How to Integrate a Virtual Assistant into Your Business Successfully
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In this episode, we take a look at how to integrate a virtual assistant into your business successfully and the importance of having a sound on-boarding process.
This episode is full of insights from Matt and Barbara into answering the common question of “What do I do to get my VA started?”
Some of the areas covered include:
- The importance of a strong onboarding process
- Clearly communicating your expectations, in order to set your VA up to win
- Building a strong ‘human connection’ with your VA from the outset
- Being clear on your preferred communication style
- Learning your VAs strengths so as to encourage them to work in their genius
Let us know what your key takeout has been from this episode and join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
Resources mentioned in this show:
In this episode:
01:02 – Integrating a VA into your team
03:07 – A strong onboarding process
05:14 – Communicating your expectations
07:50 – Being properly prepared to welcome your new team member
09:15 – Building a human connection with your VA
10:16 – Be clear on your communication style
12:18 – Learning your VAs strengths
13:46 – Process for onboarding your VA
15:55 – In summary…
16:56 – Wrapping things up
Matt: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Virtual Success Show. I’m joined by my co-host, Barbara Turley. Hey Barb.
Barbara: Hey Matt. How’s it going?
Matt: Excellent, yourself?
Barbara: Good, thanks. Good, thanks. I’m excited about today’s show. Got another great case study style topic to cover.
Matt: Absolutely. Absolutely. Hey, just before we get started, how’s that little Ruby of yours?
Barbara: She’s great. She’s just started walking, so for all of those people out there with young babies, well the fun has started. She’s running around the house.
Integrating a VA into your team
Matt: Fantastic. Fantastic. Barb and I were just having a chat before the show and what came up in our conversation… I was just recently working with a client who was bringing on their first virtual assistant into his business. He’s got a team of seven in his office, but it’s his first virtual assistant. We were having a coaching session and he said, “Matt what do I do to get them started?” He was really puzzled and really unsure. It was like, he’d never onboarded a virtual assistant before. This guy’s got an amazing business, an amazing team, and it was … I was actually just saying to him, I said, “What would you normally do with your current staff if someone was joining your office?”
It sparked this conversation, and we’re going to go through it today, but it’s so interesting the mindset I see so often, and Barb I’m sure you see it as well, where we … there’s this, a virtual team member is there and our team is here and because they’re not in physical proximity there’s this huge difference that needs to happen. It has to be done in a different way.
Barbara: Well they don’t even see … For example, we often see clients getting all excited through our on-boarding process and they interview the VAs and they’re like, “Wow.” They pick someone and then we’re like, “Okay. Over to you guys,” and then they’re like, “What now?” We’re just like, “Well, you start to forge a relationship and you’re bringing someone in.” I think people still see … they just still don’t see it as someone in their business. It’s them and us, and that could be because of the distance and the virtual thing, I’m not sure, but it’s … I guess I’ve got experience doing it now but I can remember when I got my first VA, I do remember feeling the same way, and I had no idea where to start on day one. It is a common problem. Matt, what did you advise this client to do?
A strong on-boarding process
Matt: What’s interesting, I think this is a common problem whether it’s with VAs or just bringing team members in, is that a lot of business owners and managers don’t have a strong on-boarding process. What you’ve got to think about is you’re inviting someone to come into your business and work with you and for you to help grow your company. If you don’t get off to a great start initially, it’s like any relationship, it’s never going to get back on track. My first piece of advice was, “You’ve got to follow the exact same on-boarding process that you would if someone was joining your team in Australia,” and so I said, “What would you do?”
He said, “Well, we’d send them a gift before they start and on day one we have all of their information, their emails are ready to go, there’s a pack for them with their login details, et cetera. Then I would sit down and I would go through the values with them and what the company stands for: the vision, the mission, et cetera. Then they would start their training.”
I said, “Well, how can we do the same with your virtual team member?”
Barbara: Yeah, because it shouldn’t be … Well, the first comment I want to make is that this particular person actually had an on-boarding process. What we see a lot at Virtual Angel Hub is a client comes in and the only thing they’ve thought about is, “I need a VA,” but they haven’t actually thought about, “What is my on-boarding process?” They don’t even realise that you actually need an on-boarding process. Even when we’re bringing VAs on, although they’re working with a client of ours, and it’s sort of like an employee in their business, we have a very deep and fully developed VA on-boarding process that looks and feels very like what you were talking about with this client. We actually bring them through an entire process with our team. They’ve got to learn where things are, like where all our files are stored, how to interact with the client, how to interact with us. There’s a huge amount of stuff actually in the on-boarding process that needs to be done.
Communicating your expectations
Matt: I think that what’s really important in that initial piece is to allow them to understand expectations.
