Hiring a VA – your core function

This is the first of a three-part series. We’re going to be talking about hiring a VA.

Now you can actually expand this out as a process for just hiring members of your team. I have found this more and more useful the more specific the roles that we’ve gone into. Specifically, what we need to look at right now is your core function.

If you happen to have some post-it notes or some cards, a few of you have probably done this exercise before, but it doesn’t hurt to go over it again. You’re going to need about six post-it notes or six flashcards, or just a sheet of paper.
We’re going to divide it up into six squares. We’re going to be looking at your core function first.

Next week, I’m going to take you through the hiring and the interviewing process. Then, the week after that I’m going to be talking about how to assign tasks.

I think it’s going to help us all out massively. Even if you’ve already got virtual assistants, this might help with some of the transition work.

Here’s how I want you to think about hiring. If you have no members of your team, or if you do have a member of your team and you don’t have an assistant, in my opinion, a second brain.

I want you to think about this as hiring to protect your job, to actually make your job more effective,ly and to protect the value and the role that you bring to your organization or your business.

If you have multiple jobs, as in you have a couple of businesses, this is still going to help because the assistant is designed to help you and then push themselves into the business.

Some jellyfish have four brains. I don’t know that I’d be able to cope with that. I’m not particularly effective with the one that I’ve got now. Maybe I do need four brains but I certainly treat Clarence my VA as a second brain.

I’ll throw notes over to her. She’s way more organized than me. She’s way more structured than me and she helps kind of turn them into actionable processes.

This is the starting process, hiring a VA or team member the right way.

I’m going to be talking about Filipino VA’s because I’m just absolutely blown away by Clarence. But in general, this process is applicable to anyone and this is actually the process we use to hire at all.

I can’t afford to hire a VA

Number one thing I hear, I can’t afford to hire a VA. I think a lot of people are worried that they’re going to run out of money or that they can’t commit to paying someone a hundred dollars a week, or they can’t commit to paying someone essentially a salary, even if it’s a contracted salary.

Maybe you’ve tried hiring before and it was an absolute disaster because that can cost you money, essentially, because you have to hire someone.

You spend a load of time and money on training them, and then it kind of all goes a bit pear-shaped.

This is really common and I think the reason for a lot of these problems is based around this concept of the core function or the core role.

I think a lot of people get that part wrong, which leads them to make bad hiring decisions and bad management decisions.

I’m saying this as someone who made a lot of those bad decisions.

This is the hiring disaster. This is how this works. You’re at the top and you become overwhelmed with work so you decide to hire someone out.

You decide to take on outsourcing staff or a team member or a VA or a full-time member of staff, or you look to getting like another team to take care of it or whatever you think it’s going.

You’re going, “Oh my God, this is amazing. I wish I’d hired someone a million years ago.”

Then, you start getting questions. Questions about how to do the job, questions about the quality, and questions about the process.

At first, you’re like, “Well, this is good because I need questions.”

Then over time, the questions are like, “Do you think this is ready to go? How would you like me to change this? Is this fine?”

The work quality ends up suffering because of that which means more work for you. You end up taking on more work because you’re having to do your work and quality check the work of the people that you’ve hired, which means you then fire them, you become overwhelmed with work and then the cycle begins again.

Another common pathway or journey that happens if you decide to just hire someone, you think, “I need to expand, we need to grow. I’m going to hire someone. Could be anyone from the receptionist at the door to a senior marketing manager, to a developer, doesn’t matter.

You ask them to just do stuff. You say, “I’m going to hire you in the role of a marketing manager so I need you to do things. I need you to do some marketing.”

Again, for a time being, energy is really high. You think it’s going great. You start getting a load of questions and this time you’re spending all your time making decisions similar to the last one.

These two are quite similar, which means more work for you, which means you fire your VA or team member and you decide to hire.

This cycle in general is so common. It’s probably the number one reason that people decide never to hire at all. You end up having to make all the decisions.

It is work to assign work. It’s hard work, very grinding and demoralizing. You send the work away, then it comes back and it’s your job to check it before it goes out as well.

The call center phenomenon

I’m going to actually talk about this phenomenon as well. It’s called the call center phenomenon.
This is why the process is broken. Maybe you feel you actually don’t have enough work for them to do. Maybe you’re like starting out.
You think, “Well, I don’t know if I’d have enough work for someone to do.”

Entrepreneur’s Paradox

We have that classic. I call it the entrepreneur’s paradox because you think, “Well, no one can do it quite as I do.”
You’ll look at other entrepreneurs and be like, “Oh my God, they’re incredible. They’re amazing. What amazing business owners.”

