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Virtual Assistants

4 Ways Employee Turnover Ruins Business Growth

No matter how big or small your business is, employee turnover can be a major concern for you. You might have had to make cutbacks or have faced employee dissatisfaction. Whatever the reason for employee turnover, it can have a serious negative impact on your business if it keeps happening.

Employees are a vital part of any business. They form the backbone of its success. Sure, the core leadership is important, too, but your workforce — and how good it is — is what determines your business’s overall performance. Employee turnover has a direct impact, therefore, on management, sales, productivity, and the quality of service delivery.

Employee turnover can happen when hires leave voluntarily, retire, transfer, or are let go by the company. No matter what the various specific reasons might be, there are costs involved. Your business growth can be severely affected depending on how much employee turnover you experience, who is leaving and needs to be replaced, how much training they need before they can perform at the required level, and how long of an adjustment period they need to settle in. Because this affects your capacity to deliver the minimum required services, employee turnover is a highly important issue that needs special attention.

(1) Hurts Culture 

High employee turnover signals that you already have a problem with low morale in your workforce. This, in turn, affects engagement and productivity. These problems with employee turnover will just become worse as more people leave. Your business can suffer a continual loss of valuable knowledge and experience, and an eventual loss of confidence in the competence of the team as a whole. When this happens, your work culture suffers. And, when new team members come in, they find a company culture that doesn’t reflect a clear identity or demonstrate a clear collective purpose. This is because culture requires connection, relationship, trust, and commitment to a collective vision. Even if you had that before, you would have lost that by now because of employee turnover.

High employee turnover destroys high-performance culture. Hires feel less safe in this unstable team environment and stop trying to improve their performance. A growth mindset is like oxygen to an A-player, and they build momentum from a stable environment. Losing focus on care and learning and trying to drive hires by fear does not help. Support and respect is the key. Without growth opportunities and stability, people will often lose sight of why their contributions matter, and you will face increasing employee turnover. 

To be successful, a business needs to sustain a high-performance culture. This means balancing your efforts so that you can support building on experience, expertise, and performance gains. Then, you also need to manage fresh input to keep the company culture dynamic. 

A high-performance culture looks at growth first, which means that it’s an open culture that puts emphasis on learning. It feels safe and supportive, thereby reducing employee turnover. You not only need to create a high-performance culture and training environment in your business; you also have to manage well to encourage hires to stay with you longer and perform at the highest level over time. Wasting your investment in new hires by allowing them to leave when you can make small adjustments to keep them happy and valuable makes no sense. 

Remember that if no one enjoys starting work every day, they are not having any fun. Fun is not the main objective of work, but you can’t deny that happy people are healthier, which makes them better at collaborating, and more creative and productive. They also become great brand ambassadors because they talk about how great it is at your company. Maintaining a good work environment helps you to attract more valuable talent that won’t want to leave anytime soon.

(2) Wastes Money and (3) Wastes Time… and More Money

A hire who can bring high value over a long period is immensely valuable. This is because new hires can require years of investment to reach their full potential within your organization. (Of course, if you have an effective hiring process as well as great onboarding and management practices, your hires are more likely to hit the ground running and just keep going. You can also avoid the cost of a bad hire, thereby reducing the risk of high employee turnover overall.)

Hiring a replacement for someone who quit, retired, or was transferred or terminated can cost you up to 33 percent of that person’s annual salary. This includes:

  • Hiring costs, which is made up of costs like the fees you are paying to recruiters, online hiring marketplaces, or human resources advertising;
  • Interview expenses, such as travel (where applicable) and time spent checking references, interviewing, administering pre-employment tests, onboarding, and training; and,
  • Direct employment costs, including signing bonuses, relocation expenses, and new equipment.

Just the cost of training a new hire for a specific role can be high in itself. Consider what you spend on administrative processing, preparing training materials, and getting them enrolled to receive the required benefits. Consider as well that hiring from outside your organization can mean 18-20% more in salary than hiring from within the existing ranks. You may also have to pay for the former hire’s paid time off, plus the overtime pay that you will owe to the team members who need to pick up the slack while you’re looking for a replacement. 

It can take you about two to three months to replace a hire, not including the additional one or two months that it will take them to fully settle in and be highly productive within their role. In terms of losses during that period, this can cost you about 25% of what the previous hire was bringing in, for the next three months or so. That’s not chump change.

You should not ignore the additional costs that you suffer in the first two months or so. You and whoever takes on training have to invest time, which is taken away from work that brings in money. Plus, when you ask your best employees to take on additional tasks, they can burn out. They are likely already working at full capacity, and will get stressed about overtime and doing stuff that’s not part of their usual duties. If they are also being asked to show the new hire the ropes, this is yet another burden.

Then you have to spend more time with the rest of the team to make sure that they are dealing well with the exit of the former hire. Otherwise, employee turnover can seriously damage morale. This is especially true if the person had close relationships with other team members. You want to make sure that you are helping them cope and avoid any feelings of resentment that can lead to them to wonder if they should jet, too.

If you want to see just how much employee turnover is for you, try the Adecco or Bonusly calculator. It’s sobering!

(4) Experience and Productivity Losses

Several growth issues, some related to productivity, have already been discussed above. But I have to make special mention here of how employee turnover can hurt you specifically in the area of experience and productivity. Your business can suffer a great loss in terms of experienced employees being replaced by new hires and productivity falling due to gaps created by employee turnover.

First, you will suffer the loss of valuable knowledge and experience. I cannot say enough about how damaging it is to invest in growth and then lose it when experience walks out the door. This includes the loss of people who already know all of your policies and goals and how to perform in their individual roles to achieve these goals. Second, high employee turnover ruins the balance in the organization and causes performance to suffer all around. This is because you lose your performance advantages when continuing team development is interrupted. The loss is not limited to the person who left, but extends to everyone who is affected by that person no longer being around.

Employee turnover causes a business to lose their ability to ensure knowledge continuity. People become more valuable and more satisfied when they can grow in terms of their experience, expertise, and collaboration. When you lose this, it takes away your competitive edge, agility, and readiness for the future. It’s like a leak in your gas tank. You have to keep filling it because you keep losing it, and that costs you a lot over the long term, and can get increasingly costly as the hole gets bigger.

Every business must accept the losses incurred from retirement. But people who exit your company because they are retiring form maybe only about ten percent of the whole. If you look at your employee turnover statistics — which you really should be keeping an eye on! — you will probably find that more than half are resignations. This can go higher depending on how great of a workplace environment you have. And, depending on how great of a hiring, onboarding, training, and management process you maintain, about a third of employee turnover can be from the people you have to let go. 

If you are losing valuable knowledge, experience, and productivity from things that you can control, that’s a real eye-opener. You don’t have to pay ninety percent of this high price if you decide to do determined work on fixing your company culture and processes. 

Note that if you are a smaller company with fewer people, your losses can be significantly higher. This is because you probably have people taking on a variety of different roles, or at least several different tasks spread across different departments. This makes it especially difficult for you to replace one of these people when they leave. The widespread gaps then create a more serious problem. Again, much of this can be avoided with a better hiring process. In this case, you need to consider focusing on bringing more people in to do specialized work instead of putting all your eggs in one basket.

Employee Turnover Kills

These are just the four major ways that employee turnover can affect your business. And I did not even discuss all the specific cases and their various negative effects. For instance, there may be cases where you will face litigation or legal disputes. You need to assess the specific risks that your business faces so that you can properly prepare to handle employee turnover.

Start today by thinking about the pain points of your team members. Schedule time to meet with your existing team members so you can see what’s bothering them and what you can do to improve things. Make an effort to understand what affects them in terms of lack of recognition, conflicts with management, interpersonal issues, difficulty dealing with clients, and workload problems, to name a few. Then make it a point to do this regularly to keep things in tip top shape.

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

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Virtual Assistants

The Secret Real Estate VA Success Formula

Some people say there is no secret formula for hiring and managing a real estate VA. I would have agreed with them 8 years ago. I owned a real estate business and started outsourcing way back in 2013. I must say at times it was hard work. The reason it was hard work was all the cool stuff that exists today did not back then! 

In this article, I will go over a tried and tested success formula for implementing a real estate VA as a realtor or a business owner.

Back to “Outsource” School for Realtors

If you are like me and in the Real Estate Industry, you probably were not much of a scholar but one of the most popular with the opposite gender, making study time slim. Don’t worry I am not talking about going back to the boring school, the one that has nothing to do with making money. By now you have found out that making money is  more important than learning quadratics. This school is the new school, in fact, the “Outsource School” that helps you scale through Real Estate Virtual Assistants.

The funny thing is, these days, if you get new software, you will watch all the tutorials you can get on YouTube to get the best out of it. Sadly, people hire a new staff member and do not take the same approach by learning how to get the best out of people.  A real estate VA is a human being with thoughts and feelings like any person, so you really must get better yourself at managing people before you get started. 

This is something I wish they had back in the day, as education is going to be key. You must learn the following before you even consider getting started.

Before You Hire Your First Real Estate VA

  • You need to identify what tasks your real estate VA will complete for you. You must be careful here because you can not outsource your own work. You must start with passing off the repetitive and time consuming, yet easy, tasks first. Start small or you will destroy your new team member from day one.
  • A real estate VA needs clarity, and there is no better clarity than writing a very clear Job Description. You must be realistic with this also. You will need to include some hard skills and soft skills. If you are doing this right, all the tasks you are handing off should be easily trainable.
  • Before you get started, something you need to realise is that you need SOPs for everything. Not all at once, but you will need to at some point. The easiest way I found to get these out of my head was to first map out the entire workflow using something like LucidChart.
  • Do not take any shortcuts. Every time you try to skip documenting before you get started, whatever you are trying to achieve will fall flat on its face every time. So get this in your head “No shortcuts!”

How and Where to Hire a Real Estate VA

This is something that may not seem that important, however, I can tell you it really is. My advice is that, for real estate businesses, if you can go full-time for your day to day grind, then do it! Part-time is ok for specialist skills, however, it is far better from a business and consistency perspective to see the same face every day. When it comes to hiring a full-time real estate VA, there is no better place to get the best for bang for your buck than outsourcing to the Philippines.

Why Hire Filipino Real Estate VAs

Filipinos are hardworking, very intelligent, and super eager to please. For the USA, it fits in perfectly as all Filipinos have English as a second language. This means that there really are very few communication barriers that you are likely to get hiring from other countries. One thing you need to know about the Philippines, though, is that it is a developing country, so the infrastructure is not great.

When hiring a Filipino real estate VA, there are many ways you can go about this. There are many freelance websites that are great to get started. However, from my experience, this is not a long term solution. At some point, you will feel the pain points like I did from staff turnover, power outages, internet intermittence, and my least favourite, getting to know the common family-owned chicken. That is, unless you are willing to pay more than a few dollars per hour to hire someone who has a better work setup. You get what you pay for!

Choosing the Best Real Estate VA

Look for a hiring site or agency that will provide you with infrastructure, HR support, payroll management, mentorship, and oversight for your VA. This way you can focus purely on task allocation, training, and making money. These services may cost you an extra couple of dollars per hour, but I can tell you that it is well worth it to avoid the headaches of hiring on your own! 

When choosing a service to work with, one thing I really did not get at the time I first started was what their location has to do with their quality. 

