If you are a time-crunched business owner, then you know the value of expanding and scaling your business. After all, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” so the adage goes –and there’s a lot of truth to it!
The problem, though, is the busier you get the less time you have to build new projects, offer new services, and make changes.
The more involved you are, the harder it can be to hit the pause button and spend time on tasks that are crucial for your business’ continued growth and development.
There are only so many hours in the day, and so much you can do on your own. And of course, it’s good on occasion to step back and unwind –and maybe even rest that overworked brain.
The solution then is finding a way to make your company as efficient as possible. This usually involves outsourcing –and oftentimes, the solution comes in the form of a VA –a virtual assistant.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few ways that hiring a VA can help you to maximize your business’ efficiency.
Maximize Your Efficiency: The Power of the Digital Workforce
So your business is growing, and it seems like there’s just not enough hours in the day.
If you’re finding it difficult to fit everything in, then there’s a good chance that you could benefit from outsourcing some of those tasks.
Here are a few signs that it may be time to consider outsourcing to a virtual assistant (VA):
- You are busy, growing the business and want to develop new services or product offerings.
- You’d like to scale your business, and that means scaling customer support –as well as admin tasks, order processing and fulfillment, and more.
- You don’t have an in-house team, or you do, but they’re already stretched and you don’t want to add more to their plate.
- The time and cost involved with training new personnel is demanding.
- New projects –especially digital, marketing, and service need a new set of skills that are not necessarily available to you locally.
- Speed to market or project fulfillment is critical.
In short, if you have things that need to be done, and not a lot of time to do them, then a VA could be your solution.
When Should You Outsource to a VA?
So your business is growing, and you feel there’s a good chance that you could benefit from a VA.
But how can you be sure that now’s the right time?
The best approach that I’ve found is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the task something that adds value to your company?
Make sure the task is something that adds real value to your business or customers –or something that’s a necessary part of business operations –like accounting.
- Has the task been simplified to its most basic form?
Make sure there aren’t any software programs out there that can help you to simplify the task. Always simplify things before outsourcing them.
- Is the task something that can effectively be outsourced?
Or does it require your attention?
- Have you tried doing the tasks yourself first?
You may want to try doing the tasks yourself first to see what’s involved, as well as common pitfalls, and then develop a process for them. Of course, this approach la depends on the task in question. There are some things you may not be able to, or wish to do yourself –for example, programming or accounting.
The good news is that when it comes to hiring a VA, there’s not a lot of risk involved. You could always hire a VA on a short-term basis to trial their services and see how it goes, before you commit to anything longer term.
How to Get the Best From Your VA
Okay, moving forward now. So you’d like to hire a VA –here’s how you can ensure that you get the best from them:
- Start with clear goals. Make your plan based on stretch-goals that will make a difference to your business.
- Write a short first draft plan, no more than a page. This should cover your goals, reporting structure, resourcing, etc.
- Check the assumptions against your business numbers to make your plan is realistic.
- Now you are ready. Find a reputable virtual assistant agency and connect with them. Reach out and see for yourself what their interpersonal communication is like. This is especially important if you’re planning to have your VA interact with customers.
Here’s some information that you’ll want to include when reaching out to a VA:
– What e-commerce platform do you use? (If relevant)
– Which tasks are you looking to have done?
– What niche are you in?
– How much help will you need per week?
- When you are ready, send your brief with clear ‘response times and requirements.’
Once you receive responses the fun begins. Besides clear objectives, the most important issue for working with a virtual agency is human relationships.
Digital workers, agencies, and teams are focused on meeting performance requirements at speed and quality, but most of all they’re concerned with looking after their client relations through transparency and openness.
That is their business model. Without this commitment to openness and client satisfaction –making sure you’re happy with their work, they simply won’t survive.
How to Organize a VA Project
Each virtual agency will present itself in different ways, but there are some traits that they all share.
A big question is do the agency or team offer a complete service immediately? Or a service that is rolled-out over time?
The answer to this question shows you whether they are a one-person manager or a full-service agency.
So, for example, a digital marketing team might offer a range of services based on two or three people working very closely together from the get-go, while an agency might have any number of key specialists that they can call on at short notice.
This, in many ways, is what makes virtual teams so invaluable –they have ability to scale the level of support that you require, quickly and efficiently. You, their client, may require a new skillset – say a ‘database programmer’ or a ‘search engine optimizer’ at short notice – your virtual agency needs to deliver additional services quickly to fill a gap.
