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Why We Set Out To Be The Best Virtual Assistant Agency

When I had my first son, I became a stay-at-home mom. I was very immersed in the joyful chaos that the title brings. But my journey changed course in 2016.

It was during a series of conversations with women entrepreneurs that an undeniable pattern emerged, which sparked an idea that would eventually lead to the birth of Cascade Virtual.

These dedicated businesswomen were experts in their fields; they had passion, and their ambitions were sky-high.

Yet, they all had a common struggle — a relentless battle with time. Administrative tasks, vital but time-consuming, were overwhelming their schedules, leaving their core business responsibilities neglected.

It gets more interesting.

As I dug deeper, I found more layers to the challenges they faced. The main ones were:

  1. A constant juggle with overwhelming administrative needs.

  2. The draining effort of maintaining client communications.

  3. A deficit in specialized skills like marketing, copywriting, or technical expertise.

  4. The mental toll of spreadsheet management.

  5. Difficulty maintaining work-life balance.

  6. The absence of a structured business framework.

  7. The daunting task of goal mapping.

The solution, however, seemed very straightforward: virtual assistants (VAs). But reality proved otherwise with VAs.

My conversations revealed a big gap in the VA industry, as well. Virtual assistant agencies were falling short, and entrepreneurs were unhappy. They had many concerns, and it was clear that the sector needed change because of some big problems:

  • Professionals struggled to secure competent VAs without breaking the bank.

  • Agencies’ vetting processes were superficial, leading to high turnover and inconsistent work quality.

  • VAs, though under agency banners, were isolated, lacking supervision and accountability, which resulted in reliability issues for clients.

  • Clients felt disconnected as VA agencies operated with them on a transactional, assignment-execution basis.

  • Agencies didn’t build relationships with the client to try to understand their business and its overarching goals, so they couldn’t map goals and timesheets to help them succeed.

  • VA agencies don’t do intentional match-making. They assign new clients the next person available for the skills they require, and that’s it.

  • Pricing structures were lopsided, favoring agencies while clients had no return on their investments.

So, with this insight, I had a thought: What if there was a VA agency that didn’t just fill the gaps but also redefined the standard?

Cascade Virtual emerged from this very thought.

I started Cascade with two main goals:

First, we aim to empower individuals, particularly women, seeking flexible, work-from-home opportunities.

Second, we committed ourselves to being allies for female entrepreneurs, although our journey expanded to embrace diverse businesses.

So, what sets Cascade Virtual apart in a sea of VA agencies?

Our philosophy!

We believe in productive partnerships. We don’t just match you with a virtual assistant; we align you with a partner — one who understands the heart and soul of your business, shares your vision, and shoulders your burdens as their own.

And if you are here, chances are you’re a pretty busy professional who feels like they can’t ever take a break, or a vacation for that matter. Or maybe you are missing vital information critical for growing your business because of the chaos within your organization.

In this article, we will show you why Cascade Virtual isn’t just another VA agency. We’re the collaborative partner you didn’t know you needed until now.

Note: Ready to hire VA services for your business? At Cascade Virtual, we are the business growth partners you need. We offer you U.S.-based VAs with over 10 years of experience at a $35-$50 hourly rate. Our team takes care of the activities that weigh you down while you focus on the core parts of your business. Book a meeting with us!

Why most VA agencies aren’t equipped to best handle your needs

The idea of Cascade Virtual didn’t come to me overnight. It was the result of big problems I heard businesses and independent professionals complain about as they worked with VAs and VA agencies.

The sad reality is that most VA agencies aren’t built around serving your needs or offering a customer-centric approach to VA services. The main approach is that you need somebody to handle some tasks for you, they find you one, and that’s it.

Here are the main issues we see with most VA agencies and why they’re not best equipped to handle your needs.

No vetting or poor vetting processes

Most VA agencies or websites lack rigorous vetting processes.

