Tuesday, November 21, 2017

These are the countries contributing most to global growth



Written by World Economic Forum and Jeff Desjardins Founder and editor of Visual Capitalist

People walk past office buildings at the central business district in Singapore April 14, 2015. Singapore's central bank on Tuesday surprised markets by holding them off from further monetary easing, saying an improved outlook for global growth would underpin the trade-reliant economy. REUTERS/Edgar Su      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

China and the U.S. account for most of the global growth, with India and the Euro Zone not far behind.

According to forecasts from earlier this year by the World Bank, the global economy is expected to average a Real GDP growth rate of 2.8% between 2017-2019.

But where will this growth actually happen? Is it in giant countries that are growing at a stable 2% clip, or is it occurring in the smaller emerging marketswhere 8% growth is not uncommon?

The chart below looks at individual countries between 2017-2019, based on their individual growth projections from the World Bank, to see where new wealth is being created.


China still tops

Even though growth has slowed in China somewhat, the World Bank still estimates its economy to expand at a 6.5% clip this year, and 6.3% in both 2018 and 2019.

Add these numbers onto the world’s second biggest economy (and the biggest in PPP terms), and you have an incredible amount of growth. In fact, about 35.2% of global GDP growth will come from China over this period of time, putting the country’s economic output $2.3 trillion higher.

Uncertainty in the U.S.

While the U.S. is also expected to contribute a significant portion of global growth, the World Bank had a fairly ominous caveat to their projections over coming years.

The U.S. forecasts do not incorporate the effect of policy proposals by the new U.S. administration, as their overall scope and ultimate form are still uncertain.

– World Bank, Global Outlook Summary

That said, the World Bank does also mention that the tax cuts proposed by the Trump administration could theoretically bump up U.S. and global growth if implemented. However, with all of the chaos in the current U.S. political environment, the tax cuts have been delayed for now – and some analysts are scaling back the chances of them even happening at all.

Other growth hotbeds

Beyond the usual suspects of China, India, the Eurozone, and the U.S., it is interesting to see Indonesia as the next biggest bright spot using this type of analysis.

In fact, the world’s fourth most populous nation will account for 2.5% of global GDP growth over the aforementioned time period, adding another $160 billion to its $941 billion GDP. The World Bank projects growth for the country at 5.3% this year, and 5.5% for the next two years.

The other countries that registered as providing 1% or more of global growth?

They include: South Korea (2.0%), Australia (1.8%), Canada (1.7%), UK (1.6%), Japan (1.5%), Brazil (1.2%), Turkey (1.2%), Mexico (1.2%), Russia (1.0%), and Iran (1.0%).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A networking case study - (spoiler alert... it works!)



Let me start by doing you a favour. If you’re time-poor or not in the mood to read a long Post, here’s the summary:·    

    Networking worked for me and the business I represented
·        I went in with a plan
·        I knew what I was going to say well before I stood up at each meeting and that ‘story’ wasn’t necessarily the same each time.
·        The Law of Reciprocity is as relevant today as it was 35 years ago when I attended my first Chamber of Commerce meeting.
·        Following up works and is time well spent.
·        IT TAKES TIME! This is neither a quick fix nor a source of instance results.  


Now, if you’d like some detail, please read on.
Networking - Def’n : “An expensive exercise that results in a lot of bacon and eggs breakfasts being added to your diet “.
If that’s been your experience, I can promise that you’re not alone. Networking, when done badly, can be a depressing and costly experience, both in money and time. 


There’s a light at the end of the tunnel though. If Networking is managed and planned - just like your other business activities – it can be an important driver of growth and success. 


I can hear you now. “Yep, been there – done that” or “I tried it – didn’t work!” Hopefully though, there are many of you reading this who, like myself, have seen the benefits of having a structured approach to Networking and have had success as a result.


Here’s a first-hand example (call it a Case Study, if you like) of what can be achieved with a structured, planned approach. I’m not going to write a ‘how to’ for Networking here. There are plenty of people who can provide that for you here in LinkedIn.  This is more about “Here’s what I did and hope it’s helpful “.


Try before you buy.
There are multiple options available to Networkers in most regions of Australia. My own choice came down to:
·        7 different Chambers of Commerce
·        3 BNI Chapters
·        3 other structured Networking organisations with up to 3 Groups in the local region.


