Yvonne Hemmings started her VA journey in November 2017 after a successful career as a PA and Health, Safety & Environmental Controller.
So what made her decide to change her title from Virtual Assistant to Online Business Manager? What the difference?
What’s your definition of an online business manager?
My definition of an Online Business Manager (OBM) is that it is still very much a virtual business, but there is more emphasis on the management of projects, operations, team members, strategy etc. An OBM supports their client, is the buffer between the client and their team and can also give an additional perspective on strategy and solutions that will help to drive their client’s business forward. All business owners benefit from having a sounding board, someone to bounce ideas off and although a VA can do this an OBM is closer to the day to day running of their client’s business because of the integration with other people on the team (whether that’s employees or freelancers) so are able to give a different perspective than a VA necessarily would.
Why did you decide to change from a virtual assistant to online business manager?
Right from the start of my entrepreneurial journey the title virtual assistant/PA has just never sat right with me. That might seem strange to some people, especially as I worked as a PA for over 12 years.
I realise that VA’s and OBM’s are business owners in their own right and deal with the same issues that brings, so in that respect there is no difference between them. For me personally, I found that some people see VAs as just someone who assists with admin, but we’re so much more than that. I had got to the point that I didn’t feel proud of the title VA. This feeling is definitely deep seated with me and on reflection is probably because I know I have years of experience at all levels, and that I’m capable of so much more than the VA title leads many people to believe. Although I’d set up a business, which is a massive achievement in itself, I felt like I’d taken a step backwards in the work I was carrying out. I love managing projects and teams, advising my clients and finding solutions that will increase productivity in their business. An OBM does all of these things, including managing VA’s so not only will I be doing what I love but I now also have experience of being a VA so I can take that forward and use what I have learnt to help my clients.
Have you seen any other virtual assistants move to online business managers?
I’ve seen one or two well established VA’s announce the change from VA to OBM but on the whole not too many. From what I have read OBM’s seem to be more established in the US than the UK. I do think we will see more and more VA’s transition to being OBM’s.
You shared your news in the private members club what was the response, what were you expecting, were you surprised?
I decided to share the news in the private members club mainly because it’s such a supportive group but also because it is a group for VA’s, so I wasn’t sure as an OBM I would fit the criteria of being a member any longer. I did feel a bit nervous about announcing the change mainly because it meant admitting that I didn’t like the VA title to other VA’s who appeared to be quite happy with it themselves. The reaction from everyone was amazing which is actually not surprising from this group, there was no need for me to feel nervous or worried in the slightest. Everyone was so supportive and surprisingly a big majority said they were considering going down the same route themselves. Such an amazing group, if you’re not in the group you should definitely consider it. (find out more here)
Did you read about online business managers before making the change?
I’d seen the title online business manager crop up a few times in different places and it sparked my curiosity, so I started to carry out some research. It was probably a good six months ago that I really started to look into what it involved. I’ve looked into OBM training, read the profiles of other OBM’s and generally found out as much as I could before I committed to making the change. When you’re changing the direction of your business it’s not a decision to be made lightly and it’s really worth doing your research.
What obstacles if any did you come across as a virtual assistant and how many of those did you put down to your title?
For me the main obstacle was people understanding what a virtual assistant is and does. When I have been face to face networking, I found saying ‘I’m a virtual assistant‘ was often met with a puzzled face or a comment ‘virtual, but you’re stood in front of me’, as Catherine mentions in her book, How to be a Virtual Assistant – it’s a little frustrating. I ended up resorting to saying I was a Freelance PA and this seemed to get more recognition.
The other main obstacle has been around my hourly rate. The industry average is £25 per hour but this again raised a few eyebrows. The opinion was very much why would they pay someone £25 an hour just to do some admin! I found myself constantly justifying what I charge. When you know your worth it’s so annoying.
Were these obstacles part of the reason why you moved over to online business manager?
Yes, especially the title virtual assistant not being recognised in my experience. I’ve never been a person bothered about titles but in this case, as a business owner, you need your clients to understand what it is you actually do. They don’t have the time or inclination to find out or work it out for themselves. I do think the term VA is much more widely used now.
What was your business name as a virtual assistant?
My actual business name was VPA Business Support Ltd. I think there is a bit of a pattern here because I’ve never really liked this name either. When I first set my business up, I really struggled with finding a name, so I’ve never really used it apart from on my invoices.
What’s your new business name?
Solution Shack Limited and wait for it…. I actually love the name. I’ll be offering solutions to small business owners using different platforms that are all under one roof, so as soon as I wrote the name down I knew it was the right fit.
Did having to change your business name put you off in any way?
Not at all. I think when you first set out on your journey you think you know where you’re going and what you want to achieve, but as we all know, things change. I’ve found my niche and what I love and enjoy doing, so my business is now headed in a different direction. The change in direction meant it was inevitable my business name needed to change to something that was more versatile and will fit as my business grows.