This week I am delighted to introduce you to Alicja Teagle of Shift-MVA.  I have known Alicja for a number of years, having been introduced by her sister in law who is also a VA and who used to be part of my team when I ran my VA business. However, I am hugely excited to be part of Alicja’s VA journey.  I love the raw honesty of Alicja, she really does share the real good, bad and ugly of what it is like to run a business – and that it’s not just VAs who have days when we think it would be easier to do something else – that all businesses go through it, and it’s almost like a rite of passage.  I also love how her business is very much run on her terms, and you will see from this her passion shine through.

Alicja Teagle Shift-MVA HeadshotQuite differently to a lot of Virtual Assistants that you might come across, Shift-MVA came about, not because I wanted to be home more to support my children (I don’t have any although I do have a loopy rescue dog – Snoopy) but because I wanted to have more flexibility in my life and to be my own boss again! Most of my 20s were spent living in the French Alps running a ski shop that I had set up with my now-husband, Simon. The shop wasn’t a great success but we gained so much wisdom about life and business during that time whilst getting up the mountain to ski most days that I knew I wouldn’t last long in the corporate world! True to form, after 3 years working as a project manager for a multinational corporation, I decided to take the plunge and go it alone. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Today I support small businesses with multinational clients many of whom are working in the ski industry so I’m pretty chuffed with how it’s worked out!

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

What inspired me to become a VA – when we had the shop, I’d have given a lot to have someone there to support us with different tasks and offering a different, outside perspective so I set out to be that for other small business owners. Who inspired me to become a VA – my sister-in-law! She had a vision so went out to made it a reality! She had been a VA for 3 years already when Shift-MVA was born. She inspired me to strive for my own version of success.

How did you go about establishing your business?

My sister-in-law introduced me to Amanda of VACT so I set up a discovery call with her and put a very brief business plan together as a result of that call. At the time we were in the process of remortgaging our house for another 5 years so I waited for that to come through and then went for it, knowing that would give me a couple of years to build my business and then 3 years of good books to ensure my business could support us when we needed to remortgage again.

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

My husband has always been incredibly supportive of the idea of being self-employed. We’d been discussing the idea of me becoming a VA for about 6 months before I took the plunge, so we had been squirrelling away savings as best we could to support my lower-income once I was out on my own and starting to build my business. I’d also arranged to do some dog walking for a bit of extra cash which definitely bolstered my income in the first few months.

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

No never! I won’t deny there have been many down days though! Days when you question yourself and wonder if it would be easier to be employed but I have a quote up on the wall in my office – You only fail when you stop trying – and 100% believe this to be true! We all have down days, sometimes down weeks or months but as long as you are willing to keep trying, you will get somewhere in the end. The hard part for me is knowing where I want to go!

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

I am very lucky that my husband and my sister-in-law were spurring me on from the very beginning and my family also knew that I would never be happy as an employee in the long term so there was only one way to go.

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

I don’t like to look back too much and think about what I would change about my past as, more often than not, I learnt great lessons from those good/bad choices. Having said that, I chose not to do Amanda’s VA Mastery Course because I had run a business before, but speaking to other VA’s about the course and having seen some of the modules, I genuinely think the course would be a brilliant investment if you are serious about becoming a Virtual Assistant. The topics and layout of the course are important parts of any business to consider so I probably would have got to where I am today more quickly if I had done the course.

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

JFDI! I’d never officially been a PA before I started my business but I’d spent my whole working life supporting businesses in various ways – even as a waitress in a French restaurant in the summers I was making sure the restaurant was presented in the best way possible, translating the menu into coherent English and ensuring all the customers were comfortable and had everything they needed whether that’s someone who can speak to them in their language or fetching the ketchup for their chips. It may have just been a job to me at the time, a way to pay the bills, but now I look back on it I realise that to the restaurant owners, I was a reliable employee who always wanted what was best for their business and that sort of asset is invaluable! Don’t sell yourself short!

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

The good – flexibility and being your own boss

The bad – setting boundaries with both yourself and clients and learning to not feel guilty when you are choosing not to be at your desk in the middle of the day

The ugly – the down days. All businesses (and lives!) have bumps in the road but learning to expect, cope and move forward from the down days is hard

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

Amanda’s go-to recommendation of Bob Burg’s and John David Mann’s “The Go-Giver” is a quick, easy and eye-opening read. I also liked Michael E. Gerber’s “The E Myth Revisited” which, similar to “The Go-Giver” is also told as a story with lots of side notes to clarify points. This one isn’t a business book, but it was one of the impetus’ behind why my business came about and its name: “Oh, Shift! – How to change your life with a little f’ in shift” by Jennifer Powers – the title is self-explanatory!

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

I have a couple of Friday afternoons per month set aside for CPD in my diary. Normally I’ll check in to Amanda’s portal and watch a webinar or two and/or I have a couple of courses I’m working through that I bought from Udemy, currently a MailChimp and an Excel course – I knew that Excel could do more than I realized but my mind has been blown!

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

Ski! But when I’m not in the mountains, I like to get out with the dog a couple of hours per day and generally enjoy the great outdoors!

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

Music was a passion of mine when I was younger, I played the violin, piano, flute, saxophone and drums. I’m somewhat out of practice these days but I keep meaning to go back to them – it’s on the list!

What does the future hold for your business?

Good question which I can’t answer right now as I’m still trying to work it out – another thing that’s on the list, I need a VA of my own 😊

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