You’ll put them on a pedestal, but then you’ll look at other entrepreneurs and go, “Well, they couldn’t do what I can do.”
You can’t have it both ways. Either people can do a better job than you or people can’t do a better job as good as you. That’s a classic swinging between. it’s called an entrepreneur’s paradox.

It’s mainly about control more than anything. It’s got nothing to do with perfection or whether it’s the right way of doing it.

I don’t have time to train people

The final one, I don’t have time to train people. This was my biggest bugbear. And I’m going to give you a story, a case study of just how badly it affected me.

I was still running Sell Your Service. It was my full-time job, running the business.

I was so stressed that I was about to pack it in. I remember being sat in one of the meeting rooms in my co-working space and it was about six o’clock in the evening.

I knew I had a long workday ahead of me. I was absolutely exhausted. I had about eight people working for me at the time.

I had a social media manager. I had a video editor and a copywriter. I had a VA. I had someone helping with transcripts and editing the book and stuff.

I had someone helping me with marketing in the broadest sense of the term. I had a couple of other people of which I can’t remember what they do. Email marketer as well.

I was so stressed and so close to breaking that I was close to packing the whole thing in and saying, “Clearly, I’ve done something wrong here.”

I don’t make any money. We were turning over plenty of money is a classic case of turning over a lot and having nothing.
We were turning over tens of thousands of dollars and I was so stressed. I was close to breaking and I remember calling up Dan and being like, “I am seconds away from breaking and just packing the whole thing in.”

He was like, “Okay, just talk me through what’s happening.”

I was like, “Everything’s going well, like mechanically, from an outside perspective.”

The problem is everything keeps coming back to me. Everything, after it’s done by them, comes back to me for quality assurance.
They say, “Do you like this? Is this good enough?” Everyone from the social media expert to the email marketing person.

I’m supposed to be hiring people to take work off my plate and it’s killing me. I’ve got more work than ever because I’m having to do the quality assurance job for all these eight people.

When it was me doing it, it was easier because I knew how good it was as I was doing it. But when I get other people to do it, it comes back to them.

I ended up not being able to do my work, which is creating the content in the first place and creating training, and doing coaching calls.

He was like, “Okay, cool.”

He talked me through this process. He talked me through this process and it certainly helped me made the decision to sack it all off.

So, I fired everyone except my email marketing person and my content editor, my copy editor and subsequently, they have since moved on.

I didn’t see a huge drop in revenue or productivity, but I know something’s broken.

I can see other business owners have a relatively large team and they’re not doing everyone else’s work.

This was this common trap that we fall into where you assign work to people, but ultimately the decision still ends up with you. So, I want to talk you through what is commonly referred to as the call center paradox.

You’ve called up your customer service representative at the call center, who was essentially a member of your team. You’ve asked them a question or you’ve got a problem, essentially.

The customer is creating work for the member of your team. How often have you called someone up within the customer service department for something either to cancel something or change something or amend something or whatever?

And they say, “Hold on, I’ll have to speak to my manager.”

The manager in this case is essentially you, you are the manager.

The decision from doing the task ends up moving to you. You’re now having to make the decision. You then pass that information back to them and they then do that with the customer.

This is obviously incredibly ineffective because the customer might as well be talking to you because we’re not giving the decision power to the team member.

As in the decisions, we all have to say, “how do you want this done? How would you like this to be done?”
Then you have to pass that information back over and over.

You say, “What I want you to do is to organize these files.” You say, “Just organize them.”

How often have you ever said this to someone who works for you or a team member, “I just need you to go and organize these files or do some invoicing or something and it goes away.”

The first thing they do is ask, “How would you like me to do that?”

The decision-making keeps going further and further towards you and the doing gets further and further towards you.
That’s why people go, “What’s the point in me hiring someone if I end up making the decisions and doing it for you.”

Even if someone else is doing it for you, it’s actually the decision-making that is the hardest to get your head around.

We experienced this every day. When you come home from work in UK, everyone’s working from home at the moment, but you know what I mean. When you finish the day you get home and your partner asks, or someone asks, “What do you want for dinner?” And you think, or they think.

Well, I’m giving them choice. I’m helping them make or decide what they want for dinner.
You’re like, “I’m actually sick of making decisions. I don’t want to have to decide what would happen. I just make the decision for me.”

Then you, the partner goes, “All right, fine. Goes and make something.”

Then, it’s the wrong type of food.

How often does that happen?

It’s actually because of the decision-making part of the process is the frustrating part. That’s the thing that people get stressed about. That’s the thing that takes most of your energy away.

Ultimately, this is because the team member is not empowered to make that kind of decision. They’re not allowed to in the broader sense of the term.

What we’re going to do is come up with a core function that allows us to pass control over to the team member for them to go, “I’m going to make the decision about this.”

This ultimately boils down to control versus freedom. It’s a spectrum when it’s just you. You have absolute control over everything.

