Here’s what you need to know about hiring an online business manager vs. a virtual assistant.

Your Next Hire: Online Business Manager vs. Virtual Assistant

When you’ve reached a crossroads in your business and need some help, it’s not always clear what kind of help you need. For many business owners, this decision comes down to hiring an online business manager vs. virtual assistant.

It’s common for many people working on their business growth to target a virtual assistant (VA) for their first hire. As someone who’s been there, I will say this is often the right choice. Having a VA who can effectively support your business is truly magical.

Support from virtual assistants has been an integral part of my business; however, the functions they perform are completely different from those of an online business manager (OBM).

When many of my clients first come to me, they’re at a decision point. They need a more comprehensive level of support — someone who can lessen the burden of many time-consuming tasks. They want to work with someone who’s in the business of solving problems (amongst other things.) And, they often feel hiring another VA isn’t going to get them what they need but they aren’t sure what will.

So, for those currently wrestling with a choice between an online business manager vs. virtual assistant, I will break down the difference and share examples to help you make the right call for your business.

Let’s Talk About Virtual Assistants

A virtual assistant is precisely that — an assistant. They generally aren’t driving strategic planning, they aren’t overseeing operations management, and they aren’t there to come up with big-picture initiatives.

A virtual assistant provides administrative support to a business. Handling emails, corresponding with clients, calendar and appointment management, basic digital marketing tasks, and preparing reports all fall under their required duties.

You can expect less delegating and more management than you would have to do when working with an OBM.

Think of a virtual assistant as someone focused primarily on executing delegated tasks.

Here’s an example of what this might look like in practice.

Let’s say you’re planning a webinar three weeks out, and your virtual assistant supports you. The breakdown might be:

1. You decide on a topic for the webinar.

2. You draft landing page copy (or delegate that to a copywriter and coordinate the process if that is your style.)

3. VA sets up webinar pieces — coming to you with questions.

4. You approve webinar pieces.

5. You draft the email reminder sequence for your audience.

6. VA sets up an email reminder sequence in your autoresponder — coming to you with questions.

As you can see, your virtual assistant will handle some parts, but you, the business owner, are still driving the decision-making.

Having a VA can be helpful, but it won’t be your second business brain in the same way an OBM will be.

The Role of the Online Business Manager

An online business manager is there to help you get your big ideas executed. They focus on strategic priorities and care about your business as much as you do.

Think of it as having a business partner without sharing your business! You have someone to share the workload and act as a support system.

An OBM works with business owners and creates custom strategies for their businesses. Everything from process implementation and money management to short/long-term strategy planning and hiring can all be part of their role, depending on your specific needs at any given time.

The OBM role focuses on ensuring all aspects of the business are running efficiently and making decisions to support overall business goals.

At a high level, I generally split my online business manager duties into four specific areas:

Strategic Planning is focused on forecasting your plans for the year, preplanning launches, offers, and promos, and then ensuring you have the right timelines and resources in place to get them all completed.

Operations Management can include client/customer onboarding systems, client/customer systems management, creation and updating of workflows/systems, capacity management for the owner and overall team, software/apps coordination, initial research, vetting, and coordination between the owner/expert/company.

Money Management Oversight includes the OBM overseeing the bookkeeping, tax processes, and cash flow support and liaising with the bookkeeper, CFO, or other money management professionals working with the business.

Project Management is focused on breaking down large projects into small, manageable steps.

Using the same scenario of planning a webinar four weeks out, this would look like when working with an online business manager vs. a virtual assistant.

1. You decide on the topic and provide talking points.

2. Your OBM drafts the landing page (or delegates to a copywriter and coordinates).

3. OBM then delegates page-building to the VA.

4. OBM manages that process and provides any necessary support.

5. You approve the landing page.

6. VA sets up webinar pieces.

7. OBM provides support and approves set-up.

8. OBM coordinates email sequence from your existing content.

9. VA sets up an email sequence.

10. You approve the sequence.

Doing this same activity with an OBM results in you having to do less of the work yourself, freeing you up to work on other, more strategic priorities.

Online Business Managers: Strategy Over Execution

As someone who has been in the role of an online business manager for a decade now, one of the things I regularly run up against is misconceptions about what I do.

If I had a dollar for every time that someone asked me, “Aren’t OBMs just overpriced VAs?” I’d have a pile of cash in the bank.

Let’s set the record straight. In SOME cases, yes, an “OBM” is functioning as an overpriced VA. I’ve seen it before, mainly in cases where someone who is a VA changes their title to OBM because it means they can charge more.

