How to make sure that you hire the best Virtual Assistant for your business

Last week we looked at the 3 essential steps to follow before hiring a virtual assistant.

This week’s post is about what to do once you have received responses to your advertisement.

Once you have sent out your advertisement or request for proposals, you can start evaluating the responses you get.

Beware of responses with resumes attached.  A VA is your business partner, not your employee, and those sending a resume may still be in “employee” mode.

If you posted an ad asking for very specific information, the VA should respond answering all your questions.  If they fail to do so, you can assume that this VA does not take the time to read basic instructions and will often forget minor details that contribute to the successful completion of any task.

Also, search for grammatical errors in the responses.  You need a professional who can effectively write and convey their message.  You never know when you may need your VA to write an email on your behalf, or to help with proofreading or content creation.

Once you narrow your selection, it’s time to dig into the details.  Most VA’s have an online presence. Is their site polished and professional or does it look like a butchered template from the ‘90s seasoned with poor grammar?  It may sound a bit biased to judge them on their site’s appearance, but you have to take into consideration they are a business owner just like you.  If they have a strong online presence free of inaccuracies and errors, it clearly indicates that they are committed to this profession in the long run.

Do a Google search on the VA’s name.  What image does this person portray?  Do they broadcast the most intimate details of their personal lives to the world, or is their communication meaningful and professional?

Think about what you want the VA to do for you. For instance, if you want your VA to help you maintain your social media profiles, what does theirs look like?  It will give you a good indication of the type of support you can expect to receive from them.

Conducting an interview

The ideal is to find a long-term collaborative partnership in order to fully benefit.  Time is money, and you don’t have time to repeat this process.  That is why it is important to find a VA that will fit perfectly with your needs.

Select 3 – 5 applicants for your shortlist based on your research above.  Contact them and arrange for an interview.  Look for clues such as the response time to answer your email.  If they take a while to respond, more than likely they have a full plate with more than they can chew.

During the interview, feel free to ask them for testimonials.  Your VA will potentially have access to important business and personal information, so you need to make sure they are trustworthy.

Also, ask them about their work experience and education.  You need to make sure that their background makes them a good fit for your business.

Look for clues when speaking to the VA.  Does the VA speak with confidence and have great phone etiquette?  Were they timely and prepared for the call?  Did you feel a sense of trust and chemistry?  Did the VA listen carefully and show interest in what you do by asking smart questions?

You need a VA who demonstrates great skills and a strong business sense so they can manage your workload effectively.

After the interview

Contact the VA of your choice and let them know you have chosen them.  You can also finalise a contract, rates, hours of work, and methods of communication.

Have a straightforward contract that clearly stipulates your expectations for your virtual assistant as well as what they should expect from you.

Hire the VA for a test run.  Assign some non-essential tasks in order to see how they handle communication, as well as how diligent they are in completing the tasks as assigned.  This type of trial allows you to see whether you and your virtual assistant are a good fit.

Look out for next week’s post on how to get the best out of your relationship with your VA.

Can Your Business Run Without You? Create Freedom by Creating Systems

Most of us use some type of systems on a day-to-day basis. Whether we use our cell phones, daily planners, or email inbox, we have most of our time and day organized.

Have you ever thought how valuable systems could be for your business? What if you were away for a week or two? Would you be okay? Would your business continue to thrive and give you the freedom you need to tend to what’s on hand?

Having the right systems in place with automated or structured processes will allow your business to run for a while without much thought or attention.  You can even delegate some systems to others, so that your business can continue to flourish even when you are not present.

Where to Start and What to Systematize

In most businesses there are numerous repetitive tasks that could easily be systematized. Look at the systems you have in place, or those you could put in place to make for a productive and powerful day. You can create systems for nearly everything in your business, whether it is automating your social media activities, scheduling appointments, e-zines, or marketing.  There is so much you can create systems for.

Having systems in place will truly liberate you and allow you to focus your energy on your business instead of feeling flustered and overwhelmed every time a repetitive task has to be done.  In addition, you can easily break away to tend to important family matters or a vacation knowing your business needs are taken care of.

Are you excited with what systems can do for you and your business? Are you feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Would you like some support in setting up easy systems that will allow your business to thrive, even in your absence? Email Virtual Productivity Solutions and we’ll have a look at your situation and how systematizing your business can help you be more productive.

Be more productive: Avoid the tyranny of the urgent

The urgent can be defined as that which cries out for attention, whether or not it is important.  It could be a phone call, an e-mail alert, a desperate plea for help, or an unexpected interruption.  Giving attention to the unimportant urgent makes you less productive.

