I’ve invited Tracy Harwood, owner of Rock Solid Assistants to share her knowledge with us. Tracy is passionate about being at the heart of a business that strives to shine the light on others!  With a servant’s heart and an entrepreneur’s mind, Tracy has built Rock Solid Assistants as a business that not only serves everyone from the CEO of large corporations to the small business owner, but also provides amazing opportunities for assistants with big hearts and invaluable skills. She loves to teach people the benefits of implementing systems to increase productivity, how to delegate the things they hate and work within their gifts and talents, and believes that teamwork really does make the dream work!  

We always wait for things to be “perfect” or for “just the right time” to make big changes in our lives and businesses, don’t we?  I wonder when we’ll realize this strategy is flawed?  How many times will I, (the one who’s always shouting for people to get help BEFORE drowning), wait until the last minute and add to my team in the midst of full-blown chaos? 

In just a few days, my family and I are packing up and moving across the country.  Again.  We’re moving for the second time in two years and while that may not be so dramatic for some, it feels like it is to me.  Prior to this, we hadn’t moved since 1995!   We’ve been blessed with “busy season” at work for long enough that it’s now our normal and we’ve also been talking about adding a 6th very vital position to our team for months!  Sounds like just the right time now, right?  (Insert facepalm, haha!) So let me give you a little peek into how we plan to implement this big change!

Once you find your assistant start with your heart

Everything begins by deciding what is falling or about to fall through the cracks.   In our case, we are hiring a social media assistant.  My goal for the future is that she will completely handle the SM management and alleviate this weekly pressure from Christina whose plate runneth over!  We have Trello boards that layout brand guidelines and color codes and files with logos and graphics and content for repurposing.  Of course, our Canva is full of templates and previous designs. But more than anything else, she must begin learning our brand voice.  What does this mean, exactly?

Step number one is meeting with me!  Being very transparent, I haven’t handled our social media for almost two years.  When I did, I didn’t do it well. Promoting myself and anything I’m doing is definitely a personal weakness.  So, why meet with me first?  Shouldn’t she be meeting with Christina who can give her all the logistics of how we like things to be done and let them walk this out together? Why not just hand over the files and give her access to the programs and let her go?  Clearly she has amazing social media skills or we wouldn’t have chosen her.  You might think she should just be able to jump in, create a few graphics, and get them posted, right?  Exactly wrong.

She needs to hear about why Rock Solid was started in the first place, the things I’ve learned along the way, and most of all the love and passion with which we pursue our goals each and every day!  It’s about so much more than creating a beautiful graphic with the proper font, color code, and brand aesthetic. The world is filled with beauty and while we want to add to it, we must always bring value with each and every piece of content we produce!  Learning how and why we do what we do will also solidify why we keep doing it even on the toughest of days!

You see, I’m not bringing on just another teammate.  I’m not only looking for the person who can throw the best lifesaver to a team headed to the deep end!  My team is my family!  If my heart stopped beating before I finished typing this sentence, they could pick up where I left off and not only complete this blog post, but possibly run my business better than I do!  I’m looking for the person who is going to care about what we do and why as well as be able to develop relationships with all of us to jump in and pursue excellence in each daily task!

I can’t stress the importance of this!  I know, you want actionable steps easily laid out in list format and we are getting there but this is the biggest piece of the puzzle so don’t miss it – share your passion, purpose, and goals with your new assistants!

Okay, okay… you might already be skimming, looking for specific details!  Let me provide the list I think you’re looking for! 

Action Items

1.    Read the above paragraphs. Twice.  (Yep, it’s THAT important!!)

2.    Write down your goals

What goals do you want to accomplish by next quarter?  Write them down. Once you have your goals for next quarter written down,  identify what’s going to stop you from meeting those goals.  Maybe it’s as simple as time constraints – there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Every day, I hear clients say that the back-office details like sending invoices and contracts, handling inboxes, lead management, social media strategy, creation, and daily engagement take the wind out of their sails. 

Once the problems have been identified, discern what will help you meet your goals.  Our favorite secret weapon is systems and automation!  You can’t reinvent the wheel with each new lead and each project.  Work smarter, not harder.  Don’t worry, you can still personalize each template and each touchpoint – your clients mean the world to you and you want them to know!  That’s totally doable!

List the tasks that do not spark your creativity and consider which ones you can easily hand off to a teammate.  Recognize what tasks are rabbit-holes of nonproductivity and begin planning to hand them off as well.

