Before You Hire A(nother) VA You Might Want To Try An Agency With Sadie Prestridge
TRANSCRIPT AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED [00:00:00] Hey, hey, today's guest, Sadie Prestridge, built her VA business as a side hustle, then went full time, and finally she ran out of capacity. So she built an agency that now provides systems structure and day to day support to CEOs. So if you have a VA or you're thinking of hiring one, a VA agency might be an alternative for you to consider. Hey, Sadie, welcome to the show. Sadie: Thank you. I'm so excited to be. Diane: So let's start with a little bit about you and your business. Sadie: Yeah, so I'm Sadie Prestridge and I own Prestridge and Co. We are a virtual assistant agency. We help overwhelmed online CEOs focus on serving their clients and growing a thriving, profitable business. And we do this by providing custom, high touch support with administrative organization and projects, as well as streamlining your business systems and taking responsibility for the day to day tasks so that you can stay in your zone of genius. Diane: Oh, that sounds lovely. My first question was gonna be, why should I hire a va? But I feel like we've covered that. So let's take it back to the beginning of this journey. Like when should somebody be thinking, Okay, I need a. Sadie: Yeah, that's a great question. So I always say we want to hire proactively, not reactively. So don't wait until you're in the middle of a launch and you're like, Oh, it would've been really great if someone were to be here to answer these questions and onboard these people. So let's proactively hire. And be thinking about what's coming up for you in the next quarter. You know, are, are you easily onboarding and off boarding clients? Like, are people really easily coming to wanting to work with you, wanting to. You know, do all of those things. You know, maybe you're starting to onboard two to five clients a month. Things are picking up, you're being booked on podcasts. Your social media is picking up, you're, maybe you're starting a podcast yourself, or you're wanting to launch something in the next couple of quarters, or maybe just your inbox is getting really full and you're struggling to manage that while also staying in your zone of [00:02:00] genius and bringing in more clients and booking more sales calls. So for me, some of those things that are starting to happen for. Means it's time to hire a virtual assistant because the minute that you are no longer able to stay in your zone of genius with the marketing and being like the, the front facing CEO booking more sales calls, the minute that those things start to feel stressful because you're doing so much on the other side, it's time to hire. Diane: Yeah, I like that. I think that's a really clear message for people, because in some ways a VA is a bit like a status symbol to a newer business owner, right? It's like, Oh, I've arrived at the point where I now need Sadie: Mm-hmm. Diane: But they often don't think through, Do I actually need help? And if I do need help, what do I need help with? Sadie: Mm-hmm. Diane: look for those key indicators of your capacity being infringed on in your zone of genius in their sales and marketing role in that CEO role. Sadie: Yeah, exactly. Diane: okay, now I've seen these indicators and I'm like, Okay, I need help up. Why go the VA route? Why go the VA agency route? What is the difference between the two and what does one give me versus the. Sadie: Yeah, so obviously I'm gonna be biased to the agency cause that's what I have. But I was a virtual assistant myself for two years, so I've done both. I'm a CEO for VA agency. I've been doing that for two years. I was a virtual assistant for two years. If you're wanting to go the root of hiring your own va, you're going to need to be super clear on what you need, like you yourself, because if you go to an agency, I'm gonna be able to pull it out of you like I know what you need based on your business model, your niche, where you're at in business. I'm gonna be able to ask all of the questions and then tell you like, Okay, great. This is what you need and this is the type of VA you need and this, and I'm gonna pair you with that right Fit versus a virtual assistant on their own. Who is either newer or doesn't have some of those like skills and experience, they're not gonna [00:04:00] know. And so you might go out and and interview someone and you're like, Okay, like what can you do for me? And they're like, Well, what do you need? And you're like, Well, I don't know. I'm asking. I want you to tell me. And so that's a big. A big reason to go agency versus VA is I've worked with dozens of different types of online business owners, and it's very easy for me to tell you based on what you've got going on and where you're overwhelmed, what is gonna be the best areas for the VA to step in and take over. And the other. Is systems. So you probably don't have systems in your business. If your first thought is like, I need a va. You know in your head what your business needs and how it works and how it runs, but your VA doesn't, and most VAs aren't systems