As an entrepeneur, the two things I struggle with most are finding the time to do the important work that grows my business, and fostering any sort of company culture with an entirely remote workforce.
But these are two things that Belay Solutions co-founder Bryan Miles has pulled off quite well, running a company of 700 plus employees and contractors, and every single one of them works from home. Belay Solutions launched in 2010 when Bryan and his wife both tired of working full time for others. He had been using a virtual assistant on his own, and with the Four Hour Workweek popularizing the concept, he saw a need for a U.S. based option that could do things an offshore firm couldn’t. In this episode we talk about how you can offload the things that bog you down, how to find a good personal assistant, and ways you can stop running your company and start owning it.
01:40 – How Bryan started Belay Solutions
07:50 – Where does he find great people?
10:50 – How do you foster teamwork with a remote workforce?
14:40 – Managing the relationship when working with a spouse
19:10 – What’s the next big category where virtual help will take over?
22:13 – What should be outsourced? How will it help?
30:30 – How to delegate like a pro.
43:05 – How long does it take to get an assistant up to speed?
44:30 – Document your process
47:30 – This is why it’s so damn hard
52.30 – Own your company, don’t run it
POST GAME ANALYSIS:
There’s really two parts to this episode. First, the idea of owning your business rather than running it. And second, the tips on how to find and use a personal assistant. But the beauty of the latter is that the lessons here are immediately and exactly applicable to using your employees properly. The result of delegating like a pro brings us full circle, letting you own your business with a 10,000 foot view, not run it from the trenches.
This is an important distinction. We’ve probably all heard (and had) the lament that we don’t have time to work on our business because we’re too busy working in our business. Delegating the things that you don’t enjoy or that others can do better than you frees up your time to focus on the things you love and that you’re best at. As a business leader, you should be doing two things:
First, do the things that you do better than anyone else and that makes your company special.
Second, delegate everything else to people that can do it better. Bryan also says to delegate “everything that’s low payoff to you”. Meaning, if you could pay someone less than what your own hourly rate would be, then you should offload it.
Sometimes, this means hiring someone else to run the day to day operations, too. At some point, a founder needs to decide if they’re going to transition into being a leader, or if they’re happy to keep doing the things they’re passionate about and let someone else “lead” the company. Hopefully, with your input, but not everyone is leadership material. And that’s OK.
How to best use an assistant
Another tip from Bryan: Don’t treat your assistant as an assistant. Treat them like an equal, and pave the way for them to be treated as equals among your peers and customers, too. This will help everyone realize that it’s OK to communicate directly with your assistant, that nothing will be lost in translation and that they’re not missing out by not dealing directly with you on every little thing. This is key to making it work and truly freeing up your time.
“Delegate results, not tasks.”
To do that, Bryan says you have to assume your working with “adults”. Treat them as such, set expectations, and explain the “why” of what they’re doing. This empowers them to make decisions on their own to achieve the end goal. If your assistants and employees don’t know why they’re doing something, or if they don’t know what the end goal is, they’ll just be following orders up until they get stumped. That’s not what you want. You want people to be able to think for themselves and find solutions on their own so that you aren’t constantly being pulled back into micromanagement. Give them the desired result, then let them run with it.
All of this will raise up their understanding of who they are in the grand scheme of things and fully appreciate how they represent you.
Making it easier to delegate
From a technical standpoint, I’ve found that creating detailed workflows outlining my processes for certain tasks helps to bring people up to speed quickly. Think of it like an employee manual, or instructions for machinery. Think through how you do something and make a step by step list of how you do it. Then let them try it, but also let them try it their own way. Because they might already know or find a better way to do it. The important thing is that they get the result you want.
This will feel like you’re not being productive, but as Bryan points out (to make me feel better), this is the type of work you have to do now. What you did before to get you to this point isn’t what’s going to take you to the next level. Making my process sheets and how-to documents isn’t exciting, but it’s crucial to growing the company beyond what I’m capable of doing on my own. Same for you, so get to it.
Setting expectations to find a good assistant
One of my biggest fears in hiring an assistant was that I’d spend so much time integrating them into my work life, and then they’d bail. And then there’s the trust issue, especially when we’re entrusting them to credit cards, travel plans, social media accounts and more. So how do we find and retain a good, long term trust-worthy assistant?
Well, there’s no guarantee. But Bryan suggests setting expectations ahead of time. Tell them what you expect them to do, and explain that this is a long term gig. My suggestion is to start small, too. Give them small tasks and work up to bigger and bigger things. This helps you train them to your way of thinking, but it also shows you if they’re capable of doing what you want.
The other thing that helps? Ask for referrals from people you trust. Or use a service like Belay that adds a manager to the account that sees what’s going on with your assistant so that it’s easier to transition to a new one should someone leave.
Become a specialist & own your company
Bryan’s parting advice deals with the mental and emotional challenge that all entrepreneurs face – letting go of the things we’ve been doing.
The challenge is to trust people to do what you’ve been doing during the early start up and growth phases. But once you start doing that, you’re able to focus more and more tightly on only those things that really move the needle in terms of growth. He likens this to a young doctor that starts as a generalist, but gradually becomes a specialist by leaning on the team around them so everyone can advance.
LINKS & RESOURCES:
- Get your own Virtual Assistant at BelaySolutions.com, mention “The Build Cycle” to get $200 off if you sign up.
- Download their free PDF guide to figure out what you can delegate.
- Check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
- Connect with Bryan on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
- Brian mentioned Jing and Loom for video screen capture. I like Quicktime for the Mac, which comes built into the OS. They also use SweetProcess for more detailed process documentation.
- Bryan recommends reading _________, and some of his inspiration for launching Belay came from Sam Walton’s Made in America. His own book on building a virtual business is called Virtual Culture. His wife’s book is called The Third Option and describes the opposite side of what we’ve talked about, and that’s how to become a virtual assistant…or any sort of side gig when leaving the house all day every day isn’t an option.
- He also recommends Predictable Success, which documents the various stages of a business.
Like this? Want more? Leave a comment or send me a note with what you’d like to learn more about and I’ll find a great guest with the answer! And please take a second to leave a quick review or rating for me on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher…it only takes a minute, but it helps SOOO much! Thanks!