In this month's community spotlight feature, we speak with Samuel Wilson, co-founder of Virtalent. Sam set up Virtalent, alongside co-founder Ellie, after becoming frustrated with the lack of quality virtual assistants available for businesses in the UK.
Ellie Bekalo and I started Virtalent in 2014 after becoming frustrated with the difficulty we had previously faced, when running other businesses, in finding reliable long-term support. We were fed up of wasting a lot of money using task marketplaces, simply because the quality varies so greatly and there can often be a number of language barriers to contend with.
We stumbled across the Virtual Assistant (VA) industry and it really was exactly what we were looking for, though we felt it could be much better. Most of the industry in the UK/USA is composed of freelancers from an administration background. It is very fragmented and, again, the quality varies greatly. Entrepreneurs are looking for a convenient, long-term solution. We wanted to outperform the competition by offering tailored support at a competitive rate and raise the bar for the quality of work provided (all our VAs have on average 15 years’ experience, pass through a rigorous assessment process and are identity checked by Onfido). Essentially, we saw an opportunity to disrupt the industry.
I would say approximately 70% of the work we do on a day-to-day basis is focused on “traditional” Personal Assistant support, simply because there is a lot of demand for this type of work; booking travel, managing diaries, detoxing inboxes, typing up meeting minutes and so on. The remaining 30% is spread across marketing support and customer service. Marketing tasks could involve social media management, blog writing or email marketing, whereas customer support could extend to replying to enquiries, placing orders and managing business operations. All our clients have a dedicated Client Success Manager to help guide to working with their VA. They are there to answer questions, give advice and be proactive to their changing business needs.
My day is mainly focused on marketing the company, so I spend most of my day working on SEO, improving AdWords campaigns, writing content, improving the website and finding new ways to market Virtalent. I also work closely with Ellie on the overall strategy of the company to monitor our progress and formulate new strategies to drive the company forward. I’m really big on self-development so try to start my day with either a jog or 20 minutes of meditation.
When we first started I guess we were quite naive and took a lot of people at face value, whereas now I don’t suffer fools gladly!
I think there is a lot of “noise” out there. People who position themselves as mentors and experts, when in reality they know very little and, in most cases, haven’t even run a business before. Trying to navigate a lot of bad advice has been difficult. When we first started I guess we were quite naïve and took a lot of people at face value, whereas now I don’t suffer fools gladly! We decided to finance our growth through debt financing and revenues, not give away large chunks in return for angel investment. To begin with this had been a difficult decision to justify to many, but we have honestly never looked back!
I think people should be much more cautious about how they spend their time, say “no” more often and simply take a few more risks based on their own judgement.
Trust your gut. So many business leaders I have met spend all week going to endless meetups, speaker events, seminars, coffees, lunches… all in the hope they will suddenly discover the key ingredient or key contact needed to make a success of their business. Whilst I think it is important to surround yourself with smart people and hearing from other (more experienced) entrepreneurs can be inspiring, all of these people have had a completely different journey from you. You are comparing apples and pears. I think people should be much more cautious about how they spend their time, say “no” more often and simply take a few more risks based on their own judgement.
We used to be based at Innovation Birmingham Campus and had heard about Nimvelo (when you were Sipcentric) whilst there. We researched a few providers but I can honestly say Nimvelo was the best choice, and still is. Now, our team all work remotely across the UK and so it is very useful for our VAs to be able to painlessly log in to our business phone system simply by downloading an app for their mobile or laptop. Its is a very flexible system and easy for everyone to use. It allows us to scale up without worrying about hardware and having someone manage a switchboard.
Are you a business owner with valuable insight to share with our community, consisting of hundreds of UK businesses just like yours? Email our Community Manager, Sabrina on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview today.
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