Episode 218:

Have you ever wished that you had a team member dedicated to helping manage your day, your email, your commitments, and your goals? When we have someone in the office, they often get usurped by other teams or the crisis of the day. That’s one of the many advantages of working with a virtual assistant. Many agency owners are enjoying added productivity and peace of mind that comes with someone always having their back thanks to their VA!

My guest Jess Tyson takes a people-first approach to virtual assistant matchmaking. She facilitates the connection and establishes a professional relationship so you can start delegating and focusing on your highest priorities.. Jess is also the author of Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business, a speaker, and the Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. In this episode of Build a Better Agency, we talk about how virtual assistants can help you get your calm on.

VAs are a flexible commitment that ebbs and flows with your agency. Most agency owners I know use VAs to increase their efficiency and effectiveness, and VAs can become trusted members of your team if you approach the relationship the right way. It’s an option worth considering and my goal with this episode is to broaden your sense of what’s possible with a VA by your figurative side!

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Jess’s new operations audit can help people figure out where to best spend their time and relegate, automate, or delegate the rest
  • How VAs work and how the relationships are structured
  • What Jess looks for as she searches for a client’s VA
  • The advantages of hiring a virtual assistant over a traditional admin
  • Why agency owners need to delegate
  • How a VA can manage your biggest time-suck; emails

The Golden Nugget:

“It’s not just about giving someone a task and making sure they do it efficiently; It’s about finding someone agency owners can trust.” @jessostroff Click To Tweet “Virtual assistants allow you to open the talent pool outside of your local community.” @jessostroff Click To Tweet “When I talk to agency owners, one of the common misperceptions about VAs is that their skillsets are primarily administrative.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “The more I delegate in my business and give up the things I’m not supposed to be doing, the more I can grow.” @jessostroff Click To Tweet “I’m always thinking about what I can do today that will help me a year from now—that’s how all agency owners should think about hiring.” @jessostroff Click To Tweet

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Ways to Contact Jess Tyson:

 

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Super excited to be back with you this week. Thanks for coming back if you are a return listener and welcome if this is your first time. This is a very practical, actionable episode. So I’m excited if this is your first one, that we’re going to immediately give you things to think about things to do. Before I tell you a little bit about our guest, let me do a couple of quick reminders.

First of all, remember that we give away a workshop, a live workshop or one of our on demand courses every single month. So that’s a value of around $2,000. We give those away to people who leave a rating or review on the podcast. Here’s what I need you to do. I need you to go to whatever site you download the podcast. It might be iHeart radio or iTunes or Stitcher or whatever. Leave us a rating and review and take a screenshot. Because as you know, when you created your iTunes account or whatever account it is, odds are, you didn’t do it in the agency name and you might not have even done it in your full name. Disney Dog 62 does not tell me anything other than that I probably love you because you’re a Disney fan. But it doesn’t tell me who you are.

So take a screenshot and send it to me by email, and we will put your name in a drawing. And every month we pull a name out of the hat, if you will, for a winner for one of the workshops. Happy to do that, a happy to have met a lot of listeners because they won a free workshop and it’s cool to be in the same room with them for a couple of days. Super eager to do that for you, and all we ask is a rating or review, and then just send me a note so we can make sure we include you in the drawing.

All right. Let me tell you a little bit about the topic today. For many years virtual assistance has been a thing and people have approached using a VA in a lot of ways. Some people will just hire a freelance VA. Many people look to an overseas VA because of the cost savings. And there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to all of the different ways that you can connect with a VA. But I will tell you that I think of many agency owners and leaders have a very narrow view of what a VA can do and should do. I think many of you have dismissed this idea thinking that it’s not for you when I’d have a lot of agency owners that work with VAs and talk about the efficiency and effectiveness that that person has brought to their world.

I will tell you personally that at my agency and as part of AMI, we work with some VAs that do a variety of tasks, both client facing tasks, and certainly more administrative or what I would call Drew facing tasks. I just can’t imagine doing the work without them. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s an economical thing to be able to ebb and flow with them as the work ebbs and flows. They become a very trusted part of your team if you approach it in that way. That’s why I decided to invite Jess Tyson on the podcast. Jess owns a company called Don’t Panic Management. What they are is they help you find, they serve are a matchmaking service, if you will, they will help you find a good VA and then work with you and the VA on how to sort of kick off that relationship successfully. Then you can start delegating some of your tasks and spending more of your time doing the work that is truly work that only you can do.

Jess is also an author. She’s written a book called Panic Proof: How The Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business. She is often a speaker at conferences and she calls herself the director of calm, which I love. We’re going to talk about how a VA can help you kind of get your calm on, if you will, in the next few minutes. I’m excited to have you think a little differently about what a VA can mean for you personally and for the business. Without further ado, let’s meet Jess. All right, Jess, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Jess Tyson:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Drew McLellan:

I think everyone has a pretty good idea of what a VA is, although I’m sure there are plenty of misperceptions around where those VA’s live and how they work and do they get them on up Fiverr account or something like that. Give us a little bit of background on how when you think about a VA and you think about your business, how is it structured and how does it work?

