Happy Administrative Professionals Day! Before she stepped away from corporate, my mom was a career Executive Assistant (30 years) so I learned at a very early age that it is truly the administrative professionals that make businesses run. So in honor of this special day I took the opportunity to sit down with an awesome entrepreneur and Virtual Business Manager. Owner of Empress, Twanna Gill.
As a VBM what challenge do you find most common among small business owners? How do you help them to overcome that challenge?
I think the challenge most small business owners face is not being able to see or create a plan for the big vision that they have. I would never tell someone to dream small but to break the big dream into smaller projects that we can sit down and create a realistic time table for and list of tasks that will take them concept to reality.
How does a small business owner know if they need a VBM? What questions do you recommend that business owners ask or criteria to consider when choosing a VA or VBM?
Many business owners begin reaching out for help at the moment where they are feeling overwhelmed and not really sure what to do next. The overwhelmed feeling manifests because a variety of circumstances. For example, successful marketing and networking efforts can cause business to pick up very quickly, the company could be expanding their business to offer new services or products, or they could simply have a project or two that is too big or out of their particular area of expertise to handle alone.
When considering working with a VA or VBM I suggest people ask themselves the following questions:
- Why types of things do I really need help with? I always suggest starting with delegating the things you dislike doing or have the least amount of knowledge in first. This can often help to determine what type of VA or VBM you need.
- Are these things that can truly be done virtually? Many people like the idea of a VA or VBM but I have found they do not realize that working with a VA or VBM requires a certain level of disciple and organization from them as well. When your build a virtual team you don’t have the luxury to walk over to their desk and assign projects or brainstorm as the mood hits you.
- Does the pace of your business really fit well with having a VA or VBM? Most VA/VBMs have several clients that they are managing at once and may not be able to provide same day turn around service on many projects. When assigning projects to your VA you will want to make sure you have factor in some lead time.
One other thing I would suggest is interviewing and building relationships with VAs BEFORE you actually need them. As with any new employee, vendor, contractor or even client – there is a learning curve. I meet many of my clients during “crunch time” and while most of the time I am able to produce the result they were looking for, that isn’t the case all of the time. There are times when miscommunication can turn a seemingly simple project into a nightmare. In situations such as these, I often feel that the miscommunication could have been avoided if we had started building our working relationship prior to “project crunch time”.
Organization & time management are challenges that many business owners face. What are your top 3 tips to staying organized and using time wisely?
- Stop Multi-Tasking. When you are multi-tasking you are not giving 100% to any task you are engaging in. And research shows that it actually takes you longer to complete any given task when you are focused on more than one thing at a time.
- Disconnect. I know this sounds really crazy but… turn off email and social media update notifications. Emails and Social Media are the top “time killers”. When you stop to check and email or social media update – you take away time from the initial task you are doing and it takes a while for your brain to actually shift gears back to forth. Phone calls are also known time killers. When I’m working on projects, my phone is actually in another room so I can focus on the task at hand. About every 30-45 minutes I get up to go and check to see if I have missed calls that I need to return right away. This allows me to stay on task to meet my goals for the day (and getting up every so often also allow my eyes to rest for a few minutes from the computer screen and by having the phone in another room, I have to actually walk to check messages which is good for your health).
- Automate processes. From automatic email responders, to automated schedulers, to website that allow clients to submit orders and process payments – when things are automated they not only save you time but if done properly will being order and organization to your business. This also reduces human error which can save time and money.
What path has lead you to becoming a virtual business manager?
I accidentally fell into this profession. I wanted to be a systems analyst. During undergrad, I spent a few summers as a program assistant and after graduation I worked for 9 years as a project assistant/coordinator in facilities management. During that time I went back to school and got my masters in project management. After falling victim to the great recession I had to figure out how to proceed with the next chapter of my life. I was working on a PTA project for my son’s school and I ran into a lady who was the founder of a non-profit and after talking to her for a while, she suggested that I start a business where I worked remotely for other small businesses with small time requirements. It took a few similar conversations and about a year for things to fully sink in. And then Empress was born.
What types of clients do you work with?
My target audience includes entrepreneurs who are in the first five years of their business. Generally these business owners are solopreneurs or partnerships without staff and are in need of someone to help them to either set up processes and procedures or to complete various administrative or project based assignments.
If you are a business owner who is feeling overwhelmed and in need of administrative or project management help I encourage you to reach out to Twanna at http://virtualempress.net/
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