Ever felt as a startup that there aren't enough hours in the day? Well, Timely PA a recent startup itself has recognised this problem & created a solution - A virtual PA service for Startups. We were intrigued so we thought it best to have a chat with Patrick Collins, Timely PA's Founder ...
Tell us about your business - how did you start TimelyPA and why specifically the startup sector? I have had a career as a professional footballer (see www.patrickpaulcollins.com), had a property company and then got in to the startup world where I spent 3 years. Throughout all the different companies I have worked for, I have always been passionate about being efficient as possible to achieve great results and to try new technology to be a step ahead of my competitors. I got in to the tech startup scene at first by being part of the ignite 100 accelerator programme working for www.blinkcollective.com. This was my first introduction in the startup scene. Unfortunately Blink Collective did not receive second round funding and I was offered a sales role in another Newcastle based startup www.Spontly.com. Throughout this time, although I spoke to 100s maybe 1000s of customers, I realised due to the nature of the company, you never actually need to meet your clients and so I realised I could set up a company that could offer all services remotely and online. I have always had a passion for travel and have had a keen interest in to a digital nomad lifestyle and so saw an opportunity to combine a digital nomadic lifestyle with creating an online company. I chose the startup sector as I realised the real need for admin and social support among startups. A large number of startups close down within a year, and so in order to have the best opportunities, I help startup companies concentrate on doing what they like to do and be creative, and I offer to do the jobs that they don't like, such as admin, accounts, marketing.
Many startups find it hard to delegate responsibilities to people "outside the team", so how do you manage to address this concern and worry? Although many startups are wary of delegating, they are always aware that they need to be scalable and they need to grow very quickly. The only way they can do this is by hiring more staff, or outsourcing jobs. Also I have worked in the startup environment and I appreciate the needs of the businesses and the CEO's. They need to be regularly updated with reports, they need to be asked very few questions, and they need to work with people who can be creative, adaptable and can problem solve. Many CEOs are control freaks and so we usually start with small tasks to build their trust and then often building up to full time contracts. Few to no tech startups ever have a training manual or process and so you have to be open to change on a regular basis, or create new ideas that they can use. Also I am always available to talk to and discuss how I can help and can be very flexible to prioritise tasks to be completed if urgent. As a startup we are proud of the businesses we have worked with so far including www.sponty.com / www.99dresses.com / and www.mobi-cart and receive a lot of our business from referrals and recommendations.
Can you give us three advantages to using TimelyPA as a startup?
(1) Companies can concentrate on doing things that they love, being creative, marketing their company, finding investors, developing their product / idea and not have to worry about admin. They pass over the jobs they hate or don't have time for to us
(2) We are cheaper than having full time staff. They don't have to train us, pay for holidays, sick pay or PAYE. They use TimelyPa as and when they need the services.
(3) We work only with tech startups, and so have great experience in the startup environment in what processes, skills and software are the best to apply to the startup that we are working with.
Working as a startup yourselves - what did you find the hardest part of starting up and the hardest lesson learnt? The best advice that I have ever taken is that "it is easier to turn 1 penny in to a pound, then it is to turn nothing in to a penny". I learned from day one that having an income is priority, not just a product that people may be interested in. By having a sellable service from day one, you can grow the company and learn whilst offering a sustainable service. The other best advice I have learned is the difference between being effective and being efficient. Too many people are fixed on being efficient, sorting emails, clearing inbox, tidying desk, but not effective in what they try to achieve on a daily basis. I learned to always have a daily to do-list that was achievable, and make progress every day.
Finally, what's next for TimelyPA - any future plans you can share with us all?
As I write this I am in Siem Reap in Cambodia. I will be spending the next month here, and then have 4 months in Thailand before returning to Newcastle for Christmas. There are currently 3 full time staff running the business and I am in the process of training up new staff to start in September. By January next year we are looking to be working with tech startups and accelerator programmes thorughout the UK and the US.
Cheers Patrick and we look forward to following your journey as you progress.
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