I wouldn’t be able to survive without my virtual assistant. They manage my email, my travel bookings, my websites, my podcasts, so much of my business and so much of my personal life. For example, I’m currently living overseas for five months, my VA has arranged packers, movers, storage facilities, and a lot more. My virtual team gives me the ability to do my SEO consulting from halfway around the world. I covered this topic before with Ari Meisel, Chris Rugh, Nick Sonnenberg, and my former head VA, Carolyn Ketchum. Today’s episode is a fresh take on this world of virtual assistant and how you can become a grandmaster at delegation. I really think you’re going to enjoy this episode number 145. Our guest today is Trivinia Barber. Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA, a boutique virtual assistant agency that matches elite level entrepreneurs like Todd Herman and Ray Edwards with highly-skilled assistants who really get the online space, and come prepared to deliver massive ROI right out of the gate. Trivinia, it’s great to have you on the show.
Hey, thanks for having me. I’m so glad to be here.
It was a real pleasure to meet you at the 90 Day Year event. I just knew I had to have you on the show. First of all, let’s start with your story because you weren’t always a virtual assistant service firm CEO. What was that journey that got you to be where you’re at today?
I worked virtually for a long time. Working in corporate, I was able to talk my employers into letting me work from home for a while with each successive child that I had. I had worked for them for almost a decade at that point. I was always telling them, “Everything we do, we could do from home. This is so silly to be spending so much money in parking, and driving 45 minutes, and all of these things.” No one believed me until I went on maternity leave. Then all of a sudden, they were like, “Could you work a little bit from home while you’re on maternity leave?” I was like, “Sure.” What happened was they saw that my productivity actually didn’t go down, it went up because I was able to work when I was at peak performance. That really started this journey for me of figuring out a way to work virtually. I did that for many years. My husband and I adopted, what would be our third child, but we adopted. She had a lot of therapies and things that she needed, so I became all virtual. That worked for a lot of years until that company got bought out by a national firm. They said, “Come on back to the office.” At that point I was like, “Yeah. Not happening. Thanks so much for that.” I started Priority VA and I got connected with working with some great, high level entrepreneurs. Michael Hyatt is one of them, Amy Porterfield another, and I did that for a number of years. People started calling. They would hear Amy, or Michael talk about me on their podcast. They would want me to work for them. I was running out of bandwidth and I couldn’t take additional clients. But, the entrepreneurial light bulb went off for me to think, “When people really wanted staffing was they wanted someone they could trust.” I knew that I had a spidey sense about people, so Priority VA was born. Here we are five and a half years later and I have 83 virtual assistants that work with us, serving clients all over the world now.
Wow, that’s amazing. I’m a huge fan of virtual assistants. They have transformed my business, my ability to get things done, and to not get bogged down in details. For example with the podcast, I don’t have to think about anything after I’ve hit record and hit stop and then drop the file into Dropbox. It all gets handled. The show notes get created, all the social posts, the episode art, the checklist for each episode gets created and turned into a PDF, and everything. It runs smooth as silk. It’s amazing, transcription, all of that.
That’s so great. That’s awesome. One of the things that I often tell people is, especially when they’re looking at starting to outsource. They’re like, “What can I have outsourced?” People think of it very tasked based and I like to shift that thinking a little bit, and tell them, “Why don’t you just outsource outcomes instead of tasks?” I love this. For you, your only job is do a great interview. Beyond that, everything else, the outcome of this episode going live is now the responsibility of a team of people working alongside you. That’s where you can get traction in your business. Instead of one off little tasks here and there, you’ve outsourced that entire outcome which is beautiful. Very good, good job.
I really appreciate that, thank you. I love what you said about outsourcing outcomes, not tasks. In fact, I really took that to heart when I heard you speak. That was a writer-downer right there. Because even though I’m very savvy about working with virtual assistants, I’ve been doing this for years, I still get in the trap of outsourcing tasks and I hadn’t heard that distinction before, outsourcing outcomes. I was outsourcing even projects, anything that’s more than one task. According to David Allen, Getting Things Done, GTD, I’m a huge fan of that. By the way, the David Allen episode on this podcast is amazing. Listeners, you’ve got to check out that episode. I would drop in the show notes, or my team will drop in the show notes a link to that episode. When you are delegating projects, which are anything more than one task, or you’re delegating an individual task, you’re not giving ownership to the person that you’re delegating to, like emotional ownership. I just had an interview with Aaron Ross about emotional ownership and how employees and contractors don’t feel that emotional ownership. If they don’t feel that, they’re renting their jobs, they’re not owning their jobs.
I’ve often talked about as well that, I think that as a founder, we have a job to do as well. Often, we can look at contractors that we work with or freelancers who by the way, this freelance economy is only going to get bigger. People who disagree with that I think are a little bit off the mark there. But, your job as a founder is to give that freelancer or that contractor three things. It’s your job to encourage them and you’ve got to figure out what their words of affirmation, or what their appreciation language is, and then give that to them and what they need. You’ve got to encourage them, you’ve got to equip them and give them the tools that they need to do their job. Whether that means, paying for them to go to the 90 Day Year event with you so that they can learn and grow alongside you, or paying for them to join a Mastermind as well, because we have so many resources that are at our beck and call, but often times these freelancers are just behind their desk doing the grunt work that many founders think they’re too good to do. Pouring into your team by equipping them is really good. The final thing that you’ve got to do is you’ve got to just let them do their job. You’ve got to enable them and let them do what they were really created to do, just like we do. We often hear, “You only need to be working on the highest level tasks in your business that bring you in the money, or in your zone of genius, or proteges on.” Or whatever we want to phrase that as. But the same is true for the people that we work with as well. If we can approach our businesses in that way, to encourage people, equip them, and really enable them to do their jobs, I think that everyone gets a little bit more sense of ownership in what they’re doing.
You mentioned words of affirmation. You must be a fan of Gary Chapman and The Five Love Languages.
