10 Tips for Working with Virtual Assistants

Tips for working with virtual assistants

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners have decided to forego the hiring of standard employees and instead enlist the help of virtual assistants for their needs. The benefits of using virtual assistant services have been proven time and again, but working with on-demand help can take some getting used to. Although with the right systems in place and a healthy amount of communication, your relationship with a virtual team can help take your business to the next level.

We’ve got 10 tips that will guarantee your success with your virtual assistant team.

Communication is Key

As with any relationship, quality communication is one of the most important factors for success. It ensures that everyone involved accurately understands each other and allows for an avenue to express thoughts and concerns in a safe environment.

Good communication takes time and active effort, so it can be easy to let it fall by the wayside. But regardless of how clear your instructions for a task may be, virtual assistants are likely to have questions at times. Being available to answer questions and address concerns alleviates stress and helps to reduce mistakes in the long run. This is especially true if there is a strict deadline on a task – every minute that goes by can feel like a lifetime when you are waiting on someone to answer your questions!

Of course it would be ideal if you and your team were on the same page from the beginning, but working together to develop quality communication skills can save you a lot of time and headache in the long run. Over time you’ll get better at it – and they’ll get better at it too! You’ll send fewer back and forth emails, and the relationship will strengthen. Eventually, it’s likely that you’ll fall into a cadence where you both just sort of understand each other; but until then, make sure to answer your emails or instant messages when help is needed.

Be Clear in Your Instructions

This seems like an obvious note to add, but you’d be surprised at how often people sort of assume that virtual assistants are mind readers – no joke! And while most of the time they’ll be able to figure out instructions for a task, it’s a lot easier if the instructions are clear from the beginning. Putting it simply, the more information you provide upfront, the less they’ll have to ask you for later. Here are some tips for sending in clear instructions:

  • Be honest and upfront about your expectations for a task.
  • Empower them by letting them know the tools they’ll need and for what purpose they’ll be completing it.
  • Give a general idea of when you want the task to be completed; otherwise they’ll be tackled in the order they’re received.

Being clear initially will of course take more time than simply sending a request like “Please draft out a new blog post for my site”, but it will save all the added time for clarification (“Do you have a specific topic in mind? How long would you prefer it to be? Will the post be from your perspective or third person?”).

If it’s a recurring task or something ultra-specific, sending a quick training video can really help too. There are a number of free-to-use screencasting services that allow you to take quick snippets of video instructions that you can send as links or downloadable files. This makes it easy for your virtual team to understand the task and train others to do so as well.

As with good communication, good instructions can help save time and alleviate stress for the virtual assistants tackling your business needs.

Specify Urgency

If you have a task that needs to be done by a certain time, you’re going to have to specify this when sending in the task. More often than not, virtual assistants work with multiple clients at a time, and address tasks in the order that they enter the queue. If there are no other urgent tasks before your task, it is likely that it can be bumped to first in the order of importance if we have a heads up.

Your team will be more than happy to treat certain tasks with more importance than others if it’s necessary and they’ve got the time to spare, but if they don’t know it’s high-priority they can’t give it the extra attention it needs.

Something as simple as an added “ASAP”, “Urgent”, or “Important” can help them understand your expectations and needs regarding a task, and helps to avoid anger and frustration down the road when something doesn’t get completed on time. Just remember that not every task can be urgent; be cognizant when you’re marking tasks with high importance and try to do it when it’s truly needed.

A big component to the structure of teamsourcing is that your virtual assistants can have any number of clients at any given time, which means that they can be working on any number of tasks and projects at one time. Try to keep this in mind when you send something to your team so that you can have realistic expectations. In general tasks are completed by the end of the day, so try to plan accordingly.

Create a ‘System’ for Working with Your Virtual Assistant

Want your new team to access your website to add content? They’re going to need the login. Want them to manage your email account and create meeting invites for you? Gonna need that password information, too. The more tasks you want your team to take over for you, the more information they are going to require – so empower them with it!

