Thursday, December 20, 2007

How long can we expect virtual assistants to stick?

Many speakers, trainers, authors and consultants need to expand their business, but are not in a position to hire a full time employee. A viable solution is to contract a VA - Virtual Assistant. Many a business has flourished with the right VA. On the other hand, how do you know how long one will stay with your company. This question was addressed by Gayle Buske, president and CEO of Team Double-Click.

How long can we expect virtual assistants to stick?
by Gayle Buske

My answer is always the same: “it depends.” It depends on many things. But first we need to realign our thinking a little bit and better understand today’s workforce.

As a small or home-based business owner, are you basing your perception of how long a worker stays in a position on your own work history? Personally, when I take on a position I intend to stay with it - I don’t give up. I’ve enjoyed lengthy tenures at my places of employment throughout my career.

What we need to remember though is that everyone is not like us. Especially the current workforce. I mentioned in a previous article that the days of staying in your job for the rest of your life are long gone. As business owners, we tend to forget that and we are frustrated by it.

A recent study said that the average tenure in a job for Generation Y is 18 months. That’s realistically the max you can expect someone - anyone, bricks-and-mortar or virtual, to stick with a job. Let’s leave that thought to stew for a while and talk about the “that depends” I mentioned earlier.

Depends on what?
Things change in people’s lives - everyone’s lives. Mine and yours and your virtual assistant’s. Think back to the reasons you have changed jobs in the past. What things in your past have caused a need for job changes? Pregnancy, sudden depression, death in the family, shift in financial obligations, relocation, change of career goals, a decision to go back to college, ill parents, ill children, ill spouse? Of course, and there are many more. Your virtual assistant is a human being too and they’re also subject to all of these normal human occurrences.

Any one of these or many more reasons are cause for a virtual assistant to move on elsewhere or even stop working altogether.

Job likeability.
You’ve got to like your job. I hope we can all agree on that. If you don’t like what you’re doing you’re not going to do your best and you’re always going to be shopping for a better job or better opportunity. Virtual assistants, as with bricks-and-mortar assistants, are not immune. I’m not talking about being a virtual assistant in general - though that happens too - where a virtual assistant decides she can’t handle the isolation and hangs up her computer. I’m talking about all of the tasks a virtual assistant does on a daily basis. For one client she may answer phones, for another she may do data entry, and for yet another she may be asked to cold call. If she doesn’t like those duties she’s not going to like the job and will ask for reassignment or quit entirely.

Boss likeability.
For me, the only one I didn’t stick with for a good length of time was one where I was treated like a prisoner in a concentration camp, neck breathed down and so on. I left one day for lunch and never looked back. Have you ever had a boss you just couldn’t stand? How about one with whom you just couldn’t see eye-to-eye. Or maybe there was the one you always thought was creepy or shifty. Would you stick with a boss that gave you those feelings? Certainly not! Yet we expect our virtual assistants to do that and we can’t. With 6.6 billion people in the world every one of them is not going to like each and every one of us. And you’re not going to like every one of them either.

Determining your needs.
At Team Double-ClickSM, our job, as we see it is this: to help you determine your needs in a virtual assistant; to locate the best virtual assistant for you, our client, based on your personality needs as well as your skills needs; to locate problem virtual assistants and send them packing before they do damage to you; to nurture the relationship between you and your virtual assistant; alert you to potential problems with a virtual assistant; to stand by what we do and what we offer; and locate a new virtual assistant for you should things not work out. Now, sometimes the virtual assistants we contract don’t like this. This is when we become “Big Bad Team Double-ClickSM”. You see, we’re the good guys when we’re offering work to virtual assistants. However, when we have to take that work away or ask a virtual assistant for reimbursement for a client due to negligence in their actions, we’re no longer popular with that virtual assistant. This quite often causes a virtual assistant to quit. In order to protect you, our client, sometimes we have to tick people off to do it.

Theft. Yes, theft. Team Double-Click is a virtual staffing agency - we’re the middleman. We work hard to do the best by our clients and locate quality virtual assistants for them. And theft does happen - even from virtual assistants who’ve shown no signs of being anything but above board. If finances get tough, the first thing most people want to do is cut out the middleman. Why? Usually to make more money of course! While we do our best to prevent it from happening, it does from time to time happen that a virtual assistant will attempt to steal a client - to make more money. I’m sure you can see how this opens a whole can of worms here and can easily mess things up for other clients. My question to you: would you want to directly hire a person with that kind of track record? Could you really trust they wouldn’t try to steal something from you later on down the road? I wouldn’t.

A virtual assistant (let’s call her Jane) recently successfully stole a client (let’s call him Dick) from Team Double-Click. In this instance, rather than enter into a lengthy legal battle with Dick and Jane, we let it go. We of course discussed with Dick the potential for Jane the Thief to repeat her history again in the future. Three months later Dick came back and said “Gayle, Jane just stole from me - she embezzled my funds in fact.” While I felt badly for Dick we predicted that this could happen which is why we’d warned him. Dick chose not to listen to our years of experience and the information we had available.

Most virtual assistants are contracted - not employed. As with most contractors (think home builders, highway builders, and other competitive bidders) we too at Team Double-Click impose restrictions, benchmarks, and even penalties on our contractors for lack of performance. Again, this sometimes makes us unpopular and can cause a virtual assistant to quit.

Knowing what causes people to leave should help you better understand how long a virtual assistant may stay in a position. About 25% of our virtual assistants have been with us and the same clients for well over a year and many more approaching the one year mark. In fact, earlier this year one of our virtual assistants retired from Team Double-Click and the client she was assigned, after being with him for more than three years.

So when asked “how long can I expect my virtual assistant to stay with me?” I always say, “It depends. As long as nothing goes wrong and there is no reason for the virtual assistant to leave, he or she will most likely stay.”

Gayle Buske is the co-founder, president and CEO of Team Double-Click, one of the country’s foremost virtual staffing agencies. As the head of a virtual staffing agency with over 29,000 virtual professionals in its pool, Buske is uniquely qualified to aid clients’ growth through virtual outsourcing as well as speak to the ins and outs of the industry.

For more information, visit or phone 888.827.9129.

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