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Virtual Assistants

Scaling with VAs – The Workflow Processes No One is Talking About

Scaling up your Amazon business is not always a walk in the park. It requires a lot of hard work, sometimes without much visible payoff. But when it comes to your inventory management, what if all it takes is syncing three essential things to ensure your scaling-up process is successful? Offloading and coordinating a few key tasks using reliable, well-trained virtual assistants can make things more manageable and efficient in turning your dreams of scaling into a reality. 

In this article, we’re going to share the importance of syncing your marketing, inventory, and cash flow teams to your inventory management and your business as a whole. We’re also going to talk about how Virtual Assistants (VAs) play a vital role in scaling your Amazon business.

Sounds good? Read on!

3 Important Things to Sync

Whenever Amazon sellers talk about scaling up their business, it’s all about marketing. They always talk about the latest marketing tactics or the most “ninja” marketing strategies. See, there’s nothing wrong with being updated in the marketing scene, in fact, it’s vital, but the problem starts when marketing is the only thing that you focus on. Running an Amazon business means dealing with inventory. If all of the attention is on the marketing side, your company will have difficulty increasing its revenue and achieving growth. 

Amazon inventory management needs to be brought up within the conversation much more. Before you scale up your Amazon business as a whole, you need to scale up your inventory management systems. We’re not saying that you have to take your away focus from marketing completely. Of course now. However, you need to pay attention to other aspects of your business to improve your inventory management.

So, what are these three things that you need to focus on and sync?

They are inventory, marketing, and cash flow.

And how do these three areas work together?

  1. First, you should set up a marketing plan. The marketing team should lay out your sales seasonal velocity, Lightning Deals included dates and units projected to sell, and other marketing tactics you’ve planned. When the marketing plan is set and done, it’s time to forward it to the inventory team. 
  2. The inventory team’s main job is to find out whether the marketing plan is feasible or not. For example, you want to put a 20% discount on your products during Valentine’s Day. But the inventory team tells you that your stock levels will not allow for the sales campaign you have in mind. If you are too aggressive, you’ll stock out. The best thing to do here is for the inventory team to give the marketing team’s plan back for them to revise it based on what the inventory levels can afford. Eventually, the marketing and inventory team will agree on a particular strategy in line with your current inventory.
  3. Last but not least, cash flow. After all of the changes to the inventory and marketing teams’ plan, the next move is to send it to the accounting team. This is where all the money talk happens. Is there cash on hand? If money is available, is it enough to fund the plan? If not, what are the other options? What are the projected sales from this marketing campaign? Will the capital be tied up to negatively impact cash flow if this plan doesn’t succeed? How risky or certain is this plan? These are a few of the many questions that need to be tackled. Put simply, the accounting team’s primary role is to ensure that there’s enough cash to support everything profitably and to prevent the business from tying up capital in slow-moving products for an extended period of time.

This is the flow of syncing up your teams. As you can see, they all complement each other. If one team fails to communicate with the other, your business will run into problems. It’s essential to remember that no team is more important than the other. All must work together because each affects the others and all three fail or succeed together. 

Outsourcing Tasks to Virtual Assistants

Now that you know how to sync up your systems within your business, you just have to do one last thing: designating the tasks for your teams. This part is easy for a company with employees that are assigned to each defined role. But what happens if one of the teams lacks the expertise to do its job? What if you’re a solopreneur, and your to-do list is already filled with tasks that you can’t just keep up? What if your business needs additional hires to be more productive?

See, there can be many challenges in the execution, but one thing’s for sure, a virtual assistant will do wonders for your business if adequately trained and kept on task. 

Virtual Assistants (VAs) aren’t new to the freelance marketplace. More and more organizations are hiring VAs that become a vital part of their teams. It can prove to be quite productive and cost-effective.

To sync up your teams properly, here are the specific tasks that you can outsource to a VA for each category:

1. Inventory

For this role, you will need a supply chain manager who has excellent communication skills. This person is assigned to source and negotiate with sellers regarding their products. They need to know how to communicate effectively to get the most out of their orders.

You also need an inventory manager who has good time management, organizational skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. For starters, they need to ensure that orders are delivered on time and that you maintain proper, balanced stock levels, avoiding stock outs and over-ordering. 

It can get challenging to keep track of everything, but an organized VA will know how to sort things out correctly. If an issue comes up, a VA with problem-solving skills should have anticipated it and handled it the right way. 

Lastly, critical thinking skills are also vital so that your VA can establish new ways to manage your inventory efficiently. 

2. Marketing

When it comes to the marketing team, there can be many roles to fill in. Fortunately, there are also a lot of VAs who specialize in marketing. 

First, you need someone to handle your Amazon listings. Hire a VA who can write well to improve the content of your listings. Then, if you want to boost these listings, you can assign a VA to run FB ads for your business. Doing this provides more visibility and attracts more potential customers. 

How about keywords? You can assign a VA to take charge of your SEO efforts. If your marketing plan consists of Lightning Deals and special sales campaigns, a VA experienced in email marketing can handle this aspect of your marketing strategy. They will segment your leads efficiently and send well-constructed emails to further boost your sales conversions.

3. Cash Flow

As for cash flow, an accounting team composed of professionals who know how to deal with money and allocate it properly is required. As this can be a more technical role, you can choose to hire VAs with an accounting background that you can train, or to work with accounting freelance experts to assist you. What is important is that they know how to make the right decisions for your company’s profit, revenue, and growth. 

Finally, you can also choose to hire a Project Manager VA who will oversee and coordinate with all of these teams and projects, ensuring they are completed within the set deadline.

As the business owner, your primary responsibility is to set your teams’ direction and streamline their processes. From there, your VAs can execute their tasks and work together. The flow of your scaling processes can be streamlined if you have the right people on your teams working collectively and in a coordinated manner. 

Sync Up to Scale Up

If you want to truly scale up your Amazon business, it’s time to shift your focus on your inventory management. Syncing your inventory, marketing, and cash flow should be one of your priorities to take your Amazon inventory management a notch up.

