22. October 2012
I get this question in various forms when working with clients and colleagues who are hiring their teams to support their businesses. And even when I hire for my business I struggle with this question – is there a “perfect” assistant out there? Can I find the perfect person who is affordable and affable and available?
Let’s demystify what most entrepreneurs mean by “perfect” and how that actually translates to working with your team.
Most people are looking for the ideal person who will completes every task just as you would, cares about the business as much as you do, is available 24/7, delivers every project on time, pleasant to work with, cheap, has unlimited skills, a wide ranging network of equally perfect people and anticipates every need before being asked. And while you may be able to develop this team over time, it’s naive and foolish to think you can create this in a week or even a month.
I’m not good at sugar coating the truth so let’s just be honest with each other:
There are no perfect VAs because there are no perfect people. (And that includes you.)
As we strive for excellency, we must remember that there is a lot of room for mistakes because we’re human. We get things wrong. We try and fail and try again. But setting up the expectation of perfection will only leave you disappointed. Most of the things you want in your perfect team are learned skills and must be communicated.
The perfect VA might write an email just like you would after months or years of learning your style. The ideal assistant may be able to anticipate you want a full day of rest after a week of business travel but only if you tell your assistant that is your preference. And sometimes our expectations are way out of line with reality.
Just a week after the New York Times article on life/work balance was released my own assistant was absent for several days. This was unusual and when we touched base again on Monday I discovered she’d experienced a death in the family and had been unable to email me with updated availability. 24/7 instant access is fine if you’re working with robots but people need to eat, take care of families, rest and serve other clients.
The most important aspect of knowing if your VA is the right person is their ability to grow and learn.
Does it mean that we love mistakes? No, but it does change how we view them to take problems as a growth opportunity. When you understand there are no perfect VAs then you are more willing to invest the time in training and clearly communicating what you need from your team. But is the VA able to learn? Understanding that there are several types of errors can help you determine if your VA is capable of learning such as:
error of omission – when a task hasn’t been completed then there are two things I look at first. Consider how clearly you asked for the task and the deadline given. If you didn’t give a deadline then it’s your error. Second, if you didn’t get confirmation that the deadline were feasible then address that communication breakdown first and reassess how many hours are hired or distributed throughout the week.
error of addition - when something has been done you didn’t ask for. Sometimes this is great, especially when you team begins to anticipate your needs. But if they’ve sent emails on your behalf or even scheduled meetings you don’t want to attend it can be a problem. Start by clarifying the scope of work, hours needed and job responsibilities.
simple mistakes – this is probably the most common problem when something hasn’t been done exactly the way we want. For the first few months of a new VA relationship I keep a very close eye on how things are done, stepping in to make adjustments frequently. Systems are created and refined, updated to reflect directions that were ambiguous or incomplete. It’s only if those instructions continue to be misinterpreted or ignored do I consider changing the relationship.
Communication is easy to overlook.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of business, talking about projects and tasks and then hang up the phone without clarity on what’s happening next. Clearly assigning tasks with deadlines and resources will not only help you relax, knowing that tasks are being taken care of, but give your team clarity to move forward.
And at times we make mistakes, assigning someone who is otherwise very capable to a task outside of their capabilities or giving too much too quickly. Because I hire primarily for the learning and growth ability, carefully looking to find the right person who is teachable, if the tasks are not working out I’ll shift things around first before starting over with a new person and clean slate.
Developing relationships with your team takes time and patience, unless you hire mind readers and miracle workers then it’s up to you to give clear direction and expectations, follow up on tasks and provide feedback and build the long term relationship that will serve your business for years to come.
If you haven’t yet hired a team you can get my free video training on this page and get started with 5 Days to Find Fabulous Help for Your Online Business including a video on what to do if your team screws up!Continue reading...
20. September 2012
Last week I enjoyed some downtime in Ft. Lauderdale after an amazing conference – it was so relaxing to watch the sunrise from the beach:
In this video I share a little about my vacation time in Florida and my secret weapon to relaxing when I’m away from my business.
If you didn’t take time off this summer then maybe it’s time to look for support so you can enjoy a break! Check out my free video series 5 Days to Finding Fabulous Help for Your Online Business by filling in the boxes on this page!
If you missed the New York Times article you can read it here: Straightening Out the Life Work BalanceContinue reading...
16. July 2012
We share a lot about business support systems because I’m a firm believer in getting help to grow your business to avoid burnout and frustration. But what about all the time we don’t spend working – can we infuse some support elsewhere in our lives? Absolutely – here are 4 simple ways to get support to make your life run easier!
