If you’re thinking of working with a VA (virtual assistant) it’s a great sign. Usually, it means you’re getting too busy to handle everything yourself. Many mompreneurs need assistance at some time during their start-up and growth phases of business. Virtual assistants can help you become more profitable in the time you are willing to devote to the business. After all, juggling the needs of our families WHILE running our business operations often ‘takes a village’!
I have had the pleasure of working with virtual assistants, contractors, and many other helpers throughout the first years of launching my business and these are the lessons I’ve learned to avoid mishaps, miscommunication, and breakdowns.
What entrepreneurs need to do better to avoid breakdowns, mishaps, and miscommunication with VA’s:
Postpone emotional responses and ask questions first.
An easy way to end your relationship with a great virtual assistant (VA) is to scream first then ask questions later… When things go wrong some people automatically start barking orders and throwing last minute solutions in place without stopping to evaluate what may be causing the breakdown. When you work to resolve the situation together with your virtual assistant, ultimately better solutions will result. Very often a knee-jerk reaction by an angry entrepreneur creates more problems than they had with the original mistake. Instead of overreacting, stop, drop and contact your virtual assistant live. This way you can ask questions and evaluate how to handle the next steps. An ounce of prevention will solve your problem quickly and allow you both to maintain mutual respect. Also, one technique that has proven very helpful for me as a manager of a virtual team is to take responsibility for the task first. In other words – ASSUME it is YOU, not your virtual assistant. In other words, what did you do (or not do) that led your virtual assistant down a certain path? By assuming responsibility for the mistake from the get-go, you’ll have a much less heated, less-defensive situation to address and likely get the situation solved more effectively. Even if it wasn’t YOU – there are probably things you could have done differently that may have helped.
Handle conflicts and disagreements right away.
Conflict is natural in any relationship and it certainly is in business. When conflict arises, it is essential to identify potential red flags and address them right away, before they become larger issues. There are two things I can think of:
** Respect the VA’s schedule.
Scheduling calls ahead of time and not dropping projects on them with 2-hour deadlines – unless absolutely necessary – is just the right thing to do. A virtual assistant can’t organize every aspect of your life. Sometimes it’s OK to ask for quick turnaround, but for a VA, delivering good, quality work on time is important. If the client constantly puts the VA in a situation where she is rushing and stressed, it’s not usually good for the relationship or the final result. And just because you mark something urgent, by the way, doesn’t mean the VA *can* get to it right away! You cannot forget that there are other clients in the VA’s schedule too.
** If you can’t share, you’re probably better off hiring an actual assistant.
If you’re constantly having the urge to look over your VA’s shoulder, I suggest you hire a person to physically work with you in your space. Face it, you may just NOT be a good boss for a virtual assistant. I think there’s an inherent independence in a good VA and they treasure that. If you are one to make a virtual assistant feel guilty for being busy with other clients’ work, that’s unfair to them and will get in your way. If you’re more hands-on with your staff and want near-constant interaction, you should consider hiring an on-site assistant. Some work is better done face to face. Be fair and assess if the tasks and responsibilities you need done must be completed in your presence. If so – hire an on-site resource to help you.
Regularly communicate and check in with your VA.
When you touch base (which should be often), be sure to take a moment to share whatever your current situation is with your VA. Let her help you create a plan and put systems in place to ensure every job gets done to your satisfaction. If email is your primary method of communication, answer your VA’s emails as quickly as possible to avoid any delays in the completion of your project. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to schedule regular telephone meetings. Whatever you do, scheduling regular meetings is a must-have. Some VA’s will require these meetings as a part of doing business, while others will bill you for their time. It depends on the structure, arrangement and business practices. If your virtual assistant does not require meetings – be sure YOU schedule them in regularly so you can touch base and check on their progress.
Block time for administrative tasks you must do.
Create an administrative date weekly in your own calendar. This date is essential and you may need more dates if you have many virtual assistants on tasks! Block time in your schedule to respond to virtual assistant email, provide information or review and approve the work that has been completed for you. Often virtual assistants are waiting on you to complete their tasks. The longer it takes for you to get back to them, the more difficult it will be for you to get tasks accomplished on time.
Estimate your time spent on tasks more accurately.
Another great practice to get into is estimating time on tasks! If you have a task or project you’d like to have completed, talk about how long you expect it to take. Be specific about what you want and the time limit you desire to be spent for each project. Ask your virtual assistants input about how realistic your estimates are… and build in checkpoints EARLY and OFTEN in the process. If your virtual assistant is running into trouble or things are taking longer than first expected, you can easily intervene and redirect work before it costs you too much!
Realize you’re hiring an experienced professional.
When I say I couldn’t run my business without my current support staff and virtual assistants, it’s true. Virtual Assistants have designed and implemented my website, built (and rebuilt) my shopping cart, regularly managed social media posts, assisted with client support, and saved me tens of thousands of dollars in mistakes I probably would have made.
Additionally, virtual assistants have saved THOUSANDS of hours of my time because they are just better at things than I am! What took them one hour may have taken 2 weeks or more of my time.
Seek your virtual assistant’s advice before trying out new systems or programs. Your virtual assistants may have already had the opportunity to try various tools and will be happy to make recommendations that will save you time and money.
Set clear expectations with virtual assistants.
When you work with a virtual assistant, make sure you discuss both yours and your virtual assistant’s expectations of working together. Be sure to include how work assignments will be handled, expected turnaround time, and how you’ll regularly communicate. If they’re handling project work be sure you set milestones for review during the assignment. Discuss how often you need to hear from your virtual assistant and how you prefer to communicate.
Create an emergency plan.
Whenever you have a team, you should always plan contingencies. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to nail down what to do when things go wrong. Putting time into an emergency plan provides a process and contact system for your virtual assistant to know before she needs it. The fact remains: things go wrong, systems break down, and the natural universe drives entropy. When you have a virtual assistant, you’re cloning yourself so it is best to have a ‘workable’ plan to go to when an emergency happens!
Give more positive feedback.
Everyone wants to know that they’ve done a good job, even your virtual assistant. Thank them often, and every once in a while do something really special to let them know that you value their time and their contribution to your business. Celebrate your successes and share them with your support people regularly. Although it is your business, your VA has a vested interest in your success and are happy to celebrate and support you along the way. Have you hugged your virtual assistant today? Do so.. They’ll love you even more!
If you need help finding a good Virtual Assistant…
When you’re ready to hire a virtual assistant, this is one area in your business development when it may be a really good idea to work with a coach. Before you hire you’ll want to document what you do, systematize and streamline your business processes and find the right skills and virtual assistant to support for your business needs. Contact me for a complimentary Discovery Call. I can save you time and prioritize the tasks a virtual assistant will help most with. Then provide guidelines on the virtual assistant who best can support you!
I want to thank my special and wonderful support people for providing MOST of the great content for this post: Renée Garrin of Renée the VA, Janice Clarke of BizMSolutions.com, Debbie Lonergan of Debbielongergan.com, and Janet Barclay of Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants, author of Working Effectively with Your Virtual Assistant.
Special thanks to Today’s Admin, Renée Garrin of Renée the VA, Janice Clarke of BizMSolutions.com and Janet Barclay of Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants, author of Working Effectively with Your Virtual Assistant.