When I started out as Virtual Assistant the only thing I could think of was how to keep my clients. Many times I wondered if they saw my value, understood my mindset, appreciated the multiple hours not billed for. I was just happy to have work, not recognising my feeling of unworthiness. Now being more wise, older, more balance conscious with a mindful spirit, a lot has changed for me when working with clients. I realised I am good in what I do, and I do add value, that is why my business is still thriving. These days I feel confident to raise my opinion or speak out when I do not agree (in a respectful manner). I can help you, sometimes it just takes 3 easy (and I mean, easy) steps:
Remember that people differ
As a virtual assistant people think that we sit in front of a computer and do not talk, see or meet with clients. Some weeks it felt like I have had more “personal” meetings with my clients than I ever had when I worked in corporate. These meetings can be draining and stressful when you start out. But as time go on, short weekly update meetings, schedule planning and strategizing will leave you with more time to focus on the job to be done.
- Before your meeting, write down pointers to keep you on track, keep it short, and raise any concerns you have had that week.
- We all see and experience problems differently. Remember to focus when an issue is raised and try to stay open minded. At first, I got frustrated when my client’s suppliers could not understand me. Now being more open to the language barrier and time difference I know when to contact them, and remember it is for them just as difficult as it is for me.
- If you feel you need to discuss certain issues with your client more, then bring that up and keep discussing it until a mutual agreement is reached.
Remember you know what you are doing, it is not about what you are saying, but about HOW, WHY and WHEN. These days you do not need to study Human Relations to be an effective communicator or understand people, you can just google and find online courses that can help you right now. Only a few of many:
Stop Multitasking, start Batching
Early on I was multitasking so much, I sometimes called my clients by the other client’s name. Earth please swallow me. I was stretched thin, making mistakes, working crazy hours and got very near to burnout. During one December some of my clients went on vacation the same time and I could focus on one wanting something done urgently. I could focus on the project for a few hours and got the job done smoothly. When the others returned, I was in a routine of focusing on one client’s projects for the first 2-4 hours of the day, that I had no other choice as to leave the other projects for later. After the first 3 hours, I started to work on the other client’s projects, and guess what, I got that done quicker than I thought. Realizing that I should focus on the one client, and not try to multitask multiple clients at the same time, made me suggest time frames to my clients that I am available to them. This made them conscious of when to call, text or email, not being annoyed if I did not respond out of those hours. Now I group my similar tasks in batches and can get through the projects quicker. This helped my clients to eventually batch their tasks better. Yes, sometimes something is urgent and its needs my time now, but then I can focus, and reschedule my time around that.
Let me train you in my skillset to make your life easier
You may be the CEO of your business, but you appointed me for my skills to make your life easier. Please allow me to modernize, edit, update and change your logistic process my way. I know what I am doing. And after that (and usually this process takes a few months to tweak and get correct), let me train one of your people/you to work and understand the system. Nothing is as frustrating as having to communicate mundane answers when the system is put up in such a way for you to easily access and understand it. Especially after a long day, and I just want to spend time with my family, I am not going to give attention to something that can wait till tomorrow when I have energy.
It all boils down to respect. We differ and all have bad days, but we can still work together to get through it whole and happy. Talk to me, work smarter and remember I can help you in a way that makes your life easier. I believe both our chapters will be interesting, sometimes stressful, but all the time respectful. Then the outcome will be faster, smarter and hopefully profitable for us both.
The most influential and successful people in the business world are – reading. To quote one of my favourite investors of all times, Warren Buffett, ‘the key to success is reading, as much as 500 pages per day (yikes!)’ According to Buffett knowledge builds up like compound interest over time. Makes sense if you think about it a bit doesn’t it? Someone like Bill Gates, for example, reads about 50 books per year according to the Business Insider South Africa. Now to be honest with you I’m an avid reader, however this year I’ve got a lot going on so I decided my reading strategy will entail reading a selection of just four books. One for each quarter of this year. I’d rather read less than the average Bill Gates and take the time to implement the knowledge which I’ve gained than reading 50 books without implementing anything useful in my business.
These Titles Made It Successfully onto My Reading List
#What Makes Them Great? 50 Ways to Become the Industry Leader
By Douglas Kruger
Now to be honest this was my first purchase for my collection this year. So far, I haven’t been disappointed. I’m sure you’ve also wondered what the differentiating factor between the icons of a specific industry and those that are just ‘good’ at what they do might be. Well, I certainly have. That’s one of the reasons I find Kruger’s book so helpful as it gives 50 practical tips on how to achieve just that!
#How to Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age
By Dale Carnegie, Brent Cole
Some of you or maybe all of you might have come across this book before. You might already know Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends & Influence People released in 1936. released in 1936. Yes, you read it right the first time… Since its release, it has sold over 15 million copies and has recently been adapted for the digital age. Now a book that endures the test of time certainly merits making my list.
