What was your background before becoming a virtual assistant?
I have 30 years of administrative assistant/office managerial experience—13 were in Corporate America. I worked for my husband’s rental property business, Joe F. Corbett Enterprises, and had my own arts and craft business, Beads, Buttons & Books. I certainly used my skills at both places.
When did you give up on real estate?
I never really “gave up”, but after 15 years in the business (only 5 for me), my husband was ready to get out and do something different. We waited until the market became a seller’s market and sold out. You can definitely make money in real estate, but I never really developed a passion for it. It was just a way to make money.
Why didn’t you want to become a full-time artist?
I enjoyed crafting as a hobby, especially the handmade greeting cards with my own poems, prose, and humor on them. I also did sketching, stamping, and stenciling which gave a nice handmade look to the cards.
The jewelry was also fun, but I began to realize that my true passion was working behind the scenes to help others succeed. I love brainstorming and getting things up and running.
Since 1998 my jewelry has been televised and auctioned on WVPT to raise money for public television. This is why I originally named my company Gemstone Business Solutions to remind myself of all the beautiful gemstones I used to make my jewelry. Then it became GBS Virtual Office Solutions in 2011 as things changed.
Why did you become a virtual assistant?
I actually had set out to be an arts promoter and have my own production company. After all, I didn’t even know what a virtual assistant was. Little did I know that clients—many in the arts—needed my administrative skills as much as they needed shows to go to. Because artists actually have to make their own products then sell and market them, there is a real need in the art world for virtual assistance.
I started offering them “packages deals” with everything included (writing, desktop publishing, editing, and typing), and my business began booming. Clients were also willing to pay for consulting and coaching when they found out about my previous artistic and entrepreneurial ventures.
How and when did you start GBS Virtual Office Solutions?
When I began in 2006, my business name was Gemstone Business Solutions and most of my clients were in the lapidary trade. It seemed to be a good fit but as their industry changed and mine changed, I saw myself more as a virtual office for small businesses. Once I began networking, I saw a need for solo-businesses also needing virtual assistance.
How will the client benefit from having worked with you?
The client will see another former and current business owner who really understands the needs their needs. Because I’ve “been there and done that,” I am sincere in wanting to help their business grow.
As a small business or sole proprietorship, it is difficult to find the help you need. Sometimes in desperation small businesses will turn to sales professionals for help. Sometimes this “help” ends up costing them way too much money for technology they cannot afford and really do not need. I hate to see this happen. Not that there aren’t honest sales people out there.
There are so many virtual assistant practices popping up all over, how is yours different?
Well, all of the practices are different in their own way. What makes my VA practice unique is that I have actually owned two small businesses before becoming a virtual assistant. I know first-hand the struggle of the small business owner.
Do you accept referrals?
I certainly do. I love them. I accept them. I give them.
What payments do you accept?
I accept checks and PayPal payments.
Who is your target market?
You’d think I’d be a REVA or Real Estate Virtual Assistant, but I decided “no.” Go with the passion. While I consider solo-preneurs, freelancers, and other small businesses to be my target market--I keep an open mind. There are so many other small businesses which DO need more creativity and innovation. In my opinion it is the one thing businesses need more of today—creativity.
What is the best way to get in touch with you?
It all starts with a phone call or email or Skype connection. My phone number is (540) 636-8249, my email is email@example.com and my Skype is leisa.good—so contact me.
Are you a sole proprietor, a partnership or LLC?
I am a sole proprietor or solo-preneur as we are sometimes called. Occasionally I will say “we” instead of “I” when referring to my business. I say “we” to refer to the larger virtual assistant community which prides itself on functioning like a community. We serve one another, the community, the industry, and one another’s business and clients when necessary.
What is the greatest asset that you bring to your virtual assistant practice?
I would have to say that it is my creativity. Clients and others always remark on my creativity and sense of humor.
What are your “normal” business hours?
I used to be in the arts! What is normal?
No, I’m kidding. I try to be in my home office from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST from Monday through Thursday even though I advertise it to be Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I think any business owner would get that. Many times I can and do work earlier or later, but I try to make it a point to be in the office with these standard office hours.
Do you ever use subcontractors or other freelancers?
I actually have a network of 50 remote professionals, which I can pull in at a moment's notice. I often do bring them in when needed. While I am the "Diva of Done", they are my fellow rock stars.
Do your clients sign a contract?
Yes, they do. I have different formats that I use, but the most common is a consulting agreement, which was modified for virtual assistance. I have never had any problems using a contract.
It is really for the individual client’s protection as well as mine. When you enjoy what you do as much as I do, it is easy to get geared up and forget to include something. For me the contract acts like a check list. That way, I can’t blame old age for forgetting to include something.
What services do you feel are your specialty?
Our expertise is copywriting and business writing. However, good writing cannot exist without equally good proofreading and editing. Then accurate typing and document formatting also enter into the picture. Sometimes graphics must also be added to the text.
All of these elements must work together to make your documents and manuscripts a complete “masterpiece.” We like offering the complete package. Then some clients want to pick our brains on ideas for their business.
What services don’t you offer?
Accounting, bookkeeping, and taxes are not my expertise or even close to it. I am not comfortable offering it to my clients, because I don’t even do these for my own business. When a client requests bookkeeping or accounting, I refer them to talented individuals who perform these skills. I also have my 50+ network.
There is actually not a shredder big enough in the world to hold my accounting mistakes.
I also do limited web design, but have a colleague who partners with me that does a great deal more.
What would you say is the main reason why small businesses fail?
I think it is a combination of three reasons masquerading as one. The reasons are ineffective marketing, poor time management, and too much overhead or debt.
How would you help a client coming to your virtual assistant practice with these three challenges?
I would have them delegate the administrative tasks to me. This would automatically free up a large portion of their time to use towards growing their business and capitalizing on their time. Then we could also look at marketing and other elements of the bigger picture.
I would also give them ideas on getting their marketing and office costs down. This would include a low-cost marketing plan as well as one which could be updated. I would do an assessment of their current office equipment and software needs.
Where do you see your business 10 years from now?
While none of us knows the future, I would like to be conducting more teleseminars and writing more books for the small business community and for the creative industry. I definitely want to coach small business owners or potential small business owners. I also feel very much at home working with entrepreneurs or “wannabe” entrepreneurs.