Yes, this is a pretty dry topic for a blog but it really doesn’t seem to be happening as much as it should be, so I’ll continue nagging everyone until they have nightmares about it. Please believe me when I say, no matter what size or type of business you have: Good. Admin. Habits. Matter.
While it does boil down to record keeping, I’m not just talking about filing. I think most businesses have that down pat in some form (oh lordy, please tell me you do or I may cry!). I’m talking about written procedures, scripts, instructionals, templates, and so on. I’ve done this in my various admin roles over the years because I learned fairly early on that life is so much easier if you start developing good admin habits and WRITE THINGS DOWN.
Running your own business can be incredibly challenging, so I hear you when you say, “Oh come on, cut me some slack, I don’t have time!”. That is one of the frustrations when running a business and that’s why a virtual assistant can be a tremendous help in setting up and fine tuning your administrative processes.
Now, hear me out, because I’ve got some pretty important reasons for why you need to maintain good admin habits in any business:
ONE: NOW, HOW DID I DO THAT AGAIN?
When running a business there’s a lot to remember. On top of your own work (you know that thing you love that was all you wanted to do), you become a sort of jack of all trades; marketing, social media, admin, finance … That’s a whole lot of balls to have in the air at once and it’s only a matter of time before one drops.
Consistency is one of the key ingredients for running a truly professional business. Knowing what you’re doing, having a familiar brand, and producing the same quality product or service repeatedly is what gives your clients confidence in you.
When word of mouth is a big part of your marketing strategy, be aware that recommendations are based on client experiences. If a potential client is seeing something that doesn’t match up with what was recommended to them, there’s the chance that client will be out the door. That’s where procedure manuals and style guides come into play.
By combining style guides with templates for social media posts and designs, your followers and clients will become familiar with the look and feel of your posts and publications. They’ll know something belongs to you before they even see the logo.
All that aside… think of YOU. Some tasks you do might only be done once a month; you wouldn’t do the task frequently enough to get the process firmly stuck in your memory. Write it down, save yourself the stress, and keep that productivity high!
TWO: GROWING PAINS & CAREFUL PLANNING
I’m first to admit I’ve been guilty of this one. It’s pretty common for sole traders to say, “Well, it’s just me and I know what I’m doing”. This same mentality really applies to any job. You go into the job, you learn the job, you do the job.
Business is definitely a time to ask, ‘What if?”
- What if my business expands?
- What if another staff member has to be trained?
- What if you hire a VA to do some tasks that require a bit of explanation?
- What if I sell the business?
I think you get the picture. Business needs contingencies; be prepared for anything.
As a virtual assistant, it’s pretty common for me to be hired by someone but instead of hitting the ground running (which is what a business needs when it’s at the point of hiring a VA) they have to find the time to put together instructions anyway, which holds up the entire process and can defeat the purpose of hiring a VA in the first place.
What do I recommend?
The FIRST time (or NEXT time) you do a job, take your time, write notes as you go, type up a step by step procedure and test it out to make any corrections.
Yes, it’ll take longer to complete, but that’s just in the one instance. After that you’ll have notes to follow (or you already know it and won’t have to think about it again) and it’ll be smooth sailing from then on.
This same mentality should be applied to all of your tasks and planning. Make the assumption that it WON’T always be you completing that task. Be organised and be prepared. New staff will settle in faster and easier, productivity will continue at a steady rate, and you’ll look like the most professional person on the planet!
THREE: ACCOUNTABILITY & COVERING YOUR BUTT
There’s a reason so many businesses have policies and procedures manuals – legalities. This collection of documents becomes a business bible that says, “This is how we do things, guaranteed.”
No matter how hard you work or how nice you are, It’s unavoidable that you’ll come up against some tough clients and customers at some point. Having a policies and procedures manual handy means that you can show official documentation on the spot that outlines exactly what standards processes are in your business. The complainant isn’t going to wait for you to type something up.
If you’re blessed enough to never cop a complaint or tricky client – well, for starters go buy yourself a lottery ticket! But after that, think about accountability to YOURSELF.
Forget the talk of unhappy clients for the moment and think about the function of things like diaries and calendars. These are all about promises and accountability. You WILL be at that meeting at 9am on Monday. You WILL meet that deadline by 5pm on Friday.
Why would the way you carry out your work be any different?
By writing down things like step by step processes, scripting, and policies, you’re making a promise to yourself. You’re holding yourself accountable: I WILL do this task the right way every time!
Really, truly don’t have the time? Hire a VA. Hunt for a VA that has experience working with that particular task and software or find a VA that can take a quick instruction and then bog in and work it out and write the processes for you.