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How Virtual Assistants Can Be An Asset For Small Businesses

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How Virtual Assistants Can Be An Asset For Small Businesses

Virtual assistants are qualified individuals providing administrative, technical or creative assistance from a home office, and generally work on contract. They are not fully-fledged employees, and often have more than one assignment on hand.

Every so often we hear of Virtual Assistants being changed and new ones recruited. Many companies have a track record of VAs being replaced every few months. The nature of work being such, this is not a smart business move. While it is acceptable to use some VAs periodically for specific assignments, changing the set of regular VAs can spell doom.  They must be treated as an indispensable part of the team and they too must be able to figure out the needs of a project and contribute accordingly to enhance the performance of the company. They also have their own set of grievances, and allegations which make them leave assignments and look for newer ones. It really seems to be a case of open distrust, but with communication channels open, and an exchange of ideas and expectations from each other, both VAs and companies can find an amicable solution and establish a long term working relationship.

Some factors to consider include:

  • Looking for the right Virtual Assistant– Businesses need to hire the right VA with the appropriate expertise needed for handling their business. It is not correct to hire the first one they find and then expect them to perform from day one. A solution is advertising for VAs and short listing three to five of the ones seeming most suitable. It is only after a candid interview will it be possible to pick the best one. Asking for references and tracking their past performance will also give valuable insights in to the potential and capability of the virtual assistant.
  • Specific targets and expectations- If you do not know yourself what exactly your end goal is, and only have an idea about what you want, there is no way that the VA will be able to deliver. It is important to have clear cut targets and goals and these can then be converted into expectations from the VA. It may mean starting on a small project and going through it in detail with the VA so that the next one can be handled in the same manner. Being able to communicate and giving the VA time to understand your personality, your code of ethics and your style of doing business, all help in getting the best out of them, and making sure that the one hired is the one that stays.
  • Showing appreciation- VAs are as human as full time employees, and a bit of appreciation goes a long way in helping them do better. Having a VA on tenterhooks whether he or she is doing things right, the fear of being fired, or being hauled up for mistakes, does not let them put in their best effort. On the other hand, letting them know when a job is well done, that you care and have a long term perspective for keeping them, will bring out the best and help them provide results that you would like to see.

Eventually VAs are like any other member of the team, needing time to settle in and understand the requirements of the task at hand. Giving them the right inputs and constant encouragement at every step will ensure that there is no need to look beyond the one you have, to hire another one.

Neil is currently plying his trade as head of marketing for eMobileScan, a technology company specializing in offering their customers a tool set that will help to increase the productivity of their workforce.

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  • Anonymous

    Nice post Neil. I first came across VAs as a concept in a book called The Four Hour Work Week. As I recall the author placed a lot of emphasis on the use of VAs to help him get more done in less time. He had even taken it to the extreme of having a VA who looked after the task of buying birthday presents for his family. He also placed a lot of importance in creating trust with his VAs and crucially empowering them to make decisions.

  • Hi Neil, I think like any good partnership, it’s worth taking the time to really identify the right fit for both parties. As you point out, if due diligent and care is taken at the start, mistakes that can later prove costly can easily be avoided. Great post!

  • Patricia McGovern

    Great post! As a Virtual Assistant (VA) myself, I like the humane tone of this post! Thank you for recognising that Virtual Assistants (VA) are human beings and deserving of respect and due consideration. nnThe fact is,VAs tend to savvy, well-educated and experienced individuals who have occupied various senior administrative and project management roles before setting up as a Virtual Assistant.nnIn fact depending on the skills of the VA, many would certainly have the potential to help small businesses set clear targets and goals for their business. They can also provide a clear objective eye, that keeps you working towards that all important bottom line – profit!n

  • Great list Niall, I notice most of the pages featured are not “liked” in those screen shots. Of course it always makes sense to review before hitting the LIKE button.

    Some may wonder why large organisations even bother with B2B social networking, as you say it is perceived to be mostly B2C – so thank you for raising awareness to the greater business community.

  • Terri Maurer

    Interesting to see that many of these organizations, even the biggies, do not appear to have invested heavily in a customized page style.  They are using pretty much the basic standard template and seem to be somewhat successful in attracting significant numbers to their community. I’ve held off doing a FaceBook business page, like many others who see FB as a platform that better supports B2C, especially retail, hospitality and othes who use discounts, coupons and contests to attract consumers.  We may need to rethink FB when we next review our marketing plan.

  • Hi Teri, that’s a fair point but it is still something I would consider if I were a B2B for 2 reasons:
    It will allow you to more easily achieve some objectives ie. Newsletter sign up and It will optimize/increase the number of people liking the page. Thanks for the comment, Niall 

  • So what’s the difference in having a B2C and B2B Fan Page? Should it be less fun and more relevant to the sphere of business?

  • Not necessarily less fun but for sure it should be relevant, specifically for your target market. In many respects, it requires more creativity than B2C.

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