James: James Schramko here from SuperFastBusiness.com with Kat Jarman from YourOnlineTeam.com. Hey, Kat.
Kat: Hey, James.
James: Today, we’re talking about the difference between a Virtual Assistant and an OBM. So, you might want to explain what OBM is just so that we get a clear definition on it, and then tell us what’s the difference.
Kat: Okay, so an OBM is my lazy way of saying Online Business Manager. And quite often, as the Online Business Manager actually continues to trend and become a thing now as Virtual Assistant was a few years ago, everybody knows what a Virtual Assistant now is.
An Online Business Manager, it’s kind of a newer thing. You might know it as an integrator, as well. And a lot of people want to know what the difference is between a Virtual Assistant and an Online Business Manager. And I think, potentially, people have seen that there’s definitely a pricing difference between the two and so, they’re hoping that a Virtual Assistant can just go ahead and do what an Online Business Manager does.
James: Right, but that’s not the case, is it, always?
Kat: No, unfortunately, no. And it depends on your Virtual Assistant. So you’ve got all levels, and James, you’ve got way more experience with Virtual Assistants than me.
James: I’ve been breeding Super Virtual Assistants, you know. They’re coming up to 10 years. And I’d have to say, in our business, we don’t really have an OBM role now because we’re so small, like, we only have six people. When we had 65 people I definitely had managers in there running the divisions. And then we had team leaders between them. And then we had the different teams and then the operators in there who would be Virtual Assistants.
Kat: I feel like, as mere mortals, your team doesn’t count because they’re amazing and they’ve been with you for 10 years.
James: That’s why I’m speaking to you. I have to bring in experts for normal businesses. I don’t count on so many levels for most things. I’ve always got to put my empathy hat on and think about, well, what about someone who doesn’t have a team who’s been there for 10 years?
And it’s even unfair on that, because I used to run a team for decades, before I had my team. So it’s very natural for me, but it’s super unnatural for your average visionary to learn this whole way of getting things done, having things systemized, operating smoothly. Like we’re a drama-free organization, we run our meetings in 12 minutes a week, we all know exactly what we’re supposed to do and we all do it. So we’re just incredibly unusual. Like, we don’t even have regular hours or days, or leave or sick or incentive schemes, or any of that stuff. It’s so simple. But it’s just, you know, it like takes a lot of experience and practitioning and patience to get there.
Kat: That’s why I think the distinction in your team between a Virtual Assistant and an Online Business Manager probably doesn’t exist, because they’re probably very capable, they step up, they can make decisions. Whereas a lot of Virtual Assistants, especially if they’re new to your team, they’re going to be looking for you to tell them exactly what to do, and exactly how to do it. And they don’t really want to make decisions or they’re not trained enough to be able to make decisions.
James: Often, I think they’re operating in an environment where they want psychological safety. And the psychological safety comes from their perspective by not stepping out of line or doing something to make a big mistake so they tend to play conservative.
I have got some experience with this now with my wife’s business where they do find Virtual Assistants. But I’ve really seen most of the problem comes from the employer. The employer does not know how to handle a Virtual Assistant. And they’re not untapping the potential. But that being said, clearly, not all Virtual Assistants want to be a manager or are cut out for it or are ready to accept the the level of responsibility or risk. And they may not have a suitable experience or skill set or time in to be able to perform that role.
So I do see some unrealistic briefs from time to time where someone wants someone who can do absolutely everything, I call it a Swiss Army knife, with no training and at a minimum wage. And some of these employers, they’re absolutely kidding themselves. So you will need to pay good money to get a really good business manager. But you will think of a business manager is someone who can operate your team of virtual assistants. And so they’re more on it than in it in some ways.
Kat: Exactly. Your Online Business Manager shouldn’t be, you know, inside of your customer service support program all day, every day answering support tickets, that’s your Virtual Assistant’s job and that’s what they’re really good at. Your Online Business Manager is more a, you know, taking your big picture approach and making sure the whole team is running smoothly.
James: They’re really your delegate aren’t they? They’re your representative in the business, while you’re busy doing other things, like going getting a customer or thinking about the strategy or paying your tax bills, and you know, like this quite a lot that goes into running a business. And it’s very easy to end up with all the jobs. But it’s nice if you can collect them all up and say, I’d like to not have to do these things.
But there’s going to need some thought, some intelligence, some planning and structure around this. And here are all the resources we’ve got. And here’s our Virtual Assistant team, as well. And if we don’t have one, then let’s get some. And so they’re not going to be trying to just take over everything you’ve been trying to do and just try and do everything. Which they will fail at, unless you realistic about providing them the resources.
Kat: That’s so true. There’s little bit of magic that comes when you combine your team with a competent manager. And hopefully, one day that doesn’t have to be yourself because that gets really hard, freeing your time up, having that right-hand person to take care of everything else while you can go off and you know, make content or make sales or whatever it is.
James: That’s magic. And the Virtual Assistant and Online Business Manager, they’re designed to work really, really well together. Would you say that a Virtual Assistant is probably going to need plenty of training, whereas the Business Manager might be more likely to tell you what training they need or not if they need it?
Kat: Definitely, definitely. So your Virtual Assistant probably also has skills maybe in only one certain area. So they’re not the Swiss Army knife. They might be really good at editing videos, or they might be really good at customer support. It’s harder for a Virtual Assistant to become that jack or jill of all trades, whereas the Online Business Manager generally can like step into multiple different areas at a time.
James: Right, so they got more of a general management skill set. They can empathize with an owner a little more as well, they probably had more exposure to the numbers and the risks and the subtleties. And they might, not always, but they might be a better communicator. Because I noticed especially having a website development team, the programmers can be really difficult to actually converse with because they’re really in the zone at doing the zeroes and ones and coding.
But talking to a customer is a long way away from that skill set for some of them. And you definitely need some shock absorption there. So it’s good to have your specialist VAs into the roles that are suitable for them and then have someone looking after them other than you.
Kat: Definitely, definitely it’s a match made in heaven.
James: What team size is where you would start having an Online Business Manager?
Kat: A lot of the time we see our clients, they get to, possibly three to four Virtual Assistants, maybe in a different capacity. So one might be general virtual assistant, another one might be an editor, and that sort of thing. And they start to feel like, if you feel like you’re spending most of your time answering team questions, making sure they’ve got enough work to do and you don’t have enough time to do the things you should be doing in your business, that’s generally the time.
James: Well that’s very helpful, Kat.
So if you want some help with this, head over to YourOnlineTeam.com. Kat has got a team waiting for you. She can deploy, you can get all systemized, have your Virtual Assistants all in order. And if you need to get Virtual Assistants, they also know where to get them, as well and they can help you with that process. Great catching up again.
Kat: Thanks, James.
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