Anne Williams, Linchpin PA
Whilst facing redundancy in 2011 and applying for jobs (surprisingly not getting any interviews which I think related to my age), I discovered the virtual administration industry and decided I could use my 40 years secretarial/PA/project management experience to start a business, where I would help small businesses by taking on their administrative burdens. Unfortunately at the time of redundancy I suffered from a back injury because of an accident and received Employment Support Allowance. So I used the time planning the development of the business, which included gaining a SFEDI business award from The Preparing to Run your Own Business course provided by The Princes’ Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME).
I discovered that very few VAs had any ethics or values on their websites and as a result developed three core values which every part of my business adheres to:
- to operate a VA service I am passionate about
- everyone needs a linchpin
- to offer collaborative partnerships based on good communication and honesty
I also incorporated a code of ethics:
- always respect client confidentiality
- trade fairly, honestly and truthfully with clients, suppliers and partners
- aim to promote standards within the VA industry
I strongly believe that businesses do need someone or something to hold everything together, but that must be based on honest and open communication. If you can’t communicate clearly with a client or you don’t understand how that client operates the relationship is never going to work and I am always willing to embrace that fact.
LinchpinPA began trading in October 2012 and to get cash flow started I enrolled with an audio transcription agency and also worked for two clients I secured via contacts. I also started to attend networking events to promote my business and build-up contacts while co-working, as well as keeping up my learning by attending free training sessions and webinars. During this time I also developed my website, started blogging and using social media, which increased my presence in the North East of England.
Gradually my customer base grew to such a point that I could stop working for the transcription agency, which was a big turning point. From then on I have secured more clients, many of whom are referred by my network or clients.
I realised that to achieve growth I needed to attract new clients, as well as retaining existing ones, so to ramp up marketing activity I applied for funding from the North East Rural Growth Network (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs/European Union) in 2014 and secured bespoke marketing sessions which led to sending out newsletters to existing and potential clients, networks and ex-colleagues. These are designed to let people know what I am doing as well as providing resources which can help them with their business and have a higher than industry average open rate.
Other key milestones for me include being asked by a networking group to complete their administrative tasks and be paid for it, I was approached by a co-working group to be videoed talking about how co-working has been good for my business and I have been highly commended in the Entrust/Pitman Superstar Awards 2013. I also had a mentor via PRIME which resulted in sending out questionnaires to clients and got some great feedback: “Great value primarily by enabling me to focus on growth and sales based activities, and not on administrative tasks. I would say I am now at least able to spend 25% more time on high value tasks”.