This week I am delighted to introduce you to Pippa Mell of Diamond Office Support.  I love how Pippa shows that you can create a VA business that fits your specific needs and can sit alongside an employed role. So let’s meet Pippa…

Pippa Mell HeadshotHi, I am Pippa, the owner of Diamond Office Support.  I help business owners to build their dream businesses/dream lifestyles by taking away their daily stresses and giving them timeout to use as they see fit. Diamond Office Support launched in 2006 and has been providing a range of remote business support services ever since. I have more than 30 years’ experience gained across a range of sectors including banking, education, transport and serving as the Clerk to the Parish Council (that was interesting). I have a broad spectrum of competencies built up through taking on a range of tasks and projects for multiple clients over the years. My clients have included architects, interior designers, solicitors, occupational therapists, referral networking as well as businesses in the food and health & wellness industries.

What or who inspired you to become a Virtual Assistant?

In 2006 I was at home with a 6-month-old baby and decided I wanted to earn some money. Or at least make sure I was still employable when it was time to go back to work as my contract ran out on my job when I was on maternity. Having tried all the network marketing/party sales, I realised I had spent more than I made which is not a good thing! Whilst at one of these events I came across a VA. We ended up having a chat and for a short while I did some work for her, you could say as an associate.  At the time, I’d never even heard the term VA or associate VA. So, you could say I just fell into being a VA!

How did you go about establishing your business?

I started out by speaking to someone at the Doncaster Chamber and they give me a bit of information about setting up a business and invited me to a networking event. Thankfully I attended the event and met my first client there and they are still my client to this day (if only it was always that simple).

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

Not a bean! At the time, I was married and had planned to stay off work with my daughter until she went to school Looking back, I guess rather than needing support, I was actually able to contribute.

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

Often, and more so when I actually went back to work in 2010.  I have been ready to give it all up on numerous occasions but never found a good time to tell my clients. Then again in these last few months, I thought it would all come crashing down, especially when I lost a couple of big clients and no longer have employment to fall back on. What has kept me afloat is my fight and determination but more importantly, a couple of my clients have changed the way they do things for me because they want my business to survive.

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

No one to begin with and not for many years. It’s only this last 3 years or so I have found support not only from VACT, but my clients have been my biggest support.

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

Research! I would say I fell into becoming a VA so didn’t really look into what is involved and what was required.

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

As above, research into what it entails, what you need to become a VA. It’s so much easier to work forward than backwards.

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

The Good – Being your own boss, the variety of work, being able to choose who you work with. I don’t work from home; I have an office away from home and I just love getting up and coming here.

The Bad – To me this is just a case of deciding whether being employed or self-employed is preferable to you. Being employed, you get paid whether the work is done or not. Being self-employed you don’t get paid if it’s not done or you haven’t got any work coming in.

The Ugly – I think most VA’s will come across this once in their time and that is there’s always “that one client” that makes you question everything. They want the earth but are not willing to pay for it and working with them becomes more unpleasant as time goes by.

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

Ok, confession time! I haven’t read a lot of business books until last year.  The one that resonates with me most at the moment is Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.  It certainly makes you rethink your day/week/month and helps you to get things done.  And I am certainly getting more done each day.  A quote I like from the book is: “Start with the biggest, ugliest frog.”

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

It’s always great to watch what is happening in the VACT Facebook feed, and then if something catches my eye I go and have a look. This last 6 months I have taken my own professional development more seriously. I am reading more books, looking at different services I can offer and as I seem to become more involved in clients businesses I am getting quite a bit of “on the job” training.

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

Socialising with my friends, when permitted, although we’re getting quite good at Zoom calls with the odd glass of wine in our hand. I have found through lockdown that I quite enjoy sitting quietly by the river just watching life; it is so relaxing and peaceful. And then, obviously, I love spending time with my little best friend – my daughter – who is soon to be 15 and actually the same height as me.

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

I was born in Hong Kong and can call you a litterbug and wish you Happy New Year in Chinese.  Don’t judge, I was 2 when we came back home so didn’t get to learn much! Oh, and because I was very blonde when little the Chinese always used to pat me on the head for good luck. Yes, I know it explains a lot about why I am as daft as I am 😊

What does the future hold for your business?

At the moment I appear to be moving more towards becoming a Business Manager, having been left in complete control of a client’s business for a week whilst she was away.  This is a client who, at the start of our working relationship, used to call me 3 times a day and went away and left me in complete control… I have been working with her for less than 6 months! So, I would like to do more managing and grow my business by working with associates.  I have never felt so positive about being a VA and what we can offer to our clients.

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