How long do you spend doing your actual job? For many workers, the daily wave of emails, meetings and enquiries may seem to get in the way of what you’d like to be doing, but in a ‘switched-on’ society, these everyday tasks are an essential part of business. Digital can help manage the burden of admin, as proven by Caerphilly-based virtual assistant company, Hello My PA.
According to a recent study, the average small business spends 120 working days every year on administrative tasks like paperwork, invoices and meetings. The cost of admin may not be obvious day-to-day, but if Welsh SMEs were able to spend those extra 120 days productively, it’d be worth £1.8 billion to the country’s economy.
Caerphilly-based virtual assistant company, Hello My PA, knows that those most burdened by admin are those whose resource is in short supply: start-ups and freelancers. Annie Browne set up the business after seeing how businesses couldn’t afford to hire extra staff but needed help to stay on top of things. By speaking to 250 freelancers, bloggers and SME owners, Annie got to the crux of what they needed: ad-hoc, flexible admin help from an expert.
Hello My PA uses digital to provide a wide range of admin support to businesses, including traditional PA services, administration, digital marketing, data entry, social media and customer relationship management. It is these tasks that smaller teams often struggle to find time to do, therefore eating up their free time and creating a poor work-life balance. It also prevents them from focusing on generating leads or using their own skills to grow their business.
“Digital definitely opens up a world of opportunity for people to connect and collaborate”
Annie said: “digital definitely opens up a world of opportunity for people to connect and collaborate with others, and through digital I have helped support many aspiring entrepreneurs with starting and growing their own business.”
It is a journey Annie is familiar with, having founded Hello My PA in July 2015. With previous experience as a PA and office manager with other companies, she used digital to break down barriers to being a woman entrepreneur. A mum-of-2, Annie’s determination to build a successful business was met with assumptions that having a family would be a hindrance to growth, but modern technology has helped her overcome old-fashioned perceptions to build her business.
“As a virtual PA, digital is obviously a key part of how we do business”
Even perceptions like the importance of the traditional ‘business handshake’ have been changed with Annie’s digital-first approach. “As a virtual PA, digital is obviously a key part of how we do business. I get a real buzz out of helping clients, so great customer service is essential. Digital has helped that – in fact, many of my clients I’ve never met face-to-face. I just use Skype or the phone. One client in particular I’ve never actually spoken to – all of our communication has been over email. We’ve built a great working relationship over 4 years, and I support her projects with her own clients too.”
“Digital keeps everything in one place”
Video conferencing software is certainly making face-to-face time less hassle, and the streamlining opportunities digital brings is something Annie has fully embraced. “We use a combination of accessible apps like DropBox, Office 365 and Trello to manage our client projects and keep their files secure in the cloud. It gives us an accessible platform and keeps everything in one place, allowing us to process work from a lot of sources.”
“It’s been a huge time saver!”
Not only has this approach made managing her own business easier, Annie has also helped clients make the move to digital. The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA) conducts inspections of crematoria across the UK. Moving the inspection forms from paper to a tablet has given them the capacity to do 60 inspections a year, 55 more than before. “They have been running since 1924,” said Annie, “so moving their work to the cloud was a completely new idea. It’s been a huge time saver!”
“It doesn’t matter where I am, I can manage the business the same as if I was in the office.”
As someone with young children, time is valuable to Annie. “Digital has helped maintain a healthy work-life balance for me as I can set up office anywhere. All of our work is stored in the cloud so it doesn’t matter where I am, I can manage the business the same as if I was in the office. Plus, cutting down on travel and paper is definitely more environmentally friendly.”
The flexibility of digital allows Hello My PA to do more as and when the workload demands, giving them solid foundations to grow. And it is growth that support from Superfast Business Wales helped with, in the form of an SEO workshop and 1:1 session with follow-up report.
“We didn’t really have much of an online marketing strategy, so I thought support from Superfast Business Wales would help us focus on this and accelerate our growth. I’d heard of the service from other businesses I work alongside in [innovation and enterprise centre] Welsh ICE, so signed up my Marketing Assistant, Megan, for an SEO course.” Megan joined the firm through another Welsh Government programme, Jobs Growth Wales.
By improving their website’s SEO to rank higher on search engines, Hello My PA have made themselves more visible to potential clients looking to save time on admin as well as adding another string to their bow.
“It can be scary for SMEs to upskill their staff if there’s cost involved – luckily, Superfast Business Wales was free”
“It can be scary for SMEs to upskill their staff if there’s cost involved – luckily, Superfast Business Wales was free and Megan gained the skills to manage our own SEO. We also now manage some of our clients’ SEO as part of our online marketing work, so it’s a new revenue stream for us.”
“The use of digital has not only helped me to start and grow my business overcoming challenges like the financial outlay. I have created a business that I can run flexibly for the optimal work life blend thanks to the tech we use.”
“I’d definitely recommend Superfast Business Wales to other Welsh SMEs. Besides being great value, they’re attuned to what businesses need and have already identified what support is needed.”