Absolutely, yeah. I think now, they’ve got obviously the work version of that which is Languages of Appreciation, or something like that. I think if you figure out what it is for your team, it will help you communicate more of effectively for them. For instance, one of my assistants, her name is Kim, she’s not really a gifts girl, she’s a words of affirmation person. While she might appreciate the Starbucks gift card that I will send her every once in a while, it’s more the words that I put on the card that are really going to mean something to her, or it’s a shoutout on my Instagram stories saying that she’s the best assistant ever. That’s what’s going to be meaningful for her. I have another team member, she loves to paint and that’s where she finds her peace and her solace. I stalked her Facebook profile once and she had an easel that she liked. She said, “Oh my gosh, one of these days I’m going to have this easel.” I just bought it and sent it to her because she was a gifts person. Figuring out what that is for your team is really, really helpful in communicating with them the way they need to be communicated with, not the way that you would prefer.
Have you read the Gary Chapman book that is work oriented or business oriented?
I haven’t. I’ve read a lot of the stuff that’s on their website, but I’ve not read the actual book yet.
Gary has The Five Love Languages books, he has The Five Love Languages for Children, he has Five Love Languages for Teenagers, and I did not know that he had a business focused one, but it makes total sense that he does. We’ll include the links in the show notes for all of those, it’s awesome. I’m curious, what do you delegate? You have your own assistant, Kim and maybe you have multiple assistants that you personally delegate stuff to, then you have your clients who have virtual assistance assigned to them. What do you delegate and what do you choose to keep for yourself to do?
The biggest thing that I think anyone can delegate as a founder of their business that will free up, in my opinion, the majority of their time is their email. It’s typically the hardest thing for people to turn over. I think we keep a death grip on our inbox because we’re like, “What if they see a personal email?” We all have these excuses we tell ourselves, but when handed over my inbox to Kim, that’s when I saw the most freedom come to me in my business. Kim is the first point of contact. We don’t lie and say that it’s me answering when it’s really her. She says, and I encourage everybody to do this, but she’ll reply to an email and she’ll say, “Hey Stephan, it’s Kim, Trivinias’s assistant. I saw this message before she did.” Truth, right, because I’m not looking at my email. “I thought I’d get back to you. Here’s the link the you’re looking for.” Kim really serves not as a gatekeeper for me, but as a gateway. I think there’s a distinction there. She doesn’t prevent me from doing things or seeing people, or people getting on my calendar. She just likes to push people in the right direction that they need to go for information. I don’t have to send people a link to a blog post that I already wrote about the topic, she can do that for me. Email is the best thing. I actually have opt in on my website that talks about how I learn to go from inbox zero to zero inbox. I think that that is just a such a beautiful way to get your head out of the weeds and get you focused on bigger things. Other things I like to delegate to her are things like, we get the little post card in the mail for my dentist appointment, it’s time to schedule a dentist appointment. I just snap a photo of that and I put it in our Slack channel and she knows what to do. She knows that Fridays are the days that I like to schedule all my appointments. She gets a dentist appointment on that calendar for me the next Friday that is available. We’ve got a lot of systems like that, she has done personal and business things for me. She planned an entire vacation for my family through four states and it was beautiful. All we did was open up TripIt, which is an app that I love to use when I travel. We were like, “Okay, we’re going to North Carolina tomorrow. Awesome, let’s go.” It’s so much fun for her to do that as well.
I use TripIt too. It’s a great tool.
It really is the best, you guys. The integrations and stuffs and how all of the information is just at your fingertips when you need it.
All of the integrations are amazing. It integrates with the tool called the HumanCharger which is a little device that looks like an iPod Nano, if you remember those little devices? But this, instead of playing music, the earbuds actually shine blue light and you put it in to you ear canal and it’s shining blue light in the ear canal and penetrates the skull and directly stimulates the brain and helps you get over jet lag, or even if you have seasonal affective disorder. Let’s say, you live in a very northern climate and winter just seems to go on forever and days are really short. It will help you to adjust to that lack of sunlight. Even though you’re not seeing “the light,” your brain is feeling it and that actually works. Pretty cool, and it integrates with TripIt. It knows my itinerary and when it launched the HumanCharger app, then it tells me when I should get these 12-minute long doses of blue light therapy through my ears.
That’s so brilliant. Technology is so cool.
That’s a human charger, humancharger.com if you’re curious about it. You were saying what you delegate, Kim. please continue.
She’ll do anything from prepping all of my social media content. One of the things that I think is the sign of an amazing assistant, at least in my experience is when, you don’t have to have big long meetings, to say like, “What is our content going to be about next month?” Kim and I were able to plan out a year’s worth of our content in about three hours. Really, we did it all just talking. We looked at the calendar, we have a HubSpot integration of the national holidays on our Gmail Calendar. We thought, are there any holidays that I think are funny? There’s like, National Peanut Butter Day. I honestly cannot stand peanut butter. I’m like, “I need to do a rant on peanut butter and how I think it’s so gross and everyone loves it that we have a crazy day for it.” We plan our constant in fun ways like that together. She actually records that, or takes note if I’m on the phone with her. She creates all the post for me, so I don’t have to worry about it. But it’s all me, I mean it’s my content, it based off of conversations that I’ve had with her. But I don’t have to be the one uploading to Later, which is the Instagram app that we use to post and queue up our backtrack content for Instagram. She does stuff like that for me, and then I’ll send her a link of, “Order this for me on Amazon,” or, “Can you be on the back end of this webinar with me and engage with our potential clients?” She’s now doing sales calls for me, which is a big step for me, because I have always taken the sales process very, very personally. That’s that one thing that I held to with a death grip, but she’s been with me four years now. Finally, this past year, I’m like, “Would you ever be interested in doing a sales call for me?” She’s like, “Yeah, totally I would.” Now, she does some sales stuff for me when I’m busy.
Seems like she’s really your right hand person and if she got tempted away from working for you like, maybe doubling her income, that would really put you in a bind.
