Working with Contractors – 11 tips

Your business has grown to the point where you can no longer do everything yourself. Congratulations! To help your business grow you may desire to add a team member who is a contractor.

In 11 years of business I’ve interacted with thousands of small business owners. Many of these folks have amazing businesses however they do not understand how to have an enjoyable AND long-term partnership with a contractor. Before hanging up our small business shingles most of us worked in corporate positions as employees. We had bosses and received regular paychecks and benefits regardless of whether we did a great job or not.

Then we became business owners and everything changed. :) Now we are the boss and responsible for our own income and benefits.  We hire our own team and prospect for clients.  How in the world can we do it all? You guessed it!  Trusted professional team members.

You’ve done it!  You took your time, performed due diligence and finally on-boarded a great team member!  Congratulations! You know how to work with employees – how different can it be to work with a contractor?  Very!

Contractors…

  • Partner with multiple clients. If you need immediate response or a professional who only works with you an employee is the best fit.
  • Are business owners = a peer.  Treat them as a trusted colleague.
  • Pay their own taxes.  Unclear about taxes for independent contractors? The IRS has guidelines and information.
  • Detest micromanaging clients. If this behavior persists clients will be fired.
  • Provide own technology, office space and supplies.
  • Select the clients they partner with. Similar to their clients, contractors have specific target markets they partner with.
  • Choose own office hours, time off, etc.
  • Are partners in their clients business success. They are not in it for a paycheck on Friday. Contractors network for theirs and their clients businesses.
  • Have a consultant’s brain. Strategy with clients is part of the value add.
  • Share their amazing expertise with clients who value them.  Sound familiar?
  • Attend training and conferences to upgrade skills and stay in the know about trends.

 

[Partnering w/a VA 101]: 11 Ways to Support Your Virtual Team

Over the past few weeks you’ve learned what a VA is, what tasks you can delegate, what it’s like working with professionals who take ownership and much more.  Teams also need the support of their leader – Y-O-U.  The best ways to show your team that you support them?  Respect and appreciation.

What does that look like?  Simple things like…

  • Saying ‘Thank you!’
  • Paying their invoices on time
  • Being available and patient to answer questions
  • Respecting boundaries
  • Being enjoyable to work with
  • Referring them to quality clients
  • Having a peaceful culture
  • Being honest and having integrity
  • Standing up on their behalf with when your clients treat them poorly
  • Giving gifts like bonuses, gift cards, sports tickets, etc.
  • Not micromanaging

VAs partner with clients for many years displaying a loyalty that employees may not.  We are fully vested in the success of our clients thus instead of working for a paycheck our goal is seeing the business grow.

Many years ago I had the privilege to be the VA and Operations Manager for a small business advisor.  When I joined his team he was very clear about his goals for the business.  His plan was to outgrow his home office and move to a brick and mortar space with an onsite assistant.  Years later WE achieved that goal.  Notice I said we; it was a team effort and I had the honor to come alongside him every step of the way.  I also had the privilege to help him hire my ‘replacement’.  Folks who knew us remarked that I had ‘lost my job’.  To the contrary I helped my client achieve his goal which gave me tremendous pride.  This is a perfect example of the relationship VAs have with our clients.  To this day my previous client sends me referrals and promotes me and my VA firm whenever he can.

I consult with business owners often on what the VA Client relationship looks like.  Some of the folks I speak with have never partnered with a VA other times they have and the relationship did not go well.  Regardless of their experience I share with them that, like all relationships, it takes two.

Variables that come into play…

Often times business owners haven’t been educated on how to partner with a VA so how can they know how to have a great relationship?  Hard to achieve greatness when you don’t know what you don’t know.  Sometimes newer VAs don’t understand what a great relationship with a client looks like.  Other times the client may try to go the cheap route; there is an aroma to ‘cheap’ and it will translate to the VA (aka you get what you pay for).

Remember turnover is expensive and being grateful is not a large investment BUT it has huge dividends.  If you don’t know how to work with your team successfully ask!  They will appreciate that you care enough to learn what they need.  I encourage you to support your team in word AND deed.  Words without actions are much too prevalent in our world.  Deeds that align with your words are priceless and you’ll quickly see just how much those mean to your team!

[Partnering w/a VA 101]: Why Fit Is Crucial

exec at airportWhat comes to mind when you look at the picture?  Closing a deal before you board, troubleshooting an IT issue, confirming a meeting?  If you are a VA client it may bring to mind the many conversations you’ve had with your VA as you travel.  As the VA to many road warrior clients I’ve had countless conversations with my clients during their travel. Over the years they’ve shared with me how much I decreased their stress traveling as they knew things were being taken care of back at the office.

