Less than two decades ago, only the biggest companies could afford to offshore their work force. Call-centers and BPO companies that provide outsourcing to manage technical, customer support and administrative tasks were only available to multi-billion, Fortune-500 companies who could afford the massive up-front investment.
Times have changed, though, and a new generation of online outsourcing companies are making it possible for smaller businesses to outsource anything from small part time projects to major administrative roles — just like big business, but with much smaller budgets. These new outsourcing companies are able to provide lower prices & more flexible staffing solutions by leveraging modern virtual presence technologies –outsource staff to work independently or in small groups from any location, not just overseas call-centers as they have in the past. A growing number of these virtual assistants even work from home — a trend that echoes a shift to homebased business in the workforce in general.
Studies such as the Freelancing in America Survey have projected that by the year 2027, at least 50% of jobs will be homebased. This is partly because of the rising costs of renting or owning and maintaining brick and mortar spaces, not to mention the upkeep and other facets that having a physical office presents. According to statistics the number of employers offering a work from home option has grown by 40% in the past 5 years.
Business owners and entrepreneurs have been more open to alternative solutions that will not only save them money but will make their employees happier, thus increasing retention. Retention is a big problem for many businesses, studies show that replacing an employee, can cost a business anywhere around $46,000, from recruitment to hiring and training, the entire process dealing with defection is costly and time consuming. A study by Stanford University study found that employers who offered a work from home option had employee turnover rates fall by over 50%.
Not only do virtual work environments increase retention, but they increase productivity as well. Two-thirds of managers who offer telecommuting flexibility report that employees who work from home are overall more productive. Furthermore, 86% of employees report that they are more productive working from home, alone. Far from normal distractions like office small talk and gossip, loud office environments and pointless “meetings”, they find that they are more focused on their assigned tasks and are able to produce higher quality work.
Virtual Staffing & Outsourcing Provides Leverage for Small Businesses
Around 99% of the businesses in America are considered small businesses, 80% of which are run by lone operators. Did you know that out of those small businesses that do have employees, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council reports that only 4% manage to net $1 million a year while around 70% declare that they don’t make ANY profit?
As Entrepreneurs, being able to shift with the ever changing horizons is a must in order to not just survive but thrive and grow. Embracing the reality of a virtual future and looking at how you can mold your business to adapt to it is essential.
Over the past few years, outsourcing and virtual staffing have become a practice that many smaller businesses have adapted, with much success. There are many benefits to going this route, for example, lower overhead and operational costs. By globalizing employment, a whole new world of talent becomes available, thus increasing the chances of finding the best people to take over specific responsibilities within the business. It isn’t simply looking for a more cost-efficient option but for talent that gives the most value and leverage that you need so you can focus on working on your business instead of in it.
Most of the consumer products you buy these days are built by blended teams, where different parts of the team reside in different countries to take advantage of labor cost & trade specialization. Less specialized roles are moved to locations with a lower cost of living & different wage scale to take advantage of the global trade economy — and end result is actually better consumer products for you at lower prices.
Offshore virtual assistants have all the qualifications (and often more) than local labor, but at 1/3 the cost — which means you can afford to hire better help for a lower price, and you can afford to employ MORE of that help to grow your business. They’re high quality labor, with great education and an outstanding work ethic, and available for prices that similarly qualified Americans typically won’t work for.
Blended teams are exciting, because it finally means that business professionals can employ a competitive advantage in their business formerly reserved only for top-tier manufacturing companies — like the folks who made your iPhone. Just like them, you’re able to delegate repetitive, non-dollar productive “cost center” tasks to a virtual assistant, which in turn helps you focus your time & energy on what actually makes you money.
Altogether, this helps to level the business playing field by allowing small & medium sized businesses offshore like the big boys have for years. It doesn’t mean that jobs are going away, but it does mean that more work is available & more income is generated because companies of all sizes finally have the affordable help they need to rapidly scale to meet demand.
Do The Benefits Of Outsourcing Outweigh The Costs?
Thinking about outsourcing positions in your business? From marketing to administrative tasks and even sales, it offers a ton of benefits — which is why demand for outsourcing is growing so rapidly. You want to be educated about all the benefits & risks associated with outsourcing before you get started, however, so let’s review the pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your business!