Absolutely, it would. I tease all the time that she can never leave me and that no one can steal her away from me. Here’s the thing, I believe this to be true about any contractors that we’re working with, is that, compensation is made up of more than just the paycheck that they get. Here’s a really great example, Kim lives in a tiny town in Missouri. Her job opportunities there are limited. She could work at Dairy Queen probably, I’m sure there’s other things. But they’re limited in this tiny town that she’s in. I’ve given her an opportunity to use a skill set that really in a lot of ways, she didn’t even know she had and do things for a variety of people. She had no idea what Infusionsoft was five years ago, she had no clue. That is really, really great because I’m pouring into her. One of the things we do at Priority VA is, we give our team training every single week. We offer a training, whether we’re bringing someone in a high level, maybe Facebook Ads person. We don’t do Facebook Ads here, but I want the VAs to understand the concept of online advertising and why it works and how it works. We’re constantly pouring into them. In addition, we’ve got a community for them as well. There’s 83 people, it’s a mastermind of sorts. If they are struggling with how to deal with a cranky client or a problem they’ve have never run a cross again, they have this community to deal with. I think that that is really great and then really, I love doing fun crazy things. One time, I connected with Kim’s husband and I said, “Hey, here’s the deal. I want to surprise Kim and I want to send you guys, both you and her on a trip. Can you arrange for a babysitter for your kids for a long weekend and you pick any place in the world you want to go and I’ll send you there.” He was like, “What?” It was so funny. He was so nervous about picking the place, but he chose Florida. I was like, “Are you kidding me? Like any place in the world and you chose Florida?” But he said, he was so nervous that he didn’t want to pick the wrong place. I was like, “Okay, next time you got to up level a little bit, buddy.” It was so great. I like to do stuff like that for her. Her compensation is made up of so many different aspects. She’s been able to travel to whole bunch of states and stuff that she’d never gone to before. Simply because I’m like, “You want to come to the 90 Day Year event?” She’s like, “I’ve never been to California.” I’m like, “All right, let’s go.” That’s kind of fun, too. No one is stealing her, I would freak out. I don’t want to run this business without her. That’s ultimately what we want out of our relationships is, to build long term collaborative relationships with the people that we trust.
It sounds like you really surprise and delight her, which I’m sure helps with the retention there, but do you also give her stake in the business? Some financial ownership?
Actually, that’s so interesting that you talk about that, because we were just talking with our core team. We’ve got the 83 VAs that works with us, but then we have four core team members that really run our business. We’ve got a recruiter that helps me do all of the interviewing, we’ve got a gal who we call our success catalyst and she manages the relationships between the clients and the VAs, then we have our tech ninja, and then we have Kim. I just asked them the other day like, “What would matter the most to you as far as incentives went?” Because I’ve got some pretty insane goals for this year and I’m like, “I don’t want to keep dangling that carrot, honestly. I want you guys to set some big, hairy, audacious goals for yourself as well. What would motivate you?” I was like, “Do you want a 401k? Do you want financial incentives? Do you want a vacation fund? Do you want gift? Just anything. I’m open to anything, tell me what you want.” Far and above what everybody said is that they would want a vacation fund. That we would put money into for a vacation, that could take whenever they wanted. I thought that’s interesting because just like you and I, what we can’t get back is time. The VAs want time, too. I thought that was really interesting.
Yeah, vacation fund that’s cool. All right, let’s go back to this idea of you sit down with your VA and you plan out the next time period’s content, figure out National Peanut Butter Day and all of that, and then you start turning that into a structure into outlines, or bullet ideas for blog post, for social media post, et cetera. Are you doing this as a riffing in that meeting about, “Here’s what we could do for this post and here’s what we could say in this post,” and so forth, or does your team have complete freedom around creating whatever content they think would fit in terms of your values and you voice.
A little bit of both. I think that any time that it’s coming up, and again, since we’re planning out a year in advance, I now that I’m going to be an affiliate for a specific program in June. That needs to be a lot of me, interjecting because I’m the one who’s going through the program, and I’m the one who really has that results to show for it. That stuff is me. Now, Kim posted something the other day on Instagram and it was something about books, and how I absolutely reading books, and how I use a little app sometimes that is like the clips notes version of books so that I can get through things faster when I feel like I don’t have time. Kim wrote that.
Was that Blinkist?
It is, yes.
That’s a great tool.
It was all just because I was like, “I want to read this book, I don’t have time. Let me see if it’s on Blinkist.” That was literally just a conversation that she and I had randomly. She just recalls that information, again that’s a sign of an amazing VA. It’s that, I don’t have to be like, “Oh can you create a post about Blinkist because I think that’d be cool.” She just captures these ideas as we’re having natural conversation, or I’ll post something in Slack and I’ll say, “I’m really cranky today, I’m going to go for a run.” Pretty soon, a couple of hours later there’ll be a post of, that has a pair of running shoes, or something that says, “What do you do when you’re just in a bad mood? For me, I know that getting moving and exercising helps me.” I’m like, “Kim, you’re so great. How did you get that?” It’s because she’s paying attention to those little things that I say or that I do. It’s so much fun. The content creation calendar thing, here’s what I would tell your audience and you can do this whether or not you have a virtual assistant. I think sometimes that can be a barrier for people. They’re like, “I just don’t have help. If only I had help.” But if you can carve out an hour to do and really just make a list of all of the frequently asked questions that you get about your product or your service and just list out as many questions as you can think of, hopefully, you’ve got 12 because that would give you months of content. If you’d list out all of those questions, then you can splinter them. For me, one of the questions that we get all the time is like, “What if I don’t like my virtual assistant?” I can splinter that into a whole bunch of content of, how do you work with a virtual assistant remotely? How do you build relationship with a virtual assistant? How do you ensure that your team member is someone that you’d actually want to go have one wine with after work one day? How do you set up your communication with your virtual assistant if they’re in a different time zone than you are? How do you figure out the best personality type for you to work with? Just by a question, what if I don’t like my virtual assistant? I can splinter that into four different topics and that then becomes four weeks’ worth of blog post for me, then I can dive in a little bit deeper on that. I can then create, how do I know what personality type would work best for me? That can then become a blog post on my favorite list of personality profile test. I can say that I love the Strengthsfinder, I love Kolbe, and I love to use Sally Hogshead How to Fascinate Fascination advantage. I can go through all of that stuff and that then becomes my blog post, which then becomes little tweaks. If I’m smart, then it’s an affiliate link to something. It’s really easy to create a lot of content quickly if you would just take the time to figure out what your audiences already needing to know from you.