#Beginner’s Pluck – Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now
By Liz Bohannon
In her book Beginner’s Pluck, Liz wants the reader to, ‘rethink everything you’ve been told about finding your passion and following your dreams’. Liz clarifies a whole lot in her book about the emphasis placed on finding your passion and instead focusses on the reality of building your passion and purpose as she puts it ‘actively, day-by-day’.
#Find Your Way – Unleash Your Power and Highest Potential
By Carly Fiorina
I recently listened to a leadership podcast interview with Carly Fiorina. Like most South Africans I’d never heard of her before then. However, her journey from secretary to becoming the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company sounded remarkable and I adding her book to my 2020 must-read list was a no-brainer.
Bringing it together
Dear reader, from experience I have seen first-hand what consistent reading, gaining knowledge and expanding your horizons can achieve for our personal and professional lives. I know that reading doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone, but I really want to encourage you to give it a try before reaching for the audio versions of the book. For the simple – in an era where communication is turning more digital by the second, it is imperative that we improve our reading comprehension and communication skills. I believe without a doubt that effective communication will serve us well while we actively grow our business’.
What to Expect When Working with a Virtual Assistant
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a person who works remotely – she can sit in an office down the street or across the world. Working with a VA is very different from having an employee sitting in your office. Most Virtual Assistants work for more than one person, splitting their day up between their different clients. Virtual Assistants can assist with anything from general admin, marketing, diary management to virtually anything. The concept of working with a VA is a relatively new idea and so there are things that people are not always aware of.
Communication is key
Communication in this working relationship is key, use emails, WhatsApp, voice notes or weekly meetings. Be mindful that the Virtual Assistant is not in your office and is unable to come into your office and speak to you face to face, should the need arise. When giving instructions to your VA, be sure to provide all the resources that might be needed for the task at hand, together with all the relevant timelines and goals that you as an employer will expect. There should always be an open line of communication.
Work out the process
Working with a Virtual Assistant takes time to perfect. It is suggestible that especially in the beginning, all the assignments that are given to your Virtual Assistant are reviewed and that constructive feedback is given to the VA. This process will allow her to grow in her position and for her to ensure that over time she consistently provides what you are looking for. Never under estimate the power of a few kind words or praise for a job well done. It will do wonders for her self-esteem and will make your VA strive harder to ensure her work exceeds your expectations.
Stay in touch
It is the client’s responsibility to ensure that your VA knows what is expected of her. Regular communication to make sure she is coping and on point, will eliminate unwanted surprises. Having said this, there is no need to micromanage her. This could lead to serious problems down the line and could very well disrupt the relationship between the client and the Virtual Assistant and blur the boundaries as to what exactly is expected of her.
Remember the human touch
Remember that your Virtual Assistant is a person, who also has feelings and emotions. Given that that many clients have never had a face to face meeting with their VA, they forget that she too is a person. When problems arise as they normally do, it is easy get upset and vent their frustrations at their faceless Virtual Assistant.
All in a day’s work
Having a well-balanced working relationship between client and Virtual Assistant is one of the best things a client can do for his business. By the general day to day tasks been taken over by someone else, the client is left free to focus on growing his business without the everyday mundane tasks to contend with.
How Women in Power are Changing the World
Public holiday, who cares? We can rest….. But every single woman in South Africa needs to care. We need to understand why this is such an important month in the history of our country. Women’s Month in August is a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The Government of South Africa declared August as women’s month and 9 August is celebrated annually as Women’s Day. Women were somewhat regarded as inferior to their male counterparts then. Fast forward 63 years, and women are seen as equal and paid and treated as such.
Women in power in South Africa making a change
Growing up I always imagined being someone that can make a real change, not only to my immediate family but also to people around me. Especially during August I have seen articles about women doing just that. It all started with a heart, to be understanding and empathetic towards others. And let`s face it, women are good at seeing the need of others. Salute ladies, and let us go on this journey of getting to know my top four inspirational women:
Saray is an award-winning mountaineer, a Mandela libraries ambassador, a social entrepreneur, a mother of two boys and also an executive for one of the distinguished financial institutions in South Africa. Over time she has demonstrated her commitment to making a difference in her environment through mountaineering. Through her climbing with a purpose initiative, Saray has organized and been part of the following initiatives:
- Climbing Kilimanjaro with a purpose (self-funded climb) which built an outdoor gym for Kids Havenworth R200,000 and also converted a room into a library.
- Climbing Everest in 2014 raised funds forThe Lunch Box Fund to feed over 60,000 children.
- Climbing Everst in 2015 raised funds for The Mandela Library Projects and built a library for Isiziba Primary School in Thembisa, Johannesburg.
- Climbing Everest in 2018 raised funds of over R800,000for The Mandela Library Projects and built four libraries across South Africa. She continues to campaign for more libraries as she takes steps towards the seven highest peaks on the seven continents around the world.
