Interview of Steve Gwenin
Founder GVI, Corkscrew and Bushwise
1. Why did you get a virtual personal assistant and not a “real” one?
After considerable thought, I decided that virtual was the best way to go. First off, I had a real need for help but I wasn’t sure how many hours were necessary each month to help me feel on top of things. I definitely didn’t want to commit to someone full time since I barely had enough time as it was, without having to deal with the effort it takes to hire a staff member, and all the legalities this entails. As an entrepreneur, I tend to avoid having too many fixed costs. With a virtual PA, I really appreciate the option to reduce my payroll with just one month’s notice. In addition, our office was already feeling a bit cramped. The idea of another body at a desk also filled me with concern, and I certainly wasn’t ready to seek out new office space to accommodate a PA.
2. How did this person change your life?
That’s a big statement, isn’t it?! I am over 40 years old and I have 4 children. I am proud of my successes in business and I have always loved my work. Yet I was feeling so frustrated that more and more of my time was being spent on family and business administration, and I had nobody to pass this on to. I knew my time would be better spent elsewhere, but once again the idea of hiring a full time employee to tackle 30 or 40 hours a week of administration seemed a bit excessive. I finally got fed up when I spent an entire weekend booking my family’s flights, car hire, airport hotels, etc. for the Christmas holiday. I was calling the hotel, sitting on hold, just to check whether they had a crib available for my son when I thought, “Really? Isn’t my time more valuable than this?” Now with my virtual assistant, I feel like I can focus on big picture stuff for work and my family, and she is brilliant at putting my ideas into action. My life feels more balanced. During the day I have freed up more time to focus on critical business matters. On the weekends, instead of trying to fit in the things that I couldn’t manage to get done during the work week, I go for long runs and play with my kids. I feel so grateful that this weight has been lifted and I can focus on my strong points as a businessman and a father.
3. How long did it take you to trust this person
Trust is difficult enough in person, and I was definitely concerned about whether or not I’d be able to gain confidence in someone who I connected with virtually. In retrospect, I definitely started Jennifer off on more menial jobs that wouldn’t be a disaster if she screwed up. But she was fast and accountable. I was quickly impressed. We’d meet face to face on Skype, and spoke frequently on the phone. She was so professional and confident. I gave her access to one of my credit cards after about four weeks, and I kept my eye on the accounts. She now has access to a second card, all my frequent flyer details, and household account information. She manages most of my bills and finances. Even better, most of the jobs I entrust to her she does far better than I ever did.
4. Have you ever wished that your virtual PA worked in your office?
It would be lovely to have Jennifer in my office, and to be able to ask for her help locally, like recently when I needed someone to let the plumber into the house. However, I recently discovered Task Rabbit (taskrabbit.co.uk) and other services that can help with more hands on situations.
5. Can you give three examples of Jennifer’s responsibilites?
I have always worked in the travel industry, and booking and changing flights and hotels is very time consuming. Travel arrangements for myself and also my family used to occupy a lot of Saturdays. Jennifer is also been really great when it comes to car insurance, home insurance, health cover, and recently she sorted out our installation of high speed internet. She is great at researching my options and choosing the best one. More recently, Jennifer has helped me to set up and manage our social media accounts, conducting marketing research and she also manages some of my Odesk employees.
6. Any advice for people thinking about getting a Virtual PA
I think that anyone feeling a bit overwhelmed with work and general life should give it a shot. Your time is valuable. I’ve met so many business owners/founders who do their own admin. I was one of them. Before committing to a virtual assistant, as an experiment, I made a note of the amount of time I spent doing administration things that I’d really love to take off my plate. The hours added up and it made my decision easier. I was a bit nervous about embarking on this new kind of business relationship, but Jennifer quickly proved to be an asset. She has allowed me to enjoy a richer personal life, while increasing my productivity in ways I didn’t even anticipate.