The Cold, Hard Truth About Virtual Assistants

Many small business owners seem to have their head in the sand when it comes to administrative repetitive tasks. Often they seem to feel the need to do these tasks themselves despite deep down knowing that this is hugely inefficient. At other times they simply cannot see past the illogical decision associated with employing a real-life personal assistant. There’s every reason for every entrepreneur to engage in the world of virtual assistants.

1. When It Comes To The Personal Assistant It’s Time To Get Familiarity Into Perspective

Flexibility and an ability to move with the times are two essential traits for any small business owner, or so you would have thought. But when it comes to this type of flexibility it seems that there is quite a lot of recalcitrance when it comes to the all-important personal assistant.

A successful small business owner will long since have realised that it is impossible to move forward with any real expansion plans without some form of direct personal assistance. There are so many tasks that need to be done, the majority of which are relatively mundane and should not take up the time of the executive him or herself. These business executives or small business owners often look at the personal assistant as an essential “Man Friday.” After a period of working with an effective personal assistant the business owner will simply not know how to proceed without this type of support. All those years of trying to go it alone in the past would be recalled with an element of regret. After all, just think how much further forward one would have been if this relationship had been kindled at an earlier stage.

So, when it comes to that personal assistant a small-business owner can often appear to be slow to change when change is needed. An element of stubbornness will set in. Maybe it is something to do with familiarity, due to the fact that each and every day the business owner may walk into the office and see the personal assistant ready and willing to get to work. This by itself may be the reason why those business owners do not really consider the options now available to them. It really is feasible to get a virtual personal assistant today and to get that same level of support and productivity without many of the direct costs attributable to the real-life, in person assistant.

During the past few years almost every business has seen changes in the way that it operates. Our ability to communicate virtually has changed the face of the business world and no matter what line of business you’re in there is little doubt that more activity is being conducted online than ever before. Therefore there is no reason to be afraid of reaching out to a virtual personal assistant. In many respects this progression is simply an extension of the type of work that the small-business conducts online anyway. There are so many different ways to communicate virtually and many different ways of ensuring that information sent back and forth online is secure and readily available. The virtual personal assistant can be as present and connected as the “real life” counterpart.

As more and more business owners become aware of the cost savings associated with employing a virtual personal assistant we can be sure that one way or the other each and every entrepreneur will be faced with a stark realisation; is it really necessary to absorb the direct costs associated with bricks and mortar offices and those associated personnel within?


2. Why There Is No Need For The Personal Assistant To Be “Present”

It is apparent that when it comes to a personal assistant some small business owners feel the need to engage a real life person in their offices, someone who they can shake hands with on a daily basis as they go about their business. Many of us crave stability and familiarity and there may be nothing as welcoming as that familiar face in the adjacent office each morning. You’ve simply got to have somebody nearby who is therefore by definition “in touch” with the heartbeat of the business. The personal assistant is one of the most important members of staff and one which many small business owners believe is simply irreplaceable.

One of the main reasons put forward by people who think this way is a threat of “disconnection.” If a virtual personal assistant was to be employed surely it would be impossible for them to be as connected as they would need to be. Things would start to fall between the cracks; they might not receive messages about important updates or last-minute changes. Heaven forbid if they were in a different time zone it might be almost impossible to connect with them and ensure that everything was on track as it should be.

This type of thinking may be a way for the executive or small business owner to rationalise a level of thinking. Yet it is not based on solid judgment. In virtually any business operation a certain amount of communication must be conducted virtually. Just think how inefficient the business would be from any perspective if it was necessary to gather all the important people together for a meeting of some kind before any action can be taken. The same small-business owner who considers the “in person” virtual assistant to be irreplaceable will almost certainly conduct business via the phone, e-mail, SMS, online chat or social media channel with an array of different contacts and connections on a daily basis. There are a variety of different systems in place to ensure that all necessary security systems are current and that the data that flows back and forth is protected or made available as needed.

When you look at it from this point of view it becomes apparent that there is no real need to have an “in person” assistant working behind the desk in the adjacent office. Once systems of communication have been established the small-business owner can communicate with a remote, virtual personal assistant who will take care of all the necessary business and day-to-day activities in an equally as effective manner.

There are so many different first-class providers of personal assistant services. You do not have to choose an organisation or an individual who is halfway around the world if you don’t want to. Sometimes you may find that for practical and financial reasons such a choice is appropriate, but if the opportunity to pick up the phone and talk directly to a virtual assistant during standard business hours is an important consideration, then that’s the way to go.


3. Why You Can’t Really Know If You’re Inefficient Or Not Without An Analysis

Everywhere we look we are seeing a drive for efficiency. Waste is to be avoided and expenses have to be cut if the small-business is going to survive, let alone prosper. Today it’s more important then ever to get maximum value out of the money spent on resources, whether it is the direct costs of running a business or the substantial costs associated with employing personnel. There’s no room for uncertainty when it comes to handling these costs and every reason for the small-business owner to put in place systems to analyse where and why the money is being spent.

There are so many different reasons for employing a virtual personal assistant, for example. Each one of these reasons has in one way or another a lot to do with efficiency, so it is somewhat ironic when one of the reasons put forward by a typical small-business owner – faced with the question about hiring a virtual assistant – is one related to efficiency. “I simply don’t know how many hours work it should take to complete, so how can I employ a virtual assistant on an “as needed” basis, accordingly?”