- Pros Of Outsourcing
Better Return On Investment. While many believe that reducing costs is the ultimate goal, outsourcing offers more than just a better return on investment (ROI). You get a better return on your investment. The lowered costs and higher efficiency allow you to serve your clients better, therefore allowing you to see higher returns.
Better Management. When everything is done in-house, there is a huge possibility that some core competencies are not given as much attention as needed. But if you outsource activities that are routine, administrative or require specialized skills, you can focus more on core functions and ensure that your company thrives and succeeds.
Improved Efficiency. When you outsource, you can find someone that specializes in what you need to be done; therefore, you can ensure efficiency to rise. If the tasks you need to be completed are itemized and you have built processes and have systems, you can find someone who can focus on the different areas you need them to. For example, a MyOutDesk Virtual Inside Sales Agent (ISA) can focus on appointment setting and lead follow-up, ensuring that you have that area of your business consistently moving forward.
- Cons Of Outsourcing
Culture Conflicts. If you don’t take the time to integrate outsourcing and make sure that your in-house team is on board, you could potentially harm your company culture. However, steps can be taken to make sure that everyone understands what outsourcing is doing for the business. Integrating is essential. For example, many of our clients include their Virtual Assistants in daily huddles and weekly meetings to ensure that they are in sync with the rest of the team.
Lack of control. The fact that you are not physically present in an office with someone working for you can be daunting for many people. This is one major misgiving we initially hear from our clients. Hiring the right company with things in place to give you peace of mind in this matter is a solution for that. There are several types of software/programs that can be used to monitor work as well as protocols that can solve this issue.
Communication Issues. Communication is extremely important especially when you outsource. Failure in this area can lead to a lot of frustration and even worse, lost business. Finding the right resources to improve communication is important, as well as delivery. Using proper resources that will work for both parties as well as clarity is essential to avoid problems.
There are many pros and cons of outsourcing, all of which you should carefully consider before deciding for or against this strategy. With the ability to affect company culture, this isn’t something to take lightly. It all begins with a clear picture of what you want and need and thorough research to ultimately find the kind of people you need to benefit your business.
Embracing A Blended Model
We are in an age where traditional business models may no longer be enough to scale and grow your business. The ability to be flexible and adapt to ever-changing horizons is key to not only survival but to flourish. One specific model that has been gaining traction over the past few years is the blended business model. Basically, it is engineering a blended org chart with part of an organization being in-house and another part working virtually.
If you are in any of the following scenarios, it might be time for you to consider adopting the blended business model:
· Your workload is starting to get overwhelming and the quality of your life is suffering.
· Company revenue productivity is suffering because your time is spent on on-revenue efforts.
· Your growth curve is flat because you’re stuck with administrative work.
· You know you need support but do not want to go through the tedious process of hiring, only to have your hires leave after a period of time, thus putting you in a vicious cycle.
Hiring Virtual Assistants solve a lot of problems and actually bring many benefits. For example, a full-time Virtual Assistant will cost you 25%-30% the cost of an in-house employee. A Virtual Assistant will have their own equipment and software, and will not take up any precious office space, so overhead costs are cut-down as well. Organizations like MyOutDesk cover HR concerns, benefits and even things like paid time off; while all you do is pay your monthly subscription.
Building a blended org chart with Virtual Assistants is an extremely cost-effective way to grow your business!
Stanford Studies have shown that remote workers show increased productivity by 16%. Those who work from home seem to be more focused with fewer distractions. They also found that employees working in open offices took 62% more sick days than virtual employees.
Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2017 found that remote work arrangements are “strongly linked to improved performance and employee retention.” Furthermore, 38% of respondents reported they were likely to leave their current employer within the next two years, with many citing work/life balance and flexibility as major contributing factors.
Large companies are benefitting from using a blended employment model. In fact, a new regulation stemming from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has given us a clearer picture of the extent to which some of the largest U.S. companies employ global talent. As part of this act, publicly traded companies are now required to disclose how many foreign employees they employ. While this act was passed back in 2010 in response to the 2008 global financial crisis, the SEC only approved guidance for companies outlining how to implement and comply with the mandate in September 2017. Therefore, data regarding the degree to which these major corporations use global talent is only just beginning to emerge. Even after just one quarter of such reporting, it is clear that many of the most recognizable U.S. brands hire workers in lower-cost countries as a means of leveraging their businesses.