While my previous experience in the region gave me some insight and few contacts, which meant I wasn’t going in ‘cold’ to some relationships, that’s not necessarily a benefit in all cases. I found that I spent the first few minutes of face to face discussions explaining where I’d been and what had happened in the past couple of years and then having to listen while the other person told me everything that was wrong with my old employer since I’d left there. 


What I did have, however, was a reasonable expectation and knowledge that membership of Networking groups and business chambers will wax and wane over time.  A little research showed that there were one or two key Chambers of Commerce in the region and that’s where my time was best focussed.


Likewise, a bit of research into memberships/attendees at Networking groups like BNI etc., gave me a priority list to work with.


The key points out of this process were:
·        I joined my local Chamber of Commerce in the first instance and chose two others where the membership seemed to be dynamic, proactive and well-connected. There was a fair amount of membership crossover between these Chambers and other Networking groups in the area as well.
·        Most Networking organisations welcome visitors and, while their approach and structure may vary, you can generally attend twice without needing to join and can get a feel for the potential and “fit” for your business.  I went to as many as I could and, as many meet fortnightly, this took nearly 3 months to complete the process. 


Go with a plan
First question, before you visit or even consider signing up as a member for any other these is:
“What do I want to get out of this?”


 In my case, I was representing a local charity and, despite having been founded 8 years earlier, there was almost zero brand awareness with SME’s in the region. I needed to meet people who would give me 30 minutes of their time later to tell them about the charity and ask them to support us. That ‘ask’ varied, depending on the ability and potential of each business.


The secondary aim was to build an army of advocates and this required a confidence and trust building program that takes time – so Networking needed commitment and a real focus on the Law of Reciprocity. In every conversation I had I’d be thinking: “Do I know someone who can help this person or could benefit from their skills and experience?
I found that I ended up disposing of about 1/3rd of the business cards I collected in my first 6 months, all of which were handed to me in conversations, rather than me taking them from a tray etc. 


Get you story right!
My 30-40-60 second Elevator Pitch changed over time but it was an evolving process, not a sudden change from week to week/meeting to meeting. As I learnt what other people needed to hear about the charity I represented, I tailored to story to suit the audience. 


If I was attending as a ‘newbie’, for example, it was a straight “this is who we are and this is what we do”. Very succinct and to the point. Once some relationships and a brand/profile had been established I was able to talk about a forthcoming event or a specific case where “this is what we did with the money we raised” became the focus. Better still, “this is what the recipients did with the funds we gave them” because more powerful once the brand/profile was in their minds.


Follow Up!
Goes without saying, right? The quality of the follow-up is important though. While I’ve been caught out occasionally when I forget that LinkedIn will send a ‘default’ message if you’re not careful, writing a specific, personal message to each new contact was vital. The same goes for an email follow-up. It’s a matter of seconds, rather than minutes in most cases and well worth the effort.


Likewise, I didn’t wait for the other person to contact me for that coffee chat or meeting. And, just like the Elevator Pitch changed over time, so did the discussions in these one on one meetings. In the early months, a lot of time was spent talking about “this is who we are/what we do” and, once some rapport was built over time, later meetings focused more on “this is what we can do to help each other”. 


Deliver on that promise!
It’s not just about following up with a promise you make to an individual. I did my best to attend each and every meeting. In some cases, a decision had to be made when different organisations/groups had meetings or events that conflicted but, when sending the RSVP or apology, it was important to say why you weren’t attending. And I wasn’t afraid to say that I was attending another group or event if there was a clash – people talk and it’s better to be honest.


Invest the time
A leader at one of the networking groups (a health professional) told me that it was 6 months before he got his first referral from the group. In another group, one of the ‘champions’ told us that she received all of her new business via referrals from her networking efforts. 


No-one gained instant success and, in my case, it was around the 7-month mark before I’d say that I hit a break-even point where time and money spent was matched by results. The growth in support and income kicked up from there however and we gained a number of supporters and contributors after 12 months and, most importantly, a small army of advocates for our charity amongst the local SME sector.


Personally, I went in knowing that Networking would work for me if I did it right. While representing a charity gave me some access that I would have had to pay for otherwise, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would have had more success if it was my own business I was representing. Also, there's no way I would have been given those opportunities if I hadn't delivered on my promises (made sure I turned up when substituting for a member, for example). The reciprocity was very one-sided and meant that I had to work a lot harder to build those relationships and trust.
I’m leaving this charity role soon and will be moving overseas. My first step, when establishing a business in another country in the future will be to seek out local networking groups and go through the process above all over again. Looking forward to both the challenge and the results.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Personal Branding - do you have a website?