oriented, so they're not gonna be able to step into your business, know everything that it needs, and know how to set up all the systems while also like taking things off of your plate. That's a lot to ask for one person, especially if you're hiring someone newer. Or someone who's only had one or two clients under their belt. And so with the agency, especially with my agency, we have a system specialist. I'm like, I'm in there in the weeds with your va, with your system specialist helping you get your system set up, making sure that we understand how to manage your inboxes, how to manage your calendar, how to onboard off board your clients. We're getting all of that out of your brain and then we are like creating those process. Training your BA on it and then getting everybody seamlessly transitioned into your company so that you are not having to try to do all of that and still do sales calls and market and podcasts and like be a human and take vacation and, and eat and sleep and do all of those things too, Diane: Eat and sleep. What a novel idea. So how do you find VAs for your agency? Aka, if we are not convinced on the agency model and we desperately won our own va, how do we. A really great va. Sadie: Oh yeah, that's a great question. So [00:06:00] I have a really pretty serious. Process. And it's so funny, my, I showed it to my husband, he's also a, he's a director in his company, and he said it would be easier to go and buy a gun than it would be to work for your company, . So I have obviously hired dozens of virtual assistants. I've seen the good and the bad. So I, I still believe in posting in Facebook groups to find VAs, but you need to be very clear in your, your job application and what your needs are in order to. A good va. So some of the things that I will see in applications that make me cringe a little bit is they'll say things like, You know, I just started my business a month ago and I don't have any clients, but I would love to like learn from, from your business and some of those things. And also the questions that you're asking them, it might be like, Why do you wanna work for this company? You know, red flags for me are like, Oh, I'm looking to. Like, get my feet wet or I'm looking to learn, or you'll be my first client. Like it, depending on where your business is. Those are things for me that I'm like, Okay, we, we need someone who's, who's gotten some clients into their belt. They've been in the online space, they've played around with different programs that, you know, clients are using and things like that. So those are some of the, the red flags. I also ask them to make me a Loom video because I wanna see like, Confident. Are they in a video? Are they stumbling? Like what? What's going on with that? Are they reading from a script? Because they are going to have to get on calls with clients and be face to face and be very confident and lead that client every week. So the client is feeling like they have that CEO support that they're looking for from their va. Diane: that even sounds like I really wanna have a business like yours one day and this is a really way good way for me to be a paid intern and figure out how it works and then go start my own. Yeah. Sadie: Yeah. Diane: So in, in my experience with VA friends and VAs that [00:08:00] I've been connected to, often it's a role that people will come to if they'll say they're leaving corporate, they're going, I've got these skills. They'll translate really nicely. It gives me a well rounded view, but very often they find a specialty that they love. And. Move on and niche down. And what I see that worries me in the entrepreneur space from the CEO side and I'm from the VA side, is this almost unrealistic expectation of the individual va, In that they are a quote unquote lifer, Sadie: Mm-hmm. Diane: they become highly reliant on their va. Not thinking about what is the growth plan for that person, ? That person might not want to just look after your email for the rest of their life. What do you look at, or what do you consider the term of a kind of VA relationship? Is it a couple of years? Is it five years? You know, within that one role, I mean, before they need to. Move into something else. Cause I think people might need a bit of that boundary. I know you said in your agency you have specialists in different things, so you're allowing for that specialism to happen. But if it's just you and your va, like I think it can be really tempting to just clutch onto this amazing support that you've got. How long are you gonna be able to clutch on? Sadie: Yeah. So, you know, and honestly I think the problem with virtual, the virtual assistant niche is. People kind of make it sound dirty if that's what you wanna do. Like if you quote unquote just wanna be a va, People frown on that and they're like, You don't wanna scale, You don't wanna become a business coach. You don't wanna like specialize. Like, no, I enjoy supporting clients in this way and I enjoy the time freedom it gives me, I enjoy the income it gives me. I enjoy the ability it gives me to be home with my kids Like that is perfectly okay. If you want to. A virtual system and