 

Why do I share that story with you?  It’s not to tell you how great I am; I want you to know you can experience the same.  As long as you are willing to invest what it takes to find a great fit AND build that relationship you can have the same relationship I have with my clients.

Unlike our days in corporate America VAs do not sit outside our clients’ offices.  We are also not employees who are more concerned about collecting a paycheck on Friday than helping our clients grow their businesses.  It’s a very different relationship – peer to peer not boss to employee.  It’s not a fit for every business owner and that’s okay.

Some businesses need employees due to the company culture or they may own a brick and mortar business where customers come onsite to purchase their products and services.  Sometimes business owners have communication, delegation or trust issues thus an employee is the best fit for them.  Other businesses that operate on the cloud, have a small or home based office are often a great fit to partner with VAs and other virtual professionals.

Do What You Do Best – Delegate the Rest

Take the quiz below and find out if you are a fit to partner with a VA.

  • Need more hands on deck but don’t have consistent 40 hour weekly work.
  • The idea of partnering/collaborating with a fellow business owner w/different strengths is great.
  • My team must be onsite at our office.
  • A professional who support my business and understands the challenges of being an owner would be refreshing.
  • I don’t think a contractor would be as loyal as an employee.
  • Communicating via email and phone is not my strength.
  • I have a hard time giving up control.
  • Delegating rocks!  I see the value.
  • I like the idea of paying only for the work I need instead of paying a salary/benefits package.
  • There is tremendous expertise in the contractor marketplace.
  • No one works as hard or does tasks as well as I do.
  • Working in the cloud is where it’s at.
  • Contractors care more about the longevity of my business than some employees I’ve had.
  • I travel a lot so a virtual team is a no-brainer.
  • Sharing confidential information with someone who is not an employee isn’t comfortable for me.

If your answers show partnering with a VA is something that fits you and your business I’d love to hear from you.  I consult with small business owners often re: adding a VA partner onto their team.

 

[Partnering w/a VA 101]: Taking Ownership

When you think of that person who relishes being a partner in your business who comes to mind? Is it the team member who shows up late and goes home early? Of course not!  The person who comes quickly to mind and brings a smile to your face is the one who has a great attitude and is willing to roll up their sleeves and dive into a project.  This person consistently solves problems and makes your life so much sweeter!

Do What You Do Best – Delegate the Rest

What if I told you there are folks who do this on a daily basis and aren’t employees?  That’s right – they’re contractors.  Enter the world of virtual assistants and other virtual professionals (Bookkeepers, operations pros, online marketers, copywriters, web pros).  Every day we take ownership of our clients businesses.  You guessed it – we treat them like our very own and are determined to do our utmost to help those companies grow.

To some this may sound too good to be true.  When I hear a small business owner say they can’t find good help I either tell them or think ‘You haven’t talked to me’.  There is a vast supply of tremendous expertise. Whether an owner needs an operations pro to come alongside them and manage all the day to day nuts and bolts of the biz so they can concentrate on generating revenue or they just need a reliable bookkeeper to get the invoices and payroll out efficiently virtual professionals have you covered!

‘How can I trust someone I can’t see?’ is a question I’m asked sometimes.  I encourage business owners to get referrals from those you trust.  Or you may run into virtual professionals like me at in-person networking events.  This is a great way to get a sense of the professional.  Also keep in mind, though VAs and VPs are small business owners, you should vet us like any other vendor you are considering bringing onto your team.  All virtual professionals should be happy to have you speak with clients and those who’ve given testimonials on their websites and LinkedIn profiles.

Though giving ownership to another professional can be terrific remember to take it slow.  New team members don’t know your business or your clients like you do.  Though they bring tons of expertise to your business there will be a small amount of on-boarding time so be patient.  It’s also important to be available for questions and to have an environment where they feel comfortable getting up to speed.

[Partnering w/a VA 101]: Delegate These Tasks To A Virtual Assistant

Experienced business owners know they cannot manage all the roles and tasks in their biz AND expect it to grow.  They delegate all tasks that are not a good use of their time.  This frees them up to focus solely on the tasks they enjoy which generate revenue.

The above may sound like a no brainer – it’s not.  The decision to delegate is a battle faced by many entrepreneurs.  I know first hand because it’s the world I live in every day.  I’ve been on both sides of the desk so to speak.  Coaching entrepreneurs to let go and grow, being a part of their team and recruiting their team.

I’m often asked…

  • ‘Sue how can someone other than me market my business?  They don’t know it like I do.’
  • ‘Sue how can a VA help grow my biz?’
  • ‘Can someone else actually do this better than me?’
  • ‘What tasks can you take over to get me out of the middle?’
  • ‘How can I trust someone I can’t see?’