Jess Tyson:

My business is really focused on providing a partner to other business owners and entrepreneurs and leaders and managers. What we find is that it’s not just about giving someone a task and having them do it well and do it on time. It’s finding someone that you can trust because the biggest thing I find with the people that we work with is that it’s not that they don’t think that they need help, it’s that they’re a little nervous about it, and they’re not sure how someone could possibly help them. It’s more about, for my business, developing a trusting relationship and a trusting partnership where our clients can say, “You know what? I really need to book this trip to Paris. Can you find my flight?” And then your assistant says, “Oh, do you also need a hotel? Do you need a car service.” Sort of anticipating needs and figuring out a way to make our clients feel a sense of calm.

That’s sort of my goal with Don’t Panic Management. That’s part of why I named the company that, because like I said, it’s not just about getting work done. It’s actually, I try to instill a feeling that things are going to get done for you, and you’re going to feel really good about it. It’s a little bit different than say just hiring someone from a marketplace. We actually do this matchmaking service that hopefully gives our clients someone that they can really feel good about working with and that they get along with on a personal level and can communicate well with, because we want these relationships to last forever, for as long as they want.

Drew McLellan:

Help me understand the advantage of hiring a virtual assistant as opposed to what historically entrepreneurs have done is which is hire an admin that sits in the office and does the kind of things that you’re talking about.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. I mean, I think it’s really nice to have somebody in the office if that’s the kind of environment that you have. But these days, a lot of us work virtually and a lot of us are in our homes or in a co-working space or something, and we’re smaller businesses. So maybe we don’t need full-time support. I think that’s where people were starting, where they were like, “I have this company, my company is doing really well. Maybe I have 20 employees or 30 or 50 employees, but I still don’t feel like I have full time admin work to give someone, so what am I going to do?” There was no solution really, you could, I guess, get a part-time temp or someone who come into your office a couple of days a week. But a lot of the times those are hard to find because people want full-time work.

So enter the virtual assistant and this person now can be anywhere in the world, which I think is amazing because it allows you to open the talent pool outside of your own local community. I think I’m seeing this more and more just with people who are prioritizing their happiness and who are saying, “What makes me happy is living on a Lake or living in the mountains in the middle of nowhere.” If you’re doing that for the reason that you want to be happy and that’s the thing that you are passionate about, you may not be able to find somebody local to you that can come in. Having the virtual option for that reason is amazing.

But then the second reason is what I mentioned before that they can be someone who works 10 hours a week, 17 hours a week, 22 hours a week. It can be any number of hours. You don’t have to put them into a box. That’s really appealing for people because they don’t want to pay for more than they need and they want the person to be efficient. I think that’s the combination of people starting to work remotely themselves and also moving to places where they were not location dependent. They weren’t working at a factory that was in Detroit, Michigan. They were working at their lake house.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah. It’s interesting. I was talking to an agency owner the other day that works with a virtual assistant and she was saying one of the reasons why she chose and why she prefers now probably two years in to work with a VA as opposed to somebody in the office, and she has a brick and mortar agency, so she could have someone in the office, and she said my VA is all mine. When someone is in the office, other people go, “Oh, they can do this. Or they have this skill or that skill, and pretty soon their time gets usurped by other people on the team.” She’s like, “I know it sounds selfish, but this is my person to help me with my workload and to get the stuff done that I need to get done, hold me accountable, help me feel like I’ve got my ducks in a row and I don’t have to share her with anyone else,” which I thought was an interesting perspective.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. And that’s really special that she feels that way and she values that person so much that she wants to keep her to herself. We’ve had that situation too. We’ve worked with a couple of PR agencies that have brick and mortar, same thing, and they’ve chosen to hire VAs partly for that reason. But then we’ve also had some who have both. They have an admin in the office, but that person a lot of times is ordering toilet paper, making coffee, doing things in the office, around the office. Then their VA is actually sometimes doing higher level work for them, like managing their inbox for them, sending proposals and writing proposals for them, doing invoices. Stuff that someone in the office could certainly do. But that office person is spent doing the in-person tasks that a VA really couldn’t do.

I’ve worked in situations where there’s both too, but that’s sort of like, “This is my person” thing, I always love because I think that also shows that the agency owner is serious about their work and they know that they need to protect their time and they’re using their VA to help them do that. That’s really great.

Drew McLellan:

Some of the items that you just listed. I think one of the misperceptions about VAs when I talk to agency owners about the possibility of having one is they assume that that person’s skillsets are pretty administrative, sort of the basic blocking and tackling kind of things, but you’re talking about handling billing or writing and sending out proposals. That’s a completely different skillset. How do agency owners, how do they think differently about what’s possible with a VA? Because I honestly think sometimes their definition is so narrow that they go, “Oh, I don’t need someone to do to help me, whatever, organize my contact list.” It’s like, “Well, they do a lot more than that.”

Jess Tyson:

Right. I think that’s a big problem with the industry and something I’m working more toward, especially in this coming year of really educating people more about what VAs can and cannot do and helping people understand that the term VA is just really messed up right now because a virtual assistant could be Alexa or virtual assistant could be me in my house. We need to figure that out. I think it’s going to take some time and again, more virtual assistance providing the education around what they can do. But conversations like this certainly help. I mean, for me, I think a lot of VAs came from similar backgrounds that I came from, which is that I went to college, I learned a skill, I got a degree in marketing and international business, but I was also very organized and very detail-oriented. In my first jobs and internships, I was doing a lot of admin stuff because I had to-

Drew McLellan:

Earn your stripes.

