How Hiring a Virtual Assistant Can Help Your BusinessEditorial Team
For a small business owner, there’s temptation to handle every aspect of your business by yourself. This happens in most cases whether you are starting or have been running the business for a while. Letting go of different aspects of your business is not easy. However, hiring a virtual assistant could be just what you need to take your business to the next level.
Tricia Sciortino is the CEO of Belay, a virtual/remote staffing agency that has been operational since 2010. She spoke to Smart Hustle about her company. She also shed light on just how important it is to hire a virtual assistant to help keep things in order.
More about Belay
Belay has been in business for a decade now and staffs primarily virtual assistants for clients.
The agency helps clients:
- Find the right talent
- Vet prospects
- Train and prepare talent
- Source these professionals for business owners
Aside from virtual assistants, Belay has other services such as bookkeeping, social media strategy and website design.
What does it mean to be a virtual assistant?
According to Tricia, a virtual assistant is just the same as an executive assistant. They are just not physically in your office. In the past, these executive assistants would be right where you could see them, in front of your office. Today, they don’t have to be seated right there as they can work remotely.
According to Tricia:
“Belay was founded on the concept that you can get an executive assistant that works virtually anywhere and you get the same level of support.”
That said, the two words executive assistant and virtual assistant became synonymous over time.
Why you should consider hiring a virtual assistant?
Most people who reach out to Belay are first-time business owners that have reached critical mass. They have been doing a bit of everything, trying to juggle doing the invoices, sales, bookkeeping, and marketing, among other roles. Usually, they approach Belay because they’ve hit a wall and would like to regain focus.
“As a business owner, you need to place a high focus on ticket pay-off items to grow and get out of the weeds.”
This is to say that there are many things we do during the day that actually other people can do for us. These things specifically do not require your skillset or your time. And in most cases, someone else can do them better.
Tricia advises that it’s time to get rid of the small stuff because your focus should be on things such as sales, networking, forecast and strategy. Regardless of the size of your company, you should get an executive assistant or a virtual assistant.
Top 5 Tasks to Give a VA
According to Tricia, the following are the services most sought at Belay:
- Calendars. These always hit the top three every time because organizing one takes time.
- Email. While organizing emails takes a lot of time, several people have trouble relinquishing email control. However, not all emails need you. Someone else could answer or delete some of them for you accordingly.
- Travel planning
- Project management. Leaders have a hard time keeping up with these. As such, you need someone to do follow-ups. According to Tricia, even remembering to do follow-ups is a thing.
What’s the difference between a personal assistant and a virtual assistant?
Tricia says that the majority of the people who come onboard need assistants to be their personal assistants. However, there’s a portion of the work that goes into company support or team support.
You can also have an executive assistant but sometimes a given project might require you to hire a virtual assistant. The virtual assistant will help you in doing the follow-ups for that specific project.
You might be looking to hire someone to support four people or executives in your company. However, sometimes instead of having a specific salary for just one person, Belay can fractionalize it. This means instead of having this one person supporting the four executives, you get four assistants to support the four.
Belay prefers to have it this way so that everyone gets a dedicated virtual assistant instead of a shared person. This is because all these different people that need support have different personalities. They have different work that they need to get done.
2 Major Reasons Hiring a Virtual Assistant Fails
Some things could go wrong in the relationship between a virtual assistant and an employer.
Tricia says the biggest breaks lie in communication and availability.
Tricia suggests looking at it as a give-and-take relationship. As such, you should invest in the success of your virtual assistant. The more your assistant succeeds the better service you get.
“Several people treat this relationship like a transactional one, which it isn’t. That’s where the big break is.”
You should make it a point to meet with your virtual assistant on a one-on-one basis, on camera. This ensures that they get the answers to any questions they might have. Tricia emphasizes that “no employee is going to thrive if you don’t give them the time they need.”
If your virtual assistant needs to do something for you but needs you to make a decision for them to advance, don’t be the roadblock. You should be available.
That said, there are also expectations of a virtual assistant. They need to be responsive, detail-oriented, proactive and available as well. They should always be ahead of the client.
The Importance of Compensation
Tricia says, “It’s like the old adage, you get what you pay for.” You need to compensate your assistants accordingly if you want quality assistants and quality team members. You want people to work hard for you.
What sets Belay apart?
Considering the many options that business owners can turn to, there must be something that sets Belay apart. What is it?
According to Tricia hiring is hard and involves a lot of detail from posting jobs to going through resumes and interviewing. In some cases, you hire someone and realize they are not the right fit. Belay takes all that on for you.
“We take on the whole HR component of that. You simply come to Belay and tell us what you need to have done. ‘I need you to do my calendar and my email and I need help with some project coordination. Here’s what my business is and here’s my work style. Here’s the kind of assistant I like,’ and we take it from there.”
So what differentiates Belay is that they will do the sourcing, vetting, testing, skills assessing, onboarding and assimilation. Belay always has a pool of virtual assistants ready and waiting. They have been pre-sourced, pre-vetted, and pre-prepared for their clients.
Belay takes your preferences and uses their behavioral matching systems with hard and soft skill sets. Based on industry, style, communication method, location, and criteria matching, they find your fit from their 200 virtual assistants. Belay will then inform you when they find your match and assign you a Client Success Consultant. This will be your contact person at Belay.
Belay also provides all the resources needed for their virtual assistants to grow their skill set. They have a contract community. Here they are always investing and resourcing their contractors with tools, training, webinars, and so on to enable these virtual assistants to grow. Belay is always looking to support them over time.
Why don’t people hire virtual assistants?
When asked why entrepreneurs don’t hire virtual assistants or take time to go that direction Tricia says:
- Sometimes it’s funding. Sometimes they are young and don’t want to dedicate resources to bringing anyone on board.
- Most of the people Belay sees are people who don’t want to delegate tasks and feel responsible for doing it all. You just have to ask yourself, “do you want to do things halfway great?” Realize that ideally, if you’re growing, your workload grows too. You need to calibrate quarterly and reset expectations, letting some things go.
You don’t have to let everything go all at once. After hiring a virtual assistant, allow them to watch some of the things you do. That way they get enough visibility. When you’re ready to delegate, they’re able to handle the tasks accordingly.
“Get out of your own way. We’re not put on this earth to do everything alone. Sometimes we need support and sometimes that’s in a system.”
More about Tricia
Tricia is the CEO of Belay, a virtual staffing agency that’s been around for a decade. She is also the host of a podcast called One Next Step. She studied Business Administration and Management. Tricia worked as the District Manager for Pacific Wear, a retail chain before starting Belay.
From her knowledge and experience spanning over a decade, she empowers leaders and helps them achieve their organization’s vision. Tricia is passionate about helping people in owning and forging their own professional development.
Sophie Atieno has been working in marketing and communications for four years. She has experience working in the advertising and health industries mostly performing digital marketing roles for the organizations she has worked for. She is also a freelance copy and content writer and has been blogging for over four years. In her free time, she enjoys filming and video editing. Her most recent position was as the digital manager at a social and digital marketing agency in Nairobi, Kenya.