Today’s post will address points 2 and 4.  In 10+ years of business I’ve been privy to many lightbulb moments with entrepreneurs.  Many do not realize the immense amount of tasks a professional virtual assistant can take off their shoulders.  The relief and joy I see in their faces when they say ‘You mean I don’t have to manage my calendar anymore or do my own bookkeeping?’ literally makes my day.  A VA provides solutions everyday to the folks we care about and are committed to – our clients.  Service and support is our chosen career.

The list of tasks virtual professionals provide our clients is extensive.  For the sake of brevity for my readers :) I’ve created a short list.  If you’d like to see more please click here.

  • Bookkeeping
  • Calendar and Scheduling
  • Concierge services
  • Database management
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Expense reports
  • Filter and manage emails
  • Filter resumes
  • Follow up telephone calls
  • Manage teams
  • Meeting and event management
  • Newsletter coordination
  • Post jobs on career sites
  • Project management
  • Office relocation coordination
  • Research
  • Send cards and gifts
  • Social media posts
  • Travel coordination
  • Update websites

 

[Partnering w/a VA 101]: What is A Virtual Assistant Exactly?

frustrated business woman with planner Does this picture look familiar?  Are you managing your own calendar, travel, events, social media, updating your website, and editing your presentation docs?

If you are like my firm’s clients it’s likely you charge $300+ per hour for your services.  The typical successful small business owner’s calendar is an investment of 15 – 20 hours each month.  This equates to $6K monthly – $72K yearly.  I encourage you to stop the $72K madness and delegate your calendar to a highly skilled professional who is a fraction of that investment.  As an owner your time is much better invested in tasks you enjoy and are good at which generate revenue.

In the upcoming weeks the Peace of Mind VA weekly tip will be replaced with the series ‘Partnering w/a VA 101’.  This change is due to the overwhelming need I see in the marketplace.  Too many small business owners are beating their brains out doing tasks they should not and wasting time and $$$.  Not every business owner is a fit for a VA.  For those who are my mission is to educate you about these awesome virtual professionals, how they can get you out from underneath the admin and operations pile AND grow your business! :)  Sound good?  Let’s go!

What is a Virtual Assistant exactly…
First and foremost, professional VAs are small business owners just like our clients.  VAs are NOT employees, part time workers, hobbyists or temps.  Like our fellow small business owner colleagues we converted our corporate expertise into a small business.  This is our career – we are not looking for our next gig or promotion – we own the company.  VAs intentionally decided on a career of service – the posture of a servant if you will.

VAs are virtual bookkeepers, marketing pros, executive assistants, business managers, operations managers, tech support pros, etc.  As business owners VAs understand how to operate a successful business and consult with our clients.  Just like our clients we have offices, websites, business cards, team members and network and attend conferences for continuing education.

When you have a discovery consultation with a VA they will not give you a resume.  Instead they will direct you to their website and social media profiles.  VAs work remotely with clients who are comfortable partnering with a professional who is not outside their door or down the hall.  We partner with multiple clients.  Due to this response time is not immediate.  Almost every task that can be accomplished at an onsite office can be delegated to a VA and completed virtually.

Until next week!

frustrated business woman with planner

The $50K Calendar & $2K Newsletter

frustrated business woman with plannerDoes this picture look all too familiar?  In my conversations with business owners many share how they’ve missed meetings due to managing their calendar themselves.  Some told me they’ve arrived for a meeting on the wrong day, time, been on the wrong plane, you name it.  How much do those missed meetings mean to the bottom line?  $2K, $10K, $50K, $100K, more?

We all need help and there’s no shame in admitting it.  Wise and successful business owners know their time is best invested in tasks they enjoy that generate revenue.  They know delegating admin and operations tasks to a professional is necessary for their sanity and bottom line.

How often do you send out a newsletter?  Weekly, monthly, quarterly, never?  ‘But Sue it takes sooo long for me to find articles, create the template, and enter all my contacts!’  My answer to you is why are Y-O-U doing any of this.  Delegate it to a professional someone and focus on tasks you are good at AND that generate revenue.  If you charge, let’s say $500/hour, for your services and you spend (Notice I didn’t say invest) 4 hours creating your newsletter, you’ve wasted $2K.  That time could have been invested with a client or prospecting for a new one.  Professionals who create newsletters don’t charge what you charge and also don’t take four hours to create a great newsletter.

