It took me 6 years to hire my first employee, an intern, and I only did that because she cold called me. After talking with her I realized that if I paid her minimum wage she wouldn’t have to be too productive for her to be well worth my time and money. She turned out to be outrageously productive.
It took another year and a half to actually get someone experienced and knowledgeable about this industry to help with my day-to-day responsibilities. Looking back, waiting too long for help was one of my biggest mistakes and certainly the one I could have most easily done something about.
Like many who start from scratch, I was sure I needed every penny that came through the door to pay my business expenses and keep a roof over the head of my family. I’m not sure what I could have cut out, but I should have cut something and gotten help sooner. Paying others to do some work and leveraging my most valuable commodity, my time, has propelled my business much faster than anything else I did. My intern will be here 3 years at the beginning of June and its possible that in that time, we will have doubled in size from $36M in AUM to $72M. That’s not all because of my #1 intern, Allie, but hiring her was what started the ball rolling.
What turned out to be the most important hire so far was Jan. I have been working with Jan DeProspero and her company, Virtual Outsource Solutions, since November 2013 and I couldn’t be happier with the relationship. I had worked with a Virtual Assistant (VA) for a few months prior and it didn’t work out. After that experience I was somewhat reluctant to do it again, but I knew the benefits of having a VA and I felt like I had to give it another try. I am so glad I did.
In the beginning I had a difficult time assigning tasks because I would look at every task and think “I can just do that and it will take less time to do it then to create or explain the task, might as well save the time and money and do it myself.” I’m sure many who haven’t worked with a VA or are just starting to work with one have felt the same way. Since it took me 6 years to hire my first intern, I definitely know what it’s like to do, and feel like you have to do, everything in a business. I also understand all too well the feeling that things have to be done a certain way – that only I understand. I’m sure I’m not the only one starting a financial advisory business who has felt that way. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t the norm.
Of course, both ideas are completely wrong. In the real world, lots of things that should take no time (think scheduling appointments, new accounts, transfer paperwork) wind up taking a lot of time and sustained, diligent follow through, even with the best technology in place. Before I hired Jan I was doing all of those tasks that should just take a minute and working in the home office until as least 9 or 10 every night.
There are also plenty of ways to do things and in many instances, people are much better than me or know better ways of doing them. Imagine that! Jan is much better on the phone with my clients and prospective clients; I have had universally good feedback on that. She also does an amazing job of making sure clients follow up with what they are supposed to do and she does it in a way that doesn’t harass or frustrate the client, but makes the client want to get it done. I got an email to that effect from a client just the other day. She also knows how to deal effectively with my custodians – TD and Schwab. At the TD conference in January I realized I didn’t know anybody on my service team and I couldn’t help think that that was probably a really good sign.
The other issue of course is money and you are probably thinking “how the heck can I afford that hourly rate?” While it might seem like a lot, you can afford it because your own hourly rate should be much higher. If it isn’t now, it had better be soon. If you don’t assign tasks to your VA because you think you are saving money, you are actually spending way too much money on those tasks by doing them yourselves. Jan was with me for the full year last year. Including what I paid her, my net income went up by 5 times as much as I paid her. Maybe your business isn’t growing as fast, but maybe it could be.
Now that I am more than a year into my relationship with Jan, I am actively looking for tasks to assign to her. As advisors we all know that we should be spending the bulk of our time meeting with clients and working on solutions for them and planning for our businesses. If we want to do every task our businesses need done, we might be working hard, but we aren’t doing our clients or ourselves any favors. It took me 6 years to realize it, but you need help in order to be successful. The place to start is with a Virtual Assistant. I can’t speak highly enough of Jan and I’d urge you to reach out to her.