Is it time you built a VA or OBM Agency?
“So, what do you do for a living?”
“Well, I’m an Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant, but in my business I’m also an accountant, social media manager, marketing strategist, financial planner, IT support and some other stuff too.”
Sound mad? Of course it does! Wearing all the hats in your business (and often for clients too) is an easy trap to fall into in the beginning. It’s also the harsh reality of running a business solo, and often the way people work until they can grow into an agency. That ‘until’ is key here – nobody should carry on juggling every ball beyond when it makes good business sense.
You have two ways to alleviate the pressure of trying to ‘do it all’:
1) Hire a VA or OBM of your own to help support your business.
2) Grow your business into an agency so that your team can take on client work to free up your time.
Think you’re ready for option two?
If you have a steady stream of clients, often more work than you can handle on your own, and you’re ready to share the responsibilities, or want to step into CEO mode rather than COE mode (Chief of Everything!) read on, this is the blog for you!
Growing into an agency is the natural next step for many VA and OBM business owners, but it can be hard to let go. Growing means delegating, and delegating means handing over responsibilities to do tasks well – and it’s scary! Our businesses can feel like our baby – we’ve grown and nurtured them, and probably had the odd sleepless night thanks to them too! But like all growing up comes letting go, and letting go of doing everything yourself is a big step towards growth and development.
Some essential steps to growth
Whether you’ve always aimed to reach the agency stage, or it’s somewhere you’ve found yourself at naturally, there are some essential steps to getting it right. Here are our top recommendations:
1. Create some business processes
To grow an agency, you need firm foundations and processes. You might think you have everything in place, but would it make sense to a new hire? By having Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place for repeatable tasks that you want to delegate to your team, everyone will be working from the same page.
2. Check in with yourself
Hiring a team often starts off brilliantly. The first person to join takes a ton of the weight you’ve been carrying and lightens your load. You feel good about this and encouraged to do more, so you hire again and again. Soon enough, your role has shifted from founder to team manager. It’s worth checking in with yourself here and asking if this is really what you want, and again if this is serving your business in the best way. What would you move around and outsource to address this if you could? Once you know this, you’ll have the start of a role description, and have a better understanding of the qualities you need in your next hire.
3. Create a job description
Maybe you’ve hired before and the person you chose wasn’t an exact match for what you needed. This is really easily done without thorough planning of a job description and selection criteria.
My Accelerator Day is designed to help you navigate this and set you up with everything you need to make the leap from me to team. We’ll start with a 20-minute kick-off call and continue with all-day Voxer support. See the full list of what we’ll cover here.
4. Get to know your candidates
Once you have a shortlist of candidates, it’s worth spending time getting to know their experience and values. There’s the temptation here to make a quick hire when someone appears to tick all of the initial boxes, but wait! Skipping ahead can cost you more time later if they’re not the right fit. Have a testing process in place and get to know them. Paid for test projects or trial periods will really help you to get a feel for people. It will pay off for you, and your clients!
5. Hire with intention
Ever heard of the saying Hire Slow, Fire Fast? It’s a corporate phrase that has become popular. What it really means is to hire with intention, not reaction. Hire early to avoid hasty decision making, take time to get to know potential new team members before you have an urgent client role to fill. Posting a job requires consideration and effort to write a really clear job description.
This slower approach to hiring ends at hiring. If someone isn’t working out, don’t linger over moving on – it’ll be better for both of you. The big caveat here is that as agency owners we should be thinking as leaders, and leadership means investing in your team’s development. It means giving them the best shot at success and constructive feedback and the chance to improve, so please consider a trial period or test project to allow your team the chance to shine.
6. Encourage collaboration
Culture is everything. Yes, even now, in our post-pandemic, remote-centric version of work and even when our teams are freelance. In fact, culture is probably even more important in this situation – bonding as a team works best when everyone comes from a place of shared values and appreciation of similar experiences. There’s nothing more awkward than a hilarious gif that’s met with silence in the Slack team chat.
Encourage collaboration within your team to help develop firm bonds and trust.
7. Hire a Client Manager
Have you made some team hires already and are wondering why things still feel hectic? Every agency will reach the stage of needing a dedicated client manager when the number of team members and clients on their books becomes too much for one person to manage. A dedicated Client Manager who will oversee the work of your team and ensure that clients feel supported and happy will pay dividends.
Consider whether a really great hire in this area would free up your time to manage your team more effectively or focus on finding even more awesome clients or connecting with your audience as the face of your Agency.
8. Keep an eye on your finances
Lastly, don’t forget to keep on top of your profit margins. Hiring and watching your agency (and revenue!) grow is really exciting, but your costs are growing too. Make time regularly to consider your finances and make sure your agency clients are still profitable.
In the UK, VA & OBM Agency rates vary, but associates can typically expert to earn 75% of whatever rate a client pays, with the rest going to the Lead VA or agency owner to cover things like marketing, operating costs and time spent on client management. Make sure you factor in these costs right from the start of your hiring process.
How we can help
If all of this sounds a lot easier with support from someone who’s already been there, my Accelerator Day is designed to leave you feeling informed and confident about growing into an agency by taking that first step towards growing an Associate Team.
My agency has grown rapidly in the last year and it’s all down to reaching out for the specific support I needed along the way – that, and a brilliant team!