July 10, 2018

EP 140: Paying Attention To The Red Flags With Don’t Panic Management Founder Jess Ostroff

The Nitty Gritty

* The red-yellow-green system Jess Ostroff and the Don’t Panic Management team apply to every potential new client relationship and new hire to help them take the emotion out of it, particularly when it’s not the right fit
* What Jess d



The Nitty Gritty

* The red-yellow-green system Jess Ostroff and the Don’t Panic Management team apply to every potential new client relationship and new hire to help them take the emotion out of it, particularly when it’s not the right fit
* What Jess does if a potential client isn’t ready for their services yet, like helping them systematize their business so they’re ready for an assistant in the future
* Why Jess chose to only hire United States-based and college-educated virtual assistants

This week’s guest is Jess Ostroff, founder and Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management, a people-first virtual assistant agency founded in 2011. In addition to running the Don’t Panic team, she’s also a speaker and author of Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business.
In this episode, Jess shares the process she uses to vet new clients and new hires, plus how she operationalizes red flags to help her identify make-or-break situations using a red-yellow-green system. For Jess, this system helps her make choices that are informed by both her gut reaction as well as objective facts.
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Operationalizing red flags
“It’s not just feeling. That’s why we have this red-yellow-green system. I might say: Sally is so nice and she really needs our help. And Jen, my colleague, will say: yes, but did you see those 10 red flags? We gave her a yellow and now she’s a red. She’s not a good fit for us. It makes it easier for me to say no with objective ranking factors in place.” — Jess Ostroff
How many times have you said yes to a new client when you should have said no? Maybe the client needed more than what you offered but you felt bad or felt like you should say yes simply because you knew you could help them (and you needed the work.)
Whatever the situation, Jess’ method for systematizing red flags with new clients is key for looking through an objective lens rather than a rose-colored one. “I like to start out by feeling what I’m feeling,” says Jess. “But then I like to fact-check that against that everything else I have in terms of information.”
Here’s a real-life example. The beginning of a new relationship with a client starts with a general form on Jess’ website. Once they receive that email, they apply the red-yellow-green system immediately. They only move forward with people who pass with a yellow or green.
Here’s what this looks like:

* Red is a hard no. If the individual provides no information about their business in their initial email or there are other indications that they aren’t a good fit, they don’t move forward.
* Yellow is a maybe. In this situation, Jess would need to gather more information. She might ask them to fill out a pre-call form to get a feel for their experience working with assistants, plus what their needs are.
* Green is a yes. These individuals are self-aware, very organized, and very communicative. It’s obvious that they’re ready for the help and they have a system for bringing on an assistant with clear tasks and expectations.

But the red-yellow-green system doesn’t stop at the intake form: it’s used at every additional step, including phone calls, to ensure it’s a good fit for everyone. “If it’s a red, I’ll say: you know what, I don’t think you’re ready or the right fit,” Jess says, “and I’ll point them in another direction.”
Finding and working with clients that are the perfect fit

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