Where the Best Filipino Real Estate VAs are Located

I have now been living personally in the Philippines for 5 years. The importance of location is more apparent to me now than it ever has been. I have explored nearly all of the country and the education level in different parts of the country is different. If you are going to choose a service provider to partner with, they should be located in Baguio, Manila, Cebu, or in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. These areas are where the education and English levels are highest, and where the outsourcing industry is most common with large talent pools. This will play a big factor as it is about what you can get your VA to do that counts. The more educated, the easier it will be! 

Ok, so now we have covered all the boring stuff — well, at least the stuff I find least exciting. Now we will move on to the fun stuff where I get to introduce you to my most exciting discovery of recent times for business in general. Importantly, though, keeping to the topic of this article, is managing a real estate VA or a team of them.

Introducing ClickUp for Real Estate

I am sure you have used all kinds of different tools in the past. Like I said at the beginning of this article, back when I started a lot of things, a lot of these tools were not available. One of these tools is now the secret weapon for business that I am introducing you to right now: ClickUp. ClickUp is like all of the tools you may have ever used all in one. On their ad that first hooked me was the slogan “One app to replace them all” and I thought that couldn’t be true.  However, as you will discover here, it was.

So when I got started using a real estate VA, I really had trouble managing them from day to day and having one consistent tool that I could do everything I need. I have tried everything, and just to name a few, these are some of the tools that I have used but no longer have the need for: Trello, Slack, Loom, BasCamp, Asana, AirTable, Monday, Process Street, Sweet Process, and many more.

I will not go too technical here as I will do that in a follow up article specific to the implementation.

6 Features of ClickUp You Will Love

  • Trello Mode | I call this Trello mode because it does everything and more inside of ClickUp. The reason I love this is I used Trello for a long time to manage the Sales and Leasing process for my Real Estate Business. The left to right Kanban Flow style was perfect. EG Listed, to Live, to Under Offer.
  • Map Mode | Map mode is crazy as it replicates something that we used to do on a big printed map digitally. I loved to see where all our listings are, all our appraisals, and all the properties we have sold. This was a daily obsession to look at the map and think hmmm where is our next sale coming from. In map mode, you can pull the location of the card into a map, seeing everything and anything you decide. How you use this is up to you. However, I say it has great power in the right hands.
  • VA Management | Inside of ClickUp you can actually record your screen and videos straight into a chat or then embed the video wherever you want. Before, you probably used Loom and Google docs or something similar. With ClickUp, you can create videos and process docs right inside the app. You can then even link words or steps in your process to templates. This is very exciting and one of the big reasons hiring and managing a real estate VA is easier than ever.
  • Pulse | Pulse is just genius. You can see who is logged in and who is working on what at a glance. So if your VA is not active in Pulse, what are they doing? This will give you full transparency of what your VA and your other team members are doing.
  • Goal Setting | In real estate, we are in the game of making money. To do that, we need to stay motivated. Goals is a function in ClickUp where you can set, track, and achieve your goals. Think about this: you have a meeting with one of your agents at the start of the month saying that he will do 13 appraisals, list 7 properties, and sell 5. You can now set and track all of this inside ClickUp.
  • Automate it | Automation in business is key as you need to make sure one thing connects to the next seamlessly. You guessed it! ClickUp has this, too. You can customise automations from one thing to the next with ease, but what I really love is that you can automate webhooks. This might be getting too technical now, but this means sending data out to any other program. Wow, the power is crazy!

It is time now to summarise all of this information you have received. There is a lot here, and if I have permission, I will keep writing to make sure I go into detail to help more in all of these areas. 

The formula to success with hiring a real estate VA is simple. You must first educate yourself to make sure you are ready with a realistic POV. Secondly, be clear about what it is you are trying to achieve. Thirdly, choose a service partner that is the right fit to make sure your expectations can be delivered. And lastly, become a master of ClickUp as it will really bring everything together.

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Virtual Assistants

The Real Cost of a Bad Hire and How to Avoid It With Ease

The cost of a bad hire can be a lot more than you expected. Entrepreneurs and business owners around the world routinely get hit with the cost of a bad hire and don’t even realize it. We’re here to tell you straight out that making a bad hire can cost you a lot of money and time.

According to the US Department of Labor, the cost of a bad hire can reach up to 30 percent of their salary. That’s right — 30 percent of what they earned with you in their first year of work. If you’re a startup and / or you’re bootstrapping, that’s a big hit right there. But that’s not the end of the costs that you can expect to shoulder. The Undercover Recruiter reports that the cost of a bad hire can include $240,000 in expenses, which is made up of costs that are related to hiring, pay, and retention — including turnover costs. If that wasn’t close enough a reality to get your attention, here’s a scary average to consider. We know from CareerBuilder that for 74 percent of companies, the cost of a bad hire will be $14,900 per head on average.

“The cost of a bad hire is always extensive” — Arte Nathan, founder of Las Vegas human resources advisory service The Arte of Motivation (quote credit:  SHRM)

Now you’re fully aware of what you could be losing by not paying attention to the hiring process. And we can give you the good news! We have five major tips for you right here to help you to avoid the cost of a bad hire. You can start applying these five tips in your business right now. Our promise is that the more you take action in these areas, the less at risk you will be of taking a hit from a bad hire.

(1) Targeted Hiring

Always approach hiring from the perspective that you are looking for specific qualities in every candidate. This means having a well thought out list of key elements. These key elements must be present in every single hire you bring on board at your company. This standard acts like one plate on a risk protection shield for your business. 

The main idea here is that you will never compromise on these elements. If you do, you are creating a hole in your risk protection shield, and risk will get in. The more you compromise, the bigger the hole will get, and the more risk will get through. 

At Outsource School, we focus on three main non-negotiable qualities overall. These are Skill, Attitude, and Culture. 

Skill refers to the level of skill that each candidate must have in the area that you are hiring for. For example, if you are hiring for a graphic design role, the candidate you want must have hard skills in the use of design software like Adobe or Canva — depending on what you need done and have the budget for. 

Attitude refers to the candidate’s outlook and other soft skills or personality traits that they need to exhibit. For example, for any role, the candidate you are looking for needs to be reliable, have integrity, and communicate at a high level. 

Culture refers to your company culture, which you will need to outline in each role description you post online. During the interview stage, you must describe your company culture in more detail and get initial agreement on it before proceeding to make the hire. 

You must have a targeted approach to hiring like what is outlined above to be able to avoid the high risks that exist when hiring for any role. These risks are not specific to hiring virtually, although outsourcing can pose additional risks because you are sourcing from a much larger pool and dealing with a range of cultural nuances that you may not be familiar with. This can make it difficult to spot red flags, but the more effort you put into applying this and the following tips, the higher your chances will be of paying the cost of a bad hire.

(2) Onboard All Hires

Hold an onboarding meeting with every person you hire, immediately after you hire them. Make sure that you do this, even if you are just hiring one person. Don’t wait for more people to get hired before conducting this meeting. It will be tempting to gather more participants because you will be thinking about saving time. This is a mistake. You might save a little time, but you will again be putting holes in your risk protection shield. Onboarding is another plate on this shield, and it’s thickness — its strength — depends on how thorough your onboarding process is.

You need to have an extremely detailed onboarding process prepared before you hire anyone. This process is where you will lay out all the specifics of working with you. This onboarding process must be ready so that every new hire can go through it right after they get hired and before they start work. 

Proper onboarding includes complete documentation on your company culture, and you must confirm that each hire agrees with it. Note that part of the onboarding process is going through expectations and the consequences of falling outside of expected behaviors and work output, etc. As such, you need to make it clear that agreeing to all of the content under the expectations portion of the process includes agreement to willingly submit to any disciplinary action described as pertaining to violations in the area of work performance and culture. 

(3) Train with SOPs

On top of the whole onboarding process, you need to develop a training process. You will need to spend a bit more time on this because part of it is role-specific. But on the whole, you need to make sure that it is organized based on a plan with specific goals in mind. Again, a targeted process is essential to avoid paying the cost of a bad hire down the line. The cost of investing in proper training is far less than risking hiring the wrong person.

Start with a plan for what you want every new hire to accomplish while working with you. Then create the first part of the training process. This part must be designed to meet the goals that you have set through teaching new hires how things work at your company. Introduce them to the general system and flow. For example, go through the organizational diagram with them so they can see who’s who and what’s what. This first part of the training process will be repeated for every new hire, regardless of their individual roles. 

Note that it can be confusing to decide what should be included in the onboarding versus the training. A good general rule to follow here is that onboarding is about them being a good fit for the company. In other words, they either are or they aren’t, right from the start. Training is about what you can help them with for them to become more comfortable and productive as they work. First, this is as a member of a larger team — the whole company. Then, this is within their specific roles within a smaller team that they will be collaborating with more closely and for most of their work time. 

Once they are oriented in these general areas, you can dive into the details of their area of focus. Have standard operating procedures (SOPs) prepared for each department and role. Make sure that all these SOPs are in place. You can’t just hand out SOPs and expect them to be followed if other people who have been working in your business for a while are not routinely applying them. SOPs are guidelines, and any new hire will need support from existing hires to get into the right rhythm of work with your business. Remember that this rhythm is different for every company, so no amount of work experience on their part is going to make them fit in perfectly from the get-go.

(4) Give Constant Feedback

You need to make sure that you set aside enough time to monitor new hires very closely. At Outsource School, we generally give them more attention over the first two to four weeks after they start working. This does not include onboarding and training time, especially if you’re giving them only two weeks. This refers to keeping an eye on them as they are doing the actual tasks that you hired them to do.

As you monitor their performance, take a bunch of notes so that you have specific examples on hand at all times. Schedule regular meetings with them, ideally at least once a week. If anything major pops up, you can always call them to an emergency meeting to straighten things out. During these meetings, the goal is to provide that new hire with as much feedback as you can on their performance over the past week. This means giving them both positive reinforcement and advice for how they can do better in the areas that need improvement. You must not give in to any temptation to just go for the jugular to save time. They need a pat on the back to improve their performance as much as they need guidance on what to change. 

(5) Address Red Flags Immediately

As mentioned above, if you notice any major issues with a new hire, you must deal with it immediately. Reach out to them without delay and set up a meeting. Do not let them go on, business as usual, without addressing that issue. Doing so can only make the situation worse because they will not only continue to make that mistake, but the bad behavior can become a habit and also spread to others. At the very least, seeing someone on the team violating the culture or the expectations that everyone holds dear is a real mood and motivation killer. You want to avoid that, since it is indeed another cost of a bad hire.

During that meeting, call the hire’s attention to the rule or guideline that they violated. Ask them again if they understand it. If yes, ask them to confirm that they agree to it. If they have not yet gotten the hint and started to explain themselves, you can prompt them to tell their side of the story by mentioning that you noticed a certain behavior or mistake in their work — whatever it is. Then ask them to give their thoughts on the situation. 

Most of the time, it will be a misunderstanding that you can resolve quickly and peaceably. Once you are on the same page, they can get back to work and you can continue to observe them, with a particular focus on that issue. 

Sometimes, however, this conversation will reveal a bigger underlying issue. For example, that hire may have just said that they agree to everything out of desperation so that you would hire them. They were not being honest, and that is a big deal. That cannot be tolerated if you want to build a strong company, so you will most likely have to let that person go immediately and get a replacement.

Final Thoughts

Note that you don’t have to do all of this yourself. You may have a partner or managers that handle different areas. If you do, then we strongly advise that you divvy up the work involved in setting up for and applying these five tips. By sharing the load, you can all remain productive in your own areas of work as you prepare to strengthen your company’s human resources muscles. It also makes for a great opportunity to exercise your collaboration muscles, too! The core will grow stronger through this process, and that’s always a good thing.

