If you’re starting to think about taking on an Associate VA, you’ll know it’s a real turning point for your business and there’s a lot to consider.

I remember when I reached this point back in 2007 – I’d started my business with the idea of a more flexible work-life balance, yet suddenly I didn’t seem to have enough hours in the day and was working harder than before.

An Associate was the obvious solution if I was going to free up my time but if I’m honest, while the prospect of growing my business appealed to me, the whole idea of finding someone was incredibly daunting.

Suddenly you’re having to think about a whole range of issues that you may not have come across before and back then, I really didn’t know any other VAs who had gone through it and would be able to advise me.

Having made every mistake going when I started out, I’m now so confident I’ve got a great process that I wrote my FAB-VA Team Builder programme. Here are my top 5 takeaways to help your journey run more smoothly:

Use your network

I’m a big fan of a personal recommendation when it comes to taking on an Associate VA – you massively reduce the risk factor when an Associate comes recommended by someone you know and trust.

Maybe you already know someone yourself who could be the perfect candidate but if not, now’s the time to use your network.

Whether it’s a friend of a friend, someone your ex-colleagues at work can recommend or even someone your hairdresser knows, you’ll be amazed how many people can help your search and know someone who might fit the bill.

Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly who you’re looking for and you’ll be amazed at how many great people you’ll find.

Look for the right qualities

It may sound obvious but often we’re so caught up in the process and ticking off the skill set, we don’t look at the character traits that make a really good team member.

There are a number of traits I’m always looking for:

  • Good attitude
  • Loyalty
  • Reliability
  • Pride in their work – care and attention to detail are key
  • Confidentiality
  • Viewing being a VA as a proper job

After all, you’re looking for someone who will want to stay and you’ll want to keep – it’s expensive getting it wrong and having to start over again. I now have a very low turnover of Associates and even my very first Associate, who joined me in 2007, is still working for me!

Think about your range of services

While you’ll have started looking for an Associate to increase your capacity, it’s also a great opportunity to review your business and expand your range of services to make sure you can meet all your clients’ needs in house.

So, if you’re currently not able to offer social media expertise or bookkeeping experience, for example, it’s a great chance to find someone with these skills and turn your business into a one-stop shop.

Remember, it pays to let your clients know each time you add a new service – as an existing client, they may not be looking at your website so may not be aware of everything you can now offer.

A quick marketing campaign can really bring in extra work and make sure your Associate’s skills are being put to good use.

Keep an eye on the quality

I’m sure, like me, you’re a stickler for good grammar and a professional tone. So, it’s always worth having a process for quality checks when working with a new Associate, even if you’ve already been through some testing as part of your recruitment and onboarding process.

I’m always very clear from the start that checks will be carried out, then there are no surprises for a new Associate and everyone knows what is expected.

Some people might argue it’s not necessary but for me, it’s not a case of trying to manage everything – I’m just thinking about the standards my clients have come to expect and making sure these are maintained.

Create a great environment

This is one of the things that many VAs get wrong initially, with the end result that they have a high turnover of Associates, costing them both time and money.

As I’ve expanded, one of the key things I’ve learnt is the importance of looking after people and valuing their contribution to your business. Just because they’re not employed, doesn’t mean you should treat them as though they’re contractors.

Remember that most people love to feel part of something and it’s a natural instinct to want to belong to a community, so take time to create a good team spirit. Give them the chance to create and build relationships with each other so they support each other at work and don’t feel isolated.

This isn’t hard to do – perhaps just establish regular get-togethers, either face-to-face or on Zoom, and don’t make them all about work. Some of my team’s best bonding goes on over a few glasses of wine and tapas on our Christmas nights out!

A final word of advice

Do find some support for yourself as you start to grow your business – I know from my early experience how costly mistakes can be when you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Having the benefit of someone else’s experience can really make sure you’re on the right track and haven’t missed any of the vital aspects of growing your team, not to mention the reduction in your stress levels.

Once you know you’re getting it right, it’s then up to you to decide just how far you want to take your business and start to enjoy the flexibility of returning to your lifestyle.

One last thing, if you choose to follow my FAB-VA Team Builder programme, I’ll teach you how to find great Associate VAs who are loyal, professional and care about your business. With my support, you’ll discover how to create your VA Dream Team. Just click the here