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How To Go From Chaos To Calm In 5 Easy Steps with Katie Macdonald
Episode 1023rd February 2020 • Your Dream Business • Teresa Heath-Wareing
00:00:00 00:56:54

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This week’s interview is with Katie, who initially came on board my business as my virtual assistant. Now, she’s so much more than that. As well as sharing our journey, we talk about how to find a VA for your own business. We cover 5 things that you can do within your own business to help improve your organisation, which is what Katie does for me on a day to day basis. The episode is a light-hearted and honest discussion about what I do well and what I am not so great at, making it another one of my favourite episodes so far.

  • Project management platforms are perfect for a business hub, as you can see exactly what you’re doing and when. Not only that, but it gives you confidence that you’re on the right track.
  • If you can, try not to keep more than one notebook. Once you’ve written your meeting notes down, transfer them into your business hub and project management platform.
  • Try to keep everything in one place if you can.
  • Use your calendar to dedicate time to certain tasks. Block it out and be as disciplined as you can. If you don’t, overwhelm will start to kick in.
  • It’s important to be flexible, but you need to be as strict as you possibly can.
  • Have a daily or weekly review to look over everything. Look at where you are, what has slipped and what you need to look at in the following week. Not only that but think about what has gone well.
  • You need to get your business to a place where you can feel comfortable enough to leave. Whether it’s for a day or for a two-week vacation, you can’t be IN your business all the time.
  • If you want a team to give you the freedom to step away, start now.
  • Recording your screen when you’re carrying out important business processes is a great way to pass important training on to your team.
  • In order to achieve points 1, 2, 3 and 4, you need to build habits to make things stick. Whilst that means giving things time, it will be worth it in the end.
  • Don’t give your ideas and time away for free.
  • xx
Unless you have the foundations in place to make your business succeed, it won’t work. You can have incredible ideas but without the systems there to back you up, chances are they won’t come to light.
  • Introducing Katie - 02:56
  • How Katie Plays a Huge Part in my Business - 07:20
  • #1 Build Your Business Hub – 19:35
  • #2 Be Organised and Intentional About How You Spend Your Time – 26:36
  • #3 Stay in Control of Your Business - 32:41
  • #4 Ensure You Have Systems and Processes in Place - 35:50
  • #5 Build Habits to Make Things Stick – 42:20
Transcript below


Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. I'm smiling already because I've just been re-listening to the episode, so when I batch content I batch interviews and then I do the intros and [inaudible 00:00:46] afterwards and I have to sometimes re-listen back through to the interview just like sections of it, and this week's interview, honestly, I love. So this week's interview is with Katie who works with me and has worked with me the longest. She's been with me quite a few years now, and Katie came on board as a virtual assistant and has become so much more than that. Just hearing us talk, honestly, it makes me smile so much. I love, it to bits, I totally, totally do.

Basically this episode is two fold. One, if you were thinking about getting a VA or thinking about how that might work, we share our journey about how I find Katie, what we did in the initial days. Some of this is hilarious as well because I was an idiot basically and Katie sorted me out. Then we go through five things that Katie does or Katie suggests that you do in your business that will help you be really, really on it and really organised in your business. This is what Katie's job basically is for me, is to try and get me organised. There's some things I do all right, other things I do dismally and we're really honest about that.

So today's episode is a very frank, open discussion about how Katie came on board, worked with me, what she does, and then these five brilliant things that you're going to be able to do in your business, and if you're better behaved than I am, then you're going to do them more successfully than I did and won't need Katie to keep trying to batter you into submission to get these things done.

So it's a great episode. Like I said, I love it for so many reasons because one, Katie is so smart at this and really she's been amazing in my business, hence why she's been in it for so long. And two, I think it's a really nice personal insight and we're kind of following along the personal theme around the fact that we have the 100th episode when I just thought this would be a really another nice one to follow up with. So this one I'm really excited about. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. Let Katie know what you think as well and I'll just hand you over to us. Here we go.


Introducing Katie


So today I am very, very excited. I'm always excited, but I am super excited today to welcome the podcast guest because today it's my very, very lovely friend and member of my team, Katie McDonald. Hello, Katie.

Hello. Hi, thank you for inviting me.

Honestly, this is so weird, but cool.

It really is.

We speak on Zoom all the time. We do meet in person as well, but we speak on Zoom all the time, so to sit here and do a recording and the other people are going to listen to our conversation, god help them. If they'd listened to some of them, that wouldn't have been so great, I'm sure.

No, but this one is going to be fine. We can do this.

We're professionals, Katie. We can totally do this.

We are. We are at all times, yes.

So, Katie, let's start by explaining who you are and what you do and if you want to check in a bit about what you do for me, then that's cool. Up to you, you crack on.

I'm not sure what you'd call me really. We've had this conversation lots of the times haven't we?

We do.

What actually am I?


I think essentially I am a virtual assistant and online business manager. I've been doing that for 10 years next year, which is amazing to think that it's been going for so long.

