“Hiring people is like making friends. Pick good ones, and they’ll enrich your life. Make bad choices, and they’ll bring you down,” says Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp.
Fried is a guy who knows what it takes to build an online team. No matter what your ambitions are, your role as an entrepreneur is to lead and grow one.
For some, this involves building a large empire. For others, it’s a case of surrounding yourself with a small (but valuable) team. Either way it requires you to hire people, and in today’s online driven world, this leads many to virtual assistants, freelancers and location independent workers.
The cost, small.
The opportunity, vast.
The dangers, rife.
Even smart and successful entrepreneurs make hiring mistakes, but you can improve your odds by listening to the advice of those who have been there and done it. I asked six successful people to share their biggest tip for building a virtual team.
1. Know where to start.
Not only has Chris Ducker built a successful online brand in Youpreneur, he’s one of the early pioneers of the virtual workforce movement. He’s built several online teams for his own business, and helped hundreds of others do the same.
“To save yourself time and money, create your three lists of freedom: Things you hate doing every day, things you can’t do yourself and things you shouldn’t be doing. This creates a blueprint of what your virtual team should work on, and allows you to effectively manage it.”
A common issue Ducker has found is that people struggle with when hiring a virtual assistant is where to begin. These three lists help you hone in on what your team should work on, saving you both time and money.
2. Don’t leave your VA to get on with their work — insist on a daily update.
As the founder of Mr. Outsource and the bestselling author of Never Work Again, Erlend Bakke specialized in building successful virtual teams. Communication is important for all entrepreneurs, but when you work with people across the globe, it’s even more so. You need to know what your team is doing, but not to the point where you micromanage them. A daily update proves valuable to both you and them.
“My best tip is the daily update,” Bakke said. “This is what I ask them to send me: Enter date and hours worked in total. What they did today. Two challenges encountered. Three questions they have for me. I have my three CEOs send me this update on a daily basis. It has saved me many hours over the past six years.”
3. Remember to share your vision with your VA.
As founder of The Suitcase Entrepreneur, Natalie Sisson built a successful online business despite travelling the globe as a modern day nomad. She puts her success down to her virtual team, and ensuring the “right” people are on board. This requires not only skillful people, but those invested in the bigger picture.
“Share your business vision with your VA, as it gets them on board with the bigger picture of why they do what they do,” said Sisson. “It also gives them ownership over their role, as they know what we’re trying to achieve as a team.”
4. Don’t overlook the importance of creating an experience.
As a productivity and outsourcing advocate for many years, Ari Meisel built Leverage to provide his clients the virtual assistance they need. He appreciates the importance of communication, especially when communicating with people in different rooms, countries and continents. Instead of relying on email, create an experience that leaves them feeling valued and part of a “real” team (not a virtual one).
“Embrace asynchronous communication such as Slack, and video messaging with Fika,” Meisel said. “Make the experience as rich as possible for people who are not in the same room as you.”
5. Don’t forget that you need a backup plan.
As an early pioneer of the virtual assitant movement, Erin Blaskie has helped hundreds of businesses build a virtual team. As with most areas of business, it’s important to have a Plan B.
“Create solid back up plans for if the worst case scenario were to happen,” Blaskie said. “I had grown my own company to over 70 clients, and leaned on a few sub-contractors to help fill in the gaps. While this was great for clients to have that one-stop shop, it left me in a precarious situation when my lead web designer disappeared suddenly.”
Virtual assistants come and go, and your direction as a business may change. But, the one constant is you, so the processes, back-up plans and alternatives you create today make all the difference tomorrow.
6. Don’t give a VA access to every part of your business.
As a globetrotting consultant to multinational corporations, Kimanzi Constable has built a strong virtual team that takes care of his itinerary, resources and online brand. But, after one of his own team members went behind his back, Constable learned firsthand the importance of managing your team and giving them (only) the information they need.
“Make sure you understand what you’ll give your virtual assistant access to and what you should give them access to,” Constable said. “You shouldn’t let anyone have complete access to every part of your business.”
While researching and writing The Successful Mistake, one of the most common mistakes I came across centers around hiring. Your role as an entrepreneur is to grow your business, and this involves you building a team (virtual or otherwise).
You will face many obstacles, but by learning from those who have been there and done it, you can avoid a lot of hardship — and focus instead on success, growth and your legacy.