Blogging the "Virtual" Way

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Virtual Office Secretary in the Sunday Times

Monday morning was quite a frenetic and exciting time.......

Matthew Wall, a freelance journalist working for the Sunday Times made reference to my "Award Winning" services and website in his article entitled Home in on a better lifestyle.

Wow! What a response this generated.

Following a flourish of new enquiries, which have continued throughout the week (8 of which have now become clients), my feet have barely touched the ground, and hits to my website have gone through the roof.

For my services to be quoted in such a prestigious national paper, and for free, is something that

As a regular contributor to my local paper, the Newbury Business Review, through my association with West Berkshire Business Club, I understand well the power of the media, but for my services to be quoted in such a prestigious national paper, and for free, is the icing on the cake.

Where do I go from here...

....simply ensuring that, like Santa, whatever it takes, The Virtual Office Secretary continues to deliver!

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Staying on Top

To appear on the first page of any Google search warrants praise itself, but to make it to the number 1 position, without the investment of mountains of hard earned cash, is no small achievement.

Staying there is quite another thing.

Over the past 6 months I have worked continuously to achieve the number one spot ( and maintain it, and up until very recently was successful. Some may say even hogging the limelight by taking the 2nd though 7th position as well!

Over the past week, however, I have obviously rested on my laurels and this has seen me move down the ranking to the dreaded 2nd place - who is ever remembered for coming second?

The reason....well it's simple. I have code within my site which directs the spiders to revisit on a fortnightly basis but I hadn't made sure there was new content for them to get excited about - a cardinal sin in the world of web optimisation.

That said, I made some considerable additions to my site, not least by adding a link to my Blog and low and behold I have now regained the number 1 spot.

Website optimisation is not a combination of smoke and mirrors, or a trick that only those charging some £500 can achieve. It's simply ensuring your website has relevant content, contains the right keyworks - and I use the market leading wordtracker software, and vitally important it's regularly updated!

I've learned my lesson.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The PC Age

Keeping pace with ever changing legislation is all part of my work as a Virtual Office Secretary, which does entail a significant degree of legal work. Most recently this has been prompted by The Employment Equality (Age) Regulation 2006.

I have been advising clients new and old – that’s long standing rather than suggesting they are significantly mature – on how this new legislation impacts upon them and especially in terms or recruitment and when employees reach what was considered retirement age.

Sometimes I despair that the working practices of some necessitate this kind of legislation, not least when I am familiar with companies who as a matter of routine acted in ways that legislation has subsequently demanded.

While I support appropriate legislation to make the working world a better place, I despair at the over-protective and over-indulgent PC brigade. They trivialise the real problems in society by focusing on some of the most ridiculous and often only perceived problems.

Political correctness has made common sense a thing of the past. If you catch a burglar in your house then it's best to help the poor soul by carrying your possessions to the front door lest he should trip up and hurt himself and it's you that end up in court – better still, offer them a drink on arrival!

Would you like a black coffee? NO! You can't say that! It's coffee without milk and Local Authorities spend a fortune of our money on making their employees attend courses on Newspeak!

Our British humour has suffered badly. We can't tell jokes anymore in case it upsets anyone. Don't these Politically Correct people realise that sometimes jokes are just jokes, said for fun and not real abuse?

Try organising an event or trip and you find yourself tied up in the endless red tape created by the Health & Safety Executive. These people are all part of the 'Nanny State' which insists in sticking its nose into every aspect of our lives and telling us how to live it!

For those still reading, I can offer a little gem of a book….Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: A Collection of Modern Tales for Our Life and Times (Hardcover) by James Finn Garner, available of course from Amazon

Virtual Solution

The internet has opened up a vast array of opportunities for the serious business professional (and also the dreaded spammer/scammer)

One of the opportunities has been the birth of the Virtual Secretary (also known as Virtual Assistant). The first Virtual Secretary started business some 20 years ago, using little more than a basic computer, Royal Mail and a fax machine!

How the world has changed. To compete in this market today you need a fully equipped office with all the latest gadgets and widgets.

But let there be no doubt, the most important element of being a good Virtual Secretary is experience. I'm not talking about experience in the sense of running your own business, but in having solid training, expertise and knowledge as a secretary developed over many years. The best Virtual Secretary (of which I like to proclaim myself as one) has worked their way up through companies, ultimately working at Director/President level. Only at this point can you have enough experience to be able to offer a complete business solution and be able to deliver.

A Google search on "Virtual Secretary" will return some 4,750,000 entries. I (The Virtual Office Secretary) am ranked number 1 (thanks in part to some simple web optimisation done following the free guidance from Nigel T Packer), but how many of these other "solutions" can actually deliver what today's business needs.

If you're thinking about becoming a Virtual Secretary, have you got what it takes?

If you need to spend more time working on your business than in it, why not look at the possibilities of outsourcing your administrative tasks.

The Little Buggers

Like many thousands of other homes in Wiltshire I was recently provided with a Wheelie Bin by the local council and to my utter disbelief and disgust I found there was one of these highly controversial buggers (oops I meant bugs) in the bin.

I immediately removed the bug and sent it back to the Council.

The official reason for the bugs is to 'improve efficiency' and settle disputes between neighbours over wheelie-bin ownership - this can be done at a nominal cost of "branding" each bin with a unique number and holding the information on a database......They have all our other details according the cover of the Daily Mail yesterday. But it is widely believed that the technology is actually intended to enable councils to impose fines on householders who exceed limits on the amount of non-recyclable waste they put out.

What gives them the right to plant an unauthorised monitoring device on my property? Who do they think they are? Big Brother has finally gone utterly stark raving mad and government authorities have crossed over all boundaries!