That is Crazy.

Came from an exec PA background, which I think most VA's probably do, will start off that way. Never really had the thought of running my own business, just kind of found this VA idea, which was very big in America at the time, and thought, "Yeah, I'd quite like to give that a go." So started alongside my day job and then had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy in 2012, so I did dead and thought, "Well it's kind of now or never really," and gave it a go and yeah, eight years later here I am.

Wow. Yeah.

So it's brilliant.

That's crazy. So you work with lots of other people as well and I've worked at different business people in different industries and different things, haven't you?

Yep, I have. I've got a real mix of clients, which I love because I think the variety is great. I get to do lots of different things, no two days are the same. It's mainly people who do run their own business. I know some VA's work with corporate organisations, but now I'm very much the entrepreneurial end of the scale.

Yeah, and now have a team.

I do.

So people that work with you because you're so busy and so in demand.

I have two lovely associates, yes.

Which then come up with you, which is super cool as well because I mean sometimes, especially on a VA type business, if you are a VA and I know some people who listen are VA's, it must be hard to think, "How am I going to grow this?" because when you're someone's assistant or your someone's number two or second in command or whatever they want you.

Yeah they do, yeah.

And then try and work out what goes to other people or how other people can manage things must be tricky.

It is. I think I've been very lucky with my client base and for Amy... Well, Zita joined me first a couple of years ago now and then Amy joined last year, but all my clients have been so open and supportive to me wanting to grow the business that it's been quite easy to integrate them in. I'm still very much involved with all of the clients. Although some of them now might be more day-to-day supported by Amy or Zita, I'm still very much there and know what's going on. I think for me that's quite important. I never really wanted to grow to an agency model where I was very hands off. So I'm very lucky that my clients have accepted Amy and Zita and just been very supportive of that.

Yeah, that's cool, really cool. We want to talk about, because you do some stuff online yourself, obviously you've got your own personal brand, you put your own stuff out there and we do want to talk about something that you do to help businesses in terms of taking them from chaos to calm in five steps if we're going to be going through that, but I want to just talk briefly about you and me in this business and how you came about.


How Katie Plays a Huge Part in my Business


So Katie was my first team member and I knew I needed help, but I had no idea what it was or what it looked like or anything. I've told this story a few times and Katie knows it, that I downloaded Jean Lehnas lead magnet on how to hire a VA and it was very much based in the Philippines and hiring of Filipino VA. Although it was great advice, I felt that I needed someone within arms reach or someone that I knew, someone that someone could recommend, someone that I have more of a connection to because this is the first person in my business and it was a bit scary, you don't know how that's going to go.

So Katie and I's paths across a few years before where she had actually gone to the agency that I was working at to have her branding done, and one of the designers who is a good friend of mine, Nick, he was doing all the work. KTM was still with Katie even after we both left the company. So I contacted him and said, "You do work for that Katie, don't you?" because of Katie, "You do work for her don't you?" And he's like, "Yeah." I said, "What's she liked?" and he's like, "Oh, I think she's amazing, and I think at [inaudible 00:08:30] she's amazing."

So anyway, we met for a coffee and we had a chat and you told me what you did and we tried to work out what on earth it was I wanted or needed, but what was super funny was... This is before like the real online-ness of what we do now and you were like, "So we'll have Skype calls," and I was like, "Why?" Like, "Why can we not meet just in person? You live like half an hour down the road."

[crosstalk 00:08:55]

Yeah, exactly. Like, "Why are we going to speak on Skype?" and I'd never done that and I was like... This sounds like I'm so flipping stuck in my ways, but I hadn't because it'd never comes up. I mean, I've done Skypes, but I haven't had a working relationship with someone over Skype. Anyway, we started working together. I still didn't know what I wanted you to do, you still didn't know what I needed from you, and it was just one of those things that we worked out as we went along,

And it kind of evolved, didn't it, as we got into the business together?

Yeah, and you see things in the business that I didn't see. So Katie, the one thing that I would highly recommend and one of the reasons we're going to talk about her five ways to cast calm is because when you start your business, you know you're good at the thing that you're selling, right? So I'm good at [inaudible 00:09:46] Someone else might sell shoes, they're good at making and selling shoes. Someone else might be a trainer, they're good at that. We're not business people. When you start your business you're not, you're an employee if that's what you were doing and you were good at that thing.

So then you start your business thinking, "How hard can it be? I just do my thing every day." Oh my goodness, like obviously, but one thing that you did is you came in and looked at what I was doing and was like, "You need to sort this out, man. This is ridiculous," because-

What have I done?

I just had... yeah, like, "Can I really help this person?" because I just have no structure to the business, did I?

No... Well, you thought you did because you were serving your clients really well, you were doing really well as a business owner. So you thought you did, but I came in and was like, "Whoa."

"No, you're not."

