HOW TO USE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
Virtual Assistants are helping businesses of every size manage change/growth.

CHANGING WORKPLACE = CHANGING NEEDS

It's a fact no business person can ignore - the face of the workplace is changing quite rapidly - downsizing, automation, teleworkers, virtual offices, increased small business startups. Virtual assistants (VAs) -- self-employed, off-site administrative and similar professionals -- are assisting businesses of every size in meeting the challenges and needs that accompany these changes.

Following are a few scenarios to help give you a better idea of how VAs work and why they are fast becoming the ideal support and growth partners of businesses worldwide.

Scenario One: The VA and the NeoSOHO (overcoming the "Entrepreneurial Impasse")

Scenario Two: The VA and The Teleworker (life just got a whole lot easier for HR Managers!)

Scenario Three: The VA and the Downsizing Company (making downsized "right-sized")

Scenario Four: The VA as an Offshore Office (an international presence from address to accent!)


Scenario One: The VA and the NeoSOHO (overcoming the Entrepreneurial Impasse)

For some time now the small office/home office business has been referred to as a "SOHO." At Staffcentrix we've seen changes in this large entrepreneurial pool and have coined a new term, NeoSOHO, to better describe the new breed of net-savvy small office/home office that is emerging with the advances in technology.

Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are abandoning the problems and politics of traditional corporate life and launching their own home-based businesses. Armed with a great idea and a healthy dose of intestinal fortitude, they dive in with gusto - marketing their service or product online and off-. They grow their business... and their success brings mounting stacks of paper, phone traffic, heavier correspondence, marketing pieces, more time paying bills and tracking expenses and communications and appointments - a torrent of non-core chores. At this point, they've succeeded in reaching...

The Entrepreneurial Impasse: The NeoSOHO has become its own administrative assistant!

Before now, the NeoSOHO businessperson would have had limited choices: hire an expensive "temp" for a transient solution, take on expense and responsibility with a "permanent" employee, or, worst of all, turn away the work. The emerging Virtual Assisting industry, however, has begun to offer a better solution to the NeoSOHO's dilemma. A VA is an independent contractor, usually working from home, who provides non-core staffing services to small businesses via the Internet.

The VA works quite closely with the SME or NeoSOHO despite the distance, and the relationship is usually long-term. Because the VA is a contractor, the NeoSOHO avoids having to deal with time-consuming and expensive tax, legal and insurance issues.

Work assignments are communicated through e-mail, phone, fax, mail, diskette transfer, and real-time online messaging. The services offered by VAs vary from one individual to the next, based on their area of expertise. In addition to administrative support, many VAs offer other, more-specialized skills, running the gamut from Web site maintenance to "virtual foreign offices" for companies seeking to go international. VAs are becoming the de facto growth partners of small businesses and teleworkers all over the world - offering the home-based worker full professional assistance with a variety of support responsibilities at the click of an email icon.

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Scenario Two: The VA and The Teleworker (life just got a whole lot easier for HR Managers!)

Advances in technology and changes in corporate policy are enabling growing numbers of employees to take their work home. (There are approximately 15.7 million telecommuters or teleworkers in the US today, according to the International Telework Association and Council in Washington.) This increasingly popular arrangement allows the employee freedom that helps them better balance their career and home life. However, for the HR manager the trend toward telecommuting poses a new set of problems, chief among them providing top-notch administrative support to permit the telecommuter to focus on core tasks rather than time-consuming administrative chores. Every telecommuter's work habits are unique. Their hours may be "non-traditional" due to personal scheduling or the location of their clients. Some are highly organized while others need someone to keep them on track. Others require specialized support and some just the basics. An administrative assistant "back at the office" is not always able to provide adequate support to the telecommuter's unique situation. Enter the virtual assistant - not a temp, not an employee, but a self-employed professional administrative assistant who can cater to the needs of the individual telecommuter and tailor her services case-by-case.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO HR MANAGERS AND THE COMPANY?

No employee-related taxes, insurance, benefits, training, legal issues, OSHA and the many other concerns that every HR manager is familiar with. No idle hours: VAs are paid for time on task only - not time spent shuffling papers or waiting for the next assignment (or gossiping and other office politics). No equipment/space: VAs generally work from a fully-equipped home-based office, allowing the client to ramp up the support backbone for telecommuters at no capital cost.

Commitment to Quality: Unlike employees and temps, VAs are self-employed. Therefore, they have excellent bottom-line reasons to learn all they can about your business needs, and will deliver top-quality service. Their livelihood depends directly on their client's satisfaction.

Satisfied Employees: VAs quickly adapt to the needs of those they support - customizing systems and processes to accommodate the client's needs. In essence, the VA becomes a "personal assistant" to the telecommuter, rather than providing the counterproductive "this is the way we do it here" solutions often found in a more traditional relationship.

Painless Parting: If the VA is not a good fit, or her services are no longer required, the association can be terminated without the pains (and legal exposure) that accompany the termination of an employee.

Travel Support: VAs are located everywhere. Since they're paid only for time-on-task, a traveling sales force or senior executive can hire several VAs in dispersed locations and have 24-hour support -- paying far less than an employee or temp would cost for such comprehensive assistance, and making the client much more effective with his or her OWN customer base.

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Scenario Three: The VA and the Downsizing Company (making downsized "right-sized")

More traditional businesses are downsizing more often, struggling with global competition and the inroads of e-commerce. It's often difficult to determine just how much administrative support will be required after the changes are in place. Unfortunately, this generally leads to one of two situations:

Situation One: The few demoralized admins that are left on staff are running hard and fast all day to try to keep pace with the workflow. This makes morale even worse, and costs overtime and comp time.
VA Solution: When the workflow grows bigger than the staff, or during temporary crises, VAs can be called on to take tasks that can be performed virtually. When the dust clears and work ebbs, the company has no termination headaches, no employee downtime, and no unemployment issues. And the same VAs -- who now know the client's needs and its internal workings too -- stand ready to meet the challenge of the next support crunch on a moment's notice.

Situation Two: The workflow has slowed to the point that the administrative staff is busy only intermittently and getting paid for "shuffling papers."
VA Solution: When the workflow becomes too thin to keep remaining staff busy, businesses are turning to VAs to handle tasks off-site, allowing them to further trim labor costs and meet their changing needs. Indeed, in some cases all support tasks may be handled virtually, leaving the core team to concentrate on what's really important: growing the business.

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Scenario Four: The VA as an Offshore Office (an international presence from address to accent!)

While most VA/client relationships are within the same country, one of the many benefits VAs offer their clients is the opportunity to have an "offshore" presence without the expense of employees or physical offices. Thus, a small business owner in Buenos Aires wishing to have a presence in the US need only hire a VA based in the US to instantly acquire a US mailing address, phone and fax number, email address, courier and other services, and local or regional on-the-ground liaison and expertise.

By the same token, an American or European or Taiwanese businessman seeking an Argentine presence need only follow the reciprocal route through an Argentine VA.


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