you want to manage inboxes and do all of that. Diane: I think that also comes from the way Get A VA is [00:10:00] marketed to, not by VAs, but usually by the business coaching community, is marketed by all the stuff that you don't want to do. Hire this person and give it to. Sadie: Mm-hmm. Diane: Versus actually respecting that somebody is incredibly skilled at funnels or social or what it actually takes to be that executive level assistant to a CEO running a multimillion dollar company. So I just wanna throw that in there cuz I think you're right. I think people are like, Why don't you want to, That's the pressure from the VA side. But I do think a lot of that is coming from actually not even your in. Sadie: Mm-hmm. . Yes, exactly. Exactly. So that makes it hard too because you find this really great ba, you're in sync. Things are like figured out your business. They're like thinking like you're thinking. And then. Off the go to be a business coach or like try this new thing. And, and that happens occasionally when I hire as well, but it's very rare because of my process. So you, if you're going out and hiring your own va Yes. I would say you can expect a year to two years with that, that va before they either grow and scale into something else, or maybe the one of their clients that they just really love has now put them in a different position. Right. And they don't have the. For your business? So, yes, I would say one to two years is accurate. I'm at the two plus years with some of my team members and my graphic designer or several of my EVAs, they have been with my agency since I started it, and they've been with the same clients since I've started it. So, I think the thing that, that you wanna look for is you wanna look for VAs who have either like went out and tried to do their own thing and they were like, that was not for me. gave it the good old college try and it was not good. Or they're, you can tell they're, this is what they wanna do, this is what they're good at. They don't have that desire or that need to go anywhere else. And so those are, those are traits that I look for is, you know, have they been around the block a couple of times?[00:12:00] Tried to do their own thing, They don't really care for it. And a lot of our, our bas that I've hired with the agency only work for me, or they have one or two of their own clients, but they really enjoy the agency culture and what we're doing, so they don't have that desire to go and, and build their own thing or have their own, their own coaching or specialize into anything else. Diane: And I guess if you're with the agency, you have a bit more cover in it if those, if that person does move on after one year to do whatever. Right. Because it's fine for people to want to, to grow and, and try different things. Totally. I guess with an agency, so if you are, if you have a solo VA and they go off to do something new, you're now back where you started a year ago. I guess if you're with an agency, there's someone who can pick up that slack a lot more quickly. Would you say that's a fair assumption? Sadie: Oh, absolutely. So everybody, we do weekly calls with my entire team. Each team member is giving client updates, so everybody on my team is familiar with each client. We've also created those systems and processes and those loom videos. So that if that happens, we can have someone easily transition in who's been in my agency for a few months or even a few years, and it's just, it's very seamless and I'm paying to train them and hire them and get them onboarded into your company versus if you've hired your own person and they decide to leave. You either hope that they stay on long enough to train the new person that you hire, or they go off on down the road. You take back on all the tasks, and then you also take on hiring a new va, training the new va. Figuring out where everything lives for your systems and your, and all of those things. So it's definitely a huge, I mean, honestly, a lot of my clients say like, one of the main reasons that they stay is cuz they know that if that happens we already have floats. Like I hire Float VAs, who literally just stay into my company and train and learn accounts so that if that happens, they can easily transition in. They can cover [00:14:00] vacations, they can cover maternity leaves, and they can cover. Someone leaves or quits or all of those things. Diane: And is there a kind of a, a skill share that goes on? So like, let's say I start and I need a VA who's just gonna like help me just for one of a better term, get my shit together. Yeah, right. And then I progress, and now I'm about to like go into this like massive growth phase and now I need someone who's like got serious tech chops and then suddenly I'm launching. So now I need some design side of things, and then I'm doing a podcast. Within the agency. Can different VAs fulfill different roles, but you have like one kind of like project manager contact point? Is that how it works? Sadie: so with my agency, we have what we call executive virtual assistant. So that's like our higher level va who has that kind of like, Project management can kind