This is by no means an exhaustive list but grab a pen and jot down ideas for yourself and, if you need help hiring, check out the 5 Days to Finding Fabulous Help video series.
1. Cleaning & Organizing – If you’re like most entrepreneurs everything else can fall away when you’re focused on work, including housework! Whether you prefer to keep your house clean so you can work without distraction or use your space for entertaining, getting some help with cleaning can be amazing!
If the thought of someone else making beds and doing dishes fills you with dread, remember that in your business it’s recommended that you pass off the chores other people can do so you can focus on your brilliance. Clothes need to be washed, does it really have to be you that does it?
If you have a home office you may also find yourself disorganized when it comes to paperwork, resources and electronics. A professional organizer can help you assess your space, get the tools you need and create some custom systems that work for your office. Investing in the space you work from can increase your productivity and keep you focused on work instead of the stack of books you meant to ebay.
You’re not exempt if you live in an apartment, often times the smaller square footage means a lower cost and can help ensure you get your security deposit back.
2. Shopping & Errands – Personally there are few things more frustrating than grocery shopping, especially since it has to be done every single week! Here, a combination of software and support can save you time and energy. Shop around for a service you like and put your most purchased on autopilot – such as Amazon Checkout which allows you to subscribe to getting toilet paper delivered every 5 weeks.
For local errands, having a trustworthy assistant in town is invaluable. Whether it’s dropping off library books, picking up coffee from your favorite local cafe or getting mail from the PO Box, not having to leave your office in the middle of the work day can really boost productivity.
And make the most of your local support by finding or training someone to help you by preparing meals or simply prepping the ingredients for you. How many times have you torn yourself away from the computer only to be exhausted at the idea of making yourself dinner from scratch? Instead of heading straight for the TV dinner route, have meals ready to go so you’re not wasting food and making the most of your time.
3. Maintenance & Repairs – entrepreneurship seems to fill up 100% of our attention and most of our days as well. But many times we need reminders and time to stay on top of regular maintenance and repairs. If you have a vehicle that needs tire rotation, oil changes and tune ups look into hiring an auto shop that does full service pickup or look for a local assistant who you can trust to take it in for you. Home repairs are similar, cleaning gutters, installing new appliances and fixing leaky faucets should probably be left to professionals. If you enjoy these tasks try to contain them to the weekend so you make the most of your work week.
Now if you live in a major city, use a zipcar or public transit and rent your apartment you’re not off the hook yet! Consider having someone get your favorite shoes repaired when the soles wear out or upgrade your computer when it begins to falter. While a house or car may be the most valued assets, they’re by no means the only ones that need service.
4. Childcare – I saved this one for last because I am not a parent but draw on my experience as a nanny to six kids. However you balance child care and work is for your family to decide but there are a few ways you can consider getting extra support. Carpooling can be shared with another family or one family can pay for gas while the other always drives. For school aged children you might have an older student serve as a tutor, ensuring homework is complete and accurate while being another set of eyes after school is out.
It’s possible you’d never consider asking someone else to take your child to the doctor or orthodontist, to picking up school supplies or getting a haircut. But each of these tasks has planning steps which can be outsourced, such as securing appointments, reviewing advertisements for deals and comparing them to a school provided supplies list, etc.
The idea has never been to outsource your life and relegate your family to an assistant. But the more you’re able to delegate the tasks that don’t need your attention, the more time you can spend and enjoy on field trips, eating healthy meals, driving a well maintained car or relaxing in a clean home. As you become relaxed and appreciate the support you have to run your business you’ll see your company grow and flourish with the new attention its received.
12. July 2012
Welcome to Video FAQs where I answer your questions about outsourcing and building a team for your online business. If you can’t watch the video there’s a transcript below the player.
Hi it’s Kelly Azevedo with She’s Got Systems and today I have a video blog for you on Outsourcing 101 and Today’s question is
“Should I hire a paid contractor or an unpaid intern to do the tasks in my business?”
First of all, it’s great you’re getting support for your online business and looking at all the opportunities out there to bring people into your business. There are some benefits and drawbacks of working with interns and I’ll go over those today.
The first thing, thought, to consider is the likelihood that your business will be able to attract a pool of intern candidates and that you’ll be able to convince them to work for you in this intern model.
Now, one of the benefits of doing an internship is that you can work for a big name company which looks great on your resume.
