Interview with Naomi
When you collaborate with a Virtual Assistant, you and the VA are making a commitment to the success of the partnership. To ensure you are starting a partnership with the right Virtual Assistant, you need to ask many questions. The VA in turn needs to ask just as many questions. As our partnership grows, my goal is to have you feel comfortable enough to let me handle most of your administrative needs.
Following are some great interview questions. I know there is a lot of information here; however, this will give you an in depth look at who I am and my business. By knowing me and my business from the outset, this allows us to fully focus on your business and your needs during our initial interview. (Though, I am sure you will still have a few questions to ask of your own. <smile>) I will probably ask similar questions about you and your business.
Please feel free to contact me today, so we might continue this interview in person.
How long have you been an assistant?
I have been in the Executive/Administrative Assistant field for 30+ years and have been a Virtual Assistant for the past 9 years. I have worked in varied industries, including insurance, premiums and promotions, government contracts in the transit and training industries, toys, celebrity business management, and government research and development. Each of these industries helped me to develop strong organizational and time management skills; great attention to detail and follow-through; the ability to juggle multiple tasks and handle deadlines efficiently; and to do everything with a strong sense of creativity.
My clients have ranged from coaches (life, sales, fertility, business, career), consultants, real estate brokers and agents, nutritionists, fashion stylists, and personal trainers. As you can see, I like variety!
Can you tell me a little bit about your computer equipment and software?
I work on a PC with a Windows 7 64-bit operating system, Intel(R) Core(TM)i7 CPU, 950 @ 3.07GHz, 6GB of RAM, 931GB hard drive, and a MyBook external hard drive with 931GB. (I backup to my external hard drive every week night.) I use Microsoft Office 2010 products. I also use Adobe products including Photoshop CS5 Extended, Acrobat Professional, InDesign CS4. I design my websites in Expression Web 4.0. I also use Camtasia Studio 8, Sonic Pro, Audacity, SmartDraw 2009. I can provide digital transcription with Express Scribe.
Speaking of new software, what if I asked you to use a piece of software you presently do not have? How would you handle this?
If the software is something I would be able to use with other clients, current or future, the expense of the software would be mine. I would also not charge for the learning curve. However, if the software is something, which is specific to your business only, and I would never use it with another client, then the expense of the software would be yours. I would also charge for the learning curve. Please note; my learning curve is usually very short. I can guarantee that with most software packages I can build an intermediate knowledge of the software within a week (40 hours).
This holds true for any new skill set I need to add to my business. If the skill set is specific to your business only, I expect compensation for the learning curve. If the skill set is something I will use with current or future clients, I bill only for half the time of the learning curve.
How do you connect to the Internet?
I have broadband cable service through Earthlink and Time Warner.
When we work together, how should I contact you?
I think it is important that we speak on the phone at least once a week. Even if it is just to say a quick hey, hi, hello there! Aside from our weekly phone call, I prefer my clients to contact me first via e-mail, Skype message, then by telephone.
If you have never worked in my field of expertise, how will you be able to provide support?
First, I love challenges; I do not see this as an obstacle. Because of corporate downsizing, and moves between states, I have had various positions throughout my career. I usually walked into a new position, within a new industry, with little or no knowledge of that industry. Ninety-five percent of the time, within a month’s time someone would say, “You’ve only been here a month? It feels like you have been here five or six months. You seem to know how everything is run!” The other statement I would hear quite often is, “Go ask Naomi, she will know the answer.”
Here is a fact everyone knows about me; I’m not SHY! If I don’t know the answer, I will ask questions and do research until I find the answer. Here is the gold for you; when you work with me, you not only get access to my knowledge, you get access to the knowledge of hundreds of other VA’s. As I network within the VA industry, and with other business professionals outside of the VA community, I build my resource pool of individuals whose services I can highly recommend. This, in turn, builds your resource pool.
How do you like to work? What is your style?
I have completed the Myers-Briggs Assessment three times. The first time I scored as an E (Extraversion) N (Intuition) F (Feeling) J (Judging), the second time I was both an ENFJ and ENFP (Perception), and the last test I scored as an ENFP. If you know anything about Myers-Briggs, it means I am an enthusiastic person. I love new challenges, have a lot of imagination, and enjoy taking the initiative. Since I walk a fine line between the J and P, this is actually beneficial to my clients. I know how to set up systems, plan, and schedule my day. I know how to complete tasks and make quick decisions. I can do this, and still be spontaneous and open-ended. I may have something meticulous planned out; however, if my client throws a wonderfully fantastic idea into the scheme of things, I can quickly see how it will make our plans even better, and rearrange whatever I need to rearrange.
What are your greatest strengths?
