SEP Episode 24: How To Beat Business Overwhelm With A Virtual Assistant

Hello, and welcome to The Story Engine podcast. Today on the show, we have Trivinia Barber. Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA, and VA stands for virtual assistant. And she’s having a really big impact on the world, especially with entrepreneurs, helping them get connected with an assistant who can really transform their business and their lives. When you get a good assistant, especially if you’re in a small business, or maybe it’s just you on your own, having that first team member really be able to support a lot of the efforts that you’re doing can dramatically transform how you spend your time, both inside, and hopefully save you a little bit of time to enjoy outside of your business as well.

Trivinia also has a lot to share about burnout and avoiding burnout as an entrepreneur, which is where we start this conversation that we have today. I’m really excited for you to hear Trivinia’s story, and to learn about a lot of the key processes and steps you need to take to successfully bring on an assistant that can transform your business.




Key Takeaways

[3:37] The dangers of working too hard

[8:53] How to recognize when your approaching total burnout

[13:04] A tried and true process to avoid burnout

[18:19] Finding the perfect virtual assistant (VA)

[21:20] The first steps to take to hire a VA

[25:54] Setting up communication tools for your VA

[30:25] Empowering your VA for success

[33:07] An easy and effective system to successfully onboard your VA

[37:28] Tips on how to avoid conflict with your VA

[40:36] The four things every successful leader does


Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Priority VA: Everything You Need To Know About Working with a Virtual Assistant




Last Pass

One Password



Jon Berghoff

Five Love Languages Test




Hello, everybody, and welcome to The Story Engine podcast. Today on the show, we have Trivinia Barber, who is brilliant at creating amazing teams for your business and offloading a lot of the work and the chaos that is so typical in an entrepreneurial journal. Trivinia, thank you so much for joining us today.


Holy cow, I’ve been waiting for this day for like three weeks now. I’m so excited.


Yes, this has been so much fun, because nearly a year ago, we had an amazing lunch, and you were just blowing my mind with so many different stories and all of the cool things you were doing and just every time you speak about kind of what you’re working on or how you help people, it’s just like I feel it in my soul. And so I’m so excited to have you on the show today. And I’d like to start things off with a question I usually start, and I want to know like a defining moment in your past, in your life, that has really led you to be who you are today, to serve who you’re serving, and to solve the specific problems that you solve.


So I have to tell you something first. I think it’s so funny because it’s actually an interview question in our gauntlet when we’re hiring people is we want to know three defining moments that people had in their lives, and it helps us to just get to know applicants that are coming on board with our business. So I live that kind of the tables are turned and you’re asking me. There have been so many, honestly, whether it be me being born a premature person who like wasn’t supposed to live, to growing up and being an adult starting this successful business, and then realizing that I was sabotaging it and really killing myself by trying to grow such a big venture by myself.

And so I would say the most impactful defining moment lately has been really a couple of years ago, I was hustling hard, and I had clients that I was still serving because I was too afraid to actually go all in on my business. I was building a business that had already reached seven figures, and I was terrified to commit fully into it, and I came into this really breaking point where I was struggling with suicidal thoughts, I actually had a suicide attempt, I was in a dark, deep depression, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. And that moment actually changed the trajectory of our business and my marriage, of my children’s lives. I have four daughters, and it was a huge moment for me, realizing that chasing the hustle was really just going to destroy me. So instead, I decided to chase slow and make some major adjustments to my life.


That is amazing. There are so many things that I want to explore in here. You’re touching on something, we usually talk about storytelling in the sense of like how we reach our audience. But I think what’s really interesting in there is you used storytelling to change your story, to change your perspective, to change what was important and what was really valuable in what you were doing. And I’d love to know if there was a specific moment, or lesson, or realization, or if you did some kind of exercise that really helped you turn this from a very dark, very challenging time, to into something great and powerful?


Yeah, so for me, the moment or that defining … Yeah, the defining event for me came when I had taken a bunch of pills. Like, being real, took a bunch of pills, and my daughter was homeschooled at the time. And she was 12 or 13 years old. And I had taken the pills, and then I realized, she’s outside, in the next room. And the likelihood of her finding me is going to be really bad. And I mean, that was the moment for me where I was like, “Something has to change. It has to change right now.” And I knew I had a limited amount of time before bad stuff was going to happen.