Typically, we see VA companies rely on employment history, education, background checks, and a few interviews to expedite the vetting process. Sometimes, they rely on AI, or they simply skip the screening process altogether.

The idea is that they want to quickly onboard VAs to meet the demand, offer people the opportunity to work remotely or reduce operational costs, but this compromises quality and the value you get for your money.

Such processes offer very little to chew on about the VA’s demeanor or work ethic. And these traits are crucial for remote workers because they always need to manage their time and tasks independently.

You can’t immediately tell how they approach work or understand how they’ll fit into your company’s culture, especially in a remote setting. More importantly, you can’t confirm most of the values you care about in a VA before hiring them.

Here is what we mean.

  • When hiring a virtual assistant, it’s very important to ensure they’re dependable. You want to be confident that tasks will be completed on time and that the VA will be available and responsive when you need them.

  • Specialized expertise matters as well. Even though most self-acclaimed VAs can handle general administrative tasks, you seek specialized skills like social media management, content creation, graphic design, and more because you care about results.

  • If you have long-term goals, you’ll also care about continuity and stability of collaboration. You don’t want to keep onboarding new VAs every three months. That’s both your time and financial resources down the drain. You can’t afford that, so you value consistent quality.

  • Also, you have standards and expect the output to meet or exceed those standards. So, you want to know for sure that the VA’s work will exude professionalism and attention to detail.

  • Last but not least, they’ll often handle sensitive information; you want assurance that your data will be secure and that the VA will respect confidentiality agreements.

Now, with that in mind, how does your VA company guarantee you’ll end up with VAs that match those criteria? Most of them will tell you they only work with la crème de la crème (you know, VAs that come straight out of Harvard). But the reality is different.

Even worse, popular VA websites and platforms like UpWork and Fiverr have no vetting process.

It’s a come one come all method where every interested VA can just hop on the platforms without the right level of skills, create a virtual assistant account, take a nice picture in a suit, answer a few questions, and then claim they’re a pro. They can then ask their grandma and cousins to write them nice reviews and give them 5-star ratings and there you have it.

The thing is that collaborating with a virtual assistant company that doesn’t have a thorough vetting process means you might end up with VAs who lack the necessary skills, professionalism, or reliability.

I mean, even if they did have the skills, how do you know for sure? How do you sell it to your leadership that you’re making a good decision in working with them? A poor hire can lead to mistakes, reduced productivity, and potential security concerns. Working with them is a risky bet for you, and you might not be able to afford that.

No internal HR (timesheets, payroll, taxes, SOP building)

This is one of the main issues we hear clients complain about. VA agencies typically operate like a job board where you are simply assigned a VA. They have no internal HR system or tools to ensure things are done well or that you get the best out of your investment.

For us, the mere absence of a dedicated HR system to manage administrative and compliance aspects like timesheets, payroll, and taxes within a VA agency should be a red flag for you. That’s because it always leads to disorganized management, potential legal issues, and even employee dissatisfaction — which translates into a lack of commitment to your work.

Also, VA agencies not having rigorous and continuous supervision, clear goal maps, good systems for structured task lists, and standard operating procedures (SOPs), result in inefficient work processes, issues with task prioritization, unclear communication, and a lack of accountability and progress tracking, all culminating in poor task execution.

Even more alarming, it also means that there is no benchmark for performance or culture of excellence within that VA organization. That translates into inconsistent service delivery and quality, missed deadlines, and overall dissatisfaction because you are paying for a professionally managed service and expect the best.

Most VA agencies and the contracts you sign don’t offer a client-centric approach

When working with a VA agency, you should be able to feel that the agency is genuinely invested in your success, that it understands your dynamic needs, that the contract you signed is agile to meet those dynamic needs; and that it is a “win situation” for you — no matter what.

Another way of saying this is that your VA agency partner should be flexible and agile to adapt to your needs as they change or as you grow and evolve.

We understand that this might hit you as a little superficial. So, let’s get a little more specific about what we mean here.

