Celebrating 10 years of First Rate PA – Part Two: Growing my business
As part of our 10 year celebrations, we are writing a series of short blogs to tell you more about our business. This week we are looking at how First Rate PA has developed over the 10 years.
We asked Michelle Wright, Director of First Rate PA what she has learnt through growing her business and about some of the challenges she has faced over the last 10 years.
What was the hardest part of starting and growing your own business?
It was hard to get my first client and work out my networking pitch to start with, but after I went to my first couple of meetings, I got that first client it was all fine.
My first job was for a lady who wanted her home office organised, I spent 2 days going through 6 filing cabinets sorting and organising them into some workable shape. The next couple of jobs were entering names/business cards into a database and populating Mailchimp. I will always remember being given a gift bag of business cards. At the start I did quite a few one-off jobs, not realising the value of monthly retainers until later on.
Did you find learning to network hard?
I had been networking with my previous job and although I was nervous when I first went, it was actually easier as I was talking about me and my business. Once I started to get to know some faces I enjoyed going as it was a reason to be getting out the flat meet new people and find out about their business.
What was the best advice you have been given at networking events?
The best advice I have been given is to listen and do not talk about yourself unless asked and I’m hoping I do this well? I have been given so much advice over the years it’s hard to sum it up, but I always find that if you ask questions and listen for the answers, you’re in a good position.
Building relationships with other businesses and business individuals have also been key, not just because you can always find the right person to seek advice from, but they are also a sympathetic ear when things are hard. Also, by building these relationships you are creating advocates to help in growing your business as not only you have people to recommend, you have people remembering and recommending you too.
When did you start growing your business and take on other VA’s?
When I started the business, I always had it in my mind that I wanted it to be more than just me, this was why finding a name that suggested the business was bigger was always important.
So about 5 years ago I dipped my toes in the associate waters when a job that I was commissioned to do got too big for me to complete on my own by the deadline, so I sort help from another VA that I had become friends with and we completed the job together. Then a little while later I had an enquiry for audio transcription service and as my skills were a little rusty I took on my first more permanent VA associate and never looked back, now the team has grown in size with experts in all fields that we provide.
How have you been coping during lockdown, what has it done to affect the way you work/run your business?
It has been pretty much business as usual, with our clients still needing the support to run their business and knowing how important it is to have support. For me it gives me time to take stock and look at how we do things, spending quality time on how we market the business. Taking it back to basics, with the support of my VA’s who assist with the social media and business marketing.
Swapping coffees and networking for Zoom meetings, Facebook networking groups and good old-fashioned phone calls. It has slowed me down and made me realise that I do not have to be rushing around and working as much as I do to get the job done. But it has also given me structure and focus throughout the weeks in lockdown.
We have been looking ahead as a team, as many of the plans we had for 2020 have now been put on hold, or had to change altogether. Building on our business strengths, we are focusing on marketing our services and building more connections with other local businesses so we can get through this together. I am looking forward to growing my business further.
Next week we will give you the opportunity to meet some of the First Rate PA team.