business efficiency

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Are You Swimming For Success, Yet Drowning In Your Business Tasks?

If so, maybe a Virtual Assistant is your ticket to the Gold. (oh yes we did...still riding the Olympic fever!!)

Are you at a point in your business where you just can’t get it all accomplished in a day, a week, a month, or even by the end of the year? You look at your desk, your task lists, your calendar, and you just see piles of paper, endless mark-ups on post it notes, and pretty much the words “still needs to be completed” on everything?

If so, you may just need to start thinking about which priorities you are able to get done yourself, and which can be handed off to someone else. Here’s what you can do to begin this process:

  • Define your requirements. Figure out if your tasks are specific to a specialty area (IT, web design, real estate, etc), or if they are more generalized (booking business trips, posting for social media, writing blogs). This may require hiring someone with defined skills, versus a background with a general admin skill set.

You will need to also figure out if this work will be on-going or if it’s just a simple, one-time go around. You may find after this step that you actually need several people to complete your tasks versus one person.

  • Define the expected time frames for each task. Who knows your business best? Most likely, that is going to be you! If not and you are still extremely successful, well then let us know your secret! As I am guessing the person that best knows your own business is you, you will need to define the expected time frames for each task you are willing to assign.

As you start with a new Virtual Assistant (VA), it will take longer for them to adapt. They will need to know the base fundamentals of how your business functions in order to complete what you are going to assign to them. Over time, if you use the same key people, you should see efficiency and a value in hiring quality staff.

  • Find experienced help. Or not. It’s 100% up to you how experienced the staff you hire is. The benefit of partnering with experienced VAs is there is a small learning curve and increased efficiency, they can make suggestions on programs/methods/platforms that have worked for other clients, and they are trained at supporting a successful business, all worth the fees they charge. However, the benefit of being able to train a newbie is that you can mold them to perform the work as you would like to see it being accomplished.
  • Pay at a level that also makes sense for your business. You don’t want to take a loss with your business, but you also want to build continuity with your staff and maintain a respectful relationship.

What else should I consider?

  • As far as training goes, a VA works remotely and should have their own equipment and supplies. During the initial partnership, it’s important to remember to keep your patience. Training from a remote location can take a little more time, but if you hired quality, this should be worth it in the end. Remember, you’re saving a ton of money on overhead so the virtual aspect is well worth it. Skype is a great free tool we use with our non-local clients; not only does it give it a live meeting feel where we can see each other, it also allows us yet another tool for quick and convenient IM communication.
  • Ensure that you consider risk management as well. Mistakes are bound to happen and most likely will. Think about the importance of integrity when saying “you’re hired.” After all, the client associates your face with your business. We suggest starting with low risk tasks, and building up the level of risk right along with the trust and expertise that will get established with a bit of time.
  • If there are expectations for reporting hours associated with specific tasks, make sure your VAs know the importance of this and be sure to have the proper tools in place for documentation.

If you’ve read through all of these steps and decided that a VA is the right choice for you, what’s the next step? Hire! You have options to hire locally or seek out referrals. Your success depends on your choices from here on out, so be sure to invest the time to hire quality, especially if you are specializing in a particular area.

I feel if you follow all of these great steps, you’ll be well on your way to saving yourself a lot of time and money in the long run. I know that I could not be more grateful for my team members and hopefully they know this as well…which is a great reminder to end with. Never forget to appreciate and reward your team, even if it’s a simple “thank you”, it will go a long way!

Struggling to Make Deadlines? Don’t Hire, Outsource.

Most small businesses operate under the tried and true adage of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” What happens when the amount of work to be done is starting to eat into your profitability? Outsourcing is a solution that can revitalize your business. Here are a few reasons a business owner should consider outsourcing:

  • You’re free to focus on the core day-to-day operations of your business. For many businesses, small and large alike, the primary motivation to outsource is that it shifts work from the owners, managers, and employees so they may spend their time on activities that directly generate income.
  • Potential to improve growth opportunities. Resource availability is a key component to the expansion of operations and increased profitability.
  • Increasing efficiency and effectiveness of your business. In most cases, outsourcing allows access to expert talent. Outsource service firms can offer innovative approaches, the latest technology, and creative, cutting-edge solutions previously unavailable to your business.
  • Pad your bottom line by cutting your expenses. A skilled contractor can generally perform work less expensively and more efficiently than a full-time employee can. Best of all the costs associated with hiring, training, and maintaining employees are eliminated, along with taxes and benefits.

Here is what you can outsource to increase profitability and improve efficiency all while maintaining the integrity and structure of your business.

  1. Administrative tasks. Everything from scheduling and travel arrangements to data entry and email management can be expertly managed by a virtual assistant. While these tasks are vital to the operation of the business, they are not core business activities.
  2. Lead generation and customer service. Making sales calls is a numbers game, the more contacts made the more potential for leads and sales. Once the initial outreach has been made, closing the sale can easily be handled by an internal sales team. A skilled salesperson is better utilized for closing sales and the management of clients, rather than cold calling. It can also be beneficial to outsource customer support rather than maintain a qualified support staff.
  3. Accounting and financial responsibilities. Accounting firms or individuals can help with many financial related tasks from bookkeeping to accounts payable and receivable. Outsourcing the processing of payroll can significantly reduce cost, not to mention the accompanying headaches.
  4. Marketing. Effective marketing of a business determines how the consumer perceives both the brand and company reputation. A marketing firm or contractor can offer valuable outside perspective that an internal staff cannot.
  5. IT operations. It is often extremely expensive to handle IT operations in-house. The average business has limited ability to manage all of the IT needs that are necessary to operate. IT is a maintenance and repair function, not a core business activity.
  6. Human Resources. Talent recruitment and human resource tasks can easily be managed by an outside agency. External agencies are often more skilled at advertising, screening applicants, and checking references. Using an HR or employment agency to manage employee benefits is also wise, these professionals stay up to date on all the latest employment laws and standards.

Typically the best way to locate high-quality prospects is through recommendations from your professional network. A referral from someone you know and trust is a much more reliable gauge of quality and is usually based on the level of skill and not simply the cheapest cost.