How a VA, OBM, and DOO Can and CAN’T Help You Scale

Are you thinking about hiring a team to scale your business?

Whether it’s hiring your first VA or another VA to catch the overflow and take the pressure off.

Or leveling up to an OBM or DOO to handle scaling for you…

This is the first step that I see so many business owners take to scale and often with mixed results.

Sometimes, it works out and you get what you need to relieve some of the pressure, catch the overflow on your plate, and get organized so you can run more confidently…

…But sometimes, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

😣 Sometimes, you might hire a VA to bring in another set of hands and wonder why you’re still doing all the work in your business.

😣 Sometimes, you might hire an OBM to oversee your day-to-day ops and wonder why you’re now spending all your time reviewing and managing.

😣 Sometimes, you might hire a Director of Operations (DOO) to be your right-hand and wonder why you still need to come up with the scaling strategy.

Listen, I get it – hiring in the online space is like the wild wild west and it can be confusing to know who to hire to scale your business.

So after helping dozens of businesses scale to multi-6 and 7 figures, I’ve interviewed, hired, and worked with HUNDREDS of VAs, OBMs, and DOOs and these are some of the common ways (I’ve found) that a VA, OBM, or DOO can (or can’t) help you scale.

I’ll preface all of this by saying again that online hiring is the wild wild west. 

Titles mean almost nothing because anyone can give themselves any title they want, doing whatever work they want. Meaning some VAs, OBMs, and DOOs will do certain things and others will not.

It all depends on the individual and their business.

So, while I’ve outlined what I’ve seen over the last 4 years, this is by no means the be-all and end-all, and it is totally possible to find a VA that does OBM work and OBM that does DOO work and vice versa.

Virtual Assistants

When I hire a virtual assistant, it’s with implementation in mind and focused on bringing in another set of hands to handle work for me.

Usually, I see virtual assistants in the space of doing work for you and they are executing your systems or parts of your systems and operations for you so that you don’t have to. 

For example, in my business, I have marketing VAs that handle graphics, video, repurposing, engagement, etc…They are executing parts of my marketing process for me and without their support, I would be bogged down, overworked, and inconsistent in my day-to-day.

How VAs will help you scale…

When it comes to scaling, VAs are a critical part of your team so you are not the only one doing everything in your business. 

As your business grows, there will always be some work that needs hands on it to complete – that can be you or it can be a VA.

You’ll be really hard-pressed to scale without a VA (or few) to help execute recurring work and projects that keep your business going (think marketing, client support, tech maintenance, etc..).

How VAs can’t help you scale…

But I wouldn’t count on my VA to set the strategy, build systems, manage other team members, make decisions that impact how we operate, or make judgment calls when something unexpected happens.

This isn’t to say that VAs can’t create strategic plans or build systems or manage team members (I’ve worked with some that can), but it’s not something I see commonly.

Hire a VA when…

When you need extra hands to execute the work in your business AND you have a basic process or time to instruct them on what you want to be done.

Online Business Managers (OBMS)

When I’ve worked with OBMs, it’s been for the execution of more complex tasks, team, and project management.

I want to note this because I’ve interviewed at least a couple hundred OBMs at this point and almost all of them brand themselves as managers only – managing team members, projects, metrics, and systems. However, nearly all of the 30+ OBMs I’ve worked with directly in my business and in my client’s businesses ALSO execute tasks.

Especially if the business didn’t have a VA that could handle the task.

So, the lines of work with an OBM can be especially blurry and there can be some overlap with a more experienced VA. So, make sure you ask directly what they will and won’t execute.

How OBMs will help you scale…

An OBM can help you scale by handling more complex tasks and projects, delegating tasks,  and managing some team members. They’ve been vital for my clients who have agencies and done-for-you services. 

They can also help to organize the business and document systems. However, I’ve found they are most successful with this work if you already know that the system works or have a good idea of how you want your business organized.

How OBMs can’t help you scale…

From my experience, it’s been more challenging to find an OBM that can optimize or streamline systems – meaning making your systems and business run smoother, faster, and more efficiently.

I’ve also seen clients hire OBMs that struggle to create an overall operating strategy and guide their strategic decision-making.  

So, if your ops are feeling clunky and you’re looking for an immediate upgrade to your operations or you need guidance on how to structure, run and manage your business, hiring an OBM might not be the fix you hope for.

Hire an OBM when…

You have a number of open projects that need oversight, a lot of contractors/team members to manage, have a lot of complex tasks and processes to execute, and/or want an executive-level assistant.

Director of Operations (DOO)

In total transparency, I’ve interviewed about a dozen DOOs and I’ve only had 4 clients with an active DOO role in their business so my experience with them is more limited than with VAs and OBMs.

Working with various clients who had a DOO role in their business, I noticed there is some gray area and overlap with DOOs in terms of the work that they are managing. 

For example, a couple of clients had a DOO who functioned primarily like high-level OBMs and other clients have had DOOs overseeing a particular function within their business. 

DOO # 1 – OBM

DOO # 2 – OBM

DOO # 3 – Director of Growth + Marketing

DOO # 4 – Director of Business Development

From my understanding, DOOs are executive-level team members that can hold their own as COOs or niche into a particular business function.

And based on my experiences, that is somewhat true…but in each instance, my clients still brought me in for comprehensive COO-level scaling strategy and tactics.

There is some nuance to DOOs and their roles and specialties. So, make sure you are clear about what you need help with when interviewing your DOO.

How DOOs will help you scale…

By providing deeper experience and strategic guidance on a part of your business or on your business overall.

How DOOs can’t help you scale…

Execution work usually isn’t part of a DOO job description so if you have execution in mind, make sure that you’re hiring for the right role – if you need execution support, the title of the role you’re looking for probably isn’t DOO even if that’s what you *THINK* you need.

Hire a DOO when…

You want expertise to guide your operations and decision-making.

So, do you know who you’ll hire next to scale your business?

Truth be told, the most likely scenario is that you will need some combination of these roles as you scale. Hiring any of them as a one-off with hopes that it will fix all your scaling challenges will not work.

And in order to make hiring an effective scaling strategy, you still need to:

  1. Clarify what you really need help with and how much time it will save you.
  2. Define your org structure – meaning the right mix of VA’s, OBMs, and/or DOOs to scale the way YOU want.
  3. Manage, instruct, and hold them accountable to getting the results you want – you’re the expert in your business.
  4. Lead and have the hard conversations when you’re not getting what you need.

Because hiring is just ONE PART of scaling your business and even this won’t work if you don’t have your basic systems, tech, automations, AND leadership working at the same time.

You can get more scaling hacks here.

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