And so I sort of made my own plea for, “Oh my gosh, someone come save me, because I don’t want this.” And that really … It really changed everything, because realizing that I was setting my life up, my story that I was writing, was one that my daughter was going to have to tell her friends and her family and her future spouse that she found her mom dead. Like, that’s horrific, right? And so yeah, that was the moment for me, and it meant a lot of therapy, it meant medication in some senses, to try and stabilize the depression and anxiety that was going on, and it meant a lot of self-reflection until like, what did I really want to create? And did I want to do it at the expense of losing myself? And nah, I didn’t. Nothing is worth it. Saying that I work for so and so, or that I did this for this person, or I had this client on my roster, none of that was going to be worth it if it meant my kids lost their mom.


Wow. So I just have to acknowledge and thank you so much for your vulnerability and being willing to share these deep stories with us, because I think that these are the stories that really can impact a lot of people powerfully, and I hope that what you’ve shared not only can help save yourself, but I’m sure is helping a lot of people who are in those challenging places. And since you’ve had such a profound experience with burnout, like all the way, almost all the way burned out, tell us a little bit … Because I think even though, oftentimes it’s probably not as clear to a lot of people, or the feelings probably aren’t quite as intense as what you’ve experienced, I think many entrepreneurs out there, maybe all of us experience some moment of burnout or near burnout.

And I would love to know what that really feels like. Because I don’t think everybody … I think a lot of entrepreneurs, they’re kind of these warrior-ish types, even male or female, whoever it is, whatever background, typically we have this ability to kind of just like grit our way through stuff. And so we’re not always sensitive or aware when things like, “Oh, I’m burned, I’m depressed, I’m in a challenging situation.” So what does that feel like? What are the symptoms in businesses, and in your life, and how can people notice?


Yeah. You know, I think obviously it’s going to be different for everyone, but one thing that I’ve seen, and the common vein, the funny thing about all of this is is I own a company to help people avoid burnout. Like that was kind of the, I don’t know, Alanis Morissette, isn’t it ironic, of it all, of how is this happening to me? Like I am a badass at preventing this for other people, but I wasn’t able to prevent it for myself. And so things that I look for in my clients that I had to, again, become really introspective and look for in myself, was just listening to the things that they say.

When I have a client that says, “Something’s got to give.” Or, “I just can’t keep going at this pace.” Or, “Things are starting to fall through the cracks.” Or, “There’s just not enough time in the day.” Or other things can be really indicative of when burnout is coming. For me, it looked like I stopped going to church, which was something that was really important for me, but I was like, “Ah if I can just make sure I can get my inbox at zero before Monday.” And I started like letting go of the things that previously were very important to me, and that were non-negotiable. I started negotiating with those things and giving up the things that were most important to me.

Thank goodness, I didn’t make the choice to ever sacrifice like kids events and award ceremonies and stuff like that, but I see it happen in my clients all the time. Like pretty soon, missing one soccer game turns into missing most of the soccer games. That’s what I think it can look like. Also, a huge red flag for so many of us is when you’re on your phone in the morning, first thing, checking email. When you’re on your phone late at night, checking email. When it just … Work becomes all-consuming and we’re not present anymore, and life revolves around what’s next on the calendar. I think that can be huge too.


Oh, wow. I think that’s so powerful, and really good stuff, because I think a lot of people maybe when they see burnout, we’re not always making the connections with what’s happening in our business and how it’s spilling over and affecting the rest of our life, often until we get some kind of kick in the ass usually to wake us up.


Yeah, sorry to interrupt you. But I had a friend who wrote a book called Balance Is Bullshit, and it’s so true. There is no balance. Everyone comes … I do a lot of coaching and stuff now with helping people build teams and really get kind of their life and business set on the right trajectory. And people are always saying like, “I struggle with work, life balance.” I was like, “So does everyone else.” Whether you have a 9:00 to 5:00 job or you are an entrepreneur, everyone on the drive home from work, you’re still thinking about how your coworker pissed you off. Or if you’re an entrepreneur, you wake up or you’re in the shower and you’re thinking about what your latest and greatest project is. And so we have to stop trying to separate and compartmentalize the two, and instead, we need to integrate the two in a healthy way. And I think that’s possible, it just takes a lot of foresight and planning, and then really commitment to stick to that plan.


I think so too. And I think what people define as balance, or what people imagine with balance is like … I’m thinking of people in yoga poses, like on one toe, and just standing perfectly and not moving. But really, a lot of the times, actually balancing and what it looks like for most humans is kind of like we wobble one way, and then we wobble and we’re kind of going … You never really feel like you’re on the thing, but it’s movement, and it’s part of it, and I think seeing kind of a balance like that of being aware. And in order to really balance, you’re always calibrating and you’re sensitive and you’re part of it. And so that might be a better picture for some people.

So in this case, we know what burnout is looking like now. We know kind of the symptoms in our business, and you mentioned you have a business that helps people with burnout. So I’d love to hear how can we start to escape the places that we go when we’re burned out, the situations, and how do you help people with those problems?


Yeah. I think it sounds so simplistic, but the same way that you make a decision that you don’t want to be obese anymore. You got to start figuring out what you’re putting in your mouth, what you’re thinking when you’re putting those things in your mouth, and then make a plan to change that. We have to log what we’re eating. If you’ve ever worked with a nutritionist, they make you log every meal and every drink that you have and then write down what you’re feeling as a result. Similarly, I ask my clients to do the same thing with the things that they’re doing in their business. And we’ve got a four-step process that we use where we ask people to write down all the things that you don’t like doing, the stuff that you just want to gouge your eyes out when you’re doing it.

For me, that’s anything finance related. I can’t stand it. The things that you don’t know how to do. So this is putting your pixel in your Facebook page and all that jazz that you’re Googling and watching YouTube videos, and document those things too. And then document the stuff that you actually like really might enjoy doing, and you might know how to do it really well, but it always gets pushed off on the back burner. That’s those things that are going on in the back of your head that are causing you anxiety, knowing that you’re dropping balls and you can’t spin the plates anymore. And then document the things that only you can do.

For instance, this podcast. Only you can get on here and interview me. You can have a team do every other step beside hit record and have a great conversation. So write down those things that only you can do really well, and what happens with that is you start to see, really I feel like you see a person kind of hop off the page. You realize this is techy, this is admin, this is finance related or whatever. And then you can start to figure out how you can offload those things. Even if you offload 10% of your workload a year, that’s so much better than 99% of us are doing, because we’re just heaping more things on our plate, and most of us need to proactively be getting things off of our plate. But instead, we just say yes and we play martyr in our business and we just agree to more things without taking anything off.

And so that’s really the first step for me to help clients avoid burnout. And then from there, we really like to help people determine not only what needs to be done, but who they need in their business as well, and that for us looks like a long-term collaborative partner, like an assistant that’s there for the long haul, not just like one-off projects and stuff. And that’s really been beneficial for a lot of our clients to really have kind of a right-hand person to go through life and business with, and that’s helpful because they get to know you, and they get to see you when you’re stressed out, and they get to be like, “Ah, Kyle’s having a rough week. All right, let me up my game a little bit so I can alleviate some of that stress or burden that he’s feeling.”

And that’s how we’ve done it, and it’s just been so amazing to watch people’s lives change. I had a client one time tell me, Kyle, he said, “You know what the coolest thing about hiring a VA has been?” And I was like, “I don’t know, what?” And he said, “It brought back date night.” And I was like, huh. So seeing, again, work-life balance. It wasn’t just like, “I have more leads coming in.” It was like, “I go on a date with my wife now.” And that was the benefit of his hiring support. And so I think that can be … It can be leads for some people. It can be a free date night for someone else. It’s amazing.


Incredible. I think that’s beautiful. Yeah, yeah, good stuff.


So you asked how I find people.


Mm-hmm (affirmative).


This is going to sound really cocky, and I don’t mean it as such. We’re just incredibly blessed. I used to find people by casting nets far and wide and just being like, “Please, anybody, come in.” We have built a solid reputation in the industry now, and so we are blessed to get about 100, 150 applications a month without running any ads, without doing anything. And so now, people come to us. But when I was searching for people, the best place to find support is honestly referrals. I even tell my clients right now to ask your successful friends who seem to have a good balance in their life, ask them where they found support and get a referral. I think that’s the best way.


Yeah. And either way, I mean that’s getting you out of burnout. It’s getting you out of the things that are dragging you down, because I think again, one of the best and most important skills I think an entrepreneur can have is you figure out maybe how to solve a problem and you solve it once, or you know how to put somebody in the place to solve the problem for you. Anytime you’re doing a task, especially if it’s a task that’s giving you a headache to do, if you’re repeating that task, then that’s not entrepreneurship anymore, and you’ve got to get out of that zone. And so finding somebody who can carry this weight for you I think is so very powerful.

Along the lines, or just right, in the beginning, you were telling us about some of the questions that you ask your people that you’re bringing onto your team. I’m wondering, how is it that you find somebody that’s a good fit? Because … Well, and before we go there, I just want to say, like especially to everybody listening, the exercises that she suggested, the writing things, like if you have free time and you’re near a pen and paper, pause this and go do that right now and just start to think about and explore some of these things. Because it feels probably like a little bit of like a homework kind of thing, and it’s not really the sexiest or most attractive exercise to do.


Kyle, I can even make it easier for people. If that seems daunting, you’re like, “Oh yeah, whatever, she wants me to log my stuff.” I’ll make it easier, put a Post-It note on your monitor, or on your laptop, like on the side of your trackpad, that just says, “Do you have to do this?” And that will be enough for you to be like, “No, actually I don’t have to be the one doing this.” And that’s going to get those wheels turning of like, “Why am I spending so much time doing these tasks that aren’t really adding value to my clients, my customers, the bottom line of my business or whatever?” And that Post-It note, I kept one on my laptop for like a year and a half. And it was amazing for me to realize how many things I was doing that could be automated, it could be outsourced to someone else, it could be systematized in such a way that my team could do it for me. And so yeah, Post-It note, that makes it really easy. Do I have to do this?

[bctt tweet=”The best place to start your search for support are referrals from successful friends who seem to have a good balance in their life. -Trivinia Barber ” username=”kylethegray”]

Secondarily to that, ask the communities that you’re in. Some people are in paid Facebook groups, and they can ask in there for some referrals. If you have an audience, oftentimes we have people in our audience that are trying to do the things that we are doing already. Maybe they tried and they failed and they just enjoy you and the perspective that you bring to life. And they might be the best advocate for you. They might be the best person to come alongside and support you because they get you, they get your business, they’ve tried the, “I’m going to be a business owner,” thing and failed. And they’d be a great person to be kind of a number two for you. So there’s that. Otherwise, you can go obviously LinkedIn and Indeed and all those things. But I would start with your close network first to find some great support.


You say that, and I think that’s how I got my assistant. I’ve had … I was just talking to her yesterday and realizing I’d been working with her for a year. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, my life is so different now.” And I found her actually going on another friend’s podcast, and she was helping get me booked and scheduled for the right time, and I can’t remember exactly what had happened, but through a couple of emails, I was like, “Oh, PS, Natalie, you’re awesome.” And she’s like, “Oh, thank you. I’m taking on new clients if you need an assistant.”


Good job.


And so, “All right, let’s go for it.” And yeah, within a couple of weeks, she was on my team, and consistently has like really, really changed my business. If you are out there thinking about making the first hire for … I really like … I’ve like contracted dozens and dozens of people. I’m really good at finding somebody who’s highly skilled, applying their skills in a short project, and then letting them go. But it was kind of scary for me to say like, “Okay, I need to have somebody who’s … I’m paying consistently and I don’t know what this month or that month’s going to look like. But I’ve got to make it work.” For anybody else who’s kind of in the shoes I was in not too long ago, and they want to bring on an assistant or make a good consistent hire for their business, what are some of the common fears or objections that people have when they’re faced with this?




And how do you respond to those?


Yeah, so most often, the number one objection is like, “How am I going to pay for this?” So I like to tell people if you are not revenue positive in your business, sorry, you just have to suck it up and keep doing it for yourself for a little while. There are some people that want to put that kind of stuff on credit card. I just don’t live my life that way, so I don’t want to encourage anyone else to do it. So yeah, money fears are great. You get what you pay for. And you can start with go offshore. Find somebody who’s $4, $8 an hour or whatever if that makes sense for you if your business is highly systematized.

I think offshore works really well when it’s very task-based, sort of check the box, step one, step two, step three. If your business has very subjective and has a lot of nuance to it, then you might not want to go that route. So I’m not against it, I just think in very specific instances, it doesn’t make sense, especially if someone’s going to be incredibly customer, community facing, then they’ve got to have a nuance of the city you live in, the type of clientele you serve, whatever. So you can definitely go that route.

The next question I think that people often give is like, “How do you know you can trust them?” And you don’t. I mean, you don’t. And the worst case scenario is they’re going to take your credit card and run up a bill or something, but there are protections you can put in place. I remember with my first assistant, I was a chicken. And so I got a specific credit card with a $500 limit on it, and that’s what I gave her until I could flex my muscles enough to be okay with it. So there are things you can put in place, sharing passwords with systems like Last Pass, or One Password, so you’re not giving away the keys to the kingdom.

And I say this sort of sarcastic, because the fears that we have, they’re a little bit ridiculous in that the same thing could happen if you hired an employee and they came and sat in your office right next to you. You’re still going to get jerks every once in a while. But do vetting in advance. We have a system we call the gauntlet. And it’s a seven stage process we put people through because we want to make sure that they’re honest and trustworthy and stuff. So have a little bit of a testing process to put people through. You don’t want them to jump through hoops for the sake of it, so make sure that you’re testing to values with each step of that. Figure out what your values are for your business, and then make sure that anything that you do, if it’s an interview question if it’s a test project that you’re going to have them do or any sort of … We do role playing interviews in our business. So if it’s that, that you’re actually testing a specific value to see if they align.