The Bob Pritchard Column 

Branding is usually associated with companies, products and organizations, but today it is more and more important for individuals to establish a personal brand. In my line of work, my personal brand is critical to my success, so we actively cultivate the Bob Pritchard brand. According to an AVG study, 92 percent of children under the age of two already have a digital footprint.  In fact, due to our exposure through digital media, almost everyone has the basis of their personal brand.  Now you can cultivate and fashion it to provide a powerful force for your future or you can allow it to form haphazardly, primarily by others.
 
 
Firstly, you need to think of yourself as a brand
 
What do you want people to associate with you when they think of your name? Is there a certain subject matter in which you want to be perceived as an expert or are there general qualities you want linked to your brand? Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand. A strong personal brand can yield tremendous ROI whether you are working with an organization or leading one.
 
Audit your online presence
 
You can’t mold perception without first understanding the current status. First, Google  yourself and setup alerts for your name on a regular basis. If you have a fairly common name then consider using your middle initial or middle name to differentiate. Or, as a very successful and talented friend of ours in the music business did, added an adjective and became “Screaming” Rachael Cain.  Cultivating a strong personal brand is just as much about being responsive to what is being said as it is about creating intellectual property.
 
Secure a personal website
 
Having a personal website for yourself is one of the best ways to rank for your name on the search engines. It doesn’t need to be robust. It can be a simple two to three page site with your resume, link to your social platforms, and a brief bio. You can always expand on the website with time.
 
Find ways to produce value
 
Don’t post utterly mundane or ridiculous crap, find ways to add value to your audience by creating or curating content that’s in line with your brand.
 
Be purposeful in what you share
 
Every tweet you send, every status update you make, every picture you share, contributes to your personal brand.  Your brand is an amalgamation of multiple daily actions. Once you understand how you want your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about how and what you share or post.
 
Associate with other strong brands
 
Your personal brand is strengthened or weakened by your connection to other brands. Find and leverage strong brands which can elevate your own personal brand. Start with the three C’s: company, college, colleagues. Which school did you attend? Are there groups you can join? An alumni newsletter you can contribute to? What hidden opportunities are available within your company which you have yet to tap? Consider submitting a guest post to the company blog or look at other digital assets you can connect to your brand.
 
Reinvent
 
A strong personal brand is dependent on a strong narrative. In other words, what’s your story? Take a second to think of celebrities you know who have a strong personal brand. Mark Cuban. Martha Stewart. Richard Branson. They all have a very clear story and a consistent brand. If you have multiple passions or areas of interest, a narrative becomes even more crucial so there can be unified theme.
 
Most importantly, remember that a strong personal brand should be ubiquitous and ever evolving.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hate Networking? This 1 Technique Will Make You Anyone's Best Friend

Joey just gets it - and it would be awesome for him to present at a bbg forum! 

Rory notes that every single goal you set for yourself or your business involves a personal connection with another human being.

"If you're looking for an opportunity, you're really looking for a person."

That investment you want? What you really need is an investor.

That sale you're after? What you really want is a customer..

The one thing to do to make your business successful is to focus on relationships 

Networking is a nightmare - because you get a room full of people focussed on selling there stuff and nobody there to buy!

On the other hand, you don't hate spending time with friends or socializing because you know that the other people don't have a selfish reason to talk to you. You want to spend time listening to them, because you know they'll listen to you afterwards. They know you, like you and trust you! 

So, what if you could make all your business relationships--and, by association, your business goals--personal?

Social interactions are all about giving and receiving

When others really listen to you and treat you with respect, you feel obliged to treat them in the same way. It's a basic cultural rule that has been drilled into us from an early age.

We call that "a spirit of generosity"

There is a basic law of  reciprocity, and it's a concept referenced in every introductory psychology course and every well-known marketing book. It's also No. 1 of the Six Principles of Influence in psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini's classic book, Influence.

"I am obligated to give back to you the form of behavior that you first give to me," explains Cialdini. He continues:

The implications for a leader seem to be clear. If you wish to be more influential...the first question you should ask is not "who can help me?" The first question you should ask is "whose business circumstances and outcomes can I advance?" Because by virtue of reciprocity, those people will then want to advance your outcomes.

