When is the right time to engage a virtual assistant?
It’s not uncommon for me to receive an enquiry about my services from a stressed, unhappy and weary business owner.
Whilst I try and help as much as I can, if the entrepreneur doesn’t know if they’re coming or going, it’s difficult for them to describe how I can relieve some of their pressure.
If I’m being honest, this is much too late to engage the help of a VA (if you want them to be instantly effective, at least).
On the flipside, I recently had an enquiry from a small business owner who knew they needed help but who couldn’t articulate what this help should be. They’d run their enterprise as a hobby for a few years and felt that they should be doing more to build demand; however, due to their other commitments, they didn’t have the time to put in the extra hours needed to drum up more business. They contemplated employing someone for a few hours a week but decided against the extra expense and responsibility. Then they looked at engaging a VA and came to me.
When I asked how I could help, and what they wanted from the working relationship, they had no idea. They knew the end goal they wanted to achieve but were clueless as to how they were going to get there.
It was too early in their journey to engage a VA. I advised them to make a plan about what they wanted, to determine the steps needed to reach their goals, and to outline the kinds of tasks that would have to be completed in order to encourage demand.
I understand that life isn’t perfect. Few businesses follow a consistent, even trajectory. If you had to plot the average business’s growth and progress on a graph, the line would waver up and down, and even veer quite sharply at times.
The optimum time to engage a VA is when you have identified opportunity for growth.
At this point, you should prepare for the extra business and create a growth plan, taking into account financial pressures, practical considerations and incorporating a strategy. It’s very difficult to do this after the horse has bolted, so to speak, i.e. when your workload is weighing you down so much you can no longer see the wood for the trees.
Once you have a plan, we can then discuss which tasks I can take off your shoulders that will leave you free to drive the rest of your growth plan forward.
What about staff?
When you’re a sole business owner or the director of a micro-enterprise, you may not have enough work or the finances to employ a full-time employee when growth is on the horizon. Even part-time employees need their national insurance and tax implications sorting by their employer, as well as pension provision in place.
It’s much easier to engage a VA at this stage for specific tasks, as opposed to a part-timer; the point being to reduce the burden of responsibility, not add to it. A VA will also slot effortlessly into your business, whereas an employee will need your time and training.
When the business grows again, employees may well be the answer—by then, however, you will have a VA that’s integrated in your business who can help you come to such decisions and who can deal with a lot of the extra paperwork and responsibilities.
Time is money
As the business’s owner, you need to look at your worth. Your time should be spent moving the business forward, and if you become bogged down by tasks that, albeit, have to be done, but which don’t bring a tangible financial return, the business will struggle to grow. Duties of this kind are exactly the sort to be outsourced.
Specifics, not vagueness
When speaking to the entrepreneur who was too early to engage me, all they knew was that they wanted to clone themselves! I advised them to go away and write a business plan in the first instance, to formally record all the opportunities they believe they’re missing, and to work out if each of these would bring a return for the cost and time it would incur. Because that’s another thing…I sometimes hear business owners lamenting that ‘they don’t do this’, that ‘they never have the time to do that’. Maybe there’s a good reason for this. A SWOT analysis will help you weigh up real opportunities for growth against things ‘that everyone else seems to be doing in their business’.
Good plans take time
To look objectively at your business takes some skill and focus. You can’t write a business plan on the back of an old envelope between customers; ideally, you should squirrel yourself away from the business to hammer one out, so that you can’t be influenced or distracted by what’s going on around you.
We can work on a business plan together—at any time. The first step to initiating the growth of your business is the hardest, but once you’ve broken it down into achievable goals and actionable steps, it will be less intimidating and will feel more like any other ‘to-do’ list.
The moral of this story
Don’t wait until you’re on your knees before asking for help. And don’t assume a VA is your fairy godmother with the answer to everything if you don’t even know what questions to ask.
VAs can work miracles with what they’re given, but we’re certainly not magicians or mind-readers.
Keen to see if it’s the ‘right time’ for you and your business? Give me a call on 07711 933457.