Kathleen Gauden is owner of The Virtual Assistant & Company and has been working from home since long before it was hip and trendy.
In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast, Kathleen shares tips for working remotely so tune in to hear her story and advice.
For those that say it cannot be done, get out of the way of the person doing it!
CONNECT WITH KATHLEEN
Kathleen Gauden has been working virtually way before COVID and way before it was cool!
In 1999, Kathleen started a Personal Assistant Service that targeted high net worth and high profile clients in Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla, CA (San Diego area). She took her Corporate EA skills and created a business managing very large estates (25,000 sq. foot homes) and much of her work was virtual.
Several years ago, Kathleen went 100% virtual.
She supports clients virtually as a Virtual Executive Assistant, Project Manager, Chief of Staff, Marketing Assistant, and Event Coordinator. She also mentors and teaches VAs starting out, or those wishing to take their business to the next level, via 1:1 coaching.
Kathleen supports C-Suite Executives, Board of Directors, Entrepreneurs, Soul-Entrepreneurs, authors, and life or business coaches.
She’s worked in various industries, including Biotech, Department of Defense, high tech, non-profits, real estate, and numerous start-up companies.
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Kathleen Gauden 0:00
My name is Kathleen Gauden I am a virtual executive assistant and my favorite leadership quote is for those that say it cannot be done get out of the way of the person doing it.
Kathleen Gauden 0:15
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistant
Jeremy Burrows 0:26
The Leader Assistant Podcast is exclusively brought to you by goody which provides effortless gifting for all occasions. If you’re tired of sending tacky impersonal business gifts, then you should definitely check out goody my friends at goodie offer a collection of hundreds of curated brands like Levain bakery, Thera body, milk bar, and Ember mugs. With goody, if your recipient doesn’t like your gift, they can swap it out for one they do like you can find perfect gifts for any occasion. Whether it’s work, anniversaries, birthdays, new hire onboarding or company swag. It’s free to start gifting and you get a $20 credit when you sign up. Also, be sure to mention The Leader Assistant Podcast when signing up and goody will add an extra $10 credit to your account. So go to leaderassistant.com/goody to disrupt the inefficiencies in your team’s gifting strategy. Again, that’s leaderassistant.com/goody. Hey friends, thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host Jeremy Burrows and welcome to episode 164. You can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/164 leaderassistant.com/164. Today I’m very excited to be speaking with Kathleen Gauden. Kathleen is the owner of the virtual assistant and Company. Kathleen, how’s it going?
Kathleen Gauden 2:00
It’s going great. Jeremy, thanks so much for having me on your show.
Jeremy Burrows 2:04
Yeah. And where in the world are you?
Kathleen Gauden 2:08
The beautiful Pacific Northwest Bend Oregon.
Jeremy Burrows 2:12
Very nice. And I think you mentioned that there was some snow in the area. Is that right?
Kathleen Gauden 2:18
Well, the weather on the this side of the Cascades is very interesting. I think last week, we had a couple of days that were in the 70s and push an ad and we were in shorts and working on our garden and the past couple of days. It’s been snowing and blustery and very, very cool. So the weather here changes instantly.
Jeremy Burrows 2:40
Wow. Yeah, it seems like that’s what’s been going on around here in Kansas City, Missouri in the Midwest lately. Today is 88 or something and then tomorrow is supposed to be 49. So crazy, fun times. Well, let’s jump in. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. And just all about your experience and interest and all that fun stuff in the assistant world and particularly the virtual assistant world.
