Do you know what the term Virtual Assistant means? Being a ‘virtual’ assistant doesn’t mean a faceless voice like Siri or Alexa. I’ve made this video to explain #Fatherted style the difference between real and virtual!
Recently, I was on holiday and when I arrived at my destination there was a copy of Mitch Albom’s book The Timekeeper in my room. I’ll let you read the story yourself, but the book is all about man’s obsession with time. How many of us tortured our parents or teachers with ‘What time is it’? or ‘Are we nearly there yet’? Think of all the games we played as children concerning time. One of my earliest memories at school for example was playing ‘What time is it Mister Wolf’? As adults we have time constraints put on us, but we are also very adept at putting them on ourselves.
Once Upon a Time there was The Speaking clock (this service still exists!) where you phone a number and a human voice tells you the time. I have a 3-yr. old nephew and I could just imagine his reaction if I told him to phone the speaking clock to be told the time.
Nowadays, there is no way of escaping telling the time. Every device we own is constantly flashing it at us. Not only can our devices speak to us and tell us the time, but they also remind us
· where we are supposed to be
· what we are supposed to be doing at that given time.
· how many calories we have burnt in between, and the new Apple watch monitors your rate heart too!
Are you a slave to time?
Time is our most precious commodity and many people joke you never go into a graveyard and see written on someone’s grave stone ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office’!
But are you using it to its full advantage?
Are you filling your days with things that you actually enjoy doing or want to do?
Or are you filling it with time-sucking administrative tasks?
Could you outsource those time-consuming admin tasks to a Virtual Assistant like me so you can concentrate on 1) the strategy for your business 2) making new business connections?
The range of services that I provide is listed on my website . This list is by no means exhaustive and every business has a different pain point so don’t hesitate to contact me for a free initial 1-2-1 consultation.
No-one can conquer Father Time but there are things you can do to ease the time you have:
· ry not to measure out every second of your life. Leave time for relaxing and for emergencies and this may seem counter intuitive but set aside some time when you are doing nothing! Be that staring at the sky or the ceiling or simply Being
· mplement Limits. If your children or partner or relatives are constantly reprimanding, you for spending too much time on the phone then guess what? you are spending too much time on your phone! There are lots of apps now you can install to track how much time you are actually spending and will impose limits on you, so you can spend quality human 1-2-1 interaction time instead. Check out Moment for Iphone and QualityTime for Android
· ind your Time. If you don’t hold your time precious no-one else will either. All those free ‘can I just pick your brain’ coffee meetups add up. Suggest instead speaking on the phone or doing a Zoom or Skype call so you can still see each other, but just remotely!
· ngage yourself in an activity where you actually lose track of time. I love reading where I can lose myself for hours at a time . I also did house arts painting class with The Art and Design Factory recently and that’s another fantastic way to lose yourself totally (I didn’t drink the whole bottle of wine in front of me by myself by the way:)).
I worked on the client side of a construction project for 5 years and there was a lot of consultancy work around a dedicated creating space for different tasks and for different teams. Every year I try to take 4 days in a row where I go way somewhere quite remote by myself and just have time for me with no plans other than getting to my destination. I love places with big wide-open skies where you can let your mind roam free and have literally the space to think. Obviously, we can’t jet off every time we need the head-space to think, so create a space closer to home. Change your habits and have your breakfast in your local coffee shop or do as I do now and work once a week out of a co-working space . Often when you are in a different environment you are motivated to be creative and suddenly lose that writer’s block that was suffocating your latest blog or podcast content.
I attend yoga once a week and the teacher always starts the class with the warning if you are doing something and its painful then you are not doing it right!
The tagline of my business is ‘Taking Away your Admin Pain’ so if painful time-consuming admin tasks are stopping you concentrating on high value strategic tasks contact me today to discuss how you can outsource them.