 

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

Categories
Virtual Assistants

How to Train Your VA to Handle Amazon PPC

These days, you need a VA to handle Amazon PPC. Running an Amazon Store in 2021 is a time-intensive venture! The days of using Amazon as a side hustle is long past. Not only do Amazon Sellers have to expend extensive efforts into sourcing products and inventory management, but now using Amazon Advertising is unavoidable.

With three quarters of Amazon Sellers already using Amazon Pay-Per-Click advertising, or Amazon PPC for short… Being a part of that remaining 15% and not marketing your products using Amazon PPC is practically a death sentence for your Amazon Business! 

How Long Does Amazon PPC Take?

The next question on every Amazon Seller’s mind is… how much time does managing your Amazon PPC ad campaigns take?

First of all, most Amazon Sellers reported spending between 20-40 hours on their Amazon businesses as a whole. Out of this, from personal experience, we estimate that anywhere between 5-15 hours per week are being spent on Amazon PPC management.

Of course, this will vary based on how much expertise you have in Amazon PPC. Sadly, even if you’re experienced,  unless you have Amazon PPC software, keyword research and bulk uploading Amazon PPC updates will take a chunk out of your schedule.

Most Amazon PPC veterans are optimizing their ad campaigns thrice per week, or even daily. Even if you spend 2 hours on it per day, that adds up to 10 hours a week! Don’t have that much time to spare? Yeah, neither do we. That’s why hiring a trustworthy VA to handle Amazon PPC marketing for your business is invaluable.

How Can I Find a Good VA to Handle Amazon PPC?

Finding a VA to handle Amazon PPC is definitely the easy part. There are a lot of highly qualified VAs out there specifically for Amazon Store management. Some of them have even  completed courses and have glowing recommendations from previous employers. The best way to find a good VA is to go through a VA hiring marketplace. A hiring site can help source the best list of candidates for you, and in the quickest amount of time.

Going through LinkedIn on your own is an option, but likely an exercise in futility. Not only will you get an abundance of results for VAs, you will also have to personally vet them thoroughly, which could take months. When it comes to using a hiring agency, they do all the work for you. They will provide you with a list of vetted candidates, and all you have to do is interview each and decide which VA is the best fit for your business.

How Do I Train My VA to Handle Amazon PPC?

That’s the million dollar question… How do you quickly get a VA up to speed with your business? With inventory management and warehousing, it’s easy, you just need a VA well-versed in logistics and operations, and quickly run them through your own inventory management software and/or strategies. Similarly, for product sourcing or other aspects like social media management, it’s not hard to find someone with the right work experience and network.

Amazon PPC on the other hand, is highly specific not only to Amazon but to each individual Amazon store. Even for VAs with years of PPC management under their belts, every Amazon business has different marketing goals, and is at a different stage in their business cycle. This is why it’s vital to know which areas you need to train a VA to handle Amazon PPC, and how to do it fast.

We’re going to break this article down into the main tasks an Amazon PPC VA will need to do for you, and how you can quickly train them in this process.

1.  Product Portfolio

Before you can start on anything Amazon PPC related you need to run through your product portfolio with your VA. Make sure they know all your products, and major listings. This means listing out products in order of priority. Every Amazon Seller has their bestsellers, some fairly popular ones, and also some slower selling products.

Ensure that your VA is aware which products you prioritize the highest, because this will be important when it comes to allocating PPC ad budgets. Also, if you are planning to launch new products or have a product launch ongoing, absolutely ensure your VA knows that. These are the products that will need the brunt of their PPC management.

2.  Existing Ad Campaigns

If you already have existing ad campaigns, which most Amazon Sellers do, you also need to run through them with your VA. Depending on how many campaigns you have, this will be the most time-consuming task. If your Amazon Store is big, it can number in the thousands. This is why instead of going through them all we recommend splitting them into sections.

For example, if your goal is to have low Amazon ACoS, then you should sort your campaigns by ACoS and segment them into:

  1. High ACoS
  2. Target ACoS
  3. Low ACoS

Instruct your VA to handle Amazon PPC based on this, focusing the majority of their time on analyzing the performance of those low-performing, budget-bleeding high ACoS campaigns. 

Don’t limit yourself to ACoS either, if  you’d rather focus on high ROAS, impressions or conversion rate, segment based on those metrics instead.

The ideal scenario is always for your VA to familiarise themselves with all your campaigns, which they will naturally get to in time. For the training phase, focus on your pain points. It’s your VA’s job to help you optimize bad campaigns.

3.  Delegate Tasks

It likely goes without saying that before you train your VA to handle Amazon PPC, you need to figure out which aspects of your Amazon Advertising Console you want them to handle. Do you want them to handle all of it? Do you only want them for day-to-day bid optimization? Do you want them to completely rework your old campaigns and create better, new ones?  There’s a lot of nitty-gritty tasks associated with running Amazon PPC.

For your reference, here are the major ones you may want your VA to handle for you:

  1. Daily campaign upkeep
  2. Periodic bid optimization
  3. PPC report analyses
  4. Keyword rank tracking
  5. Keyword research 
  6. Competitor analysis
  7. Product launches
  8. Full Reorganization

Delegate all the major tasks you want them to handle, and give brief descriptions of what you expect from each. You can lay out goals per aspect, and monitor their performance based on said goals later on.

4.  Software and Tools

Do you already use some tools or software for Amazon PPC? For example, many Amazon Sellers use a reverse ASIN tool for keyword research and other tools to track keyword rank. Give your VA access to them so they can familiarize themselves with these tools and/or software. Chances are, they are already familiar with them. If not, you can direct them to helpful resources. Most, if not all tools and software have  dedicated tutorials either on their own websites or Youtube.

If you don’t use any, then that’s also fine. Instead, you can ask your VA what tools or software they plan to use, or if they require any. When it comes to managing Amazon PPC, it’s best to have clear lines of communication established from the beginning. Always make sure to ask your VA for what their strategies and techniques are, and what tools (if any) they need to make sure their efforts are fruitful.

5.  Budget Management

Budget management is an integral part of your training for a VA to handle Amazon PPC. Amazon PPC budgets can be demanding, and they get more demanding the more products you have. Set some concrete budget limits for your campaigns, and instruct your VA to work within those budgets.

You can also state how flexible you’re willing to be with your campaign budgets. Is there some wiggle room in your stated budget? Mention that to the VA so that they can allocate your monetary resources in the best way. This is another aspect where you need to be clear and concise. It’s better if you plan this part out before training a VA to handle Amazon PPC instead of improvising on the spot.

Are there certain campaigns or products you want to allocate a higher budget for? For example, a product launch would require more aggressive bidding, which means a higher budget. Try not to cripple your VA too much with a small budget, but also make sure they know the boundaries so they don’t bid too aggressively. What bidding strategies your VA can use depend heavily on your ad budget, so this is a section of training you definitely can’t skip.

6.  Bid Optimization

Arguably the most important part of Amazon PPC, bid optimization is where it gets complicated. There are a multitude of strategies when it comes to bid optimization, a lot of conflicting advice on when to optimize, which campaigns to optimize, how frequently to optimize…

The real answer is that all of those factors depend on how well your campaigns are doing currently, and what your personal business goals are. When it comes to bid optimization, you either have your own schedules and strategies in place that work for you, or you’re actually hiring a VA to handle Amazon PPC so that they can help streamline or improve your existing processes.

If you have your own bid optimization schedule, then inform your VA accordingly. For example, we mass-optimize our bids thrice a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with our own Amazon PPC management software, for three different marketplaces. Remember, bid optimization is highly specific to your own marketing needs, but once a week is a good guideline to follow.

Here is the key information you need to tell your VA:

  1. What campaigns to optimize
  2. How frequently to optimize bids
  3. How to optimize your bids

Part 1 will depend on your goals for campaigns too, if there’s a campaign that’s not doing so well, it will need more frequent optimization. Parts 2 and 3, you can also leave up to the expertise of your VA. Usually, Amazon PPC virtual assistants will actually have a better understanding of Amazon PPC than Amazon Sellers themselves do.

Still, if you want to play it safe, you can start your VA off by having them follow those 3 guidelines before you give them more freedom with your Amazon PPC campaigns.

Get a VA to Handle Amazon PPC

Overall, it’s clear with these six steps we laid out that Amazon PPC is lengthy and time-intensive. Not only that, bid optimization and campaign upkeep is also time-sensitive. As a business owner, you’re not always going to be free and available.

You won’t be able to jump at an opportunity to outbid a lagging competitor, or to reindex a keyword if it suddenly gets deindexed. If you’re not well-versed in Amazon PPC, then you have an even harder road ahead of you because you’ll have to spend hours learning all about it before you can even try to optimize your campaigns yourself.

This is why having a VA to handle Amazon PPC is invaluable. It’s a long-term investment, because with all the time they free up for you, you can invest into expanding your business. The only hurdle with having a VA is training them, and that’s why in this article we laid out the perfect way to train your VA to handle your Amazon PPC.

 

 

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Virtual Assistants

4 Activities for a Thriving Remote Company Culture

Are you struggling to develop or adapt to a remote company culture? Establishing and nurturing a company culture can be difficult in and of itself. Often, when a business starts as fully remote or transitions to a remote workforce, it can be even more challenging. This is simply due to the nature of remote work, and how unfamiliar it is to a lot of business owners.

In this post, we’ll share four activities that you can engage in with your virtual hires to help you keep your remote company culture thriving. 

(1) Weekly All Hands Meetings 

At Outsource School, we start each week with an all hands meeting. This is not a meeting that is focused on remote company culture, but it supports the general atmosphere that we want to maintain. This is where we review goals and give company wide updates. The meeting doesn’t have to be a long one. The key is holding a regular meeting that everyone is required to attend. It keeps everyone connected and builds stronger working relationships. We do this over chat because it’s just easier to have the chat record to go over as needed, rather than doing a call and then having to prepare a separate repository for shared files.

Meeting with just the key people in your company might seem like a wise use of your time. It may save you up to an hour a week, but it can have lasting negative effects. When you schedule a weekly all hands meeting, you are building rapport and accountability, which eventually builds loyalty and high productivity. These are priceless elements that every business should strive to develop. The 30 minutes or one hour you spend every week nurturing the team is a wise investment.

Make sure that your all hands meeting is scheduled for the same day and time every week. This shows stability and encourages everyone to be responsible with their time — including you. That’s a key quality that every business wants to encourage as part of their remote company culture. When you are the first one to make the effort to keep appointments, you show everyone else how important integrity is within your company. It’s a small gesture that speaks volumes. Of course, if something unavoidable comes up, you can reschedule the meeting — just don’t make it a habit.

During your all hands meeting, always start by checking in to see that everyone is present. You want to show the team that when you say attendance is mandatory, you mean it. This establishes that your words mean something. The team will quickly learn that it’s not alright to disregard your instructions. That’s another vital aspect of any remote company culture. It’s too easy for someone to slip through the cracks when it isn’t likely that anyone will notice they are gone. Make sure that if anyone did not show up for the meeting, you know the reason why. Instruct the team leader or manager to make sure that they know who won’t make it, the reason why, and to volunteer this information upfront as soon as you do the attendance check. This reinforces the respective responsibilities of informing immediate superiors of absences and passing on that information to you. It also includes monitoring and understanding valid reasons for absences and making sure that work is covered, which you need to be assured of as the business owner.

