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The Differences Between an OBM And A VA

This is a lot of confusion around the difference between an Online Business Manager (OBM) and a Virtual Assistant (VA), and as a Certified OBM, I thought it would be good opportunity to share the differences. Both roles have their rightful place in a business but they are not the same thing. In this blog, I’d like to take you through the differences between them.

In a Nutshell

An Online Business Manager (OBM) is someone who helps with the overall management of a business. This can be broken into four specific areas; project management, operations management, team management, and metrics management. An Online Business Manager works directly with the business owner to ensure the smooth running of their business.

A Virtual Assistant (VA) is someone who helps with specific tasks that need to be done, but they are not necessarily responsible for the overall management of the business. They are implementers and get specific tasks done.

Let’s Break It Down

The two definitions above are broad, let’s look at breaking these down into more functional aspects within a business.

An OBM Manages While a VA Works on Tasks.

The Virtual Assistant will focus on tasks that help keep the business ticking along, such as sending emails, answering customer enqiries, marketing activities, preparting documentation etc. Generally, a VA will fill in the gaps wherever needed based on their expertise. An Online Business Manager will manage the business. He/she will assign roles, set deadlines and manage projects. It’s a more senior position in the business and it requires specific experience or qualifications.

An OBM Manages Others While a VA Is Responsible for Themselves.

The Online Business Manager looks at what everyone is busy with, and manages their time and processes. It’s the role of the OBM to ensure projects are finished on time and business objectives are being met. A Virvual Assistant only has to worry about their own task list. Often, their responsibilities and deadlines are assigned by the OBM.

An OBM Forecasts While a VA Focuses on Their Current Workload

The Online Business Manager needs to plan ahead. The sign of a good OBM is a proactive business and not a reactive one. The OBM needs to make sure that the business is always running at optimal levels. To do this, they need to create plans and implement systems. The Virtual Assistant focuses on their own deadlines and current workload.

The OBM Manages the Team While the VA Collaborates Only When Necessary

The Onling Business Manager is the central point of contact for the whole team. It’s their job to make sure every team member knows what needs to be done, how to do it and when it needs to be completed. The Virtual Assistant is assigned tasks, proactively assists others, and will only collaborate with other team members if the work calls for it. Otherwise, they will work on their assigned tasks independently.

The OBM and VA are paid significally different

The Virtual Assistant either works on an hourly rate, or charges for a specific set of hours to be used throughout the month. It is not uncommon for a VA to support mutliple clients. The Online Business Manager will commit to a minimum hours of 40 hours per month, on a retainer plus comission.

So, Which One Should You Hire?

It really depends on your needs and what you are looking for in your business. If you need someone who can take on more of the overall management of your business, then an Online Business Manager is likely a better fit. I’ve written a more detailed article titled ‘Are You Ready for an OBM?’ which you can read here if you’d like.

If you just need someone to help with specific tasks, then a Virtual Assistant may be a better option. You can even hire both. Having more people working on your business can be helpful because it allows for more flexibility and coverage.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to hire an OBM or a VA, or both, depends on your specific goals.

Virtual Support Specialist, Hong Kong

If you need to discuss your needs in more detail before you make your decision, feel free to book a no-obligation, telephone call with me and we can chat further.

Written by: Nicole Graham


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Established in 2007, Bauhinia Solutions is a boutique virtual business support agency with a team of dedicated and experienced business specialists, administrators, and virtual assistants.