However, there are a lot of factors as to why businesses fail to implement this syncing process. If the teams don’t cooperate, it can lead to negative outcomes. For example, suppose the marketing team acts alone and launches the marketing plan without consulting the inventory and accounting teams. This situation could eventually lead to stock outs and loss of profit. There are many other ways that things can go south for your business, but you can avoid them by ensuring your systems are working together and that you create new SOPs and workflows to solve any issues that may come up as you are grooving things in. 

Hiring VAs can help you to further leverage your syncing process. It’s no secret that VAs have been utilized in the freelance space for a while, and companies are taking advantage of this set-up. Hiring a VA is significantly cheaper than traditional hiring, which is a game-changer for small business owners.

As you assign tasks to your VAs, you’re allowing yourself to have more time to work on the aspects of your business that matter most. The outcome? You can scale up your Amazon inventory management and get to work on the areas of your business that need the most improvement. A win-win situation. 

To further boost your scaling process, consider adopting an Amazon inventory management software such as SoStocked to make your VAs work a lot more easy, efficient, and manageable and to reduce human error. 

Whether you do use a software or you stick to using spreadsheets, you should ensure that your inventory forecasting system includes adding extra units to cover your marketing plans. We’ve provided a downloadable Amazon inventory planner for your teams. It’s a great tool that can help your teams to better coordinate in achieving a smooth management flow.

It’s time to level-up your Amazon inventory management by efficiently syncing inventory, marketing, and cash flow. Only a fraction of sellers do it, but all of those that do have seen significant positive results in their business. The biggest question is: Will you choose to be one of them?

About the Author

Chelsea Cohen is an Amazon inventory management expert and the co-founder of SoStocked.com, an Amazon inventory management software. She’s also a 7-figure Amazon seller, speaker & consultant. Her regular clients include 7 & 8-figure sellers. She has been featured on AM/PM Podcast, Seller Stories with Jungle Scout & the Amazing Summit stage, among others.

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Virtual Assistants

4 Tips on How to Write a Kick Ass Job Post for a VA

Most employers often disregard the importance of having a good job post. They put in a few details of the people that they are looking for and dive into the process right away. This produces inaccurate results and gives you applicants that are not as tailored fit for the job as what you are eyeing to have.

This is where a good job posting creates the difference. It does not only provide an outline of the duties and responsibilities of the job. It also shows how the role works within the organization and any history relevant to the said position. The more you exhaust all the information that you can give in the job post, the better applicants you will get, and the more likely they will match the goals of the organization.

Before conducting an interview in Slack, there are a few things you must consider. Especially for a virtual assistant where you will need a competitive set of applicants, a good job post is definitely necessary. You may not fully realize it now, but you surely will after reading this article.

Below are four tips on how to create a kick-ass job post for a virtual assistant:

1. Use keywords in your job name.

Make sure to put 2-3 keywords in your job name. These keywords will be the first thing that potential applicants see. This is the primary reason why you need to make sure it clearly catches their attention and pushes others away.

Here is an example of us trying to hire someone to help me do social media management. With the social media manager position, we use the format below:

Social Media Manager | FB, Tw, LI, IG | Automation & Strong English.

Instead of just a Social Media Manager, I specify a bit more.

Notice the change the keywords made instead of just merely presenting the job name. You can also do this so that you can get someone who has experience in specific channels, like some automation experience with social, and strong English writing. 

2. Be as detailed as possible in the description.

Writing a job postAfter seeing the job name, the next thing potential applicants are going to see is your job description. A job description is a written narrative that describes the general tasks, or other related duties, and responsibilities of a position. You want to be detailed in writing this section, but still ensuring you do not use any fluff.

Include more details of the job name that gives them a better idea of what they are expected to do when they enter your organization. Also, include what your requirements for the role are in this section of the job post. The job description can follow the format of firstly mentioning the position that the organization is looking for.

After stating the job role, you can display the number of years of job experience that you are setting as a standard. You can say that you are eyeing someone who has 5+ years of experience with handling social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Additionally, you may point out that the applicant must know about different techniques that are supplemental for the execution of their role.

This is crucial, so you will cut a significant amount of time for training and orientation with the said technology that you are using within your organization. These can be in the form of social automation programs or even their previous employer’s social accounts. Finally, it is equally important to include in the job description that you need someone who can create social content with strong English grammar. Such qualification is crucial, especially for a position like a social media manager.

3. Give the specific hourly rate that you want to pay.

Following the importance of having a detailed job description is this tip that everyone should consider and observe when creating a job post. The magnitude of being specific in the hourly rate that you are willing to pay for the job is enormous enough to affect the applicant’s response if you do not consider it earlier.

Figure out the amount you want and are willing to pay for the role that you are hiring. You need to be specific with the details of this rate as much as you can. If you do not know or are not quite sure how to do it, do your homework by doing some research and talking to other entrepreneurs if you feel the need for it. The more specific you are in stating these hourly rates, the better you will attract candidates that will be open to the rate. 

4. Specify a location if you prefer one

We have grown comfortable with hiring most of our virtual assistants from the Philippines. This is because we have had excellent experiences working with people from there over the past ten years. You can also do this for yourself. 

Depending on where you prefer to hire from, be specific, and indicate this in your job post. This will help you narrow down your applicants and eventually help you avoid getting applicants from places outside the ones you have targeted.

Conclusion

When you focus on these four factors, you should see much better applicants who actually fit what you are looking to hire. You will also eliminate the risk of hiring the wrong people, which are more likely to make you incur more costs than usual. Additionally, it can help decrease your employee turnover rate, which is an added advantage. 

We have been doing this for years, and we can say that it continues to work magic for us. It continually amazes us how small tweaks to a job post can get us better and better applicants. In the end, the more information you provide in the job post, the more productive the hiring process will turn out to be. 

