Here is the transcript page for episode #15.
Please visit the full episode page #15 – Danielle Cuomo – Grow your business the right way with USA based Virtual Assistants! For complete show information.
Transcripts may contain a few typos and can be difficult to catch minor errors sometimes.
This episode is brought to you by ENLIGHTENED TRADING COMMUNITY.
If you are somebody who has any interest in trading the financial markets — short term or long term — stocks, options, futures, forex, and more -, please click this link on my website and be sure to join our mailing list. We are currently in private beta with Enlightened. Enlightened is a trading community and will provide great information and lots of free resources. We have tons of things planned for expansion to give anyone interested in becoming better at finance and investing and trading your money some great opportunities. Get on them ailing list today, and let’s get trading and better managing our money!
Full transcripts are below
PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:
Rick Mazur owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of A Traders Life podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO: You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “A Traders Life – Rick Mazur” and link back to the rickmazur.life/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Rick Mazurs’ name, image, or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Rick Mazur or (obviously) license photos as available and desired.
Rick Mazur: Hey Danielle, how are you?
Danielle Cuomo: Hi, Rick. I’m great. How are you?
Rick Mazur: Pretty good. We have Danielle Cuomo with us today, and we’re going to talk a bit about virtual assistants that people could hire and help them grow and sustain their businesses. For the past 13 years, your area of expertise is remote work and hiring these virtual assistant teams in place of traditional employees for either long-term or short-term gap assistance. Your company, virtual assistant USA has the largest team of all US-based virtual assistants in the country. And you’ve been around as long or longer than most. From personal experience with outsourcing, not so much virtual assistants, I can tell you that US-based is very important as tell the audience, and we can discuss that a little bit later on. On that note, let’s just get right to it. How does somebody know when or if they need to hire a virtual assistant?
Danielle Cuomo: That’s a great question. I think most of my clients come to me when they are at the boiling point. They have just found themselves drowning in work. I have no other option. I need to hire an assistant. So that does work, but I think it’s a best practice to look ahead and hire a virtual assistant before you need one. One thing to look at that I think is that are there things in my business that someone else can do better or faster or cheaper, more efficiently than I can. Everyone’s not an expert in everything, so if your business expertise is generating revenue, talking to customers, and developing strategy, thinking about growth, that sort of thing.
Then you shouldn’t also be scheduling your appointments, writing your social media posts, following up on invoices, that sort of thing. That’s not where your genius zone lies. So when you get to the point in your business where you want to differentiate from that, I think it’s important to think about hiring a virtual assistant at that time.
Rick Mazur: so I know for myself too, I fell into this where somebody would say, okay, I have this business, and I’m doing this stuff, and it’s just quicker to handle it myself. How does somebody’s mindset kind of change to get them over that hump? Because I know for me, that was always for years and years the biggest issue. And is there anything you could suggest to somebody or a way to look at things a little bit differently?
Danielle Cuomo: Yes. So I always use this analogy when I’m talking to someone about this sort of reluctance to. To outsource something when you think I could just do it myself or will it take me that long of a time, et cetera. So if you’re right-handed and you write with your right hand, and you do everything with your right hand, it would be like all of a sudden, starting to write with your left hand, you could do it, but it wouldn’t be as nice.
It wouldn’t be as efficient. It wouldn’t look as good, et cetera. And so, I like to put it in those simple terms to help people think of it like that. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something or that you’re the best person to be doing it.
Rick Mazur: That makes sense. What should somebody look for when they hire a virtual assistant?.
Danielle Cuomo: well, there are a few things to think about. So one, you touched on with the offshore versus American companies. Do you want to go offshore? Do you want to stay in the US? And then, from there, you want to talk about the virtual assistance experience. So in my company, we only hire virtual assistants with a minimum of 10 years of experience if you’re looking in like the five to 10-year range is a good range to look for. And so, really, when you’re thinking about hiring a virtual assistant, that’s one of the first things that you want to think about.
That doesn’t always translate well from office to remote. You don’t want someone just starting entry-level working remotely or virtually because it’s very different from working in an office, and there’s a different set of skillsets. So the person must have experience working as a virtual assistant. Another thing that you want to look at is how the VA bills.
