Round Out Your Potential
with Virtual Assistants
One of the most influential mentors in my life used to say, "We all have a flat side on our wheel someplace." What he meant is that we all have some things we're not particularly good at.
Then he would go on to add, "You can't really achieve your full potential until you first realize where that flat side is and then learn to organize around it."
Good advice. Especially for encore entrepreneurs. Because we are getting a relatively late point in life to launch a new business, we don't have a lot of time to spend being inefficient or ineffective.
Our success will stem largely from maxmizing the time we devote to the things that we do best and finding a way to "organize around" the things which are not our strong suit.
Organizing around Our "Flat Sides"
So what would you identify as the flat sides on your wheel? In my case, for instance, I don't do a particularly good job of managing the details. I'm great at problem solving. At designing strategy. At coming up with innovative alternatives. But once the strategy or solution is in place, my mind is easily drawn to the next big problem to solve. I forget to pay enough detailed attention to how well the strategy or solution is being implemented.
Once I recognized this flat side on my wheel, I started doing my utmost to "organize around it." In my thirties I managed huge conferences with thousands in attendance, became a university dean and then a college president, and rose to command level responsibilities in the naval reserve.
In each of those roles I always looked for a "number two" person who had two characteristics. First, a natural inclination to be very detail oriented. And second, someone with enough self-assurance that he or she would not hesitate to warn me when I was ignoring vital details to my peril.
Fortunately, I've almost always been able to find that person. Much of what I've accomplished has been the direct result of having someone at my side who could round out the flat side of my wheel.
Virtual Assistants to the Rescue
But I must make a confession. In finding the right number two person. the situations I've just described gave me a distinct advantage. In all of these instances I was fulfilling a leadership role in a large organization, where thee was abundant talent to draw from. By looking around, I could find that "just right" number two person.
When you're starting your own business, however, you don't have a pool of organizational talent to draw on. You end up being a jack-of-all-trades. But your goal from day one should be to move to someone else the things which are the flat side of your wheel.
And today that's easier to do than ever before. Technology has given rise to an international cottage industry called virtual assistants. These are people with specific skills who will provide their services for a reasonable fee. And the beauty is, because of the marvels of the internet and telecommunication, they can serve you from anywhere in the world.
Do you need someone to answer your phone calls 24/7? There are virtual assistants to do that. Someone to do your bookkeeping? Or maintain databases? There are virtual assistants who do that. Someone to maintain your web page or keep you prominent in social media circles? Again, there are virtual assistants for that.
Other virtual assistants design marketing materials and logos. Ghost write speeches or articles. Do research for you. Put together ad campaigns for your business. Handle routine correspondence. Maintain your calendar. Book your travel plans. Write job descriptions. Put together grant proposals (if your startup is a non-profit).
Letting You Focus on What's Most Profitable
Not only can virtual assistants round out the flat side of your wheel, equally important they can take chores off of you that detract from the time you give to your most profitable activity. For example, I currently do all of the work in producing this inbox magazine. I write the articles, design the layout, and prepare the email distribution. I purposefully chose to handle all of these roles for the first year of the magazine so I could experience firsthand the challenges involved.
Now that the magazine has been in production for a year, I'm ready to hand off the design, formatting, and emailing of the issues to a virtual assistant. I will retain the writing role, even though I could find a virtual assistant to do that. But writing is one of my strong suits, and I enjoy it. What I don't always have time for is all of the research that goes into producing these issues regularly. So guess what? I'll soon be looking for a virtual assistant to handle much of my research.
How to Get Started
If you don't know how to find a virtual assistant, search engines are a great starting place. Just search on terms like "virtual assistants bookkeeping." or "virtual assistants" plus the name of your industry. If it's important for you to have your virtual assistant nearby, add a geographic modifier to your search.
I've also posted a blog this week on how to find virtual assistants using online services which match entrepreneurs with virtual assistants anywhere in the world. Take a few moments to look at sites mentioned in that blog. You might also download the guides it mentions for working with virtual assistants.
To use a military term, virtual assistants are "force multipliers." They let you get more done with the same amount of time and energy. A few weeks ago I devoted an issue to the theme that this is the best of all times to be starting a business. And one of the major reasons that this is the best of all times is the phenomenal potential of using virtual assistants.
This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on July 30, 2014.