BUILD THE BUSINESS YOU WANT

Interview with Lisa Russell

- I'm joined today by the fabulous Lisa Russell. Lisa runs Liruss, which is a virtual business services agency which specialises in UK-based VAs.  

Welcome, Lisa, lovely to talk to you today. 

- Hello. Thank you for having me. 

- You're very welcome. I'm very excited.  

We're going to do four things today. We're going to give Lisa a moment to share a bit more about who she is, what she does and for who. Then we're going to talk about Lisa's biggest success over the last 12 months, her biggest challenge and the one piece of advice that she would give business owners right now.  

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. 

- Fabulous. So, I've used your services and they are superb, and I know lots of other people that have used your services as well. So I can definitely vouch for the quality of services that you bring. 

So let's dive straight into it. 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. 

- That's fantastic. 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. And you and I are definitely recruiting from the same pool. 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. 

- I get that.  

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 we'd come back fighting again. You know, we lose some customers but inevitably we always get more. 

- I think this is something that comes with maturity. When you start your business in those early days, losing a client is a catastrophe. And, don't me wrong, I've been running my business 11 years and it still cuts me to the core. But when we lose a client when we're starting out, it feels like a catastrophe, and it feels like something you don't overcome. Then you realise that, okay, that customer went but there is a new customer. And you start to understand that running a business is a cyclical thing.  

You've got the seasons, you've got the entire year, you've obviously got the madness that's just ensued over the last 15 months. Everything creates cycles.  

I remember, as a club, it all kicked off in March last year. March to May was really tricky for a lot of businesses but the ones that we helped to stand strong pretty much made up what they lost in June, which was incredible.  

Given that it was almost two and a half months where the world just came to a grinding halt, to make that up in June was pretty incredible.  

But it's hard when you can't predict the future. It's really hard when you're sitting here to remember that it's cyclical - it's going to come back and it's going to be all right. We just need to stand fast with the basics. 

- And I think our businesses are really similar as well in that we get really close to our clients. We really get to know them. 

- We love them. We love them with all our heart. 

- When they're scared, we're scared for them, and we just want to help them out of it. And 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.  

You're right about us getting emotionally connected with our clients, right? These are the texts that make my day, completely.  

Let's just talk about that because 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. 

But let's talk about just coming back to basics and what that means for you, Lisa. 

- 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.  

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. 

- All right, do you know what? I've got little goosebumps. I wasn't going to share the detail and I'm really delighted that you have because I think it's a really important story. And you know, 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 tthose 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. 

- I think that's great. For me, I think about simple things, even like lifestyle stuff like meditation. You do your meditation for a period of time, you start to feel better and then you bloody stop doing it! And actually, it's those basics over the long term that fundamentally give you the result.  

Lisa, it's been a total joy talking to you today. I've had so much fun. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for 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. 

Thanks for taking the time, Lisa, today. It's been a joy! 

- Thank you!  

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