That’s a long elevator ride…

I love networking, I love meeting new people and getting to know them. One of the questions I still get asked the most is what a Virtual PA actually does and it still surprises me that so little is known about the virtual support service and what they can offer to you.

When I answer this question I’m not speaking for anyone else or the industry as a whole, I am really only speaking for myself and the reason Spinning Plates was created in the first place which may not be the norm for the industry but it is the reason I get out of bed every morning!!

What I offer and what makes really passionate is helping people – making their lives easier. When I was still working in my corporate career I was working 60 hours a week, feeling stressed and overwhelmed and not having time to get anything done outside of work. I missed birthdays, school trip payments and generally felt like my life was out of control. After I left that role I wanted to start a business that meant that no one else ever felt like that.

It’s also where the name of the business comes from – Spinning Plates. I always felt like I was trying to do a balancing act with everything I had on (and failing miserably I might add) so my mantra is that I will help you find time, do more and keep all of those plates spinning.

In terms of what the really means in reality I have such a wide range of clients who need me for different things – I have some for whom I do marketing or sales; some for whom I do a very traditional administrative role; and some for whom I do those little tasks they simply cannot find time to do like booking a carpet cleaner or finding a great print supplier. Every client is totally unique so the service I provide is totally bespoke. That’s what I love though, getting to know you as a client and working out exactly how I can help you best.

So that’s my little spiel. Bit longer than the average ride in an elevator, maybe the travelator at Asda.


“Don’t let the noise of other peoples’ opinions drown out your inner voice”

Steve Jobs said that quote by the way. You’ll have to bear with me a bit on this one as it’s going to start with me rambling…

Every year I have a photoshoot done and the types of photos I have done vary but they’re all of me on my own. I know, that sounds terribly vain and self-indulgent, not to mention expensive and I guess it is, but I do it for a very good reason. The reason of course may not be a good one for everyone and it may still make your roll your eyes at me but it’s important me and that’s what really matters.

The reason I do it is for confidence; self-awareness and confidence – of my body, of me and of who the world sees when they look at me. I first started this ‘tradition’ after I had my first child- I felt invisible, I self-reflected whilst writing poetry about being invisible and thought a lot about my identity as a mother, as an employee, as an person. None of that helped really or made a difference, that’s when I decided to stop moaning to myself and to just get on with things – I wanted to reconfirm who I was and make sure I really knew what that meant.

That first shoot was awkward – a glass of prosecco helped but I don’t think I ever really relaxed properly. The photos are nice, I’m smiling but I look scared and I look uncomfortable somehow. So next year I did it again, different photographer and different set up but with the same purpose and I have done it every year since always changing the photographer and the style. Some of the photos I don’t really like- just because it may not be my best angle or whatever, but on the whole I have a catalogue of images which I’m proud of.

I just had my most recent photos back –  and I realised something looking at them – how confident and how self-assured I look; when I compare them to the other sets you can actually seen how I’ve grown in confidence over the last 8 years.

It’s not just a surface thing though, something for appearances, it’s more fundamental than that. With my business I have noticed that I am more able to state my prices and not worry that they are too high; I am able to present ideas to clients and stand by them even when questioned. From a personal perspective, I stand up for myself more and am able to say no if I don’t have time for something. I don’t know if it’s age, responsibility, experience or something else but I will say this, it is singularly one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

I’d love to be able to tell you how to do it, like there’s some sort of magic formula but unfortunately that’s not the case. It really is a different journey for everyone – for me the photoshoots were just a part of it but a significant one; for you it may be something else. What I am saying is that confidence is important, not just the impression of it but feeling it deep down inside so you’re comfortable in your own skin, in your own company and with who you are. Then take a photo and I promise you’ll be able to see it all looking back at you.


You need to give me a minute…

That is the most powerful statement I ever learnt to say both for myself and for my own sanity. You see, I used to feel pressured in meetings to give answers straight away- we’d be brainstorming or working on project and an idea would start crystallising and invariably someone would turn to me and say “is this the answer?”

That right there is what used to send me into a mental tailspin, not that you’d have known it from looking at me. Having to make my brain mentally calculate, sort through and categorise all scenarios, outcomes and alternatives in a split second felt like the impossible ask. And I hated it, I hated thinking that responding that quickly might mean that I’d missed something vital or that we’d missed out on a better answer.

And that’s because I’m a reflector. In an ideal world I like to sleep on an idea to let my brain process all possibilities. In reality I know that sometimes time is not a luxury we have and so I learnt to say “can you just give me a minute”. It’s just a moment of time to let my brain work and that way I’m sure I’m giving an answer I’m confident in and happy with.

But more importantly that’s me standing up for the way I work, asking for time to give the right answer which ultimately makes me a better contributor to the team. You should never be ashamed of working differently to other people and you should never be afraid to ask others to allow you to do just that… if they want your best they’ll be happy to give you five minutes processing time or whatever it is you need.

So have a think about the way you work and make sure you do what’s right for you even if it means asking for a minute.


Curiosity killed the cat…

And I’ll give you ten points if you can finish that saying off…

Everyone uses that saying- even my mother I might add- like a dire warning about being curious. As if wanting to understand something is a bad thing. Okay, so I agree being curious about how hot the stove is; or what a litre of vodka does to you isn’t the best idea but it doesn’t mean all curiosity is bad.

To me there are two types of curiosity.

Number one is the urge to question things- not just take everything at blond face value and when it comes to working with clients I think that’s really important. Never just nod and smile and walk away, ask why, ask how, ask how long… it’s important to understand requirements and motivations fully so you get things right first time for your clients.

Number two is your natural urge to learn and develop. Be curious about topics someone else is passionate about and don’t be ashamed to admit you know next to nothing. I recently started reading about the history of mathematics because I met someone who made it sound interesting and it’s not something I’ve ever thought about before! Always be curious about topics, new ideas, different subjects.

See, I don’t think curiosity is a bad thing. And neither, by the way, does that much maligned cat. The other half of that saying, not oft used is: and satisfaction bought it back.

Curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction bought it back…

Satisfy that curiosity and do something great!


“You don’t seem the type”

I have tattoos, 3 of them, they’re quite simple line images and quotes that I love but they’re still there and 9 out of 10 people who find this out (as they’re not overly visible most of the time) say the same thing- “you don’t seem the type”.

This always confuses me. What type don’t I seem, the type to have tattoos or the type to be passionate enough about something that I’m happy to ink my skin? I always smile nicely, murmur something noncommittal and change the subject.

The truth is that although people’s preconceptions irk me slightly they play to my advantage. Those preconceptions are what allow people to underestimate me and that’s when I can have the most fun and often, the most influence.

I’ve been into negotiations where people have assumed I’m just the mouthpiece, not the decision maker, and invariably I’ve got a much better deal because of it. I’ve been in pitches where people have assumed I don’t understand manufacturing or logistics and I’ve got great concessions because of it.

I’m not for one minute suggesting I pretend to be something I’m not, I just don’t correct people who make their minds up before knowing me. I try not to do the same, I’m always open to people and what they can do- sometimes that’s a great thing and sometimes it’s a let down but I’d rather be like that than underestimate someone.

Just a thought for a Saturday night. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to research tattoo number 4!