What it’s like running a highly successful Virtual Assistant Agency
Running Africa’s largest (and most successful) Virtual Assistant Managed Agency is truly a vision come true for me! I wake up grateful every morning for the opportunity to connect people all across the globe. See where our name comes from? 🙂
Introduction to VA Connect’s CEO
Ola! I’m Karen Wessels, and I’m the very fortunate Founder, Owner and CEO of VA Connect, the only Virtual Assistant managed agency on the African continent. We’ll chat about why a managed agency is so important in a minute.
Let’s start at the beginning. I quit my job, completely out of character, early 2013 and embarked on a truly fulfilling and amazing entrepreneurial journey ever since. I started my business as a sideline project back in 2008, hence being the VA Godmother in South Africa, and was able to work full time as an entrepreneur from 2013. Believe me when I say that the market was very green back then with regards to outsourcing work and I’ve witnessed a remarkable spike in VA demand in the last 2 or 3 years.
Back in the day it was me, and I alone that did all the tasks, working from early morning, well to early morning. Fortunately very quickly I was enable to enlist the help of another highly organised person, who also happens to be my mom (bless!) and we’ve grown in size and reach every year, year on year.
Virtual Assistant Managed Agency
As the only Virtual Assistant Managed Agency on the African continent we take the managed services side completely out of your hands. What this means is, we are responsible for the hiring, firing, up-skilling and taking care of our Virtual Assistants. You get to hire wonderful outsourced help and we are there to ensure that we match the right Virtual Assistant to your account.
Remember, your VA becomes an integral part of your team, so it’s very important for us that you get on with your Virtual Assistant and that she continuously adds value to your business life. After all, that’s why we’re there.
We are so blessed to have highly experienced and truly lovely ladies on our team. We are surrounded by great people with a winning mind-set and a can-do attitude, which spills over onto our client’s side, making them super happy and not wanting to leave our services. In fact, some of our clients insist on paying their Virtual Assistants a bonus as a way of thanking them for all their hard work. See what I mean when I say we’re surrounded by greatness?
Where to from here for our Virtual Assistant Agency?
Outsourcing of work and remote workers are on the up and up. Because we are based in South Africa we are perfectly positioned for overseas clients.
Our Virtual Assistants are native English speaking, come from executive backgrounds and are renowned to be hard working and willing to go the extra mile. We are blessed to service clients across the globe, spanning from San Francisco to New York, from Dublin to London, from Oslo to Singapore, Australia and everything in between. How fortunate are we?
We see ourselves gaining loads more traction in the next 2 years with a view to becoming the world’s leading Virtual Assistant agency that connects people with people.
As the remote workforce increases in size and well, in force, the demand for Virtual Assistants and to be come Virtual Assistants will be on the rise.
Already so many corporate team members are working a few days a week from their home office, so it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a reality for more people out there.
With this increase in demand for outsourced help, we know that our team will double in size within the next 2 years. This is a very exciting phase of our business and we look forward to the growth potential.
Bringing it together
Starting out as a one man show and already heading towards the 20 strong team member mark, we know that our managed VA agency will grow from strength to strength. As we become recognised globally for our superb service, the ability to outsource work to South Africans becomes easier and more accessible.
We love what we do and we do what we love! Thanks to such an amazing team for making our agency such a success and a force to be reckoned with!
About the Author : As the co-founder of a globally recognized managed Virtual Assistant agency, Karen has been asked to speak about her experiences at many remote working events.
Karen has facilitated and hosted many sales masterclasses, workshops and training sessions to not only boost sales confidence however to also instill sales skills and tools that are personalised to each individual.
Karen is also a sought after speaker at Sales Conferences & Seminars, Secretarial Conferences & Symposiums and Entrepreneur Conferences & Workshops, where she engages her audience with story-like presentations of sales, outsourcing and business.
To learn more or to book Karen, visit her website.
