Thoughts, cool links and inspiration for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners
The life of an entrepreneur revealed – and
24% of those who employ staff are still doing their own bookkeeping
Posted on Tuesday November 29, 2016
When Time Etc founder Barnaby Lashbrooke was setting up his first business, he found himself bogged down by jobs that weren’t in the interests of his company to have him doing.
You’ve never find a Fortune 500 CEO sorting out digital filing systems, late payers and tweaking HR documents, but that’s exactly what many small businesses owners are doing every working day.
Barnaby said: “These jobs were large enough to hire someone in to do, so they fell to me. I didn’t want to pass them over to someone who had been hired for a non-administrative job; they might feel unappreciated.
“I was spending about an hour a day on these tasks. It was an hour that I could have spent planning our growth strategy or seeing friends and family.”
It was this that sparked the idea for Time Etc: clever outsourcing for time-strapped entrepreneurs.
A recent survey we commissioned via YouGov clearly shows the extent of this problem in the US, where 20% of people now identify themselves as entrepreneurs. This figure rises to 22% amongst 18-34 year olds.
Interestingly, almost half (44%) of those who identify as entrepreneurs are the sole workers in their business, and they cover all roles.
But the problem of dedicating too much time to administrative tasks is not just a problem for sole traders, as our research uncovered. Of the remaining 56% of US entrepreneurs who do employ people:
• Almost a quarter (24%) do their own bookkeeping, almost a fifth (19%) are also HR managers, a quarter (25%) do their own public relations, a third (32%) do their own operations management, 35% do their own sales, and 32% are also creative directors
• 23% said operations management is their most time-consuming role, 20% said it was sales, and 16% said it was creative direction
• Younger entrepreneurs are more sales driven than older business owners: among 18-34 year old entrepreneurs, the most time-consuming role is sales (25%) followed by creative direction (19%)
The table below shows what American entrepreneurs who employ people are spending (or perhaps wasting) the most time on:
Survey of 4,174 US adults aged 18+, collected by YouGov on 29 Aug - 1 Sep 2016 for Time etc
The Right Virtual Assistant is Waiting for You
Posted on Monday September 12, 2016
You know it’s the right time for help – your business is growing, and requires your focused attention on the big issues like developing strategy, scaling growth and developing clients. The little things are starting to slip through the cracks, or you’re simply too busy and exhausted to want to handle daily basic tasks to support your business. You need a Virtual Assistant (VA) to stay on track.
But now that you know you need a VA, how do you find the right VA?
First, approach your search for a VA just as if you were hiring in-house for the person at the next desk. A diligent approach to hiring will save you time and effort both in the near and long-term. With a little care, you’ll find someone who truly fits your evolving company culture, is able to get the work done, and in time will be able to take the lead, answering your needs before you’ve even articulated them to yourself.
Second, scope out the work you know you need done right now. Write out a job description, specifying if you want a VA who does admin (email management, travel booking, appointment scheduling), interact with clients via phone or email, take responsibility for your website or social media, or some combination of all of the above.
Lay out as clearly as possible the immediate work load, then use that to extrapolate the skills you need: writing, Excel, phone communication… You may discover that while you want someone who can return customer calls, what’s most important is that they have strong interpersonal skills.
Then, think a little broader. Down the road, what can you envision your VA doing? After the person gets to know you and your business, is there a direction you’d like them to grow?
Perhaps six months from now, you want your VA to be able to go from returning customer calls to setting up a database of customer information for use in targeting marketing campaigns. Having a vision of the future you want with a VA will help immeasurably in finding someone who can grow with you long-term, or will make it clear that you’d benefit in time from building a team approach to your tasks. If you need both email management and someone who can build your website, you might want to be matched with several Vas.
Then, ask yourself how you would prefer to interact with your VA. Is it important for them to work the same hours as you or your clients or are the tasks you need done flexible? How do you best communicate? Whether you prefer to Skype, text, speak on the phone or use email, it’s important to find someone who is comfortable communicating in your preferred manner.
Finally, give thought to what you see as your company culture and personality. Identify a few personal qualities that you work well with or which are essential for you to feel satisfied by an employee. Do they need to be very communicative? Detail-oriented? Creative? Able to take direction or to forge ahead on their own? Sure, we all want someone who can do it all, but try to come up with 3-5 qualities that are absolutely necessary. Then write it all down.
At this point, you have an incredibly helpful document that will point you in the direction of your ideal VA. Time Etc. offers a broad and deep bench of highly talented professionals. We will be happy to suggest a few qualified individuals for you to interview, or select someone for you. And rest assured, down the road as your business grows we can help you establish an entire team of assistants that bring any skills you need.
So think big! The VA that will change your life and your business is out there. With a little prep work and thought, you and Time Etc. will find them together.
Take the “Virtual” Out of VA:
5 Tips to Working Together Well
Posted on Tuesday August 02, 2016
Teams evolve – it’s a basic truth in both sports and business. One of the best ways to evolve your team and take your business to the next level is to bring in a virtual assistant. They can take on the tasks that you don’t need to do, freeing you up to focus on leadership and growing your business.
Working with a virtual assistant is a learned skill and an incredibly helpful one. Learning to work successfully with a VA will not only benefit that partnership but every other person you lead or work with in the future.
We’re happy to share a few key ideas that will jumpstart the partnership and keep you and your VA on track. Here are our top 5 tips to make it feel like your VA is at the desk right next to yours.
1. Have Clear Expectations and Communicate Them
Write. It. Down. Truly – ambiguity or not knowing exactly what you want will hobble your VA, limiting their effectiveness.
