Do You Need an OBM or a VA?

Which do you prefer: apples or oranges?

It’s a difficult question. They have much in common; they’re both fruit, tasty, healthy, and make a great snack… but otherwise, they’re completely different.

When you’re looking to expand your team, you have a similar choice to make. Do you want to hire a Virtual Assistant or an Online Business Manager? Both are remote workers and both take care of the tasks that you’d like to get off your back… But otherwise, they’re very different.

So whose help do you actually need?

Do You Need a Virtual Assistant?

In the early days of running your business, everything is on your shoulders. You need to make all of the phone calls, answer all of the emails, organize files and folders… Basically, no matter how small or time-consuming the task, it’s up to you. Sure, it would be nice to hire an assistant to take care of these things, but you can’t afford one yet, right?

Not necessarily! This is where a Virtual Assistant comes in! By hiring a VA, it’s like getting an “employee” but without paying all the extra taxes and costly benefits. They work remotely, away from your office, and they are their own business owner, not an employee, so there are fewer costs to you.

Your VA can’t take care of in-office tasks, but they can handle anything digital that you need to be done on a daily basis, including data management, customer service, emails, and research. Not having them on-site is far less of a hindrance than you may initially think. You’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish without ever even meeting you face to face. (Unless they happen to live nearby.)

If you require someone with more specialized skills, then there are countless VAs who offer one specific service. For example, if you have a new product on the horizon, you might want to engage a Launch VA who can help you plan and manage your launch. If you’re hopeless with tech, you might want to hire a Tech VA to handle all of your web and computer needs. Any task that you need completed, there’s probably a Virtual Assistant out there who can help you.

Do You Need an Online Business Manager (OBM)?

It can be said that an OBM is a specialized, high-level type of Virtual Assistant. Rather than handle miscellaneous administrative and other small digital tasks, an OBM has a much broader purview at your business.

The level of responsibility is right there in the name: Manager. Whereas a Virtual Assistant is an assistant, accomplishing tasks that you assign them, an OBM is someone who, well, manages! Their responsibilities could include anything from managing your entire team to managing a specific project.

Let’s say you already have a small team of workers supporting your business. Whether they are in-person workers or working remotely as VAs, managing and coordinating their workloads can be very time consuming and require specialized help. Yes, you could try managing them yourself, but that’s going to take up loads of your time and distract you from the work that only you can do. After all, you hired this team to get stuff OFF your plate. Now, because you have an entire team, you have even more ON your plate!

An OBM can take this team and whip them into a well-oiled machine. Their job is to coordinate the workflows of each team member and make sure they have direction in their daily tasks.

It works the same way for managing large projects with complicated deliverables and benchmarks. Your OBM can oversee those projects and take ownership to ensure that everything is done on time, every time.

One of the biggest reasons why you might want to hire an OBM is to save on costs. While they’re generally more expensive than a general purpose VA, they’re also much cheaper than an in-person office manager. And they accomplish SO MUCH. Not to mention the peace of mind that they bring to you!

When you hire an in-office manager, you need to train them, offer them benefits, sick days, and vacations. And if the hire doesn’t work out, then you lose that massive investment in time and money. When you hire an OBM, they already come fully trained as a manager. They can hit the ground running at your business, getting to know the lay of the land as they go. Plus, since you’re only paying them for the work that they do, you’re saving massive amounts of money on salary.

If you find yourself using an OBM regularly, it might be worth exploring putting them on retainer. This means that you pay them one lump sum a month for all of your tasks rather than paying them ad hoc for the work that comes up. This is not only more convenient but also makes it much easier to budget.

What About an All-In-One?

When you’re looking for a VA or an OBM, chances are that you’re going to find lots of people who claim to offer both services. In fact, you’re probably going to find dozens of VAs that offer every service under the sun, including copywriting, graphic design, and website management.

My philosophy is to always consider going with a specialist first.

For instance, your VA might be able to create a website but a web developer will typically be able to do a better job, faster and possibly even for less. So hire the web developer to design, and build your site and then have your VA make any minor updates/changes as they come up.  

The same with VAs who offer both general AND online business management services. Trying to have one person do both roles is futile. They’ll either miss doing the small tasks because they’re trying to focus on the big picture or they’ll be unable to focus on the big picture because they’re too busy trying to get all the little things done. Instead, hire two people — one person as the VA and one person as the manager. The cost will likely be similar to having one person do both jobs but you’ll get much better results.

So, do you need an OBM or a VA? There are so many VAs out there that it can be challenging to figure out exactly which one is the best fit for your current business needs. If you’d like a handle nailing down that question, please drop me a line, and I would be happy to help!


Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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