One of the easiest ways to do this is with a password management system (such as LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password) so that your virtual specialist can readily access the information. You can also use a CRM where projects (and credentials, if you don’t have a management system setup) are stored (we don’t recommend using a shared document for security purposes). This way they aren’t pinging you for a password or the name of your first pet each time you give them a new task; they can simply check the resource and are done.

Be Kind

This may seem like a given, but be patient with your new team. If they’ve agreed to work with you as a client, it’s because they genuinely care about what you do and want to help you do it better – treat them like a member of your own team because, well, they are!

It might be frustrating if a situation arises where your virtual assistant accidentally sends an email to the wrong customer, or forgets to adjust for differences in time zones when scheduling an important client meeting, but if it isn’t a repeat offense it’s likely that it was a simple mistake. Instead of losing your cool and yelling, use the mistake as a learning opportunity. This will not only reduce the likelihood of the error happening again in the future, but it will also strengthen the relationship you have with your team, since they’ll be able to trust you as a source for information and not one for insults or anger.

The simplest way to think about it is like this: if you were in their situation, how would you want to be treated? It’s likely that you’ve made a mistake at some point in your life, do you remember how people treated you? Were you empowered to learn from your mistake, or was your confidence shaken down by destructive language and pointed blaming? If you exercise the Golden Rule with your team (and in life!), you’re likely to have a lasting and meaningful relationship based on mutual respect and care – it’s a win-win! Your virtual team applies a culture of excellence, not perfection, since the latter is unrealistic.

Let Them Know If You Have Trouble With Technology

Everything a virtual assistant company does is on a computer, so technology is at the center of it all. If you have difficulty with certain technology – especially if it’s the ones they use regularly to collaborate, communicate, or otherwise carry out tasks – let them know ahead of time. They can set up a time to train when it’s necessary, or find alternatives where they’re available.

Proper use and understanding of technology is synonymous with efficiency and productivity in a virtual environment, so this aspect of working together is extremely important. Chances are your new team will already have a good collection of programs, applications, and various other technologies that they use, but they’re also likely to be great at learning new ones. If you have a CRM or tool that you prefer, let them know. Likewise if they make a recommendation about a certain tool, be open to exploring it with them. You may just find something new and useful you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

Let Them Know Your Personal Schedule/Availability

This tip is especially relevant if you utilize your virtual assistants to schedule your appointments and meetings, but can be equally as important when it comes to the best times to get ahold of you, when you don’t want to be disturbed, if you’re going to be out of town, and much more.

Just like you know that your team of specialists will be available between the established working hours of their day, it is best if they know when you’re available for appointments or communication.

Sharing calendars is often the best way to achieve this, especially if you’re already having the assistants manage it for you. Keep in mind that anything that may have you out of the office (such as doctor appointments, school pickups, or lunch) is useful for your team to know, so that they can understand when there are good and bad times for scheduling. A simple “Blocked” or “Do Not Disturb” marker on the calendar is perfect for letting them know.

Be Responsive

You ping them on instant message or shoot a quick email and expect a response right away, but can they do the same with you? Business is busy, and we understand this, yet it can be stressful when your team asks a question about a task that was sent in with urgency and aren’t getting an answer. A quick acknowledgment in the moment – a simple “In a meeting”, or “Away from my computer, be back soon” – can let them know they’re on the right track and simply need to wait a few minutes.

With meetings, client calls, errands to run, and everyday life interruptions this one isn’t always easy, but do your best to respond to questions or comments from your team so that they can complete your task and move onto the next. They do their best not to reach out unless it’s absolutely necessary, so if there’s a note from them it’s probably something important. And, if there are times when you absolutely cannot or will not respond, let your team know so they can expect this ahead of time and won’t be bothering you when you’re not available.

Trust Their Judgement

Another important component of teamsourcing is being a diverse group of specialists. Virtual assistant companies hire a unique team of people with a wide range of specialties. They hold themselves to a high standard and strive for absolute satisfaction each time they work on something for a client, so you can expect a certain level of quality in their work – it’s something they’re proud of.