Jess Tyson:

Right, right. And that’s a lot of us. A lot of us are really good admin, but we also have other interests. For example, in my case, I did a lot of writing and I did a lot of editing and content management. So then I started doing that for clients as well. I think that’s what a lot of VAs end up doing. They’re good at the admin and that’s where they started perhaps, but they also have these other skills. That is really, I think, special about Vas as well, because the best ones are very curious. They want to learn new things. They’re listening to podcasts like this. They’re taking online courses. There’s so much information and education available to a VA now that really a VA can do anything.

We do podcast production, we do video editing. That’s something that you could certainly hire a freelancer or a video production company to do. But a lot of people, especially online agencies don’t need super high… unless they’re doing it for their clients maybe, and then that’s something that they’re providing as a high level service. But if you’re making video content as an education tool for your agency, you maybe don’t need the super high production value and you can hire a VA to put your logo on there, add the captions, do all the things that you might be able to do yourself, again, but don’t have the time or it’s really just not a good use of your time. You may have time, but it’s not worth it. Really almost anything that in the admin and sort of marketing content, social media realm that you can think of that can be done online, a VA can do.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. In my world, I own my agency and then I own AMI, and we’ve worked with VAs for quite a few years, and we have a couple that are pretty consistent team members. It’s interesting to watch how their role in the organization changes over time as you say, as they get curious and ask more about the business and as they go, “Well, I could do that.” But what I found for me anyway is that I went into that relationship pretty narrow-minded in terms of the skill sets that I was going to tap into. I had to sort of change the way I was looking at this team member and really begin to see her as a team member. It was really about my mindset and my understanding of what was possible and how I define team and all of those things. Do you see that that is a common challenge, is that when clients come to you and they start talking to you about maybe being matched with a VA or something like that, that they have to sort of be in the right head space too to make the partnership work?

Jess Tyson:

Absolutely. I think that people are sometimes asking the wrong questions. They need to know the basics. They need to know “Well, how much does it cost and how many hours am I going to get?” They need to know that, but they’re not asking, “How are you going to help me reach my goals this year? Or what is our relationship going to look like five years from now?” I mean, those are things that you can be thinking about and asking when you’re looking for a VA and hiring a VA, because those are the things that make for the best relationships. Like you said, this happens all the time. The VA starts out with something small, let’s say, booking travel or scheduling meetings, but then next thing you know, they’re actually managing your whole inbox. They’re sending all your invoices, or maybe they get to know you so well that they’re able to ghost write for you on your behalf.

You don’t have to do all that right away, because it does, like I said, I think it’s really important to develop that trust with the person and feel like you do know them and you know what you can give them and not give them, but it’s on you as the owner to understand that there are possibilities, but I would say it’s also on the VA to do what you said sounds like your team member has done, which is that, “Oh, I can do that. Hey, I saw you were in QuickBooks last night sending invoices. Did you know that I could be doing that for you?” Or “I saw that you were ordering supplies from Amazon. I could do that for you.” You want to find those proactive people because I know…

I always use myself as an example because I’m just like our clients where I want to do everything myself because I think I’m the best at it and I think I’m the only one that can do it. That’s just not true. The more times that I’ve been successful delegating those kinds of things are when the person continues to prompt me, almost managing me. I think that’s another trait of some of the best Vas, they sort of manage up. They remind and remind and remind. “I can do that for you.” It takes me a little while, maybe a couple of months to say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to try it. I’m going to let this person do something for me.” Then once I do that, and once it gets done well, then I say, “Well, why the heck was I ever doing it in the first place?”

It is that mindset shift of not just knowing that you need help and hiring the help, but actually embracing the help and being willing to take the help. I mean, I think that’s something that’s a challenge. We were talking about this earlier. I just became a mother and accepting help with the baby is hard too. But I need it. We all need help. Not just knowing you need it and not just hiring the help, but actually accepting it in your heart and feeling like the more I delegate, the more I give up in my business of the things that I’m not meant to be doing, the more that I can grow, the more mental space and energy that I have to work on the big things in my business and the more I can focus on other things, like my family or any other hobbies that you have. I think that it’s a holistic process.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things that I did was I started just keeping a list on my computer of everything I did, and then I put on a column next to it what I thought the ROI was, how was it helping me actually grow my business or make more money or whatever, and anything that wasn’t directly related to that. Then the third column was, “Am I the only one that can do this? Does my audience, do my client base, do they expect to get this from me or did they not really care? They just want to get it, or they just want it done.” That allowed me to start going, “I’m doing a ton of stuff I don’t have to do that. I’m not adding value. It’s not that it’s not that it’s beneath me or I shouldn’t do it. It’s just that I’m not better at this than someone else. And there are some things that I am better at than anybody else, and I’m not getting to those things because I’m busy uploading and doing other stuff.”

I was like, “Why in the world am I doing this?” For me, anyway, it started with having to sort of assess what my day look like and what my… if you will, my task list or my to-do list look like and saying, “There’s stuff on this list that maybe is not my best use of my time.”

Jess Tyson:

Right. That’s awesome that you knew that you could do that and should do that. That’s what I tell everyone to do is audit your time. That’s the first step. You have to know what you’re doing. A lot of people don’t. They get through their day and their week and they’re like, “Ah, I know I did this one thing, but somehow the hours slip away and I was in a meeting and I did… I know I did things, but I don’t know exactly what I did.” Sometimes you forget some things are so automatic. Checking this thing or crossing this task lists off. Especially if we’ve been doing this for years and years and years, there’s just things that become… they’re almost like you’re unconscious while you’re doing them. I think that audit of every hour, every minute of every day… I mean, I tell people that even include your personal life. How many hours are you spending cleaning your house and do you want to be doing that?

