Hiring a VA: A defining moment for RadReads

The mighty lion sits atop of the food pyramid. Any passing mammal can become its prey – whether it’s a sprightly antelope or a measly field mouse. Yet the lion does not hunt the mouse. Why? Because the caloric energy required to chase, wrestle and devour the little critter exceeds the caloric value of the mouse itself. If it only hunted mice, it would starve to death. So the lion is literally better off big-game hunting: chasing antelopes.


You can see where this analogy is going. In the world of business, the antelope is referred to as the big domino, the needle-mover, the ROI maximizer or the $10,000/hour work.

Now I’ve been a solopreneur for over five years. And my belly is full of field mice. My back of the envelope shows the following time allocation:

55% is a lot of field mice!

These results shouldn’t surprise you, since as a solopreneur you run the gamut: strategy, ops, marketing, accounting, and vision. Said differently: You define the work. Then you do it. Then you review it. (Every day for five years. It’s a delightful grind.)

So you can imagine the elation that came with finally hiring a virtual assistant. First, the scheduling ping-pong would be gone (forever)! But more importantly, the pie could shift to add a splash more yellow, and hopefully more red.

But first: the RadOS

Whether it’s Notion, Roam, Superhuman or the Zettlekasten Method – we must remember the principles of the RadOS. The RadOS protects us against our nemesis: S.N.T.S. (aka Shiny New Toy Syndrome).

Shiny new thing! – Knowledge Center
SNTS in the flesh

The RadOS states that Tools (including new hires) don’t deliver massive outcomes unless they’re accompanied by Self-Awareness and Behavior Change.

This is influenced by the Pareto Principle (and the related Hourglass Principle), which states:

80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In my experience, the Pareto Principle can be cleared just with the Self-Awareness and Behavior Change, as shown below:


Let’s start with Self-Awareness

Using the self-awareness lens I asked myself the following questions:

  • What would I do with more free time?
  • Do the economics of hiring a VA make sense?
  • Is this hire a “pain remover” or “happiness multiplier?”
  • Will this hire increase my stress level?

As I answered these questions, a few thoughts arose. First, I’ve always wanted to build a lifestyle business. Adding a new hire ALWAYS adds a new level of complexity in the form of accounting, paperwork, operations and communication friction. And while I wouldn’t make a hiring decision that didn’t make economic sense, it became clear that I wouldn’t exclusively make an profit-driven decision.

The desire for more free-time was driven by a few considerations. First, I want to surf more frequently – like 2-3 hours a day. So I needed to shift the mix of $10/hr and $100/hr work towards a more favorable mix of $1k/hr and $10k/hr.

Next, I want to do plant the seeds for the Rad Foundation. A currently (non-existent) entity that will take many of the community’s learnings and teachings and expand them to folks who wouldn’t typically have access to them. The initial focus will be either financial literacy or digital entrepreneurship.

And while I hate scheduling ping pong as much as the next guy, any new hire has to be a happiness multiplier (more on that below). I wanted to be excited to collaborate with someone new, both with everyday small talk and as an ally for bigger decisions. As a lifestyle business owner, not maximizing for economic outcomes, you get to make those decisions.

Now layer on the Behavior Change

This is where it gets super tactical and the rubber hits the road. And for those of you familiar with investing, new hires always start “in the red” (aka a J-Curve) where:

Time spent training >> Time saved by the hire

J curve - Private Equity - YouTube
The finance J-Curve for investing

The simplest behavior change: regular 1:1s and we landed on a twice a week, 30-45 minute touch base. Next, we sough to codify the nature of our interactions and working styles by each crafting user manuals. Here’s an excerpt from mine:

BTW, this is $10k/hr work

Next, to “front-run” the J-curve, I preemptively started to write a series of Standard Operating Procedures (or SOPs) inspired by Michael Gerber’s E-myth Revisited: Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it. This is particularly time consuming as a solopreneur, especially if you’ve spent the past 5 years in your own head, with no documentation to memorialize why, how and when you do things. By my VA’s second week, we had amassed an EPIC 31 SOPs.

And together we cleared the J-curve!

Now as a duo, we needed to find a way to communicate in a way that was effective, accurate and didn’t cause unnecessary noise. From the User Manual, you could see that as the business “owner,” I want this for myself and all current and future colleagues:

I value being present. Despite running a digital business, I actually don’t like being on my devices.

So our communications AND task management needed to serve this meta goal. We landed on Notion (unsurprisingly) but we’re not yet convinced that it can cover all of our project management needs, so still have a strong eye towards Asana. But for now, we’re relying heavily on customized templates (from within our Notion Databases). Here’s the task template I use to assign the Saturday Newsletter Task:

I’ll then go in fill out the TKs but never have to actually go into the email software (Convertkit) myself. You’ll see a direct link to the SOP and (not pictured) we also communicate using the native Slack integration (therefore neither of us need to leave the app). And we continue to add to our SOP and Task Template collections:

So about that $10,000/hr work?

Clearing the J-curve in such a short amount of time was an epic win for our growing team. So are we now swimming in $10,000/hr work? Alas, here’s where the self-awareness kicks back into full gear.

This high leverage work is sowing seeds that you can collect in 5-10 years time. But that entails more than just sitting with an empty Moleskin and a hot cup of Philz Coffee. It’s a rigorous practice of planning, dreaming, strategizing and fostering relationships. Said differently, it’s hard enough to identify the work, let alone do it. I’m still taking baby steps here (and find myself lapsing down to work that offers more instant dopamine.)

But in the meantime, if you pull up the SOP for Managing Khe:

So far we’re tracking. Surf’s up!

If you’re looking to hire a VA, I used Great Assistant and loved the service. (Full disclosure: Affiliate Link)

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