Poor or messy restaffing and fill-in options

The first issue that falls into this category is your ability to get a refill or restaff when you need to. Restaffing is how you ensure you always have the right assistance.

Unfortunately, a lot of VA agencies don’t offer you the ability to restaff — and when they do, it comes with potential disputes or contractual penalties (i.e., you may have to pay more or waste a few days with no assistance).

So, suppose your business needs a shift. That means you’ll also need a VA with different skills or expertise. Or maybe the VA you’re assigned isn’t performing up to standards, or maybe the issue is about cultural fit. What happens then?

Either you can’t replace them or waste time and money as you try to do so.

They hook you into long-term contracts

In most cases, when you’re seeking the help of a virtual assistant agency instead of hiring a full-time employee, it is because you’re in a specific business cycle and need some tasks or activities taken care of.

And even if you do need VA services for a long period, you need to ensure that when your business atmosphere changes, your account can change too. The ability to increase or decrease account hours allows you to leverage your VA services during peak times and save costs during off-peak periods.

But the reality is that most VA agency contracts don’t allow this. For example, when you sign up for a 6-month contract, that means you’ll still have to pay them even during off-peak periods when you normally don’t need their services.

Also, events like personal emergencies, market downturns, or global crises (as we’ve seen with COVID-19) can impact your business’s operations. Having the flexibility to move between account sizes ensures that your business is not burdened with unnecessary expenses during tough times.

No intentional matching and not building a relationship with the client

Two of the most important questions you should ask your virtual assistant service agency before onboarding with them are how they assign you VAs and the relationship you’ll have with them. Here is what we mean.

For most virtual assistant companies, when you reach out to them because you need a graphic designer, they shake their talent pool, and you get assigned the next graphic designer who’s available — which sounds good in theory because you think, well they are a graphic designer, but here’s why it's not.

Assigning VAs to clients based solely on availability rather than matching based on their unique skill set, expertise, and, most importantly, compatibility with your business or your unique needs is a non-effective pairing.

It often results in subpar service delivery, with VAs potentially lacking the specific skills or personality fit required for your unique projects. You will end up with a “good VA”, not an excellent one, and that could be the difference between reaching your goals and not reaching your goals.

Also, VA companies collaborate with their clients on an assignment-task-completion basis. They don’t build any relationship with the client. Typically speaking, you hire them, they assign you the next assistant available, you assign the tasks, they complete them, you pay the agency, and that’s it.

The relationship you have with the VA agency matters because when VA agencies don’t emphasize relationship building at all levels, they miss out on deeply understanding the client’s business, culture, and unique needs — which is all crucial to having them as an integral component of your business’ success engine.

More specifically, this oversight can prevent the agency from being fully integrated into your success. It limits the agency’s ability to anticipate your needs and provide customized solutions.

VA agencies define payment based on hourly retainers and projects

When it comes to collaborating with the best virtual assistant companies, there are three typical plans. Let’s discuss them and why only one of them is truly beneficial to you or your business.

VA agency pricing model 1: Project-based retainer

Here, the VA agency charges you a fixed fee for a project with defined deliverables, regardless of the time spent by the VA. This seems interesting, but the thing with most projects is that priorities could change mid-way through. So, it might be difficult or costly to adjust the project’s scope.

Also, if the project’s scope isn’t well-defined and additional tasks pop up, it can lead to a disputes over fees and you not getting what you want.

VA agency pricing model 2: One-time project

Here, VA agencies request their clients to pay a one-off fee for a single, well-defined project, which admittedly makes sense and can be a good way to hire VA services when you need them for a specific business cycle or project.

But this doesn’t foster a deep understanding between the VA and your business, which is valuable if your goal is overall business success. Also, having to always negotiate contracts for recurring tasks is time-consuming and inefficient. Plus, the administrative overhead can make small projects disproportionately expensive.