This Is How Baby Boomers Have Rocked Technology
Boy, how things have changed, looking back over my working career that has spanned over 50 years. At the tender age of 18, I was employed as a typist. I thought I was quite the cat’s whiskers to be working with this fancy green machine, the Remington Manual Typewriter. After being taught on a cumbersome Corona typewriter, the Remington was a pleasure to use and an added bonus, no nails were chipped in the process. As a typist we all had to take turns for switchboard which meant plugging in calls by using red and black extension cords. Switchboard relief also included working the telex machine (for those who don’t know what a telex machine is, this was the forefather of the now obsolete fax machine – Woe betide anyone who stood on the ticker tape!)
Progress through the technological ages
Imagine our delight when along came the Olivetti Golf Ball typewriter, no more changing ribbons and black stained fingers. This machine only required you to change a cassette, depending on the font you required, you just dropped in your desired golf ball, modern technology at its best. Funny to think that one would have to type a letter in triplicate with carbon paper in between, get the boss to sign the letter, fold it, seal it, frank it, send it and then know that you had at least 6 weeks to wait for a reply. No such thing as a quick call on one’s cell phone to seal the deal and a confirmation email!
The next amazing piece of technology to delight yours truly was the Wang Word Processor. To my amazement I could type an entire document on a small screen that showed one sentence at a time, hit print, leave my office to go get that all important coffee return to my desk and the letter would be typed. How much further could we advance with this amazing technology? Not only that, but phone calls could now be transferred at a push of a button, no more getting tangled up in all these extension cords.
Enter the world of computers
Cue the forerunner to the modern computer. This piece of machinery was amazing, I could work on my computer screen, get my exercise by running into the cold printing room that housed the main frame computer where all our printing was churned out. This sometimes resulted in fisty cuffs, if you had held up the printing queue, especially when monthly reports were due!
After seeing all the ructions in the printing room, the Guardian Angel of PA’s and Secretaries designed a standalone PC along with you own printer, fax machine, scanner and telephone. Surely it could not get any better, how mistaken could I be! Who would believe that I now work on a laptop and cell phone for someone in another country. Never leaving the house or meeting him face to face. If you had said to me 50 odd years ago I would have laughed in your face. How times have changed!
Being my own greatest best friend!
This is a topic that hits very close to home and one that my best friend and I have to continuously remind each other about. It is something that i have had to teach myself and my daughters, through my own experiences, that if you feel people use you, take advantage of you, or break their promises to you, then you need to make some new choices. It’s time for you to do a self-check.
I did one, and I discovered that I have amazingly positive, wonderful, loving, supportive good people in my life. They have been with me for years, some for decades. They are 100 percent in my corner. They challenge me, chasten me, correct me, adore me, build me up, give to me, and they are loyal to me as I am them. Our relationships thrive and soar because we are the same.
All this is possible when you start treating yourself as if you are fabulous, terrific, and wonderful, you don’t allow others to walk over you. When you start believing that you’re a magnificent limited edition of one – unique in every way, you put out a different energy in all your relationships (business, personal or friendships).
And having 2 young and impressionable daughters watching my every move, my every interaction, listening to my calls, the way I speak to people has made me realise that my self check, is not so much about myself but also about my daughters. You teach people how to treat you means that it all comes back to you. It’s up to you to allow or not allow certain treatment. It also means that you have to first get clear about how you want to be treated. It means that you have to take responsibility enough to write your own owner’s manual. And you are accountable for living by your owner’s manual. For some of us, it may be the very first time we ever even gave this any thought.
I read somewhere, “Remember that accountability and responsibility have nothing to do with blame. They are an entirely different energy and intent than blame. Blame seeks to shame and belittle. Responsibility seeks to un-victim you.”
If this is something that you can’t believe right now, then becoming your own best friend is really important. Because if you feel good about yourself then other people will treat you with respect. Remember: we teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.
Be brave and selective, live by your values and standards, and watch what you do attract. You might be scared. But you won’t be disappointed. And if you need some more motivation, you can find it in the freezer in a variety of flavours!
How To Own A LinkedIn Profile That Works For You
Piet has an awesome LinkedIn profile… What does yours look like?
If you’re a B2B marketer like I am then lend me your ears! If you haven’t gone down the LinkedIn alley yet then hopefully I can motivate you to explore this corner of the Social Media world and amaze you. If you are then you already know the power the old www.linkedin.com can hold.
