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Onboard your VA for maximum impact

You’ve developed and sent your onboarding doc, and now it’s almost time for your VA’s first day. Congratulations! 

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Way back in Step 1, I explained that it’s not reasonable to expect a VA to jump right in on their first day without any guidance. You’ve done a lot of work to make sure they’re prepared, but they will still need some hand-holding for a little while. 

Working with a new person always requires adjustment, and no amount of prior experience can make up for the one-on-one attention of a new business partner. So, you’ll need an onboarding plan that sets everyone up for success. 

Plan out your first week

To make sure that your first week with your new VA goes swimmingly, you’ll need a good plan. That should include:

  • An onboarding call: At the beginning of your VA’s first day, hop on the phone or a video chat, officially welcome them to your business, let them know how excited you are to have them, and discuss the onboarding document you sent them. Give them plenty of time to ask questions. 

  • Scheduling weekly calls: If you want to have weekly meetings with your VA, which is a good idea during their first month or so, schedule those now so they don’t fall off your radar. 

  • Identifying the small, easy tasks: These you’ll delegate in the first week. Then, organize the rest of the tasks by difficulty and decide the order in which you’ll assign them. 

Fine-tuning your relationship

A great VA wants to become your right-hand person, your confidant, and your partner in growth. But this kind of partnership takes time and trust to build. Don't feel discouraged if you and your VA aren't on the same page from Day One. Give yourself time to learn how to be a clearer communicator and better delegator, and give your VA time to learn your work preferences and communication style.

Get into a trust and verify cycle

You want your VA to be successful and they want to be successful. The best way to do this is to get into a “trust and verify” cycle. Start by delegating small, easy-to-complete tasks. Your VA will invariably do a good job, which builds trust between the two of you. Be sure to tell them they’re doing well and thank them.

Then start assigning more complicated assignments. They’ll do well on those too, and they’ll have an opportunity to show you how they handle getting more information and reaching out for help when they need it. This builds more trust. 

Beware micromanagement: are you engaged at the right level?

There’s a very fine line between being engaged in your VA’s work and being a micromanager. 

Micromanagement stifles your VA, takes up your time, erodes trust, and doesn’t feel good for your VA. However, if you’re not involved enough with their work, you risk being unhappy with the end product.

Find the right balance between staying engaged and trusting your VA enough to let go of control. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know how to maintain this balance right away. This is a hard skill to develop. You and your VA will need to work together to find out what’s right for your relationship. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work with your new VA:

  • Delegation is a learned skill. While this sounds like common sense, it’s harder to assign work than it sounds. 

  • If you want to know if you’re guilty of holding on to too much, answer this simple question: If you had to take an unexpected week off of work, would your goals and priorities move forward in your absence?

    • If you answered no or if you’re unsure, then you may be more involved than is necessary.

  • Continue by asking yourself whether you’re engaged at the right level.

    • When you’re too involved, you run the risk of both burning yourself out and micromanaging your VA. 

    • But if you’re too hands-off, you could miss critical moments where feedback would be beneficial. 

    • Keep working with your VA to find the right balance. 

Learn to let go

You might be thinking, “How can I let go? This is my business! I’ve been doing it myself for years and I know how to do it!” But remember, you need help with your business, and you hired a VA so you could let go of these tasks. 

One way to do this is to ask your VA to create standard operating processes (SOPs) for tasks. Having them co-create a process for how work gets done is a great way for you to start relinquishing some control and building trust. This mindset shift is important. You're beginning to give up control. It's small but important.

Exchanging feedback

I strongly recommend that you set up a weekly, 15-minute call where you and your VA can give each other feedback. You’re both an integral part of making this relationship work, so the feedback needs to go both ways. 

During those weekly calls talk about:

  • What you think is working well and where are opportunities for improvement.

  • What your VA thinks is working well and what they think could be improved.

What do I do if things aren’t going well?

Even if you’ve done everything right and you’ve set your VA up for success, the transition can be rocky. If things don’t go well in the first few weeks, you might start to think that your VA isn’t a good fit. But don’t be too quick to get rid of your VA. The root of the issue might be in the process or the finer details of your relationship – like your communication styles – not the VA. So, you need to evaluate the issues.

Before you decide to fire your VA, try a few of these troubleshooting techniques:

  • Identify the cause of the problem(s):

    • Is your VA missing deadlines? 

    • Are they too slow to respond to your task requests? 

    • Is the work sub-par?

  • Look at your communication style. 

    • Are you providing your VA with a clear task, deadline, and expected outcome?

    • You’re adjusting to a different work style, and it makes sense that you might need to make some changes.

  • Give your VA the opportunity to improve.

    • Be clear about how they need to improve. You can’t expect your VA to know how to improve without any feedback. 

    • Set up a video chat or call and articulate your frustrations. 

    • Work with them to come up with an improvement plan.

    • Write that plan down in a shared document, so you both have actionable goals for which you can be held accountable. 

    • Give them a timeline and reiterate the improvement plan you developed together. 

If your VA is consistently missing deadlines or giving you low-quality work, then it's time for them to go. Remember, this is about the success of your business. Your VA is there to help you succeed, and if they’re not doing that, they don’t have a place in your business. 

Final thoughts

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work you’ve done! 

  • You admitted that you couldn’t do it all and that you needed help. 

  • You decided to bring someone else into a business that you’ve been running solo for a long time. That’s no small feat! 

  • You took an honest inventory of your work, identified tasks to delegate, and figured out how much time you’d been spending on those tasks. 

  • You crunched the numbers and came up with a budget, which deserves a celebration on its own because even those of us who like math tend to hate budgets. 

  • You wrote an effective job listing, posted it in the right places, and attracted some awesome candidates. 

  • You developed a plan for a successful interview and an impartial evaluation system, then you conducted those interviews. 

  • You hired a VA!

  • You developed and implemented all the systems necessary to make your new business relationship work.

  • You successfully onboarded the VA you hired. 

Pause for a moment and reflect on all that. You did an amazing job! And your business is going to thrive because of all your hard work. 

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