of skills than the traditional model. More than people management, you have to invest in developing processes and best practices. Collaboration and communication, often an afterthought for traditional agencies, has to be at the forefront of your organizational approach.

How to Justify a Marketing Audit to the C-Suite

When you’re ready for a marketing audit, but you’re not sure if the CEO, CMO or even the CFO will approve the budget, you need the tools to make it happen.
What’s the ROI of a marketing audit? What’s it going to tell us other than we need to spend more money? Why do we need to pay for a diagnostic on our marketing?
Any of these questions may come from the C-Suite. They’re all valid. So let’s arm you, the marketing manager, marketing director or VP of marketing with the tools you need to prove how valuable and important this strategic analysis can be for your business.
First thing’s first: You need to know where you are

Any successful journey starts with knowing where you are. You can’t get to point B if you don’t understand point A. For your growth marketing journey, understanding where your brand is right now is critical. One of the most effective ways to truly assess your current situation is from a high level, expert point of view.
Much like a writer needs an editor, your marketing department needs a fresh perspective. You may know every piece of collateral you’ve ever created. You know why the brand colors and logo look the way they do. You understand the intent behind each nuanced part of the brand.
But if all that knowledge blocks your ability to see your marketing from a consumer’s point of view,as happens to so many of when our industry becomes part of our DNA, then you’re likely missing the forest for the trees.
There’s no blame to be had here,most brands have this same blindspot. It’s why the marketing departments of big brands work with outside creative agencies. In fact, The Coca-Cola Company works with several creative agencies to turn their marketing efforts into award-winning campaigns.
Closer to home, Impulse Creative works with several clients who have full marketing departments. For instance, we work with the team at Monterey Mushrooms to bring fresh perspectives, new strategy and creative ideas to their brand.
So the perspective you get on where you are right now as a brand is priceless. Really you’re understanding where you are so that you don’t duplicate efforts, move forward in the wrong direction, or waste money.
Next up: What’s working that you can double-down-on?
Once we know what’s going with your marketing, we’ll look at what’s working. Understanding where your wins are will help you double-down on the successful marketing initiatives. (This is part where doing your homework starts saving money and stops you from reinventing the ad about the wheel.)
When you focus on your strengths, you get stronger.
Maybe you rank well in search results for a powerful keyword that’s sending high-value leads to your sales team. Knowing that information can help your content creators focus on that keyword for more quick wins. A marketing audit can help you find quick wins and drive real revenue – and real value – immediately. What’s not to like about that?
Then: Where are the opportunities for growth?
Of course not everything is perfect. There’s always room for improvement. And a marketing audit will help you to find real, data-based opportunities for growth, so you’re planning your next move using more than a hunch or industry trends.

This could mean consolidating multiple marketing tools into one tool, saving money and increasing efficiency. It may mean you find new marketing strategies to implement that you never thought would work for your company. The possibilities are endless but the point is, you’ll get insight absolutely unique to where your business is right now.
Perhaps your brand is a B2B powerhouse, and you already know that social media like Instagram just isn’t for you. You tried it on the advice of an intern, and your C-Suite wasn’t impressed. We get it.
But have you worked your LinkedIn network from your company page all the way to your administrative staff? Have you utilized YouTube as a social platform?
The right marketing audit will help you see where you can go, where you can improve and understand what’s not working. You’ll even discover new marketing ideas that you may not have realized were an option for you.
More information: What tools can help?
Two heads are better than one. It’s an old school saying you’ve probably heard somewhere. And it’s true.
Do you know the landscape of marketing technology tools has exploded in recent years to include some 7,000 solutions? 7,000! Do you know them all?
Working with an agency on your marketing audit will open your eyes to new tools, help you to reconsider tools you’ve heard of and decide what’s going to work for you. Maybe you’ve compared Pardot versus HubSpot in years past. But how does the comparison pan out today?
We’ve seen companies using multiple solutions for email, marketing automation, analytics, conversational marketing, forms and landing pages. Sure, sometimes you need to go deeper into a specialty when one tool offers a broad brushstroke for something. Other times you can find the right marketing tool for multiple needs. A marketing audit will show you where you can take advantage of the right tools for your business, getting the most for your marketing money.
What’s the damage? How much will this cost?
Why does a marketing audit at Impulse Creative cost $5,000? The fact is, a comprehensive marketing audit takes time. It’s not a free consultation some agencies offer, where they give the same canned ideas they give everyone.
Instead, we put some of the best minds in marketing to work, looking over every aspect of your brand. We dive into your online presence, your analytics, your tools, your social media and more. We spend weeks compiling the data, interpreting what it means then putting it all together and proposing a plan you can share and understand.
We’ll uncover areas where you can save money and areas where you’ll need to invest more of your budget. The end result will be a strategic plan (ready-aim-fire) rather than a best guess proposal (fire-aim-ready) to get your marketing aligned with your business goals.
Investing $5000 in a strategic plan will save you tens of thousands of wasted marketing dollars spent on a best-guess strategy with no data to back it up. That’s not even a question of tactics, it’s simple math.
How about a happy customer?
Is it worth it? Will a marketing audit really work? Here’s what two of our clients say:
Maris Cohen, Director of Content Marketing for The NPD Group says our marketing audit brought so much value to her team. NPD hired Impulse Creative to run a marketing audit. She said, “The audit really helped because it’s not just NPD looking inward. It’s bringing in experts with a fresh perspective and gets us out of our own heads.”