Living in a digital era being online is crucial. If you’re not, you can’t possibly be serious about your business. Even Piet that farms with pumpkins in Riviersonderend is on LinkedIn, so what’s your excuse? Channelling your clients through a platform that is as large as LinkedIn is not as hard as you may think. With all the resources online you can teach yourself to be a master of your online presence in no time.
Did you know that 46% percent of social media traffic coming in to B2B company sites is from LinkedIn?1 If you’re not convinced yet or you already know the power of this tool but would like to know how to utilize it to your advantage then read on. I’ll be giving you some pointers on how to drive the right traffic to your LinkedIn page and in the process generate some valuable leads and contacts.
We start with the basics, completing your LinkedIn online profile. This is your introduction and remember first impressions last. Make sure you reach ‘All Star’ status to ensure your audience gets a good idea of what you are about and what you are capable of.
Join groups that you will find your potential clients in. A good example is the Small Business South Africa group or the Entrepreneurs South Africa group if your target is Small business owners. The list is endless. Once you’ve joined you’ll be able to invite a whole range of people based on what you need in a client.
So, you’ve obtained a whole lot of new contacts or potential leads, what now? Now you entertain them. Sound silly right? But when you start writing articles on LinkedIn and prickling the interest of your target market you will find your followers growing. Marketing your business to people who know your name is so much easier than cold emailing or calling on potential clients. In the VA world it can even attract clients who need someone to write their blogs for them as you display your writing skills on your own profile.
The last pointer is to keep doing what you’re doing. Consistency is key. By posting weekly your name appears in front of your target audience on a regular basis so when you’re emailing them they immediately link you to your content and that’s a great foot to get off on.
The Golden Rule of LinkedIn
Hopefully this made you excited to start your own online brand on LinkedIn. There are loads of websites offering you sample topics you can write about. Even if you’re not good at writing just start, trust me. you will definitely improve over time. The golden rule is to start, stay active and you will reap the rewards soon enough.
Tips and tricks for working at home by Henriette, Virtual Assistant
I am very fortunate to be able to work from home the last few years, but I can honestly say that there were a few challenges that I had to face. I had to learn a few new habits, and today I would like to share them with you and of course how to face these challenges and what they were for me.
So here are my top 4 tips
Having a separate work station
Well, one of the biggest reasons for me was the distractions, they were endless when I was sitting at the dining room, or even the lounge. I had to get my own office space!
Having a “work” desk already gives you the resources you need to start working, you already have the desk set in a working order. Whereas when you use your dining room table you will need to clean it every time you need to eat and so forth, your “office” supplies needs to be re-arrange or moved every time. By having a set working desk, everything is set and ready for you to just sit down and start.
If you have a comfortable office space, it will help you to focus longer on working. A good example would be, if you used to work on your bed or even on the couch you won’t be able to work 8+ hours without getting up every half an hour because your legs are feeling asleep, or you back is aching. So what you need to do first is ensure that you have a extremely comfy desk chair (within your budget of course).
Having your separate office space removes all other distractions, for example, you can set rules to your family; when you are in your office you are not to be bothered, there should be boundaries. By having these boundaries you know that when you are in your office you need to work, and only focus on work.
Being disciplined with your working hours and personal hours
One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make is to think that you are home so you have time do to all those household chores, or time to have coffee with a friend…well that is a huge mistake. Why? Because if you don’t have a routine or a rule (not doing anything personal until work is done) you will end up not getting all your work done, or you will need to rush.
You don’t necessarily have to schedule it, but if I noticed that if I schedule a more or less time to do these things it works best. By doing this you will also automatically be more disciplined.
Leaving room in your day to be able to handle a crisis for both personal and work related
Number three, yes it is best to schedule and be strict to when you work you work, when you “play” you “play” but you also need to be flexible for those unexpected things; such as a family crisis, or a client needing something quite urgent. Something that helped me with this is, I set up my smartphone with all my work email account and to all my working files so that if this happens and I may not have my laptop with me I have limited access to my work. Also I make sure my clients know my situation, for example, all my clients know I have a newborn. They know this so that if something comes up with the baby they will understand and it won’t be “out of the blue”.
