Thursday, October 13, 2005

Virtual Assistants

def “A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services. Utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, a professional VA assists clients in his/her area of expertise from his/her own office on a contractual basis."

VA’s are a wonderful invention, or, I should say innovation....definitely a smart and innovative way of working! If you find yourself scrambling to get everything done, working well into the night because you’re not able to get through the administrivia that will bring you even more business, then seriously consider hiring one.

Yesterday I was on an interesting call with two professionals in this field. The first thing that came to mind when I first heard about Virtual Assistants was that FINALLY here is someone to handle all the non-client related stuff I never seem to have time for. The way the VA’s described it was having someone augmenting your business by filtering time-wasters as well as expanding ideas for increased visibility and effectiveness. They can do everything from submitting articles you’ve written to the right places, marketing, creative work, and technological stuff that might not be the most difficult to implement (for some) but certainly are time stealers. These are professionals who partner with you to support you in every way you need. They will free you up so you do what you want to be doing, and doing best; your profession! And they will help you grow your business in the interim.

It’s a way of working smarter, not harder.

In this fast paced world where many people are scrambling to keep up, (me included but you didn’t hear me say that : ) it’s time to take a step back and put processes and people in place to support you where you need it most. As I said to a client just the other day “You are so busy keeping up, that you’re not looking at why you’re so busy in the first place”. That’s where I come in as I 'shadow' them. What are they reacting to instead of responding? What is the bigger picture and what one thing can be put in place right now, so that that ripple effect will automatically put other things in place?”

Support staff, whether VA’s, Executive Assistants, Secretaries, etc, are only as good as the effective communication you have with them. If you don’t communicate your needs you’re not going to be supported. A tug of war will ensue rather than a collaborate effort. Train them to know you well, so they don’t second guess you. They need to know your ways of operating in order to do what they do best.

I can’t tell you how often I’m called in to “DO SOMETHING!” with a support staffer. Most of the time, all it takes is sitting down and expressing your needs and how you want things done. And if it’s not working, then another conversation needs to take place before the relationship breaks down even further. I know….common sense. We all need to be reminded now and then.

Just remember that saying where “It takes less time to just do it myself” doesn’t wash. It takes the same amount of time to show someone how to support you so you can be freed up to do what you have to/want to do. There will be a time when you’ll regret those words, when you feel as if you’re doing the job of 4 people, not just your own. Something’s gotta give and it’ll be you.

Donna Karlin

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