Another fear I think would be, “What if I don’t have enough for them to do?” And I always have to tease people because I’m like, “If you can’t …” So our minimums are 10 hours a week. And so I say, “If you can’t offload 10 hours a week of things in your business, then you’re not working hard enough. If you can’t figure out how you would get yourself 10 hours back a week, then you don’t need an assistant at all, because you’re not doing enough.” So those are probably the most common. And then for us, because we’re a matching service, people ask me all the time like, “What if I don’t like my virtual assistant?” They say, “What if I don’t like her? What if I don’t get along with her?”

Well then get a new one. That’s fine. We tell people, “If it’s a fear issue, if you’re afraid of diving in and delegating, then that’s something we can work through. But if it’s kind of your spidey senses saying that it’s not a fit, then that’s a different issue.” And you just have to know what your non-negotiables are, whether you’re hiring someone for five hours a week or full time, just know the things that you will not put up with no matter what, even if the pope himself wanted to be your assistant. Like, what would you not put up with from anyone? And make sure you’re hiring and firing to that.


I think that’s incredible. And once we find somebody that’s a good fit, I’d love to learn a little bit more about kind of the communication systems we set up. So from my experience, when I started working for a startup called WP Curve, maybe four-ish years ago, it was my first time doing remote work. And there was a lot of challenges kind of managing communication, managing expectations and getting tasks done and all these things, and I think somebody who A, hasn’t had anybody to manage before, and B, hasn’t managed anybody virtually before, may find there’s a couple of challenges early on. What are some of those challenges and how do you approach them?


The first challenge that we always run across is people expect their assistant to be waiting at their desk, hitting refresh. Like just waiting for an email to come in, waiting for a task to come through. And 99% of the VAs out there are 1099 contractors. They’re not W2 employees. They’re not sitting at their desk just waiting for you to tell them what to do, because they have lives. Maybe they’re at the grocery store, maybe they’re at the park with their kids. So managing the time expectation is absolutely the biggest thing you’ve got to address from the beginning. That can look like saying, maybe you use a system like Slack, and we have an out of office channel. And so I want my team to just pop in in the morning and just be like, “Hey, I’m here from 8:00 to 11:30 today and then I’m running to the bank.” Whatever.

So manage communication by just communicating. I mean, it’s not that hard. And have an ideal, a realistic I guess expectation of turnaround time. So ideally, it should take 24 hours for anyone to respond to email or tasks or whatever, unless you’ve set up a system that they’re at inbox zero every day, and some people are very anal about that and require it. But just make sure that you communicate whatever those requirements are for your business. And then a great thing for you to do, because people ask me all the time like, “How do you know what they really did that week?” So we have our team track their time.

Not all VAs will do that. Some of them actually refuse to do that. But we have them track their time, and then on Fridays, they send a wrap up email that says what they got done that week, what’s going to be on tap for next week, and what they’re impediments to progress are, so that there is full communication about what’s going on and what they’re working on, and we have them put their hours in for that as well, so they know how much time is remaining on the contract for that month. So just set up those communication tools.

And if you’re like a bullet guy, if like long paragraphs of information are going to make you want to gouge your eyes out, tell your person that. Just tell time like, “When you communicate with me, I like bullets.” We have a client that, he’s an exception, but he tells his assistant to please not send emails that are more than 150 words. That’s extreme, and I don’t think it’s realistic, but that’s his communication style. So she’s got to be really clear and concise in what she needs from him in order for it to work, and thankfully they’ve got a good relationship and that works.


Wow. I loved what you said about kind of the wrap-up email. And it reminded me, I used to teach an entrepreneurship class at the University of Utah, and we had a very similar system where the only homework was you had this management report, which again was your progress for this week, the plans for next week, the problems that you’re facing that impede that, and then what your priorities are.




And if you could do those, like just write those four things, then it created a way for the students in the class, we would all post our reports, and we could all review them and give each other feedback on like, “Here’s what you did,” or maybe, “Oh, you’re facing this problem. Here’s how I can help you.” And why I’m telling you this, and the listeners, is I think that a system like that is incredibly powerful, not just for your assistance, but that’s an excellent even end of the week or beginning of the week ritual. And I think it’s very, very good.