So a lot of VA’s will bill monthly, and some do not roll over their hours. And you have to find 20 hours of work every month. So if you want to do 20 hours a month, you’re committed to 20 hours every month. So it’s important to look for a company that does rollover hours or is more flexible where you don’t have to commit to a certain number of hours per month.
It just makes it easier on you as a client. And another thing that you want to look for is the VA’s communication style. So can you call the VA, text, email, do video calls, whatever your comfort level and preferred communication method? You want to make sure that the virtual assistant is going to do that as well. That’s probably another important thing.
Rick Mazur: Okay. As you mentioned, the rollover hours work basically like a mobile phone plan or whatever you buy a pack of hours. And then can you roll them over indefinitely? Can you keep piling up, or is there some limit?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. So with my company, they roll over indefinitely. You can use them at any time they don’t expire. And that’s something that you do want to look for. And even if it’s not something that rolls over indefinitely, definitely look for someone a little more flexible with the hours so that you’re not concerned with meeting a certain hourly target every month.
And you can be concerned with just working with your virtual assistant.
Rick Mazur: You talked about it a little bit, and I don’t know if that’s what you meant with the US-based vs. Overseas but are there different types of outsourcing, and how do you know which one might be best for your particular company?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah, so there is outsourcing overseas, and the greatest advantage to that is that it’s a lot cheaper. So you can hire a virtual assistant for a few dollars an hour there three, four, or $5 an hour. Significantly cheaper than hiring anyone in us. The disadvantages to that are if there’s a language barrier, security, and privacy confidentiality type issues, as well as turnaround time.
So if you’re working with someone who is a 12 hour time difference from you, there will be some delays in response time and turnaround time. That is one way to do outsourcing. Some people will do that for types of tasks that aren’t time-sensitive. They don’t require specialized skills, and they can save some money by doing that.
So things like data entry, maybe researching for a podcast to appear on, for example, is something that some people will offshore. And then the other way to outsource is to work with an American company. In my company, I hire everyone as an employee and take care of their benefits, vacation, time, and all of that.
And then my VA is just working with the client. On an as-needed on-demand basis. And so it’s similar to a staffing agency with a lot less of the risk for the client. So you can use as much or as little as you need in an outsourcing model that way.
Rick Mazur: That’s good. And I can only speak, from my experience, we were working with a company out of India. And it was everything that you said cheaper per hour. But in our experience, what ended up happening was they’ll give you a cheaper hourly rate, but it just ends up taking them two or three times longer to do the task.
And then, of course, The language barrier. They almost had to have a project manager in the middle that spoke English that would then translate. And then they’re billing you for the project manager. And so when you added all that up and ended up productivity-wise, you didn’t end up saving a whole lot.
So sure. It’s ten or $15 an hour in our case. But you had to have another guy. Having people in the US, even if it costs a little more, I think you can get around a lot of that and better. So I know if I were going to do it again, I would go to us for sure. What are some of the most common tasks outsourced?
I know you’ve mentioned a few, but are there things that are very common that somebody could make a little checklist?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah, so overwhelmingly, and one of the most popular tasks requests that we get to help me with my emails. Many entrepreneurs feel like they’re drowning in their inbox or hanging out in their email inbox all day, just putting out fires and not getting much productive work done.
And so email management is something, and handling email correspondence is something that many people will request from their VA. That’s probably our most popular task or most requested task. Another one is social media. They are creating a social media strategy, developing the content making the posts, reviewing the analytics, tweaking the strategy, if need be, that sort of thing.
And then also research. I am so researching prospective people or companies to put in your pipeline. As I mentioned, maybe researching podcasts to become a guest. I am researching competitors and doing sort of a SWOT analysis on that. Those are probably our top three most requested tasks.
Rick Mazur: Walk me through a little bit more on the email portion because I’ve never used anybody for that. I’m just trying to think like I have all this email coming in, and how does somebody know how that would all be structured so that it would work best? So like for me, with my emails, how would you train somebody?
Danielle Cuomo: So it takes some work at the outset with the client and VA working together to establish some of the most frequent types of emails and answer those questions. And then what the VA can do is respond to those emails, Polish the content up a little bit, make sure that it’s responded to more quickly. And then the owner of the email inbox might be able to do it just because. Busy with other things. And then what we try to do is take care of about 80% of someone’s email inbox. And then we find that generally speaking, about 20% is stuff that the client needs to handle. But what we do is we send in a recap at the end of the day.