As the New Year is about to be upon us I challenge you to take a new look at your business and consider delegating tasks to a virtual assistant or other professional.  These folks are highly skilled and will get you out from underneath the admin and operations pile to able to focus on tasks you enjoy that generate revenue.  If you need some referrals you know who to reach out to.

Thanked Your Contractor Lately?

In our rush rush life as business owners once we’ve sent project A out the door we are onto project B.  All the while forgetting just who helps us with all those projects.  Okay perhaps we don’t forget about them BUT we may forget to thank them.  Yep, I’m talking about our teams.

The holidays are here and we are busy putting our lists together (Or our assistant is) of all those folks we are grateful for.  Clients, colleagues, family.  What about the people who are priceless – our team members.  They make our lives much more enjoyable as they ensure everything at the office runs smoothly.  Hmmmm…

During this season, and frankly, throughout the year, I’m challenging you (And myself) to thank your team more often.  Really be grateful as many of us (I’m raising my hand too) don’t stop to think just how much we need them in our businesses and what an awesome job they do for us!  I’m thankful for Rhonda, Donna, Diana, Lisa, Angie, and Lisa.  They help me immensely and probably don’t even know it.  Though I thank them I can always do more.  Three of the gals I mentioned above are my coaches.  You may not consider a coach as part of your team – I do.  Though I’m a veteran business owner I still have blind spots and things I need to work on.

Consider how you are going to thank your team.  What do they like?  If you don’t know find out.  Listed below are ways my personal clients show their gratitude to me and ways I show appreciation to my team throughout the year.  Please don’t ever be one of those folks who says ‘Well, I pay them for doing their job.  That’s enough.’  Can you say Scrooge! :(

  • Flowers
  • Gift cards
  • Bonus checks
  • Conference registrations
  • Airline tickets
  • Client referrals
  • Sporting event tickets
  • Food gifts
  • Coaching and other programs
  • Charitable donations

Consider Delegating Holiday Shopping

The holiday shopping season has arrived.  Are you overwhelmed with thoughts of sending cards and gifts to clients, colleagues and family?  Considering delegating those tasks but feel it’s impersonal?

Let’s face it as business owners we already have too much to do.  Ideally we’d love to return all our calls and emails personally however that’s just not realistic if we want our businesses to grow.  Shopping is the same.

For many years VAs like me have taken this load off our clients’ overflowing plates.  They are relieved and we thoroughly enjoy shopping and sending cards.  Our clients look like the thoughtful people they are and VAs get a kick out of knowing the recipient will love the thoughtful gesture.

Contemplating delegating your gift giving throughout the year?  Thanks to the online world pretty much everything can be purchased online (Even cards).  Additionally, if your assistant is willing (And has good taste!), they can purchase gifts at a physical location.  I’ve done this for clients for years.  It’s fun for me and the client is thrilled.  Here are a few examples of items your assistant can send on your behalf:

  • Thank you notes
  • Flowers
  • Sporting event tickets
  • Wedding and baby gifts
  • Food gifts
  • Holiday gifts and cards
  • Gift cards

Have your assistant help you create the list.  The more often she/he helps you with this they’ll get an idea of your taste, budget and frequency.  As a seasoned personal shopper I receive great deals from merchants year round.  My rolodex is a go to for great  vendors for flowers, cookies, cards, you name it.

Last but not least, as you contemplate giving gifts, whether during the holidays or year round, don’t forget your team.  After all they are the folks who run your business seamlessly all year long.  Find out what kind of gifts they appreciate and let them know how thankful you are for all their help.

Need some assistance with gift giving or keeping in touch with your clients and colleagues?  Send me an email and we’ll do some brainstorming.

Do You Practice Professional Courtesy?

Lately I’ve been in the midst of coordinating multiple events for clients.  If you know me at all you know that I dislike disorder intensely thus my work space and work products are usually pretty organized.  I try to do the same when I send my clients’ vendors the info they need.

A thought occurred to me…is this practicing professional courtesy?  It could also be thought of as the Golden Rule – ‘Do unto others…’.  Do I always do this?  No.  I am a continual work in progress – there are many areas I need to improve on.

What about you?  Do you send legends and notes in your spreadsheets or do you expect the receiver to understand your train of thought?  If you are a web developer transitioning a client, do you send the client and new developer all the passwords and any additional info they need?  As an Ops Manager, Executive Assistant or Office Manager do you create training guides and SOP’s so the folks who come after you have all the info they need to know about how the business functions, who the vendors are, who the clients are and where to find this and that?  As a social media professional are you consistently researching your clients’ competition to see what they are posting about?

Isn’t this stuff we’d all like to know as the client or the new guy/gal on the team?  Just some food for thought for a fall Friday.

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