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How To Form A Successful Relationship With Your Virtual Assistant

Barnaby

Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

7 minute read

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Taking over distracting and time-wasting tasks, reducing your stress, and freeing up more of your time and energy to focus on what matters most are just some of the many ways that a virtual assistant can help you get the most out of your business. But in order to get the best possible results from your experience, how can you get the most out of your virtual assistant?

Onboarding

If you hired a new employee to work in your office, you wouldn’t sit them at a desk on their first day and tell them to get on with their work. You would expect an initial introductory period where they get to know your company and what is expected of them. The same goes for working with a virtual assistant.

Once you have been set up with your virtual assistant, schedule an onboarding phone call or video chat if you can. As it’s unlikely you’ll ever meet in person, you don’t have to show your VA around the building or explain how breaks are scheduled, but there is still a lot of important information that they could benefit from knowing. These may include:

  • Company history, goals, products, services, etc.
  • Brand guidelines and company tone of voice, if applicable
  • Computer programs or apps you use
  • Passwords for all programs or apps they may need to access
  • Contact information
  • Preferred contact times and methods

There’s no need to create fancy slideshows or spend hours on introductions, but this initial onboarding is a valuable first step in the process of getting to know your VA and setting the tone for a productive and positive working relationship.

Make it Professionally Personal

When was the last time you started any new friendship or working relationship without getting to know them first? Although they are a “virtual” assistant working remotely and you may not see them physically around the office, that’s pretty much where the similarities end between your VA and the voice-commanded AI technologies in our phones and homes.

If you only know your virtual assistant as a name on a screen, it’s easy to forget that there’s a real person on the other end. Taking the time to get to know each other will also make sure that you’re not just a name on a screen to them either. A deeper understanding and context of you and your business will make it easier and more meaningful for them to support you.

Opportunities to develop your working relationship extend beyond your initial onboarding session. At Time etc, we always recommend scheduling regular check-ins to discuss tasks, project progress, and how things are going in general. Aim to always speak on the phone or meet via video chat to help foster a more human connection.

Get Clear with Communication, Availability, and Expectations

Good communication is key to being successful in many areas of business, and, of course, your relationship with your virtual assistant is no exception. According to a recent report, teams that are well-connected are 20-25% more productive. So with this in mind, decide early on how you and your assistant will communicate about your tasks, including how often and through what means. This will help save time and make sure that both of you are always on the same page.

Another vital element to a successful working relationship with your VA is to always make sure they have everything they need when it comes to completing your tasks, from instructions to log-in details and file access. We know that as a busy entrepreneur, time is of the essence (and likely why you hired a virtual assistant in the first place), and creating instructions and guides may seem like another time-consuming task, but it's definitely worth your while. It helps your assistant perform your tasks to the highest standard, and saves you time in the future when you’re not having to keep repeating the same instructions again and again.

With this in mind, it’s also important to make your expectations clear from the start. This may include:

  • Desired outcomes (e.g. specific deliverables)
  • Deadlines for completion
  • Criteria you measure success against

Providing clear guides and expectations is an absolute must, but even the most detailed hand-over instructions might not cover every scenario. So in the early stages of the process, make sure you can be available to answer questions and provide support if needed. As with anyone in a new role, it might take a little time for them to get used to your work, but a little patience will go a long way.

Open Your Mind and Ears

Virtual assistants are skilled professionals with a wealth of knowledge and experience, so when you meet for your regular check-ins, it’s worth asking if they have any feedback or suggestions to share. You may pick up some nuggets of gold that could help you work more efficiently or get better results. You could even ask if they have any ideas for other tasks they could support you with to help you save even more time!

Listening to feedback and ideas is a great way to make your VA feel like a valued part of your team, which leads us on to our next point…

Show Your Appreciation

When more than 1,700 adults completed an online survey about their perceived value at work, researchers discovered some powerful facts:

  • Feeling valued by an employer was correlated with better physical and mental health
  • Feeling valued by an employer increased job satisfaction, engagement levels, and motivation
  • Feeling valued reduced an employee’s desire to seek out a new job

You aren’t a traditional employer for your virtual assistant, but this applies to most working relationships. The more your VA feels valued and appreciated, the harder they’re going to work and the more loyalty they’re going to feel towards you and your business. It gives them a boost of all-important motivation and confidence to do their best work and engage when they have ideas or feedback.

Don’t Limit Feedback to Corrections

With the extremely hectic life of a business owner and the barriers of working out-of-office, it can be easy to fall into the trap of only communicating with remote team members if there are issues. You reach out to highlight a mistake or ask for amendments, and then you dive back into your own work. Unfortunately, this pattern can quickly build a negative association around communication between themselves and their client or boss and can lead to feelings of dread or anxiety whenever they see a notification from them.

While constructive feedback should never be avoided if any mistakes are made, aim to always share your positive feedback, too. While any and all appreciation is valid, being specific with your appreciation, “thank you for your hard work completing this project before the deadline”, for example, will provide even more motivation for them to go above and beyond in their work for you.

Make Sure You’re Working with the Right Virtual Assistant

Some would argue that the most important factor in building a strong working relationship with your VA happens at the very beginning of your virtual assistant experience, way before your initial onboarding.

You’ve done your homework on the benefits of virtual assistants and the best places to hire VAs, so far so good. But the truth is, not all VAs are created equal. It’s estimated that there could be up to 25,000 virtual assistants working around the world today, so while you may not be short of options, the level of skills, experience, and dedication can vary significantly. Hence, it is crucial to do your due diligence when selecting an assistant.

If you want to save time and avoid the trial-and-error of going through this process yourself, look no further than our expert team at Time etc. For the past 15 years, we have been dedicated to matching ambitious and hardworking entrepreneurs with the best virtual assistant for their needs. On average, only the top 2% of assistants pass our rigorous 10-stage application process to join us, so you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ll only ever work with an experienced professional that’s dedicated to providing quality support.

If you have any questions or queries about getting started with a virtual assistant, speak to our team.

If you’re ready to take back control of your time and do more of what really matters, try a virtual assistant for free today.

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About the author

Barnaby
Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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