Some clients do the one in the middle of the day, one at the end of the day. So it just depends on your volume, but we send a recap at the end of the day that says how many emails came through, how many were answered, any action steps that the client needs to do, anything they need to prioritize, and then a sort of a daily reflection.
Today you’ve got a lot of emails concerning this one issue. So that’s something that you might want to look at. As an example, there
Rick Mazur: and on the emails. So are we talking? Are they having access to your email box, or are they getting forwarded? How is that typically up?
Danielle Cuomo: Both ways. Brand and email address for the client’s company or the VA’s logging into the client’s email directly and helping to sort things, put things in folders, set up filters. So it’s dependent on the client’s comfort level where either they will get forwarded to a VA’s email inbox.
That sort of thing.
Rick Mazur: so you’re literally going through that, and you’re actually training people and saying okay, here are the four or five or six different types of emails. Typically get, and if one comes in like this, here’s the protocol. And then they would know what to do, correct.
Danielle Cuomo: So in, in most cases, if somebody has a prospective client that emails. A pretty standard way to handle that. There’s maybe a set of questions you ask or a process you take through a link. You might ask them to go to whatever that might be. And so that’s an example of it’s handled, mostly the same way every time.
The VA can add in a few personalized sentences and just make the email feel a little more personal, but we find that most clients get the same types of emails over and over again. And we can just make that more efficient.
Rick Mazur: Or if it’s a scheduling thing for meetings, whatever you can do. And I’m just trying to picture from it because I would never have thought to use social media. I could see even podcast scheduling but managing email. I just never would’ve thought. And maybe other people haven’t either because we get many emails, at least I do anyway. Are there things that you wouldn’t want to let a virtual assistant do certain functions? You’d want to keep its house.
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah, but the only thing that I say is important to keep in house is thinking about the growth and planning for your company. So, where do you want to be in one year and five years and that strategic thinking and mindset? I think that’s something that can only come from the entrepreneur who has the company’s vision.
You know the mission and everything in mind, but that’s generally the only thing I say that you can’t outsource everything else is something that can pretty easily be outsourced to someone else to a virtual assistant.
Rick Mazur: Okay. And are there mistakes that you see businesses make when they outsource that maybe we can help some listening people avoid?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. So one of the more common mistakes that I see, and I touched on it a little bit, but spending enough time at the outset with the virtual assistant. So that’s important. The relationship with your virtual assistant is very close. And so you must get along on a personal level as well.
As I had said, most clients come to me, and they’re swamped. They’re at their boiling point, and they need a virtual assistant. And so it can be hard in a busy schedule like that too, to set aside an hour to meet with your virtual assistant each week to talk about projects and priorities and things like that.
But that’s important. I can’t stress that enough to develop that rapport with your VA to talk to your VA about why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you want the VA to do what you’re requesting them to do. For example, suppose you’re talking to a VA about researching some competitors, for example. In that case, you could certainly say, research these five competitors, but if you take it a step further and you say research these five competitors because, in the next three years, I think that we’re going to grow enough to acquire one of them.
And I want to start thinking about that. You’re giving the VA a little bit more information. You’re telling them your vision, what your ultimate goal is with that task. And it just helps the VA get in a different mindset with the task as well. So I think the lack of communication is a big mistake that a lot of people make.
But it’s really easy to fix. You can just carve out an hour a week, hop on a call with your VA. And that’s all you need to do.
Rick Mazur: you have direct access to them.
Danielle Cuomo: Yes. Yes.
Rick Mazur: Okay. And so somebody decides that they want to hire a virtual assistant. They get them all trained. They’re working with. You wouldn’t want to lose somebody good because it’s hard to find a good relationship, just like anything. It’s hard to find a good employee.
Are there any tips that you can give people to keep that virtual assistant? Are there any tips to keep them working for you, and everybody has to be happy in the situation? So is there anything you could offer in that regard?
Danielle Cuomo: Yes. So I think the first step to that retention happens in the recruiting process when you’re interviewing VA’s when you’re sourcing a VA and talked about wanting to find a VA with experience. This can be a job that it’s a misconception that people will think I could do this.
