You're listening to Financial Advisor Marketing, the best show on the planet for financial advisors who want to get more clients without all the stress. You're about to get the real scoop on everything from lead generation to closing the deal. James is the founder of TheAdvisorCoach.com, where you can find an entire suite of products designed to help financial advisors grow their businesses more rapidly than ever before. Now, here is your host, James Pollard.
James: Welcome to Financial Advisor Marketing, the podcast for financial advisors who are looking to get more clients and grow their business. I've discovered, in the course of doing this podcast, that some of my most popular episodes are the ones where I talk about productivity because a lot of financial advisors want to essentially get more done in less time. That makes sense. You could have all the checklists and all the to-do lists, all the apps in the world, but they almost certainly can't come close to what we're going to talk about today and that's hiring a virtual assistant. Producer Jonathan is not here this week, but I am absolutely honored to have this guest on the show. [0:01:07.7]
She is the founder of Virtual Assist USA, a company I've personally used to delegate some of my tasks. They do great work. They've definitely made my life easier and I wanted to bring her on because in my Inner Circle newsletter, I talk a lot about hiring, growing a team and all that good stuff, but there are some financial advisors who email me and tell me that they're too scared, they're too anxious to make that "real hire" like a full-time hire. So the solution to that is, in my opinion, to start off small with a virtual assistant and her company can pair you with someone experienced who can help guide you through the process and actually create workflows and processes that you can use when you eventually transition your full-time assistant, receptionist, whatever or you can stay with a virtual assistant and that way, you're just not blindly fumbling around in the dark. With all that said, I would like to introduce our guest today, Danielle Quoma. Danielle, thank you very much for being here. [0:02:01.3]
Danielle: Thank you for having me.
James: I know that hiring a virtual assistant is all about getting your time back. I mean, I use a VA myself. You're essentially creating time in your business when you use one. That way, you can focus on higher value tasks. But, starting a virtual assistant agency, I guess, it doesn't seem like the type of business people dream about when they're kids. How did you end up starting Virtual Assist USA?
Danielle: Yes, yes. I had been in the consulting world prior to starting my business and I had worked with lots of business owners, entrepreneurs and when I started my business, I really wanted to re-define how those entrepreneurs were getting help in their businesses. This was 11 years ago when I started and there were a few virtual assistant companies, not many at the time. The industry hadn’t really hit a growth point yet, but there were certainly a few. And I learned really from what I saw them doing that I didn't want to do in my business. [0:03:00.6]
As I said, it was the start of the industry and so there were some standards being set, but I really wanted to build my service around the idea of being flexible, being nimble. I think those are things that entrepreneurs are really looking for. I wanted, also, to be able to offer a broader range of services and were all-inclusive type of model, and I had a little bit model for the quality of the virtual assistants and their level of education and those things kind of all combined together helped me just to stand out in the industry at the outset and 11 years later, here we are.
James: Wow. You have a fascinating story. I know you help a lot of different people. Your business has grown. Like I said, the audience for this particular podcast is financial advisors and financial planners and I did want to mention that they're anxious about hiring "real employee" for that reason. What are some ways that virtual assistants can help financial services professionals? [0:04:00.8]
Danielle: Yeah, so one - financial services professionals are a great market to work with virtual assistants because they're typically on their own. No one professional, one entrepreneur is going to be good at every single thing that they do, and as long as the financial advisors are good at advising their clients and helping them out, you know, that's all they should be worried about. So, as they're running their business, their business is gearing up, they're starting to have more meetings, more deadlines with clients, more email communications, more client service, you know, a financial advisor can find themselves really having trouble keeping up with that. So, a virtual assistant operates just like an assistant in-office where we help the financial advisor, the entrepreneur with whatever they need done, being a right-hand support person, but the main difference is that we're not in the office and they're not on the hook for all the things that come with having an employee - benefits, taxes, the compliance that comes with that, being set up for using X amount of hours every week and having to be held to that. [0:05:10.1]
So it's the same benefit as having an employee in the office, but none of the extra work, stress or money that comes with that. So, just like a virtual assistant in the financial planner's office, a VA can answer emails for the clients, help with customer service inquiries, handle travel plans, keep a calendar or do social media, help with marketing promotions, just about anything that an in-person assistant can do.
James: Yeah, absolutely. That's been my experience as well. For all the financial advisors out there listening, if you want to know my experience, one of the biggest hurdles that I had to overcome with this idea that there are tasks that I really don’t like to do, but there's someone out there who would genuinely enjoy doing that stuff.
