Thomas: Hi, I am Thomas Davies from Penguin Wealth and we are the financial planners here and welcome to another episode of the business secret podcast. Today I’m joined by Lora Payne of LCVA, LCVA are a business support service who offer virtual assistant business support worldwide and nationally. What LCVA do is they offer a management hub for team of freelancers who specialize in various business support roles and since they started in the last couple of years they also been recognised by the Cardiff Life Awards and the South Wales Business Growth Awards and also the Socket Awards being a finalist for new business and new on the scene and also being highly commented in the rising star category.
Thomas: Hi Lora, how are you?
Lora: Hi good, thanks.
Thomas: Good, so tell us a little bit about yourself, your business, what it does and how it works?
Lora: So, myself was a single parent for some time and struggled to find flexible working around school hours and I worked part time as a administration assistant and then I went to university to do my degree in business management and then I came up with a concept of the business that I wanted to start and it was more flexible working and it allowed me to be there more for my son to pick him from school. So, essentially what I launched in 2018 was a virtual business support service and we provide business support to businesses worldwide we provided to both people in America and UK and all over the world. So, what we do is provide graphic design, book keeping, website design and hosting, and we also just do the kind of admin nitty gritty thing that the self-employed or small businesses haven’t got time to do and we tend to take that on because instead of their businesses actually employing somebody to do it, it’s a lot cheaper for them to outsource hence, the reason why we promote our services to these kind of side businesses because they are saving money and they also been bit more time efficient.
Thomas: How did you find going from the employed world, did you get straight from being employed to you need to starting-up or was there a bit of a grade bit between them?
Lora: So, I was employed part time and I went to the university in the evenings to do the degree, I got majored done that shortly after I had finished my degree and yeah just went from there to the I just thought now is a good time to do it so, let’s just do it and see how it goes.
Thomas: What made you decide to go whole hog on start running business straight away rather than caring on with a bit part time work while life is going on?
Lora: I have always been, I always had a business mind I come from business family background my parents have had their own businesses. I have seen how it worked and seen obviously the commitment they put into it, I had this idea and I seen that there is a great need for it out there at the moment and the virtual kind of business support role is growing massively over the, over the coming months and I just thought let’s just go for it and that was the time. I think everything happen for a reason and I just thought this is the time, I either go for it now or till the time passes and I may never go for it. So I just did it.
Thomas: Yeah, what you get the most enquiries for there are certain area of business like you said you do bit book keeping, doing graphic design, (Lora: Yeah…) general admin is there anything in particular a lot people looking for at the moment?
Lora: Ahhm, a bit of everything, every client comes to me for something different, a lot of people need assistance with kind of market research a database kind of build in for them, I also have clients that come to me for various services so one client comes to me for book keeping, for graphic design, for leaflets, for shows that he does and also building a website for him and also redesign in his logo and all different things but we are not only providing one service to one business, the goal for us is that businesses will come to us for any business support and we can deliver that for them. And and it seems to be working good at the moment and people are happy with it and is a management hub for freelancers purely because I worked for people in the past who have used freelancers but then they have to do the management of individual freelancers, so they may have 10 freelancers on different projects but they still have to do the management and that is time for them that was valuable time they haven’t got. So, where we take on the project and we manage the whole project for them, (Thomas: I see) around over the different services that we offer, and they just basically come to us for an update.
Thomas: So, it is more of a project management service necessary then so they will come to you with their problem then (Lora: Yeah) it is up to you to try and find the whether it be like said web design, (Lora: Yeah) graphic design and you find the freelancers who already on your network?
Lora: Yeah, we have got quite a lot of sub-contracted freelancers with us and they specialise in all different areas and within that we pretty much accommodated every query that is coming so far? (Laughing)
Thomas: What you say has been the hardest part of setting up going alone?
Lora: Ahhhh! I think being coming from an office full of colleagues and to going it alone it’s difficult in that sense because you think, am I doing the right thing and sometimes what am I doing (Laughing) why did I got down this route, but I enjoy what I do and it’s a passion of mine. I used to work for a charity and my from my experience, I enjoy helping people and by putting that part of me alongside the business kind of side of though I have got I guess I could combine it and I can help businesses grow and I believe I have got a good sort of knowledge and experience that can help people grow and just give advice mainly I do give advice to people and they just take it.
