6 Easy Ways to Work with a Virtual Assistant

So, you have considered hiring a Virtual Assistant, otherwise known as a VA?  Maybe you’ve even hired one, and now what?

How does it all work?

Here are 6 steps to a successful partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Contracts

Most professional Virtual Assistants offer contracted services to their Clients. A contract is a necessary requirement for most, as it protects not only the interest of you as the Client but also the Virtual Assistant. Be sure to carefully read your contracts and don’t be afraid to ask questions if needed.

Documented Processes

It will be easier to delegate projects and/or tasks if you have clear processes for repetitive tasks outlined. This will reduce the margin for error by letting your VA know exactly how you carry out processes within your business. Once you and your VA are up and running together then you can hand over updating and creating procedures to them. An easy place to keep processes for everyone to access is in programs like One Note or Evernote. These programs allow you to create chapters, sections etc. and that makes it easier to keep things current.

Communication

Be crystal clear on your needs and your wants. Decide right off the bat what the best form of communication is for you both. Some VA’s prefer tasks to be added directly to project management software like Trello or Asana. Other’s preferring to receive instructions via email. You as the Client may prefer a phone call, email or even text messages. Whatever the form of communication, be sure to set out expectations.

Instructions

Further to documenting your processes be sure to provide clear and detailed instructions. Although most VA’s would love to add mind reader to their resume alas it is not an ability we yet possess! If you are not sure how to communicate via writing then be sure to call your VA directly, or do a little walkthrough video. Find a way to give clear instructions in a way that is easiest for you.

Use Technology

There are so many fantastic programs out there that make working remotely and with a virtual team easy. Here are some of the most common ones out there (most of them free):

  • Last Pass – Allows users to store and share access to programs, information etc. in a safe and secure manner without sharing your usernames and passwords.
  • Asana – Project management program that allows you to set up teams, projects, delegate work, communicate, set deadlines and more.
  • T-Sheets – Allows VA’s to track their time by the minute for accurate and honest billing.
  • Screen-Cast-O-Matic – Create videos, presentations, capture your screen as you work to provide a video operation manual. So many great features!
  • One Note or Evernote – use these for online manuals, policy and procedures, store your blog topics and mark them done, create checklists and more.

Hire the Right VA for your Business/Needs

It seems like that is a no-brainer, right? What a lot of people don’t realize is that most VA’s will have a couple of niche areas that they specialize in. For instance, some are designers/creative VA’s, others might specialize in certain fields like real estate, law or medicine. Depending on what you need you may hire multiple VA’s who can work together to get your business where you want it to be!

Ready to get your business organized, free up your time and get new projects started?

Contact us today to find out how we can help get your business to the next level!

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DOES YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE WOW?

Does your customer experience wow? For many companies, it is a fly by the seat of your pants approach. For others, it is a very detailed, customer first, approach. Most businesses think that their customer service is adequate. In today’s market that won’t cut it, you need to stand out, be better than the rest. A good experience or a fantastic experience will help create repeat business and generate referrals.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Hyundai from a local dealership. Throughout the course of the purchase and the years to come their customer service was bar none the best from any dealership. Here are the reasons why.

  1. I was treated like I was their only customer
  2. I was called to let me know when I was due for my next service/oil change and what was involved
  3. If there was a delay of any kind I was notified right away
  4. I was consulted before any work was done and educated on what had to be done and what could wait
  5. I was offered a free ride to and from the dealership, the staff was courteous and turn around was quick
  6. I received cards frequently from the sales person I purchased through

When it came time for my mother to buy a new car who do you think I recommended? The same dealership I went to of course and the same sales person. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a Hyundai.

On the flip side, I traded in my Hyundai and purchased a Jeep (long time dream of mine). I love my vehicle but have not been contacted once since my purchase to remind me of service appointments, oil changes, nothing. So, do you think I will recommend that dealer to anyone? Do you think I will go out of my way to give them business when I need to service my Jeep? Nope.

