How to Manage a VA – My 4 Level Team Management System
This is part 2 in my series on how I hire and manage my team of outsourced workers. Like I said in my first post (how to hire a VA) my ability to get a team of VA’s working for me is mission critical – my business fails if I can’t outsource.
The key to successfully working with a VA is the same as successfully managing people in the real world. It is very simple but not easily done well…
“Provide clear instructions on who is doing what by when”
Common quote I first heard from one of my favorite podcasts – Manager Tools
Disclaimer – I am not as good at this as this post looks. When I hear other people talking about how they systematize their business its all sunshine and roses and their systems all work perfectly. Let me be clear I have much of the system outlined below working well but there are A LOT of areas for me to still improve upon.
What I am sharing below are the tools I use to manage my team to ensure we are always clear on “who is doing what by when”. These are not golden rules or miracle makers they are simply the most effective tools I have found to manage a team of VA’s. These have been changed over the years but after almost 30k hours of managed hours on ODesk I believe I have a reasonable handle on it.
Recap – How to Hire a VA
Last week I shared how I go about hiring a VA. To recap my process is…
- Post a job
- Wait 12-24hrs and hire the best 2-3 applicants
- Give them a trial job
- Keep the best contractor
Last time I hired 2 and gave them a simple research assignment.
The result was one VA did a great job with excellent communication while one submitted 15hrs of “offline hours” – I forgot to uncheck “allow offline hours” and the results were very poor. I asked the VA who submitted the offline hours and poor results what happened and he admitted he was busy so he had someone else do the work for him (this is the problem with offline hours). So after 2 emails back and forth he agreed to withdraw the offline hours and I ended his contract. The second VA did great and produced some clean well researched lists and is now working within my team.
Once I have hired and tested out a VA it is time to embed them into my team management system. That is what part 2 of this series is going to focus on…
Part 2 – My 4 Level Outsourced Team Management System
My business is split up into 4 levels and each level has their own documents.
- Level 4 – Business Control Documents
- Vision and Goals
- Profit/Loss, Accounting
- Level 3 – Project Control Documents
- PayMyStudentLoans Project Plan
- Niche Websites Control Document
- Expired Domain Project Document
- Level 2 – Task Control Documents
- Article Creation
- Blog Commenting & Guest Post Outreach
- Research Post Creation
- Level 1 – SOP’s (Standard Operating Documents)
- Blog post publishing
- WordPress speed increase
- Expired domain searching (see examples I shared in my guide)
Task Control Documents (Best Place to Start Building a System!)
With the multiple levels the best place to start is with the task control document and then grow out a management system from there.
The management system I use is that for each task control document is that I have one document which is typically split into 2 parts…
- Part 1 – Training(review material and SOPs) and task set up (1 time tasks)
- Part 2 – Procedure links (SOPs), Tracking and Reporting
Typical Task Control Document
Part 1 provides all the information for someone picking up the job cold to get trained and set up to start working. While part 2 is the sheet where people live day to day inputting their work completed.
The combination of the standard operating document (part 1) with the embedded quantifiable reporting (part 2) makes the entire process effective.
The thing of beauty about this process for me is all the benefits…
- The ability to easily add multiple team members to the same task and clearly assign who is doing what by when.
- Split a task which was formerly completed by one person up to multiple people you can simply change the name in the responsibility column and it’s done.
- Bolt together multiple Task Control Documents under one Project Control Document (see the image below…)
- Inner Circle = Project Control Document
- Outer Circle = Task Control Document
Each of the Outer Circles are their own Task Control Documents with specific SOP’s for each. So when I launch a new site I simply bolt up the strategies I want to use and add the details I need to into the Google document responsible for managing each task. (it really isn’t quite that easy but that is the goal)
Naturally some of the above strategies are more mature/developed and effective. For example I have a social media task document but it is terrible and has proven to not be effective yet.
It wouldn’t be an AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com post without an example and template for you to use…
Task Control Document = Site Maintenance (Speed, Security and Monetization Checks)
I am going to use a task that if you are reading this you will likely get extra value from. This is the task one of my VA’s does with all my money websites once and then reviews monthly.
The purpose of this task document is to improve the usability of a website and ensure all monetization links are still working.
For this control document it is broken down into 3 parts…
- Take baseline information
- Improve website speed (7 steps)
- Improve website security (7 steps)
- Check all monetization links (pretty link lite) and review homepage to ensure everything is still functioning correctly
- Record data (time taken, speed improvement etc)
6 Final Team Management Tips…
- Coaching is always required! Whenever I am assigning someone new to a task I make sure to give them the training, ask them to do a couple of the tasks and then review and coach. For some tasks I have a task manager who does the training but whenever I have tried to skip the hands on training I have regretted it!
- Systems should adapt to peoples strengths – systems are best when they are flexible and enablers of great performance. Both the systems and the people should adapt to get to optimal performance. I make sure to not treat every team member as an interchangeable
- The magic is in the iterations – Starting with a system and then improving upon it over and over again is how you can really start to see substantial performance improvements. In the example above we tried multiple different speed improvement strategies and started to see what gave us the biggest improvement for the amount of time spent.
- What gets measured gets improved – this is essential. Defining what KPI’s make sense to track and which ones don’t. If you track the wrong metric it can incetivize behaviour you don’t want to see. For example when developing a money site I don’t want to measure the speed with which the site got created.
- People are the key – I will take better people over a better system any day. In my limited experience if I am struggling with a poor performer improving the system will not change their performance and conversely if I have a star it is because they are great and not because the system is great.
- Redundancy is important – Even if I have a team member who is killing it for me on one task I want to make sure at least one other team member knows how to do the task almost as well. This is very important when dealing with turnover or absenteeism.
You will notice I don’t talk about any project management software here! My day job involves managing a $30M project involving a 6,000 step Primevara (Microsoft project on steroids) project plan and I find Google documents laying out the milestones of a project and then creating follow up lists the most effective at bringing new people up to speed quickly. All project software has a certain amount of training time before someone is embedded in the system and I want to minimize that time as much as possible.
I would be interested in hearing what other people do to manage their online work/projects. There is something we can all learn from each-other. My system works for me but it is not perfect and it may not be right for you/your business.