Planning your day ahead
Have you ever read “The four hour work week” ; if not this is a “FANTASTIC” book (I will share the details below). Anyway in this book Tim speaks about making your To Do List for the next day at the end of the day is very helpful.
I can promise you by making a list from most important to less, will already safe you time in the morning. Why? Because if you are all set and ready to work you can literally just begin. You don’t need to still figure where to start or what to do just follow the list, and try to be strict working from the most important down and finishing one task at a time.
***The 4-Hour work week – By Tim Ferris
5 Tips on How to have a Holistic Approach to Balancing Working at Home and Life in General
So, I am a virtual assistant, but I am more than that, I am also a mother, wife, daughter and friend and therefore I have to manage wearing those many different hats on a daily basis.
When balancing life and work in a normal setting, generally work and home are separate because when you leave the office it stays behind and you get in your car, in the train or bus and you go home, to your home which is away from the office. However for a VA our home is our office, our office is our home!
Now how to balance that conundrum you ask? Well below are 5 points, ideas, tips which I try to use daily in order to create this balance, in a holistic, focused manner:
As a person who works from home and who also has two young children in the house routine is my buzzword. If we did not have routine I think my house might literally fall down!
Now what sort of routine are we talking here? Well it’s not military grade, but not too far from. I ensure I start the day same time every day (no thanks to my human alarm clock of course), I grab a cup of coffee – first of many! I then head on to the office (lounge) and switch on the gadgets and start to plan my day. In between the kids need to be fed and sorted with their various needs as well, which generally are also on some sort of clock. I try to keep the routine everyday as this allows me to work efficiently and effectively for my clients but also ensure the other part of my life is seen to and working just as effectively.
Don’t forget about you
This point is one that I took a while to get used to, but it is important. Remember you! Just as the kids need to eat and get dressed and have some fun so do you.
So what this means for me is, I make sure I get dressed (comfy but dressed) every day and maybe put on a little bit of a face or at the very least some moisturiser, mascara and lip-gloss. It is important to remember that although we work from home we can also behave the same as if we were going out to work. In fact studies have shown that prepping yourself as if you are going out to work actually helps to keep you more focused through the day. When you look good you feel good and good things happen!
My fun comes from playing with my kids, helping my son build LEGO or cheer the 7 month old on as he starts to become mobile.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Some more reiteration on routine here, but truth is to have that balance you need to plan your work day. You need to know what needs to be done, what is priority, what can go in the “tomorrow pile” and what needs to be addressed ASAP! If you do not have these plans in place you are going to be like a headless chicken trying to juggle way too much and end up not getting anything, or very little, done during your working hours.
My plan of action each day? I ensure I have my task list set up for each client, I know what is needed for each day. I break it up into the hours which I have allocated for each client and I mark off as we go along. Some of this is done electronically on apps like Trello or else manually in my diary/notebook. Make no mistake sometimes an urgent task pops up and that then needs to take preference, but at least I have a system in place for the general day to day operations.
Know when to step away
Another one of those very hard to do things, but it needs to be done. You need to set a time when the day is done because again, when you work outside of the home when your colleagues start packing up and leaving you know it’s time to go, but when you work at home?? Well you kind of need to set an alarm to tell yourself, “Switch off that computer, the day is done.” No one is able to work 24/7 even if you are in the comfort of your own home.
The final bit to make it holistic
So, now that we have gone through all of that I have come to the final, most important part, taking time out for you! Now this can be anything really from reading a book, taking a walk, going to the gym or whatever else. For me, it is that time at the end of the evening when my babies are in bed and I can just stretch out on the couch and veg out watching some Netflix. I also ensure I, at least once a week, have a spa bath at home, you can do this by introducing Epsom salts and essential oils, you can read about it and the benefits here .
At the end of the day to balance life, home and work – when you work at home, is work in itself but it can be done and it must be done in order for no one or nothing to be neglected.
Happy working from home!!