Yeah, that’s all great stuff. There’s an evolution here. If you start with just doing it yourself and creating that content calendar, that structure for yourselves so that you don’t have to start gouging your eyes out trying to figure out what you’re going to write about. I personally hate looking at a blank screen. Even if it’s garbage that I creat in the first iteration, or one of my team would create, that’s better than having a blank screen. I just hate starting with nothing. It’s a real barrier for me. What I used to do, after I realized, “Hey, I can start delegating some of this and gaining more leverage.” Especially, because I hate writing, even though I’m very good at it and I’ve written a lot. I hate doing it. Why should I be doing this? What I did after I had this epiphany was, I’m going to have an assistant come and take shorthand, because I don’t like talking to dead air. I don’t like talking to just a microphone and nobody’s on the other end of the line. I’m not in flow when that happens. Some people, that’s not a problem, but for me, it’s a problem. I need to be in conversation with somebody. If I’m going to do a brain dump of some topic for an article or blog post, I need to be talking to somebody. I had Wendy come in and she took amazing shorthand. She’d been a high level executive assistant for a long time, she’s very skilled. She would take shorthand and then she’d go off and log in to my WordPress Admin Interface and start turning that into a blog post, whatever she captured and finesse that into an article blog post. I would quickly review it and bless that, or suggest tweaks, and she’d make those tweaks and boom, it’s done. That worked very well. It was awesome, a huge breakthrough for me, but then I kept innovating. Now, it’s to the point where on my main blog, my main site stephanspencer.com, I have no idea what I’m even saying. I have no idea. I’m posting every week apparently and I can’t tell you what the topic was even of the last blog post.
Okay, let me ask you this. Does it make you nervous if you were to meet someone, follower, something in person, and they would say, “Oh my gosh, I love last week’s blog post. It was so amazing.” Then you’re, “Thanks so much.” Like, what did I say?
No, it wouldn’t bother me at all because here is why, I stay in integrity. For example, you’re talking about email delegation and you don’t want to have Kim pretending to be you in email messages, that’s not cool, that’s not in integrity, I don’t think it is. If somebody asks me about a blog post that I wrote, I’d probably tell them, “That’s an aspect of my business that I delegate.” These people get me. I have an incredible team that creates incredible content that’s in my voice and has my values in it. If I just randomly check one of my last blog post to see what they did, I almost invariably feel proud of it, of that content and my team.
That’s great. I just love it when I see something that my team put together for me. I’d be like, “I would write that.” It makes me excited, because then I know they are definitely capturing my voice. Now that our entire business is, that write books for people in the same way. Book in a Box will have a series of 10 or 12 one hour interview with you, and they create a book for you. I think that that’s so great.
I’ve had Tucker on the show.
Isn’t he amazing? He’s a funny guy.
Yeah. He’s awesome. Oh my god, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell book.
That’s the funniest book I’ve ever read. I could not put that one down, oh my god. It made me cringe most of the time, but it’s also is hilarious.
I think it did what it was supposed to do then.
We’re going to put links to all these stuff in the show notes. Do read that book by Tucker Max, you’ll thank me afterwards. Let’s say that we have this content calendar and we have a process. Whether it’s just getting stuff out of our head by talking to somebody, or talking to dead air and recording that, sending that to a VA to turn that into a draft post, or just give them the power to post that without review, or give them the power to write stuff from scratch without you even reviewing it. However you handle it, how do you take this to the next level and create videos or even live streaming? How do you delegate you being on camera? You can’t.
You know who has done a really great job at this? If you follow them on Instagram or in Facebook, Thinkific.
I was on Thinkific’s podcast. I did a video podcast about SEOs. Yep, I have a team there.
What they have been doing now, are these monthly updates for Thinkific and they have their team members creating this video throughout the month and giving updates of what is going on behind the scenes at Thinkific. That’s a way that they have been able—Greg and Colin have b been able to empower their team to be part of it. Again, that’s doing so many things. That whole behind the scenes look that us as viewers want to see, it’s also helping the team take ownership of helping to come up with creative content and stuff. I think that the byproduct of that is just this deep sense of culture that is being created that you want to be a part of that. You’re like, “Dang, I want to use Thinkific.” or, “I want to create that culture within my business too.” and “How can I do that?” and, “I’m always looking at that.” “How do I do that virtually?” I’ve got people across five different time zones right now. How do I that in this virtual space? For us, it looks like, me doing Facebook Lives within our private group. It looks like us doing, just hanging out open office hour webinars on Zoom for a couple of hours once a week just so that people can pop in and engage with me and sometimes they’ll see me eating a bagel sandwich because I didn’t expect somebody to pop in, and they popped in. I’m like, “Oh sorry. Hold on, I’ll just clean off the mustard off my face.” I think that’s how you can take it to the next level, is to involve your team in that front facing picture of what your business looks like and start so slowly introduce them to your audience. I remember when Amy or Michael used to talk about me on the podcast one time. Several years later, I was in a Las Vegas hotel coming down an elevator just minding my own business and someone said, “Hey, are you the Trivinia?” And I was like, “Yes, I am.” and they were like, “ Don’t you work for Amy Porterfield?” I was like, “I do.” And they were like, “Hi, I’m Sarah,” and they were so excited to meet me. They were like, “I’ve heard about you on her podcast.” What a cool feeling, it was only because she just would slowly talk about our interactions together on her podcast. Then all of a sudden, I became someone that Amy’s audience thought they knew. I love that. People now ask Kim, “Are you Trivinia’s Kim? Are you the Kim?” She’s like, “Oh my gosh, I love it.”