If you want more freedom, you need to hire people but it moves you over away from control towards freedom.
If anyone has read the book Clockwork by Mike McCollough, which I highly recommend you read. If this is part of the thing that you want to do, I highly recommend reading it.

He asks his new assistant, “Hey, can you go away and do the invoicing, like organize our invoices because something’s not quite right. We’re missing invoices.

She goes, “Okay, great.” She goes away.

She comes back and says, “How would you like it to do it? And he goes, I’m just going to let you get on with it.”

The first message she comes back with, she says, “Every invoice is going to have a letter based on their surname.”
He’s like, “Well, there’s only going to be 26 letters and we’ve got customers with multiple.”

He was like, “Nope, I know that that’s going to be wrong, but she needs to figure that out.”

He could have exerted control at that point, but you have to give him freedom. The way that we can give freedom is by how specific we were about the task.

We will come onto that, but your guys are going to make mistakes.

She came back and she said, “Do you know that surname thing didn’t work out because there are 26 letters, but there are loads of different surnames.”

He was like, “Is that so? What else?”

“I’ve got it though. It’s going to be their middle initial and their surname.”

He was like, “Okay, fine. This is for like invoicing numbers. Right? So for us, it’s what we don’t really have invoicing numbers, but it’s the product that date and the first four, that is the surname, nice little code.”

She hadn’t thought of this. So she came back to him again and was like, “It turns out there are only 26 letters in the first section as well. You just can’t tell S K could be Mr. Blank, Simon Kelly, but it also could be a blank Simon Kelyn.”

He was like, “Right.”

She said, “So, what I’m going to do is the first three letters of their company name and a customer number, and a date that the issue, the invoice was issued or something.”

It’s great that by assigning the task and being specific about the task, he was able to move into the freedom of that area and letting go of control.

It wasn’t how he would do it, but that’s not the point because the task gets done.

Hiring shouldn’t replace doing it, it should replace deciding

Hiring shouldn’t replace doing it, it should replace deciding. This is the critical thing to understand, even with my virtual assistant, even with our virtual assistants and our team.

We have to allow them to make the best decisions. No one wants to be a micromanager. We’ve all had them in the past and they’re just excruciating to work with.

I remember a micromanager that I used to have. Would ask me to do tasks and then she would say, “I want a half-hourly update on how the task is going.”

I wrote a macro insight outlook that would just shoot her an email like that, just so on the hour, every half hour saying, “Yeah, I’m just still working on this.”

It was so high level. It was super like that, but they were happy with that.

It’s so unproductive. Just let me get on with it. Then, when you present it to them, they go, “No, this isn’t how I do it.”
When we have that done to us, we know how frustrating that is. Yet, we often do that to our team all the time and it becomes stressful for us because we think, “Well, I might as well do this.”

We want to begin to give ownership of the results of a task over to people. Ownership comes from clear and specific results.

When I fired everyone at the beginning, I said to them, “I want you to stop.”

I was pretty brutal about it. I said, “I want you to take complete ownership of the video.”

Would you publish this video? Would you publish this book? 90% of them said, “I’m not comfortable with that level of responsibility.”

I was like, “Well, that’s interesting because you’re essentially passing the buck and you don’t want to commit to the task.”

That’s probably down to me, because I obviously wasn’t clear on what the task was.

I also wasn’t clear on what would happen if something went wrong and we’ve been learning. I’ve been learning and almost an enormous amount since then, but ownership, if they understand what the purpose of the task is and what the point of the task is, and they have true ownership over it, it means that they are going to protect those results.

Your team’s primary task isn’t to do at all, it’s actually to protect your role

Your team’s primary task isn’t to do at all. It’s actually to protect your role.

Their number one task is not to do their job, it’s to allow you to do your job. I know that it’s a subtle shift, but it’s really important that we understand it at the center.

You’ve got your core role, which we’re going to talk about a second. So, get your little post-its ready or if you want a piece of paper to write it down on.

You’ve got a core role and then outside of that, there are loads of secondary tasks. Typically those are things like sales and marketing, creating content.

Then outside of that, the tertiary tasks are stuff like admin tasks, accounting, bookkeeping, problems like basic troubleshooting, that kind of stuff.

Every single time you dedicate time to one of those tertiary or secondary tasks pulls you out of your core role.
You should be hiring first of all allow you to do your core role better than anything. Adjust focus on your core role, but then to have people take care of secondary and tertiary tasks and over this kind of next three-week period, we’re going to go through that.

Hopefully, by the end of this lesson, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can make sure that they are like up and effective as quickly as possible. What you’ll probably find is that the first sort of five or six things you get them to do, you’ll know how to do, because you’re doing them already and you’re just outsourcing things.

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Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.