Drew McLellan:

Okay, that one I figured out a long time ago.

Jess Tyson:

Okay, good. Well, that’s great.

Drew McLellan:

I’m better at hiring people to do stuff I don’t want to do.

Jess Tyson:

That’s good.

Drew McLellan:

I think that’s human nature, right? If it’s something you don’t want to do, then it’s easy to justify… “Oh, I need to hire someone to do that.” But if it’s something you enjoy or you’re good at, it’s hard to let go. You said something though earlier that made me twitch a little bit and I’m guessing the listeners did too. I want to take a quick break, but when we come back, you talked about having someone else manage your email, which to me sounds horrifying and daunting. I want to hear what that looks like and how feasible it is. Let’s take a quick break, then we’ll come back and talk about how a VA might actually relieve… because when I talk to agency owners and agency leaders, and I say, “What is the biggest time suck?” Without exception, it’s email. If we could relieve them of that, maybe you and I would get flowers and gifts.

Jess Tyson:

Sound good.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s shoot for that after the break.

Hey there, sorry for the interruption, but I wanted to just remind you that we’ve got a killer workshop coming up in March. If you want to join one of our peer groups, one of our live agency and our peer groups, this is one of the two workshops that serves as a prerequisite for that. So if you’re interested in a peer group, this would be a good time to go to this workshop. This workshop is called the Run Your Agency for Growth and Profit. It is in March, March 24th and 25th in Chicago.

At this workshop, we’re going to talk about all of the backend parts of running the business of your business, making your agency more profitable, run more seamlessly, then operations go better. That biz dev is better, that you are growing and nurturing your team in a stronger way, that you have all the systems and processes you need. What we’ve done is we’ve collected all of the best practices of the agencies that we serve and the agencies that we work, whether they’re in a peer group or we just see them in workshops in just our twenty-five years of experience, and we’re going to teach you all of those best practices so that you can indeed grow your business and run it more profitably. We would love to see you at that workshop in March. You can sign up by going to the AMI website, agencymanagementinstitute.com, and under the training tab, you will see a workshop list and you can sign up there. We’d love to have you.

Let’s get back to the show. All right, we are back with Jess. We were talking about all the ways that agency owners and entrepreneurs are using VAs. Prior to the break, Jess had mentioned in a list of things that VAs are doing for their bosses is email management, which I’ve certainly heard before. I just can’t fathom how it works. How does it work?

Jess Tyson:

Well, it can work in a couple different ways. The most common thing that people do is in the beginning, especially, is it’s not that somebody is in your inbox right away necessarily, but it’s that you maybe have some rules set up. If you use Gmail or Outlook or whatever, you can set up some rules where certain things get automatically filtered out or they get filtered to your assistant and your assistant can set those up for you. That’s the first step. There is a lot of clutter in an email and I think that’s the first thing to address. For some people, once that clutter goes away, then they feel like they can manage their inbox again. It could just end there.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Jess Tyson:

The next thing that can happen that does work really well, and depending on your personality, what we’ve done that we like and it sort of… it not only helps you manage your inbox, but it helps you put some boundaries around your own relationship to your inbox. What we would do is kind of come in usually twice a day, maybe in the morning and then the afternoon, or depending on time zones, sometimes people like when they can just get there to their inbox after somebody has already done some work in there, sorting things manually for them. I would go into your inbox and I would say, “Okay, which things… I know Drew wants to read this, but he doesn’t need to read it today. I’m going to put it into a read later folder.” It’s like a, a newsletter or something like that. “Here’s some spam emails, I’m going to flag them and unsubscribe. Or here’s some non-urgent things, but I think he just will want to read this. I’ll mark it as red and move it down into this other inbox.”

Then the things that I can respond to, some of them are going to be things like, “I want to schedule time with Drew.” Okay, well, I can do that for you. So I’ll go in and I’ll just start responding as myself, as the assistant. I’ll make sure that I forward it to myself or whatever kind of rule is set up with the inbox, I’ll make sure that I’m responding as your assistant and copying you. But then I’m going to filter those emails out for you so you don’t have to really bother with them.

Then that way, all that’s left at the top of your inbox are the things that I either don’t think need to be filtered because they need your attention or things that only you can answer. Things that are personal questions I don’t know the answer to or things that somebody needs from you that I want to make sure you see. But I still might… if it’s something where it’s related to a task, I still might put it in project management tool for you. That’s another thing. A lot of times when people are managing your inbox, they’re also managing your projects.

It might say, “Hey, Drew, I really need you to write this blurb. I want to feature you in this article.” Okay, sure. I’m going to put it in the task manager. It’s due on Friday. I’m going to create a task for you. And I’m going to put all the details in there, but I might leave it in your inbox just so you know that it’s coming.

Drew McLellan:

Got it. Got it.

Jess Tyson:

And if you get a chance to do it sooner, you do it sooner. I think the thing that people are most nervous about with someone managing their inbox is that they’re going to lose something or that the assistant’s going to say something that’s wrong, embarrassing. The list goes on. It’s more about you setting boundaries with yourself and with your assistant of, “Okay, these are the things I want you to respond to. These are the things I want you to filter.” Maybe start small like, “Okay, can you just go in and unsubscribe to all this crap that I don’t need?” Maybe that’s the first step. Then a couple of months later, “Okay, can you go in and start scheduling things for me. Just respond to this person and get it on my calendar.”

