It’s not about the cost, it’s value for money that matters

Last week I had a meeting with a potential client (John), who had been referred to me by a business coach I’ve worked with previously who is helping him to grow and streamline his business.

John runs a pest control business that, although still relatively young (under two years) is doing very well.  The problem is that now the phone has started to ring, and the enquiries are coming in he’s realised he doesn’t have enough time to do everything himself.

The reality is he can’t spend all day out on jobs, then go out on quotes, follow up on enquiries, answer phone calls and then send invoices.  Not if he actually wants to spend any time at home with his wife and their three month old son.

We got chatting and talked through the issues he was experiencing, and he agreed he definitely needed an extra pair of hands to help things run more smoothly.

Then we got to the really fun bit – costs.

I like to think I keep things really simple when it comes to our fees: £25 per hour for our Virtual Assistance service.

However, John immediately baulked at the idea of paying “so much” for another person’s time.  In fact, his exact response was “I could just hire an admin assistant and pay them £7.50 per hour, it would be so much cheaper.”

Now, I know John thinks he’s saying “you’re so expensive”, but what I’m actually hearing is “I’m looking at this the wrong way.”

I practically rub my hands with glee as I roll my sleeves up for this challenge.

Although John actually only needs a few hours of practical admin assistance per day, he wants someone to be around during office hours to answer his phone and handle queries.  As such, he would have to employ a full time member of staff.

The biggest problem here is that he currently operates out of the back of his van.  An admin assistance, regardless of what you paid them, wouldn’t be able to do that.  As a result he’d need to locate office space and pay a deposit to secure it.

He’d then need furniture and equipment to put in to that office space.  Having an employee on site would also mean he’d need employer liability insurance. He’s confessed he has no experience of hiring staff, and wouldn’t know the first thing when it came to establishing whether someone was experienced enough or not. His preference therefore would be to use a recruitment firm to handle all of that for him.

Taking all of that in to account, his nice cost-effective admin assistant has cost him in the region of £4,286 before they’ve even set foot in the building!

It costs nothing to get Time Saving Heroes on board. No equipment, no space, no insurance. Nothing.

That’s a considerable saving right there.

Now let’s look at the monthly costs.

By the time you factor in salary, office rent, professional fees (such as auto enrolment, payroll and HR support), NI and pension contributions our employee is likely to cost in the region of £1,776.74pm.

Alternatively, John could hire a Time Saving Hero for a maximum of 2 hours a day (as that is what he think he needs in the way of real admin support) at a cost of £1,000pm.

He could then sign up to our call handling service at £55pm to ensure his calls are answered between 8.30am and 5pm.

All of a sudden paying £17.50 more per hour has saved him £721.71 per month.

When I put it like that, he saw things differently.

We started working together this morning.

10 Questions to ask a Virtual Assistant BEFORE you hire them

If you’ve ever wished there were more hours in the day, or if you could clone yourself then it’s probably time you took on help.  For some people that might mean hiring staff, but not all businesses are in a financial position where they can handle that level of risk. Equally, some people really don’t want to deal with everything that having staff brings.

That’s where a Virtual Assistant can come in. No upfront costs, no training, no employee benefits, no need to find space for them or provide them with equipment, and you can be up and running within minutes.

However, we know finding the right Virtual Assistant isn’t always that easy.  It’s not a case of finding one online and saying “yeah, you’ll do”.  This person is meant to be your right hand (wo)man so you need to make sure you can work together. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter how good they are at their individual skills, it’s not going to work.

How do you find out though, at interview stage, if it’s a match made in heaven?  Whilst there’s no hard and fast rules, we’ve pulled together ** questions we think you should ask to find out more about your potential VA.

#1 – What are your core skills and services?

As with many roles, a VA doesn’t just do one thing, but equally that doesn’t mean they do all things brilliantly.

A good VA should have strong skills and extensive experience in admin settings, but they might also be proficient with social media, graphic design, website management, research, customer service, general organisation etc.

It’s important for you to know what they can offer, and what they might not be strong at so you can ascertain if they are right for your business needs.

# 2 – What’s your favourite way to communicate?

We all have a preference, for some they live on their phone, others are tied to their email. If you’re a phone person the last thing you want is to be forced in to emailing your VA if this isn’t natural of comfortable for you.

A good VA should be comfortable communicating whichever way feels best for you, but ask for clarification.

# 3 – What would you do if you realised you didn’t know how to do a task?

We all like to think we know everything, but the truth is, we don’t.  There might well be a time you ask your VA to do something they’re not able to do, which isn’t a problem; however, if they don’t handle it well it might be.

A VA that says “well, errr, I don’t know …” probably isn’t that experienced.  It’s happened to us all at some point, and there’s no shame in it.

# 4 – How do you manage conflicting deadlines, and what do you do if you realise you can’t meet them all?

Sometimes you take on work and suddenly realise there is no way you’re going to get everything done. We’ve all been there, and believe it or not, VA’s aren’t immune to this either. Whilst it might happen rarely, it is important you know what your VA would do if they were faced with it, and one of your tasks was going to get dropped.

# 5 – What do you think the biggest challenge would be in this role?

Every client brings their own challenges, and whilst no one wants to be potentially criticised, it’s also good to know your VA has given this particular relationship some thought.

A really good VA would already have highlighted potential sticking points, and will have come up with ways to handle them.

# 6 – You’re working on an urgent deadline, and your computer or internet crashes. What do you do?

Again, none of us are immune from the terrors of malfunctioning technology so it’s important to know what your VA would do if this happened whilst they were working on an urgent task for you.  Yes, they’re likely to have backups and contingency plans, but are they enough to make you feel happy should the need arise to use them?

# 7 – What are your schedule restrictions?

You might well want your VA to be available to you 24/7, but that’s unrealistic.  They are allowed a life too. Equally, you might want them to be able to respond to you during office hours, but is that practical if they have other clients?

They might be able to set aside specific days and times where they are open to your calls, or they may have a set turnaround time. Each VA works differently, and you need to make sure you’re happy working within their restrictions.

# 8 – Give an example of when you’ve proactively addressed a client’s needs

A good VA should do everything you ask them to, but an exceptional VA will do the things you don’t ask for. It can take a while, but if you have a good working relationship with your VA they will be able to anticipate your needs based on your previous requests and work habits.

# 9 – Have you ever challenged a client and suggested an alternative way of doing things?

We think one of the best things about a VA is that they’re not an employee.  They might be there to help you, but one of the best ways to do that is to bounce ideas around and provide suggestions.  They have their own experience, and they have no doubt worked within a wide number of businesses, and may have a few ideas you could benefit from.

A good VA won’t sit there and stay quiet.

# 10 – Have you ever sacked a client?

Sometimes relationships break down, and when this happens a VA is no longer effective.  It is a good idea to know if your VA has ever experienced this, and if so, what they did about it.  It will say a lot about them and their confidence.