And as a result of this efficient process, applicants will see how honest and open you are. In return, this will eventually cultivate the same values in your virtual assistants.

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Virtual Assistants

3 Steps to Writing a Kick Ass SOP

We see a lot of business owners struggle to scale after a certain point, and a lot of it comes down to systemization. Everything starts to go well and you may have been able to figure out how to do everything yourself.

But, how do you successfully hire other people to do it at the same level? That’s the golden question.

We’re sure you know that if you want to grow your business, you have to start hiring people and delegating tasks. Now doing so can be stressful at first. You’re just not ready to let other people do what you do best and you worry that they might mess up and you lose customers in the process.

But, what we’ve discovered is that it really comes down to having a proper system for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and training with anyone that you hire.

You can’t just hire and expect people to blow your expectations out of the water. That just doesn’t happen most of the time, unless you’re willing to pay the big bucks.

So, how do you do it then?

Check out these three steps we follow in Outsource School to create kick ass SOPs.

1. Define the purpose of the task.

Start by asking yourself these two questions: 

  • Why is this task important to the company?

Take a step back and ask yourself why you were doing this task in the first place. What purpose does it serve in the company? What need does it address?

  • How does it help the company grow faster?

Does this task contribute directly to sales? Does it help existing customers love the business more? Will this task give you more leads?

Providing this context in your SOP gives the person you hire a better understanding of how they’re connected to the overall goals of the company. It not only will further motivate them, but it will give them a better insight into the work that they’re doing for you.

Sometimes, VAs may look at their tasks as small and menial. But in truth, everything everyone is doing on a daily basis contributes to a bigger goal. They should know that they play an important role in helping the business achieve its goals.

Starting your onboarding or training by explaining to them the value of the work they are about to do will definitely play a crucial role in helping them start off on the right foot.

2. Create a killer, step-by-step SOP in both video and text.

We recommend that you use these two channels to document your SOPs.

Recording videos is a very effective way of giving instructions and demonstrating how a task should be done. When you show VAs how exactly to do a task, they’re highly likely to understand and remember that process better and clearer than if they were just to read it in a document. Thus, training time would be shorter and potential errors would be lesser. Use a screen recording tool such as SimplySOP, record your screen, and upload the recordings so whoever you hire can easily access them. Here’s a quick video that talks more about SimplySOP.

With text SOPs, on the other hand, you or your VA can easily share and edit SOPs over time. Eventually you want your VAs to take ownership of certain processes. Whatever changes or improvements may arise, they should be responsible in keeping these SOPs updated at all times. So write out the step by step process in a Google Doc and share the link to relevant members in your team.

This process is the bulk of the SOP. You get this wrong, you’re not going to get the results you want. It is time consuming at first but really make sure that you go over every little thing that you do within that task that makes it so efficient for you. Your goal should be for them to be able to watch it, practice, and become just as good as you were at the task.

And once you have onboarded and train your VAs, you can finally take back some time and have them start doing things for you in the exact way you want.

3. Share your expectations and absolute no-nos.

Step 2 is where you write in detail everything you need your VAs to do. Here in step 3, write everything they should absolutely NOT do. Informing your VAs of the no-nos is just as important as teaching them the best practices.

You have to make it very clear what you don’t want them to do or what they must avoid doing. You may have some things here from your experience running the process. Make sure that they know and that it’s a part of the SOP so they don’t run into those things again like you. At the end of every SOP you make, be sure to include this list.

Put this all together and you’ve got a kick-ass SOP that you can train new hires with. Better yet, you can pass off ownership of the SOP to them once they perfect it so that they can be the one to update it in the future as they find better ways to improve the process.

And that’s it!

Those are the 3 steps we make sure to follow every time we create SOPs. It starts by defining the purpose of every task so you can let your VAs know the value they are about to bring to the table. Then, really take the time to do the work – document your SOPs in video and text. Aside from using these to train your VAs, you are also future-proofing. With SOPs at hand, training and turnovers are easy if ever you need to hire more VAs or replace one. Lastly, don’t forget to also clearly state the no-nos. It is safer to completely lay down the dos and don’ts than assume that they know exactly what to do or what not to do at any given scenario.

We hope these tips can help you as you start building an SOP library for your company. If you want to learn more about how to create and implement SOPs plus get access to pre-made SOPs for marketing, customer service, bookkeeping, and more, join us in Outsource School today!

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Virtual Assistants

Quick Outsourcing Tip for the Day: Learn About Your VA’s Culture

One of the first and most meaningful hires you can make as an entrepreneur is recruiting a virtual assistant. You will have to spend precious time and resources on things that do not directly contribute to the success of the organization not until you have someone on your staff that you can assign unique duties to. If you are planning to hire outside of your own country, make sure to study up on the country’s culture. 

Learning about a prospective hire’s culture that resides in another country is a highly crucial and vital thing to do. Nathan Hirsch and I made the mistake of not doing this before starting to outsource and hire from different countries with our first business, and it surely hurt our hiring process. Without proper knowledge and understanding of the people we were trying to hire and manage, we could not adjust our methods to their culture.

Doing this will help you know what life is like in their respective countries and how culture plays a role in their lives. We know that everything we are talking about may still sound vague and unclear to you at this point. To help you understand the value of learning about your VA’s culture more, we have listed down four areas you should look into when outsourcing:

1. Look Into How the Average Person Lives

Filipino VAKnowing how an average person lives in a particular country will enable you to gather a brief idea of how the country is at present. Additionally, it will also reflect the lifestyle and the level of living of that specific country’s citizens on average. The way an average citizen lives basically shows how a typical person is like in their nation.

This is important to know for you to gauge whether their way of living matches with what your company can potentially offer to them or not. This offer may vary depending on the task that you will outsource from these virtual assistants. Every country has a unique approach to living life, which makes knowing each one that belongs to your prospective hires all the more vital. 

