Managing multiple VAs is a very real challenge that many online sellers face. But VA management does not have to be that thorn in your side that just won’t quit stinging. You can run that ship nice and tight without feeling the pinch, and we’ll show you how. These 5 strategies and resources for managing multiple VAs are your key to the clockwork operations you’ve always wished you enjoyed.
Real Time Updates
Communication is everything in effectively managing multiple VAs. The first step to getting things running smoothly is establishing a daily open channel with them. Skype is the tool that we recommend for this. You can get updates in real time from independent workers and create groups for project updates. Set it up and let everyone know that you want to hear from each of them as they start, what they’re working on, and when they finish.
Start the trend with your own availability. Model that open line of communication by making yourself available to everyone working for your company. This is not about you being at their beck and call, but about showing them that you are there. Your presence itself is a powerful motivator. That green dot is often the only kick that most people need to get focused. You’re not away doing something else, you’re not offline somewhere distant from the day-to-day. You are not breathing down anyone’s neck, either, but you are there. Moreover, you are there to answer any questions, available to discuss any gray areas. When you use your presence to show concern more than authority, its power can be even greater. One secret to managing multiple VAs is letting them know that you are working with them, not towering over them, but that you expect clear communication every day.
(2) Email Communication
You are connected on Skype for small daily updates, but get an email routine going, too. You want to see the bigger picture of what’s going on throughout each day. But you don’t want VAs sending you paragraph-long messages on Skype that you probably won’t have time to read as they are sent. These detailed updates are important, and they will just end up getting lost in the chat history. You want to have them easily accessible and readily filed for future reference. Gmail is a great tool for this. It’s free for everyone to use and facilitates easy file sharing when VAs need to show you supporting documents.
Managing multiple VAs has a lot to do with how you can organize for it. First, organize your inbox – or ask one of your VAs to do it – so that you have folders to organize projects and the people working on them. Then let everyone know that you expect them to send you detailed reports of what they worked on, what they had trouble with, and what they weren’t able to finish and why. You can ask them to email you daily reports or weekly reports, depending on how detailed their individual tasks are. This way, you get your instant updates on the gist of what’s happening so you’re aware, and you also have your detailed work reports that you can go over thoroughly when you have more time. It’s important to managing multiple VAs that you set aside this time to really look into each one’s performance to see how you can help them to improve. Your feedback coupled with your willing guidance will spur them on to be better every day, every week.
(3) Regular Check-Ins
When you sit down to review email updates, you will probably have at least a few things that you want to get with each VA on. Managing multiple VAs takes a certain degree of finesse. Instead of replying to that email with a string of random thoughts or checking if they’re online and forgetting if they’re not, you need to set a regular weekly check-in meeting. Then you can schedule your review of their updates right before that meeting, or jot down some notes about what you want to discuss. Either way, you are organized and prepared to have a structured and productive meeting with them. When you start, you can intro with a what’s up and what you thought went well. Then present the items for discussion. Go through them, encouraging input, and reminding them of how, and more importantly, why, these things and their roles are vital to business growth. Then ask the VA what else they have that they’d like to discuss. Be as forthcoming with your responses as you’d like them to be. Don’t conclude without expressing your appreciation for their availability and for taking on the challenge to improve.
Check-ins should be scheduled at a fairly stable weekly time so that you are both better prepared for them, knowing when the next one is and that it is going to happen. These weekly check-ins should also be one-on-one. This is your personal time with that particular VA to talk about their individual performance. It might save you time now to group everyone together and post away. It will not help you boost productivity, however, or help you get better at managing multiple VAs. That, in the end, will cost you more than just a few hours a week. Consider it an investment, one that will build up more concerned, appreciative, and loyal workers who are ready to dedicate their time, talents and skills to growing your online business.
(4) Week Starter Meetings
You should always have a general assembly to start off each work week. Set up this weekly meeting when everyone is there, ideally on Mondays. When you’re managing multiple VAs, they will probably be working from different time zones and have their own work schedules. Make sure that you check their availability, choose a convenient time for all, and confirm that with them. Respect is a very valuable component of successfully managing multiple VAs, and it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to give.
At the start of each meeting, express again how happy you are to have them working with you. Identify the key areas or projects that went well and who were behind them. This will shore up the VAs’ sense of purpose and encourage a healthy air of support as well as challenge the others to be better. Then it’s time to give your updates. Tell everyone what’s been happening on your side of things and how the business is growing because of this and that effort. This helps to keep everyone on the same page, focused, and feel that they are a significant part of the overall growth, the larger entity. Everyone wants to know that what they are doing is valuable and valued, and how they are contributing.
(5) Project Manage
The biggest challenge of managing multiple VAs is time. I’ve left this for last because you will need to review your time input at this point. You may have gone through the steps above and modelled availability and run through the different meetings and found that you don’t have enough time.
It’s completely understandable that you can’t be devoting too many of your own resources to managing multiple VAs. You have your own areas of focus to attend to. If this is the case, you don’t have to make the hard choice. You can hire a project manager to handle the daily updates and even the detailed reports. This project manager can help you by taking over a lot of the day-to-day face time and digesting the information so that you only have to deal with smaller chunks of it. You will still take care of the weekly check-ins and be directly involved in the weekly meetings, but you won’t have to do all the preparation. You will still be able to employ the right strategies for managing multiple VAs and keep your calendar relatively free to take care of your other responsibilities.
You can crush managing multiple VAs by implementing the 5 key strategies above. You probably don’t have a lot of time on your hands, but getting this set up is going to be immensely worthwhile for you and your business. And don’t worry if you can’t see yourself doing this all the way down the road. As you ease everyone into this system, it will become habitual and flow more smoothly, taking less and less time. As everyone improves, it will also naturally take less time.
Moreover, as you develop this culture of communication, you will more easily see the people who have become key to your growth. Knowing the type also removes the need for you to spend a bunch of time finding and testing out different VAs because you will have developed a sense of who the right ones are. By investing in effectively managing multiple VAs, you will become highly skilled at hiring and onboarding VAs as well as retaining them and creating systems and processes for your online business. All of this together streamlines operations so everything runs like clockwork, with a VA is every nook and cranny, keeping those cogs oiled and polished along with every other component of your business.
Connor Gillivan is a serial eCommerce entrepreneur and an expert in online hiring, eCommerce, and bootstrapping businesses. With his first eCommerce business, he sold over $20 million worth of product and managed over 60 freelance workers. He is now the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of FreeeUp.com, the hands-on hiring marketplace connecting hundreds of online business owners with reliable, pre-vetted remote workers. He is an avid writer on his own site, ConnorGillivan.com, and his business advice can also be found in top publications such as WebRetailer.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.