Setting the tone, Barbara starts by conveying that she has 12 Virtual Assistants that directly support her, plus some additional 30 to 40 who support clients (based in the Philippines).
The Philippines I fact produce some of the best VAs that can be found, nevertheless, Barbara points out that finding one is not as easy as it may initially seem.
Most people got their skills out of having worked previously as a VA and not necessarily from having been properly trained and the resumes can be tricky since they mirror such type of experience, which may be deceiving.
That is why Virtual Angels start by training the VAs making sure that the required skill set is acquired.
Why resort to Virtual Angel Hub over an online platform when about to hire a VA?
Barbara humbly acknowledges having started herself on a Freelancing online platform, and while doing Business Coaching to company heads she realized the biggest problem those people had was not having enough time to perform what the business required of them.
Barbara then started recruiting some Virtual Assistants to support them. Soon she realized another challenge which was the need of having the Virtual Assistant and the Client “in the same frequency”, aligned and sharing a common work process that would be comfortable and productive for both.
One key point towards this pertains the effective knowledge about dealing and working with some software tools and online Cloud based apps, like Infusion Soft or other, and some VAs would come forward and say that had experience on those but the level was not suitable.
At this point Barbara started to train both the VAs and the Client on the tools and delegation processes, so the most value could be gathered out of the VA’s work.
So, clients choose to hire Virtual Angel Hub because they realize they will get the added value of training and coaching which will ensure the best fit VA supporting them.
How to set a VA proactive mindset and attitude?
It is challenging in the Philippines, since culturally you are not expected to question your boss or client about his/ her choices nor to act and be proactive, rather waiting for instructions. So, the cultural barrier is there.
One of the focal areas of Virtual Angel Hub training actions is precise to enable VAs to have a strategic approach on how to overcome challenges.
Then the hiring rate of Virtual Angel Hub is also of about 2%, meaning there is a focal concern in choosing people that are not just suitable in terms of practical knowledge but have the right attitude or are open minded enough to overcome their cultural barriers.
Nevertheless there are clients, on the other hand, who just want someone who can follow strict instructions, dedicating themselves to fulfilling the task while making sure they go through it with accuracy.
Skills can be learned, not enthusiasm, proactiveness or initiative
Barbara confesses that recruiting is a really hard, time-consuming and basically difficult process, where luck plays a role, yet you cannot and must not rely on it.
Virtual Angel Hub has a recruiting program that takes from 6 to 8 weeks comprehending:
- A detailed battery of tests
- An interview process (meeting some team members)
- A training process with milestones that will exclude unfit candidates
Again the main focus of the entire program is to force personal trades to surface since although it is easy to hide those over an interview, it is very hard to do so over such a long interaction process.
The program is also most helpful at matching the candidates’ strongest skill set with most appropriate work contexts.
Full time VA versus Part-Time VA
With few exceptions, a VA will assure the execution of continuous regular tasks that are needed to support the client’s activity, and under such context is makes little sense to go for a part-time solution.
This also accounts for accuracy and effectiveness for it allows one given VA not to work in more than two or 3 contracts instead of 7 or 8, amongst which there may be very distinct requirements.
Initially the goal was to have 1 contract per VA, but the reality in the Philippines is that if you enforce that, they will end up working the extra time on their own for other clients and there is really no way to prevent that, other than giving them a workload that fills their work schedule.
Time Zone factor management
Although having initially allowed VAs to work over night shifts, and in fact in the Philippines there is a massive workforce who does that, currently no VA works for Virtual Angel Hub from their midnight through 5 a.m., and the main reason is because most have a work from home model and it is motivationally counterproductive to be at your home in the middle of the night working for someone across the world with whom you may not interact so frequently.
So, the advice to clients is that unless they absolutely have the need to communicate with the VA on a frequent basis over the course of the work day, it is better to fine tune the work process so the VA may work during his/ her day period, with some touch base meetings at the beginning and/or end of the day.
Communication is the absolute pillar of success, so here are some key points:
- Refrain from using email – the memo style communication form does not work, use Trello, Team Work or another project tool.
- Define the communication Style - some clients have several meetings a day and do not enjoy being constantly interrupted by their VA, and that leads to fast wear and tear in the relationship, so it is mandatory to establish in advance the best-fit communication style.
- Daily Touch base - establish a daily short and focused meeting on: WHAT have you done, WHAT comes next in your work schedule and WHERE do you need help?
- Never, ever cancel the daily Touch base - Unless a major catastrophic event just took place do not cancel the meeting.
Clients also need to be Trained and Coached
Onboarding someone and conveying the Organisation culture is not easy and Virtual Angel Hub has developed several processes that can assist their clients with that.
Virtual Angel Hub’s portfolio focuses on Social Media, Digital Marketing, and Systems Automation and the main reason why pertains the need to focus the offering in a market vertical that can literally comprehend hundreds of functions within a VA scope, Barbara gives the example of an accountant role which can be performed by a VA.
Additionally, having three focal areas is a major leverage towards the effectiveness of training actions, hence the quality of VAs that result from those.
Although Outsourcing is not something new in the market, along with the VA concept, it has become very fashionable in recent times, Barbara points out that in one hand globalization is a fact with companies like Uber and Airbnb and other; on the other hand, having an online presence nowadays is mandatory for the majority of businesses.
The Digital era represented an added layers of required management work and therefore stress towards business owners and decision makers and Outsourcing is really capable of providing a suitable cost-effective solution to such challenges.
Some people in the business are afraid of AI and the impact it will have towards the VA market, nevertheless, Barbara perceives it as an enabler to having VAs focusing on more creative work while AI deals with tasks that are repetitive and can be automated.
Communication will make or break your success in Outsourcing
Level of detail on instructions
Not enough won’t do it as much as too much.
It is a learning process where people need to adapt to each other, learning from it and fine tuning the interaction process.
Investing the required time in getting an effective communication framework in place may well be the most relevant investment you can make.
Level of detail on instructions
Virtual Angel Hub has been successful with companies that have a large online presence. And having a sense of structure really helps; this implies:
- Having a proper corporate structure
- Have a strategy in place
- Have clearly defined processes
- Are willing to learn and grow from it (mainly delegating wise)
There have been cases of clients whose operation is so chaotic that not even coaching is possible