You might be surprised at the high percentages of global talent that successful companies have reported so far:
· Kelloggs: 80%
· General Electric: 66%
· United Technologies: 68% Whirlpool: 80%
· Merck: 55%
· Honeywell: 58%
· Hanes: 80%
· Mattel: 78%
· Wal-Mart: 35%
If these major companies employ this strategy, there is no reason that you cannot for your own business as well.
The fact that the Internet and other modernizations have globalized our economy gives you a chance to scale your business faster and further than ever before, using Virtual Assistants. Demand for virtual talent is increasing because it works for most business owners. Simply put: it is good for business.
Here’s a link to read more comprehensively about the blended business model and how it’s leveraging real estate virtual assistants in the services sector.
Virtual Staff Are Happier & More Productive
In survey after survey, it has been shown that remote workers are happier when compared to all employees across all working arrangements. In turn, this directly impacts productivity.
One survey questioned 14,000 people regarding their personality and whether or not they are suited for remote work. It was found that only 24 percent of individuals who worked in an office loved their jobs, compared to 38 percent of mobile workers and 45 percent of telecommuting workers.
Similar results have been reported time and time again, leading to new insights, particularly in regard to productivity — but what does this mean for your business?
There are a number of studies available that show the association between happier employees and a more productive workplace. This includes a study from the University of Warwick, which found that greater happiness led to a 12 percent increase in productivity. In comparison, unhappy workers were 10 percent less productive.
There are a number of theories available. However, one core theory is that the human brain performs better when it is feeling positive. During these periods of happiness, individuals tend to be more creative and are better at problem-solving. These types of findings are making many managers rethink their approach.
Although you could certainly hire someone in-house, hoping that they are happy in their new role, this will end up costing you more. In addition, this approach tends to be less flexible and in turn, less productive.
In contrast, remote workers are already known to be happier workers, and on average, are 10 to 15 percent more productive than their office-working counterparts — but why is this?
Once again, the reasons are vast. Just some of the reasons why remote workers are happier include:
- They benefit from a decrease in work-related stress and an increase in overall morale.
- They develop greater work-life balance, helping employees balance their career and personal priorities.
- They experience an increase in focus and productivity. They also report fewer sick days, likely based on lower stress levels.
- They are able to save money, especially in relation to transportation costs.
The bottom line is this: studies show that by reducing stress and improving work-life balance, remote workers are able to achieve greater productivity. In turn, workers are happier, and employers directly benefit.
Outsourcing Made Easy: Hiring Your First Virtual Assistant
We’ve established that virtual staff are happier & more productive — but what does this do for you? Not surprisingly, outsourcing repetitive, time-consuming tasks offers many benefits to small business owners, who often begin their foray into outsourcing with as little as adding a single virtual assistant.
Small-scale outsourcing like virtual assistants don’t require the large scale involvement that a major outsourcing operation does, and are typically much more affordable than hiring in-house while providing the skills and flexibility to support several aspects of your business. The virtual professionals at MyOutDesk are a step above the average virtual assistant with only 2% of applicants making the final grade.
Here are the top six reasons why successful companies hire a virtual assistant.
· Time is your most important resource: Successful businesses and entrepreneurs know the value of being economic with the use of their time. Low-level tasks like email management and customer support can clutter up your schedule, restricting the amount of time you can spend on the more profitable tasks of your business, like dealing with leads and strategizing for future growth. A virtual professional enables you to free your schedule of non-revenue generating tasks and expand your business without blowing up your budget.
· Affordable Business Growth: Business growth requires investment. By hiring a virtual professional you expand your operations without drastically increasing your wage bill and the amount of investment needed to grow your business. A virtual professional is not only substantially more affordable than hiring in-house, the continual management and training costs are also far less.