Yeah, and I think what's interesting is that sometimes, and we've spoken about this as well, you're so in your business yourself and you're so focused on your clients and what work you do and you've got all these big ideas of where you want to take your business, but you forget that unless you've got the foundation and the systems in place to do that, it won't work. I think that's what we found quite quickly, is you had all these great plans and yet we were like, "Oh, but how's that going to work and what's in place for this?" So it was interesting to look at that and peel everything back.

And it took me from being a one-person business that did everything and it was all in my head and it was all on me, to then how are you going to scale, and that's not necessarily what everybody wants to do. Not everybody wants to scale.

No, they don't, no.

But I did and as I've scaled in a different way to maybe what we imagined in the early days, but I could never have done that without that help. There is no way on this earth I could have got to the team I've got now, done the stuff I've done without you coming in and going, "You need to sort that out, you need to sort that out. What is this?"

"What is this?"

Yeah, what's funny though, is when people bring on someone like you, and it's funny that we don't know what to call you, which makes us laugh.

It does, yeah.

I always say that you're the number two in the business. Like Katie oversees the business with me. So I would not to class Katie as a VA because there are things that I, A, wouldn't give... I have Sophia that obviously works in the business while she's manages the podcast. There are things I'd give Sophia and there's things I give Katie and also I think Katie's role in the business has become way more then some of the VA tasks that I would have initially have thought of. It's not to say and Katie doesn't sit in and go, "That's not me anymore. I don't do that. So do you know who I am? I don't sent your emails for you, don't be insane. Who did these [inaudible 00:12:50] and get over yourself," but you still do some tasks that someone would class as a VA task.

Yeah, for sure, yeah.

But you have a much greater sight of the business as a whole and how the teamwork and who they are and what they do and, and when I... not that I ever step out of the business fully, I'm not very good at that.

No. We haven't haven't managed that yet.

Not quite. Katie's has it in her own business, which is amazing and her team does an amazing job of looking after me-

It did, yeah.

... and I didn't need much looking after, to be fair. I'm not high maintenance. I'm like Katie.

No, you're not. Not at all.

She said that really genuinely I think a lot of people listening would think, "Really? Actually I think she is high maintenance." But no, I think I know what I like to... This is going to say awful, but use you for in the nicest sense of the word because what I use Katie for now is not so much of the VA task, but more we have calls every week and we talk about business and we talk about what have I done this week, and Katie is absolutely imperative in the business.

When I look at like... and I'm not just saying this to be nice because she's on this podcast, I would say it anyway, but when I look at the financials of the business and who we pay, there's some team members that are dependent on clients because they do client work and until the Academy grows bigger they will have to stay dependent on that client work, and for me, Katie was never that. Katie might have come in initially, me thinking "You're in for this," but actually you are now as much a fixed cost as having to pay for hosting on the website. Do you know what I mean? It's a no brainer because-

That's lovely. Thank you, yeah.

Also for me, and if anybody's listening, having that person who is not your husband or your wife or your partner that you can talk to that has some amazing experience in lots of different industries, doing lots of different things and working with lots of different people, to then get on a call and go... I nearly swore then. That would have been the first time I've ever sworn on the podcast. That's because me and you are talking. That's what that is.

You nearly forgot yourself.

I nearly genuinely swore. Katie, they'll never believe this, because I've never sworn on the podcast and I can occasionally swear, as Katie will well know, when we've had a few difficult calls.


So yeah, but when things aren't going so well... God, that was so funny. I'd have like absolutely howled if I swore.


Yeah, remember what we're doing. You know, things aren't going so well to get on a call with Katie and don't get me wrong, I can literally tell you that two days ago I did exactly that. We're recording this end of November 2019, I'm five years into my business and I still had to do that two days ago because sometimes you just need to do that.

You do.

You need someone in your team or you need someone on your side that is more than just a fulfilling of something.


For me, that's what you are. You are very much part of who we are, what we do, the direction we go in, and I think we have a relationship now where you can literally go-


"No, Teresa. [inaudible 00:16:07] What a ridiculous idea. You're crazy." Yeah.

Yeah, because I have that knowledge of you and I know you very well and I have that knowledge of the business. So yeah, sometimes I can word things in such a way that it's beneficial. It makes you think differently and I think that's important, and I think that's how my own business and my own role has evolved in that because of the knowledge I have of online business, because I'm in this world myself, I can be that sounding board and that somebody that you can really talk to on that level, which as you said, sometimes husband, wife, partner, even your closest friends that might not be in the same situation, they don't fully understand what it's like, so to have that person I think is really important.

That the really cool bit about it because you are in a position where you have your own business so it would be different. Like if I bought some on full time into the business, even if I thought they were second in command,

We did think of that didn't we at one time.

We did, yeah.

We thought that might work.

Yeah, and actually for your role, I think I actually really like the fact that you are almost in the same position as me as in you're a business owner too and you're feeling some of the pains I feel-

Yeah, absolutely.

... going through some of the things I go through and we watched some of the same people and we follow some of the same stuff. So for me, I think that is particularly helpful when trying to help me with my business and deal with my staff. Also the other bit, and...




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