of be your second brain, your right hand type of skills. And then we have support, virtual assistance, and they're doing some of those backend like scheduling socials, research, creating spreadsheets, kind of keeping track of your analytics and your data. And then we also have a graphic designer so she can come in and do your graphics and kind of create lead pages and all of. Beautiful things that our designers do. And then we also have a content specialist. So let's say you need some copy done or you need some content repurposing, or you want your podcast episodes to be converted into emails, blog, social. She could pop in and do some project E things or some hourly type of work for you. So yes, there is always, at least with mine, there is the option to continue to grow within the agency and not have to go out and hire your own. But needless to say, let's say you do wanna go hire your own person, your executive assistant's gonna be able to help you with that. And, and, she's gonna have the resources that she needs to be able to help you with that. Diane: Awesome. So a slight detour, but I'm curious as to what made you decide that when you had capacity, So you were a va, you had [00:16:00] capacity with clients, and at that point, in this businessy world, we see a lot of push for people to stop. Services and to scale through courses, Group programs, memberships like helping other VAs. Right. What made you choose the agency model? Sadie: It was a good question. So when I started out as a virtual assistant in 2018, my goal was to pay my mortgage. That was it. I wanted to pay my mortgage. I wanted to stay at home. We were trying to have a baby at the time, and that was my goal. Pay my mortgage, stay at home with my kids. I didn't have any other desire. I didn't even really know anything about the online space at that point either. And then in September of in 2019, I got pregnant. I was fully booked out. I had about six clients on retainer at that point. And it completely changed cuz I didn't expect to, to have like so many amazing clients and be kind of niche into this like higher level BA role. I had a business coach at the time because I. Trying to see like what else I could start doing. I did have that passion. It didn't help that like all of my clients were coaches and they were doing like amazing things and I was like, Ooh, like I could do something else too. Right? So I was pregnant, I had all these clients. I didn't wanna not support. The clients like that was very important to me that they didn't lose support. And so my coach was like, Let's consider creating like a mini agency for you that will get you through maternity leave. It's gonna get your clients well supported while you're on that leave, and then let's decide what to do after that. And I was like, That's fair. Like I'll come back, I'll decide if I wanna take the clients back myself or if I wanna do something else. And so I started my agency in January of 2020. I had my daughter in May of 2020 and all was going to plan until that summer. I mean, obviously we had covid and, and all of that, so, We had clients coming in left and right, hearing about the agency being referred, wanting a ba, needing that [00:18:00] support, and we were just like, All right, let's do it. And so I grew into six figures over that summer, almost. Not by choice, like, I mean, yes and no, right? So, It just kind of happened. And then I came back in August of the same year and I was like, All right, what, what do I wanna do here? I went from this team of one VA that I had hired to cover my clients to a team of six over the summer. And my systems weren't really in place for that type of growth either, so I had to make the decision, like, do I wanna go back and like, take a couple of these clients on and like get rid of the rest and like, do all of that? But what I realized is I actually really loved. Having the team that I had and having so many clients getting the right type of support. And also I loved being in that, that non-client facing CEO role cuz it allowed me to support even better because I was able to train more VAs to be successful with high level clients. And so that became a huge passion for me to be able to pair the both and like be able to show a CEO like, this is the type of support that you deserve and that you need and let's. Keep growing and let's give you, you know, I've had clients go from booking 10 sales calls a month by themselves to getting one of our VAs and booking 25 sales calls a month. Like having that jump and being able to make more money and take vacation and just all of that, just like I, I have chills. Like it just, I'm very passionate about it and so for me, it. Like I, I had the opportunity to go back and to, to be a va, and I just saw such potential and such opportunity to support more that I couldn't do it. Diane: Yeah. I think it's so important for people to also hear that message because I don't think there are enough people out there. agency owners are busy, right? They're in general, they're not like, Out there on the Instagrams doing the thing about the agency cuz they're working cuz their agency's so busy. So I think a lot of people kind of forget that it's a really, truly fulfilling business model.