Alison-VirtuAli Admin Solutions Email: email@example.com T: +44 (0)77962 40677
A few Saturdays ago, I cycled from Moira to the edge of Lough Neagh (largest freshwater lake in the UK) (approx. 8 miles*this is important as you read further) and ever the eternal wanderluster my first thought when I reached the shore was I wonder what lies across the Lough from where I was standing? Having been at a charity table quiz the night before for another local adventurer who is walking the entirety of the Lough to raise money for Moira Committee of Cancer Research UK, I got to looking at the map and dreaming and then before I knew it I had signed up to the cycling challenge the Lap of the Lough at end of August!
Starting any sporting challenge is a bit like starting out in business. You THINK you have what takes to do it:
You think you have the mental reserves
But you are not sure and its only when you actually start that you realise that you need all of the above elements x1000 and a more robust action plan than you thought!
When starting out you can’t really imagine the amount of data you will quickly start to accumulate through email contacts, web contacts, invoicing, business cards etc. so at the very outset its invaluable to Think Big. To visualise down the line:
focus, focus, Focus
I have a 10-week training place to get ready for Lap of the Lough which is do-able. When you are starting out in business it is very hard to know what to focus on as you are juggling so many hats. Do you need to focus on marketing, on sales, on the processes, on the networking? To be truthful it’s a little bit of everything. When I started out I really struggled prioritising the marketing of my business as my client work came before all else but then learnt you always have to be marketing it at the same time otherwise you may have no clients! Since January of this year I’ve been doing Louise Brogan’s Social Bee Academy which has been invaluable. It has taught me the importance of valuable content and not to be afraid to experiment, to make videos, to do a Facebook live, to start an Instagram account. To build your audience and to automate your marketing as much as you can.
Pare it down to the essentials
I’ve been training of a few weeks now and at the start when I went out I had lots of STUFF with me-a jacket, a little backpack, food, another wheel (joking) and now I’ve streamlined it down to a little holder where I can store my keys and my phone, removable sleeves and some energising nibbles along the way. Talking to seasoned cyclists has helped me streamline and carry a lot less weight physically which also helps mentally! A very painful trip about 8 years to Accident and Emergency in Luxembourg city taught me never to carry anything in your pocket. As the weeks go on I’ve streamlined down and so running your business should be the same. In the beginning, you may have lots of excel sheets and data flowing everywhere but as you grow you will find that you develop systems to work more efficiently. As you grow, you get smarter and pare it down to the essentials!
Anyone who has ever been an Office Manager/an Executive Assistant/PA will tell you if the office falls apart the day you are not there then you have failed at your job because your job is to put processes in place to make sure even when absent the business can still run smoothly.
Long road home
I didn’t own a car until 3 years ago and used to cycle, walk and commute by public transport everywhere so deep inside I know I can cycle 97 miles in a day even if my brain and body make be screaming that I can’t! As it turns out Ardboe (48 miles anti clockwise) is pretty much opposite Gawley’s Gate . My brother in law is from close to there so worst-case scenario if I can cycle that far and then stop in Lavery’s pub for a pint all will not be lost!
My bike is actually called a Focus so if that isn’t a sign I don’t know what is!
So, if you are just starting out in business or you have been going for a little while and find you need help:
Please don’t hesitate to contact me here on LinkedIn, via my website www.virtuali.uk or via my email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be in the office and if I’m not you know I’m out putting the practice in for the 90+miles I’ve yet to cycle! You can follow my progress and sponsor me here : https://give.everydayhero.com/ie/lap-of-the-lough
Who is VirtuAli? The skills I have acquired over a long career have forged the services I offer and how I now help to take away the admin pain from a diverse number of businesses
What a Virtual Assistant can do for you. The 3 most common questions I’m asked as a Virtual Assistant are: 1)What is a Virtual Assistant? 2) How does a VA benefit my business? 3) How does hiring a VA work in practice?
While the Clergy only has a 0.81% probability of automation, according to data from the book “The Future of Jobs” the author believes even algorithms might one day replace the ordained! Earlier this year I attended one of the ‘Banter series’ at the Bullitt hotel entitled ‘The Robots are coming’ there is no doubt that artificial intelligence is here and growing at a rapid rate.