2. Look Into the Average Wage for People in the Country

A country’s average wage often goes through constant monitoring and is used by the government and other organizations or companies. This is a tool that serves as a benchmark for the level of salary of individual workers in a specific industry, area, or country. The average wage for people in a specific country is the mean salary of either a particular group of laborers or all workers.

Similar to learning the way of living of an average person in a specific country, knowing the average wage of its citizens is equally important. You can determine whether or not your company will be able to provide the same level of salary to the virtual assistant you are looking to outsource hire. It is highly essential to be wise in matching the ability of your business to pay with the level of wages that you will pay so you can still make a profit in outsourcing.

3. Look Into the Core Values They Believe in and Follow as a Culture

When looking for someone to outsource, we talk a lot about finding a cultural fit, but much less about finding the right fit for our values. Culture describes how work is done, but principles illustrate how organizations focus, make compromises, and reconcile disputes. A community may celebrate innovation, but ideals decide what is lost in the search for it.

If you can, talk to someone from the country and understand what life is like there and how their culture plays a role in their lives. Without proper knowledge and understanding of the people you are trying to hire and manage, you will be unable to adjust your methods to their culture. It took us years to figure out how to properly work with different cultures, and we ultimately ended up loving working with people from the Philippines.

We ended up establishing good relationships between those we outsourced from the Philippines because they had many qualities and cultural values similar to our own. Among these are their strong belief in family, hard work ethic, determination, ability to fight through tough times, and a commitment to high-quality customer service. Had we known all of this upfront, it would have been a lot easier to recruit, interview, hire, and manage people from the Philippines.

4. Look Into What the Government is Like and How it Impacts the Population

The government is the highest regulating body across all countries. Due to this fact, it will only be befitting that we learn what each one is for the country that you are planning to outsource your virtual assistants from. From its regulations, policies to its way of running the country, these collectively impact the country’s citizens or its entire population.

As a business planning to outsource from these countries, it is pertinent that you study each of their government systems. The first reason is knowing what their regulations are and how they handle their employed citizens. The second, enabling us to know how these regulations affect and impact the entirety of its population

Why Learning Your VA’s Culture is a Must

If you are looking to outsource in 2020, take the extra hour to do your research. Also, make sure that you know the culture of where you are looking to hire. It will go a long way in building trust and hiring the right people. 

This will not only enable you to hire the right employees but also save a lot of time, money, and effort. Additionally, it will help you in creating an internal company culture that aligns with the people you are hiring. Learn their culture and hire the right people so you can establish a pool of people that are headed towards the goal of your business, whether these goals be short term or long term. 

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Categories
Virtual Assistants

4 Ways to Avoid Disappearing Virtual Assistants

Has this ever happened to you?

You hire a virtual assistant (VA) who you think will make your life easier. Then out of the blue, your virtual assistant disappears on you.

When we first started hiring VAs 8 years ago, we experienced this first hand and it frustrated us so much! You spend all this time training and getting someone onboarded, then poof! They’re gone and you’re stuck doing things all over again.

But those “failures” didn’t deter us. Instead, we came up with ways to make sure that it didn’t happen again going forward.

And in this article, we are going to share with you four things to keep in mind to ensure you won’t have to deal with disappearing virtual assistants again. 

1. Start evaluating from the first introduction.

When you sent them an email to set up a time for an initial interview, how quickly did they respond? On the day of the interview, did they show up on time? If they can’t reply to an email within 24 business hours,that’s an issue. 

Response time is crucial, especially in a remote office environment. So meeting a potential VA who puts a lot of value on time and quickly responds to messages should be a non-negotiable requirement from your end.

If they can’t do either of those things, run away! It’s not going to work out.

2. Look for red flags in the interview.

The interview stage is a chance for you and your VA to get to know each other better. So, you need to take the interview seriously and make sure that you’re asking the right questions so you can assess their:

  1. skills
  2. attitude 
  3. culture

Don’t hire based on skills simply alone. You need someone that has a good attitude, values family, and is looking for a long term opportunity.

Plus, you need to watch out for red flags such as:

  • Do their rates fit your budget?
  • Can they work according to your schedule?
  • Can they work the number of hours you require?

If there are any red flags, don’t go forward!

3. Once you find someone you like, take them through an onboarding meeting

Avoid Disappearing Virtual AssistantsThis is a meeting we see SO MANY entrepreneurs skip.

You’ve got to set clear expectations once you hire someone before you get into training.

Set a meeting and talk to them about:

  • How you expect them to communicate

We’d like to emphasize that communication is a very important aspect of making a remote arrangement work. You don’t get to see each other every day so proactive communication is extremely vital.

This is why during onboarding, you must clearly discuss with your VAs what communication channels to use and when. If one channel fails to work, there should be a backup. 

  • Their schedule

If you hire a VA from across the world, the difference in time zones can cause confusion and issues in the future. So as early as the onboarding stage, clarify which time zone both of you must refer to when setting meetings, deadlines, and shift schedules.

  • Their internet and power

Power outages, internet connection problems, and other emergencies happen. And in a virtual set up, not having backup plans in case those emergencies arise can cause problems. Check out our article on different communication channels you must set up with your VA  to learn the strategies we use to effectively communicate with virtual teams.

  • How to deal with issues if they come up

Remember, you are hiring a VA to get tasks and responsibilities off your plate. You need someone who can resolve issues on their own and won’t rely on you before they make simple decisions. During this stage of the onboarding process, start sharing an overview of your SOPs so they know they have material to refer to and that they are accountable for the tasks assigned to them.

  • Your company culture

Having team members that fit into your company culture is another important consideration. Yes, skills are important. But in the long run, you can’t keep people who don’t share the same values with the rest of the team. So take time to discuss your company culture with your potential virtual assistant to see if they are suited to work with you.

You may think these topics aren’t important, but they will come back to bite you if you skip over them on the get go.

4. Keep a close eye on them for the first 2-3 weeks

The first two to three weeks is when the VA will shine or fail. This timeframe is very crucial, and you have to assess their performance closely.