Immediately following the attendance check, ask how everyone is doing. Encourage each team member to share, even if it’s just to say, “All good here.” Call them out by name if they don’t respond. This will encourage them to participate, especially where it counts the most. It also reinforces your care for them, showing them that you don’t care only about the work they produce but about them personally. Again, two very important aspects of a remote company culture that will thrive. Following each response, make the effort to engage a little with the team members. This regular interaction is vital to developing stronger connections with each team member. As you set the example, team members will also engage with each other to strengthen their relationships.

At Outsource School, we hold these weekly all hands meetings on Monday mornings. This is because it’s a great start to the week. After checking in, we dive into sharing work updates. You should start with your company wide updates. First, inspire the team with goals met and other wins from the past week. This keeps motivation high after the pleasant check-in banter as you move on to more serious topics. Then, share the goals that you are targeting for the current week. Tie them into the goals that you have set for the current quarter, too. This is so that you can keep everyone’s long-term focus set on the bigger picture. 

The managers can jump in here to share what they will be working on to support those goals. Again, this sets the tone for everyone else in terms of expectations on goal setting and accountability. Ask the team if they have any questions about the goals. You want to make sure that the direction for the week is completely clear. Finally, pass the baton over to the rest of the team members. You should have a general format for them to follow when sharing updates, which you exemplify. This keeps everyone focused and keeps the information easy to receive and understand. Lists are great for updates on the past week’s accomplishments and targets for the current week. At Outsource School, we also ask the team members to prepare questions, challenges, and solutions that they are facing within their roles. Stay focused as each one shares because you want to show appreciation for each contribution and motivate them to keep up the good work. You don’t want them getting the feeling that the meeting is just an empty requirement.

(2) Share Weekend Photos 

One way that we love to use at Outsource School to build rapport with hires is sharing weekend photos. It covers the goal of getting to know team members outside of their work responsibilities, and it’s really fun, too. This personal sharing activity is a perfect fit for our Monday meeting schedule. Not everyone has weekends off, of course, but most do, and most will engage in weekend activities anyway because that’s when family members and friends are available for rest and relaxation.

At the start of each week, ask everyone on the team to share photos of what they did over the weekend. If you’re not doing your all hands meeting on Monday mornings, you can always schedule this activity separately in your all hands group chat. We have also found that sharing photos creates a deeper personal connection among team members than just sharing stories or getting away with a simple response. It also saves time because, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Trust is of ultimate value when working with teams, and this rapport builder activity is golden. It’s a gentle way to encourage participation from new hires. You also get a chance to learn important things about them without being overtly intrusive (which does not yield positive results). It’s also a great way to stay up to date with what’s happening in the lives of long-term team members. Relationships need to be nurtured, so you need a regular activity like this to build and keep them. Relationship is also a prerequisite to trust, which you need to create a remote company culture that will thrive. Moreover, a vibrant remote company culture will work to build a team that functions effectively. You’ll see improvements in areas like communication, for example, as people grow comfortable with each other and develop mutual respect.

(3) Monthly Culture and Team Meetings 

This is a meeting where you will focus specifically on your remote company culture. This is an important opportunity for you to talk about the culture, reinforce your values, and remind people of your vision as a company. Keeping the team excited about the future goes a long way towards maintaining a high level of motivation and genuine investment in the company — as opposed to being invested simply in a weekly paycheck.

Your company mission, vision and values may not change much over time. Culture, however, is a living thing, a dynamic construct that can change constantly. If you want to maintain your remote company culture within certain boundaries, you need to work to preserve it. Behaviors in the group can influence your remote company culture, so that’s one big area that you need to keep an eye on. 

During your monthly culture meeting, make sure that you always have a culture check as a main point on the agenda. The main goal of this meeting is to regularly reinforce your remote work culture and clean out anything that threatens it. Some changes can be good, and you might want to incorporate them, but you need to be vigilant and critical so that you can ensure that nothing gets in that can have long-lasting negative effects.

Schedule a time once a month to hold a remote company culture meeting. Make it an event, not just another meeting. Yes, everyone should be expected to participate, but it’s more than just a requirement. At Outsource School, we create anticipation for each culture meeting by expressing genuine interest and excitement for the activity. We always make an effort to demonstrate that our culture is value-driven, and our team leaders and managers are with us on this. We also put a focus on hiring people who are all on the same page with us from the get-go. Everyone agrees and exemplifies the core values that make up our remote company culture and knows how important it is to uphold it. So, everyone sees the meeting as a positive exercise.

Prepare for these company culture meetings by outlining specific points that you want to review. This means that you need to have a list of culture points from the previous month. Start by celebrating people who have been awesome culture ambassadors for the company. This encourages them to keep reinforcing the remote company culture in their own conduct, thereby also encouraging others to do the same. Then go over any trouble spots that you have observed over the past month in the day-to-day of your business. Appoint the team leader and / or individual department managers to gather and compile the information so you are not spending too much time trying to monitor everyone. Then make sure that you understand each incident. You will need to know the key details of what’s going on so that you can identify which issues stem from misunderstandings about the culture, for example, or disagreement with it, versus blatant non-compliance rooted in arrogance or outright rebellion. Most issues will not be too bad. In any case, you will want to get wind of any potential ones early on so you can stop them from growing into major problems with huge negative effects.

Begin the monthly culture meeting as you would your all hands meeting. Reinforce your connection with the team through check-ins, then present the agenda. After this, introduce any new hires to the rest of the team and give them a few minutes to welcome them warmly. 

Before joining the monthly culture meeting, new hires need to be taken through your remote company culture documents step by step. This should ideally happen during their onboarding. This is so that they are familiar with the culture before they come to the meeting, and you have already confirmed that they have no questions or objections. This way, they can focus on the specific concerns at hand. (Note that if any new hire is not in complete agreement with the culture, it will be risky to keep them on.)

Finally, call the meeting to order so that everyone shifts into gear, ready to tackle the content. After you have gone over the points, don’t forget to ask if anyone has any questions. Patiently answer all concerns. Remote company culture is a delicate organism, so you don’t want to threaten it by making anyone feel like it’s just another set of rules that they need to follow. Culture is a choice, and you want to encourage everyone to love your remote work culture, not fear it.

(4) Monthly Happy Hour Video Calls 

This meeting is another way to support the culture and relationships, but with a focus on pure fun. It’s a time to play games and do other enjoyable activities together, have a drink, and get to know one another personally without any other agenda. This allows everyone to get together for the sole purpose of chilling and bonding. This is the one meeting that we prefer to host on a video calling app like Zoom. We don’t need any notes, we just need to enjoy each other’s company.

You can start holding a monthly happy hour immediately. The only preparation needed is deciding what games to play, and making sure that you can do them online without too much trouble. Note that the best team building activities are the ones designed to strengthen communication and cooperation, encourage efficiency, and support for team members. At Outsource School, we take turns hosting so that everyone gets a chance to pick the activity and be responsible for the event. 

We have found that a monthly happy hour is valuable team building time because it’s not connected to work. Having this break from work and spending the time together solidifies relationships and builds trust and loyalty in a different way than any other work-related activity. We all need to give some attention to the purely personal angle so we don’t fall into the trap of seeing everyone in terms of their value as workers.

Final Thoughts

Help your teams to develop the habit of focusing on a common purpose through these activities. You want to build a system where everyone can work within an edifying remote company culture framework. This enables team members to take pleasure in exercising their abilities. It also promotes accountability with positive instead of negative reinforcement. Make your remote company culture thrive by introducing these activities as soon as possible.

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

 

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Virtual Assistants

The Ultimate Guide to Start and Grow a 100% Remote Business

If you want to start and grow a 100% remote business or transition to a remote business fully operated by a remote workforce, this ultimate guide is for you. Through this guide, we explain what a 100% remote business is, how your business fits into that type of setup, how you keep things under control, where you can find the kind of remote talent you need to run things, and the steps that you need to take to build your 100% remote business.

(1) What is a 100% Remote Business? 

By nature, a remote business is run remotely. It does not operate from any specific physical location. As such, it is also not run by a team of people who gather in one single office location. A fully remote business is headquartered wherever the business owner, executives, and / or management choose to put in their respective hours of work. The team that keeps everything going within the business is likewise not located anywhere specific, and each team member can in fact be in different locations on any given day. 

Team members and owners are not necessarily spread out all over the world. Remote just means that they don’t have to report to dedicated physical offices where they do their work. So, hires can do their work from anywhere that has a suitable internet connection. This is a basic prerequisite for a fully remote business to operate because everyone working on and in the business has to stay in touch. As such, any business has the opportunity to hire people from almost anywhere in the world that they would like to.

As hinted at above, all functions within a fully remote business are conducted online. This is true for almost every remote business. There are some exceptions, of course. A few remote hybrid businesses still use gofers and messengers and couriers and the like to physically bring documents and things to and from different team members. This is not very practical, however, especially if you have people working from faraway regions or even different countries. Fully remote businesses must rely on the internet to be able to collaborate on projects.

Moreover, you need to understand that some things will work differently under a remote structure. You don’t have that office environment where everyone comes together physically under the same roof. For one thing, a remote business needs a different type of company culture and management style. You’ll also need a stricter system to make sure that everyone can and does stay in touch, which we’ll discuss a bit later in this post.

(2) What Type of Businesses Can Be 100% Remote? 

Put simply, any business that can function completely online can be a 100% remote business. If your business has certain areas that can’t be done by someone online, then you cannot be completely remote. However, you can build a hybrid structure where you have in-house or physical staff for those specific tasks and run other areas by remote.

For example, if you run a landscaping company, you may not be able to go fully remote if you provide the equipment that the landscapers use. You would need to maintain a physical location to house the equipment. You would also probably want to have at least one person on location to watch over the equipment as it is signed out and back in, and possibly to guard the facility when you’re closed. Other than that, areas like marketing, sales, accounting, and customer service can be fully handled by remote hires. This is true even if you have determined that online advertising, for instance, does not work as well to bring in sales as putting up physical posters or handing out flyers or running ads in the local newspaper. You don’t have to maintain a physical office location to get those posters put up and flyers handed out and newspaper ads printed. 

(3) How to Communicate within a 100% Remote Business 

When you run a fully remote business, you will need to set a virtual communication system firmly in place to make sure that everyone on the team can stay in touch. Since you are going to be dependent on the internet, this communication system needs to be online. Keeping communications online just makes the most sense. At Outsource School, we use Slack as our primary team communication channel. We also use email for certain types of communication that don’t make sense on Slack, and Zoom for video calls because it just works better than Slack for when we want to meet with our team that is spread out all over the world.

You always want to have alternative means of communication as well. For instance, if the internet or power goes down in someone’s state, they need to have an alternate way of informing at least one other person on the team that they are not available for a certain period of time. Cellular networks are a great communication system to act as your secondary way of getting a  message through. This can be mobile data, if available and strong or fast enough, or a text message in the rare case that internet service is simply not available within the region. (You don’t want to force hires to travel for hours to get to a place where they can use decent internet because there’s a big storm raging where they live.)

(4) Where to Find the Best Remote Talent

The best remote talent can, not ironically, be found online. They cannot all be found in one single place, though, because they are scattered all over the world. However, there are online hiring platforms that remote freelancers sign up on to more easily gain access to clients. This is your best bet if you’re looking to hire for several different roles. These hubs also work very well if you need people who are not necessarily specialized or experts in specific areas like sales funnel optimization, eCommerce website customization or Facebook Ads. 

