You can build a solid partnership with your virtual team and avoid feeling like you're constantly disappointed in the support you get. And if you are a virtual assistant (VA), online business manager (OBM), or a project management (PM) team you can get all the clients you want and avoid working with someone who gives you a constant headache.
Picking a support person or a team comes first. In a way, it's like buying shoes – there's a lot of of choice, you want a good fit, and you want things to last. If you are an online entrepreneur who needs support, or if you're a VA, OMB, or PM team, here's how to build a solid partnership and avoid bad relationships.
I hear horror stories pretty frequently about hiring and managing support team members. I also hear horror stories from the VAs, OBMs, and PM’s who provide that support. From the entrepreneur’s standpoint, the complaints I hear center around spending hefty chunks of money and not getting support that is meaningful or helpful. From the team’s standpoint, I hear complaints about entrepreneurs not knowing much about what they are asking for.
At the root of the issue is a difference in mindset, I believe, between entrepreneurs and support team staff. Entrepreneurs work all sorts of odd hours, want team support when they need it, and often need highly skilled technical staff who also can be helpful with advice and strategies. While they need the technical skills and the strategic thinking they often don’t want to pay for it. A second issue is that some entrepreneurs don’t clearly outline what they think they need and don’t properly screen those who apply to work with them.
On the other hand, support team staff are sometimes vested in putting strict boundaries around their time, their energy, and their interest. They want to do exactly what is asked of them and no more, and they want to do it within strict part-time hours. They are support team because they don’t want the weird hours and they don’t to do the strategic thinking. And frankly, some support team staff don’t have much experience in offering advice or strategies. A second issue surfaces when a project team is large and has a lead member who hands off little pieces of work to others, as there is inevitably a time lag and often miscommunication.
If you are a support staff person who rotely performs requested tasks you will never build a solid partnership with the entrepreneur you're working with. And you won't foster the type of long-standing relationships that bring referral business in the door. If you are an entrepreneur, it's your responsibility to hire well and to know enough about what you are asking so that you can build a solid partnership with your team.
Here are my tips, which apply equally to entrepreneurs and to team members (VAs, OBMs, and PM teams).
- Don’t expect the other party to speak your lingo. If you are the manager for someone’s website, as an example, don’t expect them to call the parts of the site by the correct terms. They are not experts in WordPress – if they were, they would not have hired you to help them out. So if you get a request that says, “Please change this section” and it’s about a blog post, know that your client doesn’t yet understand to call a blog a post, or a sales page a page. If they call a page tab a label, it’s because they don’t know any better. It’s up to you to catch their meaning and, over time, teach them your lingo.
- Timing will always be a factor, and sometimes timing will become a critical issue. Entrepreneurs are famous for not planning far enough ahead of time. On the other hand, the many systems that run the back end of an online business change frequently and sometimes break. If it’s Friday at 4:30 PM and you already decided to leave at 4:00 PM, it’s not good customer service to send a note and breezily say, “Oh, I saw this just as I was leaving the office, I’ll get to it Monday.” You’ve got to care about your client’s business more than that if you want to have a multi-year relationship. In fact, you might consider hiring another team member just for the weekends if you are dead set on your 20 to 35 hours a week and no more. Your clients will love it, and it will give you a competitive edge many online support teams don’t have.
- Entrepreneurs hire additional team members because they don’t have the expertise they need stuffed inside their own brain. They might be genius at what they do, but they will probably not be genius at the back end of their business. That’s why they hire support teams to begin with. So please don’t do them a disservice by doing exactly what they asked for and absolutely no more. If you see that a change to a blog post means they need to change a call to action link at the bottom, point it out and change it for them. If they have the mistaken impression that their website never needs updating, security checks, or plug in issues resolved let them know that these things are critical and that you schedule these monthly without even being asked. Anticipate needs. All good businesses thrive by anticipating needs and educating their clients how to get the best service.
- If you are an entrepreneur, don’t believe for a minute that it’s your team’s responsibility to take all the chores you most hate to do off your hands without your first understanding enough of the chore to guide them. It is your responsibility to at least know enough about the many parts of your business to lead your business. I once heard an online entrepreneur say, “I don’t understand a thing about autoresponders and I just want to hire that done.” That’s a fail.
- Entrepreneurs need things quickly almost all the time. They want VAs, OBMs, and PMs to care about their business and be vested in the results. Entrepreneurs sometimes need to learn how to organize, communicate, and delegate much better than they do. And support team members need to be on their toes so that a request made on a Friday isn’t still sitting there undone the following Wednesday because “I had a question about it I forgot to ask.” If I have to follow up with you to ask where something is or whether it was done it’s a fail. It’s up to you to tell me, “It’s not done and I’ve got a question.”
- If you are a support team person, you’ve got a fabulous opportunity to make yourself indispensable. Entrepreneurs need your thoughtfulness, your caring eyes, your suggestions. They need you to anticipate things that might happen and be sharp enough to stop those things before they impact business. If you do this, you train your entrepreneur clients into a long-standing relationship. If you do the bare minimum you come off as unresponsive, inflexible, and uncaring.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got a fabulous opportunity to lead the support you’ve hired. Let them know where you are going and ask what they see might be a stumbling block ahead. Get yourself focused enough to organize and plan what you need with a reasonable turn-around time unless it is truly an emergency.
Stepping up to your role and anticipating what the other person needs is a critical skill for success no matter if you own your own business, work for someone else, or don’t work at all but want to be a successful friend or neighbor. Doing the least you can do belatedly doesn’t work in business, relationships, or life.
If you need help with how to hire, how to fire, or how to build a client-centered, responsive business you might consider an hour’s consultation with me. You can go here to get more information about my One and Done.
Want more help with leading your business? Last week's blog post will give you more!