‘As more people are willing to take the “leap” and are opening themselves to the concept of Virtual Assistance, they are quickly learning that putting the tools in place to establish good communication is the key to successfully working with a Virtual Assistant’, say Janice Byer & Elayne Whitfield-Parr, the authors of ‘How to Build a Successful Virtual Assistant Business’.
And it is no surprise that any successful business relies upon clearly defined and right communication strategy as much as upon discipline, determination, and focus. Especially, if you are working with a virtual assistant, daily communication plays an important role, because the quality of results that you will get depends on how well you have outlined the tasks.
So if you are still thinking about minimizing recruitment and operational costs, as well as, maximizing your time, investment and money or you have already decided to outsource a qualified professional, who can remotely manage various activities for your business, here are some tips on how to assure successful and efficient communication with your VA.
BEFORE YOU START
According to Janice Byer & Elayne Whitfield-Parr: ‘Whether you have an established Virtual Assistant or you are looking to hire one, you must always be thinking forward. What type of work you will assign, how you will communicate the tasks and how the work will be done’.
Before you make a decision to outsource remote staff, our Baltic Assist team recommend taking a note of everything you do in your business. Which means, for week or two, keep a track of every single task that you do during the working hours and break it down into the following categories:
1. The key tasks (e.g., developing and managing your business strategy, etc.)
2. Important but routine tasks (e.g., bookkeeping, preparing reports, organizing meetings, dealing with customer inquiries, preparing financial statements, etc.)
3. Helpful but not essential tasks (e.g. promoting your business on social media, investigating potential clients and business opportunities, etc.)
And even though, ‘Many business owners have a difficult time delegating because they feel like they are giving up the control. I’m here to tell you that giving up control couldn’t be further from the truth! Delegating doesn’t mean giving up control. It means gaining control’, say Janice Byer & Elayne Whitfield-Parr. Therefore, it is important to identify the key tasks due to the fact, that majority of your energy and time must be spent on various activities, which make a substantial contribution to your business.
8 TIPS HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR VA
1. A GOOD START IS HALF OF THE SUCCESS. If you are planning to build a long-term professional relationship with your virtual staff, getting to know each other could be the first and the most important thing you could do. To do so, you can offer a Skype call to share your business background and professional goals, as well as, discuss your and your VA strengths and weaknesses to get the most of this relationship. Also, you can briefly go through your exceptions and requirements, the reasons why you have decided to outsource, and most importantly, the urgent tasks, which you are planning to delegate to your VA. Besides, it might be important to discuss what part or position VA will take in your business; maybe he will be your personal assistant, bookkeeper, social media expert, SEO manager, etc.
2. CREATE A FEELING OF OPEN COMMUNICATION. It means, treating your VA as a part of your team and as a part of your business. What is more, show appreciation for the efforts, but mostly, do not focus on the distance, time gap, language barrier, etc. Also, it might be useful to take advantage of instant messaging platforms, such as Yammer, Hiphat, eBuddy, Viber or Slack, so you can be sure that relevant information is not buried in the pile of unread e-mails. However, if more details need to be discussed, voice or video calls are an effective way to communicate.
3. SET-UP REGULAR MEETING SCHEDULE & VIDEO CALLS. Maybe you feel the most comfortable having the weekly calls to discuss your goals and exceptions for the particular week or you prefer having short calls every morning to go through the urgent tasks for that particular day. It does not matter which way you choose, but always take some extra time to state the primary purpose of each conversation. This way, you will be sure that you keep the focus on the key points for that particular task or project. Moreover, it might be useful to ask your VA to send you a brief summary after your conversation so both of you will have an overall understanding of what is expected from the deliverable.
4. MASTER THE E-MAILING SYSTEM. It is an excellent method to communicate for those, that do not have time frequently have video calls or maybe there is a big time difference between you and your VA. Therefore, you can always agree on preparing and sending e-mails with clear instructions before starting a new task or project. Also, it might be worth to request your VA to respond to every e-mail you send, this way you can track the progress and notify when you need to take action and step in to get things back on track. Also, our VA team suggest keeping each email related to one topic only, because trying to deal with everything in one email can create a lot of confusion. So by keeping each email to one topic only allows easier respond and sort the information about various tasks and projects.
5. CLEARLY OUTLINE TASKS. It is important to be as informative as you can, which means, clearly communicate your requirements, expectations, and deadlines, provide a detailed description of the upcoming tasks and projects, but most importantly, do not hesitate to ask your VA to confirm the understanding. Also, it is only natural, that the longer you work with your VA, the easier it will get. Therefore, it is essential building a strong foundation in the very beginning. Also, be realistic about time expectations or ask your VA, if the task you have highlighted is manageable within the timeframe you have set up for it.
6. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VARIOUS COMMUNICATION TOOLS. Nowadays, there are many different ways to keep communication going, starting from e-mails and different messaging platforms, as well as, voice or video calls through Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, SightSpeed or simply over the phone. Besides, you can share your Google Calendar, so that your VA can help you organize meetings, manage your schedule and set up reminders. What is more, if you want to be aware of all the changes and the upcoming events, you can always sync your calendar with your smartphone or table. Moreover, Trello is another exciting tool for organizing and sharing your everyday tasks and to-do lists. What is more, it provides clear visual overview compared to any other project management tool.
7. CREATE SHARED SYSTEMS (Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive). This way you can save yourself the trouble of constantly emailing deadlines, project lists, and updates, news passwords, etc. Besides, you can agree to plan your VA’s daily / weekly tasks by creating the shared documents, so you both can keep an eye of what is expected to be done and what is already completed. Of course, it is very important to ensure trust and security, when sharing your vital information, card details, and passwords with someone you are still getting to know.
8. PROVIDE FEEDBACK & MOTIVATE. It is critical to appreciate the success, reached deadlines, but most importantly, to reward skills. What is more, having regular reviews allows both sides to discuss any concerns, evaluate the accomplishments and be clear about the necessary changes and potential improvements in the near future. Besides a positive feedback, a kind word or attention can go a long way for a motivating person to put extra effort into the work, and most importantly, evidently increase productivity and efficiency.
And finally, these tips and tools, which our VA team have generated and shared here with you are designed to help you to assure effective and efficient communication with your virtual assistant. So take an example from our experience and use the e-mailing system to set the requirements and exceptions for the week, while voice / video calls to discuss in detail the deliverables and the ongoing (specific) projects. Also, have in mind, that it is only up to you how each tool or technique will be adopted in your business, but your final responsibility is to step back and allow your remote staff to do the work, you have hired them to do.