On the Go With No Time to Read?
Hi Virtual Assistant.
Hi Virtual Project Manager.
Hi Online Business Manager.
More than likely the title of this post caught your attention because you are struggling with building, managing or keeping your virtual support relationships on track. You are jumping from VA to VA, hiring and rehiring hoping to find your “unicorn” but it all ends the same.
OR perhaps you are a virtual assistant and are struggling and frustrated about the way things have been going with your clients. You find seemingly great opportunities, you onboard them as clients but they are not lasting and at this point, you feel like giving up.
Whichever category you fall into, the goal of this conversation to open your eyes to the very real reason that these relationships are not working.
And to put it bluntly, it’s you! I did not bury the lead on this one. You are the only reason your virtual support relationship is not working and I want you to stay with me here so we can get some real fixes for this. Everything is Fixable!
As the owner of a boutique virtual support firm, usually by the time entrepreneurs get to me for a consultation, they have gone through a few VA’s, have a mountain of complaints and they are looking to us to “solve all the problems”.
I quickly let our clients know that we don’t claim to be perfect, however, we have found a great system of providing the support that helps our clients grow with confidence while doubling and tripling their income. I am proud to say we have a high retention rate, most of our clients have been with us for over 3 years.
With that being said, even with everything we have put in place, we still struggle from time to time with virtual support relationships not working. Once you work on the inside of someone's business, you can identify quickly what the challenges have been.
For my virtual assistant coaching clients, I help open their eyes not only to the important part they play in the business operations equation but also how to think and act like a business owner themselves.
In addition, implementing simple, realistic ways to ensure they engage with clients who are in alignment with who they are and the goals they are trying to achieve.
Over the course of the past 5 years, working on both sides of the fence, the same issues keep popping up as each side points the finger to the other.
Here are the top 2 reasons why your virtual support relationships are failing and how to fix them.
1. You are not understanding the concept of a shared service.
For my entrepreneurs who are coming straight out of corporate settings, I’ll be honest, you are the most guilty of this. You have launched your business, you understand that you need support and so you have gone out and hired an amazing virtual assistant that you feel matches up with what you need to be done.
You listen loosely as they mention having other clients. You engage with them and then you still act as if you are in that corporate setting and have that support person sitting right outside your office, literally waiting for your next request.
Except, the person you hired is also a business owner, who supports other business owners and has a caseload to manage each day. More than likely, they work on each client in blocks of time and are not always available to you, at your whim.
After a month of this, you find yourself frustrated and start to say things like –“ they are never available when I need them or they always have me waiting.”
This is because you have not hired an employee, you have engaged with a business service.
On the flip side, as a VA, you have been encouraged to start your business so that you can Be Your Own Boss.
Maybe you are coming out of a situation where you felt less than appreciated and so now, you are diving in, ready to support- but on your own terms. Then with your clients, you find yourself slipping into old patterns of constantly feeling the need to be immediately responsive because you want each of your clients to feel like they are your only client.
This is the worst thing you can do to yourself as a supporter and the quickest way to burnout city. Being responsive is great, but aiming for immediate response time with all clients is
1. Impossible and
2. Actively compromises the quality of your work.
I have seen many an amazing VA, quit and go back to situations that they don’t find fulfilling, simply because they could not fix this issue within their business.
So, How do we fix this?
For the Entrepreneur, it means hiring for what you truly want and need. If you need someone to be available to you, Monday -Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm, who can drop whatever they are doing to attend to your requests, then you are looking for an employee to work with you.
If that’s not what you want and you truly want a virtual assistant – then communication is key. Ask your VA for time blocks of availability to collaborate with you and schedule a 15-30 minute call weekly to go over your goals.
For the VA, communication is key and it starts before your clients have engaged with you. It really falls to you to create your ideal day and so if you prefer to work 9 am - 3 pm and then 5 pm - 7 pm because that’s what works best for you and your lifestyle, that’s perfectly ok and the flexibility you can enjoy as a business owner.
However, sharing that with clients ahead of time so that they know how you work best, is your best bet to keeping that ideal day. Knowing you have the freedom to evolve from there.
If you work in time blocks, assign your client a time block so that they know when you are available to them and be sure to let them know if you need to change it. This is not meant for you to feel like a hostage to those time blocks, but it does help in keeping the line of communication open.
2. You are saying – but not doing.
This goes for both Entrepreneurs and Virtual Assistants.
For my entrepreneurs - Let’s be real it is easy to say – I need systems and processes. I need to know how things are done. I need my SOP’s documented so that I can go on a carefree vacation. Except, if you are asking for things to be put in place, but are not actively following those procedures, your team will follow suit - every time.
I’ve learned this in my business (and continue to) and I’ve also experienced this in other entrepreneurs business. It is something you will also need to keep a pulse on.
So if you ask that your VA set up all tasks and communicate via a project management system and you continue to assign/follow up on tasks via email, then your VA is going to follow suit.
Remember they are a business owner and are also trying to be efficient with the time you have paid for. They don’t want to double charge you for the time it takes to do your tasks and so will follow your lead if they see you are unwilling to follow the systems put in place.
For my VA’s saying you are going to do something or implement a process and then letting it float in the air of unfinished tasks is a fast track to a depleted “trust bank”. Working in a virtual environment, trust is a valued commodity and so your clients need to feel that you have their best interest at heart, which includes, letting them know if something has come up that is causing a delay in delivery.
You have to back up everything you say you are going to do for your clients, with the actions that take it to the finish line.
RELATED: What To Do When Things Go Wrong!
So How Do We Fix This?
For entrepreneurs - Choose a system you feel confident you can manage and duplicate. We hear a lot of talk about efficiency and streamlining which will make you feel like you are doing everything wrong in your business – but here is the thing, if you implement systems that do not jive with who you are, you will never follow them.
Focus on making tasks duplicatable and information readily available. Research and find systems that work for you both. Most VA’s are technologically nimble enough to work in multiple types of systems and would much prefer to get what they need from you to do the work and make you happy, rather than struggle over semantics.
For VA’s not overpromising and being honest about your limitations, whether it be bandwidth or comfort with a task. Creating internal systems in your business to ensure you can deliver, consistently and at a high level. It's ok to not say yes right away to every task and to ask for time to look at your pipeline so that you can provide a realistic timeline for delivery.
Again, it's keeping that open line of communication.
Not connecting with those two reasons? Here are some bonus reasons:
3. You are not developing real relationships - For any relationship to work, there has to be a connection and a baseline of camaraderie. Learn who and what is important to each other, so that you can support each other on this journey. You are both business owners and if you both don't feel like you are in this together, then more than likely the relationship will not stick.
4. You did not have a good onboarding. - You dove right into doing without understanding what the goal of your working relationship was. Or maybe you did not identify goals for the first 30 days of working together. If your onboarding was clunky and confusing and the goal of working together is unclear, then that is a recipe for disaster. The great thing is, this is an easy fix! Someone has to be brave enough to speak up, pump the breaks! Give yourselves permission to start over fresh, define what success looks like for working together and get all the resources you need from each other to make it work.
5. You engaged with the wrong person and are “trying to make it work.” - Sometimes it just is what it is. You went into this with the best intentions but for whatever reason, it's just not working and trying to force it is making it worse. This can happen from the beginning or it can evolve after a time of working together. Either way, know when to call it quits and move on before any damage is done.
I hope that what I've shared with you today will help turn the tide in your current and future virtual support relationships. When it works, its the most beautiful and rewarding of working relationships and is the future of business.
Cheering for you both!
Your Virtual Biz Bestie
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