I'm fully in favour of reclycing our rubbish and separate out all the different reclyclable materials - not that I believe it will much difference during my lifetime, but hopefully it will for that of my son and his children.

When will all this madness end.

Another WBBC Blogger.....Again

Being new to Blogging and still finding my feet, I made a new post today but in the process managed to delete my inaugural document.

So, here goes again....

This evening (actually Wednesday 25th October) I attended a very interesting and riveting talk, hosted by West Berkshire Business Club, all about Blogging given by internet psychologist Graham Jones.

What a wonderful event. Graham immediately captured the attention of the audience by stating "If you're not blogging today you won't have a business in 2008". Well that comment alone caught the attention of the audience and the rest is history.

For 2 hours (but it seemed like 10 minutes) I and my fellow WBBC members listened, took vast notes and soaked up all the information Graham offered, and then rushed back to our offices and homes and started blogging.

The first post was made by the member who had the furthest to travel, Ivan Clarke of ICT Solutions, quicky followed by the charming and charismatic Nigel Morgan of Morgan PR. Other members soon followed, including The Best of Newbury, Four Four Time and Max Marketing.

It was great to see so many members actively putting into practice the advice that was given.

I'm a strong advocate of this. Many of us attend networking event and business presentations on a fairly regular basis, all of which take time out of our working day or precious personal time, but what's the point unless we utilise the knowledge given.

I attended an equally interesting presentation during the summer on Website Optimisation given by Nigel T Packer once again hosted by West Berkshire Business Club. He offered numerous hints and tips on how to improve our websites and importantly how to improve our search engine rankings.

I spent the next few weeks putting into practice all that I'd learnt and I'm now proud to say that on a worldwide Google search for Virtual Secretary I am ranked Number 1.

So, my advice to anyone reading this is:

Identify what you want to achive.
Put a strategy in place and go for it.....
.....and most importantly, enjoy what you do.

Getting Better all the Time

As a self employed Virtual Office Secretary, I don't have anyone to ask for training and a personal development plan but myself (unlike the many millions of gainfully employed professionals who can approach their boss or HR department for training on all manner of subjects, but who need to be in the office at 9am and can't leave 'till 5pm - ha, ha!)

Why do I need to continue with any training? I run a very successful business which is growing by some 8 new clients per month (and I've never lost one either).

The answer is simple... we all need to continue to get better at what we do all the time and to learn new skills.

I aim to be the best at what I do and I actively promote this (and I'm proud to say that my clients would confer).

I believe it's important to dedicate some time each week to personal development - I put aside 3 hours and am religous about doing so.

How can I be the best if I can't produce Killer Presentations (no-one is interested in bulleted lists any more - they want mini movies). I invested recently in a great book on this very subject. I'd recommend anyone who creates powerpoint presentations to get it - simply visit

How can I be the best if I don't understand and ulilise a Digital Transcription System (the audio file is created, emailed to me, transcribed and back with the client usually within the hour).

The list is endless.....

I recently read a very interesting book whilst waiting in the reception of Kirkpatrick & Hopes. 228 Ways to Drive your Business Forward, written by Steve Mills of Max Marketing. It outlines numerous ways (well 228 to be precise) to improve you business. I know Steve Mills personally and he's a great guy full of very useful advice and keen to help businesses develop. (The West Berkshire Business Club are very lucky to have him as their Chairman).

Steve recently suggested to me that I increase my prices. I was shocked to start with, but then tried it. I thought I'd loose a few clients - well at least that was my expectation. Actually the opposite happened - I gained.

What am I doing with the increased revenue I've gained?

......I'm investing it in Getting Better All the Time.

Business Awards - Are they worth it?

At this time of year there are a plethora of announcements for Business Awards for "this, that and the other" but is it worth entering?

The answer is simply YES.

Last year I entered the West Berkshire Business Club annual business awards which recognise

  • Business achievements in the last year
  • Problems and how they have been overcome
  • Innovative business practices
  • Sales & Marketing Initiatives
  • Planning for the future
  • Contribution to the local community
....and to my delight and those of my business associates The Virtual Office Secretary was named as runner up.

The whole experience was one of both trepedation and excitement....Once the realisation hit that I had many achievements to shout about and that I was driving a thriving business forward, nothing was going to hold me back.

As runner-up I received a tremendous amount of recognition which has accounted in no small part to the continued growth of my business throughout 2006 and to the greater understanding of precisely what is a Virtual Secretary. I know that my fellow finalists, Four Four Time and the winner NST Direct all benefitted from entering and would share my views.

The best part of the West Berkshire Business Club awards (one of the most hotly contested and prestigious awards in our region) is that the application process is simple. You are not asked for a lengthy diatribe covering 40 pages, you simply need to explain (in no more than 3 pages of A4) why your business should be considered and what your key achievements for the year have been - something all business owners should be able to do very easily and quickly.

Throughout the year we all strive to develop and grow our businesses, and entering business awards of this type offer the perfect opportunity to gain peer and public recognition of your achievements and to raise the profile of your organisation.

Simply entering business awards has powerful advantages. Entering enables you to benchmark yourself against other companies and gives any ambitious business the chance to receive widespread recognition. Imagine the benefits if you become a finalist, runner-up or winner.
And the incentives…

  • Invaluable press coverage
  • Powerful PR and marketing tool throughout 2007 and beyond
  • Recognition throughout West Berkshire (and beyond)
  • Chance to show your clients, customers and competitors how good you are
  • Boost to staff morale

So next time you are invited to enter, a colleague suggests you enter or you are put forward, don't hesitate, be proud of your achievements and go for it.