[00:20:00] And profitable. Let's not forget I think any kind of real service business has the opportunity to consider this as a model. Versus just going that quote unquote passive Sadie: Mm-hmm. .Yeah. And I will say with the online, like with the virtual assistant marketing that people do, it's like you can make $10,000 a month and work 10 hours a week and you can be at home with your kids and you can have all this time freedom. And that is not the case. Like I. Call BS on that because when I came back from my maternity leave, like I had this big old agency and I had all these clients and I did not work 10 hours a week and make six figures. Like I was working 40 to 50 to 60 hours a week in the beginning of my agency in order to get it to where it is now, to where I am only working 20 hours a week. And I do have some childcare for my two and a half year old, and I am, I am making. Good money, but it, I'm two years in, so my first year was truly trial by fire and lots of hours and lots of work and lots of tears. It was not rainbows and butterflies. I feel like the online space, they show like where they're at now and they talk about how you can be like them and you, yes, you, you can't, but it's gonna take a lot of work in the beginning and people don't talk about that part cuz it's not sexy and it's not fun. So I am all about talking about the hard parts, Diane: They, they talk about like the hockey stick growth that happens, but they don't talk about like what the fulfillment of that hockey stick growth look like. It's like I got 50 new clients, but never talk about what it took to deliver to 15 new clients. Sadie: Exactly. Diane: So if you had to guess, how many things do you think a virtual assistant could do for a ceo? Sadie: Well, a lot, right? I have a freebie that you can grab on my website that is 172 plus things that a VA can do for you. So at least 172, let's go with that. But no . There is a lot. There is a lot and there are things that are really important outside of social media. [00:22:00] And some of the things that people, I think people hire VAs and they're like, I want you to schedule my social media and my blogs and my emails, but they don't think about the small things like what would it look like if you got sat down at your desk and by 9:00 AM you were at inbox zero and you only saw like three emails that you had to respond to and everything else was taken care of. Like it's the little things that I firmly believe you need, or what would it look like? Maybe your calendar got overbooked and you were over, like you were overwhelmed. You didn't even notice it, and your VA knows that every day she should check your calendar and make sure that that doesn't happen, or that you aren't double booked and she's fixing all of those things and you're not even having to worry, right? You're just sitting down looking at your calendar, doing what you need to do, doing your sales calls, doing your podcast. Like some of those little things that maybe aren't as like money generating are super valuable and super. Diane: Yeah, we're all running around wearing the same gray T-shirt so that we avoid decision fatigue. They maybe let someone else make those decisions for you instead, and then you can still wear colors if you choose. I love that. So to finish up, I always ask my guests the same two questions. First of all, what is your number one lifestyle boundary for your. Sadie: Oh, that's a great question. So I did not have any boundaries when I started my agency. Let's go with that. I worked weekends, I worked nights. I did not take vacations. I like, I just felt, And VAs in general feel that way. They don't feel like they can take time off cuz they feel like they're in that constant. I gotta help this person and they're asking me for things and they're doing all of this stuff. So I teach my team that about boundaries and time management, and I hold the boundary to myself too. I have chosen to work Monday through Wednesday, eight to three. I will check my computer on Thursday, but I am offline Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So that's been a huge boundary for me this year. I also take [00:24:00] quarterly a long weekend with my spouse so that we can be husband and wife and not mom and dad and my business has allowed for that. But I've also put in those boundaries and I think it's really important as like as business owners, but also as virtual assistance. Like for me to be able to show my team that I have those boundaries and I have. I close my computer, I turn off my notifications. I do all of those things. It allows them to feel. I could do that too. And it's okay for me to do that too. And then it, it just starts to like have this ripple effect of like the clients are seeing us hold those boundaries and they're like, Oh, maybe I should also hold that boundary and like when my kids get off school, I should shut down for the day because my VA is showing me that. Sadie is showing me that. And so that's the biggest thing for me, is holding the work boundaries of, I will answer your emails or