I have worked for almost 20+ years and along the way, I have met a lot of different people, gained friends, and maintained good relationships with them. We should always think of nurturing better relationships and network with the right connections as they will be instrumental to your success now and in the future.
In the year 2014, I decided to start a new career and have no knowledge at all. I tried to research where and how I can start the right way. I chanced upon this outsourcing agency and it helped me evolve in my career and allowed me to grow as a Virtual Assistant.
I want to introduce this agency to you and share the success story. Let us get to know the Founder of Virtual Elves Outsourcing, Kristy Smith. Here is my discussion with her:
M: Why did you choose to run a VA outsourcing business?
KS: In 2009 I was working for a medical Communications company as their Office manager, getting paid really well, working 9am-5pm in the office. The truth was, I was bored. The owners were always out, there was never much work to do and I spent my time wondering why I was there. It got me thinking I could do something more beneficial for people working from home, which would support less outlay for them, no overheads, and help me have a more flexible work-life as well with two small preschool aged children.
With the blessing of my husband, I started working as a VA and supporting local businesses. Within a short 12 months, my hours were at capacity and I decided I needed help. I hired my first support VA on oDesk (now Upwork) and started to take on more clients and we just grew from there.
M: What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome it?
KS: There were several challenges I faced with running this business. Firstly, outsourcing and virtual assistants was a totally new concept in Australia in 2009. Not many businesses really knew what it was and how to access VAs. They were cautious and not exploratory so it made it hard to market. Secondly, I had to work really hard for the business to make money initially as we had to keep the rates really low to engage clients. My husband constantly asked me to go back to corporate to earn more money, but I just wanted the freedom the business allowed me. Thirdly, finding good staff was a challenge as we grew. I had amazing core team members, but as we grew it was harder to find clones of them!
M: How do you manage your team and your clients?
KS: Virtual Elves is a completely home-based virtual business. It operates to service both clients and VAs equally. Our clients and VAs are supported equally by our Human Resources team to ensure the relationships are nurtured. Luckily for me, the first VA I hired is still with me 10 years later, and Cherry has been instrumental in managing the offshore team so we can continue to provide the best service to our clients. Coupled with our core team, over the years we have been able to really build on our values and keep the team running like a family. Our success is really linked to the fact our values are shared with both clients and our team.
M: How do you manage to run the business during this time of the year?
KS: For us, it’s business as usual, although we certainly have experienced some downturn due to the nature of our clients and the loss of business they have experienced. We have had to reduce the hours of our core team to match the revenue loss and are hopeful of that starting to lift as things improve. We have never had to really spend money on marketing the business, but due to COVID, we have started to put together some lead generation ads and start to get some interest online to drive more leads into the business. Luckily for us, our model has always been a work-from-home model for all of us so there has been no change to the general operations of the business.
M: What do you want business owners to understand about hiring their VA’s?
KS: I want business owners to understand that they have to prepare and take ownership of hiring a VA (and anyone) into their team and that working with a Virtual team member needs to be tackled differently. I also want them to know that virtual assistants can be highly educated and valuable resources and should be treated with respect and allowed to shine and be empowered to grow and succeed. So many times I see businesses that say having a VA was a failure. I say this is because you did not do your homework first and did not prepare for that VA to succeed. It’s on you.
M: What is your vision five years from now?
KS: Aside from having the business thriving and doubled in size I hope to have training courses for both upskilling our VAs and educating our clients, and be the #1 trusted long term VA partner in Australia.
M: Do you have a favorite quote that you may want to share and why?
KS: This quote has been with me since I was 17 years old and I still believe in it today:
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau
Run your own race – don’t be caught up in what others are doing or think you have to do something because that’s what everyone else tells you. Believe in your dream and do it your way.
-End of interview-
Thank you to Kristy Smith, for providing work to us Filipinos and allowing us to work from our home and earn conveniently while being with our family. Visit Virtual Elves Outsourcing and check the services they provide if you are a business owner who needs to hire a qualified VA to help you grow your business.
I would also like to dedicate this piece to my former mentor who has helped me grow professionally and taught me a lot, and have contributed to where I am now. She encouraged me to do things I thought I can never do. She pushed me to discover my strengths and helped me improve my weaknesses.
I am very thankful that I was able to personally tell her this before she left the universe. To Ms. Babic Faustino, my mentor, my boss, my friend, thank you for everything. Thank you all for reading and stay safe everyone!