When expanding your VA business from “just yourself” to a multi-VA company, it takes a natural progression, you first need to think about outsourcing work that you don’t need to do yourself or that which can be easily handed over, and before you know it, more of your time is free to concentrate on growth and development, you end up taking in more business, and as a result, the person you hired to help is at capacity, so you take on another and another…
But what happens when you are the one managing all of the expanding team of staff, well, you can easily get overwhelmed, have people constantly needing your attention for different things, some important, but some maybe trivial, nevertheless, no matter how skilled your team is, they do not have the authority to make decisions, only you do, and before you know it, you have become the bottleneck of your business, and you have a large group of people all looking to you for guidance – - no matter how good your project management skills are, you cannot keep that up forever, sooner or later there will come a time when you are back at square one, unable to develop any further because all of your time goes into managing everything.
This happened to me last year, my business was continuously expanding, along with my team, and the more I expanded, the more team members I hired, the more I needed to be there for them, the less I was able to give my attention to the growth and development of the business. I also had other projects on the sideline I wanted to pursue and I had one primary concern, that I was in the virtual service industry, and my growth relied upon my reputation for providing very high quality customer support and services to my clients, and I wanted to of course maintain this moving forward. I came to the decision to bite the bullet and just let go, and here is what I did…
(Please note: In order to implement “Operation Exit Bottleneck” you need a VA team already, if you don’t have a VA team, please check out this post on how to use the pyramid method to begin developing your team, which is the smartest and most sensible way I know how to expand.)
Operation Exit Bottleneck
I have 3 types of service I offer in my business – Creative, Technical and Administrative, so the business was already segmented into 3 individual teams of people who helped me, all of whom I basically managed. I took each team and wrote down the people who worked with me, some full time, some part time and some adhoc, I then added further structure to the departments.
You can do this with any type of service industry or business, look at it from a birds eye view, and see how you can break your company down into dedicated sections by service type or skill set.
I then selected a member from each of these teams, the most obvious candidate who had the most experience working directly with me, knew how I liked things done, understood the level of quality I always aim for, was committed, loyal and deserved the opportunity to go a step further.
I had approached each of these 3 individuals explaining that I was implementing department managers in the business, and asked if they would like to head their respective teams, this would allow them to:
- Make decisions on my behalf.
- Be responsible for all ongoing training and development of the team. (Based on how I had trained them to learn how to work with the individual clients).
- Be responsible for quality control and also double checking of work where required.
- Be in contact with the client for work related issues (in addition to myself).
- Be the primary point of contact for their team for any questions or assistance.
How Will Your Clients Take It?
While I was expanding, naturally I was concerned how my clients would feel with me taking on additional help, and because of this I spoke to a few select clients before I started to develop my team more, specifically asking how they would feel if it wasn’t me doing the actual administration for them anymore, and each individual I spoke to very clearly indicated that they trusted me, and they didn’t mind who it was doing the work, as long as everything was still done to the same standard, and they could still reach me if and when they needed me.
I still always make a point of handling brand new business, and liaising on new large scale tasks and projects from existing clients, but often, once I am fully aware of what needs to be done, I will assign the work to the department head directly who will then continue to liaise with the client as a dedicated manager.
When you decide on who will be heading your departments, always ensure they understand and support your vision, then set your boundaries, what they are permitted to do, decisions they can make, and what you would like to have the final say on. Also email all your team members explaining the change, that instead of contacting you, they will now primarily need to speak directly to their department head, and they should fully support and respond to them as if they were you.
I always endeavour to be completely transparent in my business – and from my experience, being up-front, straightforward and honest about who it is actually performing the tasks is the very best approach for success.
So, How’s It Going…
This was fully implemented on the 10th of January 2011, I am writing this in March 2011, everything so far has gone very smoothly, it has freed up a considerable amount of time from my schedule, allowing me to take in more business, work on some new projects, hire 3 new people to my team, promote one of my team members to full time, and all because of my “one simple decision” to just let go, trust my judgement, and elevate the three people whom I had selected to take on the additional responsibility.
I am still very much involved with my business, but on a new scale, I look at things from a different perspective, and instead of being concerned about handling additional work, I embrace it safe in the knowledge I have put measures in place to ensure the quality remains consistent, the customer service is always top notch and the team, their managers and myself all have their roles to play and we can all work on doing them to the very best of our ability.
If you are looking to expand and take on more clients, trying to do too much yourself will not be good for your health, family or your clients. For those of you with a team already, have faith in them, trust your judgement and your instincts, don’t keep spreading yourself too thinly, and try letting go, you will thank yourself for it later on. If you are worried how your clients will react, speak to them, see how they feel about it, you will likely find they will trust you and support your decision.