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8 Common Mistakes Small Business Owners Make When Delegating to Virtual Assistants

In the ever-evolving landscape of remote work, small business owners frequently rely on virtual assistants, but pitfalls abound. From CEOs to e-commerce managers, we've distilled the wisdom of eight professionals into key insights. They range from avoiding undertrained assistants to establishing clear guidelines, ensuring you can delegate effectively without common missteps.

  • Avoid Undertrained, Non-Native Speakers

  • Neglecting Rapport with Virtual Assistants

  • Overlook Cultural Differences at Your Peril

  • Set Realistic Virtual Assistant Goals

  • Ensure Clear, Consistent Communication

  • Proactively Manage Task Delegation

  • Provide Detailed Instructions Upfront

  • Establish Clear Guidelines and Expectations

Avoid Undertrained, Non-Native Speakers

Our biggest mistake when we hired virtual assistants was hiring individuals without proper training or experience, and those who did not speak our native language. After training, we put them on the phone with customers, trying to help them choose plants for their landscaping areas. 

We gave them 10 days of training, thinking that was sufficient. However, the training was highly insufficient, and the lady was from another country and could barely speak English.  It not only hurt our company but also resulted in bad reviews. It was a valuable lesson for me because, even though I could understand the English of the person we hired, most of our customers, who are over 55 years old, couldn't. 

As a result, they went elsewhere to buy plants. I realized that what took me 35 years to learn cannot be taught in just 10 days. Saving money by hiring people who can barely speak English is not a wise choice. It is essential to hire someone with the right experience, even if it costs more initially. In the long run, it will help you earn more, too.

Neglecting Rapport with Virtual Assistants

One common mistake small-business owners make when delegating to a virtual assistant is neglecting relationship building. Building a strong rapport and relationship with a virtual assistant is often overlooked or undervalued. This can result in a lack of trust, miscommunication, and a less collaborative work environment. 

For example, a small-business owner may fail to schedule regular check-ins or have casual conversations to understand the assistant's strengths, preferences, and challenges. By neglecting relationship building, the business owner misses out on the benefits of a trusting and collaborative partnership, which can hinder productivity and limit the assistant's ability to provide valuable insights and suggestions.

Overlook Cultural Differences at Your Peril

One common mistake small-business owners make when delegating to a virtual assistant is overlooking cultural differences. Failure to recognize and adapt to these differences can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings, affecting the quality of work. For example, a small-business owner from a direct-communication culture may unintentionally come across as rude or blunt to a virtual assistant from an indirect-communication culture, leading to strained interactions. 

To overcome this, small-business owners should invest time in understanding the virtual assistant's cultural background, communication style, and preferences. By embracing cultural diversity and adapting their communication approach, owners can foster a more effective and collaborative working relationship with their virtual assistants.

Roy Lau, Co-Founder, 28 Mortgage

Set Realistic Virtual Assistant Goals

Small-business owners often make the mistake of having unrealistic expectations when delegating to a virtual assistant. They may set high goals without considering the limitations of the assistant's time, resources, or expertise. 

For example, expecting a virtual assistant to handle an extensive, complex project within a short timeframe may lead to subpar results and frustration. Small-business owners should ensure they set achievable goals that align with the capabilities and limitations of virtual assistants.

Ensure Clear, Consistent Communication

One common mistake many small-business owners make when delegating to a virtual assistant is inadequate communication. Clear and consistent communication is vital for such work. Give clear instructions and actively provide feedback for constant improvement and increased specificity. Remain transparent about your goals and priorities to ensure alignment.

Fahad Khan, Digital Marketing Manager, Ubuy India

Proactively Manage Task Delegation

Often, small-business owners oversimplify the delegation process to a virtual assistant. They see it as a one-way transaction, where tasks are immediately handed over without much preparation or planning. 

Yet, my experience has shown that it's not that simple. Ignoring proactive components of task delegation like time estimations, progress tracking, and feedback loops can lead to inefficiencies. It's important not to just 'drop a task' on a virtual assistant, but instead, to consciously manage the delegation process for improved outcomes.

Nooran Zafarmand, Co-Founder and CEO, Japamana

Provide Detailed Instructions Upfront

A common mistake is not providing clear and detailed instructions. Virtual assistants, while skilled, are not mind-readers. It's crucial to communicate your expectations and requirements explicitly to avoid misunderstandings and ensure tasks are completed efficiently and correctly. This involves taking the time to create comprehensive task descriptions and being available to answer any questions your assistant might have.

Establish Clear Guidelines and Expectations

One common mistake I've observed is not providing clear guidelines or expectations when delegating tasks to a virtual assistant. It's crucial to communicate precisely what you need, set realistic goals, and establish a system for regular check-ins to ensure alignm

ent and successful outcomes. This clarity helps avoid misunderstandings and enhances the overall effectiveness of the working relationship.

John Frigo, Ecommerce Manager, Best Price Nutrition

Woman of color with dark brown curly hair sitting on a white couch with a pink laptop in her lap. She is looking at the laptop with her right hand covering her mouth looking surprised.


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