Here is yet another example of where a customer for life could have been made.

I took my Jeep to get new tires, two kept running flat due to nails. They ordered me new tires and told me they would be in by the end of the week. End of the week came, no call, I had to call them. No answer, no reply to my message. I waited a couple more days and called back. No answer. Finally, after a week and a half and a call to the manager, I got someone on the phone and they updated me and said the end of the month. Now you can imagine how irritated I was. Will I use them again? No.

It is imperative that you always provide top notch, customer service to every client. Not just the high paying ones! Bad reviews can cost you thousands. Here are several ways to ensure your clients are getting your best:

  • Anticipate the client’s needs and remember that they are coming to you because you are the expert.
  • Make their experience as easy as possible for them.
  • Educate them in a way that empowers them as a consumer.
  • Remind them of how much your business means to them.
  • Set up systems to ensure no one falls through the cracks.
  • Train your employees and ensure that everyone is on the same page, one weak link will cost you big money.

I am sure that you have had similar experiences. Learn from others mistakes and think about what you can do to wow your next client, spoil the ones you have and generate more money through great customer experiences. If you don’t know where to start, hire someone who can help you build a bulletproof plan to creating win-win partnerships for life.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY AND REDUCE YOUR WORKLOAD

Downtime

Ever since I posted my  7 Signs Your Small Business Could Use a Virtual Assistant   blog, my inbox has been flooded with questions from small business owners and solopreneurs. So what’s the number one question on their minds? Small business owners and solopreneurs are consistently asking, “how can a virtual assistant help me to increase my productivity while reducing my workload?”

The key to increasing your productivity is to delegate non-income producing activities that are taking up the majority of your time.  A virtual assistant is a wonderful resource that provides you with the support you need to increase your productivity, and profits because you are spending more time on the activities that make you money. Here are some ways to increase your productivity and reduce your work load.

3 Services and Solutions that Your Virtual Assistant* Can Take On: 

  1. Administrative – this is by far, the most popular service area that many small business owners and solopreneurs inquire about. Administrative duties are a part of every business, no matter how small or large your operation.  That said, spending too much time on administrative duties and not enough time on your income producing activities can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to your profit margins.  A virtual assistant helps to ease the burden, and reduce your workload by taking on the administrative tasks which must be completed so that your business runs smoothly.
  1. Marketing – it’s critical that your company’s marketing efforts are executed in an efficient manner and that all materials that go out are branded in your company’s signature voice and style. This extends beyond print marketing materials and is most often seen with social media marketing, website, and blog updates, to provide you with consistent brand messaging across all platforms.
  1. Consulting – is another popular service area. My Warning: Inefficient Administrative Systems May Be Hurting Your Bottom Line  post, was one of our most popular blog entries amongst our small business and solopreneurs readers.  As a consultant, a virtual assistant can assist you with auditing your existing administrative systems to identify areas of need and make suggestions to increase the efficiency.  In addition to simply making suggestions, they can train your existing administrative staff to bring them up to speed with best practices.

Achieve your goal of increasing your productivity, while reducing your workload and partner with a virtual assistant today.

*Please note that not all Virtual Assistants bear the same skill sets and it’s important that you find a suitable match to your needs.  The service areas discussed in this blog, reflect my industry experience and skillset and are in no way representative of other virtual assistants.

 

WINNING PARTNERSHIP – REALTORS® AND VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

hands-in-the-form-of-heart

Having been in the real estate industry in one way or another for over 18 years, I can tell you that Realtors® should be viewing an assistant as a business partner and not an employee. A great administrator wears many hats and can ensure that you get back to your income producing activities. You didn’t get your license to sit at a desk all day did you? No. So hire an administrator, better yet save yourself more money and hire a Virtual Assistant (VA).

More Brokerages are going paperless these days and thank goodness! You know how many forms a Realtor® has to fill out from the beginning to the end of a transaction. A lot, too many if you ask me and most of my Realtors®! And more are being added every year. Of course, we all know that they are a necessary evil in today’s world.