You can do it incrementally. It doesn’t have to be like, “I gave the way the keys to my email. It’s all done now,” because that’s not going to work anyway. You have to be giving feedback. You have to be setting up rules and parameters around what you want. You might not really know those yet until you get in and do it, but we can give you suggestions of folders to create and times that you can check in. If an assistant’s in there in the morning and you know they’re in there say 9:00 in the morning, well, you can’t also be in there. You have to say, “Okay, I’m going to check at 10:00, and then I’m going to check at 3:0o.” Maybe you have your own rules about when you check your email, which maybe will also just help your sanity. Some people I think are just so chained to their email and it’s not healthy.

Drew McLellan:

It’s not healthy, but boy, it’s an easy addiction for people, I think. Well, I think the gray area would be somebody is asking a question that the VA may not know the answer to, but it’s a factual question like, “When does the agency billing go out,” or “Hey, I have a question about a bill, yada, yada, yada.” Probably with some coaching, I think a lot of this is our assumption is it’s easier just to do it ourselves than to teach someone else how to do it.

And we don’t really think about… and I think this is a challenge for a lot of agency owners. We know that if we could teach someone else to do it, then we don’t ever have to do it again. In the long run, we win, but in the short run of finding the 15 minutes to gather up this stuff, to be able to teach them how to do it, and then to check in and be a resource to answer questions, that people just go, “You know what? Screw it, I’ll just do it myself,” which is short-sighted, but I think common.

Jess Tyson:

I think the best time to hire someone is when things are a little bit in a low, which might also seem a little scary because you might feel like, “Oh, bills are tight or whatever,” but you have to think about it as an investment in your future. I know when we’re recording this, it’s getting toward the end of the year and people are thinking about the new year and resolutions, but I’m always thinking about that. I’m thinking, “What can I do today that’s going to help me a year from now?” That’s how every agency owners should think about hiring, is what can I do for this person? How can I educate this person or teach this person something? Because in a year from now, they’re going to know the answer to 50 questions.

That’s 50 emails times however many days that I don’t then have to answer. If you’re worried about the time and if you can, try to hire someone when you’re a little bit less busy. That’s the best time to do it. But if not, you just need to commit to taking the time. Maybe that means you’re working some extra hours, but it’s short term, that you have to remember that the short-term investment gives you that long-term gain and it’s exponential. That’s another part of the mindset shift that people aren’t thinking about. They’re like, “Oh, it’ll take me 15 minutes now. I’m just going to do it.” But they’re not thinking about the 15 minutes compounded over each week and month and year.

The other thing about that, and I recommend this as part of your mindset when you’re going into it, is that don’t think about that you’re just teaching this one person, because if you think about it that way, and then you lose that person or you need to hire another person, then you’re doing it again. And that’s not efficient. As you’re creating trainings or creating rules or processes, make sure that every documented in a video or in a Google Doc that you can build off of, and have your assistant manage that for you, you don’t have to be the one that’s always making the training videos. They can do it once they learn it, but make sure that all of that is up to date so that you’re not reinventing the wheel every time. Or even sometimes what happens with us as the assistant kind of graduates.

The assistant was your admin, but then now they’re your accounting manager or your content manager. So then you need a new assistant. You want that training and all those processes to be repeatable by somebody else for any reason. Then for me, at least too, I know when I think about it that way, I don’t just think about it again as an investment in the next two weeks. I think of it as a really longterm, a worthwhile endeavor for the longterm.

Drew McLellan:

Where I was about to go next is, is there advantage to working with a company that vets and trains and assigns? What would be horrifying is the idea that you’ve worked with somebody for two years and then they decide they don’t want to do this anymore. Now all that institutional knowledge is gone and they live in a foreign land or they live on the opposite coast or whatever, so the idea of them coming in to train the new person may or may not be logical. I was just going to ask, how do you institutionalize this? How do I institutionalize this without me having to do it, but that allows me to continuity of if I have a VA change, someone else can step in and pick right up?

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. I mean, that’s certainly a benefit of working with a VA agency versus a freelance VA. That’s a lot of times part of the reason why people go to a VA agency versus not. But the other reason is the time of vetting and finding your own VA be exhausting, right? Those are the two main reasons I would say. A lot of times when people come to us, they’re like, “I just Googled virtual assistant and I found 19 million results, so how do you make it to one result?” They just don’t have the time. They’re willing to invest more money. I mean, ultimately a VA agency cost is higher than hiring a freelancer who… especially international ones, they charge maybe three to $5 an hour. But there’s trade offs.  Like you said, it’s not just about losing somebody, but it’s also, you may not get as good a quality, or you may have a language barrier. You kind of have to weigh.

Drew McLellan:

Or time is an issue or whatever.

Jess Tyson:

You have to weigh what’s important to you. I say some of the three most common traits, I guess, of virtual assistants that you can pick from is as the quality, the speed and the cost. You can only have two of those two things. If you want quality and you want fast work, you’re probably going to pay a little more. If want speed but you want the cost to be down, you might not have as good of quality. Those are the kinds of things you have to weigh. Working with an agency I think is the best route, but it’s also… really the only barrier is cost, I would say. It just depends on where you’re at, but I always say, try to think about, again, how much is this going to save you?

