Today I'm interviewing the fabulous Lisa Russell. Lisa runs Liruss, which is a virtual business services agency which specialises in UK-based VAs.
So Lisa, tell us a little bit about what you do and for who.
So, as you mentioned, we're a Virtual Assistant Agency. We're a team of five VAs and we support small business owners, service-based business owners, with lots of ambition to grow. We support them with admin and social media, primarily.
What has been your biggest success over the last 12 months? Because, let's face it, it's been a bit of an interesting time.
So, at the start of the pandemic we lost a couple of customers. They were biggies as well, so it really hurt, and we've come back fighting. We've doubled our team in size and we’re just growing and growing, which is brilliant. We count our blessings.
"We've doubled our team in size..."
So how hard has it been to bring people into a team during this time? You know, is it difficult to get the right people? Has it been challenging, or has it been quite straight forward?
When we put an advert out, we got loads of applicants. And I think that is, unfortunately, due to the current climate. There's a lot of people looking for work. I guess the area that we're really blessed is everybody kind of has to work virtually. So that goes in our favour.
For us, it's about finding the right people and the right people that fit with the team.
Our team work amazingly well together. We all really bounce off each other, which is nice, but it's finding people that want more than a job. They want to come to work to support small business owners, to grow their business. And they genuinely get excited when that happens, and we see that growth.
So yes, it's a challenge, but the challenge actually is working through all of the CVS and sorting out the best in quality.
I get that. You want heart, don't you? You don't just want someone who wants to show up and do a job...
I'll teach people anything. Yes.
Okay, the biggest challenge then. What's really challenged you over the last 12 months?
Losing a lot of clients at the start of the pandemic and working our arses off to make sure that we continued supporting existing clients, making sure that they knew they had that flexibility of support, but also having faith that we'd come back fighting again. You know, we lose some customers but inevitably we always get more.
We just want to help our clients.
What's been really nice, actually, is that we've had a couple that did stop using us, temporarily, and we've just kept in contact. And now they're using us again which is really, really nice. They've just worked out how to pivot and they've come back, so it's really nice.
I got a text message last night - and these are the text messages I love getting. I won't share all of it because I'd be bleeping some stuff out, but it basically says, "I hope I don't disturb you and that your phone is on silent," it was a late night text. "But BBB is working its magic again. Four new clients signed contracts this week and four are letting me know this week or next. We had no pipeline last week." And then there are a few expletives and lots of emojis.
These are the texts that make my day, completely.
It's a tough journey being a business owner, right? We're very emotional. I'm very emotional as a business owner. When things go wrong, I panic. You and I share a lot of similarities about how we tackle things, which is to freak out!
So, let's talk about that because there was a moment when you panicked. You were worried that you weren't going to recover the losses, you know? So what we tend to do in those moments is grab anything. Anything that comes along, that we think can potentially fix the problem.
Yes, so as I said, I've been a member of BBB for almost two years now. We get a lot of value out of BBB. There is a lot of content that goes out every month. And, if I'm honest, it's really easy to get overwhelmed and try to take everything on all at one time. And it's learning how to filter what you need at which time.
Probably about two months ago now I had a huge wobble and decided that when we were losing business it was because I hadn't got enough of this, or I hadn't got enough of that. Maybe I needed one to one support, completely.
"We get a lot of value out of BBB..."
And so I'll be honest with you - and obviously you know this Tracey - I decided to leave BBB and to go and get a coach, which, at first, seemed brilliant - having that one-to-one time. But there were some fundamental pieces that were missing. I suddenly had no wider community. I suddenly lost what felt like my family, people that have grown with me for the last two years.
And I felt like I'd lost my right arm. I realised that BBB is very much focused on the mindset and overcoming real challenges as they're happening, but together.
It's really easy to take a bird's-eye view of someone's business and say, ‘All businesses should have this, this and this in place. And if you haven't, basically, what are you doing?’ And so, I spent a bit of time trying to look at my business as if it was just some big machine, if you like. And that was a huge mistake.
I didn't even get to the proper leaving BBB part, but my heart was out of it for a good month or two. I just went back with my tail between my legs and said, ‘Do you know what? I want my right arm back.’
And it's really nice. And within the past two weeks it's like a switch has been flicked and I've gone back to basics, focusing on sales again at the start of every day. I'm making that a priority and to always be selling which is always ingrained in you from BBB. Suddenly our pipeline's looking amazing. Like you said, we've taken on four new customers.
And I just remembered why I started and got that passion back again, which is really nice.
I'm really delighted that you shared that because I think it's a really important story. What I love about you, Lisa, is I don't think you fully appreciate your own power. You know, when you focus, when you leverage the basics, when you put your plans together, when you commit, it's like a parting of the waves. And we so often forget our own power, we so often forget what we are capable of when we're in this perpetual turmoil. So, you coming back to those basics and almost instantaneously seeing the fruits of your labour, for me it’s absolute music to my ears. Welcome back!
So, what then is your biggest piece of advice for business owners right now?
Do you know what? It's really easy to get complacent and think that if you've been doing something so long maybe you should try something new. But actually, I think if something works, and it really works, then stick with it is probably my biggest advice.
Lisa, it's been a total joy talking to you today. Thank you for sharing and being really open and honest about your journey. It's so important, I think for other people to hear that running a business is hard. It's harder than people think, but it's unbelievably rewarding and there are ways to make it so much easier, especially when you're surrounded by the right people and the right community.