· Free Yourself from Administrative Busy-Work: Responding to emails, managing meeting times and appointments, and data entry are all necessary daily administrative tasks, but they can easily eat into your schedule. A virtual professional can ensure these tasks are completed on time, enabling you to focus on the more productive aspects of your business. While it’s important to provide clear instruction on what you want your virtual professional to achieve, having these recurring admin tasks taken off your plate will help you focus your time on growing your business.
· Gain valuable customer feedback and market data: Knowing the needs of your customers and potential clients is crucial to sustaining the growth of your business While monitoring the industry you operate in, keeping informed on what your competitors are up to, and collating customer feedback are all important to help grow your business, they also require an investment of time and energy. A virtual professional can collate all of this data for you, providing a valuable resource for your business. Having up to date access to this important data could prove a game changer for the growth of your business.
· Maintain Your Online Presence: In the age of social media, businesses are expected to have a strong online presence. However, while the benefits of maintaining the presence of your business across social media and consistently producing content are well known, the work involved can stretch your budget and consume time that should be spent on the more profitable tasks of your business. A virtual professional can help you manage your online presence, responding to customers and prospects on social media and producing and repurposing content so you can keep your social media posts fresh and engaging.
· Avoid Burnout: Every professional can suffer from burnout during their career. Hiring a virtual professional to assist in managing elements of your workload can help relieve the stress that a hectic work schedule can cause. Having someone there to help organize your schedule and deal with tasks frees up your work schedule to focus on more productive aspects of your business and also helps to avoid your work leaking into your personal life. A virtual professional can help you maintain a work-life balance that is crucial to optimizing your productivity and general well-being.
So What Tasks Should I Outsource To A Virtual Assistant?
You need to be able to focus on the activities that generate revenue and not get bogged down by time-sucking, non-dollar productive activities That’s why it’s essential to have others in your team take care of other aspects in your business.
A virtual assistant can be a valuable resource for you to reclaim your time and grow your business. Here are tasks that you can immediately outsource to your virtual assistant:
· Email Management: A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that the average person spends nearly 30% of their time at work reading and responding to emails. How much time are you spending on this? Your virtual assistant can sift through these emails and ensure that only the most vital ones reach you whilst they take care of the rest. This saves you valuable time and ensuring you only deal with the important emails that require your attention.
· Calendar and Appointment Scheduling: Organize and plan your week to optimize how you spend your time. A virtual assistant can manage your schedule, ensuring you spend your time at appointments with clients, not scheduling them.
· Filing documents: How much time have you wasted searching for a report? A virtual assistant can create an easy to navigate system to file your documents. Have them go through your files and archive old client records, search for outdated information, or look for opportunities to correct partial information doing data-append tasks.
· Data entry: A virtual assistant can enter lead information into your CRM and update your databases. This is a very general task well suited to a virtual assistant and depending on the company & even your industry may involve literally hundreds of online and/or legacy software applications.
· Social Media: We are sure that you are aware of how important social media can be in promoting your business. However, we know that to really make an impact takes a lot of time. Your virtual assistant could take care of all your social media accounts. Creating posts, engagement, and keeping an eye out for new opportunities can take up a lot of your time. However, a dedicated marketing virtual assistant can ensure that you don’t miss out on possible business and build your brand.
· Lead Follow-up: Studies have shown that businesses that follow up within five minutes of an inquiry usually close the deal — and those that take longer show lower conversion rates. This is why lead follow-up is essential to any business, especially in sales & service industries. With everything that you have to do, immediate follow-up may not be a possibility for you all the time. This is why a virtual assistant can be instrumental in ensuring that your lead follow-up is excellent.
· Inside Sales & Prospecting: In order to ensure that your sales pipeline keeps flowing, you need to be prospecting daily. Equipped with a script of your choosing, a virtual assistant could focus on your prospecting and make sure to keep those leads coming in.
· Transaction Coordination: The process involved with any business transaction can be long and tedious. A virtual assistant can coordinate the tasks needed to be completed: from contract to close, making calls and filling up the necessary paperwork.
· Print Advertising and Signage: Traditional forms of marketing are still relevant in modern business, especially for smaller local firms. A virtual assistant can help you create flyers, signs, and print ads, and then take care of the communication with advertising vendors.