If you’re paying 20, 30, $40 an hour for somebody, and you’re charging 200, $300 an hour. If you’re using your time wisely, how quickly will this service all of a sudden pay for itself. You just have to be efficient with your own time.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things that I know a lot of agencies do is they don’t just use the VA to support a leader or the owner. But in a lot of agencies, there’s a ton of work, as you mentioned, around content creation, content scheduling, social media scheduling, and agencies struggle to find full-time people who want to do that work. And/or by the time they’re good at it, they want a promotion and a raise and now they want to be… instead of being in a project manager, an account coordinator, now they want to be an account manager or whatever it is. They aspire to bigger things. I’ve seen a lot of agencies wisely think about VAs as a more permanent kind of perma-temp, hire to do those sorts of tasks that typically in a full-time equivalent kind of person, they might do it for a year or two, but then they want to move on.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. I think it’s a great solution. Again, working with an agency, we would systematize everything. We would create the processes. Ideally, if it’s a writer that you’re working with, keep you with the same writer forever, but that’s always tricky. I think the hardest things to lose are your admin and your writer, because they really get to know you personally. Unfortunately, you can create all the processes in the world, but you you can’t replace that personal connection. But we can try. And that’s what we do. We try to make sure that we save all of the calls. A lot of times with content work, we do a lot of recorded calls with the managers or the owners and the people who are having us create the content because that’s when they explain their goals and we get a sense of their tone and the way they speak, because that’s what we’re trying to emulate a lot of the times when we’re writing for them.

We save all those and it’s the responsibility of the new writer to learn that. But anyways, this is about replacing, but yes, I do think that having somebody like a VA do your content management and coordination and project management is a really great solution because like you said, they don’t… I don’t want to say they don’t get bored. They might get bored, but they’re in it. That’s their job, that’s their role. They’re not looking for a promotion because that’s not how it works. Really they’re doing a lot of other things. So they’re stimulated because they have maybe four clients and they’re doing different work for all their clients. I think that’s something that’s really fun and exciting for VAs, is that even if they’re doing the same work over and over again for this client, they’re doing different work over here and they’re always learning something and they’re always being stimulated by the different personalities and the different work. We don’t see that sort of turnover like that, like you might if you were had a full-time person in the agency.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Well, I know at least in our world, part of why we’ve kept the same VA for a long time is she’s married to someone in the military. For her, she’s got a lot of skills, but she knows every few years they’re going to move. It’s hard for her to establish a brick and mortar kind of job because that’s just not her world and her life. And so the work that she’s doing for us and other people allows her to in essence have a full-time permanent job, but it’s able to move with her as she needs to move.

Jess Tyson:

That’s what we were talking about before with agency owners want that, VA’s want to be able to… we were talking about the lake example, VAs want that too. They want to be able to have the flexibility. I find that there’s this elevated level of respect for each other. I appreciate you as my client because you are giving me the opportunity to live this life that I want. That’s a little bit different sometimes than employees and full-time relationships like that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jess Tyson:

Sometimes there’s just a little more of that… I don’t know, it’s like a need to do well because you just are so happy to have the work.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think there’s a mutual gratitude that comes from you’re both sort of able… from the client’s perspective, the VA is helping you level up the work you’re doing and you’re grateful that you don’t have to do stuff that really someone else can do. And as you said, from the VA’s perspective, they get to have this career that would be difficult to knit together in a more traditional way for a lot of them.

Jess Tyson:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

I know one of the things that you guys do, if somebody reaches out to you and says, “I think I want a VA,” I know you’ve got kind of an audit that you do. And so whether someone’s doing it through you or they’re doing it for themselves, how does one audit in essence, how I shouldn’t, shouldn’t be spending my time where a VA might plug in, how does one explore that? And what does that audit process look like if they’re doing it with you?

Jess Tyson:

Well, the thing we talked about earlier is always the first step and it’s always the biggest hurdle, which is tracking your time. And it’s just a, non-negotiable. We give different ways for people to do it. For me personally, I had to do it with a pen and paper. I had to print out my little spreadsheet and write in all the tasks every day for a week. For others, I also have this this little tool, I’ll show it to you, but it’s a sort of analog, digital combined. It racks your time when you flip… it sort of like a die. And when you flip the die over, and I flip it to the email die, that means that I’m doing email and it automatically tracks my computer. That’s sort of like an analog, digital-

Drew McLellan:

What the heck is that too? For those of you that are listening while you’re on a treadmill or a car. Imagine something that looks like a kind of diamond shaped almost, and on every side, it’s got a visual of like an email or a pen or whatever. You’re saying, if I flip it, it tells my computer, I’m assuming some sort of an app.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. It’s a Bluetooth connection. It says, “Okay, I’m on a phone call now or I’m drinking coffee now. I’m on my lunch break.”

Drew McLellan:

Does it ha have a napping icon?

Jess Tyson:

It should.

Drew McLellan:

It really should.

Jess Tyson:

It probably should. You can write your own ones in too. It comes with a little marker.

Drew McLellan:

If you guys are curious about this, I’ll get the information and I will put a link to what it is because that sounds kind of cool. I will put a link in the show notes for you if you need that. All right. Anyway-

Jess Tyson:

A few different ways, tracking your time.

Drew McLellan:

Step one is, track your time.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. Then the next step is categorizing the time. Similar to you, what you were saying you did, we want to categorize things that only you can do for better, for worse. Things that you hate, obviously, things that you love and things that maybe are just necessary for your business, but that you’re kind of ambivalent about. Obviously the easiest things for you to keep are going to be the things that you love and the things that only you can do. But we’re going to look at those because sometimes people think that they’re the only ones that can do something, and it’s really not true. It’s sort of a challenge to the ego in some ways, like, “Oh, I thought that I could only do that, but it’s just not true.”

