15 Quick & Dirty Ways to Maximize Your Partnership with a Virtual Assistant
Relationships are complex. They can be both frustrating and rewarding. We want to invest time and energy into the relationships closest to our hearts – a spouse or partner, children, family and friends, but work relationships… not so much. Who’s got the time?
Along come the wonderful benefits of a Virtual Assistant. Working with a VA comes with the distinct advantage of no manufactured-yet-required smile when you walk into your office. Small talk elimination: you don’t ask your VA if she wants sugar in her coffee, while you are preparing your own. Nor do you have to keep your voice down when you are arguing with your spouse over who is to pick up the toddler from daycare. Ahhhh, mental space. Sounds good, right?
So, how do you build a hassle-free virtual partnership with someone who is invested in your company and understands how all its intricacies work?
First, hire someone good. The rest is listed below.
1. DELEGATE The first step in working with your VA is to figure out the right tasks to take off your plate. Examine what takes up the most of your time, isn’t income-generating, or you simply hate to do.
2. BE STRAIGHT Start off the relationship by being as straightforward as you possibly can. Spell out your objectives and expectations, the tasks you want managed regularly and how many additional projects you expect to come up. I recommend putting it all down on “paper” or requesting a document with everything spelled out as your VA understands it. This way, there are no surprises or misunderstandings.
3. PUT IN YOUR TIME Invest some time in training your VA on the ins and outs of your business processes, your clients, your voice and your preferred technology tools. This might sound counterproductive since, at the beginning, you’ll be spending more time training your VA than if you simply performed the tasks yourself, but in fact, when you put in the time to train your VA properly, you’ll benefit in the long run.
4. GIVE CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS When assigning a task make sure that all its components are clearly laid out and that your expectations are voiced. Include a due date. Don’t leave anything to be assumed! Remember Oscar Wilde’s take on what happens when you assume?
5. DOCUMENT PROJECTS AND PROGRESS There are numerous programs to manage teamwork, from an easy (and free) Excel spreadsheet to CRM or Project Management software. Find the one that works for you and use it!
6. CALL It’s a good practice to check in with your VA weekly. Setting a specific day/time of the week is best as it becomes part of your work routine. Even if it’s a simple 5 minute call, it’s a great tool to keep the relationship on point.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING Your VA is not a robot! The truth is if you work with computers for long enough you’ll find that even robots aren’t robots (hello glitches and bugs). Mistakes happen! Don’t get down on your VA (unless it’s a biggie, in which case refer to #14)
8. MICROMANAGEMENT; THE NOT-SO-SILENT KILLER Micromanaging is a killer when it comes to building trust and morale in a work relationship. It’s important to note that humans, by nature, have a desire for autonomy, so don’t squander that with micromanagement.
9. TRUST YOUR VA You’ve come to Virtual Assistant Israel, a company that spends an inordinate amount of time sifting through candidates and hires ONLY the best of the best. You’ve interviewed three qualified VAs and have chosen the one you find most suited for your needs. Now trust that decision and let her do her job.
10. BE OPEN TO NEW IDEAS Your VA is a fresh pair of eyes. Let her know that you are open to hearing about more efficient ways of doing things. Not only will this mindset support your success, it will make your VA feel more included and invested in your success.
11. RESPECT BOUNDARIES When starting a new relationship with a client I find it to be a good practice to communicate my “work hours”. I explain that these hours are not hard and fast rules (I’m always willing to go the extra mile, or in my case the extra few hours), but that’s when they can expect me to be available. Your VA is balancing work and family, just like you are. Respect those work hours and assign tasks accordingly.
12. GIVE FEEDBACK Once your VA sends you a completed task, be sure to provide feedback, especially at the start of the relationship. It can be glowing or constructive, but give it! Left unsaid, your VA will wonder if the work met your expectations. When the feedback is positive, she’ll be confident continuing the work she’s doing. If the feedback is constructive, it’s an opportunity to tweak the way you like things done so it will be 100% the way you want it, next time.
13. ASK FOR FEEDBACK (and listen to it!) Check in with your VA about how the tasks and relationship is progressing. Ask if there is anything that you can do to help the partnership thrive. Sincere interest will go a long way in productivity!
14. KEEP YOUR CRITICISMS CONSTRUCTIVE Although nobody wants to admit it, times will indeed come up when you will be displeased with you VA’s work (nobody’s perfect.) When that time comes, it’s important to express your disappointment in a constructive way. This does not mean stepping on eggshells so as not hurt your VA’s feelings, but there is a fine line between mistakes that need to be addressed and lashing out your disappointment.
15. AND FINALLY – LET GO! Once you’ve finished training, established trust and have found a system to keep the lines of communication open with your VA, let go. Rest assured that the tasks and projects you’ve handed over are now in your VA’s very capable hands.
Follow these steps and you’ll find that you’ve earned a successful partnership with your VA, which will give you the time and freedom you need to invest in growing your business.
About the author: Tovi is the Content Coordinator for Virtual Assistant Israel, a leading boutique Virtual Assistant firm based in Israel and serving clients throughout Europe and the United States. VAI employs American professionals who specialize in marketing, writing, administration and social media. Each VA has a U.S. phone line and works U.S. hours. Visit Virtual Assistant Israel to learn more.