Sunday, November 4, 2018

From Service to Success

Customer Service

My first experiences providing great experiences for my patrons was in the food service industry. At what used to be know as Kentucky Fried Chicken, diners wanted their fried foods fast, fresh and with a faint friendliness. Then I moved on into waiting tables at a diner - heavier on the friendly, a little more lax of the fast. My career path led me to cocktail serving, bar-tending and eventually training others to do food & beverage service jobs. I got really good at delivering superior service with a smile and caring about my customer's happiness.

Client Support

Twenty-five years later and my focus is ensuring fantastic support for my clients in the dance studio industry. They want their systems smooth and streamlined, their information flows clear, concise and correct. Not so hard when you have 1 client (and your own kids dance there) - but now I have moved on to coordinating contractors, creating machines to run my processes, and once again - training others to do dance studio client support jobs. I am still pretty good at delivering superior support with a smile and caring about my client's happiness.

This past week I realized that I do indeed offer so much more than just Virtual Assistance. My clients can talk to me about things they can't share with their staff and families because Studio Owners have to maintain and objective, fair and neutral environment for their students to belong to. Their jobs are more about building community than developing dancers, truth be told. They may use dance as the method to connect, but the "vibe of the tribe" is what keeps those tiny tappers and bitty ballerinas returning year after year.

Continued Success

It's super important that my clients' billing is accurate, and the tuition is calculating correctly, and the team fees are added to all the right students, tshirt and jacket orders are collected, missing information is found and communication with their families is fostered. These are the tasks that my team and I do - but  the most important thing we offer our Studio Owners is peace of mind. In whatever way they need it. We are there to partner, serve or mentor - whichever suits their style (and sometimes morphing in and out of the roles).

Studio Owner Advocate

In other news, after 90 days of being an independent contractor, I accepted the full time role with Dance Studio Pro Support. I am excited, though a bit disappointed by the starting pay. I am after all their first employee in California! But the opportunities for advancement are solidly there. And benefits- though I don't yet even know what they are like - the main one is more freedom over my schedule and workflows while taking on more responsibility with the systems and documentation for the team as we grow. My favorite things.

Happy Sunday!

Two of my four "whys"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Building the Machines

Successful Systems

Creating systems is one of my favorite things to do. I love looking at how things work, how they are not working and what can be done to fix the breaks, streamline the workflow and capture ALL the data. Without data it's all just guesswork.

My motto is "Try all the Things!" So I am compulsively downloading and signing up for free trials and putting them through my process. This month I have tired 4 Project Management, 3 Accounting, 3 Email Marketing and 3 e-course platforms (I really need to find the time to share my experiences with all these apps - so many apps, so little time).

Tiffany Bellah, VA 

For my own personal "side hustle" I have been setting up a system that will allow me to bring on more clients, and subcontract some of the tasks I do- offering work to other moms with wifi and attention to detail, an aptitude for tech - and a willingness to wait as I grow.

Systems & Support
Slack, with integrations - Workast and Tracking Time are a nice trio for systematization and record keeping. And I am using Zapier to automate some of the information flow.
Iteration 1, done.

Training & Development
Facebook and Slack are set for internal T&D, and I have two subcontractors currently going through my first training session.
Iteration 1, in process.

Thinkific, an ecourse platform- with room to grow- is for my external T&D. I threw a course up and got a few leads, but it is definitely not what I want my online learning options to look like.
Iteration 1, done.

Sales & Marketing
HoneyBook and MailChimp are the selections I have made for keeping up with all the possibilities and opportunities.
Iteration 1, stalled a little.

Dance Studio Pro

Today is the day I have the big talk very short chat with one of the Co-Presidents of Dance Studio Pro. For about a month and half, I have been contracted to provide email support to their users- and the plan has been for me to move into full time and grow my role.

It's been interesting to say the least. Going from Invisible (radical transparency, lots of meetings, over communication through many channels) to DSP (zero visibility on growth plans, occasional texts, no communication channels created) has me itching to get in there and take over!

After reading up, and absorbing all the great advice from two of my favorite SaaS companies Typeform  ( and Zendesk ( I am rearing to go!!

We will see what their vision is and I will begin driving forward with my Strategic Plan, adjusting it to fit their Mission & Values as I learn more. I know I am the right person for this role, I have the right mix of experience, personality, passion and opportunity.

