In 2006 I took stock of my situation. I was working long hours as a CEO and I had been in senior management for close to 20 years in Australia. My 2 children were independent adults and I had turned 50. When I took stock, I realised that while I loved what I was doing, it wasn’t my passion. My dream had been to run my own small business. I thought it was time to get started. I resigned and took my long service leave.
During my down time, I set up a very large whiteboard and thus started the process of planning my business. I knew a couple of things – I didn’t want to manage staff, I wanted to work with women to help them develop skills and I have a passion for IT.
Then my husband, Ed, came home one day with a novel for me to read. It was called “Highland Fling” and yes it probably appealed to him because he is Scottish 🙂
The leading character in the novel was a London-based Virtual Assistant who had a client with interests in Scotland and the story revolved around the Virtual Assistant travelling to Scotland to review those interests.
And so my 9 year journey began. I had found an industry that was made up of women who had taken work/life balance seriously and set themselves up as self-employed administrators to be able to work from home, contribute to the family budget and at the same time have the flexibility and control they needed to support their children, parents and others who were important to them. They didn’t need to be super-women anymore. (Anyone who has experienced the juggling act of handling work and small children demands will understand that term!)
The industry has grown substantially over the past 9 years. I started with a small membership of 80 in my first few months to one that is over 3000 today. The virtual assistants themselves have transitioned from self-employed to business owners and embraced all that that entails.
However, there is still a long way to go.
There are issues with quality and clients being able to assess whether the services they will receive from a new virtual assistant will be reliable, professional and confidential. The industry can’t continue to grow with the support of its clients and as the barrier to entry is very low, there are occasions when a new virtual assistant will let the client down that creates a bad impression for the whole industry. Having a way to ensure that new virtual assistant adhere to a high level of quality is imperative if the industry is to survive in Australia.
In 2010 I was on the working party to create a not for profit association for virtual business in Australia. This eventuated in the first not for profit association in Australia being registered in 2011. As the inaugural President of this organisation I was privileged to able to work closely with a group of inspiring individuals who were prepared to volunteer their time, expertise and resources to support this major step for the industry.
While the association is still in its infancy its object is to support the quality practice of the industry. In 2014 the association released the first stage of its quality practice model and now offers resources to virtual assistants to help them increase quality standards. I was fortunate to be involved in this quality practice committee that was made up of all the major industry stakeholders.
There is still much to be done especially in the area of marketing and professional development. An injection of money is needed to bring the quality model to the attention of a wider group of stakeholders including Government, Politicians, Business Owners and Potential Clients.
If you would like to donate or volunteer your time to this very worthwhile cause, please visit http://www.virtual.asn.au
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