Hiring a Virtual Assistant is the BEST THING for Your Business
Whenever I meet with a new client, the conversation usually involves a line of discussion about how I can help their business. Many people I speak to have never used a virtual assistant before, so they don’t know what to expect really. And others who have, often feel like it wasn’t the most productive experience, and want to know how our relationship will be different.
In every conversation, my answer is always
“I can help to change the course of your business and take it to the next level.”
It’s that simple. That is exactly what a virtual assistant can do for you.
I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t want their business to grow. Smart entrepreneurs know that building a team goes hand in hand with a strong business presence.
But for one-or two-person shows, it’s hard to know how to hire, train, and have an on-going collaboration with someone else. And it’s especially hard to find the time and develop a process for doing that, when there are so many other things that need attention.
Here are some tips on how to find an assistant that will change the course of your business.
Interview before hiring
You should treat hiring a virtual assistant the same as bringing on another member of your team. There are plenty of virtual assistants out there, but the quality differs greatly. Make sure you look for assistants who know your language. Too many headaches will arise and too much time will be wasted working with someone who does not speak your native tongue.
Second, make sure you ask about their previous work experience as an assistant before the interview. Look for experience that shows they are motivated and pay attention to details. It’s very helpful to make a list of tasks that you’ll need your assistant to perform for you. (I’ve included a list of the top 10 tasks you can outsource to your assistant at the end of this article) Creating an accurate task list can help you select a VA with the right experience and aptitude. If you don’t know what you need your assistant to do, how can you find the right one?
Third, when you interview the potential hire, make sure you ask them to let you know why they want to work for your company. To get the best work from them, they need to understand and believe in your company’s mission. A great exercise you can do is ask them to send you at least 10 reasons why they want to work for your company in 24 hours after you interview them. This assignment is great, because it will tell you so much about the candidate. Did they stick to 20 or did they go above and beyond? Did they just make the deadline or was it turned in before time? Were the answers formatted properly? Once you find a virtual assistant who goes above and beyond on the assignment, you’re ready to bring them on board.
Organization and instruction are key
One of the common mistakes with working virtual assistants is that they misinterpret the task. To mitigate the chances of that happening, layout exactly what needs to be done.
For instance, if you plan to use your virtual assistant to generate leads for our company you’ll need to go through step-by-step how we want them to reach out to clients on, say, social media. Create a short video tutorial for them to follow on how you need the task to be done. It only takes a few minutes to create a video and the time you invest in properly training your assistant will pay off ten-fold.
You could also create a document as a “manual” for them, and include all the relevant information (website login/password, frequent flier numbers, etc). Having this in one easy-to-search document so your assistant can easily reference it when they need to.
The goal is to enable an easy transition and avoid having to reinvent the wheel when there’s been a long gap in between performing a particular task (such as uploading a blog post to a particular website with its own layout quirks).
Pay attention to how much time it’s taking for your virtual assistant to complete assignments. When you make sure you over communicate, you greatly improve their productivity.
Working with a VA can exponentially increase your productivity – but that’s only if you fully leverage their time and talents. You’ll never harness the real benefit if you’re constantly having to clean up mistakes and do things over again. The only way to avoid that is by planning in advance and setting up the systems that will enable them to succeed.
Allow them to learn new skills
As with any member of your team, you want your virtual assistant to grow with your company. You’ll find that virtual assistants LOVE working on tasks that teach them new skills and allow them to grow. So, try assigning more creative tasks to your virtual assistants once you get to know them. You can even ask them what they are most interested in learning. Once you know, try and assign tasks that correlate with what they want to learn.
In my experience as an assistant, one of the most motivating things a client can do is to ask my opinion on certain tasks or decisions. This will make your VA feel even more like part of your team. That sense of inclusion inspires them to go above and beyond, doing research and analysis before coming back to you with their ideas. Your assistant will be a vital asset to your team and as you get closer to them, the stronger that relationship will be.
Make time to check in
It’s tempting to think that once you hire a VA, you can delegate the task and then forget it. But, at least at first, that’s definitely not how it works. You need to build time into your calendar to review everything they do, so you can catch problems early and offer suggestions and feedback. Some assistants may be hesitant to alert you if they’ve hit a roadblock or don’t understand your instructions. So checking in frequently and monitoring their progress in the early days can ensure they’re not going down blind alleyways. It’s easy to get busy and ignore your VA temporarily; they’re not demanding your time the way a client would. But if you want them to be effective, plan at least 30 minutes per day to review their work early on. That gives them timely and actionable feedback, and will save you money because they’re less likely to have to go back and redo tons of work. Later on, it may only be necessary to check in with a short meeting every week to review the past week’s accomplishments and set priorities for the upcoming week.
What Can You Outsource to Your Assistant?
Using a virtual assistant can shave hours from your work week, but knowing which tasks to delegate can be tricky, whether you’re starting or growing a business. Not sure where to start? There are at least a HUNDRED things you can off load to your assistant. Here are 10 of them, just to get you started. I’m sure you’ll come up with a dozen more on your own.
Bookkeeping: Keeping tabs on bills and other bookkeeping matters. Many small businesses choose to share their bookkeeping systems with their virtual assistants who can then follow up on tasks such as outstanding invoices or unpaid
Online Research: Common requests include researching blog topics, finding information on corporate websites, exploring new products and vetting potential employees or business contacts.
Database entries: Whether it’s a slew of new business cards picked up at a conference or updated information for existing contacts, keeping databases current is a suitable task for virtual assistants
Data presentations: Turning raw data into a clear PowerPoint presentation or summarizing research findings in a Word document can be a huge timesaver when prepping for meetings
Managing email: To keep you from wasting time in your email inbox, some virtual assistants will filter your most important emails and respond to the rest on your behalf. This is easy to do remotely, but you need to provide guidance on how to pick out key emails and ask the assistant to copy you before sending out any responses to reduce the risk of errors.
Social tasks: Virtual assistants can be a good bet to handle tasks such as writing holiday cards or sending thank you notes,
Travel Research: Virtual assistants are a great resource for finding hotels, booking airfares and mapping out trip itineraries both for business and pleasure
Scheduling: Because many scheduling tools are available online, virtual assistants are managing the calendars of many clients. Tasks include dealing with meeting invitations from others, scheduling appointments with clients and helping to plan events
Chasing business: Prioritizing potential business opportunities can be challenging, but virtual assistants can help with the process.
Industry knowledge prep: With limited time to keep up with industry news, some small businesses have turned to virtual assistants to keep tabs on the most important happenings. Many executives then use the industry information to update their Twitter feed or bring up interesting developments in conversation with customers and prospects.
You Can Do This
You DO have the time. Just set aside 15-30 minutes of your day to prepare, interview and hire an assistant. It might take a couple of weeks, but trust me…
THIS WILL CHANGE THE COURSE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
You can’t afford NOT to find the time to do this.
After the initial hiring and training time, and once your assistant is moving along steadily on their own…. you will find yourself with the time to build out and innovate within your business and strategize for more growth.
Ultimately just remember, this is the SAME PROCESS for any business to inspire growth. Hiring and training are necessary in every business to stay ahead of the curve and create a strategy for growing your business.
Building your team effectively is a GAME CHANGER.
Administrative Consultant and Owner of Brooke Bennett :: Creative Solutions
Brooke is the entrepreneur-in-charge of Brooke Bennett::Creative Solutions. Her drive and creativity as an administrative consultant help other business owners take their business to the next level.