Truth Telling From The Trenches With Virtual A Team Founder Nicole Bandes
Nicole Bandes is the founder and CEO of Virtual A Team, a virtual services and online business management agency that provides service-based solopreneurs the team they need to overcome their addiction to doing it all. Nicole has spent over 20 years building businesses as was an early adopter of online marketing techniques. She uses her extensive knowledge and expertise to help her clients and team members succeed in their businesses. Nicole's clients will tell you she is great at communication, extremely productive and knows a lot of different shit. And that's all mostly true!
She happily resides between the labels of every personality assessment tool she's ever taken. This provides her with a unique perspective on the world. If there's one thing Nicole could never give up it is the ability to learn something new every day. She actively reads 10 to 15 different websites and newsletters each week and listens to 8 to 12 podcasts on small business topics. Her son has given her the title of Queen of Analogies because she has a way of explaining things that help people understand.
Nicole has been a featured expert in Inc Magazine, Fast Company, Huffington Post, USA Today and many more.
Where is your business located?
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My productivity coaching clients were telling me they needed a clone. One day, one of them said to me, "You are so good at everything, can't you just do this work for me?" What I realized was that I could have my TEAM do the work on behalf of the clients and manage the process for them. That was the beginning of Virtual A Team.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
I turn on my computer, make coffee and feed my two dogs. Then I might get in a little exercise while listening to podcasts.
What does your work day look like and how do you maximize your productivity?
This is an expert area for me. I've spent many years studying this and have realized it is an ever-evolving system. Currently, I break up my week into blocks so that each day has a specific focus. I generally focus on working with my team on Mondays, with my clients on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on (and in) my business on Thursdays and Fridays. Even within a given day, I break up the time to reflect when my brain is best suited for a specific task. For me, mornings are great for creative time while afternoons are better for meetings. I usually take a break around 3 for an hour or two and then put in another couple of hours after that.
How do you bring your great business ideas to the world to serve your clients?
I primarily depend on word-of-mouth and social media for my marketing efforts at this time. However, I'm always trying new things to see what works. It allows me to experiment on my own business so I can make recommendations for my clients' businesses.
What is one trend in business that excites you?
The trend towards virtual services, of course, is very appealing to me. I think more and more professionals are leaning towards this kind of work model rather than working for an employer.
What is one strategy that helped you grow your business?
Networking. Long before I started Virtual A Team, I had been networking actively. Because of these efforts, I have a large network that simply needed to be introduced to the new business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Only one? I embrace failure and find it is essential to growth. One failure I did experience was spending far too many years without recruiting a team. I argued that I had more time than money and it made sense for me to do everything on my own to save a few bucks. The result was that I spent a LOT more time implementing and used it as an excuse to not get out and make the contacts I needed to. I was too busy working on the details to talk to prospects. Had I simply taken the time to work with other people to create the things I was creating, I would have been "forced' to prioritize making calls and talking to prospects.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to this community?
Be sure to have a contract in place for any work you perform with freelancers. This contract should outline the scope of work, terms and conditions.
What is the best $100 you have recently spent? on What? Why?
Hiring a team to create a lead magnet for my newsletter. You can't own your contacts on social media so it's important to grow your newsletter list and a powerful lead magnet is a great resource for doing this.
What is one piece of software or app that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Teamwork Projects - This is my go-to for managing my team and client projects. I have my own team folder set up that includes recurring projects and a procedures manual to train my team.
Evernote - I use this with IFTTT.com to store articles I want to read.
SmarterQueue.com - This is my social media scheduler. Everyone should use a tool like this to batch work.
What is the best business book you have read? Why?
Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden - If I had written a book on productivity, this is the book I would have written.
What is your favorite quote?
My list of favorites is ever changing depending on where I am at any given moment. However, I think the one that inspires me the most on a consistent basis is one I came up with many years ago. "Sometimes the best gifts come wrapped in ugly paper. We just have to be willing to open the paper and look inside." I shared that with a dear friend whose son was battling an addiction to heroin and I was trying to help him see there's good in even the ugliest of situations. Little did I know it would become my mantra when I lost my own son in a car crash.
Who inspires you in business and why?
My husband. Day in and day out he does what it takes.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
I don't believe in work-life balance. I find there is more benefit in striving for harmony. There will always be cycles when we are more focused on work and cycles when we are more focused on life. Find the cycle that works for you and let go of the guilty of how you think it is supposed to be.
What are the 3 business lessons you’ve learned so far?
Build a list.
Find that happy place between what people want, need, are willing to pay for and what you love to do. It doesn't always look like what you thought it would when you started.
What is your workspace like?
I have my own office in my home. It has the things I treasure the most and a door I can close so I can stay focused when I need to. I tend to keep it clutter free on a weekly basis but not on a daily basis.
Last thing you do at the end of your work day?
Review to make sure there are no more fires that need to be addressed and check my calendar for the next day.
What is the one thing you can't leave home without?
Clothes. Really, there's nothing I can't leave home without for a short period of time. I've built my business to be able to check out now and then.
What superpower would you love to have to use for good?
Mind reading. I would really love to be able to share with people what is truly in the hearts and minds of others rather than what is assumed...
Number of unread emails right now?
Anything else you want to add?
I spent a lot of years trying to "do what I love" and struggling with what that was supposed to look like. Once I let go of the HOW, I opened myself up to opportunities I could never see before.
How can other entrepreneurs connect with you?
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/theVirtualATeam/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/smallbizsuccessbyvat/ Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicolebandes/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/nicolebandes Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virtualateam/
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