The virtual assistance industry has evolved from being known for typical task delegation to productive collaborations. Many business owners have seen the value of virtual assistants (VA) especially online entrepreneurs. Today we’re starting a new series on how VAs have helped business owners increase their productivity and streamline their operations. We’ve looked up some entrepreneurs who have used virtual assistants for their business.
It’s just fitting that we kick this off with Timothy Ferriss, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek. In the book, Ferriss basically raved about his own experience working with a virtual assistant. We believe that every VA or virtual assistant company should give a shout out to Ferriss for highlighting the contribution of virtual assistants to his business. The more people bought his book, the more people became inclined to working with VAs.
Life before The 4-Hour Workweek
In many ways, Timothy Ferriss is just like most of us. He worked at a Silicon Valley start-up and was overworked and underpaid. This prompted him to be an entrepreneur in 2001. He started an online nutritional company called BrainQUICKEN which he later on sold to a London-based private equity firm. The company became so successful that Ferriss had to clock in 14 hours a day and even spent most of his weekends working. He did this for three straight years.
Ferriss said that this schedule “ended three relationships and caused every type of problem imaginable.” In 2004, he threw in the towel and went to Europe for three weeks. He went on hiatus to figure out if he should redesign his business or just close it altogether. This led him to conduct a personal experiment of checking his email only once a week, paving the way for the creation of The 4-Hour Workweek.
Life after The 4-Hour Workweek
The global bestseller and revolutionary book The 4-Hour Workweek was surprisingly rejected 25 times by multiple publishers. When he asked the 26th publisher (Random House) what is it about the book that made them decide to publish it they said “nothing.” They added that they understand why the others rejected it but they were not betting on the book. They were betting on him because they were convinced that he would do anything to make the book successful.
And they were right. Ferriss is an incredibly determined and self-disciplined individual. To give you an idea of how hyper-focused and dedicated he is, here are some of his diverse (and peculiar) accomplishments before he became a bestselling author:
- He holds the Guinness World Records for the most tango spins in one minute—37.
- He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in East Asian Studies.
- He is a National Chinese Kickboxing Champion.
- He speaks five languages.
- He is a breakdancer.
- He is one of the few who have practiced Yabusame or the Japanese Horseback Archery.
Ferriss marketed his book to bloggers in the tech community and his personal connections. The 4-Hour Workweek became a phenomenal success without any book tour or Oprah Book Club recommendation. No wonder Wired Magazine named him as “Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008.” The book has spent seven long years on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide!
In the book, Ferriss tells readers how they can simplify their life by streamlining their day-to-day tasks to pursue more meaningful endeavors. He said that to reach the 4-hour workweek, you need to go through four steps—Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation. If you do these things it’s a done DEAL.
Timothy Ferriss on Virtual Assistance
Since we’re looking at virtual assistance in this series, we will look into the automation part of the DEAL. If you’re new to this or you’ve been burned before, let Ferriss walk you through four important principles when hiring virtual assistants:
1. Eliminate before you delegate.
In the book, Ferriss urged readers to “Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined.” In short, eliminate certain tasks or processes that are not working anymore and don’t even attempt to delegate them. Otherwise, you will end up wasting other people’s time and your money paying for tasks that are inefficient to begin with. Scaling and sustainability are important for business owners, which is why it’s crucial to be mindful on where you allocate your resources.
2. Each delegated task must be both time-consuming and well-defined.
Ferriss said “delegation is to be used as a further step in reduction.” You are outsourcing to deduct processes and not multiply them. You are not hiring a VA to add more things to do. They are there to lessen your load. He also added that “unless something is well-defined and important, no one should do it.” If you can’t really pinpoint the relevance of the task to your business then don’t delegate it. Most likely, it’s not even serving its purpose in your current operations.
Another important principle that Ferriss shared is “to refine rules and processes before adding people.” Hiring virtual assistants to work around an inefficient process will only increase inefficiency. Ferris explained this further saying, “Using people to leverage a refined process multiplies production; using people as a solution to a poor process multiplies problems.”
3. Cost-per-task versus Cost-per-hour
Ferriss said that cost-per-hour doesn’t actually determine the actual cost. You have to consider cost-per-task. He suggested including the amount of time you will be involved in managing your VA and adding this to the hourly rate. In reality, you shouldn’t micro-manage when you’ve already delegated a task. You have to make sure that your VAs hours are maximized and well-spent on tasks that produce tangible results and done with minimal supervision. Ferriss explained it this way, “As cool as it is to say that you have people working for you in three countries, it’s uncool to spend time babysitting people who are supposed to make your life easier.”
4. VA firms over freelancers
It’s hard to tell if you’ll have a successful working partnership with your VA but Ferriss said that you can increase the chances if you work with a virtual assistant firm. He said, “It is impossible to predict how well you will work with a given VA without a trial. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve your odds, and one of them is using a VA firm instead of a solo operator.”
Ferriss admitted that he doesn’t like being dependent on a single person and he doesn’t recommend it to anyone. He said that in the IT world, redundancy is a selling point for systems because of the continuity in function even if an error occurs. Ferris explains that, “In the context of VAs, redundancy entails having fallback support.”
He said that although there are solo operators that you can work with successfully, it’s an exception rather than the rule. He further explained, “I recommend that you hire a VA firm or VAs with backup teams instead of sole operators. Examples abound, of course, of people who have had a single assistant for decades without incident, but I suggest that this is the exception rather than the rule. Better safe than sorry. Besides simple disaster avoidance, a group structure provides a pool of talent that allows you to assign multiple tasks without bothering to find a new person with the qualifications.”
Every entrepreneur can learn a lot from Timothy Ferriss’ success story. He has also helped a lot of business owners regain control of their life through his book. You can do this, too, by taking your cue from him. Be willing to learn, commit to self-discipline, promote yourself, and make the DEAL. Start by taking small steps today and begin writing your own 4-hour workweek story!
Catch up on our series below!
About Pepper Virtual Assistants
Pepper Virtual Assistant Services is a business solutions firm that specializes on administrative assistance, customer support, CRM, copywriting, and personal virtual assistance. We take pride in our reliable service and responsive client handling which embodies our team’s optimal performance.