Part of being a specialist is having a certain level of prior experience and understanding when approaching a project. Each member of a virtual team is an expert in their field, so they have a good idea of what they’re doing. It can be easy to want to babysit a task from start to finish, but trust that they will get it done right, and they’ll prove it to you with the results.

Clear, step-by-step instructions are great for projects, especially if you’ve got something very specific in mind. However, if there are areas in your guidelines that are hazy or require a bit of creative interpretation, have faith that your team will do so with a high level of care and attention to detail. If they’re met with constant nitpicking and micromanaging it doesn’t ever allow them to build up a relationship of trust with one another.

Be Organized In Your Own Business/Life

Much in the way that you expect your virtual assistants to be well organized when conducting their business, doing so with your own work environment will ensure that they can carry out tasks better, understand instructions easier, and help you in the best way possible:

  • Keep calendars with meetings and personal activities that might conflict with your ability to do work together.
  • Use a CRM or general place that you keep documents, resources, or anything else they might need.
  • Have a good idea of what you need from your team ahead of time so they can reduce the back and forth and complete tasks efficiently and on-time.

 

Being organized helps reduce stress, increases productivity, and it will help you and your virtual assistant company work well together. If it’s something you need help or advice on, let them know and they can set you up with the right systems to get you into a flow that’s easy to follow.

5 Ways Large Companies Can Utilize Virtual Assistant Services

virtual assistant services blog

Small businesses and entrepreneurs have understood the advantages of hiring virtual assistants for some time now. They reap the benefits of a complete workforce that they access on-demand for much less than the average overheads and hiring costs that a standard team would run. In fact, many businesses prefer the flexibility so much, their entire workforce is set up this way.

At The Admin Center we call the concept of virtual assistant services, “teamsourcing”; what that means is that our specialists become an extension of your team, expertly understanding your goals, processes, and culture. You send us the tasks that don’t need to be done in-house so that you can put your efforts back into the important things.

For businesses that don’t need full-time employees working around the clock, virtual help can be a no-brainer. But with large companies and corporations that already have an established structure in place, it can be hard for upper-level leadership to imagine how virtual assistant services can fit into the mix.

Innovation and modern technology make it easier than ever for businesses of any size to utilize virtual assistants for their outsourced tasks. Here is our guide to how large companies can also take advantage of the benefits.

One-Off Projects

Eager to try a new kind of marketing campaign but just don’t have the available bandwidth within your current department? Or maybe an employee has brought a particular issue to light, and no one on the team is sure how to handle it?

Regardless of the unique instances that call for it, there are bound to be projects that arise that the company simply doesn’t have the capacity or expertise to manage alongside current workloads. By hiring a virtual assistant for the job, you’re not only getting a unique perspective of creativity, you’re getting an entire company’s worth of skill and know-how - for less than the cost of hiring a single full-time employee.

Virtual assistant companies include a collection of people who are experts in all kinds of fields ranging from accounting to sales to marketing. They collaborate behind the scenes to make sure that projects of any kind are completed, with as much or as little input as you prefer to give. You can engage them for one project and then never use them again, but chances are you’ll see the benefits of virtual help after one task and be hooked. It won’t be long before you’ll see how that can help in a wide range of capacities!

Improved Efficiency

Never worry about staff turnover when it comes to simple, recurring tasks again; let your virtual assistants take on these types of tasks and never worry about them again. You no longer have to train and retrain when staff changes because your company of on-demand specialists never will. Once the task is automated and set in place you don’t have to think about it again - your new team will do the rest - unless you want to make changes or improvements to the process (and they may even be able to help you with that part!).

Not only do you avoid retraining new staff over and over, but you also ensure that your existing staff is able to focus on their own strengths. They aren’t constantly pulled away from the tasks they’re good at in order to pick up the slack created by the repeatable tasks elsewhere. You open up a new space that allows and encourages creativity, boosts productivity, and ensures accuracy.

Rapid Scalability

It can happen before you know it; an influx of new customers can rapidly increase company-wide workload, or a new project-type might simply be demanding more of the current staff than they’re capable of delivering on. You need to hire an entire team of people but don’t have the time to train or the money to handle the growth. What can you do?

