Business Ideas

PA or VA?

Time is of the essence in today’s business world, and the culture of “being just so busy” all the time is the first symptom of that. People in higher positions, such as CEO’s and COO’s, now have more to do than ever and while technology helps somewhat, not much can replace delegating. My name is Jeremy Powers and in this post, I’ll discuss what having a PA or a VA would work for you and your company.

Many executives have stated that their Pa’s have figuratively saved their business lives on several occasions. Indeed, it does seem like having a personal assistant is a must in today’s commercial world. Some other executives have, however, reported that it was hard to find a PA that had completely met their expectations and they turned to a virtual assistant in addition to a human PA. While both options have their advantages, as well as drawbacks, only you can make the decision as to which option is yours. I’m going to take a look at traditional PA’s and VA’s and hopefully, by the time I’m done, you’d have a clearer idea of what each option would entail and which one you should go with.

Personal Assistant/PA, Anyone?

Firstly, a good PA would be invaluable for dealing with, for example, making your appointments and confirming them, giving you the documents to be signed and distributing the signed copies amongst the signees, and generally being your right-hand man or woman in the day-to-day running of the company. They have to be very, very organised, observant, and be able to pay attention to detail, perhaps even better than you, be somewhat flexible (the extent would depend on your industry and the size of your company, amongst other factors), and be your point of contact with your colleagues. The last point is particularly important – a good assistant needs to be able to establish rapports with a very diverse range of people. In their professional life, he or she is a reflection of you, and you would need them to perform many tasks that require face-to-face meetings. Think of them as an ambassador for you and for your brand – in essence, that is what they are. And a good ambassador is effectively a diplomat and able to draw his or her own conclusions from certain meetings, as well as maintain an efficient system within the workplace. He or she is able to anticipate your requests in order to exceed your expectations.

However, all the above qualities are probably possessed by 1 in a 100 PA’s, if that. A PA is a human being, just like you, and he or she isn’t going to be perfect. They are going to be able to do their best, but it’s not going to be smooth sailing all the time. And they’re certainly not going to be able to anticipate your needs in the first few weeks. A good PA is very adaptable and flexible, as I stated earlier, but there are things even an excellent PA could stumble on. And that’s a good thing – even if they have experience, all businesses are different and too much self-confidence resulting from that experience could easily affect their performance, and by extensions yours, in a negative way. They need to spend some time learning the ins and outs of the company in order to deliver the best possible results.

What are the Roles of a VA/Virtual Assistant?

Nonetheless, sometimes you just can’t afford giving a PA some time to adjust because you need things done urgently. In those cases, you might want to reconsider hiring one, even on a temporary basis. It is, after all, an investment, and investments should be smart. Fortunately, technology now allows us to have virtual assistants, or VA’s, that can work as a PA for you and perhaps even other executives in your company. A VA is a person, often a freelancer, that doesn’t work in your office but usually from home, and acts as your assistant from their computer. Many executives say that they’ve never actually met their VA but they’re overall very pleased with their work.

A VA could be an excellent idea if your company is quite large and you don’t think that hiring a PA for each executive would be a very fiscally responsible decision and you, quite reasonably, don’t want a single PA being all over the place and making mistakes as a result. It is also an excellent way to save on costs, such as PA’s salary and office space.

In other ways, however, a VA is not too different from a PA in terms of entry requirements and responsibilities. Communication skills are still a requirement, perhaps even more so – a lot of business is done over the Internet nowadays, so written communication is at the centre of everything. A VA is still an ambassador of your company, so if they have poor writing skills, it would reflect quite badly on you. Another advantage is the flexibility, since most VA’s are freelancers. If you’re not satisfied with them, you’d just have to look for another one on the Internet.

If you do most of your operations online, it would be a sufficient introduction to your VA in most cases so that they don’t have to come into the office to get to know everything, which would save everybody quite a bit of time. Of course, IT skills are higher up on the list of a VA’s entry requirements than on a PA’s for that very reason. Organisation skills are equally as important – since most VAs work for several executives instead of one or two, they would need to keep on top of many things and not get confused and overwhelmed.

However, no VA is perfect, although I’m sure there’s a VA out there that’s perfect for your company. First of all, a single VA isn’t really suitable for a large company, mostly because of the number of executives he or she would be assisting. You could of course hire a team of VAs, and that has been done, but the risks would be higher in that case. A small or a medium company would benefit more from a VA. In large companies, face-to-face communication is still an important part of business, for which a PA would work a lot better than a VA, for obvious reasons.

In my opinion, an SME would benefit more from a VA than a PA, not least because of the monetary concerns. Chances are that you want your company to grow and expand, and that takes a lot of time, making you a very busy executive. Sometimes a PA would be very helpful with that but as I said earlier, they take time to adjust to how things work in a certain workplace and to your expectations. A VA, on the other hand, would be able to complete certain tasks as you set them with little hassle.

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