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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.

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13 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Bad things happen to good people but it’s what you make of it…”

  1. John gallagher February 7, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Naomi

    Your openness and honesty about this will be really valuable to anyone else who’s experienced something similar – we should all break silences of this kind.

    But I also think it might help the VA who’s behaved unethically. We all make mistakes and sometimes seeing someone objectively write about them makes us realise we’re in the wrong. Maybe that’s overly optimistic but there’s a small chance if she reads this post she’ll fully realise the impact her actions had on you and learn from her sizeable mistake.

    Either way, huge kudos for setting such a great example.

  2. Caroline Wylie December 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    A sad situation but very brave of you for sharing… One thing I would stress is how rare this is: People who operate on that level never stay in business long, either clients or the VAs.

    You will find most VAs are unendingly helpful when helping newbies out, and that thread of kindness runs through to when they are in a position to help someone else out – passing it on and making the VA industry one of the friendliest I know. It would be a shame to lose the “collaboration not competition” mentality that underpins that support. Please tell people if you have an issue, if nothing else it lets others know what to look out for.

    I’m glad the whole experience hasn’t put you off helping newbies Naomi! On to greater things!

    • Naomi Campbell December 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

      In life we sometimes have to be brave and stand up for what we believe in or when we think an injustice has been done. It might appear as if this was a bad move in terms of PR for my company but as honesty is one of my key values I believe this needed to be written. The VA industry is a very supportive one and indeed the collaboration not competition is very much the outstanding ethos of the industry. My faith in it has not been shaken because of one rouge VA and I shall indeed continue to help new and existing VA’s.

  3. Karin December 24, 2016 at 1:43 am

    Naomi you totally did the right thing here both by writing this post and your actions. In hind sight she did you a favour and what goes around comes around. You will be stronger for this and will shine brighter than ever. I’ve had something similar in past 18 months. Not client stealing but blatant imitation of everything I do publicly (until my most recent project which she cannot copy!) and I’ve publicly ignored it. Apparently imitation is the highest form of flattery – I beg to differ but hey if that’s all they have to work on it will show eventually. Well done on a great post and also growing and developing both personally and your business. Keep moving forward you are brilliant at what you do.

    • Naomi Campbell December 26, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Karin, I’m touched but those words. It was a difficult decision to make it public but as my blog post discusses, things need to be brought into the light and we need to be less shy. So sorry to hear that you’ve suffered something similar. I do feel sorry that some supposed business people feel that that’s the way forward when there are so many better ways to achieve success.

  4. Amanda Johnson December 24, 2016 at 12:06 am

    Naomi

    A raw and honest post, unfortunately some don’t operate professionally and ethically in our industry and that’s very sad. Well done for bouncing back.

    • Naomi Campbell December 26, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Thank you for those comments Amanda, I appreciate it. It is very sad but for every less than good one there are many more that are as this story so clearly demonstrates.

  5. Marion Connah December 23, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    What a horrible experience Naomi. But you handled it brilliantly and proved to everybody how professional you are. The other VA has proved herself to be the opposite. It will be to your benefit, so put this experience behind you. Onwards and most definitely upwards for you I’m sure, and it was a pleasure to work with you this year.

    • Naomi Campbell December 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Many thanks for your kind words Marion, it was a pleasure to work with you too.

  6. Roz Bott December 23, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Naomi I salute you for being brave enough to post this publicly..Having spoken with you about this I know how much this affected you.

    You have risen above this incident and managed to keep a healthy perspective. I know that you have learnt from this and will be able to grow and go from strength strength.

    I applaud you as a fellow VA and wish you a happy and successful 2017, both personally and in your business.

    • Naomi Campbell December 30, 2016 at 10:38 am

      You too Roz, it was a hard decision to take to go public but sometimes the right thing is to bring things out in the open and discuss them frankly with business leaders like yourself. I appreciated your support this year it meant a lot to me. Here’s hoping to 2017 being very successful for the pair of us!

  7. Carole Meyrick December 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Brilliant post Naomi. As one who commiserated with you during your tribulations I am very proud to be one of your associates, and friends. I have had such loyalty from you that I couldn’t help but respond in kind. Well done you for moving on with your head held high. I am sure you will go from strength to strength, and wish you every good thing for the forthcoming year.

    • Naomi Campbell December 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Oh Carole as one of my longest time served colleagues I am very touched by your words. It’s a honour to now call you a friend as well as a respected colleague.

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