Thomas: Yeah! What do we enjoy most then?
Thomas: Is it in terms of the advice suggesting people to grow from coming to you having that first query of saying I need a logo and some admin and achieving grow what’s the most rewarding part that you think?
Lora: I think the most rewarding part is working with my clients and seeing their business grow with the support they have had from us, they’ve been able to grow their business they’ve, they are able to manage the work load a lot easier but I have had some clients coming to me whose been at the breaking point who has been quite upset because they have got so much to do haven’t got enough time in the day to do it as well as have a somewhat and normal personal life as well alongside their business and they being close to tears and now a year down the line those people their businesses are thriving, their books are constantly fully booked and that’s just they left me that’s just perfect that’s why I need to do and yeah, I am helping somebody everyday so that’s just somebody.
Thomas: Great, you mentioned that about having the importance of people there having a lot social work and how that is going to their personal lives. (Lora: Yeah) How do you manage that yourself with work life balance and making true you got enough time with family whilst also working on (Lora: Yeah) such a fast-growing business?
Lora: It is a fast growing business but I am good with time management one of my main skills is obviously, I have brought to the business and I continue to practice is good time management and organisation skills so, lot of my work is organised in advance I tend to book’s-in day to the office and then books-in day out of the office and purely cut off at the weekend to spend time with my family and I have got a son so, I am practically a mum’s tax it at the minute but, yeah it’s just it’s having a bit of discipline in your life and there is also educating others to have value of little bit discipline means don’t take, don’t get me wrong is taking years and years to kind of get around it and get used to it, but you do in order to stay slightly sane. I think you need to have value of bit discipline and I tend not to stay in the house constantly, I tend to go down the gym or I go out with my friends because then I know, I away from the laptop and I am far away so, I can’t log on and have a look at my emails or anything. So, it’s just educating others and yeah, I just try and introduce discipline little bit.
Thomas: Do you find yourself still checking emails when you got your days off on the weekend or you got clogged office as family time? (Lora: Ahhhh) You faithfully keep away or do you have to check now and again?
Lora: I do check it now and again but my son is now nearly a teenager, so he basically he can do a lot people stuff and he could look after himself and he tend to be out with his friends more these days so in that sense when I have got nothing else to do, I do check my emails but when we are altogether as a family we kind of have a digital detox and which is something obviously, I promote to my clients as well. I think it is really if we important they do, I offer a holiday cover service so when they go away on holidays, we have the phones diverted to us during the office hours and we also filter through their mail boxes as well so, when they go on holidays they have their complete detox and which I think is really important to people who are self-employed or running a small business because as you said you don’t tend to shut off as much TO but with filing (11:02) with this service people are coming back to us and going but you know that was really nice break and yeah, definitely use that service again so that’s kind of one of the ways I am trying to educate people.
Thomas: How do you and family find the digital detox, and everyone there always is a lot of stuff in the news of everybody constantly on the phone 5 minutes, how do you find it?
Lora: My son loves his Xbox and we kind of only allow him to go on weekends because he is just out of high school so it’s important he needs to concentrate in his school during the week and the weekend to get his time, but obviously their member out round about and we try and keep our phone in our bags or in our pockets and try and not to play with it too much (Thomas: Yeah) because it’s just important to still have conversation with human beings face to face and that is what we are trying to educate him more a bit on because kids these days will just kind of push the boundaries slightly on want more mobile phones and Xbox and these little games, iPads as well and we just try and cut it out, we have just learned to discipline, a discipline not just kids, ourselves as well, my partner.
Thomas: That’s difficult.
Lora: It is difficult, my partner runs his own plumbing business and he gets calls all day 24 hours a day and it comes a time when we just have to put the phone to the side and say it’s not we are not touching it after like 8 o’clock we are not touching it and that’s just self-discipline. I think you have to learn that yourself it’s difficult for some like completely (Thomas: Yeah) we understand that because when I first started the business because it’s new, it’s exciting, you don’t know what jobs gonna be coming in but then you learn along the way that actually you do need to have you time so, yeah.
