Need Extra Help with your Business, and DON’T want an employee? How about Virtual Help?

9 07 2008

This is an article I wrote a couple of years back when I hired an virtual assistant.  I was active in my local chamber, and people just didn’t get it!  The chamber asked me to write about my experiences, and they published it in their newsletter.  Another great way of getting your company name in front of people by writing about experiences others may relate to! The chamber members just ate it UP!

I was feeling like I was working myself to death for a while.  My small Business was going very well.  But at times I could never seem to keep up with anything.  I know I had phone calls that needed to be made, but I also have 6 jobs sitting on the production table that people needed by tomorrow! Here I go again – try to catch up with people during working hours, and engrave again during family time. Go to bed exhausted and do it again tomorrow.  I needed help!  I needed  something!  When I purchased my competitor out in August that was a very good move on my part – but it seemed to make matters worse as far as my personal time goes.

I was thinking of getting someone here to help.  I had a lot of friends in town that did it.  I had a lot of friends in the industry that did it.  Some were working out very well, and others had major horror stories to tell me. I was looking around my basement.  Where the heck would I place another desk?  I would have to purchase another computer.  Do I really want someone in the house?  What about the extra taxes and everything else that goes with an employee – can I afford that?  What a major headache if I make a bad choice.  On the other hand, do I really feel this is the time of life in which I should drop dead from exhaustion?  My husband took the kids out somewhere for a little while.  I decided to read some business articles online for a while.  I came across an article in Home Business Journal.  It was about Virtual Assistants.  I really thought – what a crazy idea!  I was up for a good laugh.  Why not!  The article told about how people can help you via your computer.  It listed an organization that actually trained people how to do this before listing them for hire: www.assistu.com.  Okay – looks interesting but I need to know a lot more.  So I went to the website, and looked around a bit.  Then it mentioned an 800 number you could call and listen to people talk about how they use their VAs (virtual assistants).  They spoke with all different types of people from all different types of industries.  How these VAs organized not only their businesses but their personal lives as well.  Even when they were on the road!

Okay, I was done laughing at the whole idea.  I filled out the form online as to my needs for my business.  It said that I would get replies within 3 business days.  Within a day I was getting resumes from people!  It was their business to help me.  The way I read it, again and again, was if we don’t find a way to step into your shoes and be a part of your business – this won’t work out.  They also work for themselves so if they can’t find some way of being an asset, our relationship would be over.  Being a VA was their business so it would be to THEIR benefit to do their best for me.  The same concept with us for our customers.  A couple of resumes looked very interesting.  I responded and they told me that they would be giving me a call.  All of them had websites.  Like in the real world, some of them were definite NOs!  But I picked out two that really clicked with me.  Here is the killer – one was in Texas and the other was in Colorado.

I doubted the whole idea again.  Yeah, Helen what you save in taxes you are going to be paying in phone bills.  They had kind of a high hourly rate.  I needed more questions answered.  For example, how are they going to bill me?  Then I found out they have a ticker on the computer.  When they work on my company stuff – ticker goes on.  When they are done – ticker goes off.  No, you don’t pay for the lunch breaks or for them to watch TV. The whole entire time they are billing you – it is all related to what you need done.  You are given kind of an “Instant Message” program that you talk to them with.  And you upload your outlook program to yahoo (or your program of choice)  and they take care of your tasks and have access to a phone book in case they need to call your customer/vendors for some reason.  They don’t do anything without your permission.  Hmmmmmmmmm  Here I go again thinking about how it would be nice to have someone make phone calls while I was engraving.  And how it would be nice to have someone do the research for my industry, do the paperwork and forward to me for me to make decisions.  Do follow-ups when I’m going nuts here in the shop.