Then of course the easiest things to get rid of are the things that you hate and the things that are just necessary. What we do is after you’ve categorized them yourself for what you think, we go in and kind of help you figure out, “Okay, well, which things can be automated?” Maybe there are things that a physical person really doesn’t need to do at all. And it’s actually going to be cheaper and more efficient for you to automate that. Then these are the things that can be delegated. Here’s what a delegation system might look like. We’ll give you an example of how to delegate in terms of maybe you want to with the high priority items and then move on to lower priority items. We’ll also give you an estimate of how long these things will take. Sometimes when people are tracking their time, they’re not actually tracking the time per se. They’re just tracking the tasks, which is okay, or they’re tracking their time, but something may take them an hour and it may only take a really efficient VA 15 minutes.

We’ll give an example of what a typical week could look like with delegating and how many hours that would take and what tasks they could do and how that would work. For us, we want to help people. We don’t need you to work with us, but we want you to work with someone. Doing this audit and auditing your operations is just really valuable for anyone. We keep talking about this mindset shift. Sometimes we do these audits and then you don’t hear from the person for a year. Maybe it’s going to take you that long to wrap your head around this idea that I can get someone to help me, or maybe it’s going to take you to get the money together or whatever it is. That’s fine.

I think this is such a big, important step to opening your eyes. I mean, like you were saying about the things that contribute to the bottom line and the things that are generating return on your investment, we don’t think that way every day. I mean, we don’t think, “Oh, I just checked Facebook for 15 minutes. I just was browsing a little bit.” But that is the only hours that you have that you’re working, should be spent on working on things that are either generating new business or generating awareness, whatever your goals are.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, growing your team.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. If the things you’re aren’t doing that for you, then it’s time to let them go. Thank you and let it go. Those are all the things that we look at, and we can give you a plan for putting that into action through delegating and automating your life so that you can then say, “Oh wow, I have 20 hours a week back in my time.” Then you just figure out what are you going to do with that.

Drew McLellan:

Which never seems to be the problem. What I’m hearing you say though is that you’ll do this audit as a separate thing, whether somebody is ready to hire a VA or not, right?

Jess Tyson:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. We’ll include some information on that in the show notes too. All right. So what are some of the crazy things? What are some of the things that people go, “You can’t ask a VA to do that, or a VA isn’t capable of doing that?” What are some of the things you see your VAs doing to relieve the burden and pressure of the people that they work with and for?

Jess Tyson:

Well, I mean, this isn’t a crazy example, but we’ve done things like enrolled your kids in summer camp, ordering flowers for your spouse because you left the coffee maker on all night. I don’t know. Personal things, sometimes people shy away from, but again, this is all part of your day and your life. You don’t have to pigeonhole your assistant into just admin things that you’re doing at work. It could also be ordering toilet paper from Amazon. It could be anything like that. I’m trying to think of some other kind of wild examples. One time, speaking of Jay [Baer 00:48:15], I like to tell the story, when I was first his assistant, he was driving from somewhere in Arizona, long trip, and he stopped at a Sonic and got a burger or whatever. He called me an hour later on his ride and he said, “I left my wallet at the Sonic.”

Drew McLellan:

Oh, no.

Jess Tyson:

“Can you figure it out where it is?” I’m calling, I’m trying to figure out which Sonic it… there’s multiple ones on this highway. I’m trying to figure out which one it is. Another funny example that I have that happened recently was my client Ann [Handley 00:48:52], which some of your people may know.

Drew McLellan:

Of course.

Jess Tyson:

She was going to Vegas for an event and she wanted at the last… she gets these ideas in the middle of the night, like we all do, she wanted to dress up like an Elizabethan gown in a wig and everything. She was like, “Can you figure out if I can rent or buy some costume.” This is the day she’s flying. I’m doing it that… I’m calling all these costume shops and a lot of them are very exclusive. It’s Vegas, it makes sense. It’s a good thing she was going there because if she was going to some other small town, probably wouldn’t have worked out.

Drew McLellan:

Probably harder to find.

Jess Tyson:

I made an appointment for her to go this costume. And then she was able to do a rental where I coordinated having the costume place actually deliver it to her hotel because it was so big and heavy. Things like that. Any idea that you have, I say I always want our clients to book weekly calls with us. We don’t require it per se, but it’s in the contract as something that we want to do. Even if it’s just five minutes, because sometimes those weekly phone calls are when you get these ideas like, “Oh, you know what I was thinking about? Dressing up in Elizabethan gown.” I can say, “Oh, you know what? I can call someone for you.”

Anything you can think of, it’s worth mentioning. I think that’s also how you start to learn what your VA can and cannot do. Don’t assume it can do everything, but mention it, “Hey, is this something you can do? Is this something you can do? Is this something you can do?” Keep asking that question and they’ll say yes or no, hopefully. Or they’ll say, “No, I’ve never done that before, but I’d love to learn,” or they’ll say, “absolutely, let me do that for you.” It’s sort of a spinning ball effect that all of a sudden, you start to learn more and more. Then you get more and more time back. And it’s just a really great system. Having that sort of open dialogue and sort of being willing to open your brain a bit for those middle of the night ideas or those shower ideas, that’s how you can start to learn more about what you need and also what your assistant can do.