Thomas: So, what now you know, what you have known, you do what you have done for the last year or so, what bit of advice would you give yourself if you are starting off again so, you do differently or you learn that you now go back and may be make a slight change to?
Lora: Ahhh! I don’t know if there is anything I would do differently I would say to people that I am starting my own business. I know that you think that you need to employ somebody to help you do additional tasks that you can’t do or you haven’t got time to do but actually there is this thing called outsourcing which people don’t tend to use as much but now it’s obviously growing and people are recognising what it is and you basically outsourcing tasks to subcontractor and that now only it not only kind of, get rid of the HR issues that you may have the extra employment income costs and things like that.
Thomas: Massive expenses, isn’t it?
Lora: Big expenses and where is some contractor you basically pass the work over to them it gets done it gets passed back and you pay that flat fee that obviously, as agreed. I think people should be taking advantage more of that then going through the whole employment side of things at the moment if there are new start-up business and they feel they need the extra support don’t get yourself to break in employed because that’s where obviously the business will it will affect the business then if you need that extra support there is always people in the local area running local businesses and networking is a good thing to get out and to speak to likeminded people who are probably going through similar circumstances as you and meet them for coffee have a chat it doesn’t, you don’t have to sell, sell, sell to people all the time just make those relationships and it’s amazing what you learned while.
Thomas: Did you do a lot that when you started out a lot networking a lot of speaking to people who had already done it?
Lora: Ahhh! When I first started, I went to a few networking groups you have to try different groups because everyone come with different ways these are quite structured groups, this quite informal relaxed groups and there’s groups for certain genders or businesses and I would recommend going to networking groups, if you are a freelancer and you are on your own in the office most of time I think it’s just nice and is great for your mental health to get out and talk to people.
Thomas: Second office they by itself doubt quite quickly.
Lora: And get, and just talk about things that you probably wouldn’t be able to offload to your partner or repayment of friends or family things that they may not understand and that you are looking at, but other businesses may have already gone through that or they are looking at that as well. It’s just to support networking I think it’s, I work with start-ups and I always encourage them to go to networking events; I will actually take them as a guest to one of the groups that I am part of just to show them what it is about because people often get really nervous and walking into a room full of people they never met before.
Thomas: It could be difficult some people can’t.
Lora: It can be really difficult and make enough to freak out or they can just walk in and walk out and go back home.
Thomas: You get to run away from that situation is it jump into the deep end.
Lora: Definitely, and I think by taking them as a guest you are helping not just their self-esteem, but you are helping their business as well by doing that and sure, I don’t charge for that at all unless that’s just me being helpful to another business.
Thomas: Without getting something back.
Lora: Yeah, somebody did it for me when I first started and yeah you just got to go with it and help other businesses as best you can.
Thomas: So, what you think of all the there has been a few in the local area now you have seen popped up this all co-working spaces let’s think of those?
Lora: I have used co-workers’ spaces, I have met very interesting projects and people through co-workers spaces, I still do use co-workers spaces at the moment business is so crazy. I don’t tempt done a lot or if I do I am probably typing seriously on my keyboard, but it’s a good place for freelancers or small businesses if you haven’t got an office or you, I feel like that you at the point of the business where you haven’t got that capital to put into an office space these co-workers spaces are so useful because you can go there, you can get your work done, free coffee, free toilet facilities no that kind of stuff but you have also got that company of other people and you can just discuss things and make new friends and I have met so many new friends through the co-working spaces and still to this day call them up and meet them for coffee or call them up and say something about the business as that may relate to them and have that kind of conversation with them and just working together. I think going forward working together with other businesses is is is a great thing to do, don’t feel that you are on your own starting new business because you are not, there are these co-working spaces, there are these networking groups that are there to help everyone.
Thomas: Do you ever had a mentor a sort of a single person that you have say I know we’ve a couple of businesses that we speak to once every six months or once we call and see somebody just one person the mentor for ideas or go the other way or you more to preferably in a like in a co-working space where you can have ten people, you can bounce different ideas of different people do you get all the mentors at all?
