Before I tell you about my personal assistant, why I have one, and the financial benefits of hiring one, I’m going to give you permission to make fun of me. That’s right: Assume his name is Jeeves or Alfred, that I ask him to wash out my dirty socks and filet my pheasant under glass. And since I can’t live in a palatial estate just yet, you can also assume I’m acting out some self-indulgent fantasy of being rich and important, even though you know, natch, that I’m neither one of those things.
All businesses accept that when starting out they will at some point require additional support. Most often the first consideration is employment of additional staff. Although this can often be daunting especially with all the red tape surrounding employment and legal requirements. More expense can also be driven into the business with a need for larger office space, equipment such as computers, phone lines etc. This is all before the employee has even started. New staff can also mean re-focusing time and effort inwards rather than developing the business and potentially decreasing revenue at a time when increases are most needed.
Small-business owners often struggle to fulfill all their duties but are wary of taking on a partner or hiring a management team because they want to maintain the integrity of their vision or stay in complete control. If that sounds like you, you can bring your business to the next level without too much compromise or cost by hiring a personal assistant.
While one advantage of virtual offices is the creation of a larger pool of resources, this can also be a disadvantage because this means resources can also be obtained offshores or jobs can be outsourced to a different company. If positions can be filled by employees in a different city, what would keep companies from extending those positions to candidates in a different country?
Alienation from company. Even if remote workers avoid isolating themselves from other people, they may feel isolated from their company itself. They may find themselves unaware of recent company changes, or feel as though they are the last to hear company news because they aren’t physically present in the office. Some remote workers feel as though they’re overlooked for promotions because they aren’t in the office every day.
Security is often overlooked when a business decides to allow employees to work remotely, leaving companies vulnerable to cybercriminals. Although there are cloud options to make remote work easier, with today’s internet of threats, companies cannot afford to overlook protecting their confidential and proprietary information. - Tammy Cohen, InfoMart
No business is too big or small to use a PA, and with recent technological development with the internet, the new era of PA’s has come in the form of virtual assistants. Virtual assistants work remotely from their own home but undertake the same duties a normal PA would, and this can offer a cost effective alternative for smaller business who need help. So, what does a PA do? Some of the duties a personal assistant may undertake include email and calendar management, organising transportation, call handling, research and event planning. As an independent contractor, you might also use a PA for basic bookkeeping and invoicing your clients. If you are trying to build an online personal brand, PA’s can also help with managing your social media profiles.
Employees who have virtual offices or telecommute work more hours than their office counterparts. People who work in a virtual office can often blur the difference between home life and work life. Unlike employees who can leave work at the office, employees with virtual offices tend to continue to work outside of "normal" work hours. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 50% to 67% of telecommuting hours push the employee’s over 40 hours a week.4 Some reasons for these additional hours could be the employees’ desire to justify their telecommuting by being more productive and continuing to work beyond business hours or a result of companies maximizing their salaried employees by providing them with virtual offices to be able to continue work outside the office.
Don’t completely neglect face-to-face meetings. If it’s possible, organize a face-to-face encounter for the first meeting. It’s possible to be successful without ever meeting in person, but there isn’t a replacement for face-to-face contact in person. Meeting physically allows people to share a deeper personal connection. Eye contact, proximity, voice, and body language allow people to connect more closely than they would if they met virtually. If meeting in person for the first time isn’t possible, consider holding an annual gathering or other event to keep employees in touch.
Provide and nurture an online meeting place. Automattic, the team behind WordPress, developed an internal blog called P2 where everyone can publish posts based on their achievements and how their week went. At Hubstaff, we have a Slack channel for random discussions where we discuss 30-day running challenges (which I supported with good thoughts) and share interesting articles we find around the web.
Provide a time tracking tool for remote workers to monitor their billable hours. This is also good to make sure your remote team members don’t get burnt out working overtime. Managers should be able to view this time data and see which projects their team members are working on in real time. At Hubstaff, we use our own software, which supports randomized screenshots, app tracking, URL monitoring, productivity gauges, and detailed time reports. It also provides a breakdown of where someone has spent their time on an organization, project, and task level.
According to a Gallup poll in 2007, the average commute time is 48.1 minutes round trip. While the commute by itself may not sound like a long time, there are other factors that can increase this. For example, the time to do things to get ready for work (such as taking a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast) can take another 30 minutes to an hour so adding these activities to the commute time can bring up the "non-work time" to 90 to 120 minutes. An employee can get so much more work done in that time if they did not have to travel into an office. According to the Telework Research Network, companies such as JD Edwards, AT&T and Compaq reported that their telecommuting employees are more productive than their office counterparts.2
Eliminate email (almost). Hubstaff takes a stronger view on this, with our team avoiding most email like the plague. However, I’ve found that the occasional email is sometimes necessary. Lean towards project management tools like Basecamp and Redbooth, which allow you to keep track of what everyone says in one place. Most PM software also allows you to organize projects and store files, create checklists, and assign due dates for clear expectations.
Companies don’t have to be clingy and hang upon their customers through calls, emails and messages to sell their product. You must focus on manipulating the minds to create a need of your product which, in future, brings them to your product. When your audience shows more interest and want to know about it, it is certain that at the end you’ll close a deal. Let them ask queries through online, by phone or by mail. Your reply must be specific and addressed to the person.
Many celebrities choose to have a personal assistant at their side much of the day, to take care of all the details that could cause problems if not dealt with on a timely manner. Because they are not working in an office and they are frequently moving from place to place, the PA is the perfect solution to their problems and helping keep them organized.
Communication is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of business, especially with virtual employees and members spread across all of Indiana. Managing Virtual Teams (MVT) provided workable solutions that could be implemented right away for long term success. I went into the course hoping to grab a few tips and tricks but instead experienced a hands-on workshop that was tailored to my organization's needs. Not only was the course helpful, it was inspiring and gave me a new vision for my organization's communication future.
Your business is growing, and you are busier now more than ever. You could use an extra set of hands, so someone suggested that you should use a virtual assistant. However, you have no idea what a virtual assistant is or for that matter, how they can help you. If that is the case, small business owner, it is time for you step into 2014 and become virtual. You will add your business to the growing trend of those utilizing virtual assistants.
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Actually – the work of a personal assistant should NOT be issued a 1099. The work they perform is that of an employee, and not a contractor. Misclassifying them as such can result in steep fines from the IRS, who are cracking down on this behavior (businesses trying to save money by not being a accountable for their workers and properly giving them a W-2. If you can’t afford to offer a W-2, then maybe you can’t afford an assistant.
Routine: Just like any other work, one of the main enemies of motivation is routine, and this poses a major risk especially in the virtual medium. Putting in long hours in front of a computer can lead to exhaustion, stress and a bunch of unmotivated employees. The team needs to have a constant source of positive motivation to keep this aspect from affecting its work.