That’s awesome. Speaking of Amy Porterfield, for a long time, Amy just wouldn’t let go of you. You had to be her VA even though you had a whole team. Tell our listeners more about that. You had to wrestle control away from her. She had to have you and of course that’s not scalable, you’re not scalable. Nobody is a scalable as a person, you only have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How did you handle that situation and how did she handle it?
It was hard on both of us. I think the good thing about Amy and I’s relationship is that we trusted one another. I think that’s such an important factor to any relationship is the exit stuff, especially when you have that executive level assistant, they’re kind of your right hand person. It was hard for me, mainly because my number one strength is responsibility. I felt like, from day one of me working with her, that I was committed to her. I never envisioned Priority VA taking off the way that it did, I just didn’t. I thought it would be a nice little way for me to help other men and women, stay at home with their families, I just never realized it would get so big. It was harder on me and we would have often have talks about it. She’s like, “What are you going to do if Priority VA gets big?” I’m like, “I’m always going to work for you. I love working for you and I love being part of this team.” It really just came a point where little things would happen. Like for instance, I’d be queuing up an email in her Infusionsoft and I’d be checking it for grammatical errors, or I’d be writing a quick draft of an email for her. There would be this little tiny twinge of, “I just want to be writing my own emails.” When that started happening, I realized like, “I have to figure out a segue here.” because I didn’t ever want to resent her for holding me back. She’s always been my biggest supporter. When that time came, we just said like, “I think it’s time.” Here’s how it happened, I had gone to an event about a year prior with Todd Herman from 90 Day Year. He said, “The thing that I worry about with you Trivinia is, you’re never going to fully embrace being CEO of Priority VA as long as you’re an employee for someone else.” I kind of blew him off. It literally took me year after he said that to finally realize that he was right, that I was straddling his fence. It was not only holding me, Priority VA, and my team back, but it was holding Amy back, too, because she needed someone who is a 110% that is dedicated to her. I couldn’t be and still have my sanity. I was running ragged and working a lot of hours trying to be all things to all people, and none of us can do that. I had to learn a hard lesson of that, so I gave her a whole month’s notice. Now she’s got this crazy, incredible, local team that everyone is there in San Diego with her now. They are dedicated to her and her alone, she doesn’t have any of that balance issue. That’s really helpful for her and he’s just growing like crazy herself, too.An important factor to any relationship is the exit stuff, especially when you have that executive level assistant, they’re kind of your right hand person. Click To Tweet
It’s important to know that you are not responsible for her happiness, only your own.
That was a hard thing for me to learn. I kept thinking, that it had to be me. Now, she is doing totally fine without me. She’s not sitting there in a bucket of tears because I’m not her assistant anymore. It’s all okay. I think I projected so much more of it, just based on the fact that I had committed to her because I want that same level of commitment for me. There’s a time and place for everything. Thank God we’re still friends and when I go to San Diego, I get to go hang out with her so that works.
Nobody is irreplaceable. I think that’s really important for listeners to understand and yet, every one of us is invaluable. There are big difference there. If I’m replaceable as a responsibility, or role in my business, then that means I can systematize and I can make sure that I’m replaceable, and the business doesn’t come to a screeching halt if I would take a six months sabbatical, and the same with every person in the organization. There’s a way that you can help to systematize things by first of all, defining the roles and the responsibilities and the hand offs and the success metrics of every single person on your team, or better yet, have them define those and then you provide the feedback. They refine that based on the feedback so that they take emotional ownership of those roles, responsibilities, handoffs, and success metrics. Then create business processes, standard operating procedure, checklist for everything. How do you create a checklist and standard operating procedures in your organization for all of your VAs who are working with all of those other clients?
We’ve done I think—this is the lazy way of doing this, but I feel like it’s honestly the easiest way. Again, my whole goal is to remove barriers, remove impediments to progress. The best tool that I can tell you to get is a chrome extension called Loom. I click on a little button, I drag it on my screen, and I hit record. There’s a little picture of me and a video of me at the bottom left hand corner and it’s recording my screen. For instance, I am neurotic about how I want my calendar set up. I often train new VAs on, “This is how I would encourage you to set up your calendar for your clients,” obviously they’ll have their own needs. But, “Here’s how I do it. Here’s how I do it, here’s why I do it that way.” I literally go through step by step, “Here’s how I want a flight booked into my calendar. Here’s how I want a podcast interview.” I know at a glance what’s a podcast interview? What’s a VA interview? What’s a client potential salescall for me. I put that link to that recording in a Google Spreadsheet, “How to update Tivinia’s calendar.” That link goes in there. Any VA can go watch it, they can then see step by step. From there, you can have someone create the checklist, the pretty step by step check boxes piece, but I don’t have to do that. Again, that’s the whole goal of the things that we’re doing in our business. I literally have a Post-it Note on my computer monitor that said, “Do you have to do this?” Because I kept telling myself that I needed to be the monitor and since it was my company, I had to be the one working 10, or 12, or 14 hours a day. Then I started to realize, “I don’t have to be the one that creates a checklist, anyone can create checklist.” That then enabled my team to learn how to actually document systems and process in such a way that anyone that a tertiary person, someone I just go down to Savannah downtown and say, “Hey can you do this task for me?” They could follow the checklist. That’s the way that we do it in our business just using Google Sheets. Since we got a little bit more up leveled, we move from the Google Sheets to an app called Process Street. I like Process Street because I can let people see specifics of tasks, they can see the whole outcome itself, or I can let some team member see it, or not see it. I like it as we’ve grown, it allowed us to scale. But you can do the same way with the Google Sheet and I think that’s really where most people should start instead of getting all fancy with apps and stuff.
Process Street allows you to put checks and balances in the checklist, so that they can’t proceed with the next step until the previous step has been checked off.
