Bad things happen to good people but it’s what you make of it…
I’ve umm'd and ahh'd about writing this post. That’s probably why I’ve left it so long.
I’ve read a number of blogs this year, seen newsletters etc., and they’re always full of happy or good news or "aren’t we doing well". Well naturally they would, they’re trying to sell to you.
But when do we write about the things that go wrong in our business. Once you speak to businesses you find out it can be quite disheartening reading how well everyone else is doing when perhaps your business has been through a sticky patch of some sort. So is it now time to show some support and say that yes sometimes being in business can be a tough and rocky road with all sorts of things thrown at you to make you think again?
I’m prepared to come and out and say it, at the start of this year my business went through one of those sticky patches.
At the start of the year I was on maternity leave, juggling my new family and trying to keep a safe distance from my business but something cropped up that was less than pleasant.
Back in the summer of 2015, before I went on maternity leave, I interviewed other VA’s to cover my business so I could stand back from VAVelocity and concentrate on my new arrival. One VA whom I contacted I initially rejected. However, remembering how I was given opportunities when I first started out, I decided to give her a chance and create an opportunity for her.
Initially all seemed fine but then, in November last year, alarm bells rang. She told me how this particular client was great and how she didn't want to stop working for them. Knowing that, in our industry, solicitation of another VAs client when working for them as an associate is considered beyond the pale those alarm bells were well and truly ringing. My first priority remained with the client. I spoke to the client in some depth and all seemed fine, no indication of anything amiss so, as it was one of the client’s busiest times, I left it.
I hold my hand up, that was my mistake, I should have replaced the VA there and then.
Then my much delayed house move happened and I had to go offline for a couple of weeks with internet access only when visiting cafés. The VA saw her opportunity and ran with it.
I met with my client at the start of the 2016 and I immediately knew something was wrong. When attempting to discuss business she would become evasive and ask how my son was. I came home from that meeting and knew that something untoward had happened or was happening.
Shortly after, the VA created a dispute about being paid two days late (due to lack of internet access and an incorrect timesheet), as a result of this the client got in touch, told me that VA support was not working out and ended the contract. At the time I was very disappointed about losing the client but they had indicated that once I had returned from my maternity leave we’d discuss working together again. Trying to be as professional as usual I made sure everything was handed over to the client as smoothly as possible. Feedback had always been very positive from this client, the only fly in the ointment appeared to be the associate VA and the so called late payment dispute so I had no reason to worry.
Then one day I emailed the former client and there is it was, confirmation of my suspicions in black and white in an out of office reply showing that the VA and the client were working together.
It was a devastating blow.
My industry society stood by me and the industry as a whole rallied around me. I can’t thank them enough for their support. The VA was banned from the one of the industry’s organisations as a result of her behaviour. I sought legal action and I did consider reporting her for certain non-compliance issues to official bodies but, you know what, as I sat there in the solicitor's car park something told me to walk away, hold my head up high, and be the grown up here.
You see that’s the thing, hindsight is a wonderful thing. The client wasn’t for me and thankfully the VA showed me that. If a client, who initially wanted to stay with you during your maternity leave, decides to walk away because you were spending time being a new mother and, not only that, couldn’t be honest enough to tell you the truth then it goes to show how much better off I am without them.
Sometimes in business some bad things happen and whilst you can go off all guns blazing more often than not it’s better to walk away.
I feel very proud that I did.
The situation saddens me now but I won’t stop giving new VA’s the opportunity to do work through my company. I won’t let one VA put me off hiring associates when I’ve seen the kindness that a group of VA’s can show to one person in need. It made me realise how lucky I am to be supported by such a strong bunch of women (I know there are male VA’s but I’ve yet to work with one)
I will never know what that VA said to that client to make them make the final switch. I’d worked with that client for a year and for it to end so suddenly something must have been said. I feel sorry for the VA that she thinks that’s the way business should happen.
So it was a sticky patch and perhaps my confidence was dented somewhat but, now that I am back from maternity leave, I’ve built my company back up again. I’ve dusted myself off, learnt some valuable lessons and notched it up to experience.
So if you’re having a sticky patch right now, stand back, take a breath, consider the practical steps to overcome it and have some small amount of hope you will get through it. Reach out to those that support you, whomever that might be, and listen to the advice given. Take heart that many businesses have been through a very similar thing, we’re just not very good at talking about it.