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...
27. September 2012
Instead of my regular post today I decided to share yesterday’s newsletter instead because I got such an amazing response. Each week I share fresh content, action steps designed to help you implement systems in your business.
This has probably been one of the hardest newsletters to write for you, in part because I’ve spent so much time this week off work with my family.
On September 22nd my cousin died in his sleep and our family is still in shock. Justin was just 26 and leaves behind a 2 year old daughter and we’re staying pretty close as a family to share memories, talk, cry and grieve.
In today’s articles I want to share some examples of how my business has changed and supported me during this difficult time, to hopefully inspire you in your business.
Three and a half years ago I was working a corporate job when my Grandma passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease. It was quite rough for me, her caregiver, but dealing with a difficult employer made it worse.
I needed time off to be with the family and my Grandpa as well as complete the service folder and slideshow. Not to mention the actual funeral. Instead of understanding, my employer refused to let me take my vacation time (which was illegal) and expected me to come to work the afternoon after the funeral.
You may think that the solution was starting my business…
Two years ago when my Grandpa passed away I was in a much different business model serving just two clients exclusively. Their businesses took up a lot of my time and I once again ran into trouble when needing time off.
I gave so much of my time to these clients that I actually felt guilty that I took the day off for the funeral service (and it was a Saturday!).
And while I hate that once again we’re dealing with a death in the family, I am so grateful that things are so different in my business.
I’ll give some specific examples below but I’ll just say that because I have systems in my business that work for me, I don’t need to exhaust myself putting in overtime just so I can attend a funeral. I don’t feel guilty about the time I spent with my cousin’s daughter or helping prepare for his service. I am so thankful for the support I have in my business which allows me this flexibility.
Most of all I am grateful that even taking this time off to be with my family, my business keeps going and serving all of you. That the resources and systems I’ve spent hours setting up are continuing to work this week and next and the one after that.
I hope that your own business is set up in a way that enables you to have the freedom you want and need. If you need support continue reading below for 3 Action Steps you can implement today which will give you more flexibility and freedom.
I love these three systems because they don’t just work in an emergency – they serve my business every day!
System #1 Scheduling Calls
With new clients coming on weekly, existing client calls, networking with colleagues and managing a lot of content and teaching time, my calendar is pretty full and it can be hard to find time to talk with everyone!
So I fully transferred control of my calendar to my talented VA knowing that scheduling calls was not only a huge time suck but really difficult when rescheduling came up. Not having to dread 10 conversations about why I needed to cancel in order to attend a funeral was additionally helpful.
Action Step: Continue to watch, or re-watch, the 5 days to Finding Fabulous Help video series and write down how an assistant can manage your calendar and scheduling. It will change your business!
System #2 Regular Marketing
Monday I sat down to reply to new subscribers (something I do regularly because I honestly appreciate when someone opts in to learn more about systems!) and realized that I had lots of “action” in my marketing despite not being focused on it. Regular postings like my Facebook Tips, twitter and guest posts all went out automatically.
Once you build up the momentum, like pumping your legs on a swing, if you stop for a little bit the momentum will continue to carry you for awhile.
Action Step: Add one time block on your calendar right now to create tweets or pre-schedule a blog post for the week ahead. Getting a little ahead like this is a great practice.
System #3 Sales
Although I’ve had a big change in my life there are so many clients and leads who still need support in their businesses this week. By having Sales Systems in place I can easily send out proposals, contracts and invoices to my new clients in much less time.
While this helps me to keep the business going, much more importantly it allows my clients to get support uninterrupted.
Action Step: If you don’t yet have a template proposal and contract create one today. You can re-save an older one and take out the client specific information. This will save you so much time!
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. August 2012
Let’s start by the very basic understanding of a launch by asking a few questions. How do you know McDonald’s has a new menu item? Why do you know there’s a big Labor Day car sale at the dealership in town? How do you know that a marketing coach is promoting a new event?
It all comes down to the same reason: you know new offers are made when they are launched to the public. Otherwise it’s very unlikely you’ll just show up in the right city on the right date with the right amount of money for the conference you wanted to attend.
Launching is all part of the sales process, making your audience aware of the things you offer. When done correctly, launches build excitement, grow your leads list and fan base and can bring in thousands (or tens of thousands of dollars).
What does a launch look like?
A launch can be as simple or elaborate as you want – or I should say as needs to be to make your sales goals. Typically with higher priced products and services and more detailed launch may be necessary but if you have an audience who is regularly buying and primed for the next service then the process may be shorter.