Lora: I didn’t have a mentor, my father was runs own business so he has a lot of business background so in terms of kind of the legal side of things that would bounce things of him but I am a bit more of a creative person (Thomas: Yeah) some of my ideas to him would probably come across as a bit far out there (Laughing) but I would bounce them of friends and family who is got businesses or people I have met in the co-workers spaces. I will say them what do you think of this and maybe we should kind of cooperate and do a little bit of this together and it works, you know I haven’t had a mentor so, I can’t comment on how that would be but I do kind of have those go to people I discuss things with when I need to and obviously it’s done in confidence, they are fine with that but yeah things could have been different if I had a mentor probably. (Laughing)
Thomas: Well but sounds you did however I guess you got your network where you have got if you got a certain problem about like you said with your dad for legal things you go to him you got unless you probably don’t see as mentor but you may have a mentor in different areas.
Lora: Yeah, different areas of the business.
Thomas: Rather than having one person you got specialist in different areas.
Lora: Yeah, definitely but yeah I enjoy, the thing with me because being a creative person you kind of pop up and have ideas at random times of the days so, there is no text (20:56) for the father late at night saying what do you think of this for a social media or stuff like that text for friends, I know they gonna be awake. (Laughing)
Thomas: Exactly the different times, don’t you?
Lora: So no, it works well I wouldn’t change the I have done I have done it, no its being quite a shock how successful it’s been when you, when I first started the business, I often had some people say oh the first year of a new business is very tough and you get through the first year it’s a massive achievement and so on and that didn’t face me really. I was just like well that’s your opinion and let’s just see how it goes and all of a sudden this gone bit crazy. (Laughing)
Thomas: Doing well, doing well, getting bigger and bigger as well.
Lora: I know it’s crazy.
Thomas: So as financial planners we are obviously we like to make sure the business is so planner are making sure that people pay themselves and not just leaving all of their money in their business to just fund the business because in the end of the day, you are taking this risk in working hours to make sure that you can pay yourself and you can have.
Lora: You can have a good life.
Thomas: Exactly, because get a new house which you talk about earlier, go to holidays spending time with your son and do you make sure you always pay yourself first, is it how that’s what you have always done or is it how is have you gone through from that start to now?
Lora: So, when starting the business obviously you have to put a little bit of capital out there to just kind of get to marketing material and stuff like that but people don’t buy the service from what they see in a piece of paper they buy from somebody, they buy from you as a person, how you come across your personality. So I didn’t spend lot of money when I started the business yes, I have got business cards obviously, I think most people do but, I spend a little bit money gone out networking, travelling a bit meeting different people and that all worked for me going now I still remain the outgoings is very minimum and I from when I used to work from an employed job I do get paid a lot more now from what I do, but my service is obviously, I am off at a higher cost because the freelancers consider your outgoings and things that you wouldn’t have to do it in an employed job but this I still remain this money within the business if anything spectacular did come around or I didn’t happen to me and I have got full back on but I do look after myself first and my subcontractors, I am tempted obviously kind of give little treat now and again because I never had that in my previous job and I believe that was something that was missing.
Thomas: You have ended by these you are great __ (23:50) and you are working for yourself, why won’t you treat yourself?
Lora: Yeah, definitely.
Thomas: Whenever is obviously.
Lora: Yeah, but I think the work that I do now feels more appreciated (Thomas: Yeah) and the feedback that you get from your clients is, it means the world to me, from previous employers I felt I didn’t get that, I didn’t get that kind of appreciation with the employed role, you would go where I would definitely go above and beyond my role to deliver something go make something happen and you wouldn’t get that kind of feedback that you do now. So now obviously providing them better service to people who appreciate you and giving yourself a little bit more, I think little bit of pay rise is worth for all the hard work. (Laughing)
Thomas: Exactly yes, but you are taking that fun when you do as well so specially the time you did and I think it’s now that’s the big thing we started the business it’s not necessary about the idea as amount of risk you taking to go and do it you could have easily gone. I will find another employee to 9 to 5 but you should be able to get all the rewards for all the hard work and the risk you put in.