Exactly. It’s so great and it’s just such a good training opportunity, too, for people. One thing that I learned from Dan Martell is that he requires his entire team to have any of their processes open at all times. If something changes, for instance, they’re logging into his bank to pay a bill and the navigation changes or something, they are required to update that as those changes happen so that the processes always remain current. That’s just a great little tactic, too, because we get so busy thinking, “Do it later.” But it will you take the two seconds to actually make that change now, it will save you lots of time later.
When you have this checklist created in Process Street, is the person who got the training, or watched the video of the person creating the checklist, or is that somebody different? Also, is it the same person, or somebody different who’s then applying the checklist who isn’t personally wrote the checklist looking for the holes in the gaps?
We like it to be a tertiary person that’s actually doing the items on the checklist. I’ll create the video, maybe Kim will create the checklist, maybe Monica on my team will be the one that’s actually doing the task that’s in that checklist. Then Monica will be like, “Step seven makes absolutely no sense at all.” Kim’s like, “No, it’s totally fine.” But then, you get to figure out where you’re missing stuff. Ari Meisel, who is our business coach this year, he says that having that tertiary person do it, they really find out how well you communicate. You’re able to see, “Okay, I skip these steps because it’s wrought for me just to go file open, navigate to the folder, whatever,” if you don’t explain that to someone who’s never seen your file system before, then they are going to take longer to something. He really encourages you to have that tertiary person go through and actually be the one doing the task.
I totally agree with that. I actually had Ari on this podcast and we’ve talked a bit about his processes and so forth.
I love that everyone that I’m talking about has already been on your show.
I do. I want Amy Porterfield and I want Michael Hyatt, and maybe you can hook me up?
They have gatekeepers, I don’t know about that. I’ll see what I can do.
Okay. That’d be awesome. Let’s talk a bit more about this process of getting stuff out of one’s head and into whether it’s schedules, or into whatever structures. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of Pink Sheets, but Matt Church is the creator of this concept. I actually learned about it first from Taki Moore who is teaching Matt Church’s Pink Sheets concept. I just thought, “Wow, this is so, so cool.” It’s a way to get stuff out of your head into, almost like a Rolodex of your intellectual property. You can pick and choose which things and which order you want to formulate into a PowerPoint presentation, or into a book, or into a workshop, or whatever you’re trying to do. Imagine trying to put together a three-day seminar and it’s all you and you don’t have something like, a library of your own Pink Sheets to pull from. Are you familiar with this concept of Pink Sheets?
Only from Taki’s teaching of it. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend his Black Belt sessions.
I was part of Black Belt as well.
Here at Priority VA, we call that idea capture and there’s got to be a way to do that. I do it a couple of ways. I have a link to a Google Sheet on my home screen of my iPhone and it’s called Snippet. Any time, I don’t know why, it happens a lot when i’m just on a walk, I’ll get some random idea. I just open that up and I can either do a voice recording and then just upload that voice recording to that Google Sheet, or I can just type in an idea, or take a picture really quick, then I just make some notes. Kim will get a notification that I’ve uploaded something there. What will typically happen is, she will then message me about it. Like I took a picture a picture of a green Lime Bikes, in San Diego they have a ton of them. You can rent a bike and ride it for a little while and be done. I took a picture of one once and she’s like, “There’s a picture of a bike in here and I don’t really know what that’s about?” I was like, “Yeah, I was just thinking about how we walk by and we ignore all of the tools that we have at our disposal in our lives and in our business.” I kept seeing all these people walking, walking, walking, exercise is great, but I kept thinking, how many times do we just skip over all of these great tools that people have created for us to use, because we’re so adamant about doing things our own way? I turned it to a big old blog post. I like to have idea capture for that, which then can obviously turn into content for webinar, or something like that. I do that and then I also do something called, 10-Minute Tactics, where every Tuesday, I’ll email my list with a tactic, or tool, or tip, or something that I’m using. For that, I’ve been just brain dumping in that Snippets folder, it had links to notes that I created on Notability on my iPad, because I still very tactile. I still like to write things and the iPad Pro has been really good for me because I could still write down my thoughts, and Kim can see them and now she’s getting better at reading my chicken scratch.
Notability is an app for the iPad and iPhone.
It’s from iPad, I don’t actually know if it even has an iPhone app, but I use it on my iPad because I can use the iPad pencil to write down in it. It’s actually my handwriting and stuff, because that’s where I just brain dump all of my brilliant ideas and then Kim will put them into some cohesiveness that makes sense.
All right, that’s really cool. I love writing by hands, but I don’t do it enough. I’m typing all the time because I’m really fast at typing, then people can read what I typed. It’s a lot harder if they’re trying to figure out what my chicken scratch is about. Have you tried a non dominant hand handwriting? Normally, we write with our right hand if right handed, I’m right handed. Probably most of our listeners are, but there’s this idea that you can use your non dominant hand, for me it would be my left hand, and access all sorts of additional creativity, access the right hemisphere of your brain. Most of the time, we’re doing left brain thinking, doing a lot of logical linears analysis and so forth. Imagine accessing a whole other side of yourself, side of you brain that doesn’t get to say a lot. This is Bill Donius’s work, who was also, a guest on my podcast, one of the very early episodes. He teaches this concept and it’s so amazing. Imagine you get your iPad out, you’ve got the stylus in hand and you switch hands. You do a little exercise where you squeeze the stylus and close your eyes and reset and ask your right hemisphere to try to then give you some answers. Whether it’s to do with today’s three absolutes, the to-do list for the day, or brainstorming product names, or whatever. It’s pretty incredible. Have you heard about this before?
I have heard about it in theory of being able to write with both hands, the whole ambidextrous thing, but I have never heard of intentionally tapping into that. I literally want to try that now.
Listen to my episode. It will blow your mind.