  • Make sure they are communicating how you want them to.

Check if they provide you with constant updates, and they utilize the communication channels you require. 

  • Make sure they are showing up on time for meetings.

Keep count of any delinquency and ensure that they stick to the schedules.

  • Make sure they are checking in at the start of their shift and at the end of their shift.

Closely monitor their job performance and ensure that there is no evidence of slacking during their shifts.

Don’t give them any slack until you know that you can rely on them and that they are living up to your expectations.

In conclusion

If you do all of these four things, there’s a better chance that you won’t have to deal with disappearing virtual assistants or that you’ll catch a bad egg well before they even have the chance to disappear on you.

We talk all about this and more in our Cracking the VA Code system.

How about you? What other hacks do you have to make sure VAs don’t disappear on you?

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Virtual Assistants

How to Profitably Outsource Tasks to a Virtual Assistant

If you run an agency, consultancy, or service business you might be running into what I like to call a “champagne problem”. The problem of being able to sell more work than you’re able to do on your own.

Maybe you’re not at a place where you are able to, or want to hire a full-time team, or where you have an opportunity to get a lot of the mundane work off your plate and stick to the strategic stuff.

Whatever the case is, you might be trying to figure out how to start outsourcing your client work without killing your profitability and cash-flow.

The benefit of using virtual assistants is that you’ll often be able to pay them for the time they work and avoid having to carry salaries when times are slow. This makes VA’s a great first step to scaling your agency when your client acquisition is still on the inconsistent side. 

In this post I’ll share what I’ve learned from working with hundreds of agencies and teach you the 5 practical steps to outsourcing your client work profitably from the start.

Step 1 – Document Your Processes

How to Profitably Outsource Tasks to a Virtual Assistant1

If you’re a part of the Outsource School community, it should come as no surprise to you that one of the fundamental steps to profitably outsourcing your work to V/A’s is having good documentation of your processes.

Having solid documentation sets us up for success by doing a few important things:

  • Making the process (and ideally, it’s outcomes) consistent so you can maintain high standards for your clients
  • Makes your back-end more scalable as it enables you to quickly hire and train more V/A’s to increase capacity
  • Decreases risk as it helps to normalize the time it takes to complete the tasks (therefore normalizing your costs and profit margins)

I won’t spend much time in this article talking about the nuances of building great SOP’s, since there’s lots of other great content on this blog covering that already. Just know that it’s the first and probably most important part to getting your client work successfully outsourced.

Step 2 – Track the Scope of Work

The second step in the process is to track the time it takes you to complete this work and/or start tracking the time it’s taking your V/A.

The purpose of this exercise is to ensure you have a baseline idea of the cost associated with completing this task so you can benchmark future V/A’s against that baseline in the future, as well as complete the next few steps in this process associated with establishing and maintaining profitable processes.

If you’re looking for a useful piece of software that helps you quickly and accurately estimate the time it will take to complete projects based on work you’ve done in the past, check out our tools at Parakeeto. 

The key at this step in the process is to ensure that the way you structure and track time for your team is the same as the way you structure estimates for your client work.

For example, if you estimate work based on roles (design, development, project management) you’ll want to track time into those same buckets so you can reconcile your estimates against your actual time-tracking data.

This seems like common sense, but you might be surprised at how often this disconnection happens inside of service businesses I’ve worked with.

Step 3 – Determine the Value

How to Profitably Outsource Tasks to a Virtual Assistant

The next step is to determine the value of the tasks that are being outsourced, so you can better understand the margin associated with it.

Usually, this is a function of reverse-engineering the way you estimate client work or the assumptions you lean on to come up with your pricing.

For example:

We’re building a website for a client for $5000

That price is based on the assumption that it will take us 100 hours at $50/hour.

We’re outsourcing part of the work to a V/A and we estimate that the work will take 25 hours. Therefore the work is “valued” at $50 x 25 hours, or $1250 

At the end of the day, this step is all about creating an understanding of the value that is being created by the work that is getting done, as it relates to your client-facing pricing. 

Step 4 – Design for Margin 

How to Profitably Outsource Tasks to a Virtual Assistant4

The final step in this process is to design your engagement for healthy margins. How much should you be marking up contractors and V/A’s you might be asking? 

The baseline target for gross margin on a service engagement should be between 50-70% if you’re able to achieve higher margins – all the better.

The formula for calculating gross margin is the following:

  • Adjusted Gross Income – (COGS/Labor Costs) = Gross Margin
  • Gross Margin / Adjusted Gross Income = Gross Margin %

Where Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is the amount of revenue left over for the agency to earn after any pass-through expenses are paid (ad-spend, print budgets, equipment rentals, etc.)

Where COGS/labor costs are the costs associated to the people you’ve brought in to work on this project, whether they’re internal team members or external contractors.

To calculate your employee cost per hour for internal team members, you’ll need to take their salary + benefits and divide it by their gross capacity. For most employees that comes out to 2080 hours per year (40 hours x 52 weeks)

That means if your V/A costs you $250 and you earn $1250 in revenue from their work, your gross margin on that portion of the work is 80% 

Tip: Remember to factor team and project management time into your estimates. Often, outsourcing to V/A’s can buy back a lot of time, but it may still require some time from you to manage and review your V/A’s work – don’t forget to factor that into your price when you’re calculating your margins and charging your client

Step 5 – Measure & Iterate

The final step is to make sure you continue to measure the time and cost it’s requiring you to deliver outcomes to your clients to make sure you can continually protect, or even improve your margins.

You can do this in a time-tracking tool, a spreadsheet, your accounting software – whatever you chose to do make sure it’s easy to get access to these numbers so you’re likely to review them often.

This will help you identify the gaps and opportunities for better processes, more optimized pricing, and ultimately better scalability and profitability. For more detailed content on how to run that iteration process, check out the guide we created on our blog.

