Headshot of Joanne Manville of Joanne Manville Virtual AssistanceThis week I am really excited to introduce you to Joanne Manville of Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance.  I still remember my very first telephone call with Joanne, I was in the car driving back from an event – and we had an impromptu discovery call and I helped answer a question she had at that time.  So I was hugely delighted when we started working together formally in 2018 as part of my Luminary Coaching. Joanne has been on an amazing VA journey and I am delighted to share her interview with you today.

When I left further education in 1995, I had no idea what I wanted to do – I had a qualification in Tourism Management and was living in Torquay, Devon.  I took a number of temp jobs with the idea of testing out a few career options and trying out a few companies, and (long story cut short) began a career in Financial Services, working as a Mortgage Consultant.  After a number of years in the business and following promotion to Area Manager, the company I was working for was taken over, and the ethics of the new company didn’t work for me, so I resigned.  At this point I’d recognised that I had excelled in the position due to my admin skills and customer service skills, so had a change of direction to become as Administration Manager for a charity.  This was followed by eight years as an Executive Assistant in the NHS, reporting to the CEO, Chair and Board.  But eventually, I’d had enough of working very long hours, and it not being appreciated. I tried moving companies to see if I needed a change of scenery but that wasn’t it.  I wanted to do something ‘more’, to work with different people, in different industries, with different challenges – and then I discovered VAs! My experience of working at an Executive level, which was not ‘only’ as a PA but a strategic partner means that I think above and beyond a client’s current challenge or the given task, considering how it fits into the bigger picture and what the impact might be.  My clients often say that I’m often a business partner a sounding board and not ‘just’ their PA.

I have been running Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance now for over four years and have grown from ‘just’ me to a team of ten!  During these four years, I have been honoured to have received a few awards – most recently UK Outstanding VA 2019.

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

Many of my colleagues in the NHS had said ‘you could start your own business and PA for lots of people’ which planted the idea in my head but it was only meeting my now husband and having his encouragement and support to make the leap that made it actually happen!

How did you go about establishing your business?

I followed a book called ’30 days to set up your VA business’ and attended lots of free seminars through local government initiatives and did lots of Googling!

Did you have any savings or financial support in order to start your business?

I had savings from a house sale, so I resigned from my job and took three months out to do the research and learning before I launched.

Was there ever a point when you thought it wouldn’t work out?

No! It’s been tough at times but now I look forward to going to work, have flexibility and love what I do – I didn’t have any of that before.

What support did you have around you to set up your VA business (family and friends, Coach or Mentor)?

I didn’t have any support to set up my business, in hindsight I would have got a coach or mentor a lot sooner in my journey and then I might have got where I have a lot faster!

If you could go back and change one thing that you did when starting out, what would that be?

Get a coach earlier on. Amanda kindly had a chat with me in the early days when I was considering niching in support for Mortgage Consultants but I didn’t start working with Amanda month to month until two years ago.

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting out or someone who is considering becoming a Virtual Assistant?

Think very carefully and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. You need to be a great administrator but also know (or learn) how to run a business as you have to wear both hats.  Clients don’t come queueing at your door when you open shop – you have to work at it.  But also don’t work yourself into the ground – have boundaries and look after your own wellbeing first.

How would you describe the good, the bad and ugly of being a Virtual Assistant?

A good day is receiving a thank you from a client, and it’s feeling satisfied at the end of the day that you did a great job. The bad is when you don’t trust your instincts and take on a job or client that doesn’t fill you with joy.  The ugly is when you forget to book a train or a ticket for an event and spend all day worrying about it – but you just need to be honest with your client, pick up the phone and do what you can to remedy it – it usually turns out okay in the end.

What is the best business book you’ve read and how did it impact you and your business?

I have a tonne of books I have been recommended but have read very few. The only one I have read from start to finish and am just about to re-read is Watertight Marketing by Bryony Thomas which revolutionised the way I look at marketing my business.

How do you stay on top of your own professional development?

To a degree! I set a budget aside for training and development each year and this might include one-off seminars, a coaching programme, or books I (intend) to read.  I think it’s really important to work out what skills gaps you have and what training you’d benefit from, and set a budget.

What do you love to do when you’re not working?

I am on the Executive Committee for the Exeter Scouts and enjoy that but don’t spend as much time with them as I used to. I also have a spa treatment every 4-6 weeks to look after myself, that was one of the self-care goals I set myself last year that I have kept up with.  The rest of my spare time is dedicated to my 3-year-old daughter and making memories with her and my husband, Paul.

Tell us one thing you can tell us about you that not many people know?

When I was at school, I volunteered with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and dug graves in Germany for the repatriation of soldiers. It was a very humbling thing to be involved in.

What does the future hold for your business?

In the next twelve months, I’d really like to be able to bring onboard some larger contracts and continue to grow the team, whilst rationalising what I do and make a bit more money!

Learn more and connect with Joanne:

Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance Business LogoWebsite URL: https://www.joannemanville.co.uk

Twitter ID: @joannemanville

LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joannemanville/