ValueAdd 13 Years in Business

When a business becomes a teenager…

If I ever met Dr. Who and got the chance to take a trip in the Tardis, I’d go back to January 2011 when I first started out in the big bad world of business. Because, over the last 13 years there are lots of things I’d do differently.

Naively,  I started out thinking Virtual Assistant support was the way to go. I’m organised, I like processes and procedures, I like to put things in order and follow a workflow. And I know not everyone thinks like that. So I saw an opportunity to help busy business owners. But was there enough work out there for me?


Michelle P. Smith CEO of ValueAdd bookkeeper smiling

I didn’t have plans to grow, all I wanted was to keep myself busy doing work I enjoyed and be able to pay my bills. That was before I fell in love with Xero and bookkeeping became my niche.

Although I’d been bookkeeping as part of my employment, I hadn’t realised independent bookkeepers existed! I thought they were either employed by companies or by accountants.

Funnily enough, my first contract as a VA was bookkeeping, and I won it because I had experience with Xero (cloud accounting software which wasn’t well known in the UK in 2011). Those early days of working with Xero were the catalyst, getting us to where we are now.

Little did I know that 13 years down the line I’d be managing a team of 5 staff with additional support from 8 subcontractors. 

Have I enjoyed every aspect of the job? Not really, but, I’ve learned that I need to put my big girl pants on and take the rough with the smooth. No one said it was going to be easy. The interesting thing is the parts of the job I hated (networking) have now become the parts I look forward to. Who knew?


   |   Running a business is not for everyone   |


So what do I wish I’d done differently:


1. Don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone. 

I’ve mentioned networking, I hated it with a passion. I was the shy wee lassie at school. I walked out of my first networking event as I was too nervous to strike up a conversation with anyone! But once I got into the swing of it I realised I actually enjoyed the social aspect of networking. Now I love a good networking event. Another area for me that I struggled with was delegation, I wish I’d learnt how to delegate sooner which leads me nicely onto my 2nd hint…


2. Ask for help sooner, and accept that help when offered. 

I remember thinking – “If I don’t do it myself, then why would other people put their trust in me to help them?”. I was far too proud to accept help from people. Little did I know that people love helping you out and seeing you succeed. Looking back, I would have employed someone sooner and been less scared to share the workload. 


3. Managing expectations.

When you first start out and you only have a few clients, it’s easy to reply to emails and phone calls straight away. I’ve learned this gives them response times that they would normally expect from an employee rather than outsourced support. This just creates a rod for your own back. Rather than respond out of hours or on another client’s time, set a reminder to respond at a suitable time. To manage expectations you can always use the delay feature in email to write the reply, but schedule it to send in an hour or two (unless it’s something time-sensitive of course). When it comes to some clients, if you give them an inch they will take a mile. Always be conscious of your own time. Oh boy, did I become a martyr to my clients. I was so keen on making sure they were happy that I often compromised my own downtime. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t accept every job that comes your way because not every client is a good fit. Trust your gut.


Running a business is not for everyone, they say it takes blood, sweat and tears and they are not kidding. Often all in the same day as well. Stress levels are explosive and I threatened to throw in the towel many a time. But would I do it all again? Never say never.

Blog separator 

♥ If you enjoyed the post above, why not take a peek at our post Clocks Move Forward: Time Well Spent or Well Saved? Discover how we can support and maximise your productivity.