Launches typically include an announcement, emails, a sales page, an online ordering page, possibly a free call or preview event, and a deadline. Now all of these are variable and can be done many ways but the most important one for this topic is the announcement.
Here’s the problem… most people never announce when something new is available (and I’ve been guilty of this as well when business is full and time is pressed!). Unless your audience is psychic you’re not going to have the awareness of your programs or the sales you envision until you tell them. How else would you know if the price is right, the offer is compelling and your audience is ready if you don’t ask?
I see far too many entrepreneurs giving up on offers that were never properly promoted! A launch is a way to put your offer out there, make sales and tweak the process. This time you launched on a Wednesday, next time try Monday. Maybe your launch had one price point, next time offer two. This launch may have been basic, no frills or extras, so next launch add bonuses to encourage fast sign ups.
It all seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Then get your team involved so they can support you and earn their keep!
Here’s a brief list of the ways your team can support your launch:
If you don’t have a team or even a VA who can help keep you sane check out the free video series5 Days to Finding Fabulous Help for Your Online Business on this page. It’ll give you my hiring system for getting the help you need and can afford for your business.
And if you need support with your own launch and you want to do it right with a plan then I invite you to join me for an upcoming free training. All the details will be released soon but if you want to ensure you get all the info you can sign up below for access. It’s my hope that by taking you through the launch process it will become less intimidating and help you get your offers out there!
12. July 2012
5. July 2012
One of the hardest things about running a business is trust it to someone else – especially when you put so much care into your business. It’s difficult to find and train the right people for your business if you don’t have experience.
Many times when things go wrong we pull back and think “I just can’t trust my team; they keep screwing up the most basic things!” Sometimes this means shying away from the growth potential in your business or fighting against your team.
Here are 3 tactics to building trust with your team:
1. Use A Contract
Fears are rooted in ego – often times it’s our tendency to protect ourselves from pain. So while you can’t let those fears stop you, listen and take action to do what’s necessary to protect the business. You wouldn’t jump out of an airplane without a parachute and a contract is your parachute.
Start at the beginning of your relationship with a contract, a common practice in online businesses. A professional agreement may also include non-disclosure or non-compete clauses. When hiring you can interview people on their values and issues of integrity but asking them to sign to that intent is added protection.
If you haven’t used an agreement like this before you can have a business lawyer draw one up quickly to protect your interests. An agreement also details what happens in case of a dispute, giving you options if things should go wrong.
2. Be the Coach
Imagine for a moment that you’re teaching a child how to do chores around the house. But every time Junior misses a step or forgets something you step in and do it yourself. Sure, the task may get completed quicker *this* time but Junior will never learn how to assist and you’re wasting your time. What’s worse, if you do this in your business you’re also wasting money paying someone and not letting them learn.
When you transition to a team in your business, you’ve got to change your role from being the player on the field to the coach. Your role is changing so there’s bound to be some growing pains. As you’re training your team instead of getting upset about what went wrong, figure out why.
Let me illustrate this with an example from one of my clients. One of the early systems I co-created with Charles was his e-zine process. And, once we hired an assistant to manage the weekly e-zine, the first week went great. Except Charles needed changes to the pictures inserted in the e-zine. Which told me that 99% of the system was working and we just had to make changes to that last 1%. So we went back to the system and gave more detail, added some screenshots and a video showing how the image should look. The next week it was perfect!
Typically, business owners can’t see the big picture on their own and, when frustrated by a mistake, say “forget it, I’ll do this myself!” Here we were able to isolate that there was a lack of clarity in the directions. The great thing about Charles is he stuck to it and six months later the system is still working!
3. Extend Trust in Pieces
Instead of handing over the keys to the kingdom, it’s normal to extend information and access to your team slowly as they continue to prove themselves. I was once given credit card information via chat for a brand new client – before the contract was in place! Do you see how that could have gone horribly, horribly wrong?
Again, I recommend using Backpack because you can separate your business information on individual pages and grant access per person, per page. Trust your intuition when it comes to extending trust – sometimes it helps to set benchmarks so that you check in on your team members and set goals.
If you’re working with a coach or consultant you can get feedback about how your team is doing and when it’s acceptable to extend more trust. Many times we’re too close to the situation to see clearly so having outside perspective is important.
If you haven’t signed up for my hiring system you can get it by opting in at the top of this page. You’ll get a series of 5 videos with resources, scripts and assignments to hire for your online business. Read more about how to get support here.Continue reading...