In the online business space, there are quite a few… shall we say conflated terms?
We see people talk about “making 6 figures” but they mean they hit six figures in revenue, not profit.
So many people talk about their favorite project management tools when really they’re talking about their CRMs or onboarding processes. (HoneyBook is not a project management tool!)
And in the world of online business support, we see a lot of confusion around what a Virtual Assistant (VA) actually does.
Some people call their VA their executive assistant, their business manager, or their administrative specialist. And sometimes, a VA may claim they’re an OBM (online business manager). But in reality, managing daily operational tasks in a business isn’t the same as operations management.
Now, I’m not saying VAs can’t be OBMs — I know so many great people who started out as a VA and then advanced to an OBM position through experience and training.
The problem comes when you, as a business owner, are looking to hire… and you’re not exactly sure what you need to hire for. Conflating terms and roles can be discouraging and confusing, leading to expensive and frustrating hires.
So let’s define the difference between a virtual assistant and an operations manager, shall we?
A tale of two titles: OM vs. VA
I recently saw a virtual assistant touting the importance of operations management because it’s the “everyday functions of a business.” They equated operations management with hiring a VA to take care of your customer service, inbox, and data entry.
Here’s the rub: Operations management isn’t doing the everyday tasks of a business. That work is certainly important, but it’s not the same as operations management.
Operations management is its own field of business that requires specialized knowledge and a unique set of skills. Essentially, it’s more of a big-picture role that involves managing resources, processes, quality, inventory/supply chain, and the overall efficiency of a business.
What this person really meant with their social post was that they help with task management — which is totally different.
What is task management (aka VA support)?
A virtual assistant typically provides task management services for business owners. This type of support often includes handling a variety of administrative work. A virtual assistant can help you
- Manage your calendar, schedule meetings, and set reminders for deadlines
- Create and manage to-do lists, organize tasks, and update project timelines
- Handle your inbox, respond to routine messages, and highlight emails that require your input
- Organize digital files, categorize documents, and retrieve specific files when necessary
- Book travel arrangements, manage public appearance requests, and coordinate in-person meetings
Many of these administrative tasks are tedious and time-consuming. And while they’re essential for a successful business, they’re not necessarily the best use of your time.
As a CEO, you’re responsible for the big-picture aspects of your business — developing offers, growth strategies, and long-term goals. But you won’t have as much time or energy for that work if you’re spending all your time managing your inbox and scheduling social media posts.
If you need to “buy back” some of your time so you can focus on those long-term projects, hiring a VA can be a good option.
What is operations management?
While it’s often confused with task management, operations management is something different. An operations manager isn’t handling those routine administrative tasks. Instead, they’re managing the daily logistics of business operations to improve efficiency, quality, and results. An operations manager has a larger scope of work and more influence than a VA.
An operations role is also responsible for monitoring feedback, performance, and procedures to create strategies that improve the business as a whole. An operations manager is always looking for new ways to streamline processes, improve products, and increase customer satisfaction. If you want expert support to boost productivity, scale your business, launch a new offer, or increase profit, an operations manager can be the right fit.
So… do you need task management or operations management (or both)?
This is probably one of the biggest questions I hear in the online business space: Do I need a VA? Or do I need an OMB (online business manager)?
Note: OBM is another term for someone who manages the operations of your online business. Like I said, there are a ton of titles and they get confusing!
Depending on your business model and goals, you might benefit from hiring a VA and getting operations support. But remember, these are two distinct roles with different responsibilities and spheres of influence.
You have to understand where task management ends and operations management begins. Task management (a VA’s realm) generally focuses on short-term work — the day-to-day assignments and duties that keep the business running. Operations management is about long-term planning, optimization, and efficiency.
For example, a VA can sign into your marketing platform, import email addresses, and send messages. But someone who serves as an operations manager is the person who does the research to choose that marketing platform and develop a strategy for using it to its fullest potential.
Get clear on which service you actually need and let that guide your search for the right person.
Find the right kind of support for your business
People tend to use “operations management” and “task management” interchangeably, but as I mentioned before, they are not the same. That’s why, if you’re getting ready to hire, make sure you understand what kind of support you really need in your business.
If you still want to manage the big-picture strategy and operational aspects of your business without spending time on daily administrative tasks, a virtual assistant is a great choice. My job description and onboarding template gives you everything you need to hire and train your new VA.
However, if you need big-picture support to optimize your processes, strategies, productivity, and profitability, that’s where operations management comes in. I partner with online business owners to provide the strategic support their businesses need to thrive — and I’d love to see if we’re a fit. Schedule a call to find out what it would be like to work together, so you can get out of managing the operations of your business.