# Caster Semenya, standing up for human rights.
Wikipedia describes Mokgadi Caster Semenya as follow: “OIB (born 7 January 1991) is a South African middle-distance runner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist. She won gold in the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships with a time of 1:55.45 and at the 2017 World Championships in her new personal best, 1:55.16. She also won the silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in the 800 meters. She was the winner of the gold medal in the 800 meter events at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics.
Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships, it was announced that she had been subjected to sex testing. She was withdrawn from international competition until 6 July 2010 when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) cleared her to return to competition. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman included her in a list of “50 People That Matter 2010”.”
Semenya is not allowed to participate in this year’s World Championships in Doha, as her testosterone levels need to be reduced as ruled by the IAAF. Luckily the South African Cabinet fully supports Semenya as she appeals and fights for her fundamental human rights. Like all other athletes, she is entitled to compete without being obliged to alter her body by any medical means. And following Semenya`s very public career over the last nine years, I am sure she will still be fighting for many years to come.
# Tracey Chambers and Tracey Gillmore, educating and clothing the underprivileged
These two women realized they can make a difference in the lives of women, and people in general, by letting their empathy grow into a business. They started the ClothingBank of South Africa, by clothing and educating people. In their own words: “We believe that becoming a self-employed business owner is something everyone can do, irrespective of their education levels and resources, as long as they are self-motivated and well supported (mentally and emotionally). We have developed a holistic eco-system, which successfully engages families living in poverty to chart a path out of poverty. Our projects have been changing lives for the last eight years.” Visit their website for more information: https://theclothingbank.org.za/
How can I make a difference
Following these wonderful women did make me feel unmotivated for a second, before I was left amazed. I wanted to be them, and here I am 37 years old, not summiting mountains, un-athletic and unentrepreneurial. I voiced this to my friend and very small business partner (who is really unprivileged, sleeping on someone’s kitchen floor, cleaning houses for a living). She said that you should never think something is unimportant to the person next to you. We can always, as women, have an empathetic heart and ear to our sisters. Sometimes, without even realizing it, by listening you can show love and affection. For too many years, sisters in South Africa were not heard, until they gathered, mobilized and moved. And because they did, my heroes are out in the open, voicing their concerns and making changes without needing to stand back.
Secondly, we should remember to never quite. Even if we feel we do not have the capacity or mental ability to do something, just keep going. All of the women mentioned above must have felt deflated and wanting to quite somewhere down the line, but they pushed through and always educated and kept training in their areas of specialities.
In bringing it together I thought it would be best to share this poem by Maya Angelou:
’You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.’
The Secret Reason You Want Women in Top Leadership and Executive Positions in Your Company
When it comes to business, everyone from the entrepreneur to big corporates needs to listen up and take note of this interesting development in the business world. Although the number of women in executive roles in companies is often limited to a single-digit percentage, studies are increasingly proving that if companies want to increase their profit, they need to rethink their strategy on gender diversity within the company.
Why it’s important to have gender diversity in your company.
In January 2018, McKinsey & Company published their 42-page report Delivering through Diversity on their findings with regards to valuable aspects of this very topic. They found that “Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.”
I don’t know about you, but this statistic really had me sitting up straight. So often we as women don’t even realize the importance of our contribution to the business environment. We often focus so extensively on get the job done despite facing challenges, raising families and contributing to our communities that we undervalue ourselves. I, of course, am of the opinion, that if we don’t know and acknowledge our worth first, no one else will.
Personal challenges women face that are featuring in executive leadership roles globally
It goes without saying that featuring in these executive roles brings challenges of their own for these successful women. Just like a normal wife and mother she has duties to fulfil that lie outside her corporate duties. The reality is that their male counterparts, especially those without children rarely understand the extreme stress and challenges these women face and they rarely have empathy for women in these situations.
What type of support do they need?
It doesn’t need to limit women’s opportunities to excel in the business environment. As women, we can support each other to better achieve our individual goals. Handling personal finances, paying bills, diary management, travel arrangements, event planning, holiday itineraries, the list goes on… The fun part for me is knowing that there’s always a solution for these types of challenges. And no, it’s not a personal assistant, but rather a Virtual Assistant. Both may have similar skillsets but there’s a fundamental difference between a personal assistant and a Virtual Assistant. That difference is mindset! A personal assistant is invaluable but has the mindset of an employee. The right Virtual Assistant is an entrepreneur in her own right, so she already has a growth mindset, a get the job done attitude. A no-excuses mentality. She is focused on results!
It’s so important for us as women to empower each other the reach our goals and dreams. It’s within our grasp if we support each other. There’s no shame in getting help. We don’t have to do everything ourselves. We just need to know where to get the right assistance. As mothers and wives, we often face this tremendous guilt when it comes to our jobs and families. We are always spreading ourselves too thin. Feeling guilty if we need to take time away from work to spend with our children or families. Even taking your child for a dental appointment can seem like a mountain.
My suggestion? Get that trusted support that will free up your time so you can focus on the quality events in your family, children and work. Value yourself and your loved ones enough to let go of some things.
Let’s celebrate each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses. Together there are no limits to what we can accomplish!