Lesley Ross of Our Other Office
[Editor's Note: Lesley's inspiring home business success story not only offers helpful advice to new home business women, but is an example of how hard work and persistence in the face of obstacles can bring great rewards.]
How I Found My Business
I had been working for companies for over 20 years as the right hand personal assistant to someone else's business. I had been taking on board all the problems that go with running your own business, but I was not gaining any benefits, apart from learning how to multitask continuously.
It was me that was running around at all hours sorting out press releases, arranging conferences & trade shows, and above all dealing with the customers, networking & building their company database of contacts for them.
I have always been an exceptionally active person, and all my jobs have been varied & dealing with a variety of people. My jobs over 20 years had ranged from Food & Beverage Manager for a country club in South Africa, PA to Directors of a Multi Media company, Scuba Diving Instructor on a very remote island in Fiji & PA to Executives of an Electronics Company, so dealing with people from top government officials to members of the public was not a problem.
I had started researching about setting up my own Virtual Office Services Company, when I had an accident that has left me unable to walk, and so the decision to work from home for myself was actually made for me. After months of hospital & physiotherapy I made the decision that it was time to get on with life again.
Starting My Business
Starting up was very difficult as I had lived off of my savings for months while ill and I had very little left. I did not want to start my business by taking a loan and owing money, as I had no means to pay it back, so I started with the very minimum. I used my email to contact people, built my website and had 2500 fliers printed. After a few long hard months of daily slogging away at the emails and telephone wondering how I was going to pay the bills the work started to come in.
When you first start out it is hard to work out your pricing and during the hard times it is easy to cut your prices for people just to get the work, but you soon find out cutting back gains nothing.
I would advise anyone starting up a new business to work out the minimum you are prepared to work for and stick to it. You can obviously add extra services in for free for a good customer or give discount later but stick to your prices.
Getting on with the actual work was easy even though working on a computer screen all day was not my style. Talking and dealing with people from all walks of life is so interesting and even if they did not use my services I have met some truly great people. Always try to help people, as they do remember you gave them some free advice or a contact for nothing, and your help will be returned later, plus there is so much pleasure in giving.
What Kept Me Going?
I guess if anyone asked me what it was that kept me going through the tough times I would have to say it was pride. I had for years helped other peoples companies to succeed, so why not mine. Being a sole owner can be daunting & I think the lack of continuous daily contact of working with other people was one of the hardest things, but I never felt at a loss for information as I could just mail my group or use the Internet.
I became a member of an email group which has been a true insight and even though I have never met any of the women on the list I feel like I know them and the endless amount of information & resources is just fantastic.
My Biggest Challenge?
I found marketing myself was the hardest thing. Marketing another company and telling people how great they are is one thing but blowing your own trumpet is very hard. Deep down inside I knew my services were very professional, but to tell other people this was hard. I had to change my mind set and distance myself from "My Company", then I could get on with the job and tell the world how great Our Other Office Ltd really is.
Word of mouth from customers is the greatest advertising there is, but in the beginning when you have no customers it is down to you to spread the word. I now have three ladies working for me who are setting up their own business. It is like an extension of my company. It is Great!
Advice for Home Business Success
If you are starting out on your adventure of opening your own business then look at it just like that, "An adventure". Even when things are not going great you will learn so much and will become a much stronger and knowledgeable person from it. I know this does not always pay the bills and there are limits to how much you can cut back but we can all cut back if we believe the future is worth it.
Keep your mind focused on the road ahead and aim for it. Talk to people and never stop asking for help & advice. One day your dream will become a reality and you will wake up each morning like I do, ready to enjoy your day because when you are doing something you love, it is not a job but an enjoyable & rewarding life.
Lesley Ross is the owner of Our Other Office Ltd Virtual Office Secretarial Services. Let Our Other Office Ltd enhance your company image, not your overheads. Pay for time spent only on your project, not for coffee & lunch breaks!