Collaboration not Competition

It’s all about collaboration!
I recently had the opportunity to meet up with several members of the VA Support Group in Birmingham for a bit of festive cheer.  It was lovely to actually meet the real people behind the virtual personas I have been talking to on Skype and Twitter this year.

Through working closely with each other we have all enhanced our own businesses by being able to offer clients services that previously we would not have been able to offer just working alone.  I have some great working relationships with the team and as a result my clients have benefited.

Starting out in the VA industry earlier this year I was surprised at just how helpful and friendly a bunch of people I found them.  There was no competition, just a genuine desire to help each other, wherever I happened to come across them, and was even more delighted to be invited to join the VA Support Group, which is largely based on Skype.

How do I describe how it works?  I guess that whatever it is I need, the group is there for me, be it some assistance at short notice on a client project, or just somewhere to drop in and chat for five minutes.  I described the group today as being like a virtual office.  You can have a chat around the coffee machine, discuss what latest trial the kids are putting you through, or just like in a real office, you can shout out and ask someone to remind you of that shortcut in word or check a formula in excel. 

Someone also commented on just how similar we are in person to how we come across on Skype.  I suspect that this is because it is a private discussion, not an open forum where you have to be more guarded in what you say, and so we speak on there just as we would if we were face to face, though it was quite novel not to have to have a typed conversation and constantly check your spelling!

It was even more hilarious when all the mobile phones came out and the Skype and Twitter activity carried on after lunch!

Sometimes in business, particularly for a sole trader just starting out, and working from home, it can get pretty lonely.  Surely ours isn’t the only industry where people can support each other virtually, offering collaboration instead of competition.  We are all the stronger for it both as individuals and as businesses.  Yet all too often we come across forums and networking sites where everything is guarded and closed off, I’m not asking you to give away trade secrets, but perhaps there is someone out there that you could collaborate with, making your business stronger and better suited for the journey ahead.

Sometimes you just need someone who understands, someone you can bounce ideas off, or simply someone to listen when you have had a bad day, and to give you that virtual hug.

I hope for your sake that you find that support, in the meantime, I will carry on appreciating the support and assistance that my colleagues give me, and look forward to the next occasion when we can get to meet up.


  1. Excellent post Helen. Wish I had been at the lunch but I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities in the future. Proud to call you all my valuable colleagues!

  2. Once again, a damn good blog, great to see people coming together and actually supporting each other, I see this a lot in the Directory industry, with a lot of help offered out, lets hope your positive post might spur some support and help in other industries! Off to tweet this and actually respond to your Email from over a week ago!

    Great stuff Helen!

  3. Charlotte Burford16 December 2009 at 08:40

    Excellent post Emilly, it was a shame I couldn't come to the lunch but I plan to meet most of you at the VA Conference next year.

    I have been a VA since 2005 and since joining the VA Support Group this year I no longer feel alone.

    I don't just think of members of the group as colleagues but more as friends who are there to help and support me whatever my needs, be it on a business or personal level.

  4. Wholeheartedly agree Helen!

    I'm indebted to you for inviting me to the VASG too!

    It is amazing that we all consider ourselves to be guardian's of each other's businesses. If we see something that might help another member we share it with them and, when appropriate, with the entire group. This not only strengthens our own businesses but everyone's. In doing so, we promote the VA industry in the best light possible.

    I'm better for knowing you all too, so THANK YOU for writing this blog and thanks to The VA Support Group!

    It was a fab lunch wasn't it?

    Thanks to Charlie for hosting it too!

  5. Another excellent blog Helen. I wish I could have made the lunch, it sounds like you all had a great time and a good way to see our "virtual friends/colleagues".

    VASG has been a great resource for me where you can bounce ideas of each other, get support and generally have some virtual office chit chat.

  6. Helen this is great and really does say it all! I have only been a member of the group for about three weeks, but I have learnt so much in that time, and its great to have the support of the group.

  7. Well written Helen. Aren't you glad I invited you to join VASG? :p Jokes aside, I am very proud of the group that Anne-Marie, Emily and I have started and definitely feel much more confident about the future.

    As a result of what we do, I have had a great referral from you, which should bring some ongoing work in the future. Thank you once again for that!

    As the group continues to grow, I hope that we can continue collaborate with and support even more VA businesses, countrywide and internationally.

  8. Something really important to remember is that if you're a small business, you're like to be specialised - you can't do everything - no matter how broad you believe your skill set to be.

    So it's natural to align yourself with others with whom you can collaborate and ultimately it's beneficial in many ways not to mention building deep, lasting relationships with clients.

    "Oh, you need something to do XYZ - well I don't do that, but I can highly recommend so-and-so.."

    Of course you are aligning your reputations as well - but after collaborating a few times you can build trust and settle into a mutually beneficial position!

  9. Yes, I read this blog with great interest, as this kind of practice reflects everything I stand for. I associate with business owners who share commitment and passion similar to my own. Also of the belief that as much as us folk who fly solo, stand a chance in the current climate (not dreaming here, rather a theory) However, we need to engage with each other and push forward. Unfortunately I am not 'skyped' up yet so will request I join your group in the future. Good luck with all that you do and accomplish loads!!


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