It’s not about how well you write with your non dominant hand. If you become ambidextrous, that’s not the point because it’s about asking your right hemisphere to chime in. You don’t hear your little voice from your right hemisphere, it comes from the left. When you’re writing, it also comes from the left hemisphere because that’s where the verbal centers are. You just want to quiet that part of your mind and just let things start, your hand is moving and it’s writing things and you’re looking and you’re like, “Wow, I came up with that?” He does this really cool exercise where you come up with your totem animal or the animal you most resonate with. For me, when I did this exercise, you start by doing it normally with your dominant hand, my right hand. I wrote something, it was zebra. I switched hands, I did a little meditating for a minute, quieting my mind and asking my right hemisphere to chime in and I ended up with blue whale.
So vastly different, then when I thought about it after looking at it, I’m like, “Wow.” I think I resonate more with the blue whale than a zebra. Zebras are cool, they’re fast, they’re distinctive, and they’re memorable and all of that. That’s cool, but that’s really a lot of ego. But in my heart, in my soul, I’m a blue whale. I think it might have been humpback whale.
That is really powerful. I’m going to do this exercise and I’ll report back to you. When this episode goes live, I’ll post in the comments on your blog and be like, “You guys, I did it.”
That’s going to be awesome. Let’s jump from content creations, I love this stuff about the idea capture and what was it called? The 10-Minute Tactic, is that what you named it?
Using Notability app, that’s great stuff. By the way, just to throw in an additional tool that I found invaluable so that I get stuff to my VAs that just allows them to create a lot of content is, I’ll use an app called Pocket, which is a shared bookmarking app. When I see something cool, I’ll add it to my Pocket. They have access to my Pocket account and then I’ll see all this stuff that I’ve added articles and whatever else, YouTube videos etcetera. I don’t give them much of anything to go on but my thinking was, I do tag most of those things that I add. It’s either public or private. If it’s private, that’s just FYI for myself like, “I should go back and read that article at some point, or I should do his thing.” But anything that’s public is free rein, it’s game for whatever use that they might have. Whether it’s to create a blog post out of it, or create a social media post, or what have you. Do you use Pocket?
I don’t use Pocket actually, but I wrote it down. I think the whole goal of this episode is really to get people thinking of, what are things that we can do to help us make decisions faster, do things faster, get more done in a day, and how can we utilize this amazing technology that we have available to us to aid in that process, whether that’s using Pocket, or writing down Pink Sheets, or drawing with your left hand. I think that there are so many things that we can do to tap into people resources, or resources even in our brain that we don’t know are there, that we walk by, like the green bike. I love this idea of just taking this list, because I’m sure there will be a mass of plans now, we’ve talked about so many things in your show notes. Just picking one of them, just pick one right now and say, “I’m going to try to implement Pocket and I’m just going to see whether that’s helpful for me or not.” If it’s not, that’s okay because what works for you is going to be very different on what works for me. I love some of these things that we’ve talked about today, it’s very helpful for me, too.
Yeah, for me as well. This is awesome stuff. I’m curious when you’re creating these videos for your team, let’s say, “Here’s the way I like to see my calendar setup,” this might be a way that you do this for your clients and you send it out to those 83 VAs that are working for you. Is there a way that the client can see any of this, or is that just all inside information? I would love to see that kind of a video from you. Here’s a next level way of organizing your calendar. I just love the idea of looking at my calendar and being able to quickly see, “These are the podcast and these are the trips that I’m on or the airplane flights, and these are the prospect calls,” and have them labeled and maybe color coded and all of that. That sounds awesome.
Yeah. What I typically do is I do the 10-Minute Tactics videos and that goes out to the client. That’s a little bit more higher level and that’s then actually teaching them something that they need to be implementing in their business. I’m screen sharing and showing them step by step, but when I’m telling them things that I am teaching the virtual assistants, then what I would do is a screen capture of all of the screen captures. It’s a little bit complicated, but I’m showing them, “I was training your VAs how to do calendar management, will talk to your VA about this and see if it’s something that would be great for you guys?” Because really, I want to make the VA to look like a shining star. I want them to look and feel like they have brought a great idea to the table as well, because they might bring their own twist on it. Since they know the client and they’re working with them day to day, I want them to bring the idea to the client and say, “Oh my gosh, Trivinia just did this training. It’s super cool on the calendar, I think that we should look at implementing it. However, there’s one part that doesn’t align with what we do.” I want them to be the star of the show.
Let me ask you one more area of focus and that would be email. This is something that people tend to not let go off very easily, as you mentioned earlier in the episode. Now, I have delegated all of my email to my team. I believe in having no single point of failure, so I have multiple people who I’ve entrusted with access to my inbox. They are the ones who are in charge of keeping me at Inbox Zero. I have an action folder, a read review folder, a waiting for folder, and then the archives. My job is to stay out of the inbox and focus on what’s in action, because those or my actions to take. They handle whatever they can, scheduling, or clarifying things for clients and prospects that they can do. But then the action folder is where I live inside my email. The read review folder is just more of FYI stuff. The waiting folder are the open loops. This is GTD philosophy, but my team does that. When I tell people that, “Yeah, this is my email account. Everything goes into my email account personal stuff.” They’re like, “Wow, could you entrust somebody with the keys to the kingdom like that?” Tell me your thoughts about all of those?
