Molly wrote to ask:
Having thought about it a lot, I know I need two VAs. What’s the best strategy for choosing two and getting started with them at the same time?
Molly, in my experience, starting with two at the same time is not the way to go.
We humans, many of us like group interaction, but even In groups we tend to break off into smaller groups, and often feel safest when we’re spending 1:1 time with another.
It’s one of the reasons why most of us don’t find satisfaction in seriously dating two people at the same time. It’s confusing, it’s frustrating, it’s energetically draining, and doesn’t often have a particularly good outcome.
What I suggest is starting with one. Find your sidekick—your right-hand person. Some think of this person as the “main” VA. Spend the time to develop that relationship, and get good and strong working together. Develop systems and processes. Make the admin and operations of your business as strong as you can together. And once you have that primary dyad (two people in the relationship) in a really good place, then start the process of bringing someone else in.
Before you do, the two of you will also want to figure out the structure of your team, because that decision will inform the search process.
Do you, for instance, want what I call the “hub-and-spoke” team model? That’s where you’re the hub, the VAs (and any other professionals you may have on your team) are the spokes, and although they all connect to you, they don’t connect to one another.
Some people love this model because they keep a hand in all the pies, and they’re able to invest in all the different relationships.
Some people dislike it because it keeps everyone else out of the overall loop (if they’re not connected to each other, they have no real sense of what’s going on in other parts of your company). If you feel that way, you can create a model where everyone knows everyone else, understands how all the pieces fit together, and there are bigger team meetings, and you work with them together as well as separately.
Either way, you’re going to be glad you have a primary dyad. But if you choose the hub/spoke model, only you need to be involved with choosing the new team member(s) because you’ll be the only person interacting with him/her/them.
If you choose a more “whole” team model, then the person you created the original dyad with should be involved in the search and choosing with you of the next addition. And then the two of them should be involved with you in the search and choosing of the next addition, and so forth. The reason for that is that for a team to be great, they have to fit with one another as much as they fit with you. So having them be involved, rather than just plunking a new team member down in their midst and asking them to figure it all out is super-smart from where I sit and leads to greater long-term success.
No matter how you do it, make sure YOU do it and make sure you stay involved with the team. Some people think that as they grow, they need to be less involved with the folks who support them, and unless you’re building a large company (in which case, you’d likely move to an employment model), I wouldn’t suggest it.
Here’s a story:
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Anastacia, who had a great idea for a business. She never intended it to be huge, wanted to work with great people who believed in her vision and the work the company did, and intended to dent the world, not take it over.
As the company grew, she began working with contractors of various sorts to help her with the increasing work demands. At first, she knew them all, had great relationships with them all, and together, they did some pretty cool stuff.
One day, she met a guru. And the guru told her that she shouldn’t be engaging with most of them. In fact, she shouldn’t be engaging with most of her customer base, either. The idea was planted that she should shut herself away in an ivory tower (of sorts), create departments with department heads who would be the sole people who could get through the door and up the stairs to her in the tower. The girl thought that made sense, and so she built the tower and locked herself in.
And, truth be told, it was pretty terrific for a time.
But then she noticed how disconnected she felt—from the people, and from the work.
And she noticed that the work was suffering.
And she noticed that the people were less happy.
And that all made her very unhappy.
So much so that she sent the guru away and knocked the tower down, keeping only a very small office with a door that was easy to knock on by just about anyone. She went out and reconnected with her team, the people who loved her work, and the work itself. She was thoughtful with her time and made sure there was enough of it for the people, as well as for the work.
For a time, it was hard. Some people weren’t happy with her, feeling that she’d minimized the relationships they’d shared. The work needed to be improved again.
But in fairly short order, happiness returned to the land.
The moral of the story: Nothing good happens when you separate yourself. Stay connected to what (and who) matters most. Prioritize them to see the success you care about. Give to get.