My greatest strengths are honesty, integrity, creativity, diligence, and fortitude. You can always feel secure that when I say something I am speaking from the heart, I am being honest, and I will do what I say I can do.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
Since I get so enthusiastic about new projects, I sometimes can over extend myself. When I over extend myself, I do not get enough sleep, which makes me more sensitive and emotional. I have set up safety nets to help myself from going into over extension. The first is I stick to my business hours; the second is I schedule fun and personal time, and the last is I try to have quiet time each day.
Who is your ideal client?
I love working with people who are creative, fun, have a positive attitude, and think outside the box. I don’t have a specific niche because I believe variety is definitely the spice of life. I like people who are honest, trustworthy, and organized. I like working with individuals who see me as an equal who brings a different skill set to the table. They are open to hearing my ideas and suggestions. Ultimately, it is the client’s business, and he or she has the final say; however, I still would like to have the opportunity to share my thoughts.
What kind of partnership do you expect to have with your clients?
My goal is to have long-lasting, open and honest business relationships with clients. I now have clients going into their seventh, eigth, and ninth year of partnership! I enjoy relationships in which everyone is excited about the growth of their businesses. I am not interested in handling one-time only projects. If you only need a quick letter typed, you need a secretarial service, not a Virtual Assistant. I am interested in learning about you and your business, and providing administrative services that help you have the time and space needed to achieve and maintain the lifestyle you desire.
Are there any services you do not provide?
I do not personally provide any bookkeeping or accounting services. I am not a numbers crunching type of gal. I’ll do it for my business because I have to; however, for someone else <scrunching up nose>. Actually, this answer can probably go with the ideal client question. If you are an accountant, or your business needs are extremely heavy on the numbers-crunching end, I am not the right VA for you. (However, I may have a client who needs your services!)
What associations/organizations do you belong to, and do you have any certifications?
I graduated from AssistU in December 2002. I was a member of the Hornet's Nest Toastmasters club and achieved my ATM-B (Advanced Toastmaster Bronze).
I was the President of the Summerfield Townhome Homeowners Association Board 2006-2007. I did not run again in 2008 due to my father passing. I was re-elected to the Board in 2010 for a three-year term and currently hold the position as President.
I am a former member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). I belonged to the Charlotte Chapter in North Carolina. I was the chapter's “Charlotte Connections” Newsletter Editor and Webmaster 2002-2004. I won the North Carolina Division (NCD) 2003 Best in State for the newsletter, and a brochure I developed for the Charlotte Chapter. I was also the North Carolina Division (NCD) Webmaster 2003-2005.
Let’s get to some of the basic business stuff; what are your business hours?
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday.
What if I have an emergency rush job after your business hours?
I normally like a 24 – 48 hour turnaround time, depending on the project. As I stated before, I stick to my business hours; however, if the client and I have built a great relationship, and emergency rush jobs are a rarity, I will make an occasional exception.
I am on the West coast, is that going to cause a problem since you are on the East coast?
Not really, it would simply be a matter of setting up systems to work around it. It could actually be a benefit in some cases. Think of it, before you leave the office for the day, you send me five e-mails with questions, letters to review, and an hour-long digital transcription. The following day, while you are getting out of bed, taking a shower, and eating breakfast, I am busy working on your five e-mails. When you sit down at your computer at 8:00 a.m. PST, you have four reply e-mails from me, the questions have been answered, the letters reviewed, edited and corrected. A fifth e-mail lets you know I should have your transcription transcribed, edited, formatted, and back to you by 9:00 a.m. Pacific.
Do you have a contract?
I have a Policies and Procedures Agreement that I use for my business. This helps my clients have a clear understanding of what my policies and procedures are, and how I operate my business.
What are your rates?
All rates are billed in one-minute increments. There is a three tiered retainer system for my Virtual Assistant Services. You can read the full details here.
What kind of payments do you accept?
Credit cards through PayPal (you can also set up electronic bill pay through some banks).
Okay, last question. Is there anything else you would like your clients to know about you?
I have a great sense of humor (at least I think it is great!). I love cats. This doesn’t mean I don’t love dogs; cats are simply easier to care for. I love to paint, which I am now getting back into. I also love to read. I usually have three to four books going at a time. The movies, we can't forget going to the movies every weekend.
In addition, here are two of the funniest things about me. I have a sneeze that could break windows. No, I’m serious, I knocked myself off my feet one time. So if I tell you I am about to sneeze, it probably would be a good idea to move the phone away from your ear. The other is my laugh. I am talking about the gut wrenching; bring tears to your eyes type of laugh. My laugh is a cross between a braying donkey and a laughing hyena, with a snorkel thrown in on rare occasions. Hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself! <BIG GRIN>