M: Hi Lisa thanks to agreeing to this interview! Can you please tell us why you decided to use a VA/Virtual PA?
L: Hi! I had my own family business in the food safety and hygiene field, which we sold in 2015. I wasn’t ready to retire so set up a company so that I could provide consultancy services and quickly realised that some secretarial and administrative support was needed, so that I could concentrate on actually doing the work and growing my business. I knew someone who had a VA; was mulling over going that route as I only needed someone for a handful of hours a week and then saw your e-shot from the St Albans Chamber of Commerce in January 2016 and we met and the rest is history!
M: Yes I remember – they sent round the e-shot on the Thursday morning, we met that afternoon and I started working for you the following Monday! Can you tell us about the tasks that I started off doing for you?
L: yes of course. Initially I really wanted help with the day to day accounting, so processing transactions, raising and sending out invoices using xero. I also had a number of expense reports that needed filing, which were all fiddly and time-consuming. You are very good at keeping tabs on when invoices become due and chasing up late payers. Over time I have also come to rely on your “hawk” eye – you have picked up when we have been over-charged by a supplier and saved me money which is great! I also wanted someone to maintain a digital filing system on dropbox and keep an eye on my emails and diary and remind me about things that I might otherwise overlook.
M: yes that works well. One question I am always asked is how a virtual PA working from a remote location can assist with the day to day tasks.
L: well we set you up with your own email address on my company server and you also have access to my emails and calendar, so that you can keep track of my diary, reply to emails and remind me about outstanding ones. We each have our own dropbox logins so I can keep track of who has done what. Dropbox sends us both regular emails when either of us makes changes to the digital files, which is useful. Xero works in a similar way- we each have our own login for accounting purposes. We do meet from time to time and use a variety of ways to communicate, such as Teams, email; phone, text and Whatsapp.
M: Yes there are certainly a lot of ways to communicate – each client is different and I always ask how best to contact them. Over the last 15 months many more people have worked from home and got used to using zoom, MS Teams and Google Hangouts. I have been working as a VA for 6 years now and there are many more of us now and more people have heard of VAs or “business angels” as one lady described hers!
Overtime my role has changed for you – as it does for most of my clients, as we get to know each other and as trust builds.
L: yes absolutely. You now often negotiate fees for me, review contracts and terms for business efficacy, flag up any key clauses and issues and negotiate changes. You have great attention to detail and make very sensible suggestions. I have done a fair amount of media work over the last year and you have kept on top of all of that and tracked down whom to invoice. As our client list expanded there have been various increasingly complicated onboarding processes to set us up as a supplier and you are great with those too. I would have lost the will to live going through those documents, and may have avoided working with those clients if you hadn’t helped. When GDPR came in you worked with me to go through an assessment of the business processes to help ensure that we were complaint. At various stages we have needed to develop policies (such as an environmental one) and you have been great at researching this aspect and coming up with a draft one for me to review. The business and I have moved a few times whilst you have been my VA and you have been good at coming up with a spreadsheet, notifying people and reminding me to do the same each time, which has really helped. Anything else I have missed?
M: I also do basic website maintenance, keep an eye on your Google My Business page and draft or polish blogs and post them on your website. I also login into various accounts to download, process and file various business expenses. If there are any IT issues and I work with our suppliers to fix those.
L: yes you do that too! And set up new online accounts too which can be a hassle and very time consuming.
M: Just a couple more questions! Why would you recommend me as a VA/virtual PA?
L: You are reliable, hard working, supportive, proactive, excellent at communication and a very safe pair of hands. If I ask you to do something then I know that it will get done and I don’t have to think about it again. It’s also good to have you to bounce ideas off as you know my business and you have your own objective take on things. You are also very good at adapting your tone to match that of a particular client’s and building relationships with them.
M: Wow thank you! Any areas in which I could do better?
L: well I am better at excel spreadsheet than you are – but you have got better!
M: yes I have. Thank you very much for your time Lisa.