At the event there was a very lively discussing about artificial intelligence and jobs it will replace in coming years especially in manufacturing and supermarket sectors but equally about the ‘soft skills’ that robots can’t replace. I attended this event with one of my fellow Belfast PA Network committee members. Both Lorna and I can do our jobs because of cloud based technology, apps and smart devices but more so because of our emotional intelligence and emotional intelligence is something that can’t be taught to a robot (at least not yet!).
I read an article about a year ago about how the art of making locks was going to be lost because of smart technology and on Friday past I saw an advert that Yale have made a key-less smart door lock for residential use so no more dramas of broken or lost keys!
Technology for conducting meetings
There have been so many advances and there is so much technology available now:
-to conduct virtual meetings with platforms like Zoom, GoTO, Webinarjam
-to record minutes (smartphones, business multi-way Skype calls, video conferencing etc).
-to transcribe minutes allowing you to listen at a slower pace and hotkeys on your keyboard to allow you to pause/fast forward etc.
-to translate into foreign language (#caveat here as a foreign language student I state that no technology is smart enough yet to pick up on the nuances of language)
I often take minutes at HR Investigations and Committees meetings and despite all these advances, technology can’t teach you:
· How to interact with people when you enter a room
· How to let someone pause if they are upset or people are talking over each other
· Technology can’t decipher voices if the recording device is placed next to someone rustling papers!
5 advantages of hiring an external independent minute taker
Whether you are the Chairperson of a Board of Directors/Committee or conducting a HR investigation, here are 5 advantages of letting someone external and independent take minutes for you at a meeting:
1. Allows you to really concentrate on what is being said in the room
2. Allows you to really concentrate on what is not being said and body language of others which may be just as important!
3. Forces you to be succinct so that actions are clear to everyone
4. Gives you the time after the meeting to follow up action points rather than losing hours typing up minutes
5. As I’m independent and neutral meeting participants are often more comfortable speaking openly than if the minute taker is part of organisation
So, if you are on a Board of Directors on Committee and need someone neutral, professional and trustworthy to help take minutes at any kind of meeting please get in touch today. The Robots are coming but they can’t replace everything yet!
Guest blogger for Get Invited on the topic of organising events and why it’s a good idea to outsource admin tasks to a Virtual Assistant
This guest blog was published by the ticketing platform Get Invited which helps you make money from your events by offering flexible ticketing, beautiful customised event pages, ticket scanning app, and so much more.
Are you organising an event?
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the administrative tasks you’ve to complete?
Are you having nightmares that the venue double books you?
Are you afraid that our exhibitors or speakers cancel last moment?
Are you anxious that people turn up who haven’t registered or worse of all no-one turns up at all? If so don’t fear VirtuAli is here!
With every event, comes a lot of admin! There is the back and forth with the venue, the exchange and negotiations with participants on the night, drawing up email lists, collating information for marketing material, getting information out to the public and pulling the agenda for the night together; so you need someone with strong organisational skills to coordinate it all.
In my work as a Virtual PA and in my own community, I’ve been involved behind the scenes in organising a wide variety of events. You name it I’ve done it! Everything from Strictly dancing fundraisers, to the launch of new networks, anniversary events, bake-offs between community leaders, helping at farmers markets and chairing monthly meetings.
Whether it be inaugurating a new building or making sure people know the difference between the Argentina tango or the Viennese waltz, there are a number of factors common to the management of all events.
You may think you can, but the simple truth is you CAN’T DO everything! You can’t be on top of the marketing, the administration and have the headspace to plan what it is you really want to do. Focus on the things that you are good at and OUTSOURCE the rest.
Make sure you have a system in place that no matter how many people are involved with the planning of an event that you ALL have ACCESS to the same information so that means not saving essential updates to your Desktop!
You can share documents in Google Drive or have a shared Dropbox or use or a collaborative tool such as Trello, Asana or Slack. Regular updates to whomever you are collaborating with are also important so you are all on the same page.