Drew McLellan:

I’m just thinking about all the agency employees who are thinking, “Oh, it’d be so awesome if I wasn’t the person who got that, ‘Hey, I had an idea’ call.” They would be like, “Yes, you need a VA.”

Jess Tyson:

I know. Everyone deserves to have an assistant, whether you’re an assistant yourself. Everyone needs help. It’s taken me a long time to get to that point. But I have to say, I mean, I’ve had some of the best experiences. My first hire, my first VA that I hired for myself is now my COO. She’s just really risen in the ranks and proven herself and been so valuable to me that she is now almost like a partner to me in this business. I think that, as an agency owner, should be your goal. Maybe not that they’re ever going to become the COO, but that they’re going to be such a trusted partner that you feel like you can have them do anything for you.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think that is such a different perspective as I’m going to go on Fiverr and hire someone to build a database. It’s a completely different… It’s relationship-based rather than task-based and-

Jess Tyson:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

… maybe that’s the mind shift, right? Is that we as potential hirers of VAs need to look at that role and really the value they can bring to us as much more than checking a box of tasks.

Jess Tyson:

And there’s nothing wrong. I mean, if you just have tasks and you want to get someone at Fivver, there’s nothing wrong with that. But a lot of times the reasons why things don’t go well and the reasons why people are so nervous about hiring VAs is that they’re not investing in the person. They’re only investing in the tasks and to me not the most efficient or positive way to build a successful relationship.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and again, if a business owner is looking to relieve some of their burden, they probably want it to be somebody that they have an ongoing relationship with, that they have a trusting relationship with. We’re talking about a whole different kind of hire for different reasons.

Jess Tyson:

Yeah. And just one more thing I want to mention with that. I think sometimes people think that a VA is just like a task master, like we were saying, but you can give them goals and you can give them things to aspire to. They want to be motivated by your success. If you tell them like, “In a year from now, I want to be to only spend one hour a day in my inbox.” Okay, that VA is going to go and they’re going to work for that. And they’re going to touch base with you and make sure that they’re starting to achieve that for you month over month. Don’t think of them as just a little thing over here that you… “Oh, I talk to them once a week and they just do things for me.” Think of them as a team member, like you said, that you can help them grow and help them reach your goals with you.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. This has been fascinating. Jess, if folks want to learn more about your company, Don’t Panic Management, or they want to talk to you about the audit, what’s the best way for them to track you down?

Jess Tyson:

Don’tpanicmanagement.com has everything that they could want. I will also send you a special link for the audit that you can check out. We’re doing a little special where you can get a free 30 minute audit, which is sort of like our mini audit. I’m happy to share that with your audience.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome.

Jess Tyson:

And then if you’re interested in my book, my book kind of goes through… it starts with the auditing process and then goes through how to find, hire, and successfully work with a VA. That’s at panicproofbook.com.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. Thank you so much for investing some time with us and really helping people think differently about this role and how they can partner with somebody to really help them do their best work at the best level and share some of the burdens. I am grateful for your time. Thank you.

Jess Tyson:

Thank you. Thanks for having me. I hope it was useful and ultimately just trying to help people be a little more calm, little happier.

Drew McLellan:

Nothing wrong with wishing some calm on the world. That’s for sure.

Jess Tyson:

Thank you.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right, guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully Jess, you thinking about really different ways to get some of your to-do list done and you maybe selfishly having somebody who is just for you, that just helps you get your work and your tasks and helps you really deliver to the agency at the level that you want to deliver that I know for many of you, you struggle with because you just have so much on your plate. This may be a great solution for you. Check out the book. It’s great. It’ll give you a lot of ideas. It certainly did me. I read it and then my VA was like, “Where is all this coming from?” I was like, “Because I read a book, so I’m sorry, but now I have more things for you to do.” Check that out. Then take advantage of the 30 minute audit. It can’t be free. So take full advantage of that.

Quick shout out to our friends at White Label IQ. Thank you so much for being the presenting sponsor of the podcast. Once again, I will tell you that White Label came through for my agency and one of our clients. We have a challenging client who had a challenging timeline. If you were watching me right now, you would see that I’m saying challenging in air quotes. We turned to our friends at White Label and they knocked it out of the park. If you’re looking for somebody to help you with White Label design or dev or PPC, whitelabeliq.com/ami will take you to their special offers, just for you as podcast listeners.

All right, guys, I will be back next week. Just a reminder. We are just about to wrap up the early bird pricing for AMI’s very first conference, the Build a Better Agency Summit, which is May 19th and 20th of 2020 in Chicago. Early bird pricing is on now, but it’s going to wrap up in a couple of weeks, so do not wait. We will sell out. I am confident of that. I want you to have a seat. I want you to be able to hear from folks like Jay Baer and Joe Lizzie and special talented people who talk about biz dev. We’ve got an agency valuation expert coming. Somebody to come and talk about how to overcome imposter syndrome. Lots of topics that are built just for you. I want to make sure that you take advantage of it. Grab your tickets while they are on early bird pricing. I’ll be back next week with another guest to get you thinking a little differently about your agency. Until then, you know how to track me down. I’m [email protected] I will talk to you next week. Thanks.

Thanks for spending some time with us. Visit our website to learn about our workshops, owner peer groups, and download our salary and benefits survey. Be sure you also sign up for our free podcast giveaways at agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcastgiveaway.