20 Things Learned: Be Professional!

Lesson 14: Be Professional – and Ethical!

Being professional is another key to your success – not only professionalism in your dealings with clients but also your colleagues, and especially if you are subcontracting to them.  It might seem obvious but in my 20 years I have seen some astoundingly unprofessional behaviour from colleagues.

Professionalism can be as basic as, if your mobile is listed as your only contact ANSWER it!! Return calls and emails the same day. I’ve seen email footers stating “We will endeavor to reply to your email within three business days”. I’m sorry but in today’s instant gratification always on business environment, where we have become used to having our needs met immediately, three days is NOT good enough. When I see that, I go find someone else.

My business motto has always been to under promise and over deliver. 

Never, EVER take on a job and then drop it half way through – this relates to subcontracting too – if you take on a subcontract job complete it in the time frame you have agreed to. If something comes up get in touch immediately to see if you can re-arrange the deadline and if not don’t just shrug it off as not your responsibility and drop the job in favour of what has just come in. If you don’t have time because of kids or other commitments, don’t take on the work. If something comes up with kids or outside commitments, the work you have committed to comes first. Of course, if your child is sick all bets are off and your head contractor will understand but get in touch ASAP to let them know!

If you take on a subcontract job and then a client asks you to do something do NOT ditch the subcontract job in favour of the client work. You need to manage your time to get both things done. Your client is not more important than the VA who subcontracted you – in this case THEY are your client! You should treat them with the same respect you treat your own clients.

If you use subcontractors, pay them when you say you will, don’t chop and change things – and treat them professionally – as you wish to be treated. They are providing you a service and are – like you – business owners worthy of your respect. Not your employees.

Remember nowadays globalization and the interconnectedness of us all means there are a lot of people out there with a lot of different versions of ethics all vying for work. Be sure yours are impeccable!

Being professional also relates to being professional online – if you connect with clients or potential clients in social media spaces watch what you are doing and how you are behaving. I always encourage new VAs to have a business page on Facebook for example and not to use their personal profile as a business profile. In fact this is against the Facebook Terms of Use which state you cannot actually promote your business or advertise for work on a personal profile.

You want to separate out your personal from your business. Consider using LinkedIn for business if you don’t want to set up a Facebook page.

Remember that on social media you don’t know how many people are actually watching you. Creepy I know but I have been reminded of this a few times when someone has direct messaged me and said something like “I was watching that recent discussion about xyz and you handled that better than I would have” – and I had no clue they were even looking at it as they had not commented or reacted. Some people just lurk – which is fine but keep that in mind when you are working online.

I cover damaging your online reputation in Episodes 23 and 24 of the Virtual Business Show which you will find in the archive. Also check out Episode 61: 5 Tips for Being Professional.

Being professional also means treating your colleagues with respect. Just because they are colleagues doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated with the same professionalism you treat clients. In some cases other VAs will be your clients – if you provide say bookkeeping services for them; social media; or site hosting for example. In other cases, the VA will be your subcontractor. If you are dealing with colleagues, do so respectfully. Respond to their emails and messages – remember in this day and age, social media messaging lets you know when someone has seen your message and ignored it. Ghosting a colleague is as unprofessional as ignoring a client – and damages your reputation just as much. It’s bad enough in relationships: it should NEVER be done in business.

In all cases treat your VA colleagues like they are clients – or as you would like to be treated.

©Lyn Prowse-Bishopwww.execstress.com