VA Friday Feature: Michelle Dowling of Marbles Business Support

What made you decide you wanted to become a VA and when?

I was made redundant for the 2nd time in 2011 and I decided to take control of my future and that meant starting my own business, I just had to establish what I wanted to do.

It had a light bulb moment for me when out of the blue I received a book suggestion from Amazon. The term ‘Virtual Assistant’ was a revelation! In some capacity throughout my whole life I had been a VA but it was under my other job titles: Sales Executive, Marketing Manager, Contract Customer Services Manager, Health, Safety & Environmental Officer, Auditor and Office Manager.

Were you concerned that there were already many VAs already out there and this would be competition?

Not at all! Some of my closest friends are VAs and we have different skills and experiences that sets us apart as unique individuals. It is the first industry I know where you are truly supported by other VAs who willingly share their experiences and knowledge.

Ultimately being a VA and working with small businesses, entrepreneur and VIPs is rewarding and very personal. You have to be the right fit for your client. Skills and experience are taken for granted and then it comes down to personality and energy.

What gave you the confidence to give yourself that push to go ahead and do it?

Receiving my final redundancy package gave me quite a push to get moving and also knowing that there were many VAs running successful businesses.

When you decided to get started what made you decide to go for some VA training?

My corporate career was based on continual development and I love learning new skills, it was essential for me to know as much as possible about launching my VA business.

Why did you decide on The VA Coaching and Training Company and what was your experience of the training?

Once I had researched the various types of training available, it was obvious that Carmen had walked the walk and her warmth shone through from the very first email. The VA Mastery Course was exactly what I needed.

The content covered, in depth, far more than I anticipated and I learnt so much. The course covers how to build your VA Business and quite frankly there were subjects that I was not looking forward too at all! Networking was an alien concept but now I am an avid networker who enjoys being a great business connector.

It is fair to say that Carmen is the Godmother of the VA industry and her endless stories from real experiences were authentic, encouraging and inspirational.

What have been the highlights of your business so far?

Working closely with my clients and becoming an integral part of the team and an ambassador for their business is a privilege. Streamlining and developing business processes that help the business to grow, run smoothly and generate more profits are the main highlights for me.

What have been some challenges you have experienced and if you were to do things differently next time what would you do?

  1. Don’t think you have to have all of your ducks lined up in a row before you can start your business. I started without a website and still gained clients from networking.
  2. Do not waste time on perfecting a logo. Yes, it’s important to create your identity and becoming a VA will help you find clarity on where you want to be as a new business. Your original niche market may change so be prepared to adjust while you settle into being a VA.
  3. Remember you are an entrepreneur and this is your business and cash flow is essential, so please set boundaries and stand by your terms & conditions.
  4. Believe in your value, stand by your rate and always get payment up front.

What type of clients do you work with and do you specialise in a particular service?

My clients have come from different industries, mainly small businesses, entrepreneurs and VIPs. I have worked with international speakers, business mentors, startup companies and entrepreneurs managing multiple businesses.

As a business owner we all have the same daily pressures and I take a hands-on approach with my clients and will muck in until we find a workable solution. My experience in the corporate, private industry and as a business owner has given me an understanding and compassion for anyone who decides to start a business.

What advice would you give to anyone just starting out especially in relation to training?

It is essential to connect with other VAs and start your business with real genuine support. You may have incredible skills as a PA but do you know how to run a business and keep it thriving?

The VA Mastery Course was key to ensuring I covered all of the essential areas required to set up and run your VA business.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Life is about happiness and freedom of choice. My dream is to have other business interests as well as being a VA. I will continue to work as a VA because it allows me to help and support clients, which is a huge part of who I am and I will offer this service for the rest of my life.

Who in business would you love to meet and why?

Bob Proctor is a hero of mine. At 80 years old he still shares his life experience through coaching, mentoring and training seminars. Bob starred in the famous movie The Secret, which is about the Law of Attraction. I have followed him for years and just found out that we have the same birthday of 5th July.

Which book has influenced you the most in your business?

There are so many books to choose from but the one I read over and over again is the E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. I have a new respect for McDonald’s business model, when you read the book you will understand why!

What is your favourite quote and why?

‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do’. Steve Jobs I firmly believe that if you do what you love it will never be a job.

What do you love to do when you’re not working.

My 3 Shih Tzu’s, Harvey, Poppy & Stanley are the center of my world. You will usually find us walking in the nearest fields and we often end up in the garden of my local country pub.

And lastly – what one thing can you tell us about you that not many people know?

I had an Entertainments Agency in the 90s and I was a mobile DJ.