If you are looking for highly specialized talent, you can search for niche-specific platforms that curate talent for defined areas like graphic design or app development. You can also do very well with a Google search targeting that specific area of specialization. Then you can review the various freelance portfolios and reviews available and hire directly without having to pay any fees. Just know that outside of a hiring platform, you will not have much chance for added protection in case that freelancer turns out to be a scammer. That said, not all hiring platforms provide you with much protection, anyway.

Some online hiring platforms are more popular in certain countries, and others collect freelance talent from a variety of countries. Still others — the select few — are known for maintaining a freelancer base of only the top performing individuals in their respective fields and niches. These select marketplaces are where you want to go to have the best chance of finding the best remote talent for your needs.

(5) How to Build Your Remote Business

Now you have a good understanding of what a fully remote business will look like, and what you need to get started. In this section, we’ll go over in detail the steps you need to take to actually begin the journey.

(1) Identify the Roles You Need to Hire For 

This is true for any type of business, remote or not, but we did not want to gloss over this vital step in the hiring process. You need to know exactly what roles you need to get filled within your business. Take time to think about where you’re spending your time and what you need to get off your plate to free up that valuable time.

Think about whether you need one person to do all of these tasks or if you need a few or several people to get the tasks done at a higher level. Even if you have done all of these tasks yourself in the past, it does not mean that it is best to have one person cover them all. You may have found them easy to do, but you can’t expect the same from everyone else. You’ll end up either disappointed with the low quality of the work output or end up paying that one person a much higher rate to be your jack of all trades. After all, you would not pay your highly versatile self a low rate, and no highly talented freelancer would accept the same. It generally makes more sense to hire several people to take on different tasks if you want to pay lower rates. For specialized tasks, you will definitely need to hire people with special skills and experience. 

(2) Create Role Descriptions

Clearly define each one of these roles. Start with the simplest tasks first because they are generally easier to hire for. This gives you time to get used to the process before you move on to more complex roles. All of these types of tasks and positions are usually administrative in nature. They can usually be taken on by a single general virtual assistant. This will depend, of course, on how many hours of this type of work need to get done. You will have difficulty hiring a freelancer if you want them to work more than 40 hours a week with no days off. 

Start from the perspective of explaining one role to one person. This way, you can focus on how to get your needs across clearly. Then, later on, you can also make it easier for yourself to get them set up in the role before you make a second hire. 

You may have some tasks on your plate that you think are simple but actually require a higher level of skill. When in doubt, treat them the same way that you would a specialized task. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Tackle these after you have hired for all the simple and repetitive tasks.

Elements of a Role Description

Title

Begin your role description with a strong title. It should include the major tasks that you need the ideal candidate to do within that role. It should also contain any special tools that the right person needs to know how to use. Don’t forget to add in any other main qualities that you have determined that they need to possess. This title will help you to attract the best fit from the very start. Here’s a good example of a title:  Google Docs Administrative Assistant | Strong English, Team Player

Details

Start this section of your role description with a short paragraph about your business. This will inform any prospective applicant what they need to know about it before they apply. Make sure that it serves as a deterrent to anyone who will not fit in. For instance, use words like “proactively” to describe how you tackle client needs so that you can avoid attracting applicants who do not possess this quality.

Then break down the individual tasks that are covered within the role. List out the skills that are needed to do each task well. Based on the sample title above, a few of the tasks involved would be data entry, research, and calendar management. These tasks would, respectively, require skills like a typing rate of 50 to 80 words per minute, accuracy and attention to detail, a stable internet connection, and strong attendance.

Below the task details, include information on the rate that you are expecting to pay. Then, if you have a preference for where the applicant should be located, add that in. Finally, specify the number of hours that you need them to work on a weekly basis. If you need them for a specific range of hours during any given day of the week, make that clear. If the hours are flexible, write that down. It’s important to include these details so that you can capture the attention of applicants who are a good fit for that schedule and hours per week. Leaving these details out can also cause more experienced freelancers to pass you over because they aren’t desperate and don’t want to waste time on an offer that could turn out to be a poor fit. This can be in terms of rate or location or hours or pretty much any other detail.

The final paragraph of your description should be a request for previous work samples. You can also ask for any additional information that you want to know. Then indicate how they should contact you to respond to the offer. (You may not have to add this information if the platform you are using has an internal system for this.)

(3) Recruit and Interview through Online Platforms 

Choose the best channel for each position that you are hiring for. As above, you may use a marketplace like FreeUp to hire basic virtual assistants, and prefer to search for a specialized advertising agency on Google. 

Format your role descriptions according to the channel that you’re using. Take the time to make sure that you are filling out form fields accurately and completely. This will raise your chances of finding the best fits for each role.

As applications come through, take some time to read each response and look over the included work histories. Based on this initial information, select the best candidates and contact them for an interview. If you don’t get a response from a candidate within a few days — ideally 24 hours, even if it’s a vacation responder — it’s a sign that you should move on and choose a replacement candidate to interview.

During the interview, begin by introducing yourself and your business. Then ask them if they have any questions. Pay attention to these because they will show you if the candidate is a good fit for your company culture — if they will blend in and work well with you and the existing team. Next, ask the candidate questions to confirm their hard skills and give you insight into their soft skills, or character traits. These questions will help you spot any red flags in terms of ability to do the work or attitude or performance issues. Remember to ask the candidate about their experience and availability as well. This is so that you can verify if their circumstances will allow for them to take on the role.

If you’re not happy with any of the candidates or you have reservations about all of them, reevaluate your role description. You may have missed something or added something that is preventing you from attracting quality applicants. Don’t hire anyone until you are satisfied that you have found the right fit. This time investment will save you a lot more time and headache moving forward.

(4) Hire the Best Team Members for your Remote Business 

When you do have the right candidate, you can start the hiring process. This process differs from one channel to another. Make sure that you are familiar with the process and that you have everything you need to complete it. Once that’s settled and you have your safeguards in place, you can begin the onboarding process for the new assistant. 

(5) Onboard and Set Clear Expectations

Make sure that you have a clearly defined onboarding process for remote hires. This way, you can avoid spending a lot of time training on the job. An onboarding process is basically what working with you looks like. Below are some key areas to focus on for onboarding new hires.

Expectations

Make sure that you set clear expectations with hires very early on. Most of this should have already been communicated through your role description and confirmed during the interview. This part of onboarding is just a formality where you confirm that they agree with your formal work expectations document, which includes all the smaller details and nuances of areas like attitude, work days and times, daily reports, work output, meeting attendance, emergency contact information, etc. 

As with the culture doc, you should give new hires access to it in advance, walk them through it, and make sure that everyone gets on the same page before you move to the next part. This will help you to avoid any issues and have something to refer back to in case any issues do happen to come up. If anyone cannot agree to meet these expectations, it’s best to carefully reconsider the hire before moving forward. 

Remote Work Culture 

Provide all new hires with your remote work culture document before the scheduled onboarding session. This gives them time to go over the material. Make sure you tell them to prepare any questions that they have because you will require them to agree with everything on that document. Then, during the onboarding session, go over the sections of the culture document step by step to make sure that everyone is on the same page with you and in full agreement with everything.

Workflows and Teams 

Make sure that all new hires know exactly how work will flow within their specific roles and teams, and how their roles tie in with other roles and teams. This is a great place to introduce them to the organizational structure of your company. This is so that they can see where everyone fits. That way, they will know who to approach in various situations that they are likely to encounter as they do their daily tasks.

Make sure that you introduce the new hire to each individual that they will be working with on a regular basis. We recommend that you do this in a separate meeting where everyone can get a chance to welcome the new hire and they all spend a few minutes getting to know each other. Building rapport is vital to the smooth integration of new hires, which is essential to fostering stronger working relationships and long-term loyalty and productivity.

All in all, make sure that you establish in writing with each new hire a clear agreement on each area. This is so there’s no room for confusion or misunderstandings that can complicate things down the road. 

(6) Set Up Strong Communication Channels

Communication is always one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. For a remote business, however, it’s even more important. Your communication channels are the only ways that you can reach team members. You can’t just call out to them from the neighboring cubicle. You can’t physically go out and find them, either, when they don’t answer your messages. 

You must set up a specific communication channel that every team member will use in the regular course of their work. Direct every hire to use this channel and no other to share updates, notifications for upcoming meetings, and the like. Remote freelancers can tend to prefer certain channels, but allowing this just leads to a big mess. For one thing, it can get very confusing to manage multiple channels. It’s a waste of time and energy. In addition, this means that you don’t have a centralized source of information, and that causes confusion and misunderstandings that lead to wasted time and effort, not to mention raising the chances that mistakes will be made.

(7) Set Goals and Hold Everyone Accountable 

You’re probably going to be setting goals for your business every quarter. Start each planning session by the last month of the previous quarter, except for the last quarter. Q4 planning should be done during the first month of the third quarter. This is because you’ll need more time to prepare for the holiday season. 

Do your review and analysis of historical performance data during the first 2 weeks of the quarter. Then move on quickly to other planning activities. This is so that you can get to the meetings before the end of the month. Set meetings to go over all the plans with managers. Then set meetings to go over the same with your teams. It’s important that everyone gets on the same page when it comes to the goals that you will be aiming for as a company. 

Don’t leave it up to the managers to make sure that every team member knows what to do. You, as the leader of the company, need to be the one to communicate these goals. You can have a much greater impact than any manager because your voice holds the most weight. When you take the time to meet with teams, you reestablish rapport and build loyalty. This is most important with new virtual hires. You can maintain stability and control in a remote business only when the team knows you and respects you. They will see you as the one who will hold them accountable to each goal. That is far more powerful than any manager handing out assignments.

(8) Hold Video Meetings to Get to Know One Another Better

Because you are building a remote business team, your only means of getting to know one another is most likely online. Getting together in person is really the best choice to build and maintain strong working relationships that develop greater teamwork and loyalty. This is not, however, possible. Take advantage of video conferencing technology to make the most of the situation. 

Schedule regular meetings with managers, different teams, and the business as a whole. You want to have the opportunity to meet with team members one on one as well, ideally once every quarter. These meetings will allow you to dig in deeper with remote hires so that you can stay on top of performance and challenges. A good rule of thumb is to meet with managers and teams — departments, like marketing and customer service — for the quarterly meetings, then once more for one on ones. For everyone as a whole, a weekly meeting is ideal, plus a monthly meeting that’s more casual and fun.

Plan Your Remote Business

Anyone can start and grow a 100% remote business or transition a business to function remotely. With these tips and steps, however, you can experience a much smoother transition. From figuring out what you can feasibly move from in-office to remote to how you can make sure teams remain connected and productive, this ultimate guide can help you plan to get your bases covered.

 

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

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Virtual Assistants

Top 7 Ways to Master Virtual Communication In Your Small Business

When you’re hiring virtual teams, it’s important to master virtual communication. You may have realized this as you noticed some difficulties communicating with virtual teams. This post is to help you to master virtual communication. We have the top seven ways laid out for you here so you can improve the transfer of information and build strong relationships even if you never meet in person.

(1) Choose Specific Communication Channels

You are probably managing a team that is spread out over multiple locations. You may also serve clients beyond your local area. This can be a logistical challenge if you don’t get ahead of it. For example, you could end up juggling six different apps just to stay in touch with everyone on the team, and six more for clients. This could also lead to miscommunication among team members who collaborate on projects, wasted time jumping from one channel to another, missed client calls, or a general lack of communication altogether.