Think of all eventualities! Have a backup plan in case your speakers don’t turn up on the night, in case there is an emergency fire drill, in case the next storm arrives in full force. By hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) you can outsource the time consuming nitty gritty admin work to someone else leaving you the time to concentrate on the tasks that you are good at.
5 Reasons to budget for a Virtual Assistant for the organisation of your next
What Skills can a Virtual Assistant bring to your event?
By hiring a Virtual Assistant, you are assured that you will have someone on board, who:
• quickly gets up to speed with what is happening
• has the experience to know what questions to ask in advance and is able to predict problems
• you can bounce ideas off
• you can hire for a pre-set number of hours or days a month to help with the planning
The beauty of being a Virtual Assistant is that all this can be done remotely with a laptop anywhere in world but flexibility and added customer value is also very important.
Hiring a ‘virtual’ assistant doesn’t mean that you can’t also have someone to be physically present on the night or before the event. In the run-up to events, I’ve taken minutes at coordination meetings. On the day of the event itself, I’ve often helped on the registration desk or with room set up. Sometimes as an event organiser to calm your nerves, you just need the simple reassurance that there is an extra set of hands on the night, right?
So, for your next event when working out the scope and the resources make sure you budget in the cost of hiring a VA to save your precious priceless mental energy along the way. You won’t regret it!
Alison owns VirtuAli and has over 15 years experience helping businesses and entrepreneurs with everything from administration to sales and event organisation.
Once Upon a Time there was a Virtual Assistant called VirtuAli who came to the rescue of stressed-out business people everywhere
Do you have a project that you have just started but are feeling overwhelmed with the administrative tasks that you need to complete it? Are you organising an event and having nightmares that your guest speakers lose their voices on the night? Or just beginning a new network and worrying about gathering all client data, updating lists, coordinating dates etc.? If so don’t fear VirtuAli is here!
This September, I felt like my whole life was one long event as I was so heavily involved in organising them. As President of Lagan Valley Toastmasters, we had a fundraising Night at the Races which luckily for us experienced Donal O’Neill from Mulsanne Casinos/Trackskills compered for us. I also helped to launch the ‘Know your Food Series’ of workshops at Donaghcloney Community Garden to try and connect people back to food and to teach how easy it is to grow and cook your own food.
Since June, I’ve been involved in the organisation of the 30yr anniversary event of the founding of Moira Cancer Research Committee and our sold out Strictly event is happening now on 27th October. 400 attendees-you can watch live on our Moira Cancer Research Committee Facebook on the night!
I was the Project Administrator on the construction of the European Investment’s Bank new building from 2005-2008 and the most stressful event I’ve ever been involved in organising was the Inauguration of the building in June 2008 to which the Grand Duke of Luxembourg was invited as well as Jean-Claude Juncker (then Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg). Events can be stressful enough but when you’re not sure the building is going to be ready on time-well that’s a fairly significant factor!
Whether it be building a new building, launching a series of events or implementing a new technical tool or CRM system, there are a number of factors common to the management of all projects:
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
You may think you can but the simple truth is you CAN’T DO everything! You can’t be on top of the marketing, the administration and have the headspace to really plan what it is you want to do. Do the things that you are good at and OUTSOURCE the rest. I learnt this the hard way in September and often by not delegating especially within a work environment or Committee you are denying the opportunity to let other members of staff develop their skills.
Make sure you have some kind of system in place that no matter how many people are involved with the planning of an event that you ALL have ACCESS to the same information so that means not saving important updates to your Desktop! You can share documents in Googledrive or have a shared Dropbox or use or a collaborative tool such as TRELLO, ASANA or SLACK. Regular updates to whomever you are collaborating with are also important so you are all on the same page.
Think of all eventualities! For all you Game of Thrones fans in season 8, you will remember Little Finger telling Sansa, “Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind.” The same is true in making a project become a reality. Have a backup plan especially for events in case your speakers don’t turn up on the night, in case there is an emergency fire drill, in case Winter comes in full force as it did on Monday!