How to keep your attention on the right things

1.  Know what is important.

Keep your goals in your mind’s eye as you evaluate each new task.

  • What are you hoping to achieve in the next week, month, or year?
  • Are these activities going to help you reach your goals?
  • Which of these activities is going the yield the greatest results?

The key to effectiveness is thus to give your attention to the most important activities.  When something is working well, double your efforts.  If it isn’t working well, change course quickly and focus on that which works.

2.  Create systems that accomplish your goals without stressing your resources.

Experiment and find which methods of doing the important things work best for you.  Always look for more effective ways to do things.  The ideal management system should function automatically with little or no input from you.  Never manage what you can eliminate altogether.

3.  Remind yourself that you can’t do everything alone.

You are only human, and therefore have to be strategic as to what you give your attention to.  It may be difficult to say no to the urgent, or to leave things undone.  When this happens, try to see the big picture, your vision, and which activities will help you achieve that.  However, if you are neglecting important tasks, you can consider delegating or outsourcing them.

In summary, the key to increased productivity is to recognize the few important things you need to do and let go of the rest.

Be more productive: Leave your desk!

When I’m swamped with work, I tend to sit in front of my computer for hours, yet I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished much because I’m not productive.

However, if I force myself to get up, whether it is to go for a walk, work on my latest craft, or just to hang around my co-workers for a time, my brain rests.

I am more creative, and can think more clearly of alternative ways in which to accomplish a daunting task when I return to my desk.

There are other benefits too.  If I decide to go for a walk outside, I am getting exercise, which stimulates the blood flow throughout my body, and gives me an overall sense of wellness.  The feeling of overwhelm dissipates with the sun on my face and the blood pumping vigorously through my veins.

If I decide to work on my latest craft, or do something that is stimulating, yet at the same time totally the opposite of what I was doing at my desk, I somehow reshuffle the way my brain functions.  I challenge myself to think of something totally different.  Even while thinking of something else, the solution for my current dilemma often pops into my mind uninvited!

Getting up from my desk and mingling with those who I am working with, also helps me get a hands-on feeling of what is going on.  I am able to see how processes are flowing, what problems are experienced, or ways in which things can be done differently.  This gives me the opportunity to improve my input so that my goals can be reached more effectively.  Giving my staff some time to vent their frustrations or joys in an informal way also helps them to feel more supported and appreciated, resulting in a higher output from them.

So next time you are overwhelmed or stuck in a rut, simply get up and leave your desk!  You will be amazed at how effectively you can increase your productivity in this way.

What to include in your business Standard Operating Procedures

Ever wondered what to include in your small business Standard Operating Procedures?

Below is an infographic detailing the basics.

 

 

Once your Standard Operating Procedures are compiled, your business will be more productive, because you will not be re-inventing the wheel with each task.

Do you need help in writing your Standard Operating Procedures?  Please contact Virtual Productivity Solutions.  We can consolidate what you have, suggest ways to do routine tasks, and help you create a solid basis for your business.

Become more productive: 10 tips for managing priorities

Do you want to be more productive?

1.  Plan in detail

Have a planner and write/type everything down in it.  The more you plan, the better you manage and the more you achieve.  The more detailed your plans are, the better.  For me planning works best at the end of the day – somehow my brain rests from trying to remember what all needs to be done and rather focuses on creative stuff.

 2. Begin the night before

After planning the next day, see if there are any small tasks that you can do now to give you a head start the next day.

 3. Deal with today

Focus on the tasks for the day.  If you think of other tasks, add them to your task list and forget about them for the moment.  What you are today is what you are becoming.

 4. Value each minute

Know how long it will take you to complete each task.  Then decide if the task is the best use of your time.  How much is a minute worth?  It is priceless or worthless – depending on how you use it.

 5. Keep moving

The principle of momentum states:  “A body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion.”  Use this law of physics to your advantage.  Try doing just one more thing after you think you are finished, and see how much you can achieve.

6.  Develop a routine

Menial tasks are performed by rote, and you save on energy-draining indecision.  Try to put as many tasks as possible into a routine.  Develop good habits.

 7. Exercise and diet

Studies have shown that exercise increases metabolism, creates energy, causes you to sleep better, and produces pleasure hormones which contribute to positive attitudes, joy in life, and a general lust for life. When you plan your day, put in a slot for exercise.

Diet refers to a way of life.  Develop a dietary way of life that gives you energy and health.

 8. Ask the “half-time” question

“If my life depended on doing this task in half the time I have allotted, what shortcuts would I take?”  Then take them.

9. Use a timer for everything

Parkinson’s Law says:   “Work expands to fill the time allowed for its completion.”  The timer helps you allow less time.  There’s something extremely motivating about hearing your life tick away!

