To get more done change your daily habits

When it comes to getting things done, I have the same pressures on my time as everyone else.

Children to organise, my own business and the challenge of preparing myself for the Great North Run last weekend. So why do I push myself to the limit and what is that limit?

First of all, I’ve decided that each one of us has the same 24 hours in the day and try as I have I can’t squeeze 25 hours out it. What I can do is determine my priorities.

In his book, Deep Work – rules for focused success in a distracted world, Cal Newport suggests that too much time is being busy doing shallow work (work that serves no real contribution to what we want to achieve).

By this he means, stupid amounts of time checking Facebook and other social media during the day. A desire to read and respond to the constant stream of emails arriving in the inbox (other people’s priorities).

I recommend the book or the Audible version which I have been listening to at 1.5 speed. See, I knew I could squeeze 90 minutes out of an hour – lol. He provides really helpful insights into how to work deep to get things done.

Secondly, I determined what I wanted to achieve and then narrowed it down to intense focus. To do this as Cal suggests, I needed to appreciate that only 20% of possible time spent on a project would really make a difference and I set about determining what that 20% was. We are easily distracted in each working day and naturally drift to doing stuff that is time-consuming and enjoyable rather than the activity that really makes a difference.

Finally, I set up a daily routine and stuck to it, until it became a habit. That was the most challenging part. Other habits pull us away, like a magnet, from the changes we need to make in organising our day.

“For things to change, we must change”. Jim Rohn

If your habits and your focus are not serving you in getting you to where you want to be, you must do something differently.

Why we should embrace failure

People look at failure in a number of different ways but I think failure is good. Awesome in fact. Fear of failure is holding us back. Incidentally, I’ve certainly pushed through my comfort zone to record this video.


At 28, I set up an online business and it flopped. Didn’t know what I was doing and my goodness, I’m glad that I failed in that business.

I learnt from my failures and went on to my second venture, which was an online magazine. I sold it. Not for a massive amount of money but for a profit. Failure served me well.

Marriage. First one, failed. Second one, learning from my mistakes, and doing ok. It’s not all about failure in business. You can fail at personal stuff too.

Failure is awesome, it’s part of personal growth. You need it in your life to move forward.

is a franchise a perfect self-employment solution?

When I visit any strange town or city, I am struck by the number of businesses that I’m already familiar with. Familiar coffee or fast food brands, hairdressers even. Chances are that they are franchises. So I figure, ‘is a franchise a perfect self-employment solution?’

The fact is that opening any business in the high-street is expensive and high risk. To minimise that risk you would do well to access the experience of a company willing to partner with you and share their experience. A franchise might offer the perfect opportunity.

I am not suggesting all franchises are created equally. Each has its own personality and requirements to protect their growth and brand. You need to read the small print. You need to consider the money you have available to invest along with the risk you are prepared to take. But hey, that’s the same with any business venture.

So let’s be clear as to what we buy when we invest in a franchise. We buy time.

It takes a time to develop skills and to gain experience. It takes a time to build a reputation. What is the true cost in the extra time we spend trying to figure all this out ourselves? Building awareness slowly could move profitable revenues from this month to next quarter. From this month to next year. Lack of cash flow is one of the major challenges in any business and running out of money is a key risk.

A reputable franchise has the skill set and business model to minimise such a risk. They already know what it takes to build a successful business and they don’t have room for failure.

The main issue with a franchise business in the high street, however, is the money you have to risk and tie up. Brick and mortar business ventures are expensive to set up and maintain.

However, there are many work-from-home franchise models that have minimal setup costs and affordable license fees. Profits are generally excellent to good. You could work fewer hours, or work hard and make twice as much as a franchise.

In the digital age, many of these franchise opportunities are powered by technology and without the high investment of a brick and mortar business this opens up business opportunities without the traditional costs.

I am a keen advocate for the franchise business model for the right people and I appreciate that franchising isn’t for everyone. Neither is medicine, teaching, sales or graphic design.

However, if you are facing 2017 with a burning ambition to set out on your own, remember that you need not face the challenges on your own or with the high cost or risk of a brick and mortar franchise business.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and professionals who travel extensively.

Linkedin Profile

do new business owners need trainer wheels?

I recently read that half of all British businesses are now based at home and one in 10 domestic properties is home to a business, according to research conducted in association with Direct Line for Business and PC World Business.

Why should I be surprised? Advancing technology is making it easier than ever for people to be more flexible in business. The idea of someone running an entire business from home now seems very realistic.

76% of homepreneurs have never been involved in running a business before.

It’s easy for those of us who have been in business for a while to forget the challenges of starting a new business.