So, if you have a project coming up and that can be everything from launching an event, forming a new network, a coaching programme or even an artists or architecture competition and you know that there will be a lot of admin tasks and coordination needed in the background to make it come to fruition, Let me Take your Admin Pain Away so you can concentrate on what you are good at!
As a Virtual Assistant, I’m often initially approached by micro-business owners to alleviate whatever admin burden they have: entering data, cleaning email lists, formatting reports etc. Often as I get to know the client and their business better, the value added actually comes from analysing their administrative systems and seeing if their life could be simplified by implementing new ones or in some cases even making certain systems obsolete.
With aftershocks of the Brexit decision of 24th June 2016 still rippling around the world maybe this is the right time to look inside your own business and see what improvements you can be making to admin systems and procedures so that you are working at your most efficient not only now but also to prepare for the future, whatever that might bring…
One of the most common ways to improve business efficiency is to implement a CRM system-what does that stand for again? yes, Customer Relationship Management. There are countless systems out there with new ones popping up every day. I’ve tested Nimble, Zoho, Insightly, Wave Accounting, Xero, InfusionSoft. I find that g2 crowd have a very good analysis page: https://www.g2crowd.com/categories/crm but before implementing any new system in your business, there are several questions you should always ask yourself:
Do you really need it?
I was talking to John from Xperience Group recently who said there always has to be one person in an organisation who really champions the use of any new software and who gets everyone else on board and I think that is really true. In my last workplace, we totally re-organised our document management process and it was one lady who really took that on-board and trained everyone else how to do it
2 Heads are better than one
As I have worked in companies ranging from 3 to 1803 employees, I have used lots of different software packages from entering carpet orders at Ulster Carpets, making hotel reservations at Belfast Welcome Centre to following up with staff mid and end year appraisals in European Investment Bank.Sometimes you really can’t see the wood for the trees and it helps to have the advice from someone external to your business
In Northern Ireland, there are also several companies that provide expert advice /support on IT issues and implementation of Office 365 such as Helios http://heliosit.co.uk/ and Xperience Group https://support.xperience-group.com/. If its cloud-based accountancy you are looking for you can contact Accountsify http://accountsify.com/ .
Taking care of the present
There is a stance in yoga ‘warrior pose’ where you stand deeply rooted in the present trying not to lean too far forward (to the future) or too far back (to the past); my yoga teacher is always telling me off for leaning too far to the future. So as a small business owner now as summer is upon you, maybe its time to pause in the present and reflect how you make your business the most efficient possible before September is here again. If you need some advice or just a second pair of eyes to reflect on how to do this, please contact me today to see how I can help www.virtuali.uk
As Charles Darwin said: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change’
Article published LinkedIn 7th July 2016
One word sums up the reason to hire a Virtual Assistant rather than a full-time admin member of staff=uncertainty!
1. Uncertainty of Brexit and what it will mean for us especially in Northern Ireland with hard border issues
2. Uncertainty of what our neighbours to the left and right of us will do or say and global impact that has on us
3. Uncertainty of our own government and whether election results tomorrow will make a positive change to all of us
The media is awash at the moment with negative vocabulary –uncertainty, catastrophe, disaster, terror. Crocodiles !
Whatever motive our former First Minister had in using this imagery, it’s interesting that in fact, the crocodile is one of the few animals that are still roaming the earth 200 million years since their beginning! They have been in existence since the time of Dinosaurs but unlike Dinosaurs, they have learnt to adapt to survive. (I’m not making any political analogies here but just stating anthropological facts).
Savvy business owners likewise learn to develop a thick skin, to adapt to their environments, to use all their senses, to learn as crocodiles do to avoid clashes with known or potential predators –you have to adapt to survive!
So if you are a business owner who at this moment of political turmoil are:
-have a hiring freeze on until situation is clearer
-want /plan to grow
Think about hiring a Virtual Assistant so you still have the administrative support you need but who you can hire on your terms as and when you may need it.