10. Say no

Make your schedule. Let it be Plan A.  Then follow your plan by saying no to yourself and to others.  Move to Plan B only if you realize it is in your best interest to do so because you overlooked something in compiling Plan A.

15 Golden Rules to be More Productive

There are many ways in which to increase productivity.  However, we sometimes get so side-tracked with our many daily demands, that we forget to think about them.  Here is a quick reminder of proven tips to increase productivity.

 

  • Set up a fixed daily routine.  Schedule definite times for routine matters such as meetings, going through the mail, communicating with your secretary, signing letters, etc.
  • Do the things which require maximum brain capacity when you are at your best.  Attend to minor business when your brain cannot cope with anything but small things.
  • Fix deadlines for all jobs.  Stick to them.  A task takes the time set aside for it.
  • Do not postpone important matters that are unpleasant.  You will reduce your creativity and working capacity.  Tasks rarely get more pleasant by being postponed.
  • Put off everything that is not important.  Many so-called problems have a tendency to solve themselves if you ignore them for a while.
  • Analyze your interruptions.  Take steps to avoid them/or diminish their effect.
  • Fix definite times when you do not want to be disturbed.  Hold meetings with yourself.  Put a please do not disturb sign on your door, with a note showing when you are available.
  • Do one thing at a time.  Keep an overview of the next job.
  • Plan your telephone calls. Make a brief note of what you want to say and what you want to find out.  It saves time for everybody and makes for better communication.
  • When you start a piece of work, finish it if possible. If you split it up too much, you lose track of its coherence, lose your overview and waste your time warming up each time you start again.
  • Use definite times/meetings for discussing routine matters with your colleagues.  You then avoid interrupting each other all the time, saving time.
  • Arrange your breaks at times when you cannot work effectively.  For instance when the people you have to talk with are not available, when the material you need is not ready, etc.
  • Be selective.  Learn to say no.  Get used to asking:  “Am I the right person for this task?”
  • Make it a regular rule to check your use of time.
  • Avoid taking work home unless you are certain you will do something about it.  It is much better to work longer at the office until you are finished.  You can then enjoy your leisure time more.

Of course, you can be more productive if you outsource non-core tasks, so that you can concentrate on the things you do best.  Contact Virtual Productivity Solutions for a free consultation to find out what you can outsource virtually, and how you can become more productive.

Are there any trust and proven tips that are not mentioned in this post?  Please feel free to share them below.

The top 5 reasons why you cannot run your business alone

Sue started her own business 3 years ago.  She is really pursuing her passion, and loves working with her clients.  She considers her business as pretty successful.  She is free to make her own decisions, and her income is reasonably steady.  But over the past few months she has noticed that she is not so eager to start her work day.  Somehow it’s harder to get up in the mornings, and to get things done.  She cannot think why she feels this way.  It’s as though even though she is putting in more hours, something is holding her back.  Something is blocking her creativity and drive.  And eventually the pleasure of running her own business is waning.

Why does Sue feel this way?  The answer is quite simple.

Sue is trying to run her business without any support.  She does everything associated with running the business herself.  She answers phones, does her own bookkeeping, tries to keep up with orders, does her own admin, developed and maintains her own website, etc.  Sue is a very talented individual, and no doubt can do all of the administration associated with her business excellently.  But it leaves her no time to do what she loves:  interacting with her clients, and thinking about new business ideas.

When you insist on doing everything in your business yourself, you are doing yourself and your business a disservice.  Here are some reasons why:

1. You tend to procrastinate tasks you don’t enjoy doing

Some tasks you don’t enjoy doing are very essential to the survival of your business.  When you procrastinate on those tasks, your business suffers in the long term.

You will be happier and more productive if you did only those tasks you are competent at and love doing.

2.  You lose money

Why spend your valuable time and energy on tasks you struggle with?  Instead of spending hours figuring out how to do certain things, like building a website or designing a logo for instance, you could have paid someone else to do it while you were increasing you income with tasks you excel at.

3.  You lose your focus and creativity

When there are so many details in your business to take care of, it is easy to focus on these details and forget the big picture.  You no longer have the time to take a break and see the big picture, part of why you enjoy having your own business.

4. Your “I-can-do-it-myself”  attitude robs you of the expertise you could                have access to

Yes, you may be able to do lot of things alone.  You may have issues with trusting people to become part of your business.  But in the end, while you are spending time doing all the things you feel you can, you are neglecting your core business strengths.

Nobody is an expert at all aspects of running their business.  Why not partner with someone who runs certain aspects with more expertise than you do?