It saved me a couple of times in cases where I’m working with clients, and maybe they don’t a lot of the time understand all of the work that I do in marketing and technology, and they just think like it’s much simpler and easier to be done. And I show them this document and such, “Here are the things that happened. Here’s what’s going on.” And it’s also nice because you leave a trail of breadcrumbs. You can always be seeing what tasks are happening and how a project has evolved and how your relationship with your assistant is evolving. And it might even be useful for some people to have one of those and send it to your assistant, especially in the case of like, “I don’t know what I’m going to have for them to do.” If you can brief them like, “These things are coming next week, I’m not sure how you can help me, but maybe you have any ideas?” Creating that opportunity for them to say, “Hey, I’m really great at this,” or, “I can support you here.”


Yeah. Ultimately, the goal is, and this doesn’t happen at the beginning, this is three, six months in, sometimes, depending on how tight-lipped clients are with their struggles, but the goal is ultimately that the VA would be able to engage with you, whether it’s phone, text, email, on a video conference, and they’ll be able to see, they’ll be able to sense what’s going on, and they’re going to be able to look at the potholes coming down the road for you and preemptively say, “I’m going to take this. I need you to do this.” And they’re going to start to, in a sense, kind of project manage you a little bit, where they become a little bit more of directing the ship.

Clients tell me all the time, like, “I just want my EA to tell me what to do? Like if they just tell me what to do, I’ll go do it. But my sort of figuring it out for myself is overwhelming.” And so that’s the ultimate goal is to have the VA kind of running the show for you.

[bctt tweet=”Empower your virtual assistant to feel comfortable running the show for you. -Trivinia Barber” username=”kylethegray”]


Oh, I think that’s so important. I say this often that you only have like so much smart decision making juices in your brain that you can use every day. And I think that that’s one of the most valuable resources as an entrepreneur, and if you have an assistant that’s empowered and understands where you are and where you’re going well enough that they can help make these choices for you, it’s more valuable than just saving you 10 hours a week. That’s saving you some important decisions that you could be thinking about, “How do I move my business forward? How do I free up more time so I can make the kid’s soccer games?” Anything like that, it’s so much more valuable than just the day to day things. Everything you can do to free your mind to only focus on your brilliance is such a valuable and worthwhile activity.


Yeah, absolutely. I agree.


Let’s see, when bringing on our first hires, or IA, identifying them, what are a lot of the ways that we need to onboard them? Again, you said we get them a credit card. We get them into Slack. And I guess what are some other useful things? So I’m thinking in the sense of like some of the most useful things I’ve developed with my assistant is like a document where we list all of the passwords. Or get a Last Pass account.


Oh, don’t do that. Don’t do that.




Always use a secure system to log your passwords. I wish I had it here so I could show you. I’ll take a picture. I was at a store the other day, and they had a little kind of journal, tiny little pocket-sized journal, and it said password keeper. And it was this like little form that you would pull out, and it would stretch out, and it had like a website, username, password, and like you’re supposed to carry that in your back pocket. I just was cracking up. That’s not safe. Definitely use something like Last Pass, One Password, Dashlane.

But setting up your virtual assistant and onboarding them, one of the best things that you should do is create, and this is kind of pre-work, so before you even have an assistant, this is some stuff that you could be doing, is set up a Google sheet. Super simple, Google sheet, the first tab of that sheet is going to say Systems. The second tab of that sheet is going to say Resources. And then the third tab of that sheet is going to say To Be Documented. And so then on the first tab, that systems tab, I want you to go into your Google, let’s say you use Google Calendar. And I want you to use a plugin called Use Loom, L-O-O-M, and I want you to record your screen, and I want you to open up your calendar and tell your assistant, who you haven’t hired yet, how you like your appointments to be scheduled.

So for instance, I’m really anal about how I want my flights entered onto my calendar. And so I tell my assistant, “I want them to be in the light green color, and I want it to say Savannah to Denver, flight blah, blah, blah.” And I explain to her how I want it all set up. I take that little link that I get from Use Loom, and I drop it into that Google sheet, and it’s titled, “How to schedule a flight for Trivinia.” And with everything that you do, whether it’s you paying a bill, it’s you booking a flight, scheduling a meeting, whatever, open Loom on your computer and just record yourself doing and talk yourself through the process. First I go to my calendar, and then I check to see when my kid’s soccer game is, and then I … Whatever it is.

And drop that link into Loom. And what you’re doing is you’re creating SOP, standard operating procedures, without even knowing it. People tell me all the time, “I don’t have time to create SOPs.” And I always have to kind of call BS, because I’m like, “You’re doing the task right now by yourself anyway. So just record yourself doing it and then it’s done.” So all of those links go under systems.

