Episode 218

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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 gr