Secret to my success: Carol Charlton

Carol left employment and launched herself into the business full-time in June 2012, at which time she had three regular clients and several ad-hoc clients.

What is your start-up story?

Executype PA fills a resource gap in the market to provide administration and business support to those who may not be in a position to employ resource full-time. By outsourcing administration, businesses can concentrate on growing and doing what they need to do to make their business a success.

The business shows you can use the skills and experience that you have, and that you enjoy doing, to create a sustainable business and support others, not only locally but throughout the UK and overseas.

It’s been great to see my own business grow but it’s also to be involved in the success of other businesses too. One of my greatest achievements to date was to have Executype PA shortlisted in the category of the best business start up in the Northumberland Business Awards in November 2012.

What products or services do you provide?

My objective is to create a one stop shop that clients know they can get all of their administration and office management services provided for in one place. So things such as general administration, typing / formatting of documents, on-site filing, marketing support, event or travel management, and call answering.

This list is by no means exhaustive as new and unique requests can come about at any time, the fact that the business is so versatile means I have never had to turn business away.
What are your sales and marketing strategies

I always look for new avenues for sales and revenue, for example, after listening to my clients feedback I added call answering to my service offering. My marketing strategy consists of mainly below the line marketing including promotions on social media and my website. Currently I am focussing on driving traffic to my website using social media, forums, online directories and my blog. I also schedule in face-to-face networking too as part of my marketing strategy. PR is another side of my marketing strategy, promoting my business through news in local press and also highlighting the uniqueness of the business and the benefits to other businesses by using my services.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?

I regularly monitor the activities of competitors as part of my business plan – I have yet to find a competitor who offers the range of services which I do. I have a great respect for some competitors who, as I do, promote our business sector as the valuable resource that it is. I also connect with competitors via online forums and social media sites. It is good to hear their views and share experiences with your peers.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about your business since starting trading?

That you cannot rest on your laurels no matter how well the business is doing at any point in time. You must remain vigilant and consistently focus on new business as well as retaining the customers you have by providing the highest quality in service.

Do you have any other thoughts about your market and how you operate in it?

When I first did my research into this market I realised that although there was a lot of competition, many of them had a very limited service offering. I also learnt some competitors found a niche area that they liked to work in. The way I operate is very different, I wanted to utilise all of the skills and experience I had accumulated over the past 20 years both in marketing and administration. The role of a personal assistant has changed dramatically over the last decade, they are expected to take on a lot more responsibility and provide assistance in every area their employer may require – that is exactly what I provide my clients with, in a flexible manner tailored around their needs.

How important to success are repeatable business processes?

Extremely important! Where your business does have tasks which are repeated it helps enormously to have a written process in place which anyone within the business can follow. The written processes should be flexible so they can be tweaked / improved, as your processes may change as your business grows. If you have the aim of having ISO quality management certification then having documented processes in place early on is of great benefit.

What have you done to make sure you get the right people with the right skills in place?

I presently don’t employ staff but I have created relationships between clients and accountants and other consultants based on the requirements of the client and the abilities of the consultant. The better the match the better the relationship will work.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers, customers and other business relationships effectively?

Always keep communications open, clear and honest. I regularly keep in contact with clients when I am working on projects for them – updating them at each stage and with any key developments – nobody likes surprises. Building good relationships with suppliers is important too.

Any finance and cash-flow tips?

Keep on top of your bookkeeping and get an accountant on board who fits in with your business i.e. do they have the experience in your market. Keeping your accounts up to date gives you a better understanding of how your business is doing and enables you to budget for any cash flow fluctuations throughout the year. There are still opportunities for funding available too, every little helps. I recently received funding to develop a new website which I received 40% of the overall cost back from the fund provider.

Any thoughts on the future of your company?

My focus continues to be to increase my client base in the UK, utilising additional resource when I need to and continuously add to my service offering.

What are the most important things to remember when starting and running a company?
Make sure you do your research, what is already available, what do you do differently, is there a need for your product / service. Continue to do your research once you’re up and running. Listen to your customers. Never become complacent, keep your eye on the ball (and the cash flow). Enjoy what you’re doing!