Despite all the uncertainties at the moment, don’t make the mistake of putting your business on hold now and letting it go stale- rather think about opportunities because there are much wiser crocodiles out there who certainly will be doing just that and going from strength to strength by-
-thinking of moving to a different market
-diversifying products to survive
Abraham Lincoln said
it’ which is very apt given the elections in Northern Ireland tomorrow so I hope you vote for the future that you want for your business and personal life and in the meantime while we are waiting for government to set itself up again hire a Virtual Assistant to put the admin systems and help in place to keep your business thriving.
Virtual assistant/administrative support/online PA/
Top reason to hire a Virtual Assistant in 2017 | Alison Matthews
January is often considered a dry month after overindulgence of every kind in December. However, there is one thing that you should budget for in this New Year and that is a Virtual Assistant (a VA) and before you say ‘I can’t’ because:
1) I can’t afford one 2) don’t have time to train someone 3) don’t have space 4) don’t want to share confidential information 5) don’t want to delegate as my business is my baby, hear me out:
If you are hesitating in hiring a Virtual Assistant, remember you can hire ONLY for hours that you want -you can set aside a specific budget or so many hours a month so you aren’t landed with a huge unexpected bill and you have the extra guarantee that hours worked for you will be fully productive. The unique value of my product is that you will make more money be hiring me as you can concentrate on things that you are good at and charge accordingly. You will also have extra time to look at how to grow your business rather than being stuck in admin nitty gritty.
I have over 15yrs admin experience across a variety of fields and as I have worked in offices from 2003 employees to 3 from Banks to hardware stores, I’m used to being thrown into the deep end and have learnt to adapt very quickly so I’ll be operational without too much effort on your behalf.
Usually I work remotely ‘virtually’ from my own office so I don’t add to your running costs or encroach on your space but if you need me physically in your office once a week or once a month to file and to do tasks that really can’t be done remotely, we can arrange that depending on your business needs.
Half of my working career I’ve spent as PA to high-level CEO’s. During that time, I’ve always ensured that any confidential information that passes my desk only passes my desk and nowhere else. When signing up a new client I include a confidentiality clause in the contract and make sure that my own systems to store information are as secure as possible.
Sometimes you have to let go of your business a little in order to see what is really happening. We are all creatures of habit, I often try to change the direction I walk around the park when going out for a walk, swim in a different lane in the pool, don’t plan every single detail before going on holiday because changing even a tiny thing gives us the chance to see the world with new eyes. Value of hiring me as a Virtual Assistant is that I’ve gained invaluable industry experience across a range of sectors so I can bring a fresh perspective to the way that you organise your admin systems and hopefully will be able to streamline some aspects for you. As I love helping people and seeing new entrepreneurs springing up, I will always take a genuine interest in your business and how to grow it. If you are growing then so I am!
If you spent more than half of 2016 running around like a headless chicken-my former boss in Luxembourg used to joke that I had the uncanny ability to keep my head when everyone else was losing theirs!-maybe its time to turn the stumbling blocks you have in your head about hiring a Virtual Assistant into stepping stones and guarantee yourself success for the year ahead.
Article posted on LinkedIn 9th Jan 2017
Christmas is just 4 weeks away and it’s official, it’s up there with divorce, moving house and changing jobs as the sixth most stressful life event. As individuals 86% of us say they find buying presents difficult and 65% find Christmas shopping a stressful event but is your stress even higher if you are a small business owner worrying about all work you have to do before year-end and sales you will make before the January slump hits?
I’ve worked in very fast paced environments where in the lead-up to Christmas everyone was working flat out but also playing hard so as soon as Christmas holidays appeared and adrenaline they’d been running on stopped-they were struck with flu and spent all holiday in bed. Don’t let that happen to you, outsource time-consuming tasks to a Virtual Assistant like me today so you can spend quality time with your loved ones come 25th December! Examples of tasks I can complete are as follows:
Contact me VirtuAli today, your family and friends will thank you for it on Christmas Day and possibly for the rest of the year!
Article published on LinkedIn 24th November 2016