When you hire virtual assistants it’s like you’re hiring a full team of people, but you don’t have any of the lengthy training times or high costs. You can use your on-demand team when you need them, so when things get busy you can easily scale up to accommodate it, and then scale back a bit when they quiet back down. It offers a level of flexibility that helps you avoid hiring and firing - and chances are you’ll quickly learn that they can help you with much more than you initially needed from them, too!

Fresh Creativity

Having a dependable team of people can be paramount to the success of a company; you trust your team infallibly, and know what kind of projects are right for which people. You consistently complete tasks and close deals across the board, and you fall into a pattern that has lead to great success - but it may be lacking innovation.

Predictability in business is great because it allows you to trust the process and plan easily around things that are already in place, but it doesn’t always encourage risk or growth. You know what they say about old habits, and once we get working in an expected flow it can be hard to imagine projects or ideas outside of that scope. We see the path of least resistance because we’re used to it; it’s what we look for and have been trained to see.

But the best ideas often come from outside of the box, and a virtual assistant company can help you better see this. Every member of a virtual team comes from a unique background and thrives in an environment that undergoes constant change, so they’re used to thinking on their toes. And, working with a variety of businesses at one time means that they’re less likely to fall into habits and more apt to find creative new ways of building projects and getting them done.

Cost-Saving Opportunity

You can’t talk about business without talking about budgets and bottom lines. They are a necessary evil to any successful business, but they don’t come without their built-in red tape, eventually reaching the popularity status of a four-letter word. But businesses don’t get very far by not thinking about money, and a virtual assistant can help with that.

When you hire virtual assistants you pay for the time you use and that’s it - there is no downtime, no water cooler talk, or slow days in productivity; you simply pay for the task to be completed and that’s it. No frills or hidden fees.

When business is slow you scale back the amount of work you send to your on-demand team. When things pick back up they easily ramp up with you; all without downtime for hiring and firing, no training or negotiations, just tangible results on the projects you send them.

As I stated before, you’re getting a full team of well-trained professionals on a need-by-need basis, so you have the freedom to mix-and-match the kinds of tasks you send. You can experiment with how projects are done and take risks with certain things because the stakes are so much lower. If an idea doesn’t work out it’s no hard feelings and onto the next one. Your team of professionals is ready for anything.

(Click the infographic to enlarge)5 ways companies can utilize virtual assistant services infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

The value of virtual assistant services is no secret to small businesses and entrepreneurs, but big companies can learn to reap the benefits too. There may be countless ways in which a large company can benefit from a virtual assistant for some of their tasks, but whatever your reason may be, just know that there isn’t any harm in trying. There’s no risk for testing out what it’s like to work with on-demand specialists because you’re in control; you’ve got the power and freedom to decide if and when you’re ready, or if flexible help is right for you.

With so little at risk and so much potential to be gained, my only question is what are you waiting for?

How To Be Awesome At Working From Home

working from home blog

Working from home can be a dream come true for many people: you have flexible hours, avoid commutes, spend more time with your family, and get to work during your most productive times. But working from home can also prove challenging when you’re used to the normal 9 to 5 lifestyle.

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep you on track and awesome while working from home.

Have a Defined Workspace

Of course you have a computer at home, you wouldn’t be working from home if you didn’t. But setting up your laptop at the kitchen table just after the family has finished breakfast and gone off on their separate ways isn’t the same thing as having a home office. Set up your own space. Somewhere that is yours, where kids, significant others, or roommates know to stay away - especially during your working hours.

If that means you have to go to your thrift store and pick up a cheap desk that you prop up in the corner of the living room, so be it. If you only have space for one office in the house and your spouse insists that they need computer time too now and again, that is fine, too - as long as the space is yours while you’re working.

Place some nice plants in the room, surround yourself with art or posters that you like, keep your space as tidy or with as many stack of papers as you want, just as long as it’s yours. Having a separate space not only helps you gain ownership of the work you do at home, it helps create a sense of work-life separation; something that’s very important to a virtual worker’s psyche.