Then under the resources tab, that’s where you’re going to link to your headshot, you’re going to link to your bio, you’re going to link to your Facebook page. Just start dropping links in there for people so that your VA doesn’t have to wonder like, “I need a bio for this podcast Trivinia’s going to be on. I don’t know where her bio is.” They go to that resources tab, and it’s right there. So you’re starting to organize your business. And then that third tab is to be documented. That’s just the brain dump of all the stuff you’re like, “When I get around to it, I should probably document this process.”

When the VA comes on board, they can say, “I’m going to block your calendar for 20 minutes. If you could please document these two processes for me, that’d be awesome.” And then, as the weeks go on, all your processes are documented. You can get those all turned into pretty PDFs and stuff like that if you get them transcribed. But your goal is to get it out of your head, onto a link, into a spreadsheet.


That is a great system.


Easy. So easy. There’s no excuse to not do it. It just really … With all this technology, Kyle, like there’s no excuse for us to be disorganized messes. There’s just not.


Yeah, hopefully. Hopefully, if we use it appropriately. I feel like technology sometimes can … We just try and get so many different apps or so many different things, it’s amazing. But it’s also a great thing because with all of these apps and software, it replaces what 30 years ago would have required an entire office building of people. And I think that’s really the power that you’re offering here is to be able to just have a small team that is super efficient and super effective, and yeah, I’ll probably have to block some time in my calendar to get a little more secure and set up my Last Pass account sometime soon.

So let’s see, we’ve got a little bit more time, and I would love to kind of hear … Again, sometimes your assistant just isn’t a good fit, or maybe sometimes there are some conflicts between how you, for example, in the 150-word email case, there might be some assistants who are just like, “No, that’s not how I’m going to work.” How do you manage those things, misalignment with your current assistant? And how do you know, “Okay, this is a small problem that we can fix and we can work around.” Or, “This is just not a good fit.” How do you navigate that?


Yeah, I think that the first thing you need to do is not have knee-jerk reactions. I think that we can be so quick to be like, “This isn’t going to work.” And just throw out the baby with the bathwater or whatever. I have a perfect example of this because I hired someone locally, which was a new thing for me to do. I work with everybody virtually, but I just have this like need to want somebody to kind of be here to make me lunch and run to the post office and things like that.

And I hired a very young gal who didn’t take time very seriously. And she was late multiple times. And even after, I do a thing in my business called 25 little things. And it just lists 25 things about our business and how we show up and how we act. And then I did 25 little things about me personally. The number one thing on that is early is on time. So I don’t know how much more clear I could be than don’t be late, but she was always constantly late. And so I didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction, and so sat down and said, “This is something that’s really important to me, remember the 25 things. I don’t like it, even if you’re showing up just a couple minutes late, it just feels disrespectful to me, and I really need to be on time.”

And so I made sure that it wasn’t a process problem. So that’s what was really important to decide. Is this a people problem or a process problem? And if it’s process, then that’s on you as the leader. You have to figure out a different process, maybe work with them to create a new process that kind of they can fall in line with and it just flows better and feels good for you still. And if that doesn’t happen, then it could be a people problem. And that looks like typically, just for me, it was having the conversation with her, just letting her know my expectations, and just setting the parameters that like, “If you’re late again, I can’t do this. Because I just can’t run a business like this because it just doesn’t work for me personally.”

And she was late a couple more times and I just called it. She knew the expectation and I let her go, unfortunately. When you’re working with people virtually, it’s harder because if they’re a couple minutes late like getting to their computer, you don’t know that. So you have to make sure that you’re not being such a nag about things that it’s making life unbearable for them and you have to just ask yourself, “Do I have the right system set up for this? Have I communicated those systems for the person? And does the person know what success looks like?” Because if you have never explained what success in the rule looks like, and yet you’re mad they’re not successful in it, that’s not fair.

[bctt tweet=”To avoid conflict, it is imperative that your assistant knows exactly what success looks like to you. Trivinia Barber ” username=”kylethegray”]

So I always like to like check leaders, check your hearts, like check where you’re at with all of this and if you can unequivocally say, “I have given them everything they need to be successful,” then it’s okay to just mutually agree. And there’s a guy, I’m going to mess up his name, but I think it’s Jon Berghoff, and he has a whole system for how you can let somebody go in a really kind way, so it’s actually you’re helping them instead of just like cutting them off at the knees. So look that up. He just has a whole system where you kind of just tell them like, “I’m firing you. This is happening, but here’s what it’s going to look like so that you land well.” And that’s something that if I ever have to do it again, I’ll definitely use his system.