VA agency pricing model 3: Hourly retainer (by far the best option)

Here, you pay for a set number of hours per week or month, during which VAs complete any virtual assistant services you request. This is the pricing you get from companies like Time etc, Zirtual, and even us.

This model is the clear winner because it allows you to work intimately with an assistant who is as invested in your business as you are, continue to assign projects and offload tasks as your business changes, and build in a work-life balance that makes your business work for you rather than you being a slave to it.

VAs are good at what they do in the online realm, which means the days of paying a full-time administrative assistant to sit in an office when there is no work to do is over. The reality is, a VA can work in half the time and get more done. You will only ever need a part-time assistant to receive the full-time benefit.

Note: Ready to hire VA services for your business? At Cascade Virtual, we are the business growth partners you need. We offer you U.S.-based VAs with over 10 years of experience at a $35-$50 hourly rate. Our team takes care of the activities that weigh you down while you focus on the core parts of your business. Book a meeting with us!

Why we set out to create the best virtual assistant agency

After all the issues and complaints we’ve heard from clients and prospects about the VA industry overall, we had a clear mission for Cascade Virtual. From our experience, part of the main reasons businesses or professionals call on VA services are:

  • Lack of time

  • Overwhelming administrative needs

  • Following up on prospective clients

  • Maintaining conversations with existing clients

  • Lack of technical or marketing skills

  • Spreadsheet management

  • Work/life balance

  • No internal structure

  • Goal mapping

  • And more.

The real problem was the misalignment between what even the best virtual assistant services in the market offered and what business owners really needed.

We knew how to position our service and what to offer our clients to ensure they always get the best VAs for their needs and the most out of their investment.

So, here is how we go about it.

From the start, we work with you to understand what you need and propose VA services that align with your business goals and visions

One of the things we do well is get to know the customer, the ultimate goal of their business, where they are today, and where they want to go, and then we set goals and a to-do list accordingly. That’s what builds customer loyalty.

Here is our process to ensure a personalized and strategic partnership with our clients:

Understanding the client’s needs and building a job description accordingly

From our first touch with the potential client, we seek to understand the pain points that got them looking for a VA agency and build out a job description. That job description is what we use to place the assistant based on skill set, availability, and personality.

We meet with you and ask questions about products, how much marketing you do, how you stay in contact with your customers or potential customers, the system/tech used, etc, to really establish how much work is involved, the specific talents you need and how we can help.

We always ensure our approach is client-centric.

We keep you in the driver’s seat, although we heavily direct the process. For example, we provide resumes for you to choose from, but the resumes are selected based on the job description and the unique qualities or personality traits you need.

Our approach here means that we get a deep understanding of your needs so we can easily ensure that the services we design for you are not just generic support of VAs who simply complete one task and wait for the next but strategic assistance aligned with their business objectives.

Client onboarding

After understanding your needs and pinpointing VAs, we unfold a comprehensive process for onboarding you. The idea here is to set the grounds for a great collaboration and also equip you with the knowledge, skills, and tools you need to make the most of your partnership with us.

Here’s a breakdown of what we do here and what it means for you:

You get a clear point of contact from our team

This is not your VA, but rather an internal human point of contact to streamline communication with us and ensure you’re always heard. You won’t be shuffled between contacts, and it will save you a lot of time while setting your account up for success.

You get a client handbook

This is your guide to our services, processes, and expectations. Here is a snap view into it.

It’s a reference you can use to better understand how things work, what's expected of you, and, of course, what you can expect from us. It helps us set proper expectations right from the start.

You get access to timesheets and daily details

With this, we put you in control, and you’re always informed about the status of your tasks and projects. You’ll know what’s being done, when, and for how long. You can see the work being performed and reach out for comments or changes if you need to.

You get a customized dashboard that offers you a 360° view of everything

We’ll give you access to our user-friendly, central platform where you can access all information related to your account, including ongoing tasks, hours used, and other relevant data. Here is what it looks like.

You own everything, and you will be involved, but we have a full management team working on your behalf daily to make sure your account is moving forward daily.

