Getting the most out of your VA relationship

Communication is essential to the success of the Virtual Assistant relationship.

Give your VA a call in the morning and say hello. If not a phone call then a chat message.

I send chat messages to all my team each day. Perhaps share an inspirational quote or something personal. That just breaks down the barrier of distance.

Have a weekly team meeting and make sure your VA is included.  Talk to them throughout the day. We use the 3CX application for phone and chat. I find it extremely helpful and I also have regular zoom meetings appoint staff.  Ask them for their feedback on the work; don’t just ask for a “yes” or “no.”

We need to understand what realistic deadlines are.  Be realistic about workload and how long tasks take to complete. Every person’s different. If you’ve been running the business for 10 years and everything’s like clockwork for you. Your VA will naturally be slower.

If your VA has multiple deadlines to meet, make sure that you’re aware of the workload. 

Remember, as owners, it is our responsibility to manage the workflow and ensure that everybody is busy; but not overwhelmed.  We make the money so if we want to throw ourselves under the bus for the business, that’s our choice (we benefit the most).

A traffic light system or applications like Monday, Trello or Asana are excellent for visualizing workload.  Make sure your VA is comfortable to come to you if they are having trouble or getting overloaded.  Be available and welcoming when staff ask for help.

I asked my VA’s regular what colour the traffic light is.  Green is everything’s okay, Orange is they are starting to get full and stressed. Red is that they need to stop and take a step back and reprioritize their workflow.

I always tell my staff on a regular basis, that if they’re getting too busy and their work is suffering, just asked me to take over some of the work. Come to me with a list of what needs to be done and I’ll help them to pick what can come off their list for me to action or allocate it to another staff member.  Become the productivity champion in your business by showing your staff how to best manage their workload.

Having this open-door policy when it comes to workflow means that everything gets done and they’re able to prioritize more important tasks.

Remember that sometimes, as Directors, we walk into our VA’s office (virtually) and say, “Hey, I need this done in an hour” without considering their existing workload or in-tray.

Just be realistic about workload and deadlines and be open to hearing feedback.

Collaborative problem solving is one of the strongest growth activities that happens in  our business. Many minds together make light work of dealing with complexed issues, coming up with creative solutions, new ideas and driving the business forward.

Remember that your VA is working on the coalface every day and will have a unique perspective on problems and opportunities. So get them involved in these conversations.

At our weekly meetings I have with all my Virtual Assistants we have a meeting agenda that’s open and staff can add items to this agenda (we keep it on Microsoft Teams). We then discussed them as a team and share ideas (see the Agile method for meetings). The majority of our serious problems become resolved during these meetings and without the stress of dealing with them solo.

Technology drives the VA relationship and getting comfortable with the different collaboration platforms out there is essential to making working with a Virtual Assistant work. Create an environment where effective teamwork takes place using collaboration and communication tools.

Google Suite, Zoom, Dropbox, Teams, Trello, and are excellent for facilitating this.

Screen sharing on Zoom is a fantastic tool to use when doing training but don’t forget to record your meetings and training sessions on Zoom for follow up later. It means new staff have the training session accessible  for future reflection or for absent staff to review.

Simple steps like these save time when it comes to productivity, because you’re not doubling up on tasks if you’ve done an excellent social media training for a group of staff; record it and save it on the network.  Then is someone leaves you don’t have to repeat yourself and that institutional knowledge is kept.

Delegation is key to freeing up your own time to focus on working on the business rather than in it (that’s one of the main reason’s you hire a Virtual Assistant in the first place right?)

Master the skill of delegation if you want to get the most out of your Virtual Assistant.

Many VA’s have specialist areas of experience and we need to remember these specializations so we can utilize them best within the business.  Every CV showcases a broad range of experience. I recommend looking over your Virtual Assistant’s CV from time to time to remind yourself of where they can help. Talk to them about this at their one to ones and if you need help ask your VA agency for some strategic advice.

Remember that as an entrepreneur, we want to be focused on working on business development, key relationships, networking, training, strategy, senior management duties, quality control etc.

Have a list of key areas that you need to focus on as an entrepreneur,  rinse your to do list through this filter each day; delegating the rest to your VA.

Of course it’s impossible for any Virtual Assistant to become acquainted with your business if you don’t have your processes down packed.

Document your processes.  It doesn’t need to be printed and bound; it could be a simple Word document or flow chart.  You can get your VA to format into a professional document.

The most important thing is it needs to be documented in a simple and straightforward way.

This makes all the difference when it comes to training. If your VA can follow each process step by step; you avoid missing steps down the track which affects customer experience and will cost you money.  There’s less issues with quality control down the track.

This may involve a bit of admin time at the start to write out these processes.  Don’t overthink it though, a simple Word document is better than nothing.   A tool like Miro is helpful because you can draw flowcharts and add steps to it later.

Don’t forget to ask your staff what they think of the processes and if there’s any changes they think should be made to make the business run more efficiently. Again, they’re working on the coalface every day and their input is essential for scaling your business.

On that note, regular and constructive feedback is essential to the success of the Virtual Assistant relationship.  We have systems in place to extract feedback from both our clients and VA’s during the onboarding period (believe me, we have to extract it from some clients as “everything’s fine” isn’t really sufficient feedback when you are onboarding a VA).

Provide clear, regular feedback to your Virtual Assistant about the standard of the work what they’re doing well and areas they need to improve on.  Also ask about their level of satisfaction with the work, how they are enjoying working with the team etc.  Always ask questions first and shoot later.

Something may look like a fire but there could be a good explanation for the burning smell. Always ask questions first.  It’s very difficult to recover the relationship to a healthy state if there has been multiple accusations of poor work that after investigation turned out to be false.  Especially in the Philippines, VA’s take their jobs very seriously and unfounded accusations or poor work of sloppiness are not received well.  Just do your homework first and get advice if there are problems (that’s what your VA Agency are here for!).

One approach for giving constructive feedback is to use the commendation and recommendation method (I learned this from my Toastmasters Club and it is one of the most important skills I have learned in my professional life).

When delivering constructive feedback; provide a commendation to your staff member first (positive feedback for something they have done well).  Then follow this with some recommendations about an area that you want them to focus on improving.  This is not negative as it is constructive feedback (if you need some examples give me a call and we can do some role play over the phone).

Across the board, make sure you praise your Virtual Assistant when they do something well and share it with the team.  They are not physically in the office so use any opportunity to connect positively them and the team.

Moving on from feedback, let’s talk about expectations.  Remember to manage your expectations and be realistic. Many business owners expect gold overnight.

We work with our clients and VA’s and actively manage the onboarding process for the first 3 months.  The reality is it takes at least a month for your VA to be fully competent in their role and there’s a lot of learning along the way.  The more involved you are with the onboarding process the quicker and smoother it will be.

If you put in the work with planning your VA’s onboarding, procedures being documented, have a good healthy culture in your workplace, know what your goals are and how you want your Virtual Assistant to help achieve them, effectively delegate, are realistic with deadlines and expectations, leverage productivity and collaboration tools and understand what good communication and feedback are you will reap all the reward that come with having a VA in a short amount of time.