As a MOMpreneur in business for five years now, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several different types of support people. I’ve hired consultants, contractors, virtual assistants, family, friends, and support people from other countries as well as those that are right here in my own home town. As a MOMpreneur, I believe support is an essential part of the formula for your own success and sanity! That is why SUPPORT is one of my key Sanity Dimensions™, and honestly, while coaching MOMpreneurs… support is one of the most important areas I assist my clients to set up.
Support people enable moms in business to reclaim their time, systematize their business processes and DELEGATE! Having adequate support people makes it possible for you to focus on your own brilliant work and still have time for your self and your family. The equation works beautifully because while you are doing your work in the world, others who are more skilled at administrative and support tasks can help you by focusing on their unique skills and abilities.
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I interviewed a few of my favorite virtual assistants and supporters to verify my thoughts, and here are the key essentials that I’ve learned about how to work effectively with support staff. (Special shout out to Today’s Admin, Renée Maniscalco of Renee’ the VA, Janice Clarke of BizMSolutions.com and Janet Barclay of Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants, author of Working Effectively with Your Virtual Assistant.)
- Start Small and don’t try to hand over too many tasks at once. You need to create systems of communication, set expectations and establish trust with your VA in order to have long term success.
- Work out your own business processes first and test them. When a mom entrepreneur has been doing the work herself and has a good system in place, tasks are more familiar and as such become much more easy to delegate. The business owner easily relates to the scope of the work and can estimate relatively effectively what a task requires to get done the right way. This clarity makes it very easy to find a person with the right skill set and much more easy for a VA to step in and take over. Since the VA does mostly implementation, if there are tasks that need to be done and the Entrepreneur is specific enough, then the process can go smoothly.
- When launching a new initiative from scratch involve the VA in the planning process. Ideally the VA has experience in that particular area, and can share her expertise and help you determine the best way to implement your ideas. Delegating is all about building efficiencies into your business. Incorporating the VA in the planning process will make the task of delegating that much cleaner and more efficient.
- Remember… you are building a relationship with your VA! Mutual respect is the most important thing in a successful VA-client relationship as well as a mutual willingness to listen to one another. Even though you are paying for a service or task to be completed, understanding your support person’s personality, needs and style, along with the flexibility to adjust your approach, will be essential to your long-term success.
- The devil is in the details. Routines, tasks and systems should be given to the people who love details. Many entrepreneurs are big picture thinkers and struggle with completing tasks consistently and regularly. It’s important to determine what parts of your business require routine tasks and repeat systems. When you repeat something even one time, get in the habit of creating a method or procedure that you can follow or delegate in the future.
- Write it down. Many VA’s work for several different people. It’s important to document your procedures in one place to make things easy to find and share with others. I document my processes in Google Docs and open those processes to my support people allowing them to tweak and edit the processes as we go along. If you want things done a specific way, say so. If you’ve already established and documented procedures, send them to your VA. As you become less involved in the details, you will lose them… QUICKLY. If you have taken the time to write procedural details down, and can find them when you need to… there’s no need to panic. It’s all good and easy-peasy for the ‘next’ time you have to do something on your own. (When I finally did this for my business, it made me feel like signing the Hallelujah Chorus! In fact, it still does!)
- Set up a communication system and stick to it. One of the things that make most VA’s successful is the efficiency in how they do work. VA’s handle an extraordinary amount of tasks daily – and some are constantly shifting gears. They may be ‘eyeballs deep’ into some other client’s project while you are working on something and need to communicate. If email works, use it consistently. Avoid shifting methods, as it causes inconsistency and can create chaos. Discuss your preferred method of communication and how you will manage tasks, track time on projects, share information regularly and handle breakdowns… they are bound to happen at some point.
- Use the right tools for the job and adapt. There are differences between planning, scheduling, implementation, and feedback. There are SO many tools and applications that help you and your VA manage tasks and communicate regularly. Two of my go to tools are Asana and GoogleDocs. Check them out… you’ll see why! Don’t stop there though. If you hire a VA with a team, they will likely use their own project/task management tool and may ask you to adapt. Tools such as Basecamp and ZOHOallow you flexibility too. Most importantly – CHECK IN WITH YOUR VA… especially if you are new to this layer of support and ask for their advice in this area. It is their area of genius work and often they have had previous experience with several platforms, apps and software, and can guide you toward the best decision for you.
- Match skills with tasks and results. A successful VA generally has a wide understanding of software and the ability to learn quickly. Stop spending your time trying to learn every piece of software or each new application. Find a technical whiz and ask them about their past experience with tools, programs and apps, etc. This is an area where referrals are great! Ask people in your network, or those whose work you admire who supports them. Referrals are really important to determine if a VA’s skills match your gaps. The right VA can save you hundreds (probably more like thousands…) of hours of time and truly add value to your business at a fraction of what it would cost you in time.
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Be specific about what you want, and time on tasks. Be as specific as possible regarding what you want them to accomplish. And be ESPECIALLY clear on estimating time on task. Sometimes, if working on a new project or task, it’s important to set a ‘limit’ of time – where you’d like the VA to check in with you. I’ve used this technique often. I may say something like: If this takes longer than 2 hours, please check in with me first. I’ve been ‘surprised’ a few times by support people when they report how long things took to complete. If you are paying hourly – it’s important for you to understand where those hours are spent, and evaluate whether the time is being spent value-added tasks. This brings up another important point… time tracking. Some VAs have sophisticated tracking systems that include on line timers that track to the second how long they spend on your work. For those who do NOT have tracking systems, it’s important to set up a system so that you know how much time is spent and can budget and/or shift priorities accordingly.
- Enroll them in your vision. A great VA likely has a LOT of past experience, and many can also assist with brainstorming the best methods to accomplish your final goals. Though the VA does complete a variety of “tasks”, they are also supporting your vision and must work “with” you, not necessarily “for” you. This shift in perspective can be the difference between having a task master and creating a true and lasting business partnership.
- Provide quick feedback. At any given time, VA’s may be ‘back burnering’ any number of projects for various clients because the clients are “too busy” to provide feedback or additional content. Your quick response helps VA’s work efficiently… and saves you money in the long run. When you postpone feedback, it takes extra time for your support person to get back up to speed. This is not only frustrating for your VA, but it’s pointless for you to pay your VA to work on projects if you don’t have the time to work on your portion.
If you need assistance with getting assistants…
This is one area in your business development when it may be a really good idea to work with a coach. Consider working with me to document what you do, systematize and streamline your business processes and find the right type of support for your business needs. Contact me for a free Discovery Call to see if I can help as your coach to light your path, save you time and help you determine what you need help with and who best can support you!
I want to thank my special and wonderful support people for providing MOST of the great content for this post: Renée Maniscalco of Renee’ the VA, Janice Clarke of BizMSolutions.com and Janet Barclay of Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants, author of Working Effectively with Your Virtual Assistant. You KNOW I could not live without your help and support! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
What strategies have worked for you?
What questions do you have about working with a virtual team?
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Meet Cena Block
Cena Block is a successful MOMpreneur on a mission. She is a coach, talk show host, speaker, author, and founder of Sane Spaces, (sanespaces.com) and the upcoming MagnificentMompreneurs.Com – from Mom to Wow®. Her private coaching, group programs, and teleseminars kick-start MOMpreneurs and help them thrive. She hosts ‘Managing MOMpreneur Mayhem’ a bi-weekly show on Word of Mom Radio. To access her free training for MOMpreneurs go to sanespaces.com. You can find her @sanespaces on any of the social media sites, or contact her directly at email@example.com.
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