Turn Your Business Around with a Virtual Assistant

One of the most important yet overlooked skills in running a business is the ability to organize. Most business owners dive right into the primary item on the day’s agenda not mindful of the other tasks and responsibilities that may have already piled up the past few weeks.

Business owners tend to rank tasks based on priority and these are usually those that directly relate to the main enterprise. Items such as bills, notices, credit payments and those with a “due date” are swept on the wayside and will remain unattended until the business owner receives official notification. By then, chaos erupts as the business owner scrambles to squeeze in time between meetings to fund long overdue obligations only to discover there isn’t enough money because he or she didn’t find time to manage cash flow and transfer placements from time deposits to the savings account.

Organization creates efficiency in the work place and efficiency means more productive time. But try as they may, organization may not be a strong point for most business owners. Hiring a secretary or a personal assistant is a good idea but if the enterprise has limited access to funding and needs to stay within a budget, a better option is to hire a Virtual Assistant.

A VA is a person who has been contracted to perform a set of duties and responsibilities from a remote location. The structure of the working relationship is not an employer-employee but client – service provider. They are usually paid per productive hour or only for the time spent for the client although there are some arrangements where compensation is based on an agreed-upon completion time-table for the project.

Fundamental reasons why your business will do better, with a virtual assistant

The costs of hiring a virtual employee is much lower because there is no need to pay benefits or cover expenses for rent, utilities and internet charges. Companies that want to streamline expenses often set up virtual teams to handle back office services such as accounting, payroll preparation, data entry, data management, IT support, administrative support and transcription services. Front end services such as inbound and outbound live calling, e-mail and chat support have also been primarily outsourced to virtual teams.

Technology and globalization have made it possible to access talent from other parts of the world where labor costs are lower. In the last decade, the Philippines and India have been the primary destinations for outsourcing.

But there are risks in acquiring online assistance.

As a virtual employee, it will be difficult to oversee work done or account for the actual productive hours spent on the project. A solution would be to conduct work in a platform that provides a virtual workroom. The virtual workroom logs in the hours and has an integrated program that takes random snapshots of the online worker’s computer screen. These virtual workrooms incur a cost of normally 8.5% to 10% of total fees. But still saves more money and generates efficiency.

There is also the question of trust. How much and what types of work should be assigned to someone who lives in the virtual world but resides thousands of miles away where the client has no clue of prevailing best business practices.

Trust is a quality that requires time. Trust needs to go through a process of hardships and victories, of failures and triumphs, through sickness and health, for better or poorer until terms of contracts do they part.

The best approach is to go through the conservative route and begin the engagement with personal assistant services which are more secretarial in coverage. These include scheduling of appointments, managing the calendar, tracking of billing statements from suppliers and creditors, dictation, transcription and preparation of select communication. For e-mail correspondences, it would be best to open and assign an e-mail address where the password is provided and can only be changed by the client.

Communication is also essential. Both client and service provider must be accessible by mobile communication or an online platform such as Skype. Weekly meetings must also be scheduled to update each party of developments. These meetings can be held in online platforms such as WebEx which provide virtual conference rooms.

Just like any relationship, it takes years to build trust more so in the virtual world.

Incorporating virtual assistants allows the business owner the time to focus on the main enterprise without compromising his or her other obligations. Despite the risks, the benefits of having a virtual assistant far outweigh the costs and it is a proven way to keep the business organized.