You can avoid these types of hassles and inefficiencies by implementing a communication system. This begins with setting up what specific communication channels everyone should use. You might use an app like Slack, for instance, for internal business communications like team meetings and work progress updates. Slack allows you to group people together so that they can share information among themselves. This keeps departments separate so that the people who aren’t involved in those departments’ projects don’t have to sort through irrelevant information. It also keeps information organized because you don’t have to take separate actions to file conversations, like you would with email. Slack also keeps a record of different conversations so that you and team members can refer back to them as needed.

Email is a good tool to use for client communications because it is a very common one. Most people have an email address, but they aren’t likely to all be on the same communication platform as you and the team members are. Email is a lot more convenient for them, and you wouldn’t want to make clients have to sign up for a separate channel just to get in touch with you.

You can also use email for general company-wide announcements and updates if that works better for you. With Slack, however, you can create a separate group for this, and you can easily track who has read the update. Team members will also have an easier time responding to the memo, and everyone can see it. This does away with the email issue of forgetting to hit “Reply all”.

(2) Set Clear Expectations

As soon as you hire someone, you should take them through an onboarding session. This session should include a section on internal communication. The point of this section is to make it clear with all hires upfront that there is a specific process they need to follow regarding communication. For example, they need to know when and how often they should be checking in with managers, sending work progress updates, or following up with clients. Of course, this all happens on the communication channels you have already set up.

If you have hired people who haven’t been through a specific onboarding session, you can still set clear expectations with them. Just call everyone together for a meeting where you will share updates on the relevant systems and processes.

A review of good communication practices can also be very useful. Everyone should know what the goal is for every interaction. For example, they need to know beforehand what the goal is for that systems and processes update meeting, or what the goal is when they are asked to check in with managers. You want to always provide people with this goal so that they can communicate with that desired destination in mind. This makes communication efficient so that everyone can get all the information that they need quickly.

Before setting communication goals with team members, ask yourself for each type of interaction whether you are aiming for. Then set the expectation that they need to communicate accordingly, and also to set their own communication goals within their departments. This will help everyone look at communication as understanding where the other person is at currently, and not just throwing information at them. Then everyone can better see how to get to the desired destination in the easiest and fastest way possible.

(3) Hold All Hands Meetings

You probably meet with key people in your organization quite regularly. But there are most likely several people with whom you don’t really have regular interaction with. This needs to change if you want to master virtual communication. You don’t want to lose touch with hires because you simply failed to reach out to them after the interview. You also want to build a stronger relationship with them, which means more than just talking about what work you want them to get done for you.

Hold a meeting once a week on a scheduled day and time where you gather everyone together. This is a great time to touch base with everyone, and gives them a chance to touch base with each other, too. Both aspects are very important for the dynamic of the team as a whole.

During this meeting, you can start by sharing personal updates. At Outsource School, we hold these weekly all hands meetings on Monday mornings. Then we share updates about what we all did over the weekend. It’s a great rapport builder with new hires, and a great way to stay in tune with what’s happening in the lives of long-term team members. Trust is very important in building effective teams, and you can’t have trust without relationships. This trust also reinforces better communication because people get to know each other and become comfortable interacting with each other — especially, you, the “boss”.

After the personal updates, you can start sharing work updates. Inspire the team with wins from the past week. This keeps motivation high. Then dive into the general goals and what you and the managers will be working towards improving for the week. This sets the tone with you heading up goal setting and accountability. Then you can field any questions from the team about these goals. Finally, do a review of the goals that you have set for the current quarter, and connect these goals with the vision that you have for the company.

After the management level updates, it’s the team’s turn to share their updates. Have everyone prepare a bullet list of what they have to share with everyone. At Outsource School, we ask for updates from the past week, any issues that happened and how they dealt with them or if they need help, and their goals for the week ahead. As each one shares, make sure you stay focused so you can show appreciation for their contributions and motivate them to keep up the good work.

(4) Require Daily Check Ins and Check Outs

You don’t have to be hands on all the time to master virtual communication. You can set up a system that keeps everyone organized. One important procedure for every team member to follow is checking in when they start work and checking out when they finish work. Your onboarding process should outline who to check in and out with, and where. For example, they can reach out to their direct supervisor, or post in a group with their team leader.

You can also use these daily checks to have them report on what they’ll be focused on for the day, and what they finished at the end of their shift. These daily checks keep them accountable for showing up on time and ready to dive into work, and for making sure that things get done. Regular communication among team members who work closely together is vital for quality work output. It also helps team members get more comfortable with each other so that they can be more open about challenges that they are facing. To this end, make sure that team leaders are paying attention to relationship building and not just tracking work.

In the final analysis, these checks are not only to track productivity but to manage results, and not just activity. Be very clear when you set expectations and about these daily checks that everyone should be aware of outcomes. This helps everyone to avoid the slippery slope into unproductive busy work because they stay focused on actual results-producing actions. Encouraging this consciousness in all interactions is vital. You can only master virtual communication when you are all focused on results, and that becomes part of the company culture.

As a bonus, setting expectations and monitoring results further empowers self-motivated hires and encourages others to take initiative and get things done at a high level.

(5) Hold a Monthly Virtual Happy Hour

A monthly happy hour is something that you can start doing to further support stronger team relationships. Schedule a monthly video call  using a tool like Zoom so everyone can have some face time. This allows everyone to get together for the sole purpose of bonding and having fun. This is team building time that is specifically set aside for taking a step back from work. Giving everyone this break, yet still spending the time together, solidifies relationships and builds trust and loyalty. Everyone needs to see everyone else as people, not just worker bees.

Start off by hosting an activity yourself. Make sure to choose something that you can comfortably execute online. The best team building activities are designed to strengthen communication and cooperation, encourage efficiency and support for team members, and be fun! The point is to get the team to focus on a common purpose within a framework that enables members to exercise their abilities and a structure that promotes accountability. Practicing these team values in a casual setting will help everyone to master virtual communication in a fun and easy way.

(6) Avoid Attribution Errors

We humans have the natural tendency to make attribution errors. This term describes how we default to a mode where we explain people’s behavior as a facet of their character or how we blame a particular circumstance for our behaviors — mostly when we are called out for bad behavior. We naturally tend to be more generous and forgiving with ourselves than we are with others. This is more true when we are upset.

It’s important to model correct attribution with hires. First, this means not labeling people to explain their behavior. For example, avoid saying that a person took credit for your work because they are rude or selfish. Their motives are their own, and all you can really do honestly is express how that behavior made you feel. Second, it means owning your reactions to other people’s behavior. For instance, don’t justify that time you lashed out by saying that it’s because your internet went down and you were rushing to finish your tasks, or because you had a stressful conversation with a client. The way that you react to circumstances is under your control.

If you can model this to the whole team, you can encourage them to do the same. They will learn to look at people and situations differently to have a more positive attitude. This will then help to foster a more positive work environment overall.

Remember that most virtual communication lacks the nonverbal communication elements that we usually rely on as part of each interaction. For example, you may be on an audio call where you can’t see any facial expressions or note the person’s environment. You may also not be able to hear their tone of voice clearly. Because of this added challenge, we can more easily make attribution errors by jumping to conclusions and not giving people the benefit of the doubt. You need to lead by example to make compensating for the limitations a part of your company culture. This way, you can avoid the added challenges and master virtual communication.

(7) Maintain the Right Communication Style

To master virtual communication, always be authentic when you communicate with team members. Authenticity is the only way that you can be a truly effective communicator.

You may have a persona that you hide behind when you’re in public view. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just part of the privacy boundaries we set up, and most of us do this to some extent. But you don’t want to keep this wall up between you and the members of your team. You want to build relationships with them rather than keep them shut out. You can still have boundaries, of course, but you have to show up more authentically than with, say, people you see when walking down the street to buy a cup of coffee. The wall has to come down if you want to foster a team atmosphere.

Showing up authentically begins with having empathy. You need to develop the ability to understand the people on your team and to share feelings with one another. This is actually the very basis of real and meaningful communication. Otherwise, you’re just talking at people, not with them. This also means that not a lot gets through on the receiving end.

Authenticity also requires vulnerability and humility. You need to let people into your life to a certain extent and find some common ground on which to interact with them. These traits also mean that you really listen to others, and don’t just wait for them to say something that you want to hear.

If you’re shy, start by getting comfortable talking to people. Then you will grow to be truly present and engaged during interactions and make others feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Go Master Virtual Communication!

Keep in mind that holding meetings over the internet is different from meeting in person. Getting updates from someone halfway across the world is not the same as hopping over to an office next door and having a chat.

The dynamic of virtual work tends to be on the loose side compared to working in an office setting where you can pop in to check on people any time you like. This is why setting up a system for communication is so important. You want to make sure that everyone is aware of what’s expected so they can remain accountable without the threat of a surprise inspection. Having a system also provides a reliable structure of expectations that helps people feel more comfortable so they can focus on work.

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

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Virtual Assistants

4 Steps to Create a Remote Work Culture Your Team Will Love

Do you have a remote work culture in your business? Maybe you do, but the problem is that it just isn’t working for you or your team or your business overall. Your remote work culture could be better, and you’re ready to take action to make that a reality. 

This post is to give you the steps to create a remote work culture that your team will love. Culture is an essential part of every organization, and you have it, whether you know it or not. Company or work culture is what moves people to make a decision about joining one team and not another. It is also a huge part of their decision to stay or leave a business. Company culture develops with or without your guidance, so you really should be at the helm so you can cultivate a remote work culture that serves you. This culture that you create is vital to gaining and maintaining a competitive edge by fostering a work environment that your team wants to come into every day. As you work through the steps to build that better remote work culture, you and your team will enjoy greater clarity, motivation, loyalty, collaboration, and productivity.

(1) Create a Remote Work Culture Doc 

Whether you’re hiring remote or not, your business should have a company culture document. This document is there to teach and remind everyone in the company of what the whole team is about. It creates a more tangible form of the abstract concept of culture so that everyone has a more solid guide to refer to whenever they are in doubt or need an attitude adjustment. 

Any organization has a greater chance of being successful when they have a work culture that has its foundations in shared beliefs. These beliefs should be strongly held by each member of the team and supported by your strategy as a leader and the structure of work within your business. 

With a strong remote work culture, your business will experience powerful improvements in the way work flows. For example, team members will know what to do in any given situation because they are clear on how you would want them to act under different circumstances. They hold the same beliefs as you do, so they know what response you expect as the correct response. They will also know that they are going to be rewarded for putting core values into practice.

So, your remote work culture document will set to paper your mission, vision, and values for starters. This will educate everyone on the basics of what your company is founded on. Your mission statement should concisely explain why the organization exists — its purpose and intention. It supports your vision and expresses the purpose and direction of everyone on the team as well as clients, customers, and other stakeholders. Your vision statement should clearly express how you see your business in its ideal state — the future you want to achieve. It inspires team members to action and challenges them to keep working towards the goal. Your values statement should include the core principles that you hold to guide the business and its culture. These values are the moral compass for the business and everyone working on and in it. In this way, it acts as a standard that everyone checks their actions against. It also therefore directs decision-making. 

Now you have a framework of core values to work from as you work on the next part, which is creating a code of ethics. This is simply how you will enforce putting your values into practice. The code is an outline of the procedures that you have in place to make sure that everyone involved in the business upholds its values. Then you can create a section that outlines the behaviors that you will not tolerate within your business. 

Remember that you can’t expect any changes in your remote work culture to magically take effect. Change happens gradually and success will depend on how each person embraces the values and ethics and behaves in accordance with them. Each person must be in agreement with the culture for it to effectively guide their attitudes, actions, and decisions. 