Like riding a bike. What can be so difficult? Until you get on the bike! At which point you realise that balance is key. So it is with a new business requiring so many areas that need attention. Aspects of the business that frankly, you don’t have the aptitude, skills or interest in.

Naturally, each person will approach the challenges of their new business with enthusiasm, often confused with ‘ignorance on fire’. I know, I’ve been there.

Embark on a new business and you can plan your strategy, product or service development, your marketing. You can control your expenses, manage your cash flow etc. but you can’t do everything yourself, even though you might think you can.

Just like we underestimate the calories we consume and overestimate the exercise we take, we are not brilliant at everything. Choose your surrogate support team carefully.

Surround yourself with people who will support and inspire you to be more than you believe you are. You will get to where you want to go, faster and with less heartache.

You will need this support and might be surprised to learn that you don’t always get it from your family. see What to do When Your Spouse Does Not Want You to Open a Business

Oh, to see into the future. To be able to avoid the challenges and have someone who has ‘been there’. Worry not, if you can get through it before your funds run out (cash flow is a major cause of business failure) you are awarded a ‘been there – got the t-shirt’ badge. It’s called experience. Hopefully, a profitable one.

Walk in the footprints of those who have already been where you want to go.

At SmartPA, we provide more than the services we invoice. We provide an emotional intelligence and desire to help entrepreneurs achieve more.

Our franchisees bring their own individual experiences in business and provide a support system that inspires people to be, do and have more.

And for those homepreneurs who are considering starting up their own virtual PA services, I say this. Why on earth would you want to face the challenges on your own when you can take advantage of the experience of a team who have laid down the footprints.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA working with Smart PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively

Linkedin Profile

what do I get for my franchise fees?

franchise fees

I work closely with a leading UK franchise, so I guess I know at first hand what it takes to be successful as a franchisee.  Although I am asked many questions, one stands out in particular and that is the question ‘so, what do I get for my franchise fees?’

I love this question, for it shows me that someone appreciates that their investment into a franchise needs to deliver additional value over an above going it alone.

They want to know what they are buying and why wouldn’t they?

When you buy into a franchise you should be buying a product or service backed by a business and marketing system that has been tried, tested and proven to work to generate profit.

Of course, everyone who goes into business for themselves will have these goals in mind.  Anyone who has been in business will know the hidden traps, distractions and challenges that face everyone new to the business.

‘With a franchise, you can put an old head on young shoulders’

I guess that is the hidden answer to the question, ‘what do I get for my money’. A safer alternative to starting out on your own. Buying the time and money wasted making the mistakes everyone makes.

Sure I can talk about a business that allows someone to be their own boss and benefit from working at home. Flexible working hours, increased income, better work-life balance or minimised childcare costs are important for many and a good franchise enables people with the right personality and temperament to achieve these goals.

However, the person I’m talking to has likely already considered that they can do this on their own, without the cost of a franchise. This is nearly always the question behind the question.

Starting out on your own is an act of faith with ‘no safety net’ by way of knowing what typically happens and how to deal with the challenges to be faced.

There really is no substitute for experience.

Yes, you can work out how to set up, run and develop a new business but brainstorming smarter options is best done with people who have already done what you plan to do.

Every new or established business will face challenges and times when business isn’t so brisk. Even a franchise. However, rather than figuring out what to do on your own or with an equally inexperienced family member, it’s better to talk to someone who’s already made their mistakes and learnt from it.

A good franchise team offers valuable support, inspiration and know-how to help their franchise partner through the tough periods far better than someone who has never faced those same challenges before.

It is important to surround yourself with experienced people who can guide you through the good and bad times. No one does anything of any consequence on their own.

For the many who are new to the business, a good franchise holds out a helpful hand to guide the newbie along their well-worn path to success.

They have the success map from a path well trodden so you don’t get lost in cul-de-sacs or travelling the wrong way up one-way streets. Better to work for yourself as part of a like-minded team than work alone and on your own.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively

Life beyond Corporate – Getting started as an Entrepreneur

blonde, girl, taking

Life beyond Corporate. Getting started as an Entrepreneur is always a challenge to anyone brought up as an employee.

What does it really take to leave the comfort of a well-paid corporate job and start out on your own? More than you think.

Working for yourself, starting a business is not for the faint hearted and if you haven’t got an overriding passion and infectious enthusiasm the challenges in business that will test your resolve to the limit. There is little room for self doubt.

But what if you want to leave the corporate rat race and you’re not clear about where your passion lies?  ‘You don’t really know what you want to be when you grow up’.

