This is the first of Mark’s posts on starting his VA business – apologies for the delay in actually posting it, I think I was at the Christmas spirit a bit early! – Caroline
Firstly thanks very much to Caroline for this opportunity. SVA has been a fantastic resource and really helped me with establishing Clearwater VA. Writing this is one of the few tasks left before I spend Christmas with my family.With the help of my fantastic wife Beverley, starting up Clearwater VA fulfils a long held ambition of mine. We have spent several months researching the industry to understand what the USPs are of a Virtual Assistant and what it will take to become successful. We were also fortunate enough to speak with Nadine Widdows of Pink Saucer who has a well established VA business and has been a great support – we can’t thank her enough for the encouragement she has given.
Having done the research, we decided to draw up a business plan. This has been invaluable as not only has it highlighted our key services but has also helped us to understand our niche market. Upon speaking with a couple of local business advisers and using the resources provided by Business Link the time was right and I handed in my notice. For me this was a bold step because I held a Marketing Manager position for a large blue chip organisation, providing both job security and great benefits. However I was sacrificing that all important work-life balance, not spending much time with my wife or our 2 year old son Fynn, working all hours and I was miserable (just ask my wife!). At the start of September 2010 I handed my boss my resignation and thanks to additional holiday I was able to start my business on Monday 27th September 2010.
The last 3 months have been some of the most enjoyable in my life. I would like to say I am rushed off my feet and business is booming but it’s not. I am however generating some really good interest and have been fortunate enough to receive good retainer work in December which also has good potential for the New Year. It certainly has not been an easy process, for me the most effective form of promoting my business has been to attend Breakfast Networking Events. This means in the last 3 months I have eaten 33 sausages, 46 rashers of bacon, 30 slices of toast, lots of mushrooms, lots of beans (pew), a few tomatoes and drank several cups of tea. Considering breakfast was never one of my favourite meals I don’t think I am doing too bad!
I have to admit I was very sceptical about Networking and didn’t think I would be very confident. However I am actually really enjoying the events, when it’s your business, you want it to be successful and will therefore promote your business in the right way.
The other key area for me has been to determine a niche area and start to market myself to it. As I am offering key marketing services I need to practice what I preach and I am undertaking a strategic 12 month plan. No doubt some areas will be successful and some will not, but without this I would be lacking in direction and would be struggling to source new opportunities.
Typically when I write something my approach is that less is more. However I felt it was really important for this post to explain the background around why I established Clearwater VA and putting all of that in a few words would be very difficult.
The only area I have left out is why the name Clearwater. Again that can be mainly attributed to my wife Beverley. We were looking for a company name that signifies what we do without using our names or initials. So Clearwater was formed as it demonstrates clarity, smooth flowing support and continual business growth. We incorporated Virtual Assistance in the title because for me this is a key USP. I have read many forum discussions as to whether people know what a Virtual Assistant is. When somebody asks me that question I am thrilled to provide an answer because it provides a natural introduction in giving them a sales pitch, something which not many people want straight away (I did get thrown once when I told somebody that I was a Virtual Assistant only for them to reply by saying “but you’re not a woman!”).
So as I have waffled on for long enough I want to touch on one other point. I will always be thankful to Nadine and Pink Saucer for her support and I will be more than happy to provide the same courtesy and support to other VAs.
I promise that my next post (in the New Year) will be short, sharp and concise!
So finally I wish all my fellow VAs a very Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year