3.     Give your assistant access

Take some time to consider what systems you would like your new VA to have access to and get all your login info into a password management system.  We love LastPass!  (You can read more about why here!)

4.    Do you need to create a new email for your VA?

Do you need to set up an email specifically for your new VA?  (If you’re unsure how to do that, your VA can help once you begin working together.)  If you can get this done ahead of time, it’s beneficial as you can begin sharing documents, files, and passwords through LastPass before the engagement begins.  Everybody can hit the ground running on day one!

Okay – the next one is a big one!

5.    Clearly write your expectations down! 

This is very important and cannot be skipped if you want success!

Write down what tasks you expect to be repeated each day and each week. Don’t forget to include how-to details as well as your specific preferences!  This might mean something like “4 Instagram posts per week according to our strategy outline” or “1 blog outlined each week with correlating time blocked off on my calendar to complete the necessary writing”. 

Perhaps inbox and lead management are your number one priorities.  Your initial #1 priorities might look more like, “Inbox sweep each morning by 9.  Please handle anything you can handle and prioritize and label the most important things I have to handle myself.  Repeat this sweep once in the afternoon.” and “Check the to-do list within HoneyBook and follow-up with any clients who haven’t previously replied daily.”

Maybe you need to get your systems in order and the first assignment tasked to your VA is something like, “Get Dubsado fully functioning with workflows, templates, branded quotes and invoices by the end of the month.” Perhaps you need Asana or Trello boards set up so there are clearly defined expectations, roles, and deadlines communicated while the relationship is building.

VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:  This is different from the well-known to-do list.

Settling and clearly stating expectations is the M.O. for HOW the to-do items are executed.

When expectations are communicated clearly within the team, everyone is able to see the big picture, evaluate each piece, analyze the priorities, and proactively execute each needed step.  This is what brings TEAMWORK to your team!

Simple example: If I say to my EA, “Make sure my inbox is handled each morning before I get to the office” and don’t provide any type of direction or expectations, there will be a problem immediately.  Let’s say this EA has had 25 years of EA experience and handling inboxes.  That honestly means very little as her previous CEO might have liked things handled vastly different than what I have in mind. 

All of this should allow us to see why expectations are so important!

Clearly defining and stating expectations – for yourself and your teammate – is more valuable than you might realize! Nobody is a mind-reader and we all need a mark to aim for so communicate your expectations very clearly to your team.

6.    Hand over everything and let her dig into your systems, folders and files, inbox… everything!  

I know, this feels a little bit invasive.  I mean, you’ve just met this person, right?  Yes, I know.  If you’ve been around long, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about trust and if not, you can read all about my reason for trusting first and trusting until I can’t anymore here!

In this specific situation here at Rock Solid, I want our newest amazing team member to really know what we’re all about, what we’ve already discussed publicly, what we love to shout from the rooftops the most, and all the other ways we’ve worked to bring value to a world who is quickly learning the benefits of leading well and working with amazing virtual assistants.  Once our initial meeting is over, Christina will walk her through our systems and Trello boards.  She will explain, in detail, how she has been handling everything and how she’d like it to continue.  She will then give our newest team member access to every piece of content ever created and those currently in progress. 

We want her to scour all of it in depth!  How do we speak with our followers?  Is our tone more of a professional one or more laid back?  Do we use too many exclamation points?  (I’m sure I’ll receive a guilty verdict on this one!)  Does she immediately see any areas we could improve upon?  Does she see where we could be more efficient time-wise in our current strategy?  I want her to really get a feel for what we are hoping to communicate about Rock Solid to our friends online!  During our first weekly meeting, I want to discuss all of the things she read as well as collaborate with her – I can’t wait to hear her amazing ideas!  …and that brings me to my final point —

7. Establish communication channels and set up weekly meetings!

In our case here at Rock Solid, we will add our new teammate to our Slack channels and Voxer on day one!  I will introduce her to all of our internal-team members but don’t normally introduce her to our external teams until she’s had a chance to get a bit more comfortable and gain some understanding of our processes and normal procedures. I will also get her on the weekly team-meeting schedule.  The sooner you make these weekly meetings a habit, the sooner you’ll build your work relationship and see the abundant fruit of your efforts!  Remember, you want your team to have access to you at all times.  An open channel for communication sets everyone up for success!

The first couple of weeks might feel bumpy here and there!  You’re in new waters, out of your comfort zone.  Implementing these steps and being intentional with feedback at each weekly meeting will ensure smooth sailing! Remember, you’ve made wise decisions and hired well, you’re putting in the work to lead well, and the best is yet to come!