As you add more V/A’s to your process and scale your services, keeping a close eye on your numbers will become increasingly important to make sure you always have strong cash-flow and can continue to scale your business. 

About the Author

Marcel Petitpas is the CEO & Co-Founder of Parakeeto, a consultancy turned software company that helps service businesses increase profitability and close more deals by generating accurate, data-driven estimates in seconds using their existing time-tracking data. He’s also the fractional COO at Gold Front, an award-winning creative agency working with top silicon valley brands like Uber, Slack, Google, Keap, Robinhood, and more. 

When he’s not helping agencies run more profitably, you’ll find him cycling or renovating his home with his fiancé Cearagh, or watching “the office” on an endless loop.

Categories
Virtual Assistants

Why We Interview Using Slack Instead of Audio or Video

In an earlier blog, we talked about why we conduct our meetings through Slack. Another thing that may baffle a lot of people is that we also conduct ALL of our interviews using the same channel. Back when we were still handling FreeUp, we followed the same process using Skype. We did that for more than five years!

We know that the norm is to conduct interviews using video or voice calls. But over the years, we found it more effective to interview virtual assistants through Slack chat and here’s why:

1. It’s the main communication channel we will use once we start working with them

Everyone in the Outsource School team works remotely. As we have shared before, about 90% of our virtual assistants are based in the Philippines. We communicate with them daily through Slack chat and emails.

So when we interview, it is very important for us to see how they communicate via Slack. Some of the things we make sure to take note of are:

  • How fast they respond.

In a remote set up, communication is extremely important. We want to gauge as early as the interview stage how fast they can respond when they know they are on shift and should be focusing on their tasks at hand. 

  • How their English grammar is.

As we hire almost all of our VAs from the Philippines, we need to assess how good their English grammar is given that this is not their first language. This is extremely essential if you are hiring someone for customer service, content writing, and even graphic design roles. For any role that involves talking directly to clients or creating content that will reach your clients, you have to make sure that their English grammar is good. 

  • How well they can understand our typing.

It is definitely easier to catch instructions during audio or video calls. But since we use chat to communicate 90% of the time, we definitely prefer virtual assistants who can understand our typing. And if they can’t, be able to ask for clarifications immediately to make sure that we understand each other.

  • How well they can carry on a conversation with us on Slack chat.

Aside from being able to understand what we are trying to say, ideal VAs should also be able to clearly express themselves on chat. This is important so that they can let us know if any problems arise in the future or if they have any questions or suggestions. Good communication must come from both sides.

If ever we decide to hire them, 99% of the communication will happen on Slack so why not use that for the interview too? If you can’t understand each other on chat or if they’re taking too long to respond, that’s definitely a red flag that you have to consider. You are most likely to experience a lot of communication problems down the road if you decide to hire them.

2. It gives us a record of the conversation that we can refer to when making a final hiring decision

When hiring for a new position, we typically like to interview at least two people; sometimes three or four depending on how the first two go. If you’re fairly new or haven’t done interviews before, the number could even go up. And that’s perfectly fine because it is important to hire the right person so you don’t have to go through the entire process again.

One main benefit of interviewing via Slack chat is that we get to have written records of each interview – no matter how many they might be. This makes it easy for us to go back to them and review the conversations once we have completed all of the interviews. From there, we can make good comparisons on who is the best candidate for the role and make an educated final decision.

Sure, we have tools today that allow us to record audio or video interviews. But it can take a lot of time to go back and listen or watch each recording when you’re trying to decide which candidate is better. Plus, we’re sure you take down notes while listening to these interviews anyway. So it’s really more efficient for us to just do the interviews on Slack and read them again once we are ready to decide who to hire.

3. It allows us to get all the facts that we need in a timely manner without being persuaded by emotional factors

Interviews can really drag out sometimes and take a lot of time more than what you initially set. It’s easy to lose structure and start talking about things out of topic. We know from experience because we used to conduct two-hour long interviews in our first company. 

With Slack chat, we know the questions we want to ask, we know the information that we need, and we know how to dig deep into the person’s motivation and values. Depending on what role we’re hiring for, we can prepare the exact questions to ask beforehand and easily copy and paste them during the interview.

With this structure, most of our interviews are completed within 30 to 40 minutes and we have all of the information we need to then make a final decision on who is best to hire. 

Lastly, it allows us to keep most of the interview fact-based and less about emotions and our “connection” to the candidates – which can happen if using audio or video.

And don’t get us wrong, we are all about cultural fit and making sure to hire people that align with our company values, but you can learn all of that through chat conversations just as much as you can via audio or video. 

In conclusion

We are not saying that there is anything wrong with interviewing via audio or video. But we are making a strong argument that it might not be necessary when hiring for a virtual position where most of the communication will be over Slack chat anyway.

So feel free to try using chat in your next interviews and apply some of the tips we shared above. It just might work wonders for you as it did the same to us. If you do decide to try, let us know how it goes!

Categories
Virtual Assistants

The Top 10 Outsourcing Courses of 2020

Outsourcing is an excellent way to achieve efficiency in your company. Many talented and competent individuals from around the world can take off that extra load of work from you.

Countries like the Philippines are one of the leading locations where global businesses hire their virtual assistants.  

However, a common dilemma among entrepreneurs who are new to outsourcing is the fact that they don’t have the right hiring process in place. Aside from that, the increasing number of reports about scams and bad hires has discouraged them from outsourcing.

That is why we created this list. It’s to help educate entrepreneurs like you about the basics of outsourcing. To help you get started, check out these top 10 outsourcing courses of 2020:

1. Cracking the VA Code Cracking the VA CodeCracking the VA Code is one of the many courses offered by Outsource School. The instructors and producers of this course are Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan, the men behind many successful e-commerce businesses and FreeUp. A product of their 10+ years of experience in the industry and onboarding virtual assistants, the course aims to help entrepreneurs build the right system for outsourcing.