Maris also found great value in ideas and strategic points in the audit that had the opportunity for immediate implementation – like relevant content for their intended audience.
“Finally, maybe our favorite part was the fact that the audit was run by a smart team for a reasonable investment, not just ‘some guy’ or a huge $30,000 price tag with no deliverables.”
We also talked with Shawn O’Brien, Chief Marketing Officer of The Nickel Ride. He says a major value to a marketing audit is uncovering every stone, including common sense stuff many of us tend to let go, like SEO page elements.

“The Impulse Creative team is made up of experts on changing trends to help keep you ‘unstuck in your ways’ with an outsider’s perspective,” Shawn said.
Shawn found extra value in how the marketing audit connected sales and marketing. Having a bird’s eye view of the marketing helps bring teams together over a strategic perspective.
Finally, The Nickel Ride team felt comfortable with the Impulse Creative team because each team member is finely tuned to their aspect of the audit. “You have a group of Subject Matter Experts who take deep dives every time. That builds a true relationship where you go the extra mile and you’re interested in our success.”
The tools you need to justify a marketing audit to your C-Suite – the bottom line
When you’re ready to show your C-Suite the bottom-line, bring this list:

We need to know where we are, what the market looks like
A marketing audit will tell us where we’re strong and can save money and where we can grow and should be investing
A $5,000 investment will point us in the right direction with data-backed strategy so we’re not spending the right money in the wrong place
ROI: With a thought-out, well-planned marketing strategy we can set course for more revenue. The ROI of a marketing audit will include more efficient marketing, higher quality leads, more brand awareness.

The bottom line
You know the value a marketing audit brings. You understand the journey metaphor – you can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t have a map. You get it. With these tools, you can get the executive team fired up.
Show them value. Paint the picture of a more efficient marketing strategy. Show them a future where marketing brings even more revenue for even less money.
Investing in a marketing audit will help your business get there and with some simple facts, you can get the C-Suite to see that journey too.
Boardroom photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
Growth chart photo by Jason Coudriet on Unsplash

8 Big Myths of Content Marketing

Myths are woven into our DNA.
We have heard about the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, dragons and other man made creations and legends that live more within the imagination than reality. But without those tales, the tapestry of our lives would be a little less.
Who wants to take away the fairies, super heroes and Santa Claus. Stories are intrinsic to what makes us human.
The art of storytelling is part of every culture. Sharing the events of the day around a camp fire, the kitchen table or the company water filter often sees us conjuring up a romantic image of the compelling wordsmith and the entertaining jokester.
“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” is something that needs to be embraced.
Content marketing is an art and a science
Content marketing has become an art and a science with a dash of promotion in the mix. Like any good cake recipe, the right types of ingredients and the quantities will be the difference between success and failure. In that mix sit terms like engagement, trust and credibility. All good, but on their own the cake won’t rise.
So what are some of the myths that have emerged around the digital content campfire?
Myth #1. Build it and they will come
Content marketing is synonymous with the term inbound marketing. Add the other phrase “attraction marketing” to the discussion and people think that content on its own will produce traffic and leads.
The misunderstanding of the true meaning of these terms leads people to think that just creating the content will attract opportunities and produce business changing marketing strategies.
Content marketing is two words and content is only one of them.
Myth #2. Content creation is more important than the marketing
This follows on from the first myth.
The creatives and the writers of this world often fall into this trap. Their misguided mantra is often “I create and therefore I will succeed”.
Sorry, that won’t do.
Some of the best artists of this world often had a “hustle gene” or a partner that went out and made it happen. Salvador Dali, the famous Spanish surrealist painter was a painter that was not only the creator but the marketer. He maybe took it a little bit too far.
But he knew how to get attention.
In a digital world the sheer noise, velocity and volume of content creation means that the marketing is 50% of the game.
Viral content is often associated with luck.
Publishers like Buzzfeed and Upworthy have made us realize that leaving it to luck is not an option. Content marketing success is now more science, big data and the relentless pursuit of optimizing content for sharing and traffic.