Using reciprocity to build real relationships

Sure, it sounds easy. But how exactly do we apply this idea to networking and building business relationships without running ourselves dry?

Here are a few suggestions of ways to create value and reciprocity without breaking the bank:

  1. Solve a problem: Offer up a creative brainstorming session or anecdotal advice to someone's problem. Even just asking "how can I help?" works.

  2. Offer access to your resources: Do you have something you could easily lend out that would help this person? Either your tools or your audience?

  3. Facilitate a connection: Do you know someone they want to know, and could you make an intro?

  4. Ask insightful questions: Can you show that you're invested in them and their work? Do you know an issue they're struggling with, and can you ask insightful questions to get them engaged in the conversation?

  5. Give a small gift: What pleasant surprise can you offer? A discount code for your service? An invite to an exclusive event?

Remember, reciprocity is a two-way street

Reciprocity like this only works if you're willing to act the same way. Understand when you "owe" someone else for their favor, and acknowledge that you'll return their good gesture.
The returns on the value you give to people won't happen overnight. After all, you're building a network of allies and acquaintances who want to help you, and this naturally takes time to manifest.

However, the more value you put out into the world, the more reciprocated responses you'll get.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
PUBLISHED ON: SEP 30, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Some cool Videos on BBG

Inspect-a-biz


Snippets of our BBg Launch Think Tank on how to thrive in a stagnant economy


Snippets of our BBG South Africa Launch


Heidi Kaye Interview with Tony and Chloe 



Bill Cates Inspiring at our gala event in Brisbane and Sydney 







BBG Albert Park Forum



Sydney Launch 







Sunday, September 10, 2017

Creating a Culture of Reciprocity

https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/creating-a-culture-of-reciprocity-6576