your. Between these hours. I work during these hours. Like it, that's huge for me. And then the vacations and the time, the time away, I'm huge on that with my team. If I see any of them, like if I get up and see a Slack message at 9:00 PM I'm like, Why are you working this late? Let's get on a call. Let's figure out like why your schedule is not working for you. So, time is huge for me. Diane: Yes, to the boundaries a hundred percent. What I liked is, I think when people think about holding that time boundary, they're thinking of it from a quote unquote selfish perspective. From a like, what do I need? I need time for this, so I'm gonna hold this boundary. But what I liked was the ripple effect of like, when I hold a boundary, other people hold boundaries. And so actually it's a benefit to your client to hold that boundary, and I think people just need, I just needed to underline that so that nobody missed it. Okay. Finally, what is the worst piece of cookie cutter advice you have been given in your journey? Sadie: Oh. I think it goes back to boundaries. You know, I've, I've been told things like, you know, Oh, Keep working the [00:26:00] 60 hour weeks like you'll eventually get where you won't have to work like that. And like, Oh yes, you should take on another client, even though everybody's maxed and everybody's stressed because eventually you won't have to. You won't have to do that. And I went through that for a really long time. And then in October of last year, I was at that breaking point of like, I'm either gonna burn it all down or I'm gonna have to put boundaries in place and slow down so that I can eventually speed up. But I think I was constantly just going fire to fire, to fire, to fire. and being pushed and like supported in that way. And I just was like, I just can't do it anymore. Like I physically and mentally and emotionally just cannot do it anymore. And so that was, that was the big thing for me. People telling me, just keep, keep pushing, keep going, keep doing. But for me, like it's okay to slow down so that you can later speed up. It's okay not to take on another client. It's okay to turn down money so that you have the, the boundaries and the time freedom and the space, and so that you don't stop liking your business. Diane: Yeah. And for you that exponential. To go from one VA to having 10 people working for you like that requires a different level of you showing up, right? It's not just about you managing the business, it's now suddenly, how do I lead? How do I manage people? And people forget that that has its own element. It's not about taking on another client cuz you have a half hour. That half hour is your one to one with someone in your team, right? Making sure that they're coping and they're not burning out. So, Sadie: Exactly. Diane: Huh. This has been so interesting. I, I feel like I've had so many like, new perspectives on things through our chat, so I know people are gonna wanna keep chatting to you. Where is the best place on the socials that they can find you? Sadie: I am fully on the Instagram train, so I'm over there. My handle is estrogen co. You can find me doing all of the reels and all of the fun Instagram stories. Diane: Amazing. Thank you so much. Sadie: Thank you. So great chatting with you.
If you’re thinking of adding an assistant in 2023, take a moment to ask yourself what the role is right now, what it could grow into, and who will cover for vacations, illness, and unexpected absences.
Sadie Prestridge walks you through the pros and cons of a VA agency v a stand-alone VA, how to know when to hire and what to expect for each.
Please stop calling your VA a lifer. Even if they love being behind the scenes, you still need to consider how they might like to grow in the role if you hope to keep them.
We talk about
- Whether you really need a(nother) VA
- How to choose between a VA agency and a solo VA
- VA red flags (and how to spot the green ones)
- How long can you expect to hang on to your VA (hint: it’s not for life)
- Why scale through an agency model
- Sadie’s lifestyle boundary for her business
- The worst cookie-cutter advice Sadie’s been given on her lifestyle business
Sadie began her online business as an Executive Virtual Assistant in 2018, and now own a VA Agency. In the beginning, still working her corporate job, Sadie quickly found her stride and was able to quit her full-time job only three months later. With her client roster full, she had surpassed her previous income by June of 2019 and kept growing! Training and building up a team of highly skilled women, Sadie created Prestridge and Co. A Virtual Assistant Agency that knows how to support and take initiative in leveling up businesses. Prestridge and Co. provide systems, structure, and day-to-day support that helps CEOs and Founders manage themselves, their busy schedules, and their visionary companies that are changing the world.
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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this podcast episode and article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or episode. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.