Are you a new or perhaps seasoned VA who is, at times, intimidated at how smart your clients are? I was early on in my career and every once in a while I have those thoughts. Perhaps you’ve thought ‘They are so smart, why do they need me and why would they want to hear what I have to say?’ If you find yourself thinking that let me give you a few words of wisdom. Brilliant people are brilliant for a reason – they surround themselves with great resources. If they didn’t need/want your help you wouldn’t be on their team.
In April I had the privilege of speaking to new and aspiring VAs at the New VA Workshop at the IVAA Summit in Philadelphia. IVAA does a ton of great things for its members and I’m always impressed at the knowledge of the organization as a whole and its members. My workshop topic was What Clients Need. I intentionally spoke about that instead of What Clients Want. When clients bring us VAs onto their teams they do it because they want a certain expertise. Perhaps they want a great executive assistant, bookkeeper or social media pro. However what they need goes far deeper than our business support expertise. I didn’t always realize that. When I was a new VA two of my clients were off the charts brilliant people and I remember being so intimidated of them. I thought ‘What can I possibly bring to the table and why would they want to listen to me?’ I soon learned, through them, that brilliant people are brilliant for a reason – they admit their weaknesses and add resources to help them. They made me realize that every joint supplies – in other words we need each other. I’m so grateful to my first two clients as they gave me the courage to give them feedback and insight which grew their businesses. They had more faith in me than I did at that time.
My encouragement to you is, especially if your confidence isn’t where you’d like it to be, don’t be afraid to work with clients who may seem smarter than you. Being around folks who will stretch you is a good thing – you’ll grow professionally and personally. I’ve since added more brilliant clients and I love helping them all! Curious about what I taught those new and aspiring VAs at the IVAA Summit? I polled a few current clients before the workshop. I asked them to share with me what they want new and aspiring VAs to know about what clients need. It’s great information even for those of us who have been around for years. Giver ‘er a read…
- Understand the client’s business and make it your own – even though you may not really be an owner of your client’s business act like you are. You will make better decisions and be much more valuable.
- Staying one step ahead – don’t just take on the assigned task, figure out what is going to come next and start moving in that direction.
Anticipating needs – learn to understand the client and the business so you can anticipate needs BEFORE they become a need. Then the client can make choices about whether to have you do that work.
Helping to manage the client who does not manage themselves well – many successful people struggle with one or more aspects of self-management. This is one area where a VA can make a world of difference.
- Don’t assume – ask questions! It is easy to assume you know “why” something is being done. Until you know for sure it is always better to ask rather than assume.
- Communication is at the heart of all of this. Neither one of us is a mind reader. VAs must have a healthy understanding of who they are, how much work they can handle and what kind of work they can handle. If they don’t they’ll get burned out and sick.
- I need my VA to consult with me and tell me what I don’t know and what I need to do. ‘Hey I saw that this event is going on. I think we should do…’ Be an extension of me; my eyes and ears. ‘Are you sure you want to do that because you know you …’ I’m attracted to intelligence and a consultative approach. Someone who sees patterns in me that I don’t see.
- Help me out…’I noticed this. Can I help you with it?’ I don’t expect my VA to have all the answers but I would love them to have great resources.
- Please complete me – reminders help! Have the attitude of helping your client be better. A good VA serves me well. A great VA makes me serve others better. They cause me to be a better leader & owner.
- Professional, articulate, will suggest things to me. I don’t want someone to regurgitate, I want to give them an idea and they run with it. They can ask questions and make suggestions.
- Meet deadlines – I expect my VA to be proactive. If I need to think about it why do I need a VA? I am not clairvoyant so please get on the phone with me and clarify, ask questions; deliver bad news if you have to but don’t surprise me last minute saying you can’t do something and the deadline is today or tomorrow.