Exclusive Interview: Co-Founders of Virtalent

123
Sam and Ellie

Sam Wilson founded Virtalent in 2014 and is responsible for marketing the company. He is a qualified digital marketer and a passionate entrepreneur. Amongst other roles, Sam has previously organised the UK’s largest conference for student entrepreneurs, worked in Marketing for a group of private British schools across Europe and consulted (CHAPS2 methodology) for Aston Business School’s Transformation for Growth SME outreach project.

Ellie Bekalo is Co-Founder of Virtalent and looks after Operations and Recruitment. She is an award-winning public speaker and has been featured in national publications such as The Times and The Mail for her role in promoting entrepreneurship as a career path for university graduates. Ellie has previously worked in HR in Madrid, is fluent in Spanish and has successfully grown a company selling university branded merchandise until exit.

Virtalent is the UK’s fastest growing Virtual Assistant service. Our VAs help entrepreneurs stay on top of their long to-do lists.

What was the driver for creating Virtalent– what gap did it fill?

When we had founded other businesses, it had been very difficult to find a way to outsource some of our workload. We weren’t ready to face the commitment, expense (and headache!) of taking on a member of staff, though we would have liked that kind of one-to-one relationship. We hated the amount of time and effort we spent trawling through task marketplaces such as Fiverr, dealing with language barriers and cultural differences, only to be left disappointed with the end result, though we liked the flexibility.

We founded Virtalent to address this gap in the market and combine the best of both worlds. A reliable, long-term way to secure some extra support whilst growing a business, without the legal (and financial) commitments that come with taking on staff.

Who does Virtalent primarily serve?

We have a varied client base, though almost all of our clients operate in a professional service industry of some kind, whether that is B2B or B2C. All are highly entrepreneurial and forward thinking individuals. From large companies such as the Marco Pierre White chain, to independent IFAs and consultants, we work closely with the leader of that organisation to help them better leverage their time.

What difference does Virtalent want to make?

We want to take the strain off of British entrepreneurs. Growing a business, whether it is 1 day or 10 years old, is mentally, physically and emotionally draining, so we try to help our customers to “work smarter, not harder”. We try to add as much value as possible and help our clients not only enjoy a better work-life balance, but also to help grow their business efficiently.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

Though this is changing rapidly, it can be difficult to convince some new clients of the benefits of working with a Virtual Assistant as opposed to an employee. Many are used to someone physically walking into their office each morning, asking how they can help. They worry that, as they can’t physically see the person sat at a desk in front of them that, for some reason, they won’t work efficiently or do as they are asked. A remote solution means that their working relationship is simply conducted over Skype, phone and email, as opposed to in-person. Technology today means that taking on staff (and restricting yourself to the talent found in your local town!) is simply not necessary.

Clients also don’t have to pay for laptops, office spaces, staff training events, NI contributions… or endless supplies of paperclips and tea bags, let alone worry about covering for holidays or days off sick. Working with a Virtual Assistant offers a very flexible, convenient way to access some support, without an employee knocking on your door asking for you to cover their next holiday in Malta or chipping in about the latest office gossip. There is a smarter way of working out there.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

Business leaders are certainly beginning to wake up to the benefits of remote working and our clients do a great job about shouting about this to their peers. Organisations such as the Society of Virtual Assistants and the UK Association of Virtual Assistants, both of which we are members of, are working to raise the profile of the VA industry in the UK, yet there is still much more to do.

What needs to happen in this industry to accelerate the growth of Virtalent?

The Virtual Assistant industry is highly fragmented in the UK (as well as USA). Other than Virtalent and a couple of competitors, the rest of the industry is composed of individual freelancers. Most, though certainly not all, seem to run their businesses simply as a way to earn some extra income around their other commitments – children, other lifestyle businesses and hobbies, for example. This is great for their lifestyle, but we think it damages the perception that many business owners have of the industry as a whole. I think the industry needs to realise what a fantastic opportunity we can offer to small businesses, shout a little louder and work to become as professional as possible. A rising tide lifts all boats.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about Virtalent?

More information about the Virtual Assistant service Virtalent offers can be found online at virtalent.com.