Great question from a member…
Hi Tina. My name in Andy Horlick. I met you at the recent Coaching Success Forum in Vancouver. Congratulations on your new venture – I look forward to learning more about what you are working on.
I’m hoping you can give me some advice – but first some brief background information. I am one of three partners in Navigo Consulting and Coaching (www.navigo.ca) . We help leaders and their people successfully navigate change. We operate virtually, with each of us having a home-based office. To date, I have done all of the administrative work for the firm and this no longer makes economic or personal sense. One of the key learnings for me from the Forum was the importance of recruiting a capable support team and utilizing specialized tools to support virtual work. The first change I’ve made is to establish an intranet for us at Intranets.com. We are now embarking on a search for a virtual support person who can assist us with running the day-to-day business and more importantly, help us dramatically increase our online presence. We are planning to develop a coaching program for change agents that would be delivered virtually.
Based on your experience, do you have any suggestions as to how/where we would find a person who possesses the skill set necessary for such a role? My own experience with administrative assistants is that most lacked the understanding of the internet, ezines and ecommerce that we need. Also, would it be wise to separate out the management of the financial aspects of the firm (bookkeeping, payroll, and liaison with our accountant) and have these functions performed by a separate individual? Any advice you can provide would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance.
– Andrew Horlick
Thanks for your email.
I can best answer your question of “how to find an assistant” by sharing an excerpt from Andrea Lee’s 39 Lessons program (with permission of course). See below for a copy of her suggestions and let me know if you have any questions/comments.
As for separating out the financial stuff, I think that really depends on who you hire. You may be able to find someone who can do the bookkeeping along with everything else, which is great. But if you find someone who is great in all other aspects but doesn’t do bookkeeping, I would say hire that person anyways and get a separate person to do the bookkeeping.
Lesson #01: How Do I Hire for My Online Biz?
Today’s lesson is in response to a question from a Personal Coach, and Online Business Owner…
I’m ready to hire. I know, you told me so! I look at my list of projects – 3 new TeleClass programs, eBook half done, overdue ezine issues and all these new coaching clients! What have I done?? My heart just sinks. I need to hire an assistant or project manager or something…and I need to NOW! But I’ve only ever hired through the newspaper…is that what I should do? Somehow I don’t think so, but I’m not sure what to do.”
Well first of all, congratulations! Talk about a great problem to have, and…very solvable.
Hiring online brings with it some unique challenges, not least of which is the fact that you cannot see or even talk to some of your potential candidates… but the benefits of hiring online are so many, I’m usually hard pressed to think of a reason NOT to hire online (unless it’s for a hairdresser or something!) So how can a body successfully hire online assistance, and do so quickly, covering your bases in just a couple hours?
It’s Best to Look Online for Online help.
Since you’re hiring an online contractor, it makes sense to search for them online, right? I mean, just as it makes little sense to look for a vegetarian cook at the butcher shop, or a penguin in the Sahara, there’s little reason to look anywhere but online for your virtual team. That said, where online should you look? Read on…
Step 1: Start with a look at your very own inbox.
This is the single most effective way of finding the best help for small online business owners. And…it’s very simple. Who is showing up in your inbox that has impressed you or given you a smile? Perhaps it’s the way they write an email or a phrase they used that stuck out for some reason. It doesn’t matter if they are a customer, in fact that could be a big plus. Got a little list of folks? Good.
Step 2: Now email them with your question.
Sample: “Hey Shellie, hope you’re doing well! Just wanted to let you know I’m looking for some help for my online company. The person needs to have a computer at home, be familiar with email and be available 5-10 hours a week, doesn’t matter what time of the day. Are you interested, or maybe you know someone who is? I’d want to start small but it could grow into something pretty cool as we go along. What do you think? Oh, and yes, start date is ASAP. Email me back if you’re interested ok? Thanks!”
Step 3: Observe how they respond.
It’s not who responds, so much as how those people respond, that counts most when hiring online. Because many of the traditional cues are absent in an online interaction (body language, voice tone, etc.) actions really do speak louder than words. I give the most ‘points’ to the person who responds quickest, who answers my questions without having to repeat myself and asks “when do I start?” with enthusiasm. As far as I’m concerned, this person embodies three of the critical characteristics of an online helper and I want them on my team:
They eliminate delay at every opportunity (fast response)
They over respond to the request (answers my questions)
They find the opportunity compelling (cannot wait to start)
In the online world, these three things are key to productivity. All the rest…can be taught, but not these. You’ve either got it, or you don’t.
Note: In Human Resource terms, the above process is called pre-screening.
The people you find to hire out of your very own inbox have been prescreened on a multitude of levels just by the fact that they are there in your inbox.
And yes, it’s even better if they happen to be a happy customer! Bringing a raving fan onto your team can give you unique insight into how your company can continue to pursue the leading edge.
Why this works.
No kidding, this works. And I mean really works, because:
. The people who respond are already somewhat web savvy: they have
email, they are set up with a computer in some way, they are used to being online. All very good things for you.
. By looking in your email inbox, you know the people bit, which means
something in an online environment. These people have interacted with you before, on an unrelated topic, so you can be quite confident they’re not a scam artist waiting for a target. This isn’t someone replying out of the blue to an ad you placed, who you can’t see or verify personally that they are who they say they are.
. For whatever reason the people you email stuck out to you, and that
factor will go to work for you as your new team member. Did they have a nice way of writing an email? Your customers will appreciate that. Was the person persistent about contacting you, following through in a polite manner? Maybe this person will prove themselves to be a good lead closer.
In fact, that’s how I came to be Customer Service Manager at CoachVille way back in June 2001. Then Editor of the Today’s Coach Ezine Steve Davis emailed me to say “Hey Andrea, I’m hiring and you’re the first and only person I thought of. Want the job? You just seem to have a way of always ‘being there’ in my inbox.” I had been helping Steve as a volunteer for about six months. Taking a page from his book, while working as GM of CoachVille, I used this technique many times over in the space of 2 years.
The rest, as they say, is (online) history.
Remember that because working online is still relatively new, often people don’t know their own strengths. Part of your job as an online business owner is to observe what makes the person you’ve hired remarkable – starting with your screening process. Then put those strengths to work for your company.
Lastly, don’t buy into the perception that hiring online is complex. It’s absolutely not. It’s refreshingly simple and fast. Put the above steps into action and don’t spend more than 2 or 3 hours doing it. Set a start date with your chosen candidate and get back to business.
I hope you found this helpful!
Best to you,
Author, 39Lessons.com | firstname.lastname@example.org