Part-time I can freelance doing this. I can do it on nights and weekends when my kids are asleep, that sort of thing. That’s not what you want. You want to look for a virtual assistant that is in this as a career. It’s their full-time job. It’s what they’re doing 40 hours a week. It’s what they’ve been doing.
So if you look at Their background and experience, they’ve been hopping from job to job or career to career every few months or every few years. The chances are nothing that you do was going to make them happy. So that’s an important thing to look at at the outset. And then secondly, once you’re already working with the VA, I found it’s a great idea to come up with a set of agreeable standards that you both agree on of things like turnaround time.
So, for example, all projects will be completed in half of a business day. And if that’s reasonable to you and is reasonable to the VA, Boom. You’ve got standard things like how fast emails should be responded to different benchmarks and metrics—and just coming up with a few of those with the VA in a collaborative way, writing them down and then touching base every couple of months and seeing if you’re meeting those and it gives the VA.
Something to reach for and something tangible that they can achieve. And it gives you some benchmarks on being able to assess how your VA is doing. And it just also provides another communication point where you can again spend time talking to the VA, developing your relationship. That’s important.
And then lastly, One thing that I would that I see a lot of is that virtual assistants often ask clients. I know that I’m asking our clients a lot. How is your VA doing? How are things going with your VA? Is there anything we can do better? I think that’s important for a client to ask.
How am I doing as your client? Could I communicate things better? Can I give you more leeway with deadlines or advanced notice? Is there something about the way that I provide instructions that I could do more efficiently? What can I do better? And so I think that two-way feedback is another good suggestion.
Rick Mazur: it’s good because I assume that some people, when they hire a virtual assistant, they’re doing it along the lines of, I want to save myself time, but you actually have to put in a little work as well from your end which some people might not know, which is, and doing all these things with your virtual assistant will also make for better productivity as well.
Danielle Cuomo: exactly.
Rick Mazur: Yeah, I would assume. What are some pros and cons for choosing an individual verse a team?
Danielle Cuomo: So I think within, with an individual, one thing is that you have the opportunity always just to be working with that virtual assistant. When looking at a team with a broader range of skills working with a VA for social media, you wouldn’t necessarily want that VA to do your bookkeeping because of their expertise in social media. Still, on the team, there might be someone that does bookkeeping.
And so you have that approach again, working with a team. Another advantage is that if your virtual assistant is out sick or on a planned vacation, I think many things have come up recently—this past year and a half with COVID. So like testing, quarantining, all that kind of stuff. If something were to come up with your VA and working with a team, you don’t have any service interruption because you have a backup available.
So that’s important as well. One disadvantage to working with a team that would be an advantage for the individual is that it can be customized. So individuals are usually more willing to. Accommodate policies, maybe negotiated rates, that sort of thing if they’re just working for themselves.
But I would say most people do choose a team approach just for the reliability. And the skill set.
Rick Mazur: okay. Suppose they have an interview with you and they tell you. And I assume that if they have an interview with you, we’ll talk more about how that whole process would go in a little bit. In that case, this is what I’m looking for; you could best advise them on whether a team might be best for their application or their particular needs versus an individual you can give and give them the pros and cons for their particular situation.
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah, every situation’s a little bit different.
Rick Mazur: I can imagine. And god forbid if you hire a virtual assistant. They’re just not doing a good job; what would be the process that at least through your company that you would recommend in conveying that, and how do you know when it’s time to either switch them up or hate to say fire them, but to if it’s not working for you, to move on or pick somebody else.
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. And so one thing that I always think of, if it’s not working for you, it’s not working. And so, at the first outset of starting to feel that way is a good time to talk to someone else in the company. In my case, that’s either me. I have another team member that helps with client experiences, client management, that sort of thing.
But you want to talk to someone who supervises the VA or above the VA and bring your concerns to them. It might be something really simple. That’s a simple fix. Whether setting deadlines or maybe having video calls versus things coming in on email, it could be a really simple fix like that, but if it’s not, I think it’s really important to be clear about it.
And switch to another virtual assistant or let go of that virtual assistant because it is an investment. It is a crucial role in your business. And so you have to be happy with that. And like I said, if it’s not working for you, it’s not working.
