This article first appeared in the Norfolk Director Magazine Summer 2022.
I was a Personal Assistant (PA) who had enjoyed working in London but had moved back to work in East Anglia. This inspired me to find a different work/life balance. I sought something other than the 9-to-5 constraints, whilst still doing a demanding yet fulfilling role where effort was appreciated.
The lightbulb moment came when I read about the budding virtual assistant industry in the USA and how it helped experienced PAs to start their own business. I saw the advantages would appeal to others – it was a business model that was particularly attractive to women. They could earn a good income and enjoy flexibility, whilst working for professional clients who appreciated their efforts. The seeds of Bay Tree VA were sown.
Fourteen years later, the Bay Tree team is made up entirely of women but not specifically by design – it is just that 98% of PAs happen to be female. Bay Tree will continue to be relevant for anyone with the professional characteristics we look for in team members, who want to improve their work/life balance.
Vanguard of remote working
Remote working was viewed suspiciously before 2020, although we were at the vanguard of this way of working as virtual assistants. I would spend a lot of time educating business owners and employers about how it worked successfully. The people who chose to do it were as professional and dedicated – often more so – than those employed in the office. One of the pandemic’s legacies has been to bring remote working into mainstream conversation, even though it is not suitable for everyone.
Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying: “Your legacy is every life you’ve touched.” A friend recently described my role as being one of ‘chief liberator’. It made me reflect on those who have seen Bay Tree as the catalyst to change their lifestyle for the better. Bay Tree is the route that provides flexibility, independence and support to those who want to use their experience and capability, for a new chapter in their lives.
Primarily, I’ve focussed on legacy in terms of our team. But, of course, it is also a win-win for our clients, who benefit from a smarter resourcing model. We provide a calibre of assistance usually associated with blue-chip companies, but which is now available to SME businesses. By having a trusted assistant to delegate to, clients are free to concentrate on what they do best, gaining headspace to plan and take their business forward. It also relieves pressure, which benefits their home lives.
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Who knows what our ultimate legacy will be? Bay Tree still has a lot of potential to realise. By nature, I’m always looking ahead. But writing this article has forced me to reflect on what we’ve achieved so far, and for that, I’m grateful. Jane