James: Like a lot of… people reach out to me all the time for different things and a lot of the times, I just politely decline and I don’t like doing that, but the VA, she's okay with doing that and she just gets back to people and interacts, just like you said - just email management, you know, social media, that kind of thing. [0:06:12.9]
It all works together, and one of the things that I like about Virtual Assist USA is that, well two things that come to mind – number one is that you let your hours roll over. There are lot of places out there that don’t let you do that and number two is that you assign people a lead assistant, which is very unique - you're not just hopping from assistant to assistant to assistant. Is there any particular reason why you assign a lead VA to a client?
Danielle: Yeah. There's a few reasons, actually. There are some general reasons and then some reasons also that are a little bit more specific to folks in the financial industry. Some of the reasons are the consistency. So, it's not only consistent for the client, but also for the client's client - their vendors, their business partners - know that they're going to get the same person on the other end on the line, on the other end of the email every time is really important. [0:07:03.3]
There's also the ability to focus the training more specifically and they can insure a little bit higher quality results. There are certainly lots of increased efficiency as you build that relationship and get to know each other and can be in the same step with each other. Also for our clients that are specifically in the financial industry, when it comes to things like compliance and confidentiality, nondisclosure, those are things that are just simply easier to do when you're just working with a dedicated person and that's something that our financial advisors that we have worked with over the past 11 years that's been really important to them and I'm sure it's important to your audience as well. And then, I would say furthermore, you know, having a dedicated VA means that a client can go straight to the source. So there's no account manager or middle man to creating kind of extra red tape or extra levels of communication. [0:08:05.6]
The client can talk directly to their dedicated virtual assistant. Again, just like they would do with an in-office employee. So I think all of those things together helped to create a better foundation for a good working relationship with your VA.
James: Right. And if someone doesn’t like the lead VA that you assign, they can always switch, right? Or you have a pool of people that they can …
Danielle: Exactly. Exactly. Yes. We do have a large pool of VAs. Part of what my job is is to match the VAs up to the client and we have a pretty specific matching process for that where we match on a number of factors. So, some practical things, of course, like skill set, time zone, PC or Mac, but we also match up based on things like working style, personality, work behavior and so, ideally, if I've done my job correctly, I'm getting the right match the first time, but you know, in the rare cases where that doesn’t happen, we would always be happy to rematch. [0:09:02.8]
James: Sure. Yeah. And I know a lot of financial advisors are concerned about security and compliance and the MBAs and all this stuff. One of the questions that a financial advisor sent me was, it was 10 paragraphs long - I don't know why they send these super long emails, but essentially, the question was "What do I do if I don’t want to give up my passwords or whatever," and I have an answer for that. I actually use a password manager called Last Pass and I use it with my VA as well and Last Pass - not only for business, but you should use it for your personal life as well because you can create strong, secure passwords that are unique, across different accounts so on and so forth - research Last Pass. But anyway, Last Pass has a feature where you can share passwords with your VA or a family member and you name it, but you don’t have to show them the actual password. They just have a way to get into your account without having to see the password ever and you can revoke access whenever you want. You can change your password. You can … you are still in control. It's not like they see your password. [0:10:03.2]
And the reason this is so secure is because for a lot of accounts like social media, they can't change your password without having the current one, and if they can't see the current one, there's no way they can change your password. There's no way they can really pull any shenanigans. For financial advisor who was concerned about sharing your actual password, you don’t have to if you use a password manager like Last Pass. Now, back to the interview. I know that you only hire college educated VAs, which I appreciate, but you take it a step beyond that because you only hire ones with 10 years of experience, minimum. This is an amazing set of hiring standards. Why do you have such high standards?
Danielle: Well, we consider ourselves a premium service and our main goal, as you had mentioned in the beginning, one of the reasons that you use a virtual assistant is to give yourself back some time. So our main goal is to give our clients back time and with that, we have to be on top of our game, super efficient, super experienced, knowledgeable with what we're doing. Our clients utilize us and pay for our services so that they can, you know, save time and save money and I think that that really comes with that experience. We don’t want to have anyone that is entry level, learning on the job, that sort of thing that would certainly just waste our client's time and it wouldn’t provide that value add service that we want to do. [0:11:29.8]
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Danielle: We've been, you know, continuing to grow and just in the last quarter or so, we brought on eight new people and I've had, I mean hundreds of interviews to get to those eight hires and I think, you know, aside from looking for obviously our minimums which are the bachelor's degree and at least 10 years of experience, we also really have looked for the quality of being resourceful. You know, we're a really high performing team. We work in a very high urgency environment. I am sure that all of you are, folks in the audience, can relate to that.
