Category Archives: Virtual Assistants

Digital Aids like Siri are not Virtual Assistants

digital virtual assistant

Photo by Victor Habbick

 

As a Virtual Assistant, and a real human being who provides professional support services from my home-based office, it ticks me off a little bit that Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nuance and others call their voice-activated digital aids “virtual assistants.” Siri, Cortana, Google NOW, NINA and others are smart-phone technology with voice recognition, and good ones at that. But they are not true “virtual assistants.”

A little history:

  • Before there were Virtual Assistants, there were secretarial services — independent businesses with brick and mortar offices that provided administrative support services to the public.  I owned one for years.
  • Early in the 1990s, Anastacia “Stacy” Brice began working virtual as a full time home-based contractor with an international client providing administrative support, travel planning and personal assistance.
  • In 1996, life coach Thomas Leonard coined the term “Virtual Assistant” in a telephone conversation with Stacy Brice.
  • In 1997, Stacy formed the first professional organization for virtual assistants, AssistU.

As Mike Elgan wrote in this article from Computerworld:

“Real personal assistants don’t just do what they’re told or answer the questions they’re asked. They intelligently anticipate potential issues and prevent things from falling through the cracks. A real personal assistant is not a tool, but an ally. (Emphasis mine).

Real personal assistants pay attention to what’s important. They proactively bring things to your attention that would otherwise go unnoticed. They plan and prioritize.

Siri can reschedule your dentist appointment, but only if you discover that you need to change it and remember to ask Siri to do it.”

A real Virtual Assistant cares about your business. As smart as smart phones are, they couldn’t care less if your business fails, or you get lost, the restaurant has crummy food, and your plane is delayed. Like spell-checkers and auto-correct, they don’t understand context.

Artificial intelligence has come a long way. I admire everyone who has spent incalculable hours making it happen. I love smart phones, Google Maps and voice navigation. However, these digital aids are not true Virtual Assistants any more than my cat’s laser mouse is a brain surgeon.

I wish they had called them something else.

End of rant.

Recalculating …

Toni

Do You Need A Virtual Assistant? 5 Clues

need virtual assistant

Photo by David Castillo Dominici

In some cases I’ve seen, by the time a solo business owner or entrepreneur gets around to finding a virtual assistant, they have built up quite a backlog of tasks they simply didn’t have time to do.

Molly Baker of Sound Administrative Solutions came up with a good list of “5 Signs You Need an Administrative Consultant,” (Virtual Assistant).

  1. You want your business to grow, but you have no time left in your day to work toward that growth.
  2. Personal stress and anxiety – this can manifest itself on your mood (lack of motivation, irritability), your behavior (over or under eating, angry outbursts) or your body (headache, sleep problems).
  3. Missed opportunities – are you so busy with the day-to-day obligations that you don’t have any time for long-term planning, networking, etc.?
  4. You are neglecting certain aspects of your business. Are you forgetting or running out of time to return phone calls or emails? Doing things poorly because you’re so rushed for time? Missing deadlines?
  5. You are struggling with tasks that you aren’t very good at. In this case, it would be well worth your money to pay an Administrative Consultant who is a pro at the admin things you hate, freeing up your time to focus on aspects of your business that actually make you money.

Do any of these resonate with you?

If somewhere in the back of your mind, you think a virtual assistant can’t really save you time and money, check out this first-hand account of an entrepreneur who agreed to try a virtual assistant for a week.

Are you ready now? Contact me (or Molly) today for more information, and have a more productive tomorrow.

Until later …

Toni

 

Tuesday Quick Tip – Navigating Word 2013

navigating-frustration

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and stockimages

 

 

If you’ve been using Microsoft®  Office Word 2003 for a long time, and recently upgraded to Office Word 2013, you may find yourself befuddled at all the new changes. I certainly was. Navigating the new menus was a challenge.

One thing I found helpful was this little chart in the Word 2013 Quick Start Guide. The one below is an overview of where to find different commands. The entire guide has lots more tips. You can read the guide online, or download it as a PDF.

word2013-navigationIf you’re a busy entrepreneur or small business executive who doesn’t have time or patience to deal with the learning curve, these guides from Microsoft® are a big help.