Iteration 1 - let's go!!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

What does it take?

In the Beginning

When you first get into the Virtual Assistant "world" you are inundated with success stories, women (and a few men) who want to share their secrets. These leaders are masters at creating sales funnels for their coaching, training or systems to help launch new VAs into the position of their dreams.

They nearly derailed me. Three years ago, I proudly had one client. I thought, I am on my way. And I started joining the groups. I paid $10 for a pdf collection of proposals, contracts and checklists that would propel me towards that elusive six figure income.

Immediately I starting taking e-courses, joining webinars, searching blog posts and scanning the groups for the thing that would help me jump up to the next level. I listened to podcasts, I watch YouTube, I messaged others who were starting out to compare notes.

Then I set up my website, and my Facebook page, and I updated my LinkedIn profile, and started a new Instagram and I tried out ALL the project management and invoicing systems - (be sure to subscribe, my next post is on the systems I do use and those I am budgeting for as I grow).

And for the next year or so I took care of my one client.
I didn't really know how to move myself beyond the less than part time income I was earning and I felt like I was "working" all the time

The Turning Point

The first thing I did was set boundaries with my client, I was putting in too many hours- and you know what? She totally understood. She was grateful for the work I did, but I needed to develop better communication with her so that we both had clear expectations.

Next I quit all the groups, dropped down to just my Facebook page and I chose one skill to focus on and perfect (it's the SaaS that I provide training and support for- Dance Studio Pro). I also pursued other contract work to develop my leadership and remote work skills (follow me on Medium, where I reported on my time at Invisible Technologies).
Sunshine and water help me, too.

How I Grew

Then, I asked my client for referrals. She posted on a professional group about me and voila - three more clients (ok so I did actually have to do those salesy "follow up" and "closing call" things). Once I got them all onboarded I almost got caught up in the VA-nado that exists on those big Facebook Groups, I almost got info-mercialed into signing up for a SaaS subscription I didn't need yet. And as my workload was building I got all excited about teaching others to do what I do.

Suddenly I was seeing myself as one of those VA influencers... the kind who want you to sign up for their $500 courses that only get released once a year... but then I really "saw" all these other women, the ones I envisioned helping. And I wanted to tell them -

All you NEED is wifi and determination.

Over the past three years I just kept at it. I worked anywhere and everywhere.

Then an interesting thing began to happen. Other women reached out to me and they wanted to join my team, they didn't want to start and run their own empire. They just wanted me to send them some work they could log in and do while the kids were asleep, or at dance class. They didn't want any training on getting clients or "growing their business".

Being in the Now

And so my team and I are happily connecting and I am able to offer quicker turnaround on the work I offer my clients, more services - with talented, eager and smart women who just want to do the work. I am able to develop and train them, and I get to prioritize. I can handle the tasks that need my expertise, focus on Client Success and offer more dance studio owners the peace of mind and background data management that allows them to trust their systems.

Speaking of systems - my pretty much favorite topic - it recently struck me that the best systems are like pencils.
Ode to the Pencil
  • If they don't bend just a little, they will break. 
  • They should be sharpened regularly. 
  • They should have functioning erasers. 
  • You should always have a backup (remember when you were told to bring two #2 pencils to tests?)
  • Using them to capture information is the most important part. Get the details down. Then look it over and do it again tomorrow. 
Learning is still important to me, so I am also focusing on learning or developing  just one skill a month. For October it's been email marketing options. The ConvertKit webinar was eye opening and relevant and I am glad I took the time to connect with their team.

What are you learning? 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Adminja vs HoneyBook for Virtual Assistants

Over the past month I have been setting up my systems and bringing in my team.

Being a software enthusiast, I put 11 programs through my process of non-scientific analysis. My approach has to do with what I am drawn to, what app calls out to me when I wake up in the pre-dawn hours and grab my device.

And then- what also provides me a command central when I sit down to dig in and get busy.

So, I have spent the last month trial-ing software, looking for a project manager / CRM to help me with logistics of sub-contracting some of the work I do for my clients, and an LMS (learning management system) to create training for other VAs. I tried Adminja, HoneyBook, 17hats, FreshBooks (and I really liked FreshDesk, too) and Podia, Patreon, Thinkific, Teachable.
Today it came down to HoneyBook vs Adminja

Fascinatingly enough, I also got to communicate with the founders of both programs today.



