We’re living through a strange time in the world of business and just…the world. The pandemic has upended many longstanding work relationships, and one of those may be your partnership with your virtual assistant.
Now is not the time a business owner wants to lose their right-hand person. Although is there ever a good time for that? Entrepreneurs are working overtime to find new ways forward. It’s critical to have someone at your side to help you execute your latest strategic plans.
Fortunately, virtual work relationships aren’t going anywhere. In fact, one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that those who had previously been wary of virtual work have learned firsthand that a distributed team can still kick butt if they know the right work from home moves.
If your virtual assistant quit recently, or you lost your virtual assistant for any number of other reasons, there’s no need to flail and flounder. There are plenty of ways to prepare and stay afloat in the event of an unexpected departure from your assistant. Keep yourself upright with these tips:
1. Don’t Panic.
It’s painful to lose someone who helps you with your daily business operations, especially someone you trust and care for. But the reality of working with others is that there is always the chance they might leave for one reason or another, and it’s not unique to virtual assistant relationships. This can happen with contractors, employees, or any other type of relationship. And it’s particularly true right now, where folks (and especially women) are dropping out of the workforce in record numbers.
The most important thing to remember is that YOU are the boss and a successful business leader. You have made it this far in your professional life because you can solve any problem that your business or personal life presents.
Take a high-level look at the situation calmly, and handle all the tasks that are urgent first.
Then, reflect. Decide if you want to take back the delegated tasks internally or if you’d like to find another assistant to work with. When a great virtual assistant quits it can feel a bit like a bad breakup and may leave you gun-shy. But remember, there are plenty of capable individuals and agencies out there that may be the perfect fit.
2. Document Everything.
A set process and clear expectations are paramount in developing a successful relationship with employees and virtual assistants alike. If your departing VA was on the ball, they probably have already done this for you—at DPM, we love a good SOP (that’s standard operating procedure)!
If you don’t have documentation of the processes and tasks you need done, create it right now. Make sure the instructions for each project or task include:
- A written description of the project and its outcomes
- A step-by-step written process for how you would like it to be done
- A shared screenflow or video of how to use specific technology to complete the project, if necessary
- A due date (or a weekly/daily expectation if it’s an ongoing project)
- A list of FAQs that VAs can reference before asking you questions
- An open mind (and a patient attitude) during the training process
- Availability to answer questions and provide ongoing feedback
If you already have this done, it should be relatively painless to transition your projects to someone new. If you don’t have these documents and processes set, remember: The time you invest in creating them now will multiply your time later. You’ll be able to seamlessly outsource the work to any capable assistant, no matter what happens behind the scenes with career changes, personal developments, or global health crises.
3. Tap Into Your Connections.
One of my friends likes to say, “Good people know good people.” There’s a huge chance that someone you know is using or has used a VA. It’s worth learning about their experiences and seeing if they work with someone they love.
Ask your network, publicly or privately, how they get their work done. You may learn about some new productivity tricks and tools that can help alleviate the pain of losing your VA in the meantime. Plus, a recommendation of a new VA from someone you know is gold.
Also, consider doing a Twitter or LinkedIn search to find the heavy-hitting industry experts. Start chatting with them through social media or send them a private message to get more information about how they work, their success stories, and their rates.
Finally, think about reaching out to folks you’ve worked with in-person in the past. The pandemic has forced a lot of people out of traditional work roles. If you have fond memories of a fabulous assistant from your last office job, check in to see if they’d be open to taking on some remote work.
4. Build Trust First, Delegate Second.
Virtual assistants are people, too. And people thrive on respectful, mutually beneficial relationships.
When it comes to a VA relationship, setting up proper training, deadlines, and payment may be all that’s necessary to keep your assistant happy. And for you, meeting deadlines, anticipating needs, and presenting work product with a smile may be what keeps you successful. But figuring out those “happiness items” between yourself and your assistant is crucial to building a valuable relationship.
Spend time on your own figuring out your priorities and be sure to set aside the mental space and time to work with your assistant in weekly or daily meetings, ideally over Zoom or another video conferencing platform so you can see each other “face to face” regularly. Putting in the face time, especially in the beginning, goes a long way in developing a relationship that lasts.
Flexibility and understanding are particularly critical right now. Many people are dealing with a drastically altered reality as a result of COVID. They may have kids at home 24/7, a partner working remotely in the other room, or any number of other distractions and roadblocks that typically wouldn’t be present. You might be dealing with some of these things, too.
Set the expectation from the start that you’re both going to try your best. But also be willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Make a promise to each other to cut some slack, own up to mistakes, and vow to do better next time.
5. Be Patient and Invest Your Time.
Transitioning is hard, but losing a virtual assistant relationship unexpectedly can be a valuable reminder to tighten up your operations and keep your options open.
Unfortunately, finding the right virtual partner doesn’t happen overnight, and spending resources in the testing and interview process can be tedious and time-consuming.
Just remember, the more time you put into training, documenting, and providing feedback to your assistant, the healthier your relationship will be. And a healthy and happy relationship leads to less turnover, more productivity, and an overall calmer work environment.
Now, go forth and thrive!
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Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm
Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now: panicproofbook.com
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