One of the most frequent challenges I hear from small business owners — whether it be a one-man-band starting out, or a business with existing employees — is the challenge of the business owner being too busy. Commonly, the business owner is too busy tackling the day-to-day urgent work of running the business to concentrate on the important tasks they need to consistently do to grow their business. Marketing, Sales, Leadership.
As Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth Revisited would say, these business owners are too busy working in their business to work on their business.
Typically, these business owners appreciate this is what they are doing, but don’t know how to recruit additional resource to help them free up their time. After all, taking on employees (or should I say good employees) is an onerous task and can feel like a risk when a business is first growing.
So, is there an alternative to employing staff — perhaps where the tasks the business owner needs to delegate or outsource are too small in total to justify the cost of a full-time (or even a part-time) member of staff?
The alternative is to employ the services of Virtual Assistants.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A Virtual Assistant is typically a self-employed individual who works in your business remotely, along with various other clients. They are not an employee, although you can (and in my opinion, should) treat them as a trusted member of your team. More on that later in this article.
Virtual Assistants (VA’s from this point forwards) are typically paid for the hours they work, or on a project-by-project basis, and they can be based anywhere in the world. I’ve used VA’s who are based in India, Eastern Europe, the Philippines and many other foreign countries. The advantage to this sort of VA is that you are getting highly skilled workers, who can deliver great results at a rate that is often (significantly) lower than in the UK or USA.
With that said, the team of VA’s that I work with to help my business grow are all based within the UK. Having been an employer before, when I sold my business I had no desire to rush into taking employees on again. Employees need managing, and that takes time. Good Virtual Assistants are typically self-starters who don’t need as much managing as an employee. That’s a win for me.
[tweet_box design=”default”]Good Virtual Assistants are typically self-starters who don’t need as much managing as an employee.[/tweet_box]
What can a Virtual Assistant do for you?
The typical image of a VA tends to be the generalists who will help you with your administration, finance, accounting and any number of other tasks that you’re being bogged down with on a day-to-day basis.
Be aware though, that you can (and should) hire VA’s to do specialist work. That might be marketing, or even more specifically, email marketing, social media management, Public Relations or Direct Marketing. It might be Design work, or more specifically web design, graphic design or document design.
The key question here is to ask yourself what the highest value use of your time is. Is it doing the invoicing, the admin and the bookkeeping, or is it finding new clients and winning new business? It may be something else, but it’s probably some task that only you can do but are not currently doing because you’re too busy.
Why you’re probably not already working with a Virtual Assistant
You probably already know what would be the best use of your time, and you probably already know it isn’t doing many of the jobs you already do day-to-day. So the answer is clear — you need to outsource these tasks to a VA, right?
Well, logically that is the answer, but the challenge I find most business owners experience here is best summed up by one single belief. “Nobody else can do it as well as me”.
As business owners, we think that nobody else can do the work as well as us. I mean, we’re indispensable, right?
I definitely don’t think this way. I like to surround myself with people who are better than me at loads of things, and I can tell you it’s working out quite well!
As business owners, we think that nobody else can do the work as well as us!
Are you a Single Point of Failure?
I wrote in a recent post “Why I’m rebooting my blog and my business” that given the year I experienced (complete with two hospital stays, a move 250 miles North and a wedding) that without the VA’s I’ve surrounded myself with, my business wouldn’t have continued. It couldn’t have continued because I was often incapacitated and unable to run the business!
Could your business run without you, or are you an SPF — A Single Point of Failure? If you got knocked over by a car tomorrow (don’t dismiss this idea, it happened to me!) and were hospitalised, do you have the people around you who can help things tick over until you’re recovered?
I do. Meet Team Tubb.
How Virtual Assistants help me
- Judith knows MailChimp better than I ever will.
- Ross knows video editing in a way that I’ll never master.
- Col can grow a significantly better beard than me — oh, and he’s really good with design.
Anyway, you get the idea. I have a team of VA’s who are experts in their particular field and you should also look to hire for specific skills rather than general skills.
Why? Well, I’d say the Golden Rule of hiring VA’s is this. Don’t try to find one super-VA to do everything for you.
Firstly, VA’s, just like everyone else, have their strengths and weaknesses. Play to those strengths. Hire somebody with the skills for the task at hand. This isn’t an employee you’re taking on who has hours you need to fill the day with. A VA could work an hour a month for you, or many hours a month — it’s all down to what you need doing.
Secondly, trying to hire one single “Super VA” who can do everything is not only impossible but even if it were possible, you’d end up relying on them too much. What if that “Super VA” was hit by a car and was unable to work, or decided to quit the VA business? You’d be back to square one. It’s that Single Point of Failure all over again.
How much do Virtual Assistants cost?
Again, that hasn’t been my experience.
If cost is truly an issue for you, then you can work with VA’s in India, the Philippines or other parts of the world where the skill-set is high and the cost is very low by our country’s standards.
But as I’ve shared, I chose to work with a team of British VA’s and they cost my business, in total, less than the cost of a single employee would every month. A single employee who wouldn’t have half of the skills that my team collectively has, either.
Obviously, the cost of a VA depends on their skill set and a number of hours you want to work with them but think hundreds of pounds each month rather than thousands.
One final important observation on the cost of VA’s. If, at this point, you still think you can’t afford to hire a VA, then please sit down and work out how much money you’re leaving on the table by doing those jobs you know you shouldn’t be doing. How many new clients could you have won if you weren’t doing the invoicing? What is that worth to you, in real terms? I’d be surprised if it’s not much, much more than the cost of hiring a VA.
Read these Books on Virtual Assistants
If you’ve got this far and think that working with Virtual Assistants is a good idea, then I’d recommend you go and read “Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business” by Chris Ducker.
If you’ve got this far and you still don’t see how working with a VA might be for you, then I’d recommend you go and read “The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich” by Tim Ferriss. This seminal book will change your perspective on work forever.
How I work with my Virtual Assistants
I’m conscious about elaborating on how I work with Virtual Assistants within my business because your business is different to mine, and what works for me, may not work for you. My business is business consultancy, yours may be IT, or software development, floristry or fishing tackle.
With that said, I’d encourage you to check out team collaboration tools such as Slack and Trello, and connect your VA’s with each other. It’s my experience that by doing so, you will eliminate yourself from being the bottleneck and allow your team to get on with the work your business needs doing.
If you are interested in learning more about how I work with my VA team, then leave a comment below or contact me. I’ll happily consider writing an article about it if there is enough interest.
I hope I’ve put forward the case for working with Virtual Assistants well.
- Working with one or more VA’s can help free up your time and energy to concentrate on working on your business rather than just working in it.
- Working with multiple VA’s reduces the risk of you being a Single Point of Failure (SPF) within your business.
- Working with a team of VA’s is often still cheaper than taking on an employee, and yet you get a wider variety of skills and experience.
- And above all, working with VA’s allows you to choose to spend your time working on the things that are the highest value use of your time. At the moment, that’s probably not the case.
If you’d like to know more, contact me — I regularly help my IT Solution Provider and Managed Service Provider (MSP) clients to implement Virtual Assistants within their business.
Or if you’d prefer, reach out to the members of Team Tubb directly. They’re a friendly bunch and I know they’d love to hear from you!