April 2018

PA to VA Training - some words of caution...

Becoming a Virtual Assistant, as a topic, is attracting more and more attention. Many more people are beginning to see the value of what a VA can provide, and the work-life balance business opportunity it may also be.

With numerous new start-up VA and business training options emerging that are targeting PAs - particularly over the last two or three years - words of caution are being shared by many long-established, senior trusted leaders, and their networks and support groups in the VA profession.

Concerning trends have begun to be identified that are building on a pattern of complaints and questionable activities (including potential on-line scams) regarding training services and ongoing support that does not deliver widely recognised 'good practice' guidelines for VAs; or the results that are implied by the training provider's marketing messages - for example, this includes testimonials for VA trainers and support groups being posted that may not be as genuine or independent as they are presented.

All PAs setting off on the path of considering the journey of PA to VA are now being urged to carry out appropriate 'due diligence' before spending their money with any of the PA to VA training providers, the courses and services offered, and to thoroughly check the related or ongoing packages and contract conditions. 

The message is clear, don't be bullied by groups or organisations that you may belong to, or be influenced by wonderful words in social media posts. Be sure to check and speak to someone who you know you can trust for sound reference points to find consistently recognised, high quality, VA training providers that will offer a good range of choice for you, your circumstances and your budget.

There are some outstanding professional Training Providers out there - you just have to find the right one for you!

Just follow some of these professional good practice guidelines for making almost any buying decision:

Identify at least three potential training service providers. More will be better to widen your choices, however, of course this will also increase the amount of time to complete the selection process. A minimum of three should normally provide sufficient range of choice.

Research all of your shortlist as much as possible on-line and when possible, in person.

Check out their web sites, blogs, and social media posts for their own conduct, accuracy and consistency.

If someone lays claim to being a leading voice of the VA profession, ask or research how they can substantiate their claim to such fame, especially if they are relatively 'new kids on the block'?

Check out all free and publically available information, including those registered with on-line resources like the UK's Companies House web site.

Ask about their relevant experience as a VA or VA Trainer and how long they have been in business, and their reasoning for becoming a VA Trainer.

Ask to provide examples of successful training programme graduates - check those graduates out with similar steps from this list, whenever possible.

Ask if they pay commissions to referring parties, or ask the referring party if they will receive a commission.

Reach out and speak to the VA Trainer by telephone or via tools such as Skype.

Arrange to meet them, in person, at events or exhibitions. Note how other people interact with them.

Observe their professional conduct and actvities in forums and their participation in events and panel discussions.

Talk to others that have already gone through part, or the whole, PA to VA process.

Speak to leading VA figures - people like VA Award winners - and explore how they started out and gained their knowledge and skill-sets - many are very willing to share their experiences in starting up as a VA business!

Most importantly - starting and running a business is not always a good option or goal for everyone to pursue or commit to. There are many, many factors to consider before making that commitment. If these points are not extensively covered by your VA Training Provider, then they may not be as experienced as you may think in advising on starting up or running a business, be that as a VA, a freelancer, a contractor, a sole trader, a franchisee or as a limited company or partnership.

And finally, the VA profession has always been extremely collaborative, respectful and helpful, especially within the UK. The very best PA and VA networks and support groups will normally provide insights to who can be considered to meet your training needs and who can be trusted. In our experience, the very best VA professionals do not let personal commercial gain interfere with providing good advice and sound direction - they are normally happy to 'give back' to the profession, when the opportunity arises.

Be sure to spend your training budget wisely and work with the very best you can find.

If you follow most if not all of the above steps, it is likely that you will quite quickly identify who operates with good and sound professional principles and those to consider to be on your final shortlist of VA trainers.

Our thanks to our professional friends who are members of The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), for contributing their thoughts to the tips listed above for selecting a reliable training provider.

More reading and recent posts about VA training standards and options to consider:
http://www.pa-assist.com/uk-va-awards-2018-2019-va-of-the-year-benchmarking-standards
https://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/2018/03/15/choosing-the-best-business-training/