Goal mapping

After the onboarding process, we start defining clear, actionable, and time-bound objectives that provide direction, facilitate decision-making, and enable continuous evaluation of progress.

We will establish both short-term and mid-term goals and then derive a task list from these goals. It all starts with understanding how you currently spend time and what represents time well-spent for you. Here is a snap view of our delegating 101 document we send you for this:

Once we go through this exercise, we establish an immediate week-by-week set of goals, and we keep following up with you, the client, and the assigned assistant as needed until you are a bit more comfortable with your team. Here is an example we did for a client:

Typically, we will discuss and develop goals for 1, 2, or 3, even up to 6 months of planning. Then we can pull tasks out of these goals and establish business growth, success, and new directions. Our objective is to reach the goals you have outlined for your business.

This clarity helps in maintaining focus on essential tasks and ensuring that every completed task is a step towards the clearly defined success we’ve planned together. It also helps avoid the common pitfall of getting caught up in day-to-day operations without a clear direction.

Creating SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to ensure immediate integration and minimum disruption

At this stage, we are already knee-deep into getting work done for you. The VA we assign you starts to work with the creation of SOPs (standard operating procedures) out of the job description we created together.

Both your team and ours will be involved in this process, with your VA at the center of everything. Here is a representation of the process we follow to build this:

We build an SOP for every job we execute or create in your company. The SOPs offer a clear idea of what should be done and how. Your new VAs can quickly learn how to perform tasks without extensive onboarding processes or training.

So, as a result, our VAs come in immediately as experienced members of your team. And with goal mapping, they know where you are heading as a business and their daily activities to contribute to getting you there.

All this cuts down on any time you’d otherwise spend training. You’ll also have a clear benchmark to assess their work, and it allows your team to grow. It also guarantees a smooth transition with zero disruption if you ever need a fill-in for your VA or if you want to restaff.

We offer daily oversight and account management to ensure tasks are moving forward and goals are being met.

For us, hiring and managing a virtual assistant shouldn’t add to your workload. You should be able to know work is being carried out excellently without having to spend your time doing it.

That’s why we provide a comprehensive service that extends far beyond just matching you with a highly qualified professional. Here is a breakdown of the services you can expect from us:

Daily oversight and proactive account management

We don’t just set goals; we actively ensure they’re being met. Our team provides daily oversight and account management.

Our operation managers and human coordinators diligently monitor task progression and goal attainment. We keep the wheels turning so that your focus can remain where it’s needed most — on your core business.

Regular check-ins and constructive feedback sessions

Communication is the key to any successful partnership; we understand that.

So, we schedule regular check-ins, particularly during the early stages of your collaboration with your virtual assistant, to discuss the working relationship, celebrate wins, address any initial hurdles, and recalibrate as necessary.

Human resources offloaded

We have an internal HR system with managers and HR professionals that handle all administrative aspects of employing an assistant — you won’t have to worry about any of that.

From timesheets and payroll to annual tax forms, we manage these time-consuming tasks in-house. This HR offload ensures that collaborating with your virtual assistant enhances productivity, not more paperwork for you to handle.

Also, if you are looking for a very specific person to fill a very specific admin role or employee position within your organization, we are happy to recruit on your behalf until we find the perfect fit.

Client-centric feedback mechanism

Your voice matters to us, always. We have established systems for you to provide feedback on every aspect of our service, including the onboarding process. Whether through a concise survey or a more personal follow-up call, we’re always willing to listen.

You get fully vetted and background-checked remote US-based administrative staff.

When you partner with us, you’re not just getting a remote assistant; you’re securing the services of a highly qualified and thoroughly vetted U.S.-based professional.

Here is how we vet and ensure you get the best VAs from the U.S.

We have a rigorous selection process

Our hiring and vetting approaches are unparalleled. We manage the hiring process from start to finish, ensuring that only the best candidates progress through our robust selection funnel. Before an assistant even meets with a client, they undergo:

  • Initial interviews: We gauge their personality, professionalism, and alignment with our values.

