Company: Go Virtual
Owner: Marlo S. Zappley
Niche: Online office support
Web site: www.govirtualservices.com
Marlo Zappley has a thing for the Internet.
She earned an online degree in communications from the University of Maryland and later an online masters degree in human resources. She’s now working on an MBA – online, of course.
So when the Philadelphia native launched her own business last year, she settled on a model that relies on the magic of the Internet.
Go Virtual is a home-based business that provides office and administrative support to small business owners and individuals. Zappley’s specialty is the insurance industry, but she works with companies in a range of fields.
After seven years in the insurance industry, Zappley launched the business in part, she said, to gain more control over her work-life balance.
“I made a conscious decision I’m going to work for me,” she told Qcitymetro.com. “This is going to be Marlo’s show. No more working for that person who’s going to demand my time and tell me when to work, what hours to work, how much I’m worth. I feel like I have too much education, too much work experience and too much knowledge to allow that to happen.”
Zappley said she started the business part-time, doing administrative work for a former boss. She now takes on clients based on an hourly rate or by the project.
“With the economy being what it is, the goal of my company is to help businesses increase productivity as well as decrease staffing costs and reduce the costs of training and overhead,” she said. “The goal of Go Virtual is to help the business owner save money.”
Q. What services do you provide?
I have several categories, anything from faxing and typing to photocopying. I also provide sales and marketing support, which would be lead generation, marketing calls, sales letters, any kind of office support that a small business owner would need. Every client is different. Every need is different, so it’s individualized service.
Q. How did you come up with the concept?
I met someone who owns a virtual assistant company here in Charlotte. I met her at a hair salon when I first moved to Charlotte three years ago. She had written a book about virtual assistants. I was able to proof-read one of the chapters, and I was like, ‘Wow! What a wonderful concept.’ So I took the concept she already had and developed it into my own specialized area.
Q. Is this a competitive business?
There’s a wealth of information online about virtual assistants. In India it’s like a bidding war for virtual assistants’ services, from Web site design to administrative services and data entry. Whatever function you would need, it’s out there on the Internet. For me, I want to get my name out there to the public and the local community. It starts with where you are right now, building relationships and building referrals.
Q. You’ve been at it for a year now. How is business?
Right now I have two clients. It fluctuates. You may have a project today and no project tomorrow. My goal is to get steady clients where it’s an ongoing relationship. But with the economy, it’s hard. A client’s needs might change. It’s one of those thing where you have to keep building your client base and having leads in the pipeline.
Q. Who would be an ideal client for your business?
Someone who is open-minded to having an assistant and is basically hands-off. Someone who can trust that the work will be done, but it might not be done from 8 to 5. It might be done from 11 to midnight. Someone who’s open to communication.
Q. What’s been the hardest part?
As with any business, the biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to market my business. You want to get a return on your investment. It’s figuring out what’s going to work for you. I do marketing on the Internet, though pay-per-clicks. My ads come up on Goggle and other Internet search engines, and if someone clicks on the ad, I pay for that. I also network. I have a goal where I’m networking at least once a week. You have to be creative.
Q. What’s been the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Underestimating myself. I’ve found myself to be overwhelmed when the calls start coming. Things have started to jump quicker than I expected. You have to balance work and life and family and school. My friends have been a great support for me, and they have confidence in me that the business will be successful.
Q. What attributes would a person need to be good at this business?
They definitely would have to have great time-management skills and be self-motivated and goal-oriented. You have to know what direction you want your company to go in. When you start getting calls and you start marketing yourself, it can get overwhelming, so you have to have a strategic plan. Someone might call who needs help with event planning, and you might want to take that client, but if you don’t know the first thing about event planning you have to say no. You don’t want to take a client just to get the money.
Q. Where do you see the company long-term, say in five years?
I want to be like a virtual staffing agency. My goal is to outsource work to other virtual assistants, because I can take on only so many tasks. That’s where I see my business, and I see that happening in less than a year. It obviously will grow, but there is a demand for it. With the economy and the downturn, this is a great way to save money. Or, it’s just a great way for a business owner to free up some time. It’s like a gift of time to yourself.
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