Don’t beat yourself up for you are not alone, as this fascinating Ted Talk from Emilie Wapnick reveals.

ted talks

Network One
The greatest challenges that people leaving corporate face is being used to a support structure that provides ideas, talent, skills to contribute to the overall purpose of the business of generating portable revenue.

As soon as possible surround yourself with people who will provide skills, services and inspiration necessary to make the most profitable use of your time. Most people starting their own business fail to budget for this. They attempt to do everything themselves, in the belief that when the business is profitable they will introduce such a structure. Wrong way round.

It won’t happen, for the distracted, and ultimately tired and frustrated individual will never achieve as much or as fast as a support team helping reach past break-even into profit.

Hire a personal assistant who has already made that move from corporate to starting a business. The good ones help entrepreneurs prioritise, focus and keep on track. They help entrepreneurs use their time in the a more productive fashion whilst they take care of many of the necessary activities previously provided within the corporate structure.

A Virtual Personal Assistant’s understanding of the corporate culture from a similar, even higher level is quite important when sharing ideas. This special insight could be worth more than their monthly charges.

Network Two
There is a massive gulf between the marketing undertaken within a large corporate and the type of marketing required to get a business start-up off the ground. So much money is wasted on marketing by people who don’t know what they’re doing.

Instead, your personal and extended connections will make up your network and your network is said to be equal to your net worth.

The more people who know what your goals are, the better, as people generally love to help people. This is one area that need not cost too much money but instead will take time to develop. Time well spent.

Check out a local Business Network International (BNI) meeting.  They have referral marketing strategies down to a fine art.

You will achieve more in less time, when you focus on creating strong referral partnerships rather than attracting an extensive list of ‘networking junkies’ aimlessly wandering from networking event to networking event, looking for that quick sale.

Learn how to use LinkedIn to make and develop online connections. has some great courses. Don’t risk exposing yourselves as a novice during this important time.

Practice Patience
If you are going to be in business for the long term you need to be patient, for it may take longer than you expect to create the visibility and establish your reputation as someone worth doing business with.

If you have experienced other challenges making to move from corporate to your own business then please comment below or perhaps connect on LinkedIn.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA with a background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal, amongst others. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively

Linkedin Profile

work life balance for busy mums


work life balance for busy mumsThen it all comes down to the bottom line, it has to be about work life balance and in my case, work life balance for busy mums. I have the badge – tee-shirt is in the wash.

I organise (or is the word corral) three small children under five. I help clients stay focused in order to get more done. Did I mention the virtual and real business meetings I attend with clients and yes, I need ‘me time’ too. Continue reading “work life balance for busy mums”

Spinning Plates is All About Wiggling Sticks

If, amidst your busy, multi-tasking lifestyle you ever feel like a circus act, spinning plates amongst the sound of china smashing, hold on a second. I have some ideas.

You’ve seen the professionals do it in the variety acts or at the circus. Well they may be skilled but I reckon that as a mum with a business, my plates feel very precious.

If a circus performer drops a few too many plates he shrugs his shoulders and buys more plates. Unless you are Joel Hatton from Blackpool. Joel works with Gerry Cottle’s circus and complains he can’t get enough replacement plates, despite the number of charity shops he visits in the town. OK, maybe he isn’t any good (I thought the object of the exercise was not to drop and smash the plates) but he got me thinking about the real value of the plates we spin in the air.

No, I identify more with Amy Hunter. Amy is a mother of countless number of children, who, when challenged by her 9 year old who, after he watched a plate spinner on TV, told his mother that he thought it looked hard. When Amy claimed that this is what she does all the time, her young son said “Mum. You. Can’t. Spin. Plates. You can’t even juggle.”

Want to bet.  Being a mother of three children of different ages, with different needs means I have to juggle with their priorities as well as my own. None of them, especially the one year old, would take kindly to being dropped on the floor. My plates are more precious than those I can buy at a charity shop to entertain an audience.

So when it comes to home, personal life and business – how do we get everything done and appear to be in control. How do you create a work life balance?

Great insight from Jen Slaw but anyway, back to plates.

How Many Plates Can I Reasonably Spin?

According to Wikipedia, The Guinness World Record for spinning multiple plates is held by David Spathaky, assisted by Debbie Woolley, who spun 108 plates simultaneously in Bangkok, Thailand, on television in 1996. He had previously held and broken his own record four times since 1986.

We only have so many hours in the day and we need to give up on the idea of managing time. We can’t. However, we can determine priorities and choose the time we have on the priorities we establish. Priorities are key.

Busy Doing What, Going Where? 

Notice the professional plate spinners do not attempt to put twelve plates in the air at once. They have a strategy that works.  First, they focus on getting things going and once they have a plate in a stable state, they are able to start on another. We can sometimes underestimate how much effort it takes to get a project started but we need to look for a point when the project has a momentum all of its own or with minimal personal attention.

