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You have decided that outsourcing administrative tasks is the way forward – great! But why outsource to me? What can I offer? Well, the following is an account of an episode in my life that helped me to appreciate not only how fantastic a resource the Virtual Assistant is, but also how difficult it can be for the small business owner to make that first step that will, ultimately, make such a positive impact!
Heading to New Zealand
At the beginning of 2013, I found myself living in New Zealand. Okay, it didn’t quite happen overnight, but just after Christmas 2012, we packed our worldly goods into a container and headed to Auckland.
My husband hails from the North Shore of Auckland. In New Zealand he would jokingly be referred to as a “JAFA” (“Just Another F*****g Aucklander”) but having been away for twenty-odd years, he was feeling the pull of family and heritage. So, with a feeling of “it’s now or never”, we headed down – under.
Having sorted out a rental property and schooling for our daughter, the big question was “so…how exactly are we going to pay the bills?”
Small Business Assistance needed!
To cut a long story short, we found ourselves the proud owners of a business; a café set within an old fruit orchard. Sound idyllic? We thought so until we took possession and realised that there were no administrative records, no “proper” accounts…simply no systems in place at all. (Having been involved previously in the sale of a UK company, I naively assumed that the process of due diligence in New Zealand would be similar to the UK. I was wrong!) I will never forget receiving a call from the Ministry of Justice, enquiring why fines which were supposed to be garnished out of a staff member’s wages had not been paid. Fines? Who knew there were outstanding fines? Where were the records? Answer – there weren’t any!
Bringing order to the chaos – Outsourcing administrative tasks
Now came the less than idyllic task of bringing some order to the chaos. A total revamp needed, a complete re-branding, as well as a review of existing staff numbers (too many), were the order of the day. Why a cafe I hear you ask? Well, my husband is a Chef and a pretty darn good one at that! While he handled menu planning, costing and any number of other practical tasks, I put on my PA hat, pulled up my big girl pants and put my administrative skills to the test! When I looked at the mountain of administrative tasks waiting, how I wish I had had the opportunity to outsource to a Virtual Assistant! I would have jumped at the chance to have some business support in those early days. There were so many jobs that I could have outsourced to a freelance administrator of some kind. From contacting suppliers and setting up service contracts to fielding the necessary registrations with official organisations. To have had the opportunity of outsourcing administrative tasks, like typing menus, creating advertising copy or creating and managing our social media pages, would have saved me so much time and effort and allowed me the freedom to devote more time to growing our business in those crucial early days.
Handing over the reins to a Virtual Assistant
However, I didn’t have access to this fantastic resource, and, if I had, would I have been reticent in handing over the reins to a “complete outsider”? How would they have been able to appreciate the importance of this venture to my husband and me? Would I even have felt able to delegate to someone who wasn’t directly involved?
I guess this sentiment is at the heart of any small business owner’s feelings. You start a business because you believe that you can make a difference in your own small way. Because you believe in success. You are prepared to do whatever it takes; to nurture and to build and consequently, giving up a small part of control to a virtual personal assistant seems so difficult.
I became so wrapped up in fielding all the routine tasks that I convinced myself that these were tasks that only I could do. Coming from a marketing background, I had clear ideas of where I needed to be and the promotional steps I needed to take in order to get us to the top of the rankings and to be the “go-to” place for great coffee (a New Zealand passion) and fantastic food. But I became frustrated because I did not have the time to dedicate to this and to commit to the marketing footwork that as we all know, can be so time-consuming. But what I failed to appreciate was that I could have outsourced any number of activities, which would have then given me time to dedicate to growing our business, increasing our custom and, had I but realised it, given us back some leisure time. Time that we could have spent exploring our new home and reconnecting with friends and family.
Tips for hiring a Virtual Assistant
My advice to anyone facing this dilemma would be to start small. Start to build a relationship with your chosen VA by talking to him/her. Explain your business and your plans so they can get a feel for your aims and ambitions and, ultimately, a feel for YOU. Equally, how they respond to you should give you an idea of whether you would feel comfortable working with them. Maybe “test the waters” with a small, relatively “unimportant” task to start with. If they complete this effectively, can you move on and trust them with something more significant? A good Virtual Assistant will ensure the lines of communication remain open, will report on progress and deliver what you want at the agreed time. If you are concerned about how a Virtual Assistant will “get” your business, don’t be – Don’t forget that this is what a Virtual Assistant does, 24/7/365! They are used to dipping in and out of businesses as necessary and are therefore skilled at grasping the essence of a business in double quick time. That is one of the skills that sets a good Virtual Assistant or Virtual PA apart from an employed administrator who requires training and introducing gradually to the ethos and workings of a company.
This made me a better VA!
So, in conclusion, my time in New Zealand was invaluable when I returned to the UK and set up my VA business. Not only did I gain loads of different experience that I couldn’t possibly have gained here in the UK, but I now see things from both sides. I have been that small business owner, who is overwhelmed by administrative tasks. I have felt the frustration of having so much to do and so little time and the awareness that I should be promoting and growing my business, but instead, am forced to tether myself to a never-ending list of administration. I have experienced the over-protectiveness that comes from establishing and working in and on “your baby” for every hour of the day and this has given me a real insight into the struggles that my clients and potential clients face in handling aspects of their business administration over to me. I appreciate just what their business means to them and, in turn, I think that makes me a better, more empathic Virtual Assistant.
If you feel you are in a similar position and would like more information on how I can help you with outsourcing administrative tasks, then please contact me and I would be happy to discuss ways in which I can assist.