But your job as a founder, guys, is four things, whether this is an employee, a contractor, a project person that you’re going to hire. But your job is to equip your team. Like as the leader, your role is to equip them to do their jobs. You also have to empower them to do a really good job. That means stop being kind of helicopter CEO and hovering over all of the things. You’ve got to engage with them. To equip, empower, engage. And there’s another E in there somewhere that I’m missing right now. Oh, yeah, I said empower. empower, engage. I’m forgetting the other one, you guys. There’s four. I know there’s four. I often talk about them, but right now, I’m drawing a blank.

But the gist of it is that you need to set your team up for success. Encourage, that’s the other one. You have to encourage them. And I don’t mean be a cheerleader, because I’m not in my business. That’s probably why that was the last one because I’m not very rah-rah. And I tell my team all the time, like, “I’m not going to give you a parade for doing what you’re supposed to do. Like I’m just not. That’s not my personality. I’m not like rah, rah, that’s amazing stuff.” So I have to consciously have stuff. I have reminders on my calendar. Like, “Send a thank you note to so and so,” so that I can be grateful because gratitude’s not like a simple thing for me.

But you have to encourage them in a way that they need encouragement. A great tip for that is to have them take the five love languages test. And it will tell you how they receive love. There’s a PC version of it for work that’s like, “The languages of appreciation.” But just the five love languages test is fine. But it’ll tell you if they like gifts, or if they like words of affirmation, or if they like acts of service or quality time. And so then you can communicate to them the way they need to be communicated with.

So in my business, this is how it looks. My husband is my COO, he is words of affirmation like nobody’s business. So I have to make sure that I tell him he’s doing a really good job. For one of my assistants, it’s gifts. And so I just randomly send her stuff. Like she’ll post that she wants something online, she posted some unicorn slippers one time, but she thought they were cool. And I just had them sent to her. Like, whatever, it was 20 bucks, no big deal. She loved it. Thought it was great.

For like the words of affirmation people, which when we surveyed our virtual assistants, 87% of them were words of affirmation. So we thought that was really powerful. And so that means don’t just sent them a cheesy $5 Starbucks gift card, write something on that $5 gift card, because that is what’s going to mean the world to them, not that you sent them a gift card. So just kind of do little things like that’ll help you really make sure that you’re maintaining a good relationship with your team.


I think that’s really good stuff. And one thing you were saying earlier that I just want to repeat is you were mentioning, or you were talking about handling problems, and it’s either a process problem or a people problem. And I think, fortunately, in many cases, or if you’re doing your job right, it’s always a process or a communication problem. Because if you fail at least early on in communication, then that’s when you hire the wrong person. But it’s also encouraging, because once you start working in processes, and you have these conversations around, “What’s not right about this process?” It actually makes having these difficult conversations with your team members a lot easier, and nobody feels like they’re getting attacked personally when you start to say like, “Oh, I just don’t know if this is working the right way. How can we fix this?” So it creates a much more collaborative, where like, “How do we work together so we’re both better?” Instead of, “You’re not showing up in the way that I want you to, even though I’ve never told you.”


Yeah, that’s a … I think to define from the beginning, anytime you hire someone, what success in that role looks like. And it can be that it’s that my inbox is at zero all the time. It’s that you’re preemptively looking at my calendar, three weeks in advance, and booking travel so that I don’t have to remind you to book travel. Like just define what success looks like for people, and they will surprise you. If they have a place to ascend to, they’ll get there. We all want to get better. So just make sure you’re communicating that and they’ll be happy.


Beautiful. Trivinia, this has been so much fun. We’ve explored so many different things.


So much.


Going from burnout to hiring, to communicating, to love languages. Amazing stuff. I would love to hear how anybody listening to this who’s just really, really appreciated what you’ve had to say and is resonating and maybe looking to make a hire on their own, where can they connect with you?


Yeah, so go to, that’s probably the best place to meet with us. And then I got really lucky with a crazy name like Trivinia that you can find me on all the social channels at Trivinia.


Oh, I think that’s good. Yeah. I’ve got a Kyle Gray in Scotland who I’m always competing with for social media and searches. So that is a very lucky thing, Trivinia. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a total pleasure.


Absolutely. Take care.


Thanks for listening to The Story Engine podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes and resources mentioned in this episode, and every episode, at If you want to tell better stories and grow your business with content marketing and copywriting, be sure to download the content strategy template at This template is an essential part of any business that wants to boost their traffic, leads, and sales with content marketing. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.