Inspirational Woman: Jen Workman | Founder, Business Owl

Jen Workman

After a career in the legal sector and then as a PA at the University of York, I decided to combine my skills and experience and I founded Business Owl, a virtual assistant business.

Initially I worked from the dining table on my old laptop, which was so slow that I had to switch it on before breakfast, to give it time to warm up! Thankfully as the business grew I was able to replace said laptop and I now have a bespoke office at home. We’ve also grown to the point where I work with a small team of associates.

Business Owl supports busy professionals, many within the legal sector but also consultants, accountants, small business owners and entrepreneurs. Tasks range from implementing processes and procedures and streamlining, to document drafting, audio transcription and updating websites, and everything in between.

Clients tend to need a certain level of organisation within their businesses, without the need for a full-time on-site employee and this is where we are best placed to help. We provide flexible support which helps businesses through the inevitable peaks and troughs.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I did plan my career in the legal sector and after qualifying as a Legal Executive I fully expected that I would always work in private practice. I wanted to help and support people. After 10 years of working in law firms and seeing a lot of change along the way, I decided this wouldn’t be for me for the longer term, although my aspiration to help other people never went away and I guess that’s how I’ve found my way into supporting people and their businesses as a Virtual Assistant. Many of my clients are in the legal sector and related professions, so I do still use the skills and experiences I gained in my early career, just from a different angle.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I think each time I’ve moved through another stage of running my business it has been a challenge. I started the business whilst working full time in an employed role. I gradually reduced the number of hours I spent in the employed role, finally stopping the ‘proper job’ altogether in 2017. This was a challenging time and although I had built up a small client base, leaving the comfort of a monthly wage packet was daunting.

It’s also been a challenge to work in the business and on the business at the same time, and this challenge still remains today, although as the business grows and I take more support onboard, this will hopefully ease.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Qualifying as a Legal Executive was a big deal for me. It is a degree level qualification, which I gained while working full time, as I decided that going to University wasn’t for me.

My biggest achievement in my business has definitely been receiving the Runner-up North East England VA of the Year Award 2020. There are many brilliant VAs in our region and to be recognised with this award felt great. It came as I was taking my first two Consultants into the business, so it was nice to do this with my first award on the shelf!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I’ve followed my instincts along the way and I think this has given me a solid base for decision making. It’s also helped me to grow the business at my own speed, in my own way.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I haven’t had a formal mentor although I have attended many courses and workshops over the years and I’ve taken a lot of practical advice from these kinds of events. I’ve also gained a lot of valuable advice from the VA community which really couldn’t be more supportive.

I do like the idea of being a mentor and sharing the wisdom I’ve gained so far. I’d particularly like to support a school leaver who like me decides that University isn’t for them, but who wishes to get their qualifications via another route. To be able to support somebody in this position would feel really worthwhile and satisfying.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I think lots of progress has been made in this area and it’s time to take stock and work out what can and should be done next to make sure actions are kept aligned with the end objectives.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I’d definitely like to tell my younger self to worry less! Having said that, I still have to remind myself of this even today. I still fall into the trap of worrying, and learning to take things a day at a time is still a work in progress.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future? 

The business is in a growth phase and as we move through the pandemic and are hopefully heading for better times, the demand for our services continues to increase. I’m looking to expand my team further, which means that I need to work on my own delegating skills. Despite talking to clients on a daily basis about delegating, it’s not something which comes naturally to me within my own business. I’ll be focusing more of my time on business development, which is exciting.

I’m also looking forward to regaining a better balance once we are able to get out and about a bit more, a holiday would be nice too!

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