Stay Organized

Remember those piles I mentioned keeping on your desk? It’s perfectly fine to do, but try to have some kind of method to the madness. If you keep your workspace organized (and the rest of the areas in your life, but we won’t get into that here) work itself can’t help but to be more organized - and better for it. You’ll be better at keeping meetings straight, your to-do list in order, and a balance in your environment.

There are plenty of benefits of being organized, including my personal favorites: reduced stress, increased productivity, and being better equipped to handle the little things when they come your way. It’s hard to be surprised by a deadline or an important meeting when you’ve already got that stuff penciled in. Don’t be surprised if you find that this sense of organization at work spills over into your home life, too - being organized just feels great!

Maintain a Schedule

If you’re already a part of a virtual company that functions on a normal 9 to 5 schedule than this may not be as important for you, but for freelancers and those work in a more flexible environment, it may be tempting to work in short sporadic spurts throughout the day. This is fine for many, and even increases productivity since you’re doing work when you know you’re best equipped to do it, but it’s still important to maintain some kind of schedule.

Maybe for you that means working two hours at a time before taking a break, or maybe it’s working in separate four-hour blocks of time, but whatever it looks like just try to keep a consistency to it. This not only invites a sense of structure into your day (which can be good for productivity, so long as it isn’t too rigid), it also lets people know when they can get ahold of you for work-related things, and when they should leave you alone.

For this last reason it may make the most sense for you to conduct your business during traditional working hours, but if that simply doesn’t work for you, don’t hold yourself to it. As long as there is some sense of predictability to when a client can reach you, when a friend should avoid trying to schedule a lunch date, and when you can be sure you’ll produce some stellar work, you should have a much better time performing in your virtual environment.  

Take Breaks

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be surprisingly hard to prioritize breaks when you’re in your home environment. You’re comfortable when you’re at home, so it can be tempting to work non-stop in an effort to get a ton of stuff accomplished - but it’s easy to burn out doing this. Get up from the computer every once in a while, stretch, maybe even go for a walk - do things that get you up and out of your home office.

You would take breaks in a traditional work environment - be it for bathroom breaks, lunch hour, or water cooler talk - and this should really be no different. Taking breaks can leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the next task at hand, and they’re great for your body, too.

If you have a hard time remembering to take breaks, schedule them into your day. Put them on your calendar and set it up so that you get a notification when it’s break time. Don’t allow yourself to hit the proverbial snooze button on your refresher; you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long-run and I promise that task or project will still be there for you when you get back.

Be Great with Communication and Always be Video Meeting Ready

I’m not saying you have to put on a pants suit or blazer every time you have a meeting scheduled (I’m in sweatpants from the waist down all day every day), but make sure that your hair is brushed, your surroundings are tidy and organized, and your overall presence is professional. This isn’t only true for client meetings, either. If you’re going to be chatting with coworkers or team members you should treat it with the same professionalism you would if they were a client. This means no eating while you’re on the phone, try to keep background distractions to a minimum, and anything else you probably wouldn’t do if you were meeting in-person.

In a virtual environment, video meetings are an almost a daily thing. They keep teams close and collaborating, they add that ‘human aspect’ that’s easily lost without the face-to-face interaction of normal business life, and they just seem to make people happy. I mean who does want to see their coworker’s or client’s smiling face?

Get Out of the House

Working from home can turn you into a bit of a homebody (heck it might be the reason you wanted to work from home in the first place). It’s funny, but it can have the same effect as spending an entire day in the office; when you’re done with your shift, all you want to do is sit around and binge a new series on Netflix and go to bed - even work from home can be draining! But if you’re pulling a full workday from the comfort of your own home it’s more important than ever to make sure you leave the house - at least once a day if you can manage it.

Run some errands before or after work, grab some groceries, get some take-out, go to the gym, or take a walk around your neighborhood - whatever you do, just make sure you’re out of the house from time-to-time. If you have the flexibility in your job, you may want to move your workspace around from time to time and test out coffee shops or local areas with wifi that aren’t just another room in your house.