Lora: Oh yeah! It was definitely a big risk I took but it was one of those moments that probably most people have in their life where they say it’s now or never and the time shows why to just go for it; you know I was a single parent and anyone who is a single parent knows the difficulties in financial difficulty you have if you haven’t got a wage coming in what you do you got, obviously the house look after you got the child to look after and that was kind of up in the air at that point but I had a bit of redundancy money come through from the previous employment and I just thought just do it life is for living and I got to try it once, I always wanted to try and start the business and see how it went and I just thought this is the age I turned 30 just got back. (Laughing)
Thomas: So, what’s next LCVA then?
Lora: Oh Gosh, it’s LCVA is growing I got a lovely team of freelancers that I work with, we making collaborations with a few companies recently and it’s just growth being able to support more businesses a lot more people who are contacting us for all the kind of different services not just one in particular so it’s growing team to accommodate that and just giving people a more better work life balance the work that we do some of the work that we didn’t do is flexible so we can do it around our families, around other commitments, and is providing other individuals that opportunity because there is not a lot out there at the moment that you can have that and be employed.
Thomas: Yeah, the next step is getting more harder and harder as being (Lora: Yeah) the employee you want to get it much as salary as possible (Lora: Yes) so they are paying your debts they know they are paying you every month and they will get as much out there investment as possibly can so I can imagine a lot people would do it.
Lora: There is and specially for people with children who are returning to work I feel for them I have been in their positions it’s been difficult you do want to work but way in that sons is bang of probably you didn’t work because the child kept causing things but if you can do what you are good at around the hours that you can why not? everyone can be a winner than and you are helping somebody in the long run by doing good for their business so I think that pretty going.
Thomas: So how do you go about finding these freelancers people come to you, do you have to go out searching for people who are one in that flexible working time and are self-employed so go and find out graphic designer, or find a book keeper how does it, how does recruitment works for you?
Lora: Recruitment some people I have met in networking and we have kind of met over coffee we discuss things and they are happy to do run their own business and do subcontracting work for LCVA and I also helped some businesses who have been very start-up positions and put work their way obviously because they are very new and they haven’t got much work coming in at that point (Thomas: Yeah) we give them that little bit of work so they obviously got some income coming in and then others we just met through the network. We just met through whether it’s been online, whether they seen our post or whether we commented on their post and we built that relationship happens we got a good team vibe going on.
Thomas: You are very active in social media with marketing and.
Lora: Yeah, we try our best (Laughing), we do try our best in kind of the busy mind set moment but yeah, we are very active, we are virtual business but everyone on theirs these days, so I think that’s the best way any business is gonna get seen out there.
Thomas: Yeah! Do you have a special reserve there or do you do it yourself?
Lora: Ahhh, do it myself I offer social media support to businesses who don’t have time to do it themselves.
Thomas: A lot of people don’t these days I think full time job running their LinkedIn and Facebook.
Lora: It completely is which is why obviously we help them with that, and we also give them advice if they want to know what is the best to do for certain marketing company, they have also play something but yeah, we do it our self at the minute and we happy to help with it.
Thomas: Oh great, thanks that’s great to hear everything that LCVA is doing and what they gone up to and what plans are for the future and what we like to do is like to finish of every podcast with 6 quick fire questions.
Lora: Oh gosh.
Thomas: So 6 quick fire questions so we can get to know Lora better than just getting to know LCVA.
Thomas: So, the first question is what if any books are you reading at the moment whether that be personal, whether the business?
Lora: The one I am reading at the moment is “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.
Thomas: Okay, how is it? I have heard a lot of good things.
Lora: Yeah, I just got through the first couple of chapters it is really interesting actually she is just average kind of Joe normal person whereas the kind of media makes out these glamorous people where actually they just probably one of that but yes just interest and I am still reading to it so will see what’s like.
Thomas: So, the next question we have got is what is the business book that you have read that you recommend to somebody else?
Lora: Mmmmm, so one I read which actually geared me up to take the plunge was I think it’s called Neil black book, I know it’s just full of all little pointers when starting your business about what to look for, what to expect is a pocket size book it is a little book basically all about and I just love you completely, I can put it down you can read all little different chapters of there you don’t have to read it from start to finish in one go but there is so much information in there in probably word because it’s that interesting so yeah.