When you’re hiring remote, remember as well that this document needs to contain elements that speak directly to remote work culture. Consider the unique circumstances that you have within your business as well. Keeping these elements in mind will help you define your culture more clearly in a way that makes complete sense to everyone.

(2) Hold a Company Culture Meeting

Once you have your remote work culture document ready, it’s time to meet with the team. You will need to share the document with everyone else involved in the business because they are very much involved in your business culture. This is not just about demanding compliance with rules and regulations. A company culture only works when everyone is already in agreement in the first place. 

At least a week before the meeting, share the document with everyone so that they have time to go over it on their own. Make it clear that they should come to the meeting prepared. This means that they either understand the document or have prepared questions for parts that they need you to clarify. They should also come with thoughts on the different sections and points for discussion.

Begin the company culture meeting by reinforcing your connection with the team. Check in with everyone on a personal level, then check in to see if they’re ready to go over the document. Once you are on the same page with that, give them an outline of what you will cover during the meeting and dive right in. 

Go over the document step by step. Ask everyone for any questions that they have about it. Take the time to thoroughly answer questions so that there’s no misunderstanding on any point. The goal will be to avoid future misunderstandings and non-compliance caused by a wrong impression or interpretation of what’s expected. Then ask everyone for their feedback on the section. Take the time to discuss each piece of feedback so that you are sure that you are not misunderstanding. Then you can respond to the feedback and make any needed changes. This can be adjusting parts of the document or adjusting within the team. In some cases, you or a team member may realize that working together is not a good fit. Soon after, make sure that you meet to talk it over. You don’t want to wait too long to get that issue resolved so it’s out of the way.

Always open the discussion up to any final thoughts when you reach the end of the last section. Some team members may have additional questions or feedback. You want to make absolutely sure that everyone is on the same page with you before you all go back to work. If you are going to make any changes to the document, let the team know when the final edition will be available for review. Make it clear at that time that you need them to look it over again and sign off on it. You want to be absolutely sure that everyone is in agreement with you on the culture. It is non-negotiable if you want to create a work environment that everyone loves so you can all be motivated and enjoy clarity, loyalty, collaboration, and productivity.

(3) Hold Monthly Work Culture Meetings 

Culture is dynamic, ever-changing based on behaviors in the group. This means that you will need to reinforce your remote work culture at regular intervals. Schedule a time once a month for this. Make it an event that everyone is expected to participate in. Create anticipation for it by demonstrating the value-driven nature of the culture. Everyone will see the meeting as a positive exercise when they are all on the same page with you about the culture and the importance of upholding it.

You should prepare for these meetings with specific points that you want to reinforce. This means being observant in the day-to-day of your business. You need to know what’s going on so that you can take note of any issues and identify which ones are rooted in a misunderstanding of the culture or non-compliance with it. 

Begin the monthly culture meeting in much the same way as above, with one element added. As above, reinforce your connection with the team by checking in with everyone on a personal level, then give them an outline of what you will cover during the meeting. Then you want to give everyone the opportunity to meet any new additions to the team. Finally, confirm that everyone is ready to tackle the content, and dive in. Again, make sure to open the discussion up to any final thoughts before you end the meeting. 

Note that any new hires should have been directed to review the remote work culture document during their onboarding, before they attend their first culture meeting. This means that you should have already made sure that they have no questions or objections. If they are not in total agreement with you on the document, you should reconsider keeping them on the team.

(4) Lead By Example 

Value-driven company culture begins with you and your values being acted out in a consistent manner. You can’t expect team members to behave in the way that you expect them to in your business if you are not setting the example for them. You need to lead with your values in action because culture is inherently difficult to define. You do have that document that outlines behaviors, but culture in itself is an elusive concept. You have to demonstrate it for people to really get a good grasp of it and behave accordingly. Remember, culture isn’t a specific dress code or promotion structure. It’s the atmosphere of shared beliefs in the way that things should be within the company.

You as the business owner, and managers as well, have a very important role to play in encouraging and reinforcing a strong remote work culture. It’s more challenging than perpetuating a culture within a confined office environment because of the physical distance and varying work times. So, you really have to be committed to working on leading by example for it to yield the results that you want to see.

Start taking action to uphold the culture by hiring only those select individuals who share your beliefs. If you are just now creating a purposeful remote work culture or revamping an old one, you may have to restructure your team. You want to end up with people who will thrive in the culture that you are building. Anyone who is not on board a hundred percent will become a hindrance to achieving that goal. Carefully consider the impact that such a person can have, knowing that you may have to replace them for the sake of the business as a whole.

Next, work on developing your onboarding orientation to emphasize your culture to new hires. Then work on training and performance management programs like the monthly culture meeting that will remind everyone of the culture, go over issues, and help everyone to get better and better at practicing the organization’s core values. In line with these programs, you need to develop a rewards program as well to recognize those who embody the company’s values and serve as great examples to everyone.

Final Thoughts

Make your remote company culture fun but productive. In addition to setting clear expectations and rewarding people for working hard, you want to make an effort to avoid micromanaging. You have taken steps to ensure that they hold the same beliefs that you do. Now, let them learn and grow and enjoy the fulfillment that comes from that. Set goals with them as a team to work towards the common vision and the steps in between. 

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

Categories
Virtual Assistants

Q4 Planning: 5 Tips to Get Your Business Ready for Q4 In the Summer

Q4 planning isn’t something that most small business owners think about until October is just around the corner. But if you can start Q4 planning during Q3, you put your business in a much better position for success. You won’t find yourself behind at the end of the summer, and you won’t be scrambling to make a good profit in Q4.

Q4 can be a very busy time of the year. Affiliate managers hustle to schedule and coordinate brand and site promotions. Operations managers hustle to ensure they meet program goals. To make your Q4 successful, we strongly suggest early preparation with business analysis, strategic Q4 planning, and a production review.

(1) Review and Analyze Data

Start with a review and analysis of your business’s historical performance. This process will give you a lot of valuable information that can guide your Q4 planning. Take a good look at your key performance indicators (KPIs) like revenue, clicks, average order value, and return on advertising spend. You can review different time periods separately to look for trends. For example, you can discover your specific peak sales seasons for different products. Then review the numbers for year over year, and then quarter over quarter. This will give you an idea of how your business has performed through time. That way, you can see where you have or have not grown, and then you’ll know where to look for the reasons why this happened.

Going deeper, you can look at each individual KPI separately to review things like which links got you the most clicks, which devices your target customers are using most, which partners got you the most referrals, and which promotions got you the most sales. This will show you the trends and most lucrative opportunities to invest more in as you move towards Q4. It will also show you which campaigns or other efforts are not bringing you the level of results you need to make them worth repeating. 

At the very least, this review will show you where you need to improve tracking so that you can collect more data about your performance and learn more from it. For example, you might notice that you don’t know where your traffic is coming from. Then you can set up trackers to monitor it so you can take better advantage of those traffic sources. You may also notice that you have not been taking advantage of certain built-in social media data analytics, or that you need more than just the basics. Then you can decide what improvements to make, like hiring someone to increase community engagement or purchasing a tracking tool.

An analysis should also be able to tell you how you can improve your abandoned cart ratings and launch retargeting campaigns. These take time to set up, monitor, and tweak, so you’ll want to get started before the Q4 rush sets in. Armed with campaigns that have been tested as effective, you will be in a great position to experience a very profitable Q4.

Generally, you will want to take note of any opportunities for optimization that you notice as you go over the data. This will help you to set goals for the business when you sit down to do your Q4 planning.

(2) Start Q4 Planning in July

July is the best month to start Q4 planning. You have finished Q1 and Q2, and you are ready to implement new projects to achieve a whole new set of goals. To prepare for Q4, many of these goals should be geared towards a successful end of the year for your business. If you plan for Q3 separately, you may find yourself overstretched, or having to redo several goals to accommodate your Q4 strategy. By the time you realize that you need to shift, you will have wasted time and will most likely get stressed out trying to manage it all. The real danger here, however, is that you may not even have enough time or resources to achieve your Q4 goals even if you power through. The key is to start Q4 planning in July to avoid all of this hassle. This way, you will have a full quarter to prepare your business for the busiest shopping season of the year.

Armed with the review and analysis that you have just conducted, you should have a good number of ideas on what needs to be done in preparation for Q4. You have three whole months to figure out how to put out the fires and shore up certain areas. If your business was in pretty good shape to begin with, then you will have plenty of time to get some growth plans set in motion, too.

The first thing that you want to look at before deciding on what projects to do is your budget. When you know how much you have overall, you can decide how much you can and should invest in each project. Then you can think about the ways in which you can reasonably cut costs to stay within budget without sacrificing quality. Make sure that you take note of any obstacles that you think you may come across for the duration of the project. This is part of the mapping out process that shows you how you’ll be able accomplish each of your goals, or at least some of them. That will help you decide which of the ideas on your list you can pursue for this round. 

Project Planning

You may be looking into launching a new product or service in Q4. This means that you’ll need to prepare a go to market strategy. This strategy will describe in detail how you are going to break into that new market or audience. This type of strategy also works if you are planning a relaunch of your existing or improved brand, product or service offering. More than a marketing plan, this strategy will give you a more detailed focus so that everyone involved knows exactly what targets they need to hit and how to get there. 

If you’re focused on pushing sales for an existing product or service, you’ll need to plan around your top offering. It should be very easy to determine what your top products or services are, using the data from the first step above. Take into consideration as well any products or services that you think might become very popular this year. With this, you can start developing a plan to promote them. 

Customers always look for the best deals during the Q4 shopping season. One big idea around your Q4 planning should be how you will provide them with the best offers possible. When you have this mapped out, it immediately puts your brand in a position to succeed. Look at your data once again and identify the offers that were the most popular last Q4. Then look at what the competition is offering and do a comparison. This should give you a good idea of how well you are positioned in terms of specific offers. Look at set sale days, too, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day, and Super Saturday.

Make sure that you get all your promotions organized in a calendar. At Outsource School, we use Trello to keep track of all this. With the Calendar power-up, it’s a breeze. We have all our content in one place, making sharing and collaboration easy. Plus, tasks are tracked by point person and due date. Everybody involved in these promotional cycles know exactly how much time they have to roll each one out. 

You may also want to roll out affiliate offers to boost exposure and sales. The earlier you start building these relationships, the more breathing room your affiliates will have to prepare. This allows you to work together to come up with a solid plan.

To make planning easier, you may want to have some kind of visual representation of your project timelines. A Gantt Chart is a great tool that gives you an overview of what preparatory tasks are scheduled for Q3, and how they flow into implementation for Q4. Within the bars, you can also include who is working on each task so your project manager can make sure that there are no overlaps. If there are, then you can look into hiring additional help early on, before the bottleneck threatens to mess up your deadlines. The goal is to get you to the finish line, and a complete chart like this will tell you where you are and help the whole team stay on track. 

(3) Hold Q4 Planning Meetings

As soon as you have your timeline drafted, start meeting with your team. You will want to give them a heads up about what’s in store for Q4 so that they can get ready to rock. More importantly, you will want to get their input on the proposed projects before you finalize the details. Your team has most of the hands-on experience in the business. They will be able to give you valuable insight into what can and cannot be done within your timeline, and suggestions for how to overcome challenges. 

You’ll also want to get some form of sales proposal drafted. You need this to plan out your message for how your brand and the specific service or product you’re focused on will positively influence your target customers. This proposal will guide your marketing team in terms of what kind of brand collateral they will need, for example, to show your strengths. It will also guide your sales team in preparing to push the product or service. They can operate more efficiently when they have this streamlined and actionable process to follow to reach your goals. 

