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Aid and Extend Your Capabilities with a Virtual Assistant

Aid and Extend Your Capabilities with a Virtual Assistant

So your company is growing like crazy and your staff is overworked and unreliable. Maybe you feel like an octopus on roller skates being pulled in a million different directions. To help scale your business and support your team, you have decided to take the leap and hire your first virtual assistant!

Before you think you are going to save a ton of money by eliminating and outsourcing jobs, think again. Your assistant should not replace any existing staff members, but rather aid and extend the capabilities of your current operations. By having an excellent plan for what your assistant will do for your company, you can both support your team and expand the level of your service at the same time.

What is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?

Your virtual assistant is a fully dedicated assistant to you and your business, providing a wide range of professional services remotely from their home office. Anything that doesn’t require a physical body present can typically be done by a VA.

Work Schedule

Consider the schedule your assistant will work. It can be a mistake to schedule them only at the same time as your other staff. Your staff may feel increased pressure to show the new assistant what to do every minute of the day. Your new assistant is meant to be an asset to your staff, not a management obligation. The ideal schedule for your first assistant would be something like 1:00p-10:00p. This period gives you a few hours a day to train your VA, but does not allow them unlimited access to you. This allows you to increase the hours of your service by having someone on the team that can continue to communicate with your clients and prospects after normal business hours, helping ease the workload of response to voicemails and emails the next business day.

Clearly Defined Tasks

Jobs that have a definite yes/no, right/wrong answer are the best assignments for your assistant to begin with. It is a mistake to have their first responsibility be answering phone calls. This is the least productive use of your assistant’s time and will lead to mistakes if they don’t already know the operations of your business. Any situation where the assistant needs to make a quick decision for a live person, without having the proper time to make sure they have the right answer, is a recipe for disaster. Give them time to learn the way things work within your company and gain confidence before putting them directly into the spotlight.

So Easy a Caveman Could Do It

You probably have a list of at least five of these tasks in your mind right now. These are simple tasks that take up all your team’s time that basically anyone could learn how to do. These are the first things your assistant should be assigned, and these are things that will make an immediate impact on your current staff’s productivity. Some of these might include creating work orders, entering time sheets, collecting paperwork, answering emails, auditing certain documents, and data entry. Whatever items you identify that take the most amount of time to complete and are the easiest to teach–those should be the tasks you hand to your VA.

Busy Work

Every member of your team should have a “Busy Work” task. This is something that benefits the company, but can be done at virtually any time. It is a task that the VA will work on when they have accomplished all their other tasks and have nothing else to do at the moment. Having a busy work task that has quantifiable results, such as entering data is a good choice. This will allow you to see if your assistant has more room for learning new processes. Prospecting for new customers can also be a great busy work task. Having a busy work task in place will eliminate any guilt you feel for not training them on a new task immediately after their other tasks are completed.

Limit Departments

In an effort to get the most bang for your buck, you will be tempted to gather a list of the tasks with which your staff needs help and have your assistant try to learn tasks from several different departments and supervisors. Don’t put the cart before the horse! This is going to severely limit the productivity of your first assistant. Focus on one area, say marketing, and teach them exactly how you do what you do and what you want done–their learning curve will be much faster. They will be able to see how their different tasks all fit together to accomplish a larger goal.

Website Chat

I often find myself searching the internet for random things or doing research in the evenings when unwinding from a hectic day. What if you could capture more leads for your business even when you are sleeping or done for the day? There is no better tool than website chat in the evening. This simple tool can easily pay for the assistant by itself. With your assistant able to answer questions for a prospective customer immediately when they surf your website, you will increase your exposure and lead generation. Your assistant can handle as many as a dozen conversations at one time and have time to find the best answer before they respond as opposed to having one conversation on the telephone.

Support the Strongest, Not the Weakest

You may have the urge to have your new assistant help your weakest teammate because they are failing at their duties. This is not recommended as, most often, the worst staff member is also the person that will be unmotivated or not educated enough to be a good teacher. You will only get out of your assistant what you invest into your assistant, and having a weak team member be their immediate supervisor will only result in having two bad apples. Instead, feed your strongest worker. They will appreciate that you notice their dedication and have offered them support. They will be motivated to teach your assistant so they can be even more productive every workday.

Smart Business Move

Have you ever had an employee leave or let an employee go for any reason? Your VA can give you an additional buffer to pick up the slack as you search for replacement or hire another VA for increased reliability. You don’t have to pay payroll tax, insurance, or retirement benefits. Best of all, you can write off the monthly fee of your assistant like paying a subcontractor! This is a perfect example of the old saying, “Work smarter, not harder.”

The biggest mistake most businesses make when hiring their first assistant is not dedicating the proper time to train effectively. A virtual assistant can be like a sponge for knowledge if an investment is made in proper training. They can accomplish almost any task that can be done remotely if detailed step-by-step instructions are provided. However, if there is an unreasonable expectation that the assistant will jump into your business and know how to do every task 100% perfectly for your company, you will surely be disappointed.

Plan the duties for your first virtual assistant, have an excellent training program that shows them every detail of how to complete the process, and you will see the best results. Profits will increase, productivity will increase, and the morale of your staff will increase.

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by Greg Oelrich // Greg is the Director of Sales for the brokerage and general business divisions of Prosper located in Eau Claire, WI. He has had a successful career in Financial Services, Banking, and Mortgage Origination. Prosper has successfully helped businesses with Virtual Assistants in over 25 states and continues to grow exponentially. More information can be found at

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.