90% of a Real Estate Administrator’s job can be done remotely. No need for overhead costs so you save money. Most Real Estate VA’s are experienced and very efficient in what they do which also saves time and money. Another important note is that a local VA should be versed in your Province/State’s real estate law, ethics and regulations which are very important. Having a Real Estate VA, who knows what is legal and what is not could save your license.

A Real Estate VA can handle the four key components of your business that will free you up to be in front of clients or on the phone.

LISTING MANAGEMENT

A Real Estate VA can help manage every aspect of the listing process, short of having the clients sign the paperwork (Unless you hire a licensed Real Estate VA).

  • Installation of your sign, book the photographer, home stager, virtual tour company.
  • Coordinate showings, open houses.
  • Input the listing into MLS and upload to websites and social media.
  • Ensure that all the listing paperwork is pre-filled and ready to go for when you take it to the client for signature.
  • Enter listing into Database and update and monitor accordingly.
  • Make sure your clients have all copies of the paperwork for their files.
  • Create feature sheets and just listed cards and coordinate with your printer.
  • Call for feedback on showings and pull weekly reports for the seller. The list goes on.

TRANSACTION COORDINATION

Real Estate VA’s can also take on the important task of overseeing the transaction from conditional to close as a transaction coordinator.

  • Schedule follow up calls for 30, 60 and 90 days after close.
  • Ensure all documents are signed and that all necessary parties in the transaction have copies.
  • Submit all paperwork to Mortgage Broker.
  • Assist with organization of moving day.
  • Keep in touch with the clients, provide any information such as movers, lawyers, and other important numbers they may require.

MARKETING MANAGEMENT

The amount of marketing that a Realtor® uses is a personal business choice. Most Realtors® market themselves inadequately. Usually because of poor time management, lack of time, skill or will to do it. VA’s can ensure that you are always putting your best foot forward in the market and that you are well represented and received.

  • Manage your database and all follow-up systems.
  • Create Pre-listing, CMA and Buyer packages/presentations.
  • Just Listed, Just Sold, and other related direct and email marketing.
  • Feature Sheets, Open House Invites and all other marketing related to your listings.
  • Website management and lead tracking.
  • Social media management and more.

ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT

Administrative management is where the day to day running the business comes in. Your VA can ensure that your business, regardless of whether you are out with Clients or on a dock at the cottage, runs smoothly. Some of the key items include:

  • Management of all supplies and equipment in the office.
  • Overseeing all administrative tasks for the business.
  • Operations management and office manual creation. Every business needs an operations manual.
  • Create and manage lead generation, follow up and buyer/seller plans in the database.
  • Hold you, the Realtor®, accountable for your lead generation. Help keep you moving forward and focused.

A Real Estate VA, as I said earlier, is a business partner, not an employee. They are an independent contractor just like you and know what it is like to be their boss. A Real Estate VA should treat your clients as though they were their own. I view myself as a direct representation of my Realtors® and guard their reputation in the business, your VA should do the same. A VA is an invaluable piece in your arsenal to building your real estate business.

Are you ready to take your business to the next level?

WHY A WEBSITE IS A MUST FOR ENTREPRENEURS AND SMALL BUSINESSES

Importance of a Website for Small Business

When I started my business, a website was the first thing I created. It was the key piece of marketing that I based the rest of my advertising off. Your website is likely the first place people will go. They are not as expensive as one might think, and a simple website can be created in a few hours. Here are four reasons why every Entrepreneur and Small Business should have a website.

  1. FIRST IMPRESSION

The first online – impression the public gets of your business should be your website. A website helps to provide credibility to those who don’t know you, your company or service.

If your website is too busy or “hokey”, it will reflect poorly so take care when adding your content. Keep your content concise as possible and on point. It is a website, not War and Peace. How many of you have been to a site that as soon as it launches you go “Yikes!” and go somewhere else? How many of you have gone to a website and required a manual to navigate it? So be careful and put thought into how your consumer will interact with your site, make it easy and intuitive. If this is not your strength, there are many out there that can help you.

