One day I woke up and suddenly I was 39 years old. The proud owner of an upper middle class home overlooking Lake Ontario in the “nice” part of town. A wife, two kids, two Labrador Retrievers, two new vehicles on lease, and an expanding cold storage business in Eastern Michigan.
Never enough hours in the day
A month earlier, my doctor had warned that my blood pressure was much too high for someone of my age and that I needed cut my stress levels by at least half, to avoid putting myself in an early grave. It was no surprise that my health was starting to suffer before I even crossed the bridge to 40. I had been a one man number crunching, phone-in-one-hand, tablet-in-the-other, paperwork-loving-machine for the better part of the six years I’d been running my business.
I had to do everything after all, like so many stubborn business owners. There was money in the budget for administrative and accounting staff, I just never got around to it and didn’t really have enough office space allocated for admin staff in the warehouse (you don’t make money on office space in the storage business).
I needed to hire someone or suffer the consequences…
The idea of passing any inkling of real control over my business to other people scared the heck out of me. CCS was my baby, I didn’t want to pass any of the reigns, but something had to change. I couldn’t do it all anymore, including 14 hour days with my face stuck to a computer screen tracking and tracing all the logistics involved with shipping/receiving, and handling fulfilment requests, accounting, payroll, etc.
Wife to the rescue!
My wife, Jen, who had spent most of her adult life working in real estate, told me it was standard practise in a real estate business to use virtual assistants to accomplish repetitive tasks, since office space at her office was so limited. See, with three realtors for every listing across America, office space is hard for realtors to come by when working out of a branch or home office. And renting an office of their own, then dealing with the cost of in-house staff is a major expense to take on.
She told me that for the really simple work like data entry, email sorting, photo-editing, and posting updates to social media, Jen and the other realtors at her office use an inexpensive but reputable overseas outsourcing service to supply them with administrative staff as needed. For more complicated tasks that require educated, English-speaking VAs, they use a US-based firm that sources stateside virtual talent to put together their marketing material, deal with customer inquiries, and manage their listings.
The fact that virtual assistants don’t need office space or benefits provided to them really tickled the thrifty side of me that had built a thriving business inside six years…
Around five days later, I signed up with a service called 24/7 Virtual Assistant to save myself the hassle of trying to recruit good people on my own. The Company manages all the hiring, testing, firing, etc., for me. This was important to me and my workflow and I hit the jackpot on the first try with two great workers “Elijah” and “Debbie”.
Elijah handles all the customer service requests via phone and email, yet still manages to find time to handle and update all the payable and receivables that are constantly coming in to the business every day.
Debbie is an administrative firecracker, inputting tracking and inventory data, completing online research as needed, and basically just about anything else that I pass her way.
Over the six months that I’ve been using these two life savers, my work and home life have become much less stressful and for the first time in six years, I’m considering opening up another location. I would have never been able to consider such a move a half year ago, when there were just never enough hours in the day, or days in the month to get things done.
It’s not that I get to work fewer hours now, but I’m much more passionate working toward expansion opportunities, and having time to help my sales staff to up their game by going out on prospecting meetings with them and getting to hear valuable customer feedback that will only benefit my business in the long run.
Hallelujah for Internet access and virtual assistants!