Truth be told - both systems are really amazing, and I am so excited to see that they are focusing on the human connections made by the technology that brings us ease and style.

Enjoying every moment,

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Virtual Assistant Training

VAs Blog, Webdate 31011.2

The journey is full of hardship, as are most voyages. Things in my personal world are tense- the stuff of life crowds in around and pulls at me, as I center myself and focus on my goals.

For all the moms who find themselves in a place that they cannot move from. Whether is it physical or mental, if you feel hemmed in- unable to grow, much less blossom- know that there is hope. We live in a time like no other.

"She believed she could... and so she did." It really is that simple.

Sneak peek of my new Podcast Cover
September was all about getting set up. My clients were starting their seasons- two are new to DSP, two are new studio owners, 1 has a new baby on the way. Fresh beginnings call for new systems (ok everything calls for a new system)- and new systems allow us the opportunity to streamline, become more efficient and ease our workflow. I am learning the rhythms of my clients and getting in sync with their needs.

In October I will focus on
  • training new VAs
  • reviewing a couple apps (Adminja or Honeybook, what will it be? Tune in next post and find out! I have been in trial for both, and have calls scheduled with their support people)
  • launching my podcast
  • keeping up with the courses I am enjoying (currently working on Podcast Production) with VAClassroom 
  • bringing on two more clients
If you'd like to chat with me - about being a VA, hiring a VA (me or someone I can recommend if your needs are such) or empowering women to thrive, not just survive, please reach out to me by commenting below or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Messenger.

And I am proud to announce that my lovely daughter is following in both my footsteps and her grandfather's. My father-in-law was a graphic designer back in the day, she has his artistic talent and a passion for the digital arts. And she is learning how to be a freelancer already. 

Thanks for stopping by. May the force be with you.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Studio Owner Support

VAs Blog, Webdate 31001.1

And so it begins. I find myself wanting to capture the details of my journey through the VA universe. It's a brave new world, where anyone with wifi and a laptop can provide an array of supportive digital tasks, as a Virtual Assistant. And so because I am white and nerdy I must blog. (Ok, well the white part is only because of the song, I don't think only white people blog. That would be super silly.)

My "mobile" office
My passion for all things technical and desire to systematize, combined with my strong sense of customer service and "work anywhere" attitude lead me to this place. People ask what I do, and often scratch their heads, saying "That's a thing?"

When I first began seeing myself as a VA, it was out of necessity. My girls dance. Dance is expensive. I am resourceful. I began helping with data entry at the studio they dance at. They used Mindbody and they hated it. So I took it on myself to research other software programs designed for Studio Management. I discovered Dance Studio Pro, The Worlds Best Dance Studio Software.

Hurtling through time and space, I have spent the last 18 months learning and improving my skills for my client. Then in the past month I have added 3 more clients to my roster. Susan shared about me in a professional group and referred me to a colleague. My clients are just amazing, I am blessed and so filled with appreciation for them, and I just genuinely like them all.

This is all I need to work.
About 6 months ago, I applied to DSP because they were hiring their first support person. I wasn't selected. But I didn't give up. I kept pestering them (professionally, of course) and last month I was hired to manage West Coast Support. Starting as an independent contractor, with a path to full time mapped out, I am loving the balance I have between the "job" and my VA business.

Now comes the real work fun part: find others with wi-fi and a laptop who also want to support Studio Owners and train them to do what I do. Build a strong network of Studio Owner Support and offer training, motiVAtion and connection to those who see themselves as ready to embark on this journey, too. To prepare, I have started using Adminja to keep my client tasks organized and prioritized. Next month, I will review it here on this blog, so be sure to follow if you'd like to know more about this new tool designed specifically for VAs.

In order to help grow, and then scale my business, I joined VAClassroom University, because I truly believe in lifelong learning (it's like the main reason we homeschool). There are so many courses, and certifications and then there is the community. So many seasoned professionals and inspired newbies- the entire VA industry is booming and it's exciting to be a part of the magic.
Join me and we will rule support the (Studio Owner) universe!

From Service to Success

Customer Service My first experiences providing great experiences for my patrons was in the food service industry. At what used to be know...