James: Yeah. Totally, I do.
Danielle: And you know, I need team members on my side that can find quick, clever solutions to problems and situations, that they can show initiative, that they can be proactive. Those are all key indicators for me of who will be successful as a virtual assistant and I think that a lot of those sort of soft skills really come with experience as well. [0:13:10.4]
James: Yeah. It's funny that you mention that because it's something that you can't really teach and I have a perfect example from my own assistant. So I got a brand new phone and I did the transfer of all the apps and stuff and the project management tool that I use is Asana, for all the financial advisors who are curious. I use Asana. If you have any questions, just ask them. But, when I got the new phone, I didn't sign into the Asana app, which means I didn't get any notifications in Asana because I wasn’t logged in. Well, my assistant, she actually emailed me and said, "Hey, are you still… like are you still alive?" And I was like, "What? What do you mean? Like, yeah I'm still here. What are you talking about?" She said, "Well, I've been trying to get in touch with you through Asana." I was like, "Oh, my goodness. 100% my fault. I didn't log in. Got a new phone" and whatever. So that initiative, like that resourcefulness - hey, this person is not responding, let me try to get in touch with him another way - that's something that you can't really teach and it seems simple. [0:14:08.8]
It seems so obvious when someone else does it, but there were certain hires that you meet that just wouldn’t go the extra step. Because she goes the extra step there, I'm a little bit more assured and a little bit more confident she will go the extra step in other places. So that's a really funny story. If you get a new phone and transfer all your apps, make sure you log in. I got a few questions from advisor because I mean, I did mention that I was going to do something with virtual assistants, and they asked would I personally outsource and I outsource emails, like uploading emails, broadcast emails. I outsource responding to general emails, like those outreaches that I mentioned earlier in the show. I outsource making some phone calls. I mean it's not like cold dialing out of a phone book or anything, but if I say "Can you please make an appointment here? Can you call this place and update my address here?" She'll do that. She checks social media every now and then and then corresponding between different people. Those are the things that I outsource. But Danielle, what are some of the most common tasks that you see outsourced across, I guess all of your clients or if you had some that are specific to financial services, you can share those, but what are some common tasks? [0:15:13.2]
Danielle: I would say, specific to financial services, email management, email inbox management, especially when you're working with people's money, they…again, we sort of relate that to the high urgency environment…so, prompt, professional communications are certainly necessary and a lot of times our clients that are in the financial space, they are busy meeting with clients. They don’t have time to be hanging out in their inbox all day, but there are clients who are on the other end of those communications are wanting responses. Again, it's that high urgency environment. So, the email inbox management is definitely a big one. As far as the, you know, client correspondence umbrella goes. I would also say social media. That's something that financial advisors typically don’t have separate education or experience in, but they do want to be in front of minds, they want to be relevant, they want to be current. [0:16:09.2]
And it's something that is a very easy task to outsource because you can outsource it to an expert in social media and kind of set it and forget it and be really hands off. And then a third task isn't actually related specifically to work as a financial advisor, but that's really the personal tasks that we will do as well, and it's a pretty common request for us, especially around this time of year, things like gift buying, helping with holiday cards, those sorts of things, making reservations, booking arrangements for event planning, client parties, that sort of thing. That's been another common task for our financial advisors.
