- My background
I’ve always worked in admin. I started working part-time in a Call Centre when I was quickly shoe-horned into an admin role; a task that was originally covered by three people, but due to cuts etc was then just covered by me. After creating processes to support 20 field Managers, 100 showrooms nationwide, and 4 Directors; I quickly got the admin-buzz of delivering a great service and helping and supporting the team.
My role went from strength to strength and grew as I took on more tasks varying in nature, and enjoyed the work.
After maternity leave, I was offered a position in the Customer Service division – and always up for a challenge and learning new things, I accepted.
I had a team of fitters who I coordinated for – scheduling their work diary, liaising with customers, and resolving issues and problems. This was often like a puzzle – coordinating transport deliveries, parts to be manufactured, and availability for both the fitter and the customer. I quickly stepped into leading a team and supporting their development, skills and learning – a task I took great joy in.
In 2014 our family relocated from the Midlands to Norfolk; the company I worked for made me an office in the Regional Service Centre so I could continue working and supporting the team, albeit remotely; this worked for 6 months, however, I felt I couldn’t support the team fully with not being there in person, and so it was decided the role was best fulfilled on-site in the Midlands.
Just before and after maternity leave with my third child, I worked for a local wine distributor processing their admin tasks of an evening; this worked really well for us as a family as it meant I could be with the children all day, and my husband would get home from work, we’d have a quick dinner together, and I’d zip out to work – returning home around 10.30pm.
It was during this time that I started to plan, hope and dream – wouldn’t it be great to have a business that works so well around the children. As my employment was in the evening, during nap times during the day I started to volunteer to a charity doing some of their admin tasks, to see how this gig could work.
Weeks and months passed and I started doing more and more work – got all the legal stuff in place with registering the business, and gained my first few clients.
It didn’t feel like a ‘real job’ – just something I did whilst the baby was settled, and whilst everyone else was out at school and work. I was seeing the difference my support was making to these few small businesses, and I wanted to help more – support more businesses, which in turn supports myself and my family. So in June 2018 – I took the plunge.. took the big leap of leaving the security and safety of my employed part-time role, to step things up and give Jen Sands VA my full attention. My daughter then started school in September 2019 – which meant I had more time freed up to step up another level, grow things more, and see how things could develop.
I’m now at a stage where I’ve got 2.5 (ha!) team members and am absolutely loving delivering services and supporting a bunch of small businesses to grow themselves.
2. Why I became a VA
When I was young, my Mum was a sales Manager which at that time meant she was in the office 12 hours a day; my Dad was a self-employed financial advisor; running his business from his home office, and having client meetings around the school runs and after school clubs. My sister and I would get in the car at pick up and he’d give us the thumbs up and finger on lips which meant “sssshhhhh, he’s on a work call”…
Yes, we had to be quiet on the journey whilst he finished up – yes there was the time when he was cooking our tea, went to the office to answer a quick work call, got completely lost in the call which resulted in a chip pan fire.. (ha! Eek!!) – but, he was always there at the school gate, he was there at sports day, at the class assembly, he was able to work whilst taking us to the park, and he had a mobile phone and a laptop, which in 1995 was like wooooaaaahhhh how cool is that!
Anyway – I became a VA because
- I LOVE all things admin
- I love to see the difference my support gives to these small businesses
- I can adapt things and work flexibly around my family.
3. Favourite place in Norfolk
The seaside. The Norfolk coastline is just wonderful. So many places to discover, experience, so much to do – even in the colder months we go for a walk up and down the shoreline, run the dog, bag of chips – love it. My favourite currently is Walcott – we’ve had many day trips and holidays at Heacham, Bacton, Cromer –
Hunstanton was where we used to visit regularly before we moved to Norfolk – it’s actually where Ry proposed to me, in the café on the corner.. if you know you know!
4. My (not-so) secret passion
I LOVE to play netball. I always played at school – played for the year above, the County, the regional clubs – loved it. In 2015 I was playing in Norwich, and tore my ACL. 11 months of physio that wasn’t the answer later, and I went for reconstructive surgery – however because it was so severe, both meniscus were torn too.. so it was a long hard recovery in all – this also brought along fear of returning to the sport – what if it happened again?
But – we have to push through the fear, right? I went back to my team in September 2021 – and it was the best decision ever. I play twice a week in Norwich – and just love it. The group of ladies I play with are all fantastic – and it’s such great fun, and something that’s just for me.
I play various positions.. wherever I’m needed on the night really! My top three positions are GS, GK and WA.
5. Yes, I help Ry with his admin.
My husband is a carpenter, with his own business and yes, I help with the admin, quotes, confirmations, invoices – overall book-keeping. During lockdown, he built us the most amazing den in the garden. It has a deck and barbecue area at the front – in the Summer it really is an extension to the house. It has a TV, WiFi, dartboard, and a home gym!
6. I LOVE to cook
The children don’t enjoy my jazzy meals so they’re mostly for Ry and I. As a family, our favourite to have altogether is a roast dinner. Lots of love for a roast dinner. I enjoy experimenting with a curry, or Mexican night. I also love to make a good lasagna – lots of veggie packs in, always better the second day.
7. I may have an unhealthy stationery obsession
I just sent Bettie to count… 18 notebooks on my shelf!!
I started by every client having their own notebook – so everything was together when we’d have meeting the notes would carry on etc.
I also enjoyed choosing a notebook per client to match them, their personality, and their business.
With recent clients where more and more is noted and structured using online management systems, these aren’t needed as much I suppose.. but I do love to put pen to paper and keep notes together during meetings and for longer term projects.
(I also LOVED designing this notebook a couple of years ago with a wonderful fellow and local small business Mel Made Stationery.)
If you’ve read this far, aren’t put off by my quirks and need some help in your business; then get in touch.