Thomas: I will have a look so what music are you currently listening to?
Lora: Whatever is on the radio?
Thomas: No preferences than nothing.
Lora: No, we have got Spotify in house so we just put on random stuff probably a mixture of mine, my son, my partners music put together.
Thomas: I have got a younger sister and whenever I go home it’s just Hermes going (32:01) on the house the all-time.
Lora: Exactly so.
Thomas: Then you got a chance to listen to your own.
Lora: No, if I got with my son is in charge of it then I have got no chance in let him, so I am lucky to the listen to music in the car on my way to here.
Thomas: So, what of any podcast are you listening to at the moment or would you promote for somebody else to listen to?
Lora: I haven’t, no I actually listened to any podcast at the moment only because I haven’t really had time to sit down at the moment but did a lot out there I can’t think of it over my head which one but there is one that I find really interesting which is ‘When from star’ in the city magazine they recently started to podcast obviously listen to the Penguin podcast but there was once that was cities which is quite relatable for people and they look at just current issues and current practice and people are going to thing so yeah, so that just kind of a chosen one as well one you can kind of switch off from work and have a listen to that as well so.
Thomas: Oh great, next __ (33:16) said about work life balance and not necessarily about constantly listening to business once.
Lora: Yeah a lot of.
Thomas: Made sure you got that chance to still switch off.
Lora: A lot of people say to me have you listened to this podcast, have you listened to that one but the more business really say and I think sometimes you wanna listen to something that’s not business related so you can’t actually have that time to switch off so try listen to various once.
Thomas: Oh great, so what box set TV shows or films are a must for you (Lora: Yeah) any guilty pleasures?
Lora: I love “Peaky Blinders” I love them that’s the I am waiting for the new series to come out. I can’t wait when I was young I watched “Friends” from start to finish they never get old (Thomas: No) we are a massive Netflix kind of family and we watch loads of different once we do love to travel so we like to see kind of all documentaries and things on there too but at the moment I am so busted and waiting to see “Peaky Blinders”. (Laughing)
Thomas: Exactly so after recess so can’t wait for.
Lora: I can’t wait for it.
Thomas: And the final question then who if anybody is your business idol?
Lora: I think , I think it must be my stepdad, he is, he started his business from probably in the valley in the run down he bought business and he grew it massively and don’t get me wrong Davies obviously some stress for the times but I just like that __ (34:50) thing to know I used to hide from something that up in the valley which is obviously where I am from as well and I just think turn your life around and make something for the better so, you and your family can enjoy life bit more and have a bit more luxury and that so he is done and yeah looking at him you wouldn’t even think that he has his own business because he is probably still in the train as he go from ten years ago but that’s what I look up to and that’s what I think he is just the best way to live your life.
Thomas: Do you think having someone like close to you was a massive part of you finally decided when especially when it’s your son and knowing that there was that option you had a bit of a security blank with redundancy pay by any thought now why not seeing somebody so close to you do it think that was helpful?
Lora: Yeah, I think he was helpful I think yes seeing it from a personal point of view seeing somebody really close doing it and done it and haven’t sold the business and haven’t sold it very successfully I think that has kind of pushed me to do a lot more with my business but I do look at famous people out there who is running their own business and successful look a kind of for example look at Richard Branson do you know that’s one of the main once people look at but I look.
Thomas: It feels quite far away then, isn’t it?
Lora: But if yeah it feels quite far away from home you actually got a real person, real life was actually made something where ever you got the celebrities you kind of get things on a different level on your scales worth but no I just kind of look at local people or people I know who have grown up and developed something from scratch and I just I am just in awe of that I just think that’s just me then and if I can make half of that helps __ (36:49).
Thomas: That will be you know you still will be the once for the next generation people will see starting looking up to you when he started his business we look at him we said mum as business idol.
Lora: Again __ (36:58) (Laughing).
Thomas: That’s great Lora, thanks for coming in really nice to have a chat you again and for anyone else goodbye bye until next time.