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Module 4 of Product University

August 16, 2020

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Product University - Sophie Howard (Aspiring Entrepreneurs)

MODULE 4 - Virtual Assistants

This is a detailed review of Module 4 of Sophie Howard's "Product University."

Each Module is gone through extensively. 


MODULE 4 - Virtual Assistants

4 hours, 28 minutes, 20 seconds

Session 1: Why Outsource & Planning

Sophie starts by sharing about her life when she first started on Amazon: 
  • Working very part time hours on her business
  • She was on maternity leave
  • Sleep deprived 
  • Didn't have a home office
  • She was ambiguous and wanted to grow fast

One of Sophie's Powerpoint Slides, proving Sophie's experience in Amazon FBA:

What to consider when deciding what to outsource:

Where do you find VA's?

Sophie names three different places that you can place job offers and applicants can put in an application:

  1. Agency
  2. Online Job Site
  3. Local Hire but Works Online

She has had the most luck with hiring websites and names a lot of them:

  • Fiverr.com
  • Upwork.com
  • Onlinejobs.ph
  • Hiremymom.com
  • FlexJobs
  • We Work Remotely
  • Remotive
  • Skip the Drive
  • Working Nomads
Key Takeaway: Your First Hire
Sophie suggests the first person you hire be low-risk (paying them won't put you under) and have an administrative role that takes some of the daily mundane, must-be-done tasks off your plate. 

Sophie then goes over a lot common jobs that VA's take over in eCommerce:

  • Amazon Customer Service + Beyond
  • Designer
  • Logistics/Supply Chain
  • Product Research
  • Supplier Outreach
  • PPC  Advertising
  • Websites
  • Social Media Manager
  • Order Fulfilment (Dropshipping, etc.)

The Hardest Part of Hiring:

To conclude the introductory session on virtual assistants, Sophie shares the most difficult part of bringing on help:

**Letting go of control**

When she started her business, Sophie characterized herself as being a bit perfectionistic, intent on crossing t's and dotting i's. As her business grew, she recognized that she'd need to bring on an assistant. As the assistant grew into her role, she ended up, Sophie says, doing the tasks better that Sophie herself did. 


Session Duration: 54 minutes and 3 seconds


Session 2: Intro + Q&A

Sophie introduces the month, explaining the different weeks into parts of finding quality VA's and building a team. (same video as session 1, but includes Q&A so it's longer)

 Session Duration: 1 hour, 21 Minutes, 17 seconds 


Session 3: Recruiting & Training New Virtual Assistants

Often times getting help simply becomes chaos because recruiters have not set up a system to filter promising applicants from those who'd do better in a different position. 

In this session, Sophie shows a series of strategies that together make a funnel to sort out the fitting applicants from the others. 

This funnel runs the balance of letting the best through while restraining the eager but unqualified.

Throughout the session, Sophie outlines 6 essential steps of a hiring funnel:
  • Step 1: Setting Expectations:
  • Step 2: Writing Attractive Job Ads
  • Step 3: Creating Trial Projects that ALSO move your business forward
  • Step 4: Evaluating Prospects
  • Step 5: Examining Their Projects
  • Step 6: "Split-Testing" Your Finalists

After going through the process and explaining each step, she goes onto Upwork and looks at those who have applied to the job she posted the previous week. She picks several applicant's profiles and gives her commentary as she reads through their cover letters and resumes.

 Session Duration:  1 hour, 13 minutes 25 seconds


Session 4: Managing Your Dream Team


In this Final Session on Virtual Assistants, Sophie speaks on three (3) different topics:
  • how her team tackles projects
  • Characteristics of high quality team members
  • Checklists (One of the Best Training Tools)

Sophie wants a small, high-quality team, minimal drama, really productive team, than an empire. Find one great person to start, who can be a generalist, filling in where you lack. The only part of her business that she doesn't outsource is negotiating with suppliers, getting the product deals.

Reminder: Hire What You Are Not
In this session, Sophie reiterates the importance of knowing yourself and your skillset so you can hire where you lack (i.e. free-spirit needs to hire organized, analytical needs to hire creative, etc).