There are plenty highly trained professionals that work online.  People who can do your website development, bookkeeping, SEO, social media, article writing, etc.  If you are in doubt on how to choose the right people, you can read my blog post 6 Steps to Find the Best Online Workers.

5. You forget why you started your own business

People often go into business for themselves because they want to achieve a better work-life balance.  Yet it is so easy to fall into the trap of being overworked, rushed, and stressed.

Would you not rather want to have the peace of mind that accompanies having competent people helping you grow your business?

About 56% of new businesses do not survive for at least 4 years.  Many entrepreneurs that survive, work 60+ hour work weeks and cannot take time off, because if they are not working, they have no income.

Successful entrepreneurs outsource so that their business can grow and thrive.

When you outsource work, you start enjoying your business again, because you will remember why you started it in the first place.

Your success and freedom as a small business owner depends on your ability to focus on what you love and do best, and to eliminate or outsource everything else.

Ask yourself:  What would it be like to be a successful business owner?  What are the first steps I need to take?

Do you know what a wonderful feeling of freedom you have when your business runs like clockwork without you having to micromanage everything?  This feeling could be yours within a month.

Contact Virtual Productivity Solutions and find out how we can help take the everyday burden of running your business off you and help you become more successful.

Be more productive: get on the fast track to business success by outsourcing virtually

If you’ve been working in your business for a year or longer without support, you may find yourself going nowhere fast. It often feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get it all day! Do you find yourself saying:

“There aren’t enough hours in the day…”

“I don’t have time to do that…”

It’s a common belief among entrepreneurs that they can (and should!) take the hard road, or that their success doesn’t mean anything if they have help. On the contrary, quick and dramatic business growth is often impossible in the hands of one person alone. To truly succeed in your business involves building teams of professional to support your business in areas that you can’t perform. You can make better use of your time as the owner of your business doing other things.

The idea behind building your own business means you will have ultimate financial freedom and plenty of free time, along with the ability to do work that you love. The key to realizing these goals in a reasonable time frame lies in finding others that you can trust to help you.

Compiling a team of professionals who all have unique abilities but possess the same mindset for success will be beneficial for you to be able to focus on “big picture” thinking to grow your business. Whether you are just starting your business, or stuck at your current level and want to expand, you can easily begin to network to find like minds. These like minds may be missing links to help you find what is needed for your potential. By doing this, you will become more productive as you work with others on the success of your business.

Even though many business owners quit their jobs and get into business because they want to do things on their own and in their terms does not mean that they have to go it alone. By building a reliable support team, you will find the ability to expand on the success that you have only begun to envision.

Are you ready to get on the fast track to your success? Contact us to find out how we can provide the support you need to get there, fast!

My productivity journey

my-productivity-journey

In 1998, I started working at a newly formed directorate within a government department. The first day I walked into the office, there was not even a pen or computer available for me!  Yet, our director was an excellent leader with a very clear vision.  She was able to motivate the growing staff in such a way that the directorate became one of the most productive within government!  In fact, the staff were so motivated that they even spent some weekends working (unpaid), wanting to reach the goals of the directorate.  Close friendships formed between the staff members, and there was a general feeling of fun and goodwill at the office.  Most of the staff members were given merit awards and raises for their outstanding work yearly.

Having spent the prior 3 years temping for various companies in various industries, I started wondering how it was that some companies were highly productive and positive, while at other companies there was a high staff turnover with little productivity.  Was it only leadership?

When asked to do a training skills audit and organize the necessary training for the directorate, I started a study into productivity which led me to exciting discoveries regarding workplace productivity.  I wondered whether one could develop a system to analyze and correct areas of reduced productivity in an organization.  Over the next few years, I developed and refined this system and found it highly effective in all the organizations I was exposed to.

Just because something has always been done in a certain way, does not mean that I have to accept that way.  If I can think of a better way to do something, why not?

Having run my own business, I have come to hate any wastage in an organization, whether it involves money, manpower, machines, method or  materials.  To get the highest return of interest on your investment, should you not find ways in which to optimize your input?

I enjoy analysing and pulling apart and restructuring information.  So much more when it helps people to reach their goals of being more productive!

When analyzing an organization for reduced productivity, my report may upset certain individuals because I cannot compromise my integrity by coating the truth.  I do, however, try to tell the truth as gently as possible.

I believe that my system for analyzing productivity in an organisation is unique.  It is not only unique – it works!

I also enjoy overseeing the implementation of solutions to areas of reduced productivity.  I learn to know the people I work with well, and it is wonderful to see the change in morale when they suddenly realize that they are more productive!