We, small business owners, are a pretty motivated lot. We like to get things done, and usually, we like to get them done in a hurry because time is such a valuable resource to us. After all, it’s this great energy and work ethic that allows us to beat the odds day in and day out.
Of course, we also know that in some aspects of business, it can be a real hazard to rush into things. Making new hires—especially hiring a Virtual Assistant—is certainly one of these areas.
In an earlier article, I wrote about how Steve Jobs used to take entire days bringing a prospective employee through the interview process. He believed that the quality of your employees is the quality of your company, and he built a true juggernaut using this philosophy. With that in mind, why in the world would you just be randomly roaming around the Internet looking to hire a virtual employee?
Guess what? Virtual employees are still employees
Let’s forget the “Virtual” tag for just a moment. These are real people, and they are going to be a real part of your company. That means that they can be a tremendous asset or a tremendous headache, and a lot of that depends on you.
The decision to hire a Virtual Assistant is not one to be taken lightly, although all too often that is exactly what happens. We understand why. You are swamped with more work than you can handle. The efficiency gurus all say that you need to outsource everything. It seems like such a great idea, and actually, it is a great idea. But like most things in life, it’s all in the execution.
If you jump straight from the “considering” phase right into the “doing” phase, you are going to be asking for trouble. More than likely you will end up with the wrong VA. And if you do get lucky and end up with the right VA, you might not even realize it. When that happens, your butt-kicking virtual assistant will spend a few days, maybe weeks, stumbling through your chaotic mess before moving on to someone who already has their ship in order.
This can be a bad thing. It can leave you in an even worse situation than you were in before you hired someone. It can also be the end of what should have been a long-term and fruitful business relationship.
Start off by defining the role
It might suddenly hit you one day: “I have too many things to do, I need someone to help me get them done,” and that’s perfectly okay. Just make sure that your decision to hire an online personal assistant doesn’t end there. You are going to need to create a specific role that involves specific tasks—a job, in other words.
Most likely you have never stumbled across a job posting that says, “ We need someone to do the extra stuff that we don’t have time for.” It’s always a specific role … Java Developer, Customer Service Representative, etc. Hiring virtually is no different. Just because the general term “Virtual Assistant” is applied to those in the profession, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to define a specific role for them.
Define the tasks
Start with examining what you do every day. Identify all of those tasks that are both keeping you from growing your business and can also be outsourced. As you go through this process, make notes on what your VA will need to understand. When you have this refined this down to a sensible set of guidelines, procedures, and expectations for the position, you’ll almost be ready to start looking.
Just Like Regular Employees, VA’s Need Orientation and Training
Once you have completely fleshed out the role that you want to have filled, there is still one more step before dashing off to hire a Virtual Assistant. Even if a VA happens to be highly qualified for the work you need, that still doesn’t mean that he or she will not require any training.
You will have to familiarize them with your business practices, policies and general philosophy, just like with any other employee. There is one catch, however. As you might have guessed, it is the distance involved. You won’t be able to give your VA the proverbial office tour and lay down the basics as you do so. In order for the transition to be smooth, therefore, you will have to already have documents already in place that lay out everything they need to know. This will get them up, running and contributing in no time.
Finding the right VA
Once you know the exact position that you need to have fulfilled and have a plan in place for when you hire a Virtual Assistant, THEN start looking for the right person to take your business to the next level. Too often small business owners jump into hiring a VA thinking that one is pretty much as good as another. This can be a big mistake. For one thing, don’t underestimate the talent that is out there: either the veteran with the proven track record or the new-comer that solidly demonstrates that he or she has what it takes.
Each VA, of course, comes with a unique set of skills. So even if you think you just need someone to, say, proofread documents, once you start looking at what a prospective candidate actually has to offer, you might begin to see other ways that a VA can help your business grow. Consider the total package and take this hiring process as seriously as you would with any of your on-site employees.
If you do things the right way, there is a good chance that your VA will be a long-term asset to your company. Always try to think in those terms. It will help you avoid rushing into hiring a VA, having a bad experience, and then writing off the whole idea. This can end up being much more costly to you as a small business owner in the long-term, as you continue to toil away at tasks that could easily be done by others.