I’m Stu Lustman and I virtualize some but very little of my business so far.
Disclaimer: I am trying to virtualize more than I do now. Also, I may bring up technical topics but I am not a techie. My business is in commercial finance.
ne of my very best clients over the years is a small software development company that develops some excellent custom software and web applications for mid-sized to larger organizations. These guys are very talented and credentialed and wrote textbooks used by Microsoft in their trainings and at technical schools like Va Tech and Georgia Tech.
When I asked them how they evaluated a prospect to see if it was the kind of job they could do and if the software they wrote would solve their problem, I got a very simple answer: The System. If the system was already good, then the idea of using software to replicate that system was significantly more likely to be successful.
In fact, they said their favorite kind of system to work with was a PAPER system. What?!? I had to ask why with what must have been a WTF kind of look on my face. Here was the explanation they gave me:
A good paper system tracks everything going on in a particular process. Maybe it’s a sales process or a manufacturing process but it doesn’t matter. A good paper system tracks what is going on, where it came from, where it can and should go next and what the projected outcome would be. So this top programmer, a Microsoft MVP programmer, told me he loves paper. If it’s a good paper system, then its an easy system to automate with custom software. It’s easier to implement and more likely to be successful.
As entrepreneurs, we need a system that can be automated before it can be virtualized. Only after automation can we virtualize, since virtualization is essentially automation but taking ourselves and our employees out of the process. We run into problems with how we virtualize ourselves because the inherent system in place is not a system at all or its lacking.
We cannot assume that even with the proper training that our VAs will understand our business to the extent that we do so we need to help them out. Here’s what I have done so far and it seems to work ok for me (although its most definitely a work in progress):
1) Use paper or simple software applications like MSFT Office or some Google Apps depending on the process involved to create your system and importantly, use it yourself to see its effective and makes sense
2) Determine how you can automate it so that you don’t have to be there to ‘push every button’ and insure every piece moves from step to step in the process
3) See how you can remove yourself from the process through use of things like flow charts and decision trees so your VA can spend their time working for you and not guessing what to do next
Are you getting the most out of your VA? When asking this question you should be asking yourself, does this system make sense to someone else besides me? If you can’t explain your system to a 10 year old then it’s too complicated.
When we want to virtualize a part of our business, we can’t just do it in a haphazard manner. We have to think about what system do we use now (if we even have one), how do we best automate that system and then how do we take ourselves out and virtualize it.
And much to my own surprise, the use of a paper system to start with helps make this process much easier to accomplish and lets you get the most out of your VA and the time you spend with them. I welcome your comments, questions and experiences in how you virtualize aspects of your business.