Keep Your Work and Home Life Separate

You’ve got instant messages and email notifications coming to your phone during all parts of the day and can’t help yourself but to answer them (despite the familiar grumpy look on your spouse’s face). Or maybe your kids did something hilarious at school today and you can’t wait to tell your coworkers - and clients, if they’ll listen - about just how crazy your home life can be. It can be difficult to blur the lines between work and home when the two are nearly one-in-the-same for you, but it’s more important than ever in a virtual environment.

This goes hand in hand with maintaining a schedule, since it sets up boundaries for when you are and aren’t working - for the people around you and for yourself. If you and your coworkers/clients know for sure that you typically quit the day at 5 o’clock it’s easier to turn off the notifications and start fresh on work the following day. There’s always another task to do, but in the same vein there always another day to do it. Keeping distance between your work and home life will help you keep you sane, and at your peak level for performance.

Bringing too much of your work into your personal life can be a major issue, but the inverse situation can be problematic, too. What you find charming and pertinent about your family and home life, your coworkers - and especially your clients - might not. Connecting with someone on a personal level is a lot different than sharing your everyday life anecdotes. Keep the stories about your kids, pets, in-laws, or anything else like that at a minimum during working hours, and focus more on your professional relationships.

Avoid the Home Distractions

Remember that Netflix series I mentioned? For some reason, the middle of the day seems like the best time to get in a few episodes. Or maybe it’s that warm and comfy bed calling your name on a particularly dark and dreary day? There are countless things around your house that will easily serve as a distraction if you’re part of the work-from-home crew (I can practically hear my refrigerator calling my name from the other room as we speak), but distractions, like multitasking, kill productivity.

For me, the best way to cut down on distractions is by adhering to a schedule, keeping my office door closed during my work hours, and by offering myself those distractions as rewards after I’ve completed a good day at work. Sure it takes a bit of self-discipline, but it keeps me on track and gives me a better level of satisfaction at the end of the day. When I’ve tackled a few projects during my day I feel more satisfied when I’m kicking back later. I don’t have unfinished tasks looming over my head, and don’t feel like I’ve cheated myself out of the day’s full potential.

Run Errands Outside of Work Hours

When you work from home it can seem like you have all the free time in the world to get your work done and your household chores done. You imagine doing a load of laundry in between answering emails; you’ll work on a project for a bit and then maybe you’ll get dinner started, right? Well, I hate to tell you this, but studies have shown time and time again that multitasking doesn’t work (and doesn’t even exist), so this kind of thinking may actually be hurting your productivity in the end.

If you run a personal errand or step away from work for too long, it can be difficult to get back into the groove of things. The best way to avoid this is by doing your chores before or after the times you would normally be doing work, instead of interspersed within your most productive hours. If you make it a part of your routine to run errands when you aren’t working you’ll get into the habit of it - and you’ll probably see a spike of success in both activities.   

(Click infographic to enlarge)

how to be awesome at working from home infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

However you structure your day, however you set the boundaries between work and life, just make sure you do. There will be ups and downs to any work setting, but if you gain better control of your work setting at home, you’re guaranteed to have a better time.

And, if you’ve been working from home for awhile now and think I missed some great tips for working remotely (or think I’m totally missing the bar on some of these), let me know in the comments! I love hearing from my fellow virtual warriors. 🙂

8 Common Small Business Problems and How to Overcome Them

8 Common Challenges Small Business Face

Entrepreneurship is amazing; if you’re reading this article, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back, because it means that you were brave enough to start your own business. You refused to listen to the inevitable naysayers when they told you that you would fail, and your tenacity pulled you through the tough beginning stages of getting up-and-running. You’re in full-fledged small business mode. Go you!

But the thing is, business is hard. Or at least, it can be at times. There are challenges that come at all business owners from seemingly nowhere, and if you aren’t prepared it can really shake that confidence that brought you here in the first place. But don’t fear, help is here with some advice on how to keep on track during those unavoidable small business problems.

Don’t have time to read? Watch the video instead!