Created to help elevate the skills and hiring processes of virtual assistants, “Cracking the VA Code” is proven to be effective by many entrepreneurs. It includes modules, cheat sheets, methods, and techniques you can utilize to avoid the common mistakes in the onboarding procedures.

2. Outsourcing Without Fear- An Entrepreneur’s Hands-On Guide

The first step in outsourcing is knowing its basic definitions, pros and cons, and how it can help you build your company. If you are one of those aspiring entrepreneurs who are new in the industry, this is the outsourcing course for you.

Know the basics of outsourcing with this hands-on guide. Bryan Durkin, an esteemed business owner, direct sales representative, and creator of this outsourcing course is honest in saying that he is addicted to helping people. The course’s objective is to lay out all the twists and turns in outsourcing with the provided learning materials and business advice from Bryan himself. 

3. Podcast Outreach Formula

Outsource School is hosts a variety of courses and playbooks that will help entrepreneurs set up their businesses for success by employing virtual assistants.

Aside from Cracking the VA Code, another excellent course from the same platform is the Podcast Outreach Formula. Loaded with systematic ways and proven effective procedures for landing more podcast interviews with a VA. Be informed of the essentials in interviewing, onboarding, hiring, and managing your virtual assistants.

4. Master Outsourcing

master outsourcing

Master Outsourcing caters to all the areas in outsourcing, ensuring the discussion of all multiple points and the best processes in contracting work. 

This outsourcing course will not just improve your hiring skills but will also teach you best practices in budgeting, project management, product development, and increasing success rates. Set and reach team goals by applying your learnings from this course.

5. Digital Flipping Masterclass: Learn To Flip Services Online

Digital Flipping

Digital Flipping is the process of getting a job from an employer, outsourcing it for a lower price, and make some profit. In this masterclass, you will learn about the foundations of digital flipping, outsourcing, agency business, profitable niches, and risk management. 

This course will teach you how to become an active connection between the employer and competent freelance workers around the globe and gain income. Start building your own service flipping business with this course, and provide meaningful services to improve it. 

6. Outsource Everything (almost)

Outsource everything

Wouldn’t it be amazing to outsource everyday and straightforward tasks efficiently? Get your kid a tutor, have a freelancer handle your website, have assistants who will grow your business, and a lot more. 

From the name itself, Outsource Everything (almost) is an outsourcing course that will teach you what tasks you can outsource and how to do it effectively so you are able to save more time and money. The course is organized into three sections. The first is an overview of outsourcing, the platforms you can use to find freelancers, and a real walkthrough process with in-depth case studies. 

7. Outsource Your Life and Business

Outsource your life

Simple tasks won’t seem to matter until they pile up and take so much of your time. These can drain your energy and consume the time meant for your other priorities. This course will help you regain all the lost times and catch up on the things you love doing.

Covering the foundations of outsourcing, what you need to outsource, finding the right team and growing with them, and building your business with your team of assistants. 

8. The Guide to Philippines Outsourcing 

the guide to philippines outsourcing

The Philippines is home to many competent and talented virtual assistants. VAs from the Philippines provide exemplary service and maximum efficiency. This course will walk you through the process of finding, hiring, and managing Filipino virtual assistants. The best thing about this outsourcing course is that it is for FREE!

9. Outsource Easier!

outsource EASIER

Growing a business takes a lot of time and effort. The dedication you have for your craft will determine its sustainability and success. Fortunately, there are now many resources to help you achieve your goals without overworking yourself.

One of these resources is this outsourcing course called Outsource Easier. Run by Dina Eisenberg, a former prosecutor turned ombuds and today an effective outsourcing & onboarding mentor. Focusing on assisting firms and lawyers delegate tasks through onboarding and efficiently manage daily operations. Eisenberg, an award-winning coach, will nurture you with knowledge in the legal field and running your firm through outsourcing.

10. Mobile App Business Ideas & Hiring/Outsourcing Engineers

Mobile App Business Ideas & HiringOutsourcing Engineers

The surplus of mobile applications in the market has created a new digital industry. This industry is a promising and profitable one that provides a platform for developers to showcase their ideas. With over 2,000,000+ cumulative app downloads, Alex Genadinik, instructor of this course, ensures that this course will equip students with the latest trends and skills in the mobile application business and outsourcing engineers. 

This outsourcing course covers lessons from the development of your app idea to the app’s actual launching. You will learn different marketing strategies and development techniques after you take this course.

If you know how to outsource, you hold an advantage in today’s technologically advanced era. Maximize the potential of people around the globe and collaborate with them to create excellent products. Start your first outsourcing course today, and discover skills to improve and grow your business.

Categories
Virtual Assistants

Are Text or Video Standard Operating Procedures Better?

Every business owner has to face the challenge of building standard operating procedures (SOP) documents. Aside from the amount of time and effort required to build SOPs, they also face the dilemma of choosing what platform works best: text or video.
 
Standard operating procedures consist of step-by-step instructions that are collated by the business or any organization. These steps help employees complete tasks effectively and according to company standards. SOPs also help them achieve high-quality output, efficiency, and consistency.
 
We started with text SOPs here in Outsource School. We were running our eCommerce business, buying and selling products on Amazon then when we created an SOP for filling orders as this was the a daily task for our VAs. As the years went by, we have created a combination of text and video SOPs which have both resulted to significant positive impact in our operations.
 
So to answer the question posed above, none is better than the other. An SOP that preferably has both video and text is best, and here is why:

1. It caters to both visual and reading learners.

video and text SOPsWhen you give both text and video SOPs to your employees, you address both visual and reading learners. Some people find it easier to comprehend and grasp instructions written in text but have difficulty understanding procedures shown on video.
 
This situation can also be the same for those who find video SOPs easier to understand. Making sure that standard operating procedures are available for both platforms eliminates this dilemma. This assures you that everyone on your team understands the company guidelines and processes.

