Running a successful team of associates

by Jennifer Chamberlin
January 2024


I learned very early on in my business journey that I couldn’t do everything myself, nor did I want to. I’ve always been someone who likes to surround herself with other people so building a team, and making my business more than me, myself and I was always an objective. Today I have a team of 10+ associates who work with me regularly, and I’ve had over 30 fabulous professionals on my books since I launched in 2016.

This month our blog is about working with associates, and how to run an effective team.

As an online business consultant with a team providing business support services, mastering the art of collaboration and team management has been crucial. The online business environment is constantly evolving and fast paced. It requires the ability to work seamlessly with people at all levels in organisations of all sizes, from sole traders to multinationals. This means finding the best solutions to their problems and integrating them effectively. In this blog post, we'll explore key strategies for working effectively with partners and leading a high-performing team.

Cultivate clear communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any successful team. In a virtual environment, where members may be geographically dispersed, the importance of clear and effective communication cannot be overstated. Using a combination of communication tools, such as video calls, instant messaging and project management platforms, helps keep everyone on the same page.
By establishing regular team meetings to discuss ongoing projects, address concerns and share updates, where roles and responsibilities are clearly defined prevents confusion. Encouraging active listening creates an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas and providing feedback. Combined, this encourages open communication and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.

What we do: We use Slack for instant communication, avoiding multiple emails, and create team channels where multiple team members are supporting the same client. For client-facing communication, we use WhatsApp and create group admin chats. We have monthly team meetings where we share project updates and team members can ask questions or get support when they need it.

Foster a culture of trust and accountability

Building trust within a virtual team is necessary to foster collaboration and achieve success. Transparency is essential and can be done by setting clear goals and expectations from the outset. This includes things like deadlines and performance metrics to ensure that each team member understands their role in achieving the objectives. It can be useful to trust individuals with their own responsibilities and provide opportunities for their professional development. Make sure you recognise and celebrate achievements, as this boosts morale and reinforces a positive team culture. You also need to hold team members accountable for their tasks and ensure that expectations are consistently met.

What we do: When new team members come on board, we ask them to sign a client charter. This defines expectations, both of what is expected of them and of what I, as the lead VA, will provide and do. At the outset of each new project individuals are given their specific tasks. Role clarification is reinforced with client meetings and weekly progress reports.

Leverage technology for efficiency

In this digital age, technology plays a key role in optimising team efficiency. By using various project management tools, communication platforms and collaboration software, it is possible to streamline processes and increase productivity. These tools facilitate seamless information sharing, task tracking and project management, allowing members to work together regardless of their physical location.
In addition, investing in training programmes ensures that your team is proficient in using the latest tools and technologies. Staying abreast of advances in business software and equipping your team with the necessary skills will contribute to a more agile and adaptable workforce that is flexible to your clients' needs.

What we do: When learning to use new tools we share them with the team. For example, when ChatGPT came on the scene last year, everyone was very quickly brought up to speed on how to use it and how it could help them.

Encourage continuous learning and development

Staying ahead in a dynamic business environment requires a commitment to continuous learning. By encouraging team members to attend training programmes, webinars and take qualifications relevant to their roles, they not only enhance their skills, but also contribute to the overall growth and adaptability of your business.
Creating a culture that values learning and innovation, where everyone is encouraged to share their insights and experiences, benefits your entire business. This can be achieved by fostering a collaborative learning environment and implementing mentoring programmes to facilitate knowledge transfer within the team.

What we will do: Team members have asked for opportunities to learn from each other and share their knowledge, so from February we will be organising monthly lunch and learn meetings for them to do just that.

Prioritize work-life balance
In the virtual world, the lines between work and home can become blurred. To ensure the well-being and continued productivity of your team, prioritise work-life balance. Set clear limits on working hours and discourage excessive overtime. Encourage breaks and time away from screens to prevent burnout. Where possible, implement flexible scheduling options to accommodate the different needs of your team members. A healthy work-life balance contributes to greater job satisfaction, increased motivation and, ultimately, a more effective and engaged team.

Hire slow, fire fast

My biggest lesson has been to hire slow and fire fast. There can be a difference between what people say they can do and what they actually do, so in some situations it can be useful to ask people to carry out small tasks (paid if possible) to see how they really work. If things go wrong, use Zoom to talk to your employee. As uncomfortable as it can sometimes be, it's important to have difficult conversations and let people know when they're not hitting the mark. Give them the opportunity to improve if you can, but also know when to stop. You might want to add this book to your reading list:

Successfully working with partners and leading an effective team in the online business world requires:

• Effective communication
• Building trust
• Using the right technology
• Continuous learning
• Work-life balance

As an online business consultant, incorporating these strategies into your team management approach will not only improve collaboration, but also position your business for sustainable success in the competitive digital landscape.
By fostering a culture of innovation, accountability and well-being, you will pave the way for a high-performing team that can overcome challenges and capitalise on opportunities in the dynamic online business environment.

Photo by Antonio Janeski from Unsplash