I always wonder about those people who tell me they’re busy when I ask the question ‘how are things?’. ‘Busy doing what, going where?’ What is the end result of busy – and is it serving your long term plans? Back to priorities.

Am I Spinning The Right Plates?

You may think this is back to priorities but in my experience, when people start to list their priorities, they list work or family priorities first and don’t get much further than that. How about your personal priorities? Your dreams, your ambitions. OK, you may feel you have to put them ‘on hold’ to raise a family, but do you? How about an ambition to give up work altogether so you can enjoy more time with your family. If that is an ambition the first priority must be to make it a priority and to make time to work on it. Yes, you may need to think ‘outside of the box’ and you may need the help of others to consider how you might, over time, engineer this, but surely this is time well spent. Make your dreams a priority, however ambitious they are.

Ask for Help

For some people there’s a thrill in being able to juggle plates. It appeals to one’s self worth but I can’t imagine any serious business person doing everything personally.  Know when to ask for help and it can be something as simple as calling a reliable personal assistant (PA).  They are normally expert at juggling plates – perhaps some of yours.

Wiggling Sticks

You may wonder if you can let  some Plates Fall? Of course you can. Some projects and ideas look great on paper but after a while they don’t look so clever in reality. Knowing when to give up on a project is important. Plate spinners ‘Wiggle Sticks’ but if the occasional plate needs a disproportionate amount of time wiggling, then maybe it’s time to let it drop. Your time is precious and priorities change.

When a plate or project becomes too much like hard work and no fun, maybe it’s the universe telling you something. We need to recognise when to give up on something that no longer serves us. Including time consuming, non appreciative, negative, or no fun clients who sap our energy.

Now, I feel better already. Sometimes the sound of breaking china can be therapeutic.


What is a Mumpreneur?

What exactly is a mumpreneur? According to Collins Dictionary a mumpreneur is described as follows:

1. (informal) a woman who combines running a business enterprise with looking after her children.

And why not?  Well, according to Kathryn Hocking from on Motherpedia why not often comes down to “can I really do it?” and “what if I fail” or “what if they think I’m an idiot”.  

In her article 9 secrets to starting your own mumpreneur business,  Kathryn says “Despite the fact that they have taken on the hardest job in the world – carrying a child, giving birth and surviving through the newborn months and severe sleep deprivation – they experience massive lack of self-confidence.”  

mumprenuerAlthough the term mumpreneur was created in USA (where else?) it seems to be gathering traction and with it, plenty of support and resource.  From how to be a mumpreneur through to apps. for mumpreneurs. 

Choosing your career as a mumpreneur may follow your passion, your experience, a great idea or inspiration with a friend in a similar situation.  Naturally, the general rules of business must follow. You need to create visibility for your idea and someone has to want to exchange money for it but with marketing costs at an all time low, now is a great time to start.

Can you do it on your own?  Yes is the answer, but you can achieve more in less time and with less stress by surrounding yourself with people who have your interests at heart.

see my blog:  working mums in business

photos courtesy of

Working Mums in Business

Almost three quarters of working mums dream of being their own boss.

During this run up to the General Election, statistics are thrown around like confetti but I found the statistic above of particular interest. Perhaps because it has nothing to do with the election.

The statistic came from a survey that involved 1,500 working mums and was conducted by One Poll. It found that 64% of women had taken steps to improve their work-life balance after starting a family, and over half chose part time work to give them more time at home.

Read the full article here: why three quarters of working mums want to start their own business.

I know what this takes to do it on my own and how much easier it is to surround myself with talented people to help me – all off payroll.

I have three children and help a number of business owners grow their business by helping them focus on the parts of their business that matters. What do I do? I take care of the important elements of running a business that don’t need to be done by the owner and keep them from wandering off script.

working mums

Can a virtual assistant help working mums? Of course they can, if they have the necessary experience of which, being a working mum, I would suggest, is a pre-requisite.

In fairness, many working mums, running a business from home, are content with the size and progress of their business. However, in my experience, those individuals (men as well) who have come away from a corporate lifestyle in order to have more of a ‘work – life balance’ still have aspirations for greater things. Which is where a virtual assistant comes in. Especially one with an awareness of what it takes to transition from corporate to working from home.

The added stress of children at nursery, play school, etc. especially during periods of illness resulted in 73% of the women questioned saying that, given the opportunity, they would leave the financial security of their current job for a more entrepreneurial life.

career ideas for women



So, excuses out of the way. What are you waiting for?  Inspiration? Try these: Home Career Ideas