Leadership, Management, Recruitment, Team, Time Management

Grow Your Team with Virtual Employees


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One of the biggest hurdles in a start-up business is recruiting a team, especially the first team member. Often it starts with one person doing everything and responsible at the same time for generating all the income. Once their weeks are full, they need to build their capacity to handle the finance, marketing and perhaps sales. Once those foundations are in place, it’s time to add people who generate income for the business. 

Often it goes wrong with recruitment of the first team member, usually to handle admin. The Business owner knows they spend too much time on invoicing, chasing payments, placing orders, paying suppliers, doing marketing, handling enquiries and so on. But it’s hard to give up hard-earned cash to start paying someone, so they go cheap! They get someone who lacks experience or accuracy or motivation, and the owner ends up spending so much time managing that they might as well not have the employee. Added to that, frustration levels go sky high, as does the stress level, and sometimes that results in upset clients.

There are two other, better, alternatives. One is to employ someone who’s really good. Whatever the going rate for the job – look for someone who is earning at least 20% more and recruit them with 25% more, or the same money but a better opportunity. Think about why someone really good would work for you. If you offer minimum wage to work in a broom cupboard and motivation from the school of shouting loud… you won’t attract a good team. But economics do come into it, and if the best admin person can’t save enough of your time that you can pay their salary, it’s probably the wrong solution.

A good solution that is low-risk, low-cost, and can generate high results is to outsource or to use virtual employees. Just to be clear, what I mean by virtual employees is basically someone who can provide the skill and capability you need while working remotely as an occasional service. They aren’t on your payroll and they don’t need your office space, desk, computer, NI contribution, and so on. When you need a bit of what they do… you pay them to do just as much as you need. Sometimes as I’m telling someone this they now ask “Do such people exist?” – yes. And most of them are really good. Many are people who are top quality, but don’t want to work full-time in an office for one employer. They charge more per hour than they would get as an employee, but it’s still cheaper for you to pay for a few hours of someone brilliant than pay for all the hours of an employee that you don’t need full-time.

Whether your business is one person or a team of 20, you could probably benefit from using an external expert. We often employ the first virtual staff without even realising it. No start-up business needs a full-time accountant, so we appoint one who does an occasional hour’s work and a few hours at the end of the year. They’re a virtual accountant – they provide a valuable skill and they’re mostly available as and when we need them. It may be a little controversial, but I include bank managers in this same bracket – provided you have a good one. I often refer to them as the ‘extended team’, because they can help you best if they also know your common goal and buy in to your success.

As a Business Coach, I recommend you look at which important tasks you can outsource to a virtual team. Not only does it free-up your time to do what you are most valuable doing, it also stops you feeling dragged down by tasks you don’t enjoy or do poorly in comparison to an expert. The kind of things I’d look at outsourcing would be bookkeeping, marketing – especially social media, annual accounts, business development (eg telemarketing), IT support, and more obvious things like cleaning.

Financially these should all be profitable decisions for all but the lowest value businesses. In the majority of cases you can earn more from selling the time you save than it costs to get an expert doing the job. Even if you think you charge less per hour than a person you’d outsource to, you’ll very likely find that it takes them less time!

When I outsourced most of my marketing to an excellent Virtual Assistant, I was thinking I was swapping an hour of my time for a paid hour of her time. But despite my years of marketing experience, she was actually considerably quicker than me – so what took me an hour of procrastination and fiddling only took her half an hour!

Choose well, have very clear and measurable objectives and standards, then outsource whatever you can. Monitor the return on investment (ROI) and as long as it costs less or generates more than doing it personally or in-house – keep going! If it doesn’t give the right ROI, change to a better virtual provider. It’s a fast way to reduce inefficiency and grow your business.

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