Reciprocity rings can help bring hidden resources to the surface and encourage a culture of generosity.
When Rui Kang, a December 2017 MBA candidate at INSEAD, arrived in Fontainebleau, France to start her programme, she worried about getting to see her fiancĂ© on a regular basis. He lives in Lille, two hours’ drive away and with no way to get there, Kang needed some help. But, as she quickly discovered, she was in luck.
INSEAD’s December 2017 MBA students took part in the inaugural round of “Reciprocity Rings”. The ring consists of a group of people who get together and ask for something they each need and cannot get or do for themselves. In addition, as each person takes a turn articulating their “ask”, the other members of the reciprocity ring are encouraged to think about the resources they might have to help the person asking for help and to make as many offers of help to others as possible. Even if they are not able to help personally, participants can also connect the person to someone in their network who might be able to help them. Reciprocity rings were introduced during the MBA Orientation Week to break down barriers and add to a culture of reciprocity at INSEAD.
When Kang, originally from China, asked to share transport with anyone heading to Lille on a regular basis, Ruxandra Tosun, a campus recruitment coordinator at INSEAD who volunteered to facilitate the Reciprocity Ring exercise during orientation, answered the call. Her partner, Maxence Torillioux, visits Lille almost every weekend to see his parents. Two days later, Kang was in the car with Tosun, Torillioux and their dog, heading to northern France. They struck up a friendship, learning things from each other and providing additional help. For example, Torillioux, a wedding photographer, gave Kang some ideas for her wedding.
Kang was also a valuable source of information for Tosun. “She gave me some insight into student life, what they were doing for the welcome week, what the students are talking about. For me, that was really amazing because we work with students all the time but if you have a good relationship, you can understand them better,” she said.
The friendship would never have come about if Kang hadn’t asked and if Tosun, a facilitator who wasn’t “officially” a member of the Reciprocity Ring group, had not been generous and volunteered to help.
Pay it forward
The reciprocity ring concept was developed by Professor Wayne Baker, a sociologist at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and his wife Cheryl Baker, CEO of Humax. It rests on the idea of generalised reciprocity, a powerful way to spread gratitude.
Generalised reciprocity is triggered when a person receives help from someone else, but instead of paying it back to the person who helped them, they help someone else or “pay it forward”. Take the “Kidney Chain” as an example. In 2009, Matt Jones from Michigan wanted to donate a kidney to a total stranger just because he could. Barbara, who lived in Phoenix, was dying from kidney disease. Jones’ kidney saved her life. Her husband Ron would have donated one of his kidneys to her but they didn’t have compatible blood types. However, he was so grateful that he donated one of his kidneys to another stranger, whose relatives were also so grateful, they did the same. And on it went to become the longest-running transplant chain, changing the lives of 20 people.
Creating cultures of reciprocity
According to Baker’s research, the simple act of helping someone else compels the person receiving help to help others. In the paper, “Paying it Forward vs. Rewarding Reputation: Mechanisms of Generalized Reciprocity”, he studied two ways of facilitating generalised reciprocity. One way was by rewarding reputation, i.e. peers monitor one another in their organisation, helping those who help others and refusing to help those who do not. The other method was the “pay it forward” mechanism, which naturally occurs when members of an organisation help third parties purely because they themselves were helped.
Baker found that altruism had stronger and more lasting effects than rewarding those based on their reputation. The most sustainable way of facilitating generalised reciprocity, therefore, comes from creating a “pay it forward” culture.
Paying it forward is an organic movement, but it needs a trigger. That trigger comes in the form of activities such as a reciprocity ring, a guided and structured exercise that can start the ball rolling. But there are a few considerations for facilitating an effective reciprocity ring.
First, it’s best for it to take place in person. Recent research shows that requests made in a face-to-face setting are 34 times more likely to be answered than those over email.
Second, participants need to have clear goals. We ask our students to come up with two SMART goals – one professional and one personal goal. These are specific, meaningful, action-oriented, real and time-bound. Meaningful goals can be incredibly powerful. When I took part in a reciprocity ring at the University of Michigan a few years ago, one of the most memorable requests came from a woman who got up and asked for help on behalf of someone else. Her friend had a very serious and rare disease and had to travel frequently between Michigan and Texas for treatment. Due to the expense, she simply asked all of us if anyone was willing to donate some frequent flyer miles to help him pay for the travel. Most of us who were able to donate our miles did so.
Third, small groups are best, with a maximum of 25 people. If any requests go unfulfilled, the request can go out to a larger or different group in the organisation. During our Reciprocity Ring exercise in January, in the unusual case that a request went unfulfilled, we put the request to all of the other groups in the room. In the end, all requests were met with resources from one or more people present.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Another important role of a reciprocity ring is having people get over their fear of asking for help. They don’t want to appear weak and often grossly underestimate how willing other people are to help. In a paper by Frank Flynn of Stanford Graduate School of Business and Vanessa Lake of Columbia University, the researchers found that people underestimated by 50 percent the number of people they expected to ask to get a certain number to agree to a request. The researchers also found that asking for a favour verbally was more effective than handing out a flyer with the same request.
As a result of the introduction of reciprocity rings at INSEAD, students used their new-found connections and resources to form tutoring groups for students keen to brush up on finance, mock interview groups in preparation for recruitment, a wine club and even a band.
Kang became more confident about helping others when she saw how generous people could be. “Maybe I won’t pay back Ruxandra directly, but if someone needs my help, I would be happy to give it. Since the exercise, I’ve offered help to my peers when they needed explanation of some concepts we learned in class. I’ve offered to introduce my personal contacts in the automotive industry for those interested in a career in that industry. I’ve also helped organise some student events. I am certainly inspired to continue this once I become an alumna,” she said.
It is for these reasons that organisations should try, where possible, to facilitate an asking culture. Such an approach could also help companies start to address gender disparities. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University shows in her research that men are more likely than women to ask for what they want. Levelling the playing field with a universal “asking” culture could make women more likely to step forward.
For the ever leaner corporation and for those facing new challenges and opportunities, a reciprocity ring can be a low-cost method of uncovering unknown resources and helping to connect the many dots between employees and other stakeholders. Reciprocity is about both offering and asking for help and, at INSEAD, we are using reciprocity rings to help us unleash the diverse resources and generosity of INSEADers.
Schon Beechler is a Senior Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour. She is also the Academic Director of the MBA Programme at INSEAD. Follow Schon on Twitter at @ProfBeechler.
Follow INSEAD Knowledge on Twitter and Facebook.

