Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rethinking the Business Office

I was at a Chamber of Commerce mixer this morning and my thoughts drifted to my previous business experiences and how a virtual assistant would have been possible and beneficial if we'd had the technical abilities and forethought at that time.

I spent many years learning my craft at Terminix (yes, the bug people). where I once worked in an office supporting a regional manager and a regional technical manager. Both men traveled, which left me many, many hours alone in the office in a week. I had a few reports to do (at least 1 each day), mail to sort, distribute, deal with, and send out, faxes to read, an occasional memo to type, and calls to make and take. So, I had at least an hour each day of productive work, and up to 12 hours a week of actual productive work. I held back as much work as I could for days when the boss was in the office. I was bored - a lot. This mostly happened in pre-internet years when an actual body was necessary in the office.

I moved into a traveling job with Terminix where I trained, supported, and audited branch office staffs and procedures. The regional office I worked from was larger, but that meant that there were more people out of the office on any given day. I spent a lot of time on the phone to the office assistants, but I only saw them (or my office) intermittently, sometimes not for weeks at a time.

Fast forward to now. There was nothing in those offices that couldn't have been done remotely (except for some minimal filing). We started emailing the reports the regional office compiled as soon as Terminix caught up with technology. Email, for all intents and purposes has made the fax machine obsolete. (Although I have a fax number, the faxes come into and go out from my email.) The mail can be delivered anywhere and can be sent out from wherever. Telecom has come a long way and Telesphere has some great solutions for remote offices (and other offices also).

Besides saving money on office space, Terminix could have saved a lot of money on employment costs (salary, benefits, taxes) by using the assistants' time much more productively. Terminix did change before I left and closed regional offices, disbursing the staff to a small office space in a local branch. Reports started being compiled electronically. Email became de rigeur. Resources have been distributed more wisely.

Businesses often think (like Terminix did) that they have to have an office and an administrative employee. It is model we saw when we were young and starting out. That isn't necessarily true anymore. By using virtual assistants, outsourcing the office support functions becomes a viable business solution which conserves resources for core priorities and profitable activities while still having the professional support and representation businesses need. When deciding on an office model, consider using a virtual assistant instead of a full-time assistant with too little to do.


Amanda Parkinson said...

There are many great advantages of hiring a Virtual Assistant nowadays. One is that you only have to pay for time on tasks, not on location or space where tasks are done. There is no necessity for office space, supplies, equipment and furniture. And, the most important of all is that you don't have to pay for any social security taxes, FICA taxes and the likes since VAs are considered self-employed.

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