Growing a Sustainable Business – 7 Lessons I have learnt in my first year running an eco-friendly Virtual Assistant Service

Outdoor fairy lights

Although I have been working as a Virtual Assistant for 18 months now, it wasn’t until September 2021 that Planner Bee VA Services was officially formed. And what a first year it has been! Over the last year, we have supported more than 25 small businesses, written hundreds of social media posts, blogs and emails and have provided more than 2000 hours of support. We have also launched the Planner Bee VA Services website and Sustainable Small Business Directory. In March this year, I was also thrilled to be featured by Insider.co.uk as one of 20 of the most inspiring Scottish business women for International Women’s Day!

This last year has been a whirlwind and I have learnt so much about myself but also about growing a sustainable business. Here are 7 lessons I have learnt in my first year running an eco-frienndly Virtual Assistant Service:

  1. The importance of a plan
  2. The joy of new challenges
  3. No business is completely sustainable
  4. Be your own biggest cheerleader
  5. Do more of what you love (and less of what you don’t)
  6. The importance of your network
  7. Consistency is key

#1 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - the importance of vision

It’s fair to say, I stumbled into the VA world and when I started working with my first client, there wasn’t a vision or a plan. But, in the last year I have come to learn that whilst you can plan your business and your time, if you don’t have a vision for your sustainable business and for your life, you can still end up feeling a bit lost. Your vision doesn’t have to be a 10 year plan. Your vision could include your long-term business goals, or your vision could include buying a house or travelling the world for 6 months. Once you have established your vision for your business and life, you can set goals that will help you to achieve your vision and create a plan to achieve your goals. Whereas, if you go straight into setting goals, without deciding on the bigger vision, you might find your goals become somewhat meaningless because you don’t know what the goal is bringing you closer to.

#2 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - the joy of new challenges

The second lesson I have learnt in my first year running an eco-friendly Virtual Assistant Service is not to underestimate the joy of new challenges. There have definitely been times this year when I have fallen into the trap of staying within my comfort zone and doing the same things over and over (and getting the same results). Whilst this is comfortable, it isn’t particularly fulfilling and it doesn’t help you to grow as a person or as a sustainable business. I think it is important to try new things (both in your business and in your personal life), to stretch your boundaries and come outside of your comfort zone. Of course, to do this all of the time would be exhausting, but if you can feel your business becoming a little stagnant, I would encourage you to give something new a try.

#3 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - no business is completely sustainable

No business (or very few businesses) is completely sustainable. It’s important to be realistic about this. There will always be some environmental impact of your business activities, no matter how hard you try to reduce it. However, don’t let the fear of not achieving perfection stop you from striving to be as sustainable as possible. Every little bit helps.

Wind turbines in a field

#4 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - be your own biggest cheerleader

Whether you are a solopreneur or you have a small team or an eco Virtual Assistant to support you every step of the way, ultimately, it is your business and you have to be your own biggest cheerleader. There are thousands of Virtual Assistants out there. Just like there are thousands of jewellery makers, gifting companies and events planners. Unless you have created a product or service that is completely brand new, you are likely operating in a saturated market. If you want to stand out in that market, you have to be your own biggest cheerleader and believe in yourself and your business, because if you don’t, your customers probably won’t either. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and shout about your business  – you have something amazing to offer the world as a sustainable business, own it!

#5 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - do more of what you love (and less of what you don’t)

The fifth lesson I have learnt about growing is sustainable business is to spend more time doing what you love. For all of us, there are going to be parts of running a business that you enjoy and that light that fire inside of you. But there are also probably parts of running a business that you don’t like as much.

When it comes to the things you don’t enjoy, consider whether those tasks are really essential. If you don’t enjoy doing something, do you need to do it or is it just something you have always done? They say that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts so think about whether these tasks actually bring you the results.

If the task is essential, but it isn’t something you enjoy, perhaps you could outsource the task to a Virtual Assistant. If the task is essential and does need to be done by you, think about how you can make it more enjoyable! For example, when doing tasks I don’t enjoy as much, I like to put on my favourite song or complete the task at a local coffee shop.

#6 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - the importance of your network

Being a purpose-led entrepreneur can be a lonely place, particularly when you are a solopreneur working from home. This was a main reason why I started the Sustainable Small Business Directory, to create a community for sustainable business owners – find out more and join the directory here. Being part of communities like this and attending networking events (either virtually or in person) can be a great way to meet likeminded entrepreneurs. Growing your network isn’t just about finding people to sell to, growing your network can also help you to find collaboration opportunities and you might even find your business bestie! 

Virtual Assistant Maya at a networking event

After starting to work as an eco Virtual Assistant during the pandemic, I joined an online network, but I had never attended in-person networking. Until now. As a young entrepreneur, I was more nervous than I would like to admit about attending my first in-person networking event in Aberdeen, but I put on a spritz of my favourite perfume and put myself out there. I am now an avid networker and am about to achieve my target of attending 6 networking sessions (both virtual and in-person) in June. Networking isn’t just for finding clients, it is a great way to find like-minded business owners who understand the highs and lows of running a business and it is a great place to seek advice and inspiration. Networking isn’t just for service-based businesses, so if you have never been to a networking event, I highly recommend visiting a local group and putting yourself out there. You never know who you will meet and that’s the best bit!

#7 Lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business - consistency is key

The final lesson I have learnt about growing a sustainable business is that consistency is key, particularly when it comes to marketing. It is important to keep showing up to your audience; providing them with value, helping them to get to know you and reminding them that you are there if they need you. One of my biggest learnings is that this is particularly important when you are busy. When you are busy with client work or orders, this might be the time when you take your foot off the gas when it comes to your marketing. But really, this is the time to stay consistent, because if you want a continual pipeline of work, you have to stay consistently visible.

Lessons from my first year running an eco-friendly Virtual Assistant Service

With 1 in 5 small businesses closing in their first year, I am incredibly grateful that we have made it to our first Planner Bee VA Services birthday and for everything we have learnt along the way. 

If you are thinking about outsourcing some of the tasks you don’t enjoy and would like an extra cheerleader in your corner, get in touch and let’s have a virtual cuppa to see how we can help you.

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