Matt: Not to overwhelm them, so you’re not trying to come up with this huge list of, “I expect this and I expect this, I expect this.” They just need to understand the rules of the game and how to operate within your business, and what’s expected of them.
Barbara: I also think actually, for listeners thinking about this, I even think that on day one that might be a little bit of overkill. I think you need a bit of a plan. For example, when somebody joins on day one, it’s probably a good idea to focus more on the vision, the values, where you see them integrating into that bigger picture sort of stuff. Then I think I would lay out what they can expect in terms of your conversations over the following week. You might say, “Well what we’re going to do is I’m going to have another meeting with you tomorrow and we’re going to run through our expectations of you and what you can expect from us.” It’s very important to do both, so, what we expect from you but what you can expect from us as well, so it feels like a two-way thing. Then it gives them time to percolate overnight, that that conversation is happening the next day, and it sort of sets the tone for there are expectations, so this isn’t … I’m going to make them very clear for you to understand.
Anyone who’s thinking about, “How do I articulate that?” Matt and I did a whole show on this. So, I think if you just search in the search box on virtualsuccessshow.com, expectations. It’s a show called How to Define Expectations with your Team, and it’s really, really good to go through that one to get the steps for that. I often find people don’t know what’s coming next. You know that feeling of, “What are the next steps now that I’ve joined?”?
Barbara: And laying them out saying, “What we’ll do first is vision, then we’ll go through expectations, and then what we’ll do is we’ll meet some of the team. Then we’ll go through our systems, where to find everything,” so they have a plan and you have a plan.
Matt: Yeah, and I believe this client also who hired an angel through you Barb, arranged for a gift to be sent to his new virtual team member.
Being properly prepared to welcome your new team member
Matt: Absolutely. I think the other thing around being prepared and the like, I think that’s really critical, because there’s nothing worse than starting a job and on day one you don’t have an email, you don’t have logins. So instantly as an employee, you’re going to feel like a burden to this person, whereas you’re there to help and serve. I think it’s really important for the owners or managers to make sure that the basics are ready to go so that instantly on day one they feel part of the team, they feel like they’ve got their identity within the team.
Barbara: I also think actually it’s triggered something in me that often what I find, clients come to Virtual Angel Hub, not so much anymore, but in the early days we were getting clients that would come in and because they’re paying for it, they would want tasks done from the first second the VA started, and they would just fling tasks at them. I feel like this on-boarding thing is actually so pivotal to your relationship to get it right, that it is really worth spending the first week, I would imagine, or the first few days at least, on really just on-boarding the people and not actually having maybe a task or two to get them started. It’s very hard to just fling a task on day one with no conversation or no on-boarding of any team member. I don’t think you would expect somebody in your office to be like that.
Building a human connection with your VA
Matt: Absolutely. I think you bring up a really good point too. What I see a lot of … a big mistake a lot of people making with virtual team members is not communicating, not jumping on to Skype, having a video with them, allow them to see you, allow you to see them, building that human connection. I think that it’s so simple these days with Skype or the like to be able to have a face-to-face meeting with somebody. I think it’s absolutely crazy to not do that. I think also too what it does for you as the business owner is you start to get a feeling of the environment in which they’re working in, and you can start to make a judgement call on whether they’re actually in a productive environment, because a lot of virtual assistants work from home. You need to make sure in order to again set the standard and expectations, that they’ve got a good workspace where they can focus and do work that they’re asked to do.
Be clear on your communication style
Barbara: Absolutely, and that you’re … or things like … I’ve often said to clients, sometimes, you know, expectations can be things like … it depends on your work style. Matt, you’re quite busy all day because you’re in coaching calls with clients, so people can’t just ping you all day long on Skype with questions, whereas I’m actually more in a … I tend to be more in the operations of my business so I’m actually available a lot during the day for my team. I like to be kept in constant contact, but some clients don’t, so it’s even important to lay that out in the beginning around your expectations and their expectations of how you can follow up with each other and where questions are going to be answered, something as simple as that. I’ve seen that particular thing, some relationships fall down on that alone.
Matt: Yes. Absolutely. I think that’s really critical is to communicate that style to your virtual assistantinitially as well. Otherwise what’s going to happen is you may have the expectation of constant communication and you’re not getting it, or you may have the expectation of little communication and you’re getting overly communicated to.
Barbara: Yeah, which can drive you nuts. Both of them can drive you nuts. Yeah, it depends what you want. I learned that myself the hard way because I didn’t think about that other people have different styles. Some of my VAs are not … they are techy guys so they’re not great communicators and I get a bit antsy because I like to communicate. I’ve had to settle into their style for their particular role a little bit because my expectations of their natural style were misaligned, actually. There were great people at the job, I just didn’t settle on that in the beginning. That’s why I feel passionate about this on-boarding thing now and this particular setting of the communication style, and also understanding … I guess when you take someone on, you can’t just … you will have an expectation of how the communication is going to work but it may not be their natural style. You got to know that as well and you’ll figure that out over time.
