When you need help with your business and you want to go down the virtual business support staff route, the broader outlook is that you pretty much have 3 options - you can hire individuals and begin developing your own team of skilled professionals, you could hire somebody like me who has already developed their own team of skilled professionals, and they work as part of a company that are allocated to specific tasks based on their unique skills rather than allocated to clients, or your could hire a larger company that has a pool of virtual assistants that are then allocated to clients.
From experience, I know that some people prefer to work with just one dedicated assistant, and I understand that completely, especially if the business is on a smaller, more intimate scale, isn't restricted by time, and doesn't require cover if the VA needs to take time off for example. But on the other hand, some businesses require something more, and they'll need to decide from other options that are out there.
You may be thinking to yourself that hiring individuals will work out somehow more cost-effective, and sometimes yes they do in certain specific cases, but not always... Let's go through some of the pointers and benefits of hiring a company, versus hiring individuals.
#1. Hiring & Trialling
Having been a solo-VA myself to go onto hiring a team, I know for a fact that finding dedicated, professional team members with the exact skills, character, work ethics and cost is no easy undertaking. I have occasionally got lucky, and found the perfect team member within a few weeks, and other times I have failed miserably and ended up spending a lot of money investing in the wrong people. The fact is that if you want the perfect team, it could take you weeks, or months to find the right people, with the right skills at the right price. Particularly if like me you're super picky about who you choose to work with!
Fact is that if you have multiple areas of business development you would like to work on, such as social media, your website, your administration, your customer support, your SEO, your content, your marketing, your blog, your [fill in the blank], you'll probably need to hire more than one person to do all of these things for you simultaneously, not just because one person won't have the time to do everything, they may not possess all the right skills to do everything, which most likely won't be what's best for your business.
#2. Systems & Software
Once you have your team you'll then need to consider how you're going to integrate them together as a unit. For me the most effective way of working is communally, through a project space such as ActiveCollab
and communication/chat space such as Unison
. Then everyone can stay in the loop, we don't double up, we don't wonder if X knows about Y and we don't need to figure out what's going on with the work through emails and other random communications. If you want to develop an efficient team, who are going to work together to create a 'big picture' outcome, you will need to give serious consideration as to how you'll have the team working together online, then you'll need to pay out of your own pocket to make it all happen. When hiring a company to work with, a majority of the time, they'll have that covered and the systems will be complimentary as part of the service.
Most skilled individuals will come with their own software that they use, but I also as a company provide my team with many of the tools they'll need to complete the tasks at my own expense, an expense that the client would potentially need to pay if they were to hire various individuals.
When you hire skilled people, it's unlikely you'll need to train them on their specific job, but that doesn't mean to say that you won't have to do any training whatsoever. Although the skill is the same, the client, the business, the product, the service, the company, the [fill in the blank] - won't be the same for everyone, so there has to be an element of diversity, but also an element of training that needs to be provided. Are you willing to spend time and money and resources on the training of your team to work together on different tasks, projects or in some cases clients?
Also don't underestimate the skill required in training a virtual team of multiple people sometimes across multiple timezones, it's a far cry from working with a team in person.
At Virtual Miss Friday, we coordinate the training so the client doesn't have to, and this is often a welcome option to someone with not enough hours in the day to start with!
#4. Coordination & Timing
In the previous point we touched on the systems you'll need to have your team all come together, but have you also considered the careful planning of the delegation? You see when I hire individuals with a specific skill, to fulfil a specific role, it's important of course for the entire project or monthly maintenance of tasks we do for the client to come together as a whole. I must ensure that certain tasks and people are coordinated in a certain order, at certain times or the plan won't be as effective, or worse, could fail altogether. I ensure that every piece of the puzzle fits together perfectly and the right people are assigned to their tasks at the right time, to ensure that everyone has what they need exactly when they need it - this helps to maximise the use of the time for each individual and keeps the project on track.
#5. Effective Virtual Teams
Creating a team isn't just about hiring individuals with skills that you'll need to conduct business. You also have to consider how effectively they will work together during daily operations. Some individuals are not team players, they prefer to work alone, and won't embrace the opportunity to work with others, this does not make for an effective team. If you do find team players, how do you know they will work well together - you don't until you try it.
Many of the members in my team have been working together for years, we're like a big digital family, we know each other, we support each other, we have an idea of each other's strengths, weaknesses and skill sets. Often times, if one person is sick or wants to take time off, they'll contact someone on the team who will know how to cover them in their absence and I'll simply get a note to say that Maria is going to be covering Sally on this day, or Karen is going to take a holiday and Megan will be working on her tasks that week.
An effective virtual team has the ability to work together in YOUR absence, and this is no easy thing to achieve...
So as you see, having started on my own company, and developed a team, I have come to experience what has been challenging about it, and that has helped me develop Virtual Miss Friday into a very 'customer focused' place for my clients to come, because not only do we have a super-sleek, super-skilled, super-organised and super-productive team ready and on hand to service clients, we have also done all of the hard work involved in getting to this point, and we take responsibility for the systems and software required to complete the tasks without any cost to the client in time, money or resources.