row of brightly colored file folder albums

I believe a VA should, when at all possible, leave a client better off than when the relationship began.

There are many ways your VA can do that for you, but none, I believe, is more important than creating and/or maintaining comprehensive policy and procedure documents for your business—at the very least, for every bit of work that she does for you, and store them in a place you both can access quickly and easily (like Dropbox, or a collaborative work space. Mine are in Basecamp which I love with every ounce of my small-business soul).

If you’re a business owner who already has detailed P&Ps, this will confirm what you know (and kudos to you!). And if you’re a business owner who has none, or has a few that maybe haven’t been updated in some time, no shame!! Know that you are not alone. Lots of tiny business owners, especially those that fly solo until a VA comes along, won’t have them.

And, if you have a long list of things you need help with, and you don’t believe P&P docs are needed, you won’t likely see the value in paying your VA to create or maintain them. When she brings it up as something she wants to do for you, you’ll likely say no in deference to one of the things you think is far more important. And that’s your choice, but guess what? Any VA worth her salt is going to be making them for herself, anyway, so that she can make sure that she’s doing her work well and smartly.

She’s standing for your business and her part in it, even if you think it’s a waste of her time and your money.

And, in a perfect world, should it happen that you and your VA part company, or she takes an extended vacation, or become ill, you’d be in great shape because she’d have put those docs somewhere where you can access them. And you, or someone else, can just pick up the work and carry on.


Once upon a time, I was asked to consult to a woman and her husband who owned a small business. They lived on the east coast of the US. Their VA lived on the west coast. When asked, the client didn’t have any real information about how their business operated. “My VA has everything,” the woman said. I tried to explain why that was unwise, and why all of that information should be in a shared online environment. Her husband said, “You expect us to look at that stuff?” I said, “No. But it’s important for you to be able to look at it and access it should you need to.”

Neither of them liked that idea, and we didn’t get far in the consultation.

A year later, the wife called me in a panic.

“Jessica (not the VA’s real name) DIED!” How do we get our business information?”

It was a mess. Jessica was single. The client had never really gotten to know her, so they didn’t know who to call. And Jessica, not expecting to die, didn’t have anything set up to help her loved ones.

Did I mention that it was a mess?

It also ended up costing the client a TON of money to figure things out so that the business could continue.

And, sure, that’s a worst-case scenario. But clearly possible. And completely avoidable.

And let’s say it’s not the worst-case scenario. Let’s say that the two of you amicably decide to end the relationship.

You still don’t have the P&P docs. Why? Because you didn’t want her to create them, didn’t pay for them, and they’re not yours.

Think about how painful it would be to find yourself in that situation.

Maybe your VA will offer to sell them to you (if she can; if she’s sick or dead, that’s not likely possible). If offered, I suggest you pay whatever she asks for them. They’re likely worth their weight in gold.

But a smarter play, in this scenario and every single other one I can think of, would be to not just “allow” her create and maintain them and charge you for that work, but for you to make it an important part of what she does for you, and to see it as one of the most invaluable investments you can make in the well-being of your business.

Then, come what may, you will always know where to find the information you need to make sure that your business is able to continue and thrive. Surely, that’s worth investing in, yes?