 


If you enjoyed this video and want to see more, subscribe to our channel!
 

Fatigue

As a small business owner, it can be tempting to take on the world. You think you can do it all, but rather than being productive and getting ahead, you find yourself disorganized, unfocused, and making avoidable mistakes.

Setting up a manageable pace for yourself is critical to keeping at it for the long term. This might include reevaluating processes to see where there might be redundancies, researching new technologies that can help you to automate and streamline the way you do things, and most importantly, it includes delegating out tasks that you either can’t do yourself, or don’t need to in order to perform at your most efficient.

You can still be a passionate entrepreneur and not know every aspect of business. Instead of spending the time to learn about the tasks that are outside of your wheelhouse, consider bringing in some help. Accountants, bookkeepers, marketers, and even receptionists can all be hired on a task-by-task basis, meaning that you only pay them for the work they do, not the time they spend in the office.

This can help save money and ensure that your important backend tasks are getting done accurately and professionally. And with all that extra time, you are free to do the things you love; the things you got into business for in the first place.

Diversification of Client Base

All business owners love a dependable customer who pays on-time consistently and brings in great revenue. But, if you have a single client or a small group of a few making up more than half of your income, it’s time to start thinking about diversifying.

Diversification can be tough, and that one rockstar client might make it seem like an obsolete necessity, yet relying on a few for the majority of your cash flow can be a major handicap in the long run. Set up like this, you are acting as a subcontractor for a potentially larger business. This allows the client to avoid all the risks while you and your employees take it on fully. Your client gets away without adding payroll in areas of the business that may take a downturn at any time and you’re left with an excess of help when it’s no longer needed, and a deficiency in work and income.

Strike a Balance between Quality and Growth

If business is booming, it can be easy to become prematurely celebratory of the growth. There’s an increase in customers, but many small businesses can fall short of the demands that increase can make if they haven’t planned ahead.

It is essential for businesses to scale up without sacrificing quality. This may mean bringing on some new team members or hiring outside help to manage the things that the business owner can no longer do alone. Maybe this means bringing someone on who can keep an eye on front and backend functions so that you can focus your efforts on client relationships, or maybe it’s hiring a salesperson so that you can get back to the big picture.

Relinquishing control doesn’t mean that the business quality will automatically decline; there are plenty of people out there eager to care about your business as much as you do, it’s just a matter of finding them. The business owner must strike a compromise between quality and growth that allows for scale without damages to the brand.

Hiring Problems

Possibly one of the greatest small business problem is finding the right staff. Your employees are the gatekeepers to your brand. They are often the first point of contact for clients or customers, and are relied on for tasks that can sometimes make or break a company. There is an exceptional amount of trust put into employees – especially when it comes to small businesses, as individuals make up a greater percentage of staff – so ensuring that you have the right help can be critical.
On top of the difficulty with finding dependable, passionate, and hardworking individuals, there is the cost of it all. Time spent posting job openings, conducting interviews, and training, could be better spent finding new customers or strengthening relationships with those already active, so high turnover can be a nail in the coffin.

In small businesses especially, it’s important to learn how to deal with different personality types, figure out early on what motivates individual team members, and then structure your management to fit these needs. When you can develop a respected, open, and honest relationship with your employees, communication will come freely and growth can happen together.

Though there isn’t an ‘easy button’ that allows you to sift through all of the bad apples, there are options available to make the process more simple. Especially if you’re hiring part-time or for specialized roles, you can consider hiring a virtual team instead of hiring in-house. With a virtual team you are essentially employing an entire company full of people – the accounting department, receptionist, sometimes even marketing and sales – and only paying for the time that you use them. You aren’t pressured to hire full-time, so if things get a bit slow you can scale down your virtual work to match that. And without the cost of things like insurance and benefits, you’re drastically saving more money in the long run. Virtual companies generally have a solid base of workers, too, so you’re no longer having to vet your options and hope for the best.

Resource Management & Cash Flow

You’re turning a healthy profit, so business is great, right? But what about those accounts receivables that haven’t come in yet, or the capital expenditures draining your cash flow? All of these factors affect the ability to keep the business balanced and running for the long run.