Amen. That is my thoughts. Thank you for doing that. Because I think there’s many of us in this entrepreneurial space that can lead by example, and literally handing over those keys. The more people will get over their fear of it. I use a thing and this is interesting and I actually need to update one of our opt ins because I didn’t find this one until after but, I use a tool called Inbox When Ready. Even though I have my folders that’s labeled Trivinia’s review and I have a link to it my bookmarks toolbar, I will sometimes still go in to the inbox and see who’s emailing us. Even if I don’t reply to them, but I still see it. Being such a responsible person that I am, I’ll see them like, “They emailed two hours ago, maybe I should email them back?” Then I can get stuff then to email. We have a plug in that is called Inbox When Ready. If I go to my inbox, I literally have to click a button that says, “Show Inbox.” It’s just enough of a pause for me to go, “Stop it, Trivinia. That is not your job, stop it.” Then I halt back out and I go to my Trivinia Review Folder and I deal with the things that I have to handle. That’s been really, really beneficial for us. I have more folders than the GTD method. We’ve broken ours down into categories. There are things that, yes, you can just archive them. For most people, that works perfectly well. I am just anal about it. I have an administrative folder, a finance folder, an affiliate folder, a client, and a VA folder. I just like things to be categorized because I’m a nerd like that. That works for us, it works for us really, really well. My inbox is, at least the majority of the day, at inbox, zero. Kim is always on it very fast I’m like, “Jeez girl, do you even let that sit in there for 10 minutes?” That works really well for us. If you’re afraid to hand over your inbox, you can do something like, if you still want access to it, or you want to see what people are saying and stuff like that. You can use a tool like Intercom and you can give everyone Intercom email addresses. All your email will forward into Intercom and then anyone who is on your team that has access to that can answer. That’s really empowering a group of people to do that. We’ve done that with our info@PriorityVA inbox, so anyone can answer those. But my Trivinia@PriorityVA, Kim and I are the only ones that have access to that. You have to do it at your comfort level but, start doing something.
That’s great. Now, one last little tip that I think will help people who are maybe flooded with emails. They’ve got thousands of messages in their inbox and they can’t see getting to Inbox Zero. This little tip will just make all the pain go away. This is from David Allen himself, the creator of the GTD methodology and author of Getting Things Done. Great episode, actually he shares this in the episode where I interviewed him. It’s a DMZ folder, stands for Demilitarized Zone, you take everything in your inbox, let’s say it’s 5000 emails, you’re never going to get caught up, just not. You get that out of your inbox by dumping it all in to the DMZ folder. Now, you start from scratch and you apply the new principles, the new methodology, the new processes to whatever is new. That’s a game changer.
Absolutely. I’ve even done this before for a clients where, I go into their inbox and they have 30,000 unread emails. I’m like, “Just shoot me now.” Because what needs to happen is that, some people will leave their inbox as they leave everything in their inbox and they don’t archive anything. They just say, “ I just do search.” I think that the brain fatigue that happens when you log in and you see that number, 30,000, I believe that there is something that happens with you where you’re almost repelled from going in there. It’s like ignoring the big elephant in the room. You’re less likely to go in and engage and actually process all of that mail. Then you start scrolling and looking for what might be important. You’re deleting all of your Amazon notifications, you even just scroll by those and don’t even delete them. The goal is just to have that clean slate and start fresh. Archive all, and I remember hitting that button once for a client of mine. He was just like, “No, no, no, no, no.” I was on a Skype call with him, I was like, “Okay ready? Three, Two.” I had to walk him through it and he did it.
He started hyperventilating.
Yeah, exactly. I think you know you’re making progress if you get your client to hyperventilate about what you’re doing.
That’s awesome. Somebody wanted to work with your team at Priority VA, how would they take the next step?
Best thing is to go to priorityva.com and just read around. Listen to some of the stuff that I’ve done, other podcasts, and stuff that I’ve been on and just see is we fit the vibe of who you are and your business, because clients working with us need to be in this for the long haul. I love to create long lasting partnerships. If we fit for that, you can fill out a consult form on our website and you’ll most likely get on a call with me specifically, or Kim, because she helps me out now, too.
Perfect. Thank you so, so much Trivinia. Now, listeners I’m sure your heads are full with all sort of tips and tricks and so forth. The thing is, you’ve got to take action now. This is where the rubber meets the road. Go ahead and go to optimizedgeek.com and download the checklist of all the actions to take from this episode and then get to work. Even if it’s one thing, one thing next week and then maybe one other thing in the following week, now you’re on the path.
This is Stephan Spencer, your host, we’ll catch you on the next episode of the Optimized Geek. In the meantime, have a fantastic week.
- Priority VA
- Trivinia Barber on LinkedIn
- @Trivinia on Twitter
- Trivinia Barber on Facebook
- Nick Sonnenberg on the Optimized Geek
- Ari Meisel on the Optimized Geek
- Chris Rugh on the Optimized Geek
- Carolyn Ketchum on the Optimized Geek
- 90 Day Year Event
- David Allen on the Optimized Geek
- Aaron Ross on the Optimized Geek
- The 5 Love Languages
- The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman
- The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman
- The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman
- Later app
- Kolbe Test
- Sally Hogshead on the Optimized Geek
- Tucker Max on Marketing Speak
- I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
- Amy Porterfield
- Process Street
- Dan Martell
- Michael Hyatt
- Taki Moore on Marketing Speak
- Matt Church
- Bill Donius on the Optimized Geek
- Inbox When Ready
Your Checklist of Actions to Take:
☑ Outsource my work online by hiring a virtual assistant who is able to help me run my business efficiently and productively.
☑ Stop trying to do everything for everyone. I should only have a few specific roles that focus on the most vital aspects of my business.
☑ Delegate tasks to optimize my productivity. If someone else can do the job for me, pass it along to free up my time.
☑ Outsource outcomes instead of tasks. Make my VAs feel that they are part of something important so it gives them a deeper meaning and purpose.
☑ Encourage and equip my team to do their job. Don’t forget to give praise when it is due and notice my VAs’ progress in my company.
☑ Have the courage to give up my email inbox. Let a trusted VA take care of all my emails to free up a huge chunk of my day spent answering or organizing my inbox.
☑ Have someone handle all my published content. Hire a writer who gets my goals and views and create a content plan so they can take charge of the rest of my online activity.
☑ Utilize the many online tools that can help my team and I smoothly run operations from the comforts of our homes. Find them on this episode’s links and resources.
☑ Train my VAs with the help of screen sharing. A Google Chrome extension called Loom can capture my screen activity.
☑ Start optimizing your business and productivity. Find the right virtual assistant with the help of Priority VA.
About Trivinia Barber
Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA – a boutique virtual assistant agency that matches elite level online entrepreneurs like Amy Porterfield and Todd Herman with highly-skilled assistants who “get” the online space and come prepared to deliver massive ROI right out of the gate.