I took the plunge!  I hired LaShay from Colorado.  I figured the first two months were going to be a waste because I needed to get her familiar with my industry.  That was going to be hard, I thought.  Most industries people can jump right in for the most part.  But there are so many factors behind the scenes with my industry – people have no idea.  LaShay and I jumped in together in January of this year.  That is my slow month, and I felt that would be best before everything hits the fan in March.  She wanted to know as much about my industry as possible.  I forwarded some industry “rags” to her.  I sent standard catalogs and vendor lists that I use all the time.  I had her download my research program.  Next I needed to have her do what would make my life easier.  She had a form I had to fill out on her end.  She asked things like: What do you hate to do?  What are your goals? Where are your bottlenecks?  It was about a 5-page form.  She needed personal and business information to be able to jump into my shoes.

LaShay now helps me with more than I thought possible.  It is funny to know that I have a phone message on my machine, and a note on my outlook telling me the situation was already taken care of.  I do a lot of the engraving during the morning.  LaShay either retrieves the message on the voice mail or the phone is forwarded to her.  She gets the tasks at hand going and, if needed, gets my input on how to finish it.  Handles the vendor situations and follows up with them.    Makes the quarterly phone calls to clients to see if they need anything, and does research for the products they are interested in.  I have a little screen on my computer that beeps at me if she needs anything.  Most of the time she emails people, but in those situations where that would not be good, she calls the customer.  Sometimes my computer beeps at me and I will get a message from LaShay saying “on the phone with Sandy from XYZ Company, can she have 10 badges done by Friday?”  “Not a problem LaShay.  Have her fax me the list of names”.  We all forget things when we are busy.  I don’t know how many times I thought to myself  “Oh Gosh!  I forgot to call that company back – go to my outlook to retrieve the phone number – and have a ‘LaShay’ message telling me she had already done it.”  She reminds me about birthdays – she will even do the shopping for you.  LaShay made travel arrangements for me when I took a business trip this year.  I had lists of things that needed to be done this year like do a business plan, revamp the marketing plan, and things like that.  I get an email from her from time to time with small portions of the projects to be filled in by me – takes me less than 5 minutes to do.  She puts those pieces together for me, and I don’t feel like I have this large hunk of work that is sitting on the back burner.  Also, when you work at home it is nice to have someone to VENT TO!  And, yes, she can be like my mom sometimes by saying “Be nice, Helen!”  Most of the time, she giggles along with me.

My son now thinks I have a lady that lives in my computer, and my daughter likes to talk to her when she gets home from school.  I pay her hourly rate and know I have accomplished something for the better.  She even got an 800 number for my customers to call her on.  I don’t feel like I have someone here working to get beer money for the weekend.  She wants my company to grow and get better, and if you think about, it is to her advantage to do so. Otherwise what do you need your VA for?  That alone is a nice feeling.  My business is not just a job to her.  Everyone has worked with someone like that!  You have someone working as hard as you do.  I still work long hours at times – it is my busy season right now!  It is funny when I’m going thru the tasks at hand for the next day and I am sending her emails – handling things on my end – and an email message comes back saying “Helen, I will go to bed if you do!”  LOL

http://www.virtualexecservices.com  Here is her site – LaShay Canady.

Since I had success with this article I will know search places to submit it!  Wanted to give my readers an example of what you can do to promote yourself!  Of course I would need to end with:

Helen is married with two children, and has been running an engraving business for over 13 years.  She has now decided to expand her knowledge online!  Watch her blog Nice Used Clothes For Charity  as she speaks of her hills and valleys of online selling for her store that helps a Ministry!

Boxing Oval Award Resin Trophy Gift Resin with Gold Accents

Boxing Oval Award Resin Trophy Gift Resin with Gold Accents

Part Number 54509GS

Boxing Oval Legend can hang on wall, or use the desk stand – see picture. This trophy, award or gift will be well received by your recipient! They come in specially designed boxes!

These are approx 8.5” x 8”, and we will send you engraved plate

The highly detailed sports figures are handsomely framed in an oval shaped resin and gold plaque. Something new besides the traditional awards we may have received in the past. I always get comments of PRAISE from these types of products!

You have a group that you need to buy for? NO PROBLEM…we can do groups for you as well! Please let us know the number you need, and we will arrange to get your what you would like for your engraving