Additional elements for good virtual agency performance include:
- Clear agency contracting to assure both parties that the project parameters are clear
- A clear communication protocol
- Virtual teams, like your in-house staff, need care and consideration; in return, they’ll reward your business many times over
Streamlining the Entire Process
If you’re looking to make your business as efficient as possible, then you’ll want to enlist the help of software tools that are available to help you make short work of many time-consuming tasks.
Here’s a look at a few programs that you can use to streamline your business’ efficiency, and help you oversee your virtual teams.
When it comes to websites, WordPress is probably one of the best options out there, thanks in large part to the prevalence of plugins that are available that can help you with just about every function of business. It’s also by far the most popular –WordPress is now powering nearly 35% of the web. Your virtual team can create a website and even a commercial hub or portal –with financial transactions capability, within in hours or certainly a few days.
If you’re looking for customer engagement software, Freshworks is a popular option –it’s powerful and is easy to use, making it easy for your whole team to engage with customers.
Developing Virtual Systems
Okay, so you are starting your virtual project. What can you look for in terms of simple, practical steps that support your new virtual team and achievement of your business goals?
There are some obvious management choices and a few systems that will really add value to your entire project.
- Make time to assist your virtual team at first –they’ll likely have questions for the first project or two and you’ll want to make sure you’re on hand to help. Alternatively, brief one of your staff to support your virtual team coordinator or manager.
- Next, you’ll want to set aside time for one meeting between you, your internal staff and your virtual team so that all key people are clear about the future.
- Establish KPIs from the start, so you have a way to measure the progress of your virtual team. Have an internal company project sheet with key performance targets (KPIs) included. This supports coordination inside your company, especially if you are too busy or away from the office.
- If you are not up-to-speed with digital strategy, project management software, or other virtual systems, use this as a focus to learn something new. You might even attend some training as an investment in your skills.
- Remember, digital skills are business skills today. Your entire company may be operating digitally in the near future, so learn, learn, learn with your virtual agency.
- Finally, good goals make good people and vice versa.
With the right virtual team, you can generate an entire new approach to business every time you talk digital. Your agency will help you to embrace the change to your business, industry, and even the entire sector.
If you are new to virtual-team management, don’t be put off the idea. These add-on teams are in many ways, a lot easier than the traditional process of hiring and training in-house staff.
With virtual staff, you get professionals who are ready to go. They’ll require minimal training and instruction from you, once you get past the initial onboarding stage.
You just need to dip your toe in the water and get used to the new work style, remote yet quick and efficient, before you dive in.
Start by recognizing that you can’t see your team. This can be quite a shock for business managers used to working with people they can see. For virtual or digital teams it’s business-as-usual. They work all-hours to move your business forward, specifically while you are not there.
Yes, you can do a lot of work using video streaming but more important is knowing each other, at least once the project goes live.
Virtual workers can be based anywhere in the world and have little sense of 9-5, or even breaks between days, so you can respond in new ways too.
Virtual agencies work 24/7 and for you, this means incredible performance when you fully harness your new team and seize the opportunity they represent.
Remember digital is beyond fast, it’s immediate. It’s delivered at the speed of light literally, and increasingly old-fashioned businesses, are being forced out by new digital competitors. Take, for example, Amazon –whose business model is unparalleled –they’re revolutionizing how business is done, and setting new standards for fast selection and delivery of any product their customers want.
This is a paradigm change for business that will not be lost on you. What this change means for the small-medium business (SMB) is that you have in your hands these same capabilities. At once the digital model threatens, or frees your business to succeed.
There are however, a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Briefing your new virtual team means taking their point-of-view seriously. They are experts in digital transformation, although they don’t yet understand your business
- Good briefing transfers into a clear contract and excellent protocols for communication and performance
- Give yourself some time to ease into the VA arrangement, to see how it fully pans out. Recognize that this is a temporary process. It won’t take long for your VA to understand their tasks and what’s required of them. Then they’ll be ready to start working on their own with minimal feedback from you.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, startup founder, or an e-commerce store owner –chances are you could benefit from a virtual assistant or two. The key is finding a way to make outsourcing profitable.
With the right approach and the right team –you’ll soon be able to start scaling your business to a level that just wouldn’t be possible on your own. Now that’s exciting!
Are you thinking of enlisting help of a VA? Reach out to Sidekicks to learn more about VA services today!