Read more at https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/creating-a-culture-of-reciprocity-6576#kA3AeEPktbQhB6Cu.99

Friday, September 8, 2017

Michael Perkins talking about the future of the Professional Firm and the need for collaboration at the BBG Mastermind Lunch series on " Beyond the Future of Work" 


Quotable Comment about the event
Quotable Gem you got from the event
Very thought provoking for the future of collaboration between professional advisors
Need to keep reinventing yourself
I am, I do , I fit => Collaboration approach
TREAT  - BSI Values - trust, respect, energy , adventurous, , team First 
Like Minded energised audience 
Collaboration is Key
Interesting & Informative. Reminds us to plan properly for the future.
Focus on Collaboration
Trusted Network
Generated Value - around the client
Great insight into the practices of modern workplace
Personal Mastery
Give yourself time to learn before you earn
The concept of collaborative professionals under one formal legal company.i -  a common system - a market provider through collaboration
Time to learn=Time to Earn

Develop collaboration and resources
Collaborate,Build,Co-operate Trust
Future of Work is here
Collaboration
Reflective Solution for building collaboration in a workplace
Collaboration and referrals are most important
Good for B2B Collabration
A platform to know Business People
Felt event names/details didn't describe event well
Needs more polish as presentation
Inspiring and Informative
Collaboration Diagram     I am I do I fit 
Very Interesting for family owned businesses
Collaboration
Excellent & Informative

Holistic Customer Service

A clear description of how collaborative business models should operate
Collaboration is a discipline

3/4 of supreme court actions are contesting wills-shows importence and social value of estate planning for families
Referron App for networking

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Great "BBG Knowledge Share" on Outsourcing by Martin Conboy



Working with a virtual assistant.

When people say "virtual assistant," (VA) they might mean different things. For the purpose of this paper we're talking about remote administrative help, and assume the following three things:

1. They work remotely. Your VA will not be sitting next to you in your office or someplace near. All your communication will be online or on the phone, and you may never meet your VA face-to-face even if you work with them for years. A remote working relationship has its own quirky challenges.
 
2. They're global. That is, they don't live and work in the same state or country as you. The customs, laws and standard business practices they know may be different from the ones affecting you.
 
3. They're generalists, and not domain experts. For the purpose of this paper, we'll assume your VA is not a domain or industry expert. They provide administrative help, not specific consulting.

Now that we're on the same page about what a VA is and isn't, let's drill down

1. Establish your workflow early.

Do you expect your VA to be available at certain hours of the day, everyday? (I.e. The Philippines is two hours behind East Coast Australia in the winter and 3 hours behind in Summer) Or can they mostly work on longer tasks and just give weekly updates? Set expectations for when you want to be online and available to reduce the frustration from not being able to reach your VA when you need them the most. Its always a good idea to have a regular (i.e. weekly ‘work in progress ‘ (WIP) meeting.

Discuss your potential task list with your VA. Hopefully, you already did this during the vetting and hiring phase, but it helps to go through the list again with your VA after you've hired them. If you're hiring a service provider, the VA assigned to you may not be the same person you talked to while interviewing the service provider. By giving your VA an idea of the work coming down the pipe, they can better prepare for it. When you're dealing with a service provider that might means getting sub-VAs that specialize in the tasks on your list.

Ask them to send you a weekly (or daily or monthly, depending on the number of hours you've booked) breakdown of tasks they've done and how long it took each task.

Preferred communication. Your VA will be able to handle whatever communications medium you prefer. It may be by phone or Instant Message (IM) or email. While you're at it, tell them how you prefer to be reached, at what times and for which problems. You don't want to have your VA sending you an email when they should have called about a question on a time-sensitive project, and conversely, you don't want them calling you at all hours of the night for trivial questions.

2. Try different tasks in the beginning to gauge your VAs strengths and weaknesses.

During the vetting and hiring phase, hopefully you found a VA that specializes in the tasks you will be assigning. However, and this is especially true of microbusinesses that have few people doing a large variety of work, you may have a range of tasks that require different skillsets. For example, sending you an email and responding to responses requires people skills, whereas data entry requires being very detail oriented.

When you first start working with your VA, don't be afraid to try different tasks. You may find that your VA can accomplish more than you hoped for. If that's the case, you may assign this VA higher-level tasks that require some thinking, and choose to hire a lower cost VA to do the data entry work.

3. Give very detailed instructions.

When writing instructions, assume nothing and be as specific as possible. At least until you know your VA's ability to "read between the lines" and/or "anticipate your needs," make sure your instructions contain step-by-step explanations. Do not assume that your VA will be able to infer anything. They work on many types of tasks across all industries, so unless you hired a specialized VA, don't assume they can fill in even the smallest holes in your instructions.