2. SOPs provide a realistic look at how tasks are carried out.

Whether it be a procedure written in text or displayed on video, an SOP will give employees a glimpse of how tasks are carried out. This is especially useful for newly hired employees as it shows them what your company’s processes are when it comes to particular tasks. This will also serve as a guideline on how to complete tasks according to company standards. This provides uniformity in their output. 
 
On top of this, SOPs usually include common challenges employees face when working on a task as well as possible solutions. This helps a lot as it not only makes the task easier to complete, it also saves the employee time from having to figure out how to solve a problem.

3. Standard Operation Procedure Text Documents Can Be Used for Future Reference

text SOPA standard operating procedure presented in the text serves as a guide that your employees can go back to anytime. This is especially useful if you are a business that manages your team remotely as you won’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over. Additionally, text SOPs can be considered as a cheat sheet that they can refer to when working on a task.
 
Written SOPs do not only work as a reference for your employees. It is also a tool you can use to hold them accountable for their actions. A written step-by-step procedure can help you set standards for your workers which you can use to evaluate their performance.
 
Standard operating procedures are not only beneficial for your employees but also to you, their manager. These documents can help guide you in evaluating the performance of each member of your team thus allowing you to rate your employees fairly. 
 
What most organizations do not realize is,  SOPs can help build employee expertise through routine processes. Working with no SOPs can lead to more errors and miscommunications.
 
This is not to say that employees should be treated like robots. However, if you hire the right people and train them well, you will eventually find yourself working with people who work autonomously and who always use their best judgment when it making decisions. Transferring knowledge to new hires is always a critical part of the process.
 
Every step of the procedure should be discussed in detail. This removes the confusion that employees may experience in the absence of a point of reference.
 
Performing repetitive tasks will allow your employees to learn the process by heart. As a result, they can execute these tasks seamlessly and more efficiently.

4. Text and Video SOPs Can Easily Be Updated 

It is important to revisit and update your standard operating procedures regularly. Doing so keeps your organization up to date with new regulations, technology, and best practices in the industry. It also ensures that your procedures and policies are still effective and consistent with your organization’s goals.
 
Some organizations may need to add new sections to existing SOPs and revise and delete older parts. SOPs, whether in text or video, provide a more accessible avenue to make this possible. Because employees can easily access the processes, updating them will not be as hard.
 
Traditionally, employees are informed of any updates on SOPs through face-to-face meetings. This method decreases the productivity of the organization as a personal orientation eats up a lot of time. You have to do it for every department, which makes it all the longer to finish. These days however, a quick email sent will suffice.
 
While it may take longer to do both, it will save you significant time and money in the long run. Having both SOP formats will take a lot of weight off your shoulders while assuring that your employees are as productive.
Categories
Virtual Assistants

5 Reasons to Hold a Team and Culture Onboarding Meeting with New Hires

Just in a physical office, an onboarding meeting is also crucial when hiring remote employees to be part of your team. It is important to discuss matters such as company goals, expectations, tasks, compensation, culture, etc. with your newly hired virtual assistants as early as the first day. This ensures that any confusion and unrealistic expectations are eliminated.

At Outsource School, we have a unique onboarding process called the SICC Method. The acronym SICC stands for: schedule, internet and power issues, communication, and culture. Any time we hire someone new for our team, we make sure to bring them through this method.

You may be wondering why there’s a need to go through such an extensive process when you can just give them documents to study. In this article, we will highlight the 5 reasons why holding a team and culture onboarding meeting with new hires is essential. 

Once you’ve read and understood the reasons, you will most probably find yourself agreeing and will proceed to including this in your virtual assistant new hire onboarding process.

Let’s get right to it!

1. Proper introduction to the team.

virtual onboarding meetingThere’s no better way to introduce new hires to your team than in an onboarding meeting where most, if not all, of your team members are present. Make sure to introduce each team member by name and give a quick overview of what they do. This will give your new hire an idea on who to go to when they need help with certain tasks.

On top of this, new hires will become familiar with the organizational structure of your company. They won’t be left clueless when an issue arises because they’ll know who exactly to report to.

2. It makes them feel connected to the mission and vision of the company.

Most people do not realize that the company’s vision and mission statements play an essential role in ensuring the success of the organization. The mission statement serves as the team’s clear and practical guide for making decisions. On the other hand, the vision statement ensures that every decision made is appropriately aligned with what the team hopes to achieve.

One of the reasons why conducting a team and culture onboarding meeting is important is because of these two factors:

  1. This is where you’ll be introducing your company’s mission and vision statements.
  2. Making sure that they know the mission and vision of the company ensures that their own goals align with your organization’s. 

3. An onboarding meeting gives you the opportunity to discuss your company’s values.

Aside from the company’s mission and vision, you should also discuss your company values during the onboarding meeting. With a clear understanding of the values your company upholds, your employees will understand what you stand for, what you believe in, and also apply this to their own professional lives.

These company values will also serve as a guide as they advance further in their career. If they are guided by the right set of values, they’ll be able to make sound decisions that will serve to benefit not only themselves but also your company. 

4. It makes them feel valued and heard.

new hire onboardingThough your newly hired virtual assistants have only been with you for a minute, it is important to make sure they do not feel as if they are less valued and heard compared to the tenured members of your team. The warmth and sincerity of the welcome they receive from your team during the onboarding meeting will make them feel valued and excited to begin working.

While new hires will always show a certain level of enthusiasm during the first month or so working with a new company, this can easily run out. It is your job to make sure your employees are continuously motivated and when it comes to new hires, the best way to do this is by making sure they feel valued, heard, and that they are important to your organization.

5. It gives new hires an idea of the type of working environment in your company.

The culture and working environment varies from one company to another. Some organizations are purely formal; the employees are solely focused on their work. Meanwhile, there are more relaxed work environments and these are the ones that foster employee relationships more than anything and is what’s usually adopted in virtual offices.

There are many other reasons why it is vital to hold a team and culture onboarding meeting. If you haven’t implemented this in your new hire onboarding process yet, I highly encourage you to do so. Your entire organization will benefit greatly from this step.