Myth #3. Tons of ordinary content is enough
What is ordinary content?
To me it means a bland, 400-600 word blog post that is missing a voice, insights and an x-factor. Visuals are also vital.
I could go on, but you know what I mean.
Ordinary content shouts out these messages. I don’t care, just having a go or maybe it reveals an underlying lack of confidence that says “who would want to read my stuff anyway”.
The competition for online attention is getting harder and when I started 6 years ago the content standard required wasn’t as high.
This is one of first blog posts that I published on March 25, 2009. This will not do today. Disclaimer: But, don’t let that stop you from starting the content marketing journey.

Some recent research by Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media about the standard of content for bloggers (and content marketers) is revealing with 1.500 word posts becoming mainstream.
Content marketing is growing up.
Taking something from “good to great” means more reading, more polishing and maybe some deeper research. It means wrestling and wrangling the content into an art form that reveals your brand purpose and mission.
But I forgot something. Passion.
Being passionate about your topic is often the difference at the end of the day. Content that is written just for inbound links and search is often missing the heart and soul of what awesome content is all about.
Myth #4. Content marketing is more about search engines
Google’s mission “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” has sometimes lead to an abomination or two in content marketing strategy execution. Their motto “don’t be evil” is maybe something that good content marketers should embrace.
Writing content that is just written for search engines should be made a sin.
Write for humans, touch their emotions and your content has a much better chance of being shared with viral velocity.
Myth #6. Good content marketing doesn’t need much technology
Social media and content marketing are almost like kissing cousins.
Related, close but not the same.
When content marketing emerged, the technology that surrounded it was either raw or non-existent. Using social content was seen as a manual job otherwise it was not proper.
The thinking was often that “using technology made social not social“.
The reality is that content marketing is many moving parts. This includes images, videos, blog posts, many social networks, multiple media, metrics, optimization, email, search and more.
You will need technology, apps and digital marketing technology platforms to create, publish, launch, manage and measure “at scale”.
This means marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, Infusionsoft and Marketo are becoming essential for even small to medium businesses.

It also means using technology and apps like Shuttlerock that enable you to crowd source content from your readers, fans and advocates.
Make it easy for your marketing team to collect, curate and publish brand content.

Myth #7. Content marketing is just about giving away free content
Bloggers are the epitome and essence of content marketing. Many bloggers (and content marketers) have fallen into the trap of only giving away free content. They forget to ask for something in return. They think that conversion from traffic to leads and sales will happen on its own.
You need optimized ”Calls to Action”.
Want something for free like a free PDF then I need an email in return. Want to read that ebook. That will be $7 thank you. Want some premium resources and maybe online training then the credit card needs some loving.
Great content marketing achieves 3 goals. It’s a lot like dating. Attraction, seduction and commitment. In digital marketing that translates to the following.
If you don’t achieve the last goal then you are doomed to fiscal failure.
Myth #8. Content marketing automation is evil
Content first has to be created, then it needs to published and finally it needs to be free to be pushed out into the big wide digital world and achieve its mission. That will mean it may have to achieve many roles:
Growing brand awareness
Building credibility and trust
Drive link building
Create thought leadership
For a noisy world with 2 billion smart phones and 1 billion websites, this means that automation will be a necessary evil. Some call it inhuman and others call it smart. My mantra is this:
“Automate the content distribution but not the conversation”
This means you can be authentic and smart!
Over to you
Are you using digital marketing automation software as part of your content marketing strategy? What is the standard of your blog posts?

What made Edmonton shooter Phu Lam so angry that he killed eight people?

EDMONTON — What was it that made Phu Lam so angry that he killed eight people?

The Edmonton maintenance man had been accused two years ago of abusing his wife and lashing out when he realized their eight-year-old son wasn’t his biological offspring. He shot them both Sunday, along with other members of his wife’s family, including a three-year-old niece. Yet he spared two other children who had also been in the north-side home — his toddler daughter and an infant nephew.

Lam dropped the two kids off at a relative’s home the next day, then visited with other family before driving to another house to kill one final target. When that person wasn’t home, he shot dead an innocent woman who happened to be there.

Police revealed the details Friday and said they are still working to piece together the complex case and explain what turned 53-year-old Lam into a cold-blooded killer. All they can say for now is that it involved domestic troubles.