As the leader of the business, Sophie brings into play motivational speaker and self-help guru Tony Robbins' "6 Needs of Happy People" to illustrate the environment and opportunities that she strives to create for her VA's.

Those needs are:

  1. Comfort
  2. Variety
  3. Connection
  4. Growth
  5. Significance
  6. Contribution

Each need relates to the others.

Part 2: Top Qualities of Excellent VA's

Sophie offers her list of characteristics to give course takers a place to start when deciding what they would like to see in a virtual assistant. 

  • Solid communicator: (Sophie prefers to hire native English Speakers)
  • Confidence in their own judgement: dealing with clients and understanding Amazon policies and willing to push back against unreasonable shipping clients,
  • Balanced Temperament: Displays patience with both fellow VA's and customers.
  • resilience and tough skin: Don't let setbacks get them down.
  • Empathic and Understanding with one another (especially in the case of personal events (Sophie uses one VA's new baby as an example i.e. that VA is probably a bit sleep deprived so when they make some mistakes, have patience with them)
  • Professionalism: consistently shows consideration and respect, often exceeding expectations 
  • Accessible: (time zones and internet speed)
  • Problem Solver: The virtual assistants that Sophie hires are people who ask questions and help make things better, like their job and keep things moving.
  • Proactive: Sophie wants to hire people who admit their mistakes and fix them, 
Warning: Keep Passwords Confidential
When initially onboarding an employee, make sure to keep your passwords to yourself.

One tool that Sophie shares that she uses is called LastPass (it's a chrome extension) and it features the ability to share passwords without revealing them to the VA with whom they are shared, but still enabling the new VA to use them. 

Part 3: Checklists

Sophie shares about the benefits of having checklists of different frequencies (Daily, Weekly, & Monthly), because it makes the job very simple and straightforward for the virtual assistant, because they know exactly what needs to be done. 

She also includes a brief aside, sharing what tools she uses in her business to keep it pretty much paperless (Dropbox), which enabled the sale of her business to be very simple, since it was mostly a transfer of files. She tried using a variety of autoresponders and the one that has worked best for her is Kipply.

Conclusion:

The relationship with your VA is not a one-way deal, but needs to be a two-way, symbiotic flow of information and power.

To conclude her VA module, she encourages everyone to have their product launched in preparation for the 5th module which will focus on Amazon's Seller Central.

 Session Duration: 59 minutes 35 seconds 


Module 4 - My Primary Takeaways 


Sophie's guidance on outsourcing is very thorough. The biggest aspect that I appreciated was her list of what to look for in high quality VA's. I'd assembled most of my current team before I took the time to write down what I'd like them to be like.

The checklists Sophie provides at the end of the 4th session reminded me of my initial outsourcing task sheets. I hired an FBA jack-of-all-trades former manager to coordinate a lot of the daily tasks once I had a few products listed. Part of his role was to bring on reliable help as he also has HR experience. While it cost a lot to hire him, he got a great team together over the next few months and ran several product lines for nearly 2 years while he set up his own business.

Sophie started by hiring small since she was just getting her online business started. As I already had an established business, I had the income to hire more comprehensive help. 


VIDEO QUALITY 80%

Video Quality: 8/10

The video quality is slightly better because she is not simply filming herself with her webcam, but shows powerpoint slides for the majority of the module.

SOUND QUALITY 90%

Sound: 8/10

As Sophie is now using a headset microphone, her voice comes through a lot crisper. 

CONTENT QUALITY 90%

Content: 9/10 

The content of this module is gold and the organization of it is significantly better than previous modules, especially because she stuck with her slides. 

OVERALL 90%

OVERALL IMPRESSION OF MODULE 04

This Module goes into great detail on what the Virtual Assistant onboarding process involves. It shows how to create a hiring funnel from start to finish as well as how to evaluate applicants and to filter out your finalists. Both experienced FBA Sellers and those new to the business model will find these 4 sessions valuable.


Lead Generation is my #1 Online Business Choice 
(IMO Less Hassle Than Selling Physical Products)
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Ippei Kanehara
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