Show an example of the finished task if possible. Or give them an example to follow. When assigning a task that involves filling in a spread sheetgive them the spread sheet with one or two rows already filled out.

Marked up screenshots are a great way to explain a task. The Firefox plugin FireShot makes it really easy to create a screenshot and add annotations to it.

If the task is more involved, you can also use a video screencast. Follow OPEN Forum contributors;Mashable has a list of great screen casting software  (i.e. CamStudio) and a very comprehensive guide to making video tutorials

4. Communicate using the appropriate tools.

A good VA will be able to use your preferred communications medium, whether it's voice calls, instant messaging, video conference, (i.e.GoToMeeting) or email.

Keep in mind that speaking is about seven times faster than writing, and about four times faster than typing.  So once you have a good workflow going with your VA, and you're confident they understand your needs so you can have less detailed instructions, try to integrate faster communication methods into your workflow. However, for longer project-like tasks, written instructions are better so your VA can reference it.

Email is good as the primary medium. It's good for giving initial instructions and getting delivery of work. For more immediately communication, use IM and sometimes voice calls (using Skype makes international calls free). IM is especially good for asking quick questions while doing the task.

5. When you assign the task, ask the VA to verify that they understand the task. (Active Listening is the most valuable skill a VA can have) 

For example, you can add one or more of the following into your instructions:

• Tell me exactly what you're going to do to accomplish this task. (Basically, ask them to explain the task back to you.)
• What is your estimate for how long this task will take?
• Is anything I said unclear at all? Do you have ANY questions?

What you're looking for is verification that your VA understands the goals of the task and your instructions for accomplishing it. By asking for this verification up-front, it lessens the chance your VA will waste the time you've paid for doing the wrong thing.

The key: make sure your VA acknowledges and understands the task before they start working on it.

6. Check in on the task about 10-20% of the way in.

If you expect a task to take 10 hours, ask the VA to come back after 1-2 hours with their progress. This will allow you to:

1. Check their work to make sure their interpretation of the task jives with your expectations,
2. Update instructions to streamline the task, or
3. Cancel the task if it turns out to be a bad idea.

7. Allocate two to three times more time for the task.

If you can do the task in an hour, expect your remote assistant to take 2-3 hours.

In the beginning, when you guys are just getting used to each other, it might take 3-4 hours. Once you've gotten into a good working relationship, and have found the perfect assistant for the set of tasks you tend to assign, it may only take the 1-2 hours.

But regardless, they will never be as fast as you. Even if you hired locally, the smartest college student you pay minimum wage won't be able to complete your tasks to your specs at your speed. So don't expect miracles.

8. Significant savings comes with volume (and trial and error).

The first month you work with your virtual assistant, it might actually take you more time to accomplish the task.  By the time you write up instructions, vet candidates, get used to working with the remote employee, send back work with more instructions, and spend your time fixing mistakes in the final product, it might take considerably more time than if you had done the task yourself.

Some folks will try hiring a VA and give up quickly. Their rationale is "if it takes them as much or more time as me, I'll just do it myself!" But experienced small business owners will take the long-view and realize that even if the VA is not as fast as them, outsourcing low-level work frees them up to accomplish higher-level (higher profit) work.

The benefits of outsourcing come once you've found a good remote employee that is well suited to the type of tasks you assign, and when you've learned how to efficiently communicate and work with your virtual assistant.

The takeaway: keep the long-term benefits in mind, and don't give up after the first few tasks. The first 100 hours of working with a remote employee is going to feel like an expensive waste. But if you stick it out, you'll see significant cost savings over the next 10,000+ hours.

9. Learn from other people's experiences.

The Four-Hour Workweek

 - Tim Ferris' book and site has done more to grow the virtual assistant industry than anymore else in recent memory. Follow Tim's blog to learn about his lifestyle of automating as much work as he can, so he can travel the world and live the life he wants. Especially useful links:

 Describes the processes Tim uses to have his VAs be his frontline email corresponder.

 - When you trust someone else to do the work you know you can do really well, some bad things will happen. As Tim says, "oftentimes, in order to do the big things, you have to let the small bad things happen." And as the owner, you're the only one who can do The Big Things, so it's necessary to let some small things slide.