  • Skill set review: We don’t just look for good; we look for excellence in the tasks that matter to your business.

  • Comprehensive testing: We don’t rely on their CVs or the history they feed us. We also test them ourselves, assessing their ability to deliver results and maintain quality.

  • Background checks: This is how we ensure reliability and security for your data and offer you peace of mind when collaborating with us.

  • Reference verification: Nice resumes and referrals are great, but we also authenticate their professional history and achievements.

This meticulous process means that our clients’ interactions with potential assistants focus on aligning task lists and building rapport rather than vetting qualifications. You can be sure you are getting a dedicated assistant for your business.

Our VAs have experience you can count on

Our assistants aren’t just U.S.-based; they’re seasoned professionals. Many boast over a decade of experience in Fortune 500 companies, bringing with them unparalleled expertise and a wealth of industry knowledge.

Whether it’s business development, specialized tasks, or staying on top of current tech trends, our assistants are not only experienced but also keenly dedicated to continuous learning. They adapt and grow, mirroring the ever-evolving landscape of our clients’ industries.

We offer you a pay-per-use (pay-as-you-go) pricing model where you only pay for hours worked

One thing we also do very well is offer you a pricing plan that ensures you’re always safe in your spending and that you get the best bang for your buck.

We operate based on an hourly retainer that costs between $35 and $50 per hour. You buy a weekly or monthly hour unit. We work to assign you the VA(s), and we track and count the hours worked toward the unit you purchased.

  • $600-Innovator (Up to 3 hours a week/12 hours per month)

  • $1200- Entrepreneur (Up to 7 hours a week/28 hours a month)

  • $2400-Premier (Up to 15 hours a week/60 hours a month)

  • $3500-Dignitary(Up to 25 hours a week/100 hours a month)

This pricing allows us to hire the best VAs and offer you one of the best pricings on the market.

The interesting thing for you about this pricing is that not only is it below that of most VA businesses you will encounter, but we also charge you based on a pay-per-use model.

This means that you only pay for the hours you use, and it offers you a unique flexibility and cost-effectiveness you won’t find anywhere else, particularly for businesses with fluctuating needs. Here are the main benefits of our pay-per-use structure:

  • You can scale usage up or down based on current demand without worrying about wasted hours or insufficient retainer limits.

  • You only pay for the hours the VA worked, which is particularly beneficial for startups or small businesses with limited budgets.

  • You won’t have to waste your time tracking hours or negotiating project terms; the administrative process is simpler and more transparent from our dashboard.

Hire Cascade Virtual and get the best VA service and VA talents there is!

There you have it.

We recognize that there are a lot of virtual assistant agencies that you can hire to get the job done for you. Companies like Belay and Time are great options you can consider. But if you’re looking for a VA company that:

  • Seeks to understand your unique business needs, goals, and vision and maps a strategy and tasks accordingly.

  • Pre-selects resumes based on your predefined criteria and ensures a standard of quality that’s already aligned with your business.

  • Creates everything from comprehensive SOPs to meticulous task lists and cares about getting things done the right way.

  • Offers a good plan for staff replacements and fill-ins.

  • Offers assistants that aren’t just vetted but proven professionals with 10 years of experience.

  • Values your opinions and is always looking to improve.

  • Offers a pay-per-use model, ensuring you get the most value, with the freedom to scale support up or down based on your evolving needs.

Then Cascade Virtual is what you need.

With us, you’re not just hiring an assistant; you're gaining a support system. We offer our customers a blend of human expertise, strategic orientation, operational excellence, and a personal touch.

Note: Ready to hire VA services for your business? At Cascade Virtual, we are the business growth partners you need. We offer you U.S.-based VAs with over 10 years of experience at a $35-$50 hourly rate. Our team takes care of the activities that weigh you down while you focus on the core parts of your business. Book a meeting with us!

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