Rick Mazur: well, and I would imagine it’s an advantage of going through somebody like yourself, who has a team of people rather than just going online and trying to find a person. Because if you have to let them go, then you’re starting from scratch. But you have a team of people. So you can offer an alternative person to try, is that correct?
Danielle Cuomo: Exactly.
Rick Mazur: That’s good to know. So it’s your company, virtual assist USA specializes in doing virtual assistants the right way. And you’ve been doing it a while, but can you let my listeners know a little bit more about the process? Should they decide to contact you to inquire about working with you?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. So our process is pretty straightforward. We have new clients fill out a questionnaire. There’s no right or wrong answer in the questionnaire that we’re looking for, but we’re just looking to understand what makes the client tick? What is their pet peeve? What type of person do they work best with?
A personality match is really important. So we have the client fill out that form. We make that personality match up to one of the VA’s on our team. They meet the VA and get started. So it’s a pretty quick process there. They’re able to do that all from our website virtual assist usa.com and get started with the VA.
It’s a pretty quick process. It takes just about a business day to get started.
Rick Mazur: And besides the US-based advantage that you have and the experience that you’ve been around a while, why might somebody come to you instead of, let’s say, another agency
Danielle Cuomo: As you said, we have been around for 13 years. So it was like the start of the industry; when we started, we had a really large team, so that speaks to the broad range of skill sets and just that reliability. But something that we do that is a bit different is that I hire all of my VA’s as a full-time employees.
So we provide them with their benefits, time off, all of that. And that just helps us to attract and retain better talent and keep them on for a longer time. And that’s important too, to our clients as well.
Rick Mazur: And can you speak a little bit about how the pricing typically works? Is it just only blocks of hours? Is it like a monthly thing? How does that work?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. So we do blocks of hours between 35 and $38 per hour, us dollars. And we just do it in a block of time rather than monthly. So you purchase a package of hours, and you can stretch that out over a couple of months.
Rick Mazur: and is it a block of time per different person that you would need or?
Danielle Cuomo: Every user on the team would all pull into that same block. So it’s pretty simple.
Rick Mazur: We would tell you from the form what we need, and we would talk to you, and then you would say we estimate X amount per week for this and give them an idea.
Danielle Cuomo: Exactly.
Rick Mazur: That seems pretty straightforward for sure. One other thing I want to touch on as well. And a few other people that I’ve talked to is this issue of data security with their data.
And I’m not just talking about email data; let’s say somebody was doing database entries, things like that. How can you get somebody around the data issues? Because I know there are things like PCI compliance and all different types of things. So is there anything you have in place that can help ease somebody’s mind in that regard?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. So security is important. In our 13 years in business, we’ve never had a security breach or anything like that. Because of our protocol, so we get background checks for all of our employees. Everything that we do is encrypted. I’ll access is logged. Only users who need access to something do have access to any client files or anything like that.
Additionally, all VA’s are certified in HIPAA compliance, which matters most to those in the healthcare field. Still, some security and confidentiality training goes along with that certification to apply to many industries.
And so just across the board,
Rick Mazur: Okay. And people can ask if they have any particular individual needs when they come to you. Of course. And how long does it typically take once you get somebody on board? To get them up to speed as far as they start working for you. And obviously, they’ve got to be trained on all this kind of stuff for your specific needs.
Is there a typical timeline that you’ve usually seen?
Danielle Cuomo: Yeah. So I usually say about two to four weeks. So the virtual assistants have experienced VAs. They’re ready to hit the ground running. They’re familiar with the platforms and that sort of thing. And they only need to be trained on how you do things individually for your business, for your brand. And so I say about two to four weeks is a good period to get the VA up to.
Rick Mazur: That’s great. Where can people reach you if they want to? You’re on social media. I’m assuming the
Danielle Cuomo: or they est way?Ach out to me directly through the website. I answer all of those inquiries. It’s virtual assist usa.com.
Rick Mazur: And we’re going to put all the links in the show notes and on the episode page and everything like that; when it comes out, this has been great. And I think that we’ll send some people your way, hopefully, once they hear this.
Danielle Cuomo: Thank you so much.
Rick Mazur: yeah. Have a great day, and hopefully, we’ll be in touch soon.
Danielle Cuomo: Yes. Thank you.