What I’ve learnt from starting a business in the midst of a global pandemic – by Marie Peters

So, it’s October of 2019, when I realise the dawn of a new decade is approaching – and 2020 would mark the 10 year anniversary of working for the same company. It really got me thinking; do I want to be here, doing this for another 10 years? The answer was no, so I did something about it. For me, this was a huge leap of faith. I’ve worked in the media industry for my whole career since I was 18. It’s all I’ve ever known and those 20 years (OMG!) – as clichéd as it sounds have gone by in a flash.

I started to build the foundations for Get Ahead VA – West Surrey in Jan 2020. Things were really starting to pick up and I was excited about where things were going when…BAM! The covid-19 pandemic hit, business shut down and the world felt like it was stopping.

Now, we’re well into the lockdown and although times are undeniably tough for a lot of people, I feel much more positive and am still glad I made the leap to work for myself. This is what I’ve learnt…

Trust your instincts and go for it

The reasons I went for it and invested in the Get Ahead VA franchise are more important now than ever. As a virtual agency, we are accustomed to providing flexible business & marketing support to small businesses, and flexible working opportunities for talented virtual assistants & freelancers who want more balance in their work and home lives. I have long been an advocate for flexible working and I believe that the 9 5 is outdated; this has been proven by the way we are having to work as a result of Covid 19… when and how it is best for the individual.

I can still talk about our services and the ‘why’ we do what we do authentically and passionately. I am hopeful that as and when we finally start to come out the other side of this crisis, the way we provide our services and our way of working will be more valued than ever.

Valuable connections are so important

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” Some of my first clients have been contacts I already had; people I’ve worked with in the past or friends of friends & colleagues. Don’t be afraid to connect with old contacts and promote your business you never know who might be looking for your services or be willing to recommend you.

I’ve discovered huge value in online networking; not just organised groups, coworking, or webinars, but engaging with LinkedIn content, messaging new connections and just being open to new people. I have made new Instagram ‘friends’ from DMs and chatted with potential new clients from Facebook groups. Put yourself out there and suggest a chat, you never know where it might lead!

Work with your strengths

I’ve spent some time thinking about transferable skills and how I am able to use my strengths in a different way.

I have accumulated a huge amount of knowledge from 20 years in the media & communications industry – I just never really had time to take stock of it! Going back to basics and being able to offer marketing support to small businesses has been really rewarding.

I’ve also tried to demonstrate my strengths outside of the business; I’ve been helping out with coordinating a small group of volunteers in our local area to help vulnerable people in the community. The feeling of achievement from teamwork and helping others is the same buzz you can get from a great day at work when you get that ‘YEAH!’ moment on your way home.

We’re in it together!

One of the great things I have felt from this time is the amazing sense of community and I really feel that from the small business world; there is a feeling of ‘we are all in it together’ and helping each other out as much as possible. Everyone I have connected with has been more open, authentic, and personable. People have their kids, dogs, partners, flatmates at home with them and there’s no pretence anymore! Businesses are connecting on a much more personal level and that is so refreshing – People buy people after all and understanding that people do have lives behind the scenes makes everyone more relatable!

Being hit by an international crisis soon after starting a business was a tougher challenge than I expected to face. Fortunately, by following my instincts, nurturing the valuable connections I’ve made, and working with my strengths, I feel confident I can weather this storm. I’d love to hear from others in a similar position about their experiences. Please get in touch!

Marie Peters

Get Ahead VA

About Marie Peters

Marie is the West Surrey Regional Director for Get Ahead VA. Prior to this she enjoyed a succcessful 15+ years working for global media agencies progressing from media planning and buying to operations focused management roles. Her areas of expertise are digital media and marketing; and business operations. Get Ahead VA specialise in helping businesses of all sizes and from all sectors get ahead; by freeing you up from the day-to-day running of your business you can focus on taking it to the next level.