Managing Business with a Global Team of Virtual Assistants
Since the global economic crisis of 2007, companies have been looking for ways and means to manage the costs of operations without affecting or compromising the quality of service. Especially for owners of small business enterprises, the challenge would be to stay within cost parameters while implementing programs to improve income.
The need to reduce costs has increased the demand for outsourcing particularly for data entry services, personal assistant services and other online assistance work. For a small business owner with limited funds it would be best for him or her to hire remote workers in order to stretch his resources.
Managing a team of global Virtual Assistants offers a number of benefits to the business owner. The first and most obvious benefit is lower operational costs. Not only will there be cost advantages in salaries but the business owner does not have to allocate funds for benefits, rent, electricity, internet charges.
Is it possible to run a company entirely with a global team of Virtual Assistants?
Second, by not having to work under the conventional corporate structure, a VA does not have to deal with the bureaucracy and usual office politics which delay the decision-making process.
Third, if the members of the global virtual team are differentiated by time zones, it is quite possible for the team to work on the project 24/7. For example, if the business owner is from Canada, he or she can have remote workers from the Philippines. Since there is a 12 hour differential, the team from the Philippines can perform their duties and responsibilities after Canada’s working hours.
But having one Virtual Assistant alone presents challenges for the business owner in terms of managing differences in work ethics, expectations, cultural and societal nuances. If the team is made up of people from a diverse cultural set spread across the globe, these challenges are magnified by the number of virtual assistants in the team.
For sure managing a virtual team is not the same as managing a team of office-based workers. The business owner does not have to overhaul his management approach. But he almost certainly has to learn new skills and understand that his current style of management should allow flexibility.
Things to consider when managing a virtual team
1. Centralized Organization – Considering the differences in culture, distance, social norms and values, the team will benefit from having a centralized form of organization. The business owner must appoint a single member of the team to be the leader or Project Manager. The task of the Project Manager is to maintain order within the group and to ensure all team members are fulfilling their assigned duties and responsibilities. The Project Manager shall report directly to the business owner and discuss the team’s performance and other relevant issues.
2. Transformative Decision-Making – Business is conducted differently throughout the world. In North America, decisions are made after a few consultations unlike in Europe where discussions could take more than one session. In Asia, the decision-making process takes place in informal settings as Asians prefer to adopt a more casual approach. The business owner will have to re-orient his decision-making approach and be more mindful of cultural and societal influences. People will react differently to stimuli whether it is criticism, recognition or mere discussion of events and issues.
3. Performance Tracking – Trust is the most important quality to have in any relationship. Parties who have trust issues with each other will never move forward or find progress in their arrangement. Lack of trust will inhibit the overall performance of the group. Trust required human interaction which is not possible in the virtual world. Tracking performance using a holistic framework is critical in establishing criteria for productive work. In addition to statistics and accuracy metrics, there must be data available to measure behavioral patterns such as work ethic, discipline and commitment. Good measures would include timeliness of submitting work, adherence to work schedules and consistency in managing new duties and responsibilities.
4. Frequency of Contact– The business owner must schedule regular meetings with his virtual team in order to keep everyone abreast with the progress of the campaign, latest developments and pressing issues. The meeting gives the team members a venue to discuss related issues and concerns if any. The meeting must be scheduled at a time and date that is convenient for everyone.
It appears difficult but it is possible to run businesses entirely with a team of Virtual Assistants. The business owner must be willing to learn new skills and become more open-minded in adapting different, more innovative strategies to management.