· Online Content Creation: Keep your company blog updated with regular posts. A virtual assistant can work with you to produce content ideas and then create the posts for your blog.
· Testimonial Gathering: Testimonials are a brilliant way to gain the trust of potential clients. A virtual assistant can research and communicate with previous clients to create glowing testimonials for your business.
· Client Follow-Up: Keeping in touch with prospects is crucial to enhancing your customer satisfaction & generating repeat business. A virtual assistant can maintain regular contact with prospects to ensure your leads are kept warm and not left to go cold.
· Generating Referral Business: According to a recent report, real estate agents gain 21% of their clients from referrals — but word of mouth & referral based business is a large part of many industries, and requires leveraging your existing contacts to generate new clients. A virtual assistant can keep in regular contact with your current clients to maintain a relationship that could be the source of new clients.
· Communicating With Partners & Officials: For mortgage brokers, surveyors, conveyancers and a host of other professionals, a virtual assistant can communicate with all the parties involved to ensure that everything that needs to be done is completed. Many professions have regular communications & paperwork flowing between their office and partners, city officials, even state or Federal agencies — a virtual assistant can assist in coordinating all of that.
These are just a few things that a virtual assistant can handle for you. However, the possibilities can be endless depending on what you need. Just remember that delegation is crucial — you need to make sure you spend as much time as possible on the dollar productive tasks of your business and delegate the tasks that eat into your busy schedule.
Chances are, you spend a lot of time doing specific tasks in your business that are taking you away from your revenue producing activities. You should be empowered to delegate these tasks and focus on the things that you do best, making connections and closing deals.
Choosing the Right Virtual Assistant Company
At this point, if you’re thinking about hiring a Virtual Assistant, then your next question is probably going to be “where do I find one?” There are literally dozens virtual assistant firms out there offering competitive services — how should you determine which one to go with?
First of all, determine what your needs are. Do you need someone full time or part-time? Or do you simply need someone to help you out with a few projects? What do you need help with? Do you need someone to help you with your marketing, or perhaps your Administrative tasks? What about call-answering, or even prospecting or telemarketing? Perhaps you just need someone to create a flier or a logo, or maybe just to manage your website? Once you determine your needs, you can narrow down your research and make it easier to find the right person to be your Virtual Assistant.
If you need project-based help, like for example some graphics or a logo, a firm like Fiverr, DesignCrowd or Toptal might be what you need. These sites are a great place to find talented creators to work on projects for you on things such as graphic design, video editing, and even animation. If you can’t afford to hire a design company this is a great alternative.
If you need someone to do data entry, write articles/blogs or even data mining but do not want to take someone on full-time, firms such as UpWork, PeoplePerHour, and Freelancer.com are great places to look for talent. You can find a plethora of different specialties and experts for each. Job seekers are not limited to the tasks aforementioned. You can also find people looking to work part-time or full-time as well, all you have to do is be specific and clear when you create a job posting in order to attract the best candidates.
One thing to remember is that there is no guarantee; it may take several tries to find people who will get your vision and deliver what you need. One downside when you go through firms such as those mentioned above is that these firms have guidelines and restrictions that can prove to be a great risk. Being that you are dealing with Freelancers, you may face issues such as poorly delivered work, delays, etc. These firms will offer you some protection, but it is still a high risk.
If you want someone more permanent or higher level, you may want to explore options such as my company — MyOutDesk . Premier virtual assistant services like ours can help you gain more leverage and time to focus on your revenue productive activities, more than that, they will provide you with value for your business. From the very beginning, organizations on this level will have candidates ready for you, already screened vetted, and those that pass are trained in the foundations of your industry. After final selection, they’re typically also prepped on the specifics of your company to help them come up to speed as rapidly as possible.
There are many additional advantages to a virtual staffing agency over trying to recruit, train & manage a virtual assistant on your own through a job portal. For instance, after you hire someone, MyOutDesk has a support team that in place you can reach out to whenever you or your Virtual Assistant needs help or to address any performance, human resources, health, or other concerns.
Give it some thought and consider exactly how involved you want to be in the hiring, screening and management of your virtual assistant. It’s important consider every aspect of what each service provides when looking at different Virtual Assistant Services.