The problem, obviously, is they generally don’t have the same skill set as an actual OBM, so the person who hired them in the role IS overpaying.

I often explain the difference between an online business manager vs. virtual assistant is that VAs are “order takers.”

An OBM is someone who will take the ball and run with it. They see something that needs to be done, so they do it and report back. They don’t need an explanation or the steps laid out because they know what needs to be done.

Another misconception I see about OBMs is that we’re there to “take over the business.”

Now, yes, we DO “take over” because we’re there to handle what needs to be handled. However, we do that in partnership with the business owner.

We may know what needs to be done, but we still need the owner to do their part. It’s not a situation where they can just walk off and leave us to take care of everything.

It’s also important to note that an effective online business manager isn’t there to do everything. Like most other roles, being an OBM involves a specific suite of skills — skills that don’t include building a website or writing marketing copy. OBMs excel at operations strategy and project management, so if you’re looking for someone more of a jack-of-all-trades, an OBM may not be the right hire.

Online Business Managers: Practical Examples

After reading all of this, you might think it sounds amazing, but you aren’t sure what this looks like in practical application.

Let’s break it down with some examples from my own work with clients.

#1. Challenge: My client has a new book coming out, and we need to segment a list without leaving anyone behind.

I recently talked with a client about how her latest book might affect her business, as the book differs from what she’s been doing for the past few years. We discussed ensuring we don’t lose the people who still like her old stuff while we focus on the new book.

We made some big decisions about what to do. I then created the plan around what to post on her website and social media and how to email her followers. The client helped with the ideas, but I’m handling the technical stuff and deciding how to do it best.

#2. Challenge: Revise and reuse existing landing pages without the owner recreating content.

When owners want to promote something, they often think about making new content. But most of the time, there’s content they already have that can be used again for promotion. I usually start by looking for this existing content.

Then, I review it to ensure it’s current with the right dates, details about the offer, and any changes needed. This way, the owner doesn’t need to spend much time on it and can focus only on what needs their attention. It saves them a lot of time and effort.

#3. Challenge: Considering revenue streams, price points, and nurturing leads to larger offers.

Creating a plan for the customer journey can seem overwhelming, but here’s how I simplify it:

First, we make a complete map of what we want to achieve and decide when to introduce new things. Then, we talk about the essential parts of each step.

My role is to see the whole picture of the business and its strategy. I organize everything so we can turn our ideas into action.

This includes:

  • Mapping out the step-by-step tasks involved at each stage.
  • Assigning out all of the elements to the team.
  • Coordinating with team members as we work through the to-do lists.
  • Answering as many of the project-related questions as possible.
  • Addressing related budgets, pricing, and other areas as needed.
  • With this process, the goal is to remove most of the heavy lifting off the shoulders of the business owner so the project gets done on schedule without wasting their time.

#4. Challenge: Timing live events and planning promotions

A big part of what I do for clients is planning the timing. Many entrepreneurs have big dreams but might not know how to break them down into smaller steps with a schedule.

When we pick a date for a promotion or event, it’s my job to work backward and create a timeline for all the little things that need to happen to make that date a reality.

For example, if we’re doing a 5-day challenge to launch a program, I figure out when to create, review, and publish all the different parts to promote it in time. There are many details to handle in something like this, but by taking care of them, the owner can focus only on the parts that need their attention, and I’ll handle the rest.

Working With an Online Business Manager

If hiring an online business manager vs. virtual assistant seems like a lot of work and you’ll be making things more complicated, I can tell you that normally isn’t the case.

When you work with an OBM, your role as the business owner is to set the tone and provide final approvals. You get to be free of the management and approvals that would come with you delegating this to a VA.

Working with an OBM allows you to delegate more while providing less support and explanation. Once a project is in progress, you can mainly concern yourself with the outcome, as your OBM will manage the project and move things along as planned.

The bottom line is you can recoup all that time you would have spent managing your VA. And that time can then be used to work on everything that increases your bottom line.

Often, people can make it work with just a VA for a few years, but as the business grows and complexity increases, it’s harder to do without the proper support. Typically, it becomes incredibly challenging to be a visionary while driving the business forward and managing the execution of tasks.

When deciding on support from an online business manager vs. virtual assistant, both options are viable and can significantly impact your business. However, an online business manager can help you grow your business without increasing your workload.

Win-win, right?

If you want to explore how an online business manager can help your business, let’s talk!

Book a consult call right here.