If you’re a brand new business and may not have notoriety or branding behind you then it may not be worth your time to find interns and you may find that the ones who apply are not the best candidates to do the work. In that case, you may want to start by working with contractors and build up to an internship program.
The second thing you should consider is if this is a long term or short term opportunity. If you’re just looking for someone to come in for a few hours on a dedicated project, then a short term internship could be worthwhile. But if you’re looking for something that will be an on-going project and you don’t want turnover ever 3 to 6 months, then I would suggest hiring a contractor. The reason is if you have interns that coming in just for a few weeks or a few months at a time and that position is constantly turning over then you may be expending more time on training than you want.
If you work with contractors you can filter at the beginning and let them know it’s a long term opportunity.
Now the other possibility is if you hire an intern but would like this to potentially be a long term opportunity you can let them know when the position will be opening up. That way someone may choose to work with you for 3 months and then be in the running to be hired for that position once their internship is completed.
The third thing you want to look for is really the commitment level. An intern is by default a short term opportunity and is a transition time between school and work. It also may a way for somebody to get their feet wet in an industry and see what they like before branching and out deciding what to do next. In contrast, when you work with a contractor, they’re usually a professional in their field who’s been doing this for some time and has plans to do this for the future.
So if you are building your business and would like to build a team around you consider what level of commitment you’re going to ask for from that team. Now, of course you can’t guarantee that a contractor will stay long term, but if they are intending to do that in the beginning and are looking for a long term opportunity, then you are much more likely to get that than with an intern who is just at the beginning guaranteeing 3 or 4 weeks or a few months at a time.
It also depends on how you work with your contractors. If you would like to have fresh ideas and new people coming in because it energizes you, then it may work to supplement the contractors you have with short term interns.
Remember that the 5 days to Finding Fabulous Help for Your Online Business video series, which is free on this site, can help you whether you’re doing internships or hiring contractors.
Through the video series you’ll get really clear on what tasks need to be done, how they should be done, how you’re assigning them and following up and who to choose for your business to s to do these tasks. Now as you grow you may need to shuffle that around a little but I recommend getting the video series because you’ll be able to go through it over and over especially when you go into hire a new intern or a new contractor for your business.
If you’re clear from the beginning about what you need and who you want in your business then you’ll be much more intentional when you go out to find them.
This is Kelly from She’s Got Systems and I hope you enjoyed today’s video tip. You’ll be getting them every Thursday throughout the rest of the summer so be sure to subscribe to the page or check back weekly to get more tips on how to outsource in your business, even if you’re just getting started. Thanks!
12. July 2012
14. June 2012
During a conversation with my VA a few months back I asked a question that I kept reflecting on in my own life:
“Did you ever feel like life would never get more complicated…. and then you graduated high school?”
It’s true, right? At one point in our lives the biggest problem was getting a driver’s license or passing history. Then came the stress of college (for most of us), moving, roommates, career choices, finding a job, finding meaning in a job, a family, a mortgage, and on and on. Just when we think things must be calming down soon another challenge is in our path.
There will never be a period of time when we just coast through life for a decade with no trials to face.
Some people shut down and float through life – we entrepreneurs are typically not those people. We tackle challenges head on, learn and grow and love the process (most of the time!). Which leads to a common problem because when we have so many things that need to be done, it can be overwhelming.
If you try to move forward on fifty projects all by yourself the quality will suffer. It’s better to offer one amazing group program than twelve mediocre ones. It’s even better to work with one coach who gets you and your business than five who only understand one piece! I prefer to read 1 well written and reasoned blog post than 7 sloppy, useless ones.
When it comes to providing real quality it can be difficult, leading some to set the task aside and say, “I’ll do that later.”
Instead of trying to get everything done without quality suffering: just move forward on the most important thing and focus.
Focus is a valuable skill in entrepreneurship and there are two action steps that I recommend:
1) Eliminate distractions – by practicing time blocking on a work calendar you can set aside an hour (or three) for the work that you need to get done and make substantial progress. Often by stopping and starting we lose our flow and focus and end up with an outcome that’s below our standards for quality.
2) Get help – Just because you have fifty things to do doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. Instead, get the right support for your business, even if it means outsourcing one thing per week until you’re confident in your team and then have plenty of time to refocus your energy and attention on your business.
Life isn’t magically going to get easier so you can just coast along with no worries. But as you face more challenges, get help and get focused on what’s really important instead of chasing the wind.