My clients regularly tell me they love working with me and enjoy the relationship we have. And while this has something to do with who I am – an effective, responsive Virtual Assistant – it has a lot to do with how we work together. And the role they, the client, play in that is significant.
There are many benefits of choosing to work with a VA over an employee to help you in your business. Just for starters:
You only retain them for the exact number of hours of tasks you need them. You don’t need to spend time trying to find things for them to do.
Reduced costs – unlike an employee, you don’t need to factor in recruitments costs, insurance or superannuation.
It can often be an easier, more honest relationship. There may be difficult conversations from time to time, usually as result of a communication breakdown somewhere. It’s great to talk regularly about what’s working and where improvements can be made, but you are not mandated to carry out quarterly or yearly performance reviews.
But in my experience, some (not all!) clients think they can provide their Virtual Assistant with the outline of a task in a short email or a couple of bullet points and they will somehow magically figure out how to get it done. They don’t make themselves available for questions, or provide a breakdown of how that task has been done in the past. Even if your VA is using a well-known, mainstream program to perform the task, there can still be differences in the nuances of the way you’ve implemented it in your business.
No matter how experienced your VA is, it is still your role to help successfully integrate them into your business, whether you’re a solo business owner or a corporate leader.
Let me put it this way. You hire a new employee. You give them a desk. Do you hand them a task list and go back to what you were doing and expect them to do the work well? I would suggest not. I would suggest there might be a process, like:
You introduce them to people in your team and explain who does what
You may give them an induction manual with your policies and procedures to read
You or someone else walks them through the computer systems.
And then you give them their first task.
So, I ask you to consider – how can you replicate this process for your Virtual Assistant?
When I started working remotely, I quickly realised how much information and knowledge I used to pick up simply by physically being in the office. What I learnt just from hearing phone and other conversations was really important, let alone being able to go and see another team member or rummage through files.
So, it looked like I had superpowers – that I didn’t need to be given too much detail on the task or the background. What was really happening is that I was getting that information in other ways. But I was still getting it.
So, it was a little shocking (and humbling) to find myself in the deafening silence of my home office and having to go back to clients and ask them for more information so I could do a good job for them. Or, to not ask the questions, fumble through (ego alert!) and then miss the mark.
Fact: Your VA needs training that is relevant and specific to your business.
However, this is a two-sided street.
I learnt that I needed to be more specific and detailed in the questionnaire I ask my clients to complete when we start working together.
If a brief is too brief, I ask more questions before I start the job. Has the task been done before? By who? How? Is there a preferred method? Are other people involved? Has anything been documented?
If you find yourself getting frustrated, remember that this is information that is gleaned in a variety of ways by on site employees. I used to pride myself on being able to find what I needed to know without asking my Manager! But in this new way of working, sometimes I just have to ask.
So, here’s a few tips for getting started with your VA.
When you’re doing something you think you might ask them to do in future, write it down. Or use a voice recorder it. Or use screen capture software. There are so many ways to collect training ‘content’ without it having to take up too much of your time. Not only can your VA use all of this to do the work, they can pull it all together and turn it into SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for you, and it will be ready to use for someone else.
Give them a due date. You get all the benefits of having a VA in part because they are managing multiple clients and projects. This is what makes us rock stars! It’s one of our unique skillsets. So, if they ask you for a due date or a timeline, “ASAP” or “Just when you get to it” is going to make it difficult for them to prioritise and schedule your work appropriately.
Consider inviting them to dial into meetings with other team members. I know it’s easy to think they are not specifically involved or you don’t need a minute taker so why pay them to be there, but what we can pick up just by listening is GOLD. There’s a minefield of information that you would never think to communicate to them directly.