HM Virtual Assistant: Hayley Miller

Motherhood spurred Hayley Miller into starting a business. She tells how she did it.

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For some, motherhood spells the end of a career. For Hayley Miller, the birth of her second child spurred her into setting up her own business – HM Virtual Assistant.

“I was desperate to work from home to create a better work/life balance,” Hayley explains. “I am not a sit around having coffee and watching TV person either and I think this is easy trap to fall into if you live in a very rural area.

“I love being a mum but having always been such a busy and organised person, I found I needed some mental stimulation.”

Hayley started working for PGL Associates, a local health and safety training business, before realising that she wanted to go it alone and start up her own business.

“The idea of creating a business from scratch has always appealed,” she says. “Peter and Pat Lush, my employers at PGL, were great – they could see that I was managing my PGL workload and really encouraged me to go for it.”

A former office manager and legal secretary, Hayley realised that could offer something to businesses that couldn’t, or didn’t want to, take on full-time administrative staff. She created HM Virtual Assistant, a firm that offers tailor-made services ranging from telesales to event organisation.

“I relished the idea of being my own boss, challenging myself and seeing if I could make things work for me,” she says. “The way I saw it was nothing ventured, nothing gained. Although it seems crazy starting a business with a baby and an older child to think of I actually believe it was the best time.”

Hayley admits she “begged and borrowed” to raise the money for the business, while the Institute of Virtual Assistants helped her with benchmarking. A loan from her family covered the outlay on a PC, business telephone and fax lines and a printer.

The Staffordshire-based entrepreneur then set about securing clients, joining several local networking groups in order to raise her profile. She now has customers across the UK.

“I network constantly, it drives my husband mad!” she says. “It doesn’t matter what environment I am in, I always seek out networking opportunities in some way, shape or form.

“The only thing I have to constantly remind myself of is to tailor my networking to the situation I am in, if I’m in a social situation I would never go in for the kill!”

Hayley puts part of her success down to the increased demand for virtual assistant. However, she admits that the industry is affected by a variable standard of work.

“Consistency and regulation of work and skills is a major factor in our industry,” she says. “Some people I speak to about my work say ‘that sounds easy, I could do that’. The problem is administration work is not easy – systems and skills are essential to making things work and you have to of a particular organised mindset.

“It only takes one mistake in this industry to lose your reputation so it is crucial that the quality of work delivered is of a high and consistent standard.”

Despite successfully juggling a career with two young children, Hayley feels that female entrepreneurs still face barriers in the business world.

“I think over the years women in business have had to work twice as hard as some men in order to prove themselves,” she says. “We definitely do not have the work-life balanced licked like our European counterparts, but I think this is being addressed in the UK, slowly but surely.”

So, what would Hayley’s advice to a budding entrepreneur be?

“Work hard, do your research and keep it simple,” she advises. “Don’t over-complicate your business at the initial stages. It’s crucial to see your ideas and plans for what they are, build on them and keep on top of the finances – cash flow is crucial in the making or breaking of a small business.”

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