- Tell us about yourself, a bit of background.
I was born in a little known town by the name of Port Nolloth where everybody knew everybody and my arrival was marked with a pink flag being raised upon the hospital roof much to the delight of the town folk, as they were quite eager to meet the 7th child born to the Cross family. Yes, I am one of 7 children. The youngest, the naughty one. It was rather a struggle for my parents from a financial aspect but they always managed to ensure we had all that we needed (not what we wanted but what we needed). My parents instilled in me the importance of working hard and that nothing gets handed to you on a silver platter, you need to go out and make your mark on the world.
By way of working odd jobs, teaching English to the previously disadvantaged, au pairing etc. I managed to save enough funds to put myself through a Higher Diploma in Legal studies. From an early age I had always dreamed of being an attorney but didn’t want to make the leap and take on a degree unless I was absolutely sure that, that was what I wanted to commit my life to. After completing my diploma, I needed to rack up some work experience and started working for a one man band firm. Needless to say, they were not the best mentor and did not really pull in the clients and it was time to part ways which was especially evident after being paid with a boombox (yes, you read correctly, a boombox) as the company was in such dire straits that they were unable to pay my monthly slave wage.
I had the time on my CV and was ready to get out there. First conquering the small to medium law firms, then working my way up to the larger firms. I was then headhunted by Unilever and worked there until the unexpected but happy news that I was pregnant was received.
Thus, my career took a back seat. I wanted to be able to devote quality time to my little man and that was not possible in a position where I was required to at times work till 8 in the evening. Thus, the adventure began. I loved every minute of spending time with my little man but something was missing, and when one of my friends politely requested me not to speak to her as if she was a child, I knew it was time to get back in the game and start interacting with adults. I was then fortunate to find a placement with a Higher Education institution but I was now in the same position as I was in my earlier career where I was not getting that quality time with my son that I so craved. After months of investigation, I decided to venture out on my own with TMC Virtual Office Management, a small company providing support to companies as a Virtual Assistant as well as a personal assistant to individuals. Business picked up and I am now a happy stay at home mum, who gets to have the quality time with her son and who gets to still have some serious adult conversation, except, now I get paid to do it.
- What were you doing before you started this business?
Besides my background in the legal industry, my last post had been as a Project Coordinator. I had moved away from the legal industry as I wanted to try something new. This coming from a final year law student (yes, I work, I study and I mother).
- Is your business full time or part time and why?
Full time and the reason being is that I wanted to be at home with my little one as much as possible. My husband works overseas 6 months of the year and for me, right now, my little one needs as much of my time as possible. Further, I like to think of myself as a controlled perfectionist, if I was doing this, I was doing it properly or not at all. Hence I started immersing myself in anything and everything VA related and it can be a bit overwhelming when you are still working, studying, and as I said, mothering. So, yes, full time seemed the only viable option at the time and I still believe I have made the right choice.
My son comes first. Always! However, in saying that, there are times when I have to run out unexpectedly to a meeting or shut out a part of my day that is usually reserved for family time but, I am fortunate to have a great support base (and amazing babysitters) that allow me to have these little moments. Otherwise, I structure my day around my son’s schedule. It’s balls to the wall till 12pm and then the school run to collect my precious, precocious child.
- Do you have a business plan? If so, can you share a bit about your strategy to make it successful?
Yes, I do have a business plan and with any business plan, it should be a living breathing document. Something that is able to change as the needs of your business and clients change. I continuously strive to keep updated on latest trends and innovations that will help streamline my and my client’s business processes and strategies. My biggest strategy… is adapt, evolve, involve and you can only go up from there. As they say, “aim high, the view is great from the top”.
Fortunately, I have a very large group of business savvy friends and I started by networking through them and meeting their contacts. I feel that word of mouth is still one of the biggest and best opportunities to bring in new business. In a world that has become so critical of people, service providers, we are usually wary when engaging with service providers and individuals that we tend to ask “Jill” or “Bob” who they would recommend. Other than that, I do love social media and the freedom and creativity it allows when marketing your business. Anything goes.. (ok, not everything, but you get the drift).
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
My biggest challenge at the moment is expanding and growing my business and in order to do that I need to build my team. Now, from someone who likes to think they can do everything themselves, this is easier said than done. The right or wrong team member can make or break the reputation of a business and I need to get over that mental hurdle and learn to trust my instincts when it comes to hiring that dream team. Again, easier said than done. It’s a work in progress!
- Did you need a lot of money to start off? And how long was it before you made a profit?
Besides my trusty laptop (hold thumbs), my internet connection and phone line, there really are no big capital spends. My running costs are fairly low and I was able to pull in a profit in the first month due to having a client base already built up for start-up. This isn’t usually the case for small business and every day I thank my lucky stars. I am very fortunate an grateful.
- What makes your business unique from other brands?
Most Virtual Assistants/ Assistant Companies offer the general administrative services with, at times, marketing thrown in as well as web design but we have tried to up the ante by offering our clients an “all in one” stop for their business and personal needs. We provide our clients with accounting services, legal services (yes, we have attorneys), marketing, personal, HR as well as the general services offered by your everyday VA company / person and I believe this is what makes us stand out from our competitors. We literally run your business for you, hence the name choice “TMC Virtual Office Management” and not anything specifically noted to a Virtual Assistant.
P.S. Sharing is caring in my view.