A Summary of My Experience of Finding and Using a Virtual Assistant

Several months ago I read the following definition of insanity;”the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. As I related the definition to my small businesses (a business brokerage firm and a spa and salon business) I couldn’t help but think, “I resemble that definition!” After years and years of beating ourselves performing the same rote tasks over and over we began to realize that as our costs went up so did our unresolved problems and issues in certain areas.

We logged in our time for two weeks and learned, much to our surprise that my partner and I were spending nearly 50% of our time performing tasks that did not relate to the growth or quality improvement of our businesses. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) tells us that the average small business operator spends 40% of their time performing routine administrative tasks. They also report that many small business operators report up to 60% of their time is spent in routine administrative chores.

In our business, we noted that follow-up in certain areas was not consistent with best practice functioning. It seemed that our personal attempts at business tracking functions, bookkeeping duties and several other jobs that could and should be outsourced were driving us crazy. We had convinced ourselves that it would be impossible to give up certain tasks we had always held onto as sacred but finally agreed we had to in order to refocus our efforts to grow revenues and expand certain product lines within the businesses.

A boss I once had used to pound home the idea that “success is finding the perfect balance between cost and quality in order to produce a fair profit for our efforts”. We have learned that Virtual Assistants (VA’s) add greatly to quality outcomes by providing us with that right person, highly motivated, an entrepreneur in their own right, well trained in the niche service that we need, at a cost that is a fraction of a full or part time staff person, marketing agency or local personnel service.

Efficiency engineering experts report that most businesses experience somewhere between 45% and 60% productivity from their full time equivalent (FTE) staff. Apparently somewhere between morning break, lunch, afternoon break, smoker’s breaks, sick leave, calls from home and stories that really need to be told to co-workers our hourly paid U.S. workforce is truly getting some work done…at least about 45-60% of their paid time.

The majority of the fast growing Virtual Assistant workforce is paid by the job for a job that they are extremely well trained and experienced to provide. As such, they are typically very efficient and often charge fees that are half of the cost of getting the same task done by typical full time workers. In addition to their hourly pay, routinely employed staff cost their employers a bundle including; a matching portion of their state, federal and sometimes local taxes, health benefits, paid time off, office space, utilities, office equipment, supplies and more. Some experts have calculated that certain routine office work products or that cost an employer of regular staff $76,960.00 (1 FTE person at $20.00/ hr., taxes, benefits, time off, limited productivity, etc.) would cost the same employer for the same work products $36,400 or slightly less than half the money. (Source: Virtual Assistant Networking Association).

You can learn more about your options and find virtual assistant candidates easier than you think through websites such as findvirtual.com and shorttermsolutions.com, lawbiz.com (legal VA personnel), the Virtual Assistant Networking Association and other sources as close as a Google inquiry.

Whether it’s bookkeeping chores, attempts at website design, marketing and promotion material design, word processing functions or staff who are capable of helping prospect for new client leads on the phone, I suggest that you get off the merry-go -round of doing the same thing over and over by finding virtual. My partner has been heard saying to some of our colleagues “find virtual…find sanity.” I’ve been heard saying that the jury is still out in his case.

We both see our families earlier in the evening, get a little more sleep and have actually golfed three times this past summer, three more times than last year. Strategic focus on business growth and quality improvement…we discuss it every morning in lieu of our former rote tasks and then follow it up by making time to work at it every day. Business is growing at a time when most are not and we did it with fewer FTE’s (by attrition) and lower overall costs. Think about it, map out how it could work for you and give it a try, perhaps instead of hiring that new staff person you’ve been considering.

We know the VA trend is here to stay and expect to capture opportunities to be more efficient as effective as we go and would encourage you to do the same. We’re going to do our best, if there is any downsizing in the future, to help our people convert to thriving VA entrepreneurs for themselves. We expect to hire them for certain functions while they increase their incomes, obtain work flexibility and the experience the good feeling that comes with being an entrepreneur capable of creating and growing a thriving enterprise.