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Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant for Your Pet Business?

Lashonda Geffrard shares how bringing on a virtual assistant has changed her life and business for the better.

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WE ALL KNOW that having the right team is essential to business success. As a solo entrepreneur for seven years, I recently learned an important lesson in working smarter, not harder: Outsource! I stopped doing everything on my own by hiring a virtual assistant. She has been a life vest, helping me keep my head above water and swim in the right direction. I am now able to stay on task and better delegate at my grooming salon.

Now virtual assistants aren’t just for small-business owners with A.D.D. like myself; those with strong organizational skills also find tremendous value in having one. A virtual assistant can document operational processes and guidelines, create content for and manage social media accounts, and do just about everything in between. The benefits are endless, and by going the virtual route you save money by using the assistant only as needed and you save space by not devoting precious square footage and other resources at your business to their desk.

Before you begin the search for a virtual assistant of your own, set such a relationship up for success by asking yourself these two questions:

1. “What do I need right now?”

Every pet business is different, and we may be at different stages in our entrepreneurial journey and have different immediate and long-term goals. Identify the tasks of most importance to you, those that need to be done first. For me, it was creating an employee handbook. Hey, I’m a busy lady — I also founded and run the nonprofit Black Pet Business Network — and have always felt documenting processes was too big of a task to actually complete while also grooming and managing my staff. I really had no time! But I knew I needed to get them out of my head and on paper. I hired my assistant with this in mind and was ready to assign her this to-do.

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2. “What other elements do I want to improve?”

Take a long, hard look at every aspect of your business. Do staff respond to messages and emails and take calls in the best possible way? Is your marketing and social media good enough for now or does it truly reflect how you want to be represented? Are you networking in your community in a way that will grow your business? Think about the bigger picture ahead of time so you are ready to have your virtual assistant help execute your visions. And on that note, look for that quality in candidates: The ability to execute your vision without inserting their own.

Once you have the answers to these questions, incorporate them into your interview process. Ask candidates if they have done this kind of work for another small business and what were the results. The best will have examples to show and references to give that will qualify them for the role with you.

Be sure to take your time making this hire, as your virtual assistant will reflect on you and your business, just like your in-person employees do. There are seemingly endless options through online services, with Time etc., VaVa Virtual and Belay among those highly rated. I used Instagram to find my assistant, Kylie, so also consider social networks for recruitment. Shop around and don’t be led by just your budget; be open to hiring for the specific skill set and experience your business needs.

As entrepreneurs wearing all the hats, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Our many responsibilities can be crippling if not managed properly. A virtual assistant will change your life and your business for the better. Mine certainly has.

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Lashonda Geffrard co-owns The Paw Shop in Ocoee, FL. She also founded the Black Pet Business Network, a non-profit organization committed to growing Black-owned businesses and leaders in the pet care industry. You can reach her at [email protected].

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