If you’re planning to start a multi-VA enterprise, it’s possible to start with a small budget, but you can’t skimp on planning or infrastructure. Whether you sub-contract to two or 20 people, you need to present as professional an image to your team as you do to your clients, and that means doing your homework.
Changing your solo-VA practice to one with multi-vendors requires a number of essential systems and processes. But before you begin working on them, as with any business, it’s critical to identify who your ideal clients are and why they will want to work with a team.
For instance, here are some important questions you need to ask yourself:
- Why should your clients work with a team instead of a solo-VA with an all-round skill set?
- What will your services be?
- Who is your target market?
- How can you market yourself to them?
- How can you stand out from other multi-VA teams?
Will you have a service specialty niche?
When you have clear answers, you will know the skill sets you’ll need on the team. As for going about finding sub-contractors, this may sound pretty obvious, yet one of the most difficult challenges for many multi-VA business owners is getting people who are loyal, consistent, dependable workers. So the next step is putting on your human resources hat.
Role descriptions are paramount. Create detailed role descriptions for each service you’ll be providing. For example, if your main service is website design, you’ll want team members who are experienced (everyday working knowledge) in programs like DreamWeaver and WordPress, graphic design, and who understand shopping cart integration and every technical task that is associated with creating a website. Also remember that design is a creative process. You’ll need to resonate with a person’s portfolio, as even the most highly skilled designer may not have the kind of look you want.
Interviewing. Put your interview process down in writing so you can follow it to the letter when you send out the call for applications. There’s nothing that makes a potential new team member question the company they want to work with if the owner (or owner’s representative) delivers a haphazard style of interviewing.
Here are a few tips for keeping it simple, and eliciting important details:
- Give a short blurb about your company, its clients and goals.
- Besides reviewing the applicant’s experience with them, ask pointed questions about they would handle x, y, or z situations.
- Give them a brief summary on how your team structure works in terms of communication, work ethics, internal structure (e.g. using an online project management tool, who they answer to), due dates, payment, confidentiality, contract, etc.
- Ask if they have any questions – interestingly, their questions can say a lot about how they may function on the team
- Ask for references and do your due diligence in checking them.
Once you’ve held the interview and checked references, take some time to digest the information and don’t rush into any decisions. Trust your gut but your head, too. When you hire someone, you’ll know within their first or second job if they’re going to work out. In fact, you’ll probably have a hunch even before you interview. If they are professional in all communications with you beforehand, that is already a sign that they could be a good fit.
In part 2, we’ll talk about systems for assigning and monitoring workflow, delegating effectively and building team morale.