Depend on vs. Dependent on

I love my job. I love helping my clients and seeing them reach their goals. However, I recently discovered how much I love being wholly unreachable during my vacation time.

I just returned from a week in Mexico. Seven blissful, work free days. I purposely left my computer at home, gave ample notice to clients and reminded them that I would be completely unavailable while away.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked on perfecting my work-life balance to allow myself the time and space to focus on resting and recharging. Vacation time is good for my mental health, but it also revitalizes me to be able to return to work ready and eager to support my clients.

Yet, despite all the pre-planning, I still returned to the office to find emails from a client filled with worry and confusion about a project. The situation was handled, but with much angst. It shed a light for both of us, that even if I am excellent at a given task, my client still needs to know how to do it competently with or without me.

It is both a blessing and a curse to find a great assistant. When the fit is right, it’s very easy to fall into a place of trust and for a client to relinquish total control to their VA. Many clients forget it’s still their business and they need to know how to manage it, especially when their VA is unavailable.

Depend on vs. Dependent on

Back when I was going through the virtual training program (VTP) at AssistU, we were taught that our clients should be able to depend on us, but not become dependent on us. This is a tricky distinction for a lot of people to make.

To depend on someone means to trust that person will do what you want or expect.

To be dependent on someone means you need that person all the time, especially in order to continue existing or operating.

The distinction being the belief in someone’s ability to meet your expectations versus your reliance on that person. A business owner should always be able to step back into their work and power through in the event of their VA’s absence or incapacitation.

Here are a couple of tips to keep you from becoming too dependent on your VA:

  1. Have a working knowledge of the programs most used for your work: One of the reasons entrepreneurs and business owners hire a VA is because of their unique skill set and their ability to use tools the client is unfamiliar with. It’s unrealistic to know all the ins and outs of a program, but ask your VA to give you a brief tutorial on the programs most essential to your work.
  2. Use web-based options for seamless transitions: Many programs now are web-based or have an internet version, like Canva, Google Suite for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Google Drive or Dropbox, etc. Set up a shared folder with links to files, working documents, and passwords so you both have access to what you’re working on.
  3. Establish a backup VA: If the work becomes too complicated for you, set up a relationship with a backup VA. This person should have the same needed skill set as your current VA. For example, I have a colleague who focuses on more technical aspects while I focus more on design. However, she knows all the same programs that I do and can easily step in to help should I or a client need her to.

Additionally, ask your VA if they have a back-up plan in case of emergency. Add any elements specific to your business into your operating procedures. If you’re already working with someone, work together to create your plan.

Many people go into business for themselves for the flexibility of working and playing. Setting up a plan ahead of time, makes those play times easier and less fraught with worry. Trust the members of your team, but remember, the buck stops with you. It’s your business and ultimately, it’s up to you to make sure everything runs smoothly with or without your VA.

How do you straddle the line of releasing control without becoming too dependent on your VA? I would love to read your comments and feedback. Send me a message.



2 Replies to “Depend on vs. Dependent on”

  1. Hey Rach! While I’m not working independently for myself I do find that I rely on others working for me to get projects/events completed. I am grateful for your gentle reminder that ultimately the buck still stops with me for the success of my project/event. I am going to put in place redunant processes so that I’m not left “clueless” as to to the “how to” parts of the business to insure the sucess of my event/project in the event that those I rely on need to leave (for whatever reason). You rock! Charlene

    1. Thanks Charlene! That’s a good point… having systems in place for any project that includes multiple people should have written processes so anyone could step in at anytime for any reason. xoxo

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