James: Yeah. And one of the things I would recommend to the advisors who are listening - don’t go cheap on your virtual assistant service or your virtual assistant because you get what you pay for and there are a lot of little touches that a premium VA can give you that are just somebody from Fivr or Upwork or whatever can't. I understand…I know the jig is up. [0:17:09.3]
You guys go out and hire someone from Upwork and you're, yeah - I'm outsourcing - but not really. Right? I've done it too. I've been there. There are two touches that come to mind that really make a difference in my life. The first one is that your virtual assistant will actually get to know you and what you like - if you send flowers as an anniversary present, they will know which ones you sent last year. They will know..they can work with a budget - if you said, "I've got $60 to spend on these flowers," they will look and know what exactly what to do and you don’t have to say, "I want 18 roses, red roses. I want them sent here," You don’t have to repeat yourself again, especially with recurring tasks. They will keep track of this stuff and they will take notes. Also, if you like to travel in the morning to leave and come back at night and that's your preference, they will make a note of that as well when they're booking your travel and figuring all that stuff out for you. [0:18:00.0]
It's not like you're starting from a blank slate where they're, "Oh, well, there's this flight at 1 a.m. and this flight at 7 p.m." You don’t have to go back and be, "I told you I like 8 a.m. to noon when I'm leaving." You don’t have to go back and forth. Then the second thing, and this is really important - this one thing alone could just transform your entire business. You don’t want to go cheap with a virtual assistant because the premium virtual assistants can actually document the processes that they used to get tasks done. Meaning they are effectively creating the systems for you. They are creating the workflows for you. All you have to do is ask, "Hey, you know, can you help me with this? Can you figure this out? And also, can you document what you're doing?" When they document what they're doing, if God forbid they ever leave or you ever decide not to use a premium VA anymore, you still have that system in place. It is an asset for your business. I personally use a video recording software. I record the stuff that I want my VA to do and I send that to her and by definition, because I do the stuff on screen, I don’t miss anything. A lot of times when financial advisors try to write out, step-by-step, of what to do and they try to recall it from memory, they're so used to doing that task, that and you know what I'm talking about, Danielle - they just skip steps. So there's holes there. [0:19:18.2]
James: And you don’t want to do that. you want to make sure you have a complete, documented workflow process so when you're ready to expand and you're ready to grow your business and do a new hire or go into a new location, you will have the systems in place. Those are the two reasons why I would strongly encourage you not to go cheap with your VAs. So, Danielle, one last question for you. What advice would you give to someone who is, has never done this before, who has really no idea where to start, who is looking to hire a VA?
Danielle: So the first thing that I would say is to, when you are going into the relationship, to really spend the time in the beginning with your virtual assistant, to establish the relationship, get to know each other, talk about your vision, talk about your future goals for your business rather than, as by way of example, giving your virtual assistant a task and saying to follow up with these phone calls for these 10 past clients. [0:20:18.4]
If you are just giving the virtual assistant that task, that's fine, but if you take it a step further and talk to the VA about what your vision is for that task. So you want to have the VA call these 10 past clients in an effort to nurture them, get them to think about you top of mind again, maybe generate some referrals and this is a recurring task that you want to do every month in 2020 to help you drum up some business from past clients or previous referrals. Taking it that step further and explaining that to your virtual assistant really helps your VA become more of a partner with you and they can offer suggestions. They can be more proactive in that case. They can say, "I have d one this for another advisor and here's how it worked and here's some things we can tweak" or "Here's a way that I know from experience we can do this better" or you know, "Because your end goal is to drum up more business, here are three ways that I think that might help you do that, some other alternatives." [0:21:17.2]
So just continue that step further and sharing that and communicating that with your virtual assistant will really enable them to partner with you and have a stronger relationship. I think that when you're in-office with someone and you're working at desks, side by side, throughout the day, you naturally tend to have that experience and that relationship built. But if you can start to build on that in a virtual situation and a virtual relationship and just spend that time, I think in my experience, that has made all the difference.
James: Yeah. Absolutely. And I've made that mistake myself, just throwing a task out there, saying hey, can you please do this, but when you tell someone the why behind what you're doing, the bigger picture, you're 100% correct - they can come to the table with more ideas. [0:22:04.8]
They can help you and exactly another reason why you should look into a premium VA and not just one off the street, essentially, is the fact that they have other people that they are working with. A lot of financial advisors, when I did some initial research on this about a year ago. They got back to me and they were like, oh, well I want the VA to work exclusively with me and no one else. I don’t want to share. But you kind of do or you at least want someone with a lot of experience because that person can bring stuff to you that maybe you haven't considered and a lot of ideas come from outside of the industry. If you're in my Inner Circle newsletter, you know that I talk about stuff outside of the industry all the time because some of the best ideas come from outside of the industry. Virtual assistants can bring that to the table. So this has been an absolute pleasure. I've really enjoyed this interview. Financial advisors, if you're interested in talking with Danielle or hiring a virtual assistant, I encourage you to visit VirtualAssistUSA.com. Danielle, is there any way that you want them to get in touch with you or how can they reach out to you? [0:23:05.6]
Danielle: Yeah. They can reach out to me through the website or they can email me directly at djc@virtualassistusa, so that's d as in dog, j as in juice, c as in cat @ virtualassistusa and make a mention that they heard me on your podcast.
James: You got it. You heard it from The Financial Advisor Marketing Podcast. That is a wrap for this week. I look forward to seeing you next week.
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