  1. CONSUMER RESEARCH

Consumerbarometer.com found that 49% of Canadian consumers will compare products, prices, and features online before purchasing. With 89% of Canadians accessing the internet daily you can see what having an online presence is a must. Now that being said some industries benefit from a simple business listing in an online directory, but you can easily create a one-page site with basic information about your company as an added way to drive traffic. See the graphs at the end for more consumer behaviour data.

  1. 24/7 ACCESSIBILITY

One of the nice aspects of having a website is that your shop never closes. Consumers can research and or purchase at any time of the day, from anywhere in the world. Most of the research and comparisons we do are after regular business hours. So if you’re a retailer, sales can be continuing long after you shut down for the night.

  1. COST EFFECTIVE ADVERTISING

There are some companies out there now that allow you to create a website for free from templates. Sites like WordPress have 1,000’s to choose from, and you can register a domain and host for a very reasonable price through GoDaddy and a host of other providers. You don’t need to worry about knowing code (unless you want to get fancy) and can get your site up in a day if you wanted. If you aren’t sure how to get it all setup, there are companies and service providers, like Virtual Assistants, who can help you get up and running.

When building a website, it is crucial to ensure that it has a mobile site that will allow it to work across the wide variety of mobile devices on the market. Most of the sites you will get from WordPress, Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly, Doodle Kit and the rest will have a desktop and mobile ready template for you. The desktop versions are mobile optimized, so you don’t have to worry about creating two sites, coding or anything complicated like that.

Have fun building your site or if that’s not your thing find someone to do it for you. Remember to keep it clean and concise. Continue your company branding throughout it; your site should reflect your brand.

Here are a couple of graphs from https://www.consumerbarometer.com to illustrate how consumers are behaving online and how important your online presence is to your business.

How people use the internet to help make their purchase decision

How people first learned of a product they purchased during product research

Daily Internet Usage

Source: www.consumerbarometer.com

10 THINGS YOU CAN OUTSOURCE TO A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Outsourcing

There are many daily tasks that are necessary to keep the cogs of the business world turning. If you are like most, then you probably find that they are not the most valuable use of your time.

How many of you get a deluge of emails every morning (insert hand to face here in frustration) and have to weed through them all? Do you sometimes miss vital information? Yes well, this is just one of the many ways a Virtual Assistant can help. Email management is just one of many tasks that you can let go of, yes I said let go, yes you, and outsource to a VA.

Here are ten tasks that you can delegate to a VA and how they can help.

  1. EMAIL AND CALENDAR MANAGEMENT

If you use an online email program like Gmail or Outlook, then you could assign a daily schedule to a VA to check, filter and perhaps respond to your emails on your behalf. Freeing up valuable time that could be re-directed elsewhere. Some people need help organizing and filtering their in-boxes (getting rid of those scam emails offering you a large sum of money or an enlargement of one or more body parts for good), this is something that can be arranged and managed for you.

Most businesses are using interactive calendars to allow for easier scheduling from iPhones, tablets, etc. Interactive calendars allow easy access for VA’s to be able to handle scheduling of appointments on your behalf. Arranging conference calls, appointments and so much more can all be outsourced and taken off your list.

  1. BOOKKEEPING

How many of you like doing your books? Hands up. Ya, I thought so. Most of us either don’t enjoy accounting or don’t have the time. More often than not it is the lack of time. Why not outsource your accounting to a VA, who can make the entries into your books for your accountant. Think of all the time and money you will save having it all ready to go at tax time. For some businesses and independent contractors such as Realtors managing all the receipts and bills can be a huge task. Virtual Assistants can help with this and make your life easier and perhaps save you money at the accountant or in payments to the Government.