Another big help is a virtual assistant who already knows Word 2013 and can do the navigating for you.  Think of the time and frustration you’ll save!

Until later …

Toni

Need an Extra Hour? I’ll Give You One!

hour

Let Go and Grow!

I keep seeing comments on the Internet about entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who are hesitant to try a virtual assistant. I don’t blame them. When you work hard to build a business, it’s difficult to hand over a door key, even a virtual one, to someone you don’t know.

According to this blog post, (go ahead and read it … I’ll wait), the main three reasons for not contracting with a virtual assistant are:

  1. They feared their Virtual Assistant wouldn’t understand their client’s needs
  2. They felt since their Virtual Assistant didn’t have a vested interest in their business they wouldn’t treat their client’s as they were themselves; and
  3. They feared that there was too much for the Virtual Assistant to learn and it was faster to just do it themselves.

Before making the decision to provide administrative support from my home office, I worked for many years in brick-and-mortar offices, for companies large and small. Some key truths I learned over the years are:

1. Every business is unique, and it takes a little time to fully understand the needs of each person I worked for. Communication is the key to coming to this understanding quickly.

2. My philosophy was and still is: If I make YOU and your company look good, I look good, and that makes both of us feel good.

3. There is a learning curve in all new jobs, just as there is a learning curve when you get a new smartphone or upgrade the operating system on your laptop. Again, it takes a little time and good communication. Time and good communication are important whether your assistant is working from home or sitting right next to you in the office.

4. Once you and your assistant get more comfortable with one another, you will see how a virtual assistant truly is a part of your team of trusted associates.

To help you “test the waters,” I’m offering a “Let Go and Grow” special. It gives you an opportunity to work with a seasoned professional at a great price and get one hour FREE.

Just click on this link and fill out the form to get started: Let Go and Grow.

Until later …

Toni

 

How to Vet a Virtual Assistant Candidate

telephone_interview

U.S. Navy photo on Flickr

For a small business, especially a home-based business, there are many advantages to using the services of a virtual assistant. If you’re not familiar with them, go here. However, many people are hesitant to hire someone they have never met in person, much less trust them with confidential information. It’s a perfectly normal, understandable fear. Let’s explore some ways to mitigate the trust issues.

1. Before you start your search for a V.A., make a detailed list of the tasks you want performed. Write it down so you don’t forget anything when you prepare your job listing or interview. This way you will know exactly what you’re looking for as you review V.A. profiles, résumés or websites. Pay attention to the skill-sets the candidates offer.

2. Do your interviews by telephone or Skype. You will learn a lot about the person by hearing their voice, and have the reassurance you’re dealing with a real human being.

3. Ask a lot of questions, and let them ask you questions. Good communication is absolutely essential in a virtual work relationship, so establishing this connection early on is vital. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • How long have you worked as a Virtual Assistant?
  • What’s your background and experience?
  • What software programs do you like to use and are good at?
  • What tasks do you dislike the most? (Example: If you need someone to make or receive a lot of calls, and the person doesn’t like talking on the phone a lot, move to the next candidate.)
  • How do you track time you spend on client work?
  • What is your preferred communication method?
  • How quickly do you usually respond to emails during your working hours?
  • What security measures do you have in place to protect client documents?
  • Are you available during the hours I need you to be, and in my time zone?
  • You have a deadline when your computer suddenly crashed. What would you do?

4. Ask for references, and check them.

5. If you’re still nervous about giving out passwords or credit card information that the assistant would need to perform the work, perhaps you could set up a trial period where the V.A. did other types of work for you to develop a working relationship and trust. If that works out, and you still can’t let go of sensitive information, a virtual assistant probably isn’t the best choice for you.

6. Remember that no virtual assistant can do everything, but an experienced V.A. usually networks enough with other V.A.s to help you find someone who can tackle a job s(he) isn’t experienced enough to do. Since you only pay for the time a V.A. is working, it still can be cost effective to have more than one V.A.

7. There are virtual assistant staffing agencies that screen, and sometimes train, V.A.s.  The keywords “virtual assistant staffing” in a web search will bring up a big list of them.

Once you find a virtual assistant with the skills, work ethic and personality you’re looking for, everything will click, and the trust issues will disappear.

Until next time …

Toni