Virtual Assistants, or VAs, are hardly discussed in the Digital Marketing industry, but they are every entrepreneur's secret weapon. We avoid bragging about our assistants because we don't want them getting poached by other folks. And poaching does happen, because finding and retaining a rockstar virtual assistant is not easy! A lot of time goes into building the relationship, fostering trust, and together creating the systems that allow you to run a business smoothly. And for VAs, the learning and networking opportunities that come from being the right hand of an entrepreneur are invaluable. Combine that with the immense perk of working from home, and flexible hours, means that for VAs, they can really focus on learning and working on their growth while assisting successful entrepreneurs.
Today, I am going to share with you some of the most critical attributes to a virtual assistant, based on this recent interview on my podcast, The Optimized Geek, where I interviewed my former rockstar VA, Carolyn Ketchum. What should you look for? These are my top qualities:
This is the number one quality you need to look for in a VA. Both Carolyn and I agreed on this point. Typically, you'll know it within the first couple of days you work together, whether someone will be a trustworthy person with integrity. Ideally, you want to know this before even hiring them, using personality profiling and clever interviewing. You want someone you can trust not only with your sensitive information, but also someone to represent you as they communicate with your clients. Owning up to mistakes, taking responsibility for their work, and keeping their word on deadlines are just some of the ways you can positively assess a person's honesty and integrity.
2. Attention to detail
While you are out there either doing business or building your brand, you need to be able to focus on the big picture, and not get bogged down by the details. A good VA will be super attentive to detail, which both gives you peace of mind and makes your job 10X easier. From everything to typos and grammar, to making sure all the pieces of a project are completed, to scheduling calls correctly even when there are multiple parties and time zones involved, VAs have sharp attention to details and are able to catch smoke before there is fire.
Find someone who is not afraid to speak up, make suggestions, or even keep you in line! A good VA should always be one step ahead of his or her boss. While they are super attentive to details, they can also step outside, look at the big picture, and spot where something is failing. If they see a big gap in a project, or a contractor is turning in work late or not at all, they are able to address the issues rather than place blame on the other person. If they see a new system or way of doing things that could improve productivity in your business, they bring it up and suggest to try it out.
4. "The Buck Stops Here" Level of Accountability
When I went away on a (rare for me) vacation, a critical technical issue came up with a client, and they started freaking out. Carolyn asked one of my senior contractors how to address the issue, and relayed it to my client - by acting as myself through email. It was a bold move but at that point, there was complete trust in our relationship, and she ended up putting out a fire that I didn't even need to be involved in. You need to learn to let go and trust that your VA can handle things. Even if it's not 100% how you would have done something, nobody wants a micromanager. And for peace of mind for both you and your VA, check out time tracking software such as UpWork or TimeDoctor, which monitors screenshots and keystrokes when an employee logs in. This helps keep your VAs accountable, and you are able to track time based on projects, and see where you can be more efficient.
VAs do more than fill in the gaps, they keep your business running. Sometimes, as in my case, my VAs even work on my personal life, such as helping me find an apartment when I moved across the country or a "task rabbit" (another great service you need to know about) to come in and assemble some Ikea furniture for me. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you have to recognize what your highest best use is, and whatever tasks don't meet that threshold, those are the tasks to delegate. For me, I delegate posting on social media, and even managing my email inbox - I simply don't do it, because it is not my highest best use. My VAs can post for me, and file my inbox so that I only see important messages in a folder (or in Gmail-speak, a label) called 'Action'. FYI-type emails get placed into 'Read/Review' and everything else goes into 'Archives'.
I always have multiple VAs working for me, partly because there are so many different projects going on at one time, and because the truth is, when you do find that killer VA, they will ultimately leave you, as they continue to grow and pursue their passions. You have to be prepared for that, and just hope that you get several years in before they go. Redundancy is key. You never want to have a single point of failure in your business, and having only one VA would definitely qualify as such. To that point, I'm always on the lookout for rockstar virtual assistants. They are rarer than a Vaporeon in Central Park (apologies for the gratuitous Pokemon Go reference). Fancy yourself a rockstar VA? Then we need to talk! For you entrepreneurs: a highly skilled VA (or ideally, a small army of them) is something you can't afford to be without, enabling you to work on your business while they work in your business.