Taking the time to write out your goals in the partnership, what outcomes you want, and how you like to work will lay the groundwork for success for both of you. Focus on telling your VA what you DO want, rather than what you don’t.
Also, check in with your expectations. Any transition has its bumps and wobbles. Recognize that there will be ups and downs and allow for it. Interestingly enough, the more accepting you are of the realities of transition, the faster and easier the transition will be.
2. Establish your workflow early.
This – and really all 4 of the remaining tips – results directly from how well you’ve clarified and communicated your needs and expectations. Address specific issues like the hours you want your VA to be available, if it matters, and the level of responsiveness you need.
You can ask your VA to send weekly (or monthly or daily) updates on the tasks they’ve done and how long each took, as well as any questions or concerns. Find a comfortable shared working environment, whether it’s Google docs, Dropbox, or another system, then stick with it long enough for everyone to acclimate.
3. Give very detailed instructions.
Assume nothing. Be specific. Your VA WANTS to learn enough about your business to be able to react instinctively and correctly, but that takes time and education. The more detail you can share up front with your VA, the faster they will be able to anticipate your needs.
Recognize that there are an infinite number of ways to do most tasks with different industry standards; your VA won’t necessarily automatically do the task YOUR way unless you tell them clearly what you want. If you can show an example of the finished product or a step-by-step breakdown, that will make life easier for everyone and get you the results you want faster. One great way to make sure your VA understands what you want is to ask them to verify and repeat back to you what they think the task is.
4. Make Communication a Priority.
Abundant, clear, respectful communication is critical to a great partnership with your VA. You probably have your preferred method of communication – email, text, phone calls – and your VA will be happy to accommodate that. But keep in mind that they have natural communication preferences as well. Your VA may learn best from a quick phone call, or work better with written instructions. Especially in the first stages of the partnership, work together to ensure that you are communicating in ways that suit both of you to maximize efficiency.
Allow your VA two to three times longer to do a task in the beginning then it would take you – they have a learning curve too, and will become faster with time and experience. Also, check in on longer tasks when they are 10-30% done. This allows your VA to ask any questions that have come up as they started the task, and lets you update any instructions that might have been unclear or ineffective.
5. Reward What You Value
Giving your VA feedback is integral to success. Too frequently, though, we all focus on what needs fixing rather than what worked out well. Praise the things your VA did right, and they will bend over backward to do them again for you, whether its timeliness, presentation, content, or creativity. Consider yourself partly their mentor, as well as their boss, and your VA will blossom.
Working with a VA can be an incredibly efficient and rewarding experience. Taking the time to start off on the right foot at the beginning will quickly take the “virtual” out of Virtual Assistant. With a little effort and a few best practices, you’ll quickly feel that they are right next door!
Take 28% of Your Work Day Back:
Easy Steps to Outsource Email
Posted on Thursday June 30, 2016
Would you like to free up 28% of your workday? (http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/the-social-economy) That’s 13 hours if you work a 40-hour week, and as a busy entrepreneur, it’s highly unlikely you are working only 40 hours a week – sometimes, it probably it feels like 40 hours a day! Imagine having all those hours back and what you could do with them… all you have to do is stop reading and answering your email.
That’s enough to strike terror into the boldest heart. We’ve come a long way from the first excitement of You’ve Got Mail and now live with a constant deluge of missives coming in from everyone, ranging from your dry cleaner to your clients, to your family. The thought of separating from this flood of information is enough to start the shakes in most of us – “How will I survive? Won’t things be missed? I can’t NOT answer email!”
To take the email millstone from around your neck, all you need is a Virtual Assistant (VA), some basic rules, and a willingness to communicate clearly.
- Decide your goal. Do you want to have someone take over your entire inbox or only handle routine emails? You can start with the latter and work towards the former over time, as you build trust and train your Virtual Assistant.
- Depending on your goal, you need to configure your email set up to allow the appropriate amount of access. That might mean giving your VA your password, either directly or through a service like LastPass.com which masks your actual password while allowing access. If that’s a step too far for right now, you can also program limited access to most email servers, or set up rules that forward the majority of email to your VA. This is an excellent time to practice breathing and learning to let go – delegation is a foundation skill for success.
- Establish clear rules, channels of communication and guidance for your VA. Basic truth: your VA wants to help you and to do the best possible job. Your side of the bargain is to provide clear instruction and be available for questions.
- Set specific times of day for your VA to sort email. Usually, 2-3 times per day is plenty.
- Decide whether you want your VA to reply as you, or to reply as your VA/executive assistant. Usually, replying as your VA works best. Your VA can do this from your inbox, or by forwarding emails to reply to (either automatically or by hand) to their own email address.
- Specify which emails you want to see yourself, which ones you want to discuss before your VA replies, and which ones to handle directly. Describe your filing system to your VA or work together to develop one so you only see the emails you really need to see, but feel comfortable that you know where everything else is filed in case you want to review it.
- Pre-draft, or have your VA draft, standard replies to typical emails. We all have typical emails that can be replied to with a basic cut-and-paste message. Having these pre-approved frees up you and your VA to handle them most efficiently.
- Figure out how you want to get updates. This might be a summary email, a voicemail, a quick conversation, or a text. Your VA can address what’s happened in the past few hours, important messages, and ask how to handle any issues that arise. That takes you from communicating with hundreds of people and emails a day to one point person, saving you energy and time.
Finally, give it a little time. Investing a few hours each week in training your VA to support you will yield huge returns very quickly – take a little time now, save a lot of time for months and years to come!