  1. ONLINE DOCUMENT STORAGE ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT

Most of us are now using some form of Cloud storage like Drop Box or Google Docs. After a while, they can become a huge Hodge Podge of documents and files if not managed properly. VA’s can help get your filing system organized and check in on it from time to time to ensure that it stays organized. It is also an excellent place to share information with your VA.

  1. MARKETING

Most of us are promoting our services, businesses and selves online now rather than through print. While print is still important, there is now the aspect of social media. With the help of programs like Hoot Suite and others, you can easily post to multiple sites with a couple of clicks. We all know we have to market ourselves and our businesses to bring in new clients and service our existing ones, VA’s can take over this daily/weekly/monthly task. There are many out there who have backgrounds in design or advertising and can brand, re-brand, create campaigns, and manage campaigns and more.

  1. WEB DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT

To please the Google machine, we are forced to update the content on our websites regularly to avoid no man’s land where we quickly become invisible. Some of us need to develop a website before we can worry about the Google machine and our relation to invisibility. There are more and more VA’s out there who work in WordPress, or similar platforms, and have experience developing sites. Some have their site developed by another company and then a VA manages the content from there. Managing a site can take a lot of time and effort. Handing this job off to a VA to do daily, weekly or monthly is just another way to keep your business or yourself at the forefront and to push forward.

  1. WRITING AND EDITING

Almost all VA’s offer as a general service writing, editing and proofing of documents. Some will have specialized areas of expertise like medicine or Government. You can hire VA’s just to handle one document you require, many or ongoing. More and more documents are being published to be compatible with e-readers, and this is another service provided by some. You can hire a VA to convert your latest book or white paper into an e-book for people to download from your site or sent to Kobo or other online publications.

  1. TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

Setting up a trip can be time-consuming with all the research and phone calls, so let your VA book that business trip. They can work with your travel agent or handle the research for you and get everything set up. Perhaps you are planning to get away with your partner or the family; a Virtual Assistant can help with that too.

  1. HIRING

Hiring a new member of the team can be a daunting task with all the screening, interviewing and reference checks. Some Virtual Assistants offer ad posting, pre-screening, phone interviews, final interview appointment setting and reference checking as a service. If you are a small business or an individual that does not have the luxury of an HR department to do this for them, then this is another item to tick off your list to hand over to a VA.

  1. DISTRIBUTION LIST AND DATABASE MANAGEMENT

With more and more restrictions implemented on mass emailing and distributions lists, privacy laws, etc. we are having to become more and more diligent keeping our lists up to date. Why not set your unsubscribes to be sent to a VA, they can keep your list up to date for you. Need someone added to the list, forward it to your VA to add into your contact management system, simple, easy and now you can forget about it.

Databases can be a headache to maintain or to clean up. If you have ever been to a conference and come home with a bag full of business cards to enter then you all know that nine times out of ten they end up in a stack in a drawer or in a shoe box and never get entered or contacted. Databases are always in a state of flux and require updates, additions, removals, campaign applied (depending on your software). What about when you take your mailing list, send out an email or mailing and have all those bounce backs or return to sender messages. VA’s can be a valuable resource for keeping all things running like a Swiss clock; this ensures that contacts and possible business don’t fall through the cracks.

  1. PRESENTATION DEVELOPMENT AND FORMATTING

Presentations are a key way to show off who and what you are all about, your products your services and more. They are a lasting impression and if not done right can convey the wrong message. VA’s can set up plug-n-play templates based on your brand or the requirements for the presentation, so you have them moving forward to use. They can also take that Word Document, charts and images and turn it into one stellar promo piece that will knock the socks off the audience. There is nothing worse than sitting through a presentation that is poorly thrown together complete with spelling and grammatical errors. Have a VA vet it first, add in your branding and make it yours. Something to be proud of and something profound.

Do yourself a favour if you are ready to let go and delegate, keep a log for a week of all the things that take up too much time, you don’t like to do or need to get done. At the end of the week work out how much money it all cost you and work out how much money you would save outsourcing it. How much potential revenue could you generate with more time on your hands?