Virtually Virtual

Thursday, June 1, 2017
Written By : 
Richard G. Watson

It never fails to amaze me how much you can get done in a day if you put your mind to it. Particularly if you are a ‘control freak’ or just seriously driven to achieve targets.  Look at any entrepreneur’s diary or to do list and you’ll see what I mean.

But some of us are slow learners when it comes to finding and leveraging the right resources in the right places to help us get there.  About 8 years ago, before I set up my own company, I was in the corporate world working just as hard as I do now for myself. After years of having a personal assistant sitting right outside my office to tell me where I should be and what I should be doing, I decided to hire a virtual assistant instead. To test the water. The risk to me was low, the cost was low.

And frankly in my naivety I wasn’t really sure what the upside would be. So, what could go wrong? As it turned out, very little. The experiment turned out to be a life-changing experience for me.

But it was hard work at first; my virtual assistant initially worked from her home and communicated with me via Skype, email, Whatsapp and telephone.  The learning curve for both of us was steep from day one, and I don’t believe we settled into the work cycle properly for perhaps three months.

But once the snowball started rolling downhill, there was no stopping it.  Within a few years the number of staff I had working from overseas locations had increased to 5, then 10, then 15 then ...

So, what were the benefits, and what did I learn?


1. The world is so small now that borders are almost transparent (except for the tax man of course)

2. Smart people live everywhere, not just in developed countries

3. For a small business, using virtual staff gives scalability to take on projects that ordinarily could only be tackled by big companies

4. There are so many more businesses using virtual staff than most local business owners realise - This is not ‘bleeding edge’ but rather mainstream for small businesses looking globally

5. I learnt a lot in a very short period of time and there are so many other small business owners happy to not only share their experiences but help me with my business.  Okay, I had to buy a few coffees or beers along the way but the advice and support from likeminded people continues to amaze me.

6. For those who dare, opportunities present themselves.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not easy and not a guarantee of success.  During my first year of operating my own company I had so many sleepless nights wondering how I could pay the salaries.  But the lower cost base helped enormously, as did the opportunity to diversify and work with other small business owners.

7. Last but not least, my contact base grew almost exponentially in a relatively short period.


Having my own staff working for my company in various locations around Asia didn’t solve all my problems. Far from it.


But it gave me a much stronger base on which to build my company in a much shorter period of time.


It gave me growth and scale that would have taken perhaps three to five times longer to build had I just stayed local.


It gave me a much wider group of educated, talented, experienced and streetwise contacts to learn from, grow with, and cross-refer work opportunities.


And it gave me a deeper appreciation of the value of having employees from other cultures working in my business as they helped develop an even richer company culture of our own.


For the experiment has worked out better than I originally planned.  Each year our business grows and evolves and I am convinced that this business model would work for most entrepreneurs and small business owners.


Now if only I had thought of the concept of a virtual assistant first and could have somehow patented the model... 



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