Before any progress can be made moving forward it is important to get a feeling for exactly what work needs to be outsourced. This will require careful consideration for the executive, who will almost certainly be surprised as the list grows longer and longer. These are all the tasks that should be delegated and many of them may be tasks that can be handled on an “as needed” outsourced basis.

Just think how inefficient it really is to employ an assistant or administrator on a salaried or weekly basis. This person is being employed for 40 hours whether there is sufficient work to fill those 40 hours or not. Invariably this leads to massive inefficiency as a salaried employee may simply “expand” the time that it should take to complete a variety of tasks in order to justify his or her salary. Some people might look at this as cheating, while other people would say it is also human nature to a certain extent. After all, this is the traditional way of handling administration and is it really the fault of the individual employee if there is not an “exact” amount of work to fill an exact number of hours?

In a drive toward efficiency this kind of operation of course needs to stop. Once that long list of outsource-ready tasks is complete a top notch personal assistant can be engaged to advise. The VA will know how long it should take to conduct and complete each and every task and can then agree with the small-business owner to take on this raft of tasks efficiently. A price will be quoted for each job through completion and there will be no need for the business owner to worry about an employee “expanding” to simply fill up their weekly timesheet. The more efficient the small-business owner can be in this way the more likely they are to succeed and go on to prosper in the aggressive real world out there.


4. Why There Is No Need To Be A Micromanager Anymore

Some small-business owners seem to be wary about hiring virtual assistants of any kind as they feel as if they’re not in control. They do not know what the virtual assistant is doing as they cannot see them and they are simply not sure if they are working to their best ability, or not. This is undoubtedly something to do with the business systems of old. After all, not too long ago it was traditional to have a bricks and mortar operation with various desks set aside for people to conduct various administrative functions. There might be a supervisor or office manager who might report to the executive. Often these office employees would be seated in close proximity to the supervisor and whether it was meant to be this way or not they were all, indeed, closely supervised.

​Yet even though there was this close level of supervision, in theory, was the style of operation really efficient? Remember that the employees in the office were not hired on the basis of individual productivity, but were usually employed to take care of a number of routine tasks throughout the business week. It was very difficult to allocate an efficiency score to the performance of these individual employees, or to really work out how much each individual task cost in reality. Often it was all lumped into an “administrative” charge as a line item on any budget and very difficult to address when it came up to an annual review.

Today it is more practical for us to consider just how much work is involved in each individual task on a very long list of administrative functions. There is no need to put up with the added cost of admin, especially when a virtual assistant can be employed to do each task for an agreed price. So long as the price is palatable to the business owner then it really does not matter how long it takes the virtual assistant to complete this task, as the business owner only pays that pre-agreed price. Of course it is within the best interest of the VA to be efficient from their own business point of view and this invariably means that they will tackle each task effectively and everybody wins across the board.

Rather than worrying about whether a person is really doing the work it is more important to look at whether the work is engaged and delivered in a satisfactory manner. The virtual assistant should be engaged based on the type of work that they return according to the agreement in place. There are many different systems as well as some first-class project software solutions which are available in order to keep the executive or business owner informed. As a virtual assistant is only hired on a retainer or individual service basis then the potential for loss is mitigated. It’s relatively easy to move on to select another service provider, but the performance capability of the outsourcer should be checked prior to any kind of agreement being implemented anyway.


5. Why We Should Classify Some Overheads As Essential

Sometimes there is really no alternative when it comes to delegation. You simply don’t know unless you try. Times have undoubtedly been hard and it’s been difficult for a small business owner to justify any kind of expenditure, let alone consider the employment of another individual. Yet while there are many additional costs associated with hiring somebody to work directly in your organisation, there are fewer risks associated with hiring somebody on a virtual basis to do work “as needed.” The type of work that should be outsourced to this individual is the type of work that is holding the typical small-business owner back from expanding and becoming more successful.

If you are so worried about your bottom line that you are handling many administrative and repetitive tasks yourself, as a small-business owner you are destined to fail. You simply cannot tread water in this manner and think that you’re going to be as efficient as your competitors. One of these days one of your competitors is going to realise that they cannot prosper unless they hire a virtual assistant to take care of a lot of their workload. When this happens they are going to be able to free up so much of their time that they can concentrate on business expansion and not on that repetitive or administrative “stuff.”

When you really sit down and think about what you could be doing if you were not checking your e-mails all the time, handling all your travel arrangements, trying to balance those books and so on and so forth then it really does start to make you think. An entrepreneur should be the creator and not the administrator. Once you have created new lines of business you delegate the administration and operation to others while moving on to create new lines of business again. This is the only way to expand and become successful, but years ago it might mean taking on full-time employees as you grew. There was an added element of risk associated here due to the significant additional costs associated with pensions, insurance, office equipment and others.

Today we have a much more efficient process available to us. As we discover that new administrative repetitive tasks are necessary due to newly arrived business we can discuss the situation with our virtual assistant team. They will take on the work necessary without any of the overheads associated with those full-time salaried employees. There’s no need to worry about the efficiency of labour costs and every reason to engage and expand the virtual assistant team on an as needed basis.

They say that a truly successful entrepreneur is quick to make decisions and slow to change those decisions. The sooner that the small-business owner understands the logic associated with hiring the services of a VA the better. There should be no need to second-guess such a decision either, especially when it becomes apparent just how much time has been wasted in the past. This is an expense that is simply essential if the road to success lies ahead.

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