Court documents show Thuy Tien Truong, 35, had tried to escape her marriage to Lam in 2012.

He had emigrated from Vietnam in 1979 and was visiting his home country when he met Truong in a coffee shop in 2000. They married six months later and she came to Canada in 2003. He sponsored her family to come as well in 2009.

Truong said in a 2012 application for an emergency protection order that her husband became controlling shortly after she landed here. Lam changed her phone number because he didn’t want her to have friends. He wanted to choose her clothes. He didn’t want her to work, but she got a job anyway.

Then he hit her. Once, he choked her so hard she thought she was going to die, she said. He threatened to kill her if she called police.

Truong said in the document she was so unhappy she once had sex with another man. Lam became suspicious and ordered a DNA test that proved that their son, Elvis, was not his.

Lam planned to “actually kill off her whole family and he was going to look for a gun, but no one would sell it to him,” a court interpreter said while translating Truong’s testimony during an emergency protection hearing.

“He asked his ex-wife if she could find him a gun … but the ex-wife told him not to do it because he has two kids with his ex-wife too.”

Truong testified Lam showed her parents the DNA results and they begged him to forgive her for the affair. She said he sexually assaulted, punched and choked her when they were alone that night. Her sister eventually called police.

A judge granted the protection order, but it was revoked two months later when Truong failed to show up at court. Criminal charges against Lam — assault and sexual assault, and uttering threats against various family members — were stayed. Prosecutors have said the main complainant and other witnesses on the file recanted their stories.

The couple eventually had another child but other court documents filed last year when Lam applied for bankruptcy indicate they separated as early as February 2013. Police said they were still trying to determine if Lam and Truong were living together at the time of the massacre. Lam was listed as the owner of the house and police said he probably still had a key. Other members of Truong’s family also lived there.

Police said Lam managed to get a handgun that had been stolen in 2006 in Surrey, B.C.

Acting deputy police chief Mark Neufeld told reporters Friday that autopsies confirmed that all seven people in the family home had been shot to death, probably between 3:45 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday — after Truong had finished a late work shift and before she and her mother, 55-year-old Thi Dau Le, were to show up for some morning overtime work. Another relative arrived at the house that morning and knocked on the door, but no one answered.

The other victims in the house were: Truong’s father, Van Dang Truong, 55; friend Viet Nguyen, 41; sister Thanh Ha Thi Truong, 33, and her daughter, Valentina Nguyen.

Neufeld said it’s not clear if all of them were killed at the same time or if some were shot as they showed up at the home over the course of the morning. He said the two children Lam delivered to other relatives — his and Truong’s one-year-old daughter and her sister’s eight-month-old boy — were likely in the house during the carnage.

“And yes, for whatever reason, the two children were spared.”

Neufeld said police cannot account for Lam’s whereabouts right after that. They do know he visited a different relative in southwest Edmonton late Monday afternoon, left there shortly after 6 p.m., and made the short drive to the home of Cyndi Duong, 37.

He was looking for someone else and shot her instead.

“Why, I don’t know,” said Neufeld, adding that Duong’s husband and three children were there at the time.

“She was simply an innocent victim of all this.”

He said that although there was no direct link between Duong and Lam, there was some relationship between their families and it’s possible Lam knew Duong’s father.

Two hours after police received a call about this shooting, a relative of Lam’s called to report he was suicidal. Officers went to his home but found nothing suspicious and no one answered the door. They left, returned a few hours later after receiving more information, and discovered the bodies.

A manhunt began. It ended early Tuesday when police found that Lam had shot himself in his ex-wife’s restaurant in nearby Fort Saskatchewan. One of her relatives said he worked there as a maintenance man and had access to the building after hours.

Lam’s bankruptcy documents show he was in money trouble and on stress leave from another job where he worked as a machinist. The documents suggest he had a gambling problem, as he had attended a recovery program for gambling addicts.

Other court records detail Lam’s criminal past. He was fined $200 for an assault in 1989 and handed 90 days in jail for gun and drug charges in 2001. That same year, he was fined twice for communicating with prostitutes. Other charges on his criminal record, such as assault with a weapon and production of a controlled substance, were withdrawn over the years.

Neufeld said investigators received valuable help from the Vietnamese community in sorting out the crime, but added they may never fully understand why Lam exploded so violently.

“We struggle to try to put some sense to something like this,” he said.

“We will chase down everything we can to try to find out the reasons why, because I think it’s important.

“But at the end of the day you try to import rational thought into an irrational act and, a lot of times, it just never comes.”