To help everyone stay on target, you can also have a target slide created. This visual is basically a bullseye surrounded by circles where you can write in the different goals or stages that need to be reached to ultimately land the central goal. This is a great reminder of the overall steps that everyone needs to focus on to achieve the Q3 and Q4 goals. 

(4) Check Production Capacity

If your business experiences that common peak in sales during the holiday season, you will want to make sure that you can meet the demand. Whether you offer products or services, it’s important to check your production capacity so that you can serve your customers well. You don’t want to run out of inventory and lose the opportunity to achieve your highest sales on record. You don’t want to be pressed for time, either, when providing a service, which often leads to poor quality output.

For products, make sure that you check your data for the specific figures that show how each  product sells during Q3 and Q4. You want to make sure that you will be able to order just enough to cover the sales for each order cycle. This means looking at your production times, too, so you know exactly how long it will take to get new orders into the warehouse. Then you can figure out exactly how much to order, and when. Give yourself a good margin for error in case any production issues come up, but not too big so you don’t end up overstocked and paying additional warehousing fees. 

For services, make sure that you check your personal capacity and the capacities of everyone on the team. Look at your data to find out the sales volume that you anticipate, Then figure out how many man hours that translates to. If you don’t have enough people to cover the work, consider expanding the team as early as now so that they will have enough time to train up and be ready for crunch time. Whatever you invest in this preparation, make sure that you anticipate a great enough surge in sales to more than make up for it. Otherwise, consider cutting back on promotions to control your sales level and keep it at a manageable level. At the end of Q4, at least you will know what volumes you can expect next year, and how you can scale up within budget to take the best advantage of it.

(5) Check Your Accounts

Give all your accounts a good once-over to make sure they are in good working order. Q4 is a crazy time of the year when you won’t have a lot of time or energy. You don’t want to have to deal with anything suddenly popping up. Use the time that you have in Q3 to tune up your accounts so you can avoid issues later. 

Make sure that you have all the basics in place on your website, social media channels, and all the tools that you use. For example, check to make sure that your Facebook pixel is working, and that your Google Analytics is tracking traffic properly. Get any bugs sorted out and check again until you’re sure it’s all working smoothly. 

Check your finances and make sure that you have enough funding to make the hires and purchases that you need for your Q4 plans. You don’t want to end up having to bail in the middle of all your efforts because you ran out of money.

Final Thoughts

Get your Q4 planning done early so you can enjoy a more profitable and stress-free Q4. Planning out your final quarter will help you to avoid making errors that can have heavy costs both on the business and you personally, as well as your team members. Q4 planning during Q3 puts your business in a much better position for success, without making unnecessary sacrifices.

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!

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Virtual Assistants

Should You Give a Mid Year Bonus to Your Virtual Team?

Small business owners often face a dilemma when thinking about giving a mid year bonus to their team members. A lot of entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have good standards for giving bonuses to their teams in the first place. This is even more true with small businesses and those that hire virtual teams. There just isn’t any system in place for incentivizing contract workers and freelancers. This is particularly true when thinking about giving more than a token holiday season bonus.

In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of giving versus not giving a mid year bonus to virtual team members. 

Mid Year Bonus Versus End of Year Bonus

End of year bonuses are popular in most work environments. This is mainly the result of the tradition of giving Christmas gifts. Business owners would hand out special gifts to the people working for them, such as hams and wines for the Christmas feast. Over the years, this “bonus” became cash gifts. In some countries, the end of year bonus has even become part of the coded regulations for employment, required by law. 

The mid year bonus is, by comparison, relatively new. As with the end of year bonus, this one is required by some governments. In these cases, the argument is that people should not have to wait twelve months to know whether or not they will receive this “gift” to thank them for their contributions to the company. 

Bonuses may not be required by law in your country. They may not even be recognized as a common practice for virtual teams. We believe, however,  that the reasons behind giving them are solid. We give special attention to the fact that freelance hires do not receive any of the other benefits required by law for employees, like health care, retirement, sick pay, or paid vacation leave. There are some caveats to giving bonuses, of course, and we encourage you to weigh the pros and cons. Your decision regarding giving bonuses can greatly affect team loyalty and productivity as well as business profitability.

Pros of a Mid Year Bonus

The middle of the year is a great time to think about giving added incentives to your team members. It’s summer time, a traditional time for taking a break from work and evaluating the previous months. Below are a few reasons why you should give a mid year bonus to your team members.

(1) Recognizes Hard Work

A mid year bonus is a powerful sign of appreciation. It can be a great way to show your virtual team how much you value their efforts. You may already be giving them an end of year bonus to show your appreciation. But twelve months is a long time for anyone to wait to receive tangible proof that their performance is valued.

A single bonus for the year may seem to have the benefit of tying down hires for the whole year. The theory is that they would stick with the company and work hard all year in anticipation of a large incentive at the end of that year. In reality, it can be problematic to wait so long to recognize hard work. 

First, people can lose their motivation over such a long period. This is particularly true in the gig economy. Freelancers can take hold of global opportunities for high-paying work without even having to think about leaving the comfort of their homes. Many of these opportunities exist, and are available at the click of a mouse button. 

Second, the people who work under you can also develop feelings of resentment if they are not appreciated for all that they’re doing for your company. This resentment can also be tied directly to the bonus being withheld until the end of the year. This is especially true if they have financial obligations during the year that they’re struggling to meet. It may not make sense since they are paid for their work, but people can easily become less productive when underappreciated and struggling. It is in your best interests as the business owner to help them be happier and more productive. A mid year bonus encourages them and eases the stress of their responsibilities.

When you recognize each team member for the first half year of hard work, you give them a reason to stay with you for the second half of the year. A mid year bonus shows them in no uncertain terms that they are doing well. This means that they don’t have to worry about whether or not they will be properly rewarded for their efforts. They don’t have to invest a whole year of their time and talent spent in uncertainty. They will have this important financial milestone that indicates how well they have performed. 

(2) Provides Added Motivation

The best virtual teams are composed of people who find personal satisfaction in their work. They do not work only for the sake of a paycheck. Still, money is an important motivator. We all need it to live well in this world. Your A-players may prioritize intellectual stimulation, contributing to a greater whole, or having a sense of accomplishment. These values don’t pay the bills or feed the kids, though. A regular mid year bonus will encourage your top performing virtual hires to perform better and better. In turn, this reward can foster greater loyalty because you care about them. This is much better than ruling with the stick and forcing them to serve you before they can get their bonus.

Off of that, a mid year bonus is also a great way to motivate underperformers. By not receiving the bonus or receiving a small amount, underperforming team members can be motivated to aspire to greatness. We all want to have more comfort in life. The promise of a reward that is tied directly to performance is a powerful motivator. 

In the same vein, a mid year bonus that is tied to performance is also necessarily tied to a performance review. This means that you have the opportunity to review and reward each team member twice a year instead of just once. This is a great opportunity to encourage everyone to adjust their performance mid year. Two is better than one, and this review will help you manage mid year slumps. Your team will appreciate it as well since they will be given the chance to improve, which will increase their chances of getting a bigger bonus next time around.

(3) Supplies Mid Year Funds

A mid year bonus is a strong incentive. As mentioned above, the summer time is a traditional period of rest and reflection. It is also a significant time in our life cycle.

Yes, business owners and virtual hires are no longer in school, governed by the school year schedule. Still, spending at least twelve of our formative years in such an environment leaves its mark. In the summer, we expect to feel that sense of accomplishment at finishing a level. We also expect a period of rest. The weather is great, which is why schools let out for summer and not a different season. We all want to spend some time enjoying the world we live in and the people we love.

You and your virtual team may not necessarily take long vacations for yourselves mid year. This period still holds significance, though. Many business owners and virtual workers are parents who want to spend quality time with their children. They will soon be sending their children back to school, and this time is important. Even in the absence of children, some time away from work is important for refreshment. It helps all of us to recharge and come back with renewed energy and passion to accomplish great things.

Going back to school also means additional expenses that parents have to pay upfront. A mid year bonus can really come in handy when the tuition payment is due and fresh school supplies need to be purchased. Giving this bonus mid year shows that you recognize their needs. It therefore gives you the ability to motivate your virtual team through the summer and into the end of the year.

For you as the business owner, a mid year bonus also means the ability to split up the payments. Payments to hires are usually a big part of any company’s costs. Giving out big bonuses at the end of the year can be a financial burden to the company. A semi-annual bonus cycle is a lot easier to manage for your business budget. A mid year bonus can also help you to see a more realistic picture of your hiring expenses before the end of the year. It then becomes easier to make adjustments to be able to meet operating expenses. Waiting until the end of the year to gauge profitability can be very damaging to the company. A mid year bonus can be a vital reminder to you to hold a business review and planning session.

Cons of a Mid Year Bonus

Adding a mid year bonus to your budget can be a burden. Setting up the bonus structure takes a lot of time and thought, as well as management. Implementing a half-baked mid year bonus can have dire consequences.

(1) Encourages Low Productivity

In terms of underperforming hires, a mid year bonus may not be the best idea. They have not contributed to a great first half of the year for the business. You may be thinking that there is no reason to give these underperformers any bonus at all. You are not rewarding poor performance, after all. Doing this would just encourage them to continue giving just enough to keep their jobs.

Improperly structured and distributed bonuses can have very bad consequences for your business. If you are not very clear about using them, for example, as a motivating factor, then you will indeed encourage underperformance. Any hire who does not understand that better performance leads to bigger bonuses will not be motivated to do better. 

As a performance incentive, a mid year bonus must be properly tracked. If you do not have strong key performance indicators, this bonus structure will not work. You will just end up handing out cash and not seeing any improvement in work output. Hires will also tend to view the bonus as part of their pay because they will not recognize it as a reward for performance or appreciation for work well done.

(2) Poses a Danger to Finances

Offering a mid year bonus to each person on your virtual team can be a heavy financial burden. It can put you in the potential position where you are giving too much cash out in the form of bonuses. If you are not taking stock of bonuses as a yearly expense, they can become enough to put you out of business. 

The mid year bonus is supposed to be a portion of the end of year bonus. Businesses can be careless about not structuring it that way and making incorrect computations as a result. These businesses often end up paying out more than it’s worth in terms of performance benefits. 

Final Thoughts

It’s now time for you to evaluate the pros and cons and decide if a mid year bonus is something you want to implement. You have specific conditions that must be met before you can make this kind of structure work for your benefit. The limitations must also be considered. Ultimately, you must weigh it all out. 

From our experience, the wise choice is to provide this mid year bonus to virtual teams. Considering the above pros, it is a very handy tool of appreciation and motivation. Structured and used properly, it is powerful in encouraging increased performance over the long term. 

If you do decide to implement a mid year bonus, we recommend that you sit down and carefully draw up your metrics and bonus levels. Then, roll out the bonus slowly so that you can work out any kinks and track performance closely. You will need to make some adjustments, but it’s always easier to adjust up rather than down. Take your time with it so that you can formulate a bonus structure that brings you all the benefits while avoiding potential ill effects.

 

Would you like to know how to be certain who your next hire should be? Or maybe you are having a hard time deciding what parts of your business can be outsourced with virtual assistants, right now. We can help you answer these questions, and help you to discover what new systems you should add to scale your business faster. Set up a free hiring consultation with us at Outsource School today – simply book here!