To combat this problem, businesses must be sufficiently capitalized, and need to shore up reserves to meet obligations and react to emergencies that may arise. This is especially important during economic downturn and during slow times of business, but it’s a good standard to set for the entire life of the business.

This kind of resource management might be possible completely in-house, but it takes an expert hand, so if you aren’t comfortable with it you might consider bringing in outside help. Seeking professional help for things like bookkeeping, accounts payable/receivables, and document management can save you time and money over time, since there will be more standardization and fewer inaccuracies.

Working IN the Business Rather Than ON the Business

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to kill themselves focusing on all of the small things that keep the business running. They get wrapped up in paperwork, obsess over customer satisfaction, even doing things like bookkeeping and accounting because they know they can do it – and do it right – and trusting someone else to take over can often be a scary challenge. This is an understandable occurrence, and is often fine in the short run, but it doesn’t allow the business owner to do the important task of analyzing the business.

Analyzing the business is critical; how else will you know which areas need a bit of extra attention, or what the status of cash flow is at any given time? This comes back to the idea that the owner simply cannot do it all forever. At some point a team of people will need to be brought in to alleviate some of the pressure of everyday business. Whether that means hiring professional people for tasks like payroll and reception desk management, or employing a virtual team of people to do it all, the point is that you as the owner are able to step back a bit and look at things in the bigger picture.

Going it Alone

Many business owners think that they are alone in everything; they think that they can manage all aspects of the business and don’t need advice or help from outside experts. While it’s definitely important to trust your own ideas and instincts when it comes to your business, that doesn’t mean that a bit of advice wouldn’t do some good, either. Afterall, outside perspectives are invaluable if they’re coming from the right people.

If you feel like you’ve got things figured out but aren’t 100 percent sure where to take the business next, consider finding a business advisor or business coach to help push it to the next level. Business is what these people do; it’s likely that they’ve run at least one business from the ground up and have helped many others along the same journey. It may seem a bit over-the-top to bring in outside help for business planning and strategizing, but even large corporations use resources like business coaches, mentors, and advisors to help them make decisions. It’s like bringing a cheerleader onto the team; one that’s great at boosting your confidence, but who can teach you how to be the best version of yourself so that you can do the same for your business. S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

Drab or Non-Existent Marketing

New clients can’t find a business if they don’t know about it, and they won’t ever know about it without good marketing. Simple as that. You can have the most detailed business plan in existence, the best possible product to offer and unparalleled customer service, but if you don’t have good marketing, all of this could be going to waste.

Marketing is great for helping your business reach your target market, but it’s good for so many other things, too. Marketing teaches you about the climate your business is in, and where your competitors are in relation to you. It can help make you appear as a thought leader in your field, and bring in a deeper level of customer loyalty as well as a wider client base. Marketing can teach you about where your business is at now, where it needs to be to fit your vision, and how to get you there – it’s an essential part of business!

Understanding how to market – and who to market to – can be tricky, and unless you’ve got a knack for the skill yourself or have a team in-house, it’s imperative to hire an expert. Markets change; marketing tactics change; your customers are constantly changing their interests and lifestyles, and a team of experts understand how to keep up with these changes in order to stay in the market trend. When it comes to picking a team of professionals, though, gone are the days of having to go with high-cost companies that only sell large package deals. Nowadays you can find contract workers to do one-off projects for you, you can hire a team of virtual administrators and pay them on a per-project basis, or you can hire an in-house expert – the options are plenty and it really depends on your business needs.

(Click infographic to enlarge)8 common small business challenges infographic

Share this Image On Your Site

Owning a business is an amazing endeavor, and no one said it would be easy. There are likely going to be challenges that you face at every turn, but if you know how to prepare for them, nothing will be able to shake you from your path to success. The competitive drive you have – the one that made you start your business in the first place – is the same one that will carry you through the inevitable hard times.
So take a deep breath, take a step back and assess your business situation, and know that you don’t have to go it alone. There’s a whole team of people out there eager to help you when you need them.