It has often been said that if you don’t have an assistant, you are one. In most businesses, this rings especially true.
Ninety-nine percent of businesses in America today are considered small businesses, and eighty percent of those are lone operators.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of those small businesses that do have employees, only 4% manage to net $1 million a year.
If you are in real estate, go ahead and slash those odds in half.
That’s right, only 2% of real estate businesses ever reach the million-dollar mark.
Why is that?
One reason could be that many entrepreneurs are natural solopreneurs — accustomed to being compensated by commission, these are go-getters who know how to work hard and network; but not necessarily how to delegate responsibility to others.
They are used to doing everything themselves, from prospecting all the way to closing the sale.
While not every jack-of-all-trades is necessarily a master of none, becoming stuck in that mindset has an inherent opportunity cost. Without a team, it is next to impossible to scale your business.
The reality is: you just can’t do everything yourself.
If you were to survey every top-performing business in the country, the one thing they would all have in common is multiple virtual assistants, each with his or her own strengths and closely connected areas of responsibility. To draw a phrase from Michael Gerber’s The E Myth, the owners of these businesses have grasped that the key to becoming a million-dollar company is to not just work in your business but to work on your business.
You can do it too—and it all starts with your first hire.
Hiring a virtual assistant is an important first step toward rising out of the weeds of the day-to-day operations of your business and becoming a true CEO. A talented virtual assistant or two can save you time, generate more revenue, or even both—leaving you free to concentrate on high-value tasks that only you can do.
The most difficult part can be knowing where to start.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are six steps to hiring your first virtual assistant the right way.
Step One: Take Time to Analyze Your Work Patterns
The biggest mistake a budding entrepreneur can make is to hire a virtual assistant without having a clear idea of what they want that person to achieve. A great way to avoid that issue is to start by conducting an analysis of how you spend your workdays and where others can alleviate pressure and make you more productive.
It might just blow your mind when you do.
At our company, MyOutDesk, we help business owners analyze their use of time by giving them our Sticky Challenge. In the course of the Sticky Challenge, business owners use sticky notes to inventory the tasks they spend their days on—every minute of them—for a week or two. At the end of the challenge, they categorize the tasks they completed into dollar-productive activities and non-dollar-productive activities.
Most business owners are shocked to find that they can spend up to 80% of their time performing non-dollar-productive tasks that can be easily performed by others with a little training.
Delegating in order to grow your business isn’t just a decision you make once; it’s an art you must master through practice. A part of that is deciding what unique value you bring to your business and what you are truly talented at.
For every other real-estate-related task, whether it be it prospecting, generating referrals, or bookkeeping, there is someone out there who can rock it for you!
Step Two: Hire Only a True Match
To make the most out of your investment in a virtual assistant, take time to ensure that you choose someone whose strengths offset your weaknesses. For example, if you are not detail oriented and have a hard time staying organized, hire someone who is great at keeping track of all your projects. People with those attributes are out there in abundance just waiting to partner with you.
At MyOutDesk, we use the Marketforce personality profiling system for both the hiring person and the potential virtual assistant to ensure a good match. That might seem a bit overzealous to you. You might think, can’t I just do a search on Upwork or Fiverr and pick someone who I think complements me well? The answer is that those websites are the dating sites of the working world. We are a marriage site. That is why personality matching is so important to us. We want you to hire a virtual assistant who will stay with you for the long term and alleviate the need for the constant retraining of new virtual assistants.
Step Three: Thoroughly Vet Your Candidate
If your personality is aligned with your potential hire you can begin the vetting process. Start with what we like to call the 3 E’s: Employment, Experience, and Education. If you want to hire a prospector, for example, you should verify that they have a track record of employment in your industry (or similar), experience with prospecting, and relevant training that is fully documentable.
We always take the additional measure of performing an FBI-grade background check, something that every country in the world has an equivalent of. Your potential virtual assistant should have good standing in his or her community.
It is also critical to double-check that your candidate has good access to technology. Any virtual assistant you hire should have a reliable internet connection. We require proof of a 5 Mbps primary connection and a 2 Mbps back-up connection.
It is also important that you have a video interface with your assistant, so you can have face-to-face meetings. It will help exponentially in getting them up to speed on your business.
Having time-tracking software that captures screenshots of your virtual assistant’s work will give you additional peace of mind as they begin working for you. We have our own proprietary software to track what our virtual assistants do and both our clients and the virtual employees love using it.
Step Four: Define Measurable Outcomes for your Virtual Assistant
Traditional job descriptions have their place, but they can be a bit dangerous too. When you invest in a virtual assistant, you want to feel the impact of their work and you should let them know exactly what you want that to look like.
For example, it’s much more powerful to give an assistant the goal of “increase our company’s referrals by 10%” than to simply tell them, “Call all our clients and ask for referrals.” The first is a measurable outcome, while the second is merely an assigned task. Outcomes are much more empowering and productive for everyone involved.
Your outcomes for your virtual assistants should aim to achieve one of two things: save you time or generate more revenue. It may be that you simply need more people on the phones, which will grow revenue. Or, you may need someone to save you time, so you can step into a CEO role while others take on more of the minutiae of day-to-day operations.
Whether time or revenue is the outcome you are looking for, remember that what you do not measure, you do not improve. One of our clients in the Northwest, John, has a two-million-dollar real-estate business yet when we consulted with him about becoming more productive, we learned that none of his employees were on a centralized phone system. Some used landlines, some cell phones, and some used services like Mojo Dialer. As such, he had no way to measure the time his employees spent on the phone. Once we put a centralized system in place for him that emphasized time accountability, he was amazed at the growth and efficiency his team was able to achieve.
Step Five: Remember That Your Money Is Well Invested
One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is fretting about the cost of hiring a virtual employee. If you think of hiring someone as an expense rather than an investment, it might be tempting to put it off and continue doing all the work yourself.
As any top-performing business owner can tell you, however, having an assistant provides a return on investment of at least three to one.
In our globally connected age, we have the additional benefit of being able to leverage the principle of currency arbitrage to reduce the cost of hiring an assistant. The difference in our currency compared to a country like the Philippines means that it is possible to hire someone in another country to increase your productivity at a reasonable cost to you, and still know that you are paying that person handsomely.
At our company, MyOutDesk, the average cost of a virtual assistant to businesses is $21,000 per year. The cost of the average traditional employee in the United States is $76,000. That’s a savings of more than $50,000 per employee! In 2018 alone, we saved businesses $55 million this way.
Although we would love to say we’ve cracked a big secret about the global talent market, this is something all large, successful companies are in on. As you can see from the chart below, America’s biggest companies employ more global talent than you might think.
Step Six: Remember That Your Time Is Well Invested Too
Another worry that you might have as an entrepreneur might is that training a virtual assistant in their business will be so laborious and time consuming that it won’t be worth the trouble. You might think it would be faster and easier just to do the work yourself.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Take a look at the longer game.
We frequently see what we call the 30X rule come into play. It may take you 30 hours to administer the right training before your virtual assistant can do their first independent hour of work for you. But once you do, you will see a 733% return on that time investment.
Albert Einstein is said to have referred to compound interest as the eighth wonder of the world, saying, “He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t… pays it.” We use that concept to describe what we think of as “compound leverage”. Once you have given a task away to a virtual professional and properly trained them, you are going to get that time back forever.