Learning your VAs strengths
Matt: Absolutely. I think in the initial phases also, you want to work out what your VAs strengths are and feed them some tasks that allow them to play to their strengths, because it’s going to help them to build confidence. What I find is that often in the very early parts of the relationship, a lot of these VAs are very, very talented people and have a lot of skills, but we never actually understand the extent of what they can do for us. Keeping the dialogue open is really important. The third thing is, what I always say to all my VAs at the start is, as you’re familiarising yourself with everything in our business, if you see something that can be improved or an area that you feel is within your strengths that you could either add value or take on, let us know because we want to ensure that you’ve got enough work in your day-to-day so that you’re not bored.
I think in the initial phases … I think it goes to two extremes. Number one is either we don’t have enough for them, and so they’re sitting around bored and we don’t feel like we’re getting the value, or the opposite is we dump a whole heap on them when they’re not ready for it, and then we get disappointed that, “This virtual assistant thing doesn’t work for me.”
Process for on-boarding your VA
Barbara: Yeah. That’s a very, very common problem. I was actually just thinking of what the steps really would be here. I’m thinking about our own clients at Virtual Angel Hub and we do … I’m actually thinking I might develop this out even more of teaching and actually maybe having a process that clients can use for this, because really like I said, step one is just building that initial rapport, talking about the bigger picture, how this person slots into the bigger picture of the business from your perspective. Then I would say step two then might be discussing the communication style. I think that communication should probably come before expectations, and figuring out what’s their preferred communication rhythm versus yours, and then settling on an agreement around how that’s going to operate so that they’re clear and then you.
Then that can really move you into then a deeper discussion around the expectations, let’s set the expectations of the role and then let’s work towards achieving those and being successful with those expectations together. Then you move into, let’s start doing some … let’s get the task list and let’s get into it, and the training involved in the on-boarding of the task list. When I think about it this whole thing could take a month, easily.
Matt: I was going to say the only other thing prior to communicating is those steps as you were saying earlier Barb on what training will occur over the next few weeks.
Barbara: Yeah, being very clear, here’s what’s going to happen next. Yeah, that whole thing. Everybody wants to know what’s going to happen next, because I even find it with clients coming into Virtual Angel Hub they’ll say, “What happens next?” When we got that question a million times, we actually created a page on the membership site saying next steps and we integrated it into our sales script. The guys straight away up on the sales call say, “Now here’s what’s going to happen next,” and clients love that because they feel like they know what the journey is going to be and it’s the same for your VA. They want to know what to expect over the next few weeks from you.
Matt: I think in summary, I think it’s keeping it simple. It’s spending some time, it’s ensuring that you set your VA up to win, but more than anything, is that you imagine that they were in your office next to you. Do exactly what you would do in that manner as well. If you would send a gift, send the gift. If you would have a sit down with them, put Skype on and have a video conference with them and a face-to-face meeting. If it would be a meet-and-greet with the team, pick your device up and walk around the office and do an introduction to everybody.
Barbara: Yeah, that’s a great idea.
Matt: I think it’s following the formula of what you’ve already got or taking on-board the process that we’ve just outlined for you, and keeping it really, really simple. More than anything, it’s ensuring that the person feels welcomed, they feel supported, and they’re very, very clear on what’s expected of them.
Wrapping things up
Barbara: Yes. Great, great tips there. I’m already thinking about revamping our own on-boarding process. It’s funny, every time I do these shows my mind ticks and I go, “Yeah. There’s a step missing. We have to …” This constant evolution of our own processes, I learn a lot from actually doing this show.
Matt: Absolutely. Barb, I think that’s been really, really good today. I think that’s going to be really helpful for the listeners. Please, if you’ve found this useful, we’d love to hear your comments in the comments box or on our Virtual Success Show Facebook page. Also too, please write to us if there’s any topics that you would love us to discuss. This show exists to help you succeed further with your virtual assistants and we’d love to hear from you and certainly want to make sure that we’re constantly adding value to the community and hearing back from you. Please feel free to leave your comments and also rate the show, would be great so we can get the message out there and help more people.
Until then, thanks again for listening. Thank you Barb.
Barbara: Thanks Matt, and thanks everyone.
Matt Malouf is a passionate business coach, speaker, author and entrepreneur on a mission to help entrepreneurs around the world break the shackles of mediocrity and reach new levels of personal and business success.
Barbara Turley is the Founder & CEO of The Virtual Hub, a company that specializes in recruiting, training and managing superstar ‘Virtual Assistants’ in the social media, digital marketing and systems automation space.