The rise of the virtual assistants
Admin Army’s Irene Bennetts explains how remote services are replacing the traditional office administrator, but still saving jobs. Businesses can’t escape administration. (supplied content) Bookkeeping, financials, communications, accounting, payroll and many other vital forms of organisation are simply part of the landscape when it comes to running a business of any size. Until recently, the […]
Admin Army’s Irene Bennetts explains how remote services are replacing the traditional office administrator, but still saving jobs.
Businesses can’t escape administration. (supplied content)
Bookkeeping, financials, communications, accounting, payroll and many other vital forms of organisation are simply part of the landscape when it comes to running a business of any size. Until recently, the only option besides the business owner taking care of all these things themselves was to employ one or more office administrators. The ubiquitous office person has always had to be a jack of all trades – someone across multiple aspects of a business’s operations, juggling many tasks, requiring a constant salary and needing regular training and upskilling. Now though, there is another option, one that can provide much deeper expertise across different areas, available day or night from any location. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. Enter the virtual assistant.
You may have heard of this term (as it’s somewhat of a recent buzzword), and it may sound futuristic, but we’re not talking about robots, nor are we talking about Internet-capable devices that follow voice commands. Virtual assistants are part of the business support service world. They are teams of skilled and qualified people, working remotely through cloud-based software, taking care of your business’s needs in real-time and achieving better results in those individual areas due to their expertise. The core focus for most virtual assistants is to free business owners up from necessary, yet time-consuming, administration so they can focus their energy on other areas that are better uses of their time.
And they offer a lot more flexibility than permanent employees.
Virtual assistants working in an agency offer even more advantage. They tend to have a range of specialists in their team, allowing their service offerings to be wider, as well as allowing clients to scale the level of support they’re receiving without having to go through the process of engaging and upskilling another supplier. Businesses using virtual assistants through an agency can add or remove services as required, like building blocks, without any of the hassle of bringing on or laying off people and all of the extras associated with employment.
But what about the fact that using virtual assistants may be removing the need to create physical jobs, such as those office admins?
In fact, using virtual assistants and remote support allows businesses to take on more, and higher value, hires over time. For small business owners, who may not have any other form of support and aren’t yet at a size where they can commit to hiring someone in-house, virtual assistants make this type of support accessible, so owners can focus on money-making tasks in their business, enabling them to grow.
As virtual assistants we are doing our job right if our support enables these types of businesses to grow to the point where it’s time for them to bring in permanent, in-house support and disengage with our basic services – at which point we’re then available to continue to support them in a consultancy or cover capacity because we understand their business.
With bigger businesses who already have people employed, virtual assistants can be seen as an ‘addition to’ rather than an ‘instead of’ service. By handing over tasks that may be completed by their office person, this frees that staff member up to focus on higher value tasks that will be of more benefit to the business.
This is the future
Outsourcing, such as using a virtual assistant, may seem a bit scary if you’ve never done it before, but once you have you’ll realise it’s not just easier, it’s the way of the future!
More and more businesses are moving towards agile models of work. And if this year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to have ways to react quickly to the unexpected. Agility through outsourcing services such as virtual assistants, means being able to scale rapidly if needed without lengthy onboarding and training processes, to switch directions at speed (or “pivot” to use another 2020 buzzword) and to be both reactive to changes and proactive in being actively ahead of the game.
And don’t worry about losing the personal connection either. Agencies and virtual assistants worth their salt know that business owners need to connect with a real person they can establish rapport and familiarity with. Using an agency means being allocated a specific contact person who effectively ‘joins the team’ and becomes the expert on all things related to that business. A core value is building real relationships with clients and integrating into their teams as trusted advisors.
But what about getting your virtual assistant up to speed? Agencies will generally be very experienced in this and will have developed an efficient and comprehensive process using the best technology to get all the information needed in the shortest time. A small, short term task that leads to long term gain.
And the cost?
One of the things people may not take into account when comparing a virtual assistant to an employee is that it’s not hourly rate versus hourly rate. There are overheads for employees like holiday pay, KiwiSaver, technology provision (computers, etc), ACC and more that need to be considered too. Conservatively, this could potentially account for at least a 40 percent loading on the hourly rate of an employee, making a virtual assistant a very viable option. Added to this, there are the responsibilities that come under employment law with hiring instead of contracting, (which is what you are doing if you use a virtual assistant). One of the huge advantages with this is the scalable nature of the relationship and being able to increase or decrease hours or package size, depending on the changing nature of your business.
So with recognised global movement towards remote working (increased rapidly by the Covid-19 pandemic), a continuing increase in technological capability and the need for increased agility, the future of business definitely includes remote business support such as that provided by virtual assistants.
Irene Bennetts is the CEO of Admin Army, a team of highly skilled admin assistants who partner with businesses to provide the backup they need to stay in control and focused on future growth.
For more information on all aspects of virtual assistance and business support services, as well as educational material and resources designed to help businesses start streamlining their admin today, visit www.adminarmy.co.nz