As your business grows, you may need more assistance than one VA can provide, and it may make sense for you to consider adding another VA to the mix.

There are two basic models to consider:

1. The team model
2. The hub and spoke model.

In the team approach everyone in the team works together. So, whether you have two or six VAs, they all attend status meetings with you, they all know what’s going on in your company, they interact with each other, and although each usually has her own areas of responsibility for you, the team functions together on your behalf.

This can work very well, with a few caveats. Most important is that you and your first VA have a well-established relationship before you add anyone else to the mix.

A diad (a relationship between two people) is difficult enough to start and build. Trust, communication, patterns of working, learning each other--the all contribute to what makes it difficult, although worthwhile, to begin a new relationship. If you try to establish a triad (a relationship between three people) or something larger from the beginning, it's almost a certain recipe for disaster. We heartily recommend you not try it.

If you’re determined to bring more than one VA into your life at one time, you’ll want to consider the hub and spoke model. In this model, you have distinct relationships with each of your VAs, each VA absolutely has her areas of responsibility, but the VAs don’t have to interact, and you don’t feel moved to have them work together on your behalf.

That can work, but you miss out on some really great stuff if you do it that way, including, but not limited to:

* Having instant coverage if one of your VAs is sick or on vacation
* Having your two VAs collaborate on your behalf (two head are better than one!)
* Having double the resources brought to bear on any and all work being done by either of them

Keeping them apart is no less work for you, but you simply don't reap all the benefits.

What I recommend is that you work with one. Establish a solid relationship. And then, if you both think it's wise, jointly interview and choose another VA. In the team model, it’s critical that new team members fit with the culture of your company, with you, and with your other VA(s). You all need to feel terrific about the person being added because you’ll all be working together.

Once you've found the new VA, give her full access to everything the original two of you have about your relationship. Keep no secrets. Don't gossip. Don't triangulate (talk about one of them to the other). Secrets breed jealously. Gossip and triangulation prevent trust and safety from being built and/or sustained. Absolutely encourage them to talk to each other and to you. Make it a requirement for all of you that if one of you has an issue with another one of you, those two people deal with it directly — without including the third in any way. Open communication is key to the sustained health of any relationship, but especially with regard to a triad.

While you'll certainly interact with them individually, consider having a weekly meeting where you three discuss, or at least overview, everything going on. This allows the VA not taking the lead on any particular project to consider if she might have something to add.

Also consider breaking work out and assigning it based on areas of your life, rather than based on the task type. For instance, have Mary handle all your personal work, and Beth handle all your business work. Don't have Mary handle word processing, while Beth handles invoicing. Having a specific person leading on any given project, or area of your work/life will allow for continuity and for that VA to build expertise. If you break out the work based on type of task, important aspects of any project can be missed, or lost. Feel free to have each VA ask the other for support where appropriate, but give each their own arena so that the management and responsibility aspects of the work they do can be clear to everyone.

Treat them equally. Show them you value them equally. If sending gifts, send similar gifts. If sending a card to one for a job well-done, send a card to the other for another reason. While you're not “courting” them, you are maintaining what can be a fairly delicate balance of the relationship structure you've created.

If you find your needs growing again, and you need to add a third, fourth, or even fifth VA, everything changes. Our best advice to you would be to consider whether or not it's actually time for you to have a brick and mortar office and a complement of employees. Only you, with the advice of your professional advisors, can decide that.

Should you decide that you want to pursue working with a larger group of VAs, know that you're no longer talking about the same dynamic you had with just three of you in the relationship. Now you have a full blown staff and they need a manager to oversee their work and be the person through whom you communicate with the others. You can be that person, of course, thereby continuing the team approach. But think about how much of your time you might spend doing that? Perhaps that role would most appropriately fall to your first VA. She should, after all, know more about you and your work than anyone else.

If you choose that route, your primary relationship would be with the managing VA, and she would then have primary relationships with the other VAs. They would go to her with issues, or questions, or anything they need to discuss. She would communicate with you, get answers, collaborate, and then share the outcome of those conversations with you with the other VAs so they could then do the work needing to be done. She would, effectively, become the gate-keeper who oversees everything you need, and everything they do.

Another option is to retain the services of a multi-VA company. Here in the US, many of them aren’t running genuinely legal businesses, because they pay the VAs as contractors, but treat them, in all practical senses, as employees. It’s unlikely that that could come back to haunt you, but my advise is to steer clear of these companies, or make sure to vet them well. There’s no need to work with any company operating in violation of any law or code, when you can as easily create your own team!

Multi-VA relationships can work wonderfully well. They do require far greater effort and time, but if you can give that, you stand to reap powerful rewards!

Author's Bio: 

Stacy Brice is the founder and Chief Visionary Officer of AssistU.com--the premier organization committed to training, supporting, and coaching Virtual Assistants, and providing referrals to those business owners who want to work with them. As a pioneer and leader of this new profession called Virtual Assistance, Stacy loves her role as advocate, and works tirelessly to blaze a trail for all those interested in this new way of working.

Additionally, Stacy is a widely recognized expert in the field of Virtual Officing, and Virtual Relationships, has been the Virtual Office columnist for Office Pro magazine, is the business foundations expert for the International Association of Solopreneurs, is widely quoted nationally in magazines and newspapers, a frequent guest on talk radio shows, and was recently named One of the Top 50 People to Follow on Twitter.

Additional Resources covering Retirement Planning can be found at:

Website Directory for Virtual Assistants
Articles on Virtual Assistants
Products for Virtual Assistants
Discussion Board
Stacy Brice, the Official Guide to Virtual Assistants