"I fired my first virtual assistant because they didn't get enough done."
We hear that a lot.
It may or may not be the virtual assistant's fault. Executives and entrepreneurs often think an assistant will magically "organize me." That is not a fair expectation without more information and context.
Read this guide to learn how to work (successfully!) with a virtual assistant.
You cannot expect an assistant to read your mind and automatically understand all your preferences and processes you want to delegate. Nor is it wise to dump a bunch of tasks into the assistant's inbox on Day One and expect the work to meet your expectations.
We recommend that you start working with your virtual assistant by mastering one task at a time. For example, calendar management is one of the biggest headaches for executives. It takes 25 minutes to schedule a meeting, and conflicts and rescheduling take even more time. Starting with calendar management also helps your assistant learn about your business relationships and priorities. Here is how we do it.
Your engagement manager documents all your calendar preferences for:
- Meeting times.
- Length of meetings.
- Buffer times between meetings.
- Invitation message format.
- Most important contacts.
- No-meeting times.
- You tell your virtual assistant who you want to meet with and when. The virtual assistant takes it from there.
- You copy your virtual assistant when you reach out to contacts to schedule a meeting. The virtual assistant takes over from there.
You're out of the world of email ping-pong forever. Once your virtual assistant gets the hang of managing your schedule, you can move on to the next task like travel planning and expenses. Repeat the same process of documenting preferences and company policies and restrictions.
After layering in three processes, your assistant takes on more nuanced tasks that they learn from working with you, like email management, sales follow-up, event organization, and professional networking.
You have figured out by now that we are big on workflow documentation. There is a reason for this. Once you spell out exactly how you want your assistant to complete tasks, anyone can do them. Documentation allows us to:
- Provide trained backups that step in when your primary assistant is sick or on vacation.
- The backup assistants make it easy to replace an assistant that leaves, doesn't work out, or is promoted.
- Eliminate the guesswork by the assistants that can lead to miscommunication or failure to meet expectations.
Our goal is that tasks and workflows are so straightforward that anyone with a bit of guidance from your engagement manager can complete them. We promise that when you work with Prialto, you will never have to start over and hire and train and brand-new assistant.
Your virtual assistant is not a mind reader. And being remote, they cannot always see your facial expressions or hear your tone of voice as you go through your day. Assistants and their managers want to hear about what is working and what can be improved. That is what they are there for—to make you more productive.
We know it can be awkward to give constructive criticism to a virtual assistant. Don't worry. You don't have to. That is why we created the Prialto Daily Review (PDR). At the end of each workday, you will bet an email that includes:
- A list of tasks completed that day.
- Tomorrow's to-do list.
- Any items on your calendar for tomorrow.
- A performance of ranking from 1-5.
- Room for comments and feedback.
The PDR is where you can give constructive feedback without disrupting your relationship with your assistant. The comments go to your engagement manager and not to your assistant. You don't have to use the PDR daily, but we do want to know immediately when an assistant drops the ball or makes a mistake so we can correct it quickly.
Leverage Your Engagement Manager
Your engagement manager is your thought partner in increasing your productivity. They have worked with hundreds of businesses and executives and have tons of experience identifying, documenting, and delegating workflows. Engagement managers are there to optimize your service. Reach out to your engagement manager when:
- You spend a lot of time on a task that someone else could do.
- You are adopting a new business platform like CRM and need help managing it.
- You are building custom tools and workflows.
- You have a big-picture idea of a new business process but can't figure out how to delegate it.
- Your assistant is asking the same question.
- Your assistant makes frequent mistakes.
Any hunch that a business process could be more efficient is probably true. Your engagement manager has likely gone through the same situation with other businesses. Engagement Managers are your shortcut to increased productivity and reduced frustration.
Embrace the Relationship
We hire our virtual assistants based mainly on their desire and ability to learn and develop their business skills. Most come from call centers and customer support businesses where the work relationships are often anonymous and unfulfilling. Our assistants are eager to work with US and EU executives and learn about their businesses. Don't be afraid to ask them about their personal lives or share yours, or to ask them to perform tasks for you and your family. It's all part of the job.
Prialto's managed virtual assistant service is a reliable, long-term productivity solution. That's why we like to start slow and increase efficiency as we get to know each other. Some of our assistants have been with the same executive for 10 years. And some businesses have scaled to use 50 or more assistants for executive teams. When you hire Prialto, you don't just hire an individual assistant, you hire a team of managers, backups, trainers, and coaches dedicated to your success.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.