A few years ago I realised I had far too much on my plate. No big surprise really, it happens to everyone. However after looking at what was causing me the biggest problems, I decided that I needed someone to help me deal with some of the administrative aspects of my workload. Rather than hiring a Personal Assistant (PA), I opted for a Virtual Assistant (VA) and I’ve never looked back.
For me, the initial problem was my email.
At first, my email problem didn’t seem that huge. After finishing a consulting day with a client, I usually had around 45 minutes worth of emails to catch up on. The problem came if I missed a day. That 45 minutes became 90 minutes of emails the following day. And if I missed two days, I had to take the whole of Friday to catch up.
You can see how quickly a seemingly small issue could escalate and put me under pressure. So, I hired a VA who started handling all my emails. I gave instructions on what stuff I wanted to see and what I didn’t. Like you, I get loads of marketing emails and offers, which are important to the sender but often not to me. Just eliminating that noise was a huge step forward. My VA forwards me the stuff that only I can do, which greatly reduces the load. An unexpected upside I’ve discovered is the customer relationship benefit – many times my VA is able to respond to a client more promptly than I’m able to. This makes the client feel more valued and improves their confidence in the work I do for them.
Over the years, I’ve increased the workload of my VA from what was initially a day or two per week to four days per week. However as a VA works hours not days and can work when and where suits them, I pretty much get full coverage.
My productivity has improved and my clients are happy.
It’s a win-win all round!
There are some fantastic benefits in working with a VA.
Here are just a few:
- You can hire the best talent, even if they don’t live or work in your location. I know a few advisers who feel their location makes it difficult to hire good people. Hiring a virtual team can overcome this issue.
- A VA doesn’t need to be physically in your office to do your work. At FP Advance we ditched the office years ago, and our whole team works remotely. This has made for substantial cost savings in the business.
- Working remotely forces your business to be smarter with filing, using electronic systems and outsourced document management services. Having your hand forced in this way really gets you focused on working more effectively and there is so much out there that’s cheap (and often free) to use.
- As a result of the remote approach, we’ve embraced document sharing which allows us to access anything, anytime, anywhere online.
- You get your life back.
Our whole team is virtual!
Debbie and I describe ourselves as ‘location independent’ and are travelling more and more as a result. I don’t think of it as travel though – it’s more like living somewhere else for a few weeks or months. We still do our work, but now can do it wherever we fancy – the Alps in winter, Paris in springtime, the Greek Islands in summer or New York in fall! We still take proper, forget-about-work holidays too, but the location-independent lifestyle is lots of fun. The rest of the FP Advance team are spread across the globe as well:
- Our VAs have been based in London, New York and Dorset
- Our copywriter/social media manager lives in London (and our last her predecessor was in Melbourne, Australia)
- Our designer lives in Hereford
- Our web guru lives in London and Glasgow and also works as a musician
- Our HR expert is also based in Dorset
- Our life and business coach lives in Newburyport (MA) in the US
We make use of technology because we have to…
but we’ve found that this has yielded all sorts of productivity benefits that we may never have discovered if we were more traditional in our setup. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest benefits (if you make use of it) of the digital age of the 21st century. Some of the simple, free resources we use include:
- Google Docs – a free online document management system.
- Skype – for video calls and cheap calls from abroad. I put £10 on my Skype phone account a good while ago and it is still going strong (even if I’m phoning mobile numbers).
- Wrike – a great online site which allows us to send each other tasks, communicate with the team as we move projects forward, and see when tasks are completed.
All these tools can be used on all our mobile devices as well, making us a truly virtual team!
If you’re not as productive as you think you could be, the starting point is to ask yourself:
“What do I dislike doing?”
You’ll easily be able to identify that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you start working on a task you really don’t love to do. From that one question you can begin to find tasks to delegate. If you don’t have team members you can delegate to, then perhaps it’s time to look at adding some new (virtual) team members and adopting new technology.
Take a few minutes right now and think about what you can let go of this week. Drop me a line when you find something. My VA will let me know you wrote, and I promise I’ll respond – from wherever I am in the world!