Many small businesses have already discovered the benefits of outsourcing certain functions of their organisations. Tasks including accounting and payroll are often handled by external providers more efficiently and economically than if kept in-house.
As long as a business retains its core competencies internally there are few functions that can’t now be strategically outsourced, thanks to a new kind of entrepreneur known as a Virtual Assistant, or ‘VA’. VAs are independent businesspeople with skills and qualifications needed by other businesses who can handle a range of administrative or technical services as required.
The rapid growth in the use of VAs has been largely driven by technology that has removed the barriers previously imposed by sheer distance between the person needing the service and the service provider. There are many services already offered by VAs and the list is constantly expanding. These include: office administration services, sales support, database management, website development, graphic design, market research, telephone answering, making travel arrangements, bookkeeping and invoicing, desktop publishing, and computer network management.
In simple terms, a VA produces your work on their equipment from their office and charges only for the time they spend working for you. They can be located anywhere – in your building, in your state or anywhere else in the world as long as it’s served by modern communications linkages and data delivery systems.
Think of the benefits for a business that needs to provide a 24/7 help desk. Using VAs in different countries allows the business to do this as well as to ‘shop around’ for the best possible rates. Here are some other reasons to use a VA:
· VAs only charge for the time actually spent on your projects. They aren’t on your payroll and can be used only when they’re needed
· VAs are independent businesspeople in their own right who understand the need to provide their customers - your business - with a high standard of service
· VAs cover their own costs for office accommodation, insurance, holiday and sick pay, retirement plans and workers compensation
· VAs also don’t add to staff totals when considering association membership fees and other numbers-based costs
· VAs provide any equipment needed to perform the work. They provide their own hardware, software, communications equipment and skills, reducing your costs of capital equipment and training
· Your organisation can focus on its core business without distractions that can affect its ability to deliver a high standard of service to customers
· Your risks of industrial action and of being sued by an employee are reduced
VAs are highly skilled specialists who can consistently perform their tasks at a superior level because they do it all the time. Outsourcing to VAs will save you management time and energy. They don’t require your personal supervision, they look after their own morale, and their personal problems don’t become yours.
VAs are negotiable on their means of compensation. Many are quite happy to work on a retainer basis for a fixed number of hours per month if it suits their customer. They can also provide different services on varying hourly rates depending on the nature of the work required.
Keep the high-performing staff members you already have and retain the core functions of your business in-house. For everything else, consider using the services of a Virtual Assistant.