1. Tell me a bit about your business – when it started and what are your main services?
I run VACT Limited, a company that specializes in supporting Virtual Assistants either with coaching, training or mentoring but generally I offer a hybrid of the 3 services. VACT as a company in one guise or another has been around a long time. Having become one of their licensed trainers in the summer of 2014, I bought the company from Carmen MacDougall on her retirement from the industry at the end of 2014 and then spent a lot of time regrouping, rebranding and refreshing the offerings in 2015.
Today, VACT specialize in 2 core areas:
- helping Personal Assistants, Executive Assistants and Admin Professionals to set up, launch and run their own VA business using the VA Mastery Course as the training tool.
- supporting existing Virtual Assistants to build and grow the business they are looking to achieve through either the VA Help Desk – which is part of the VA Training Academy® or through one to one coaching and mentoring programmes.
We also run a number of support communities for both UK and international Virtual Assistants.
2. What was the main driver for starting your own business?
In 2008, I had a life changing event and it caused me to re-evaluate life and realise that life is too short for so many people. During an immense period of grief, I spent money on renovating the house and was frustrated when I could not get hold of the tradesmen, who were out doing what they did best – fitting Windows or gas etc. I decided they needed as pay as you go type admin service, that was affordable and could be as and when they needed it. I thought I had created an idea for a brand new industry.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the opportunity arose for me to leave the military and start this new career. It was only during my research of professional insurance and data protection that someone said to me “so you are going to a VA then?” And I responded with a “What?”, that I learnt the VA profession had been around for over 20 years+. So from there my VA business launched.
The training elements were a natural progression – as someone who had been coaching and mentoring for many years, the expansion into the training side was not unplanned however, it was perhaps earlier than was originally in my business plan.
In 2016, I sold my “doing” VA business to purely focus on the training, coaching and mentoring – which meant I could also fit the business with our family goals.
3. What gets you up in the morning?
I don’t believe in work / life balance instead I am a firm believer in work / life integration. I believe we make decisions based on the situation around us and its about having a happy mix across both strands. So from a work perspective what inspires me now is that I love what I do – which can simply be defined as “inspiring, challenging and supporting business owners” for me it is all about making a difference to those I work with. Then on the life side of things, as a family our businesses fit around our lives (my husband runs his own company – Yes Mortgage Services Limited).
4. If you could change one thing about your first year (or first few years) in business, what would it be?
I am a firm believer in listening to your intuition, that inner gut feeling – which to some people may sound a little woo woo but I have found on the occasions when I have allowed my head to overrule something – I have been let down. So whether its clients who have not paid their bills, being deceived by people using NLP language to get their own way, or deceived into booking a stand at an event that was never going to go ahead – these were all occasions when the alarm bells rang, but I allowed rational thought to ignore the gut gnawing “don’t do this”.
So what would I change – I would have had the self confidence to believe that your personal intuition can help you identify the right path to follow!
5. What is your biggest achievement to date?
I won’t go through the various military ones as there are loads – but happy to grab a beer and talk about those should anyone want to do so.
Professionally, I have won a number of business awards – a couple of my favourites have been being voted “Best VA Training Provider in the UK” for 2016 and 2017.
Then its being awarded an Armed Forces Covenant which is fairly significant for me, I do a lot of work with military veterans and military spouses (with a background like mine its hard not to I suppose) helping them to have a portable career. The covenant recognizes this.
I also have one that I cannot share yet but can I come back and update you when I am allowed to talk about it – its hugely exciting!
6. What has been your biggest challenge?
Accepting that imitation is a form of flattery – over the years, I have had people copy my training, copy my course titles, lesson structures, blog posts and taken key phrases that have become synonymous with me and used them as their own. My core values are at the heart of everything I do and so ethically this imitation has been the biggest challenge but I know it says more about them than it does me!
7. What would be your number one tip for other entrepreneurs who want to develop their personal brand (related to their industry / specialism)?
Quite simply, “Be You and Be Awesome” – this is all about recognizing everyone is different, and to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. It is about being comfortable knowing not everyone will love you – and that your strengths stand you apart. This is all intrinsically linked to knowing and living your core values.
8. What advice would you give to other women thinking of starting their own business?
I am known for saying: “JFDI” to my clients and that is the first thing that came into my head when I read the question. BUT… I would also add the following advice.
- Research, Research, Research
- Ask Questions!
- Build Relationships
- Remember it takes time to get to “know, like and trust you”
- Think long game and not short game
- Listen don’t just hear what people are telling you!
- Work with a Coach / Mentor
- Be Authentic and Be Awesome!
9. Lastly, which social media platform has helped you get the most customers to date and why?
You are talking to the woman that thought she would not need social media to build her business and I only started using it for 3 months to prove I didn’t need it… However, after 3 months I was hooked and loved it.
I would suggest that over the years, I have used the platforms where my ideal clients have hung out to build the relationships and then invited them to join my email marketing list. From there it has been my weekly email broadcasts, where I have continued to build upon the know / like / trust that has ultimately led to individuals becoming clients of mine. The social media just keeps me forefront of mind when they are ready to invest in their own personal and professional development.
Tel: 01425 578111 & Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Amanda Johnson and VACT: Amanda Johnson of VACT Limited, is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer and Mentor offering a variety of courses and workshops, both free and paid to help both aspiring, new and experienced Virtual Assistants to launch, create and grow their own successful VA business. This training takes place both virtually and in person.
Amanda is a military veteran, having served 23 years in the Royal Navy, married to Andrew (who is also a military veteran) and now runs his own business but also mum to 2 gorgeous little boys (James and Jacob) who run her ragged but teach her a lot of business lessons. Her life is a juggling act!
VACT Limited were named as the “The Best VA Training Provider – 2016, 2017 and 2018/19”. Amanda is passionate about “Creating Exceptional VA’s, so all of the VACT training courses and mentoring options, are designed to support and fit around you, your current work commitments, your individual circumstances including family commitments and your budget.
Amanda would describe herself as “I am at my happiest when I am inspiring, challenging and supporting others” (and there might be a bit of xxx kicking in there too!) but I am well-known for my honest and direct approach to helping others.
This interview was conducted by Jennifer Corcoran, LinkedIn Consultant & Trainer and Founder and CEO of award-winning social media consultancy, My Super Connector. Jennifer regularly writes and speaks on the topics of social media, personal branding, networking and being an introverted female entrepreneur. If you need help with your LinkedIn profile mail email@example.com. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @SuperConnector.