CEO of 3 International Companies, involved in multiple local start-ups, coaching, hosting, keynote speaker, saleswoman, mother and wife, Karen van Zyl is a remarkable entrepreneur and mentor to many Virtual Assistants.
Here is her story….
It all started in 2008, where I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to work for an international manufacturing company independently. The term Virtual Assistant wasn’t even a thing back then in South Africa J I had no idea what I was doing, quite honestly, but I put my head down and got stuck in. I have been blessed to shed commercial light on the virtual assistance arena in South Africa through tv interviews, radio interviews, public speaking thereby forging the way for other Virtual Assistants.
A chance phone call from an ex-client set me on my path as a Virtual Assistant. Ultimately this was the start of my entrepreneurship and what a fulfilling and humbling 13 years it has been.
I believe in my ability to connect people and bantering around with my partner we felt that VA Connect was an all-encompassing name for the industry and what it has to offer.
Like every entrepreneur before me and those after me, I faced many challenges. I wasn’t schooled in the world of business, there were no manual or ground rules to work from. So, I did what I do best, I broke ground in this industry by cutting my teeth, sweating month after month on how to find clients, how to price my services, ways to keep and grow clients and many other challenges.
VA Connect is a long-standing managed virtual assistant agency and we have harnessed the ability to provide remote professionals to businesses and other agencies across the globe, whilst continuously driving value to our clients and taking care of the well-being of our team.
We need to understand that there is no ‘I’ in this game. It’s all about the ‘we’. I know my strengths and my team has their strengths, together we make positive waves in the industry, in our agency and for our clients.
2020 was quite a surreal year for us. We broke glass ceilings as it was one of our most successful years. We showed growth and expanded as a business; we have been truly blessed.
Balance comes from having a great support structure, a fantastic partner, having the ability to delegate and setting boundaries with yourself. So quite honestly it’s having the ability to shut off from business when it’s family time and switching on and being fully present when it’s time for business.
Learn the lesson and then move on. Don’t ever discount yourself or your services, you’re setting the wrong tone going forward. Stand your ground respectfully and if you need to say goodbye to that client, then do it, because there will be a better opportunity around the corner.
Lol. On numerous occasions! I think any entrepreneur would agree, there are times that you ask yourself “why am I doing this again?” But then you realise this journey is about crafting a life that suits you, a business that will fit in with your lifestyle so that we can have quality family time and quality playtime.
To do successful marketing you need to understand your target market, where they hang out, what content will resonate with them and convert them. Digital marketing and social media marketing remains the best way of reaching a broader audience. Cold calling works great too! J I am a salesperson after all.
Blocking off time. Only checking my emails twice a day. When I work on a project I like to use a tool like the Tomato Timer, but you can also use the timer on your phone. Set a 25min timer and focus only on that one task. This really helps with any distractions and it’s quite satisfying to see what you can accomplish in a short space of time!
Quite honestly, with the wisdom of hindsight, I would have spent less time trying to pitch my business for possible funding and spent a whole lot more time on finding clients, keeping my sales pipeline filled every month. Don’t get so easily distracted with operations and perfecting your website or brochure that you never go out there to find clients. If they don’t know about you how can they possibly do business with you? Perfect the ‘product’ later. Understand the value you drive and bring that to the attention of prospective clients. The value will sell itself.
As an entrepreneur I love the freedom of exploring new ways of doing business, being able to take risks and move with agility within my business.
That happiness factor, when a client tells you how happy they are with a team member or a team member out of the blue messages me to thank me for pushing them out of their comfort zone, that puts a huge smile on my face.
I’m inspired by other formidable businesswomen, by women who go out there and make an impact without apologising for their greatness. I’m inspired by businessmen who lead the way and break ground for others. I’m inspired by business and making a difference in other people’s lives.
I am great at what I do, I am where I should be and I am making a positive difference in this world.
The Unexpected Tale of the Girl with a Dream
Don’t overthink it. Don’t question yourself. Give yourself permission.