Kathleen Gauden 3:09
Okay, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. So I started my business back in 1999 When I lived in San Diego, California. And what prompted that is i i had a very strong corporate executive background, like most of your listeners and yourself working for, for high profile high net worth clients in the corporate world. I did that for many, many years in biotech, Department of Defense startup I have different industries have supported and as I’m producing, and others know, our skills are transferable across different industries. So back in 1999, right after I bought my very first house, I decided that I wanted to start a family and for me, I really wanted to be present during that process for my children. And so I sat there by the pool one day with my laptop and I was brainstorming like what could I do and what am I passionate about and what do I enjoy? And in a came, you know kept coming back to I love being of service. That’s what I do. I love being a service. I’m more of the behind the scenes kind of gal. I like supporting other people and taking on a lot of their non I’ll say income producing tasks so they can focus on what they’re really good at what they’re really passionate about. So as I’m kind of putting together you know, my vision and working on a vision board, I decided I picked out my audience who is my audience, and it was still the same corporate executive type of folks philanthropist and Indian San Diego during that time today. very well known communities that executives lived in were Rancho, Santa Fe, and La Jolla, California. So that was my target audience. And I took out an ad in those two newspapers, little, you know, village news and such. And in, I really didn’t know what I was doing. And I put an ad in there, you know, personal assistant virtual assistant, and I was inundated with phone calls. It was crazy. So, you know, my business took off, it was during the.com era. And I worked for a lot of people managing large estates, and those two areas of San Diego as well as doing work remotely for them. Things like wedding planning and event coordination, all that type of stuff I was able to do from my home. So that’s how I initially got started in the virtual world.
Jeremy Burrows 5:56
Wow. So you were doing virtual remote work before it was hip and trendy?
Kathleen Gauden 6:02
Yes, I always like to joke when I’m talking to people and say, I’ve been working virtually way before it was COVID hit and way before it was the cool thing to do. So yes, I have been doing it and loving it for a long time.
Jeremy Burrows 6:16
Well, okay, then, since you are a guru at the remote world, what are your top two or three tips for assistants listening, who are trying to manage a very large estate for their executive or their principal, or maybe just manage a leadership team or a board of directors, all from the comfort of their home.
Kathleen Gauden 6:41
So I can speak firsthand at that, of course. And what I like to do is have a routine. And my my morning routine is kind of my ritual where I go through and do things that that start my day, it sparks it, it gets me excited about the day, and I dress, you know, I get up and I go through my routine. And I dress the way I would if I was going into an office, it helps me set the tone, it helps me get into a business mindset or frame of mind. And, and I happen to have and have had for many years. Luckily, a designated workspace and this is kind of my my sanctuary, nobody goes on my computer or my iPhone, or my iPad, or, or whatever device I’m working from, and this is my space, when Kathleen goes into your office to work, it’s close the door time and focus. And so having, you know, getting ready, just like I would for an office, but I go into my office, it might you know, my home office, instead of going into a corporate office or a small business office. So have a morning routine, and have a designated workspace if possible. And also, you know, get up like you’re you’re going to work if you you know, do your hair and put on makeup and or don’t wear makeup, you know, instead of putting on those comfortable yoga pants, or, you know, a sweatshirt and T shirt. I always like to be ready and present in my office, you know, physically because I never know when I’m going to get asked to hop on Zoom and be visibly, you know, be visible.
Jeremy Burrows 8:25
Yeah, that’s a great tip. So how are actually tell us a story or maybe an example of a time when you were asked to do something that required someone to be physically present? And how did you? How did you manage that? How did you outsource or delegate? Or how did you problem solve a situation where your client says, oh, no, my, you know, something’s leaking at the house, or, and I’m not there and I’m out of town or you know, because a lot of times, you know, I know, I worked in the same city as my executive for the first four years and my current executive. And it’s like, okay, yeah, I lived 10 minutes from his house. So if something came up, I was able to just hop in the car and hop over and, you know, be there to support. But I’ve, as I’ve moved four hours away, on the other side of the state, I’ve had to learn to have a Rolodex of people that could do this kinds of things. But what’s some examples of how you’ve been able to manage those needs that do require somebody to be present?
Kathleen Gauden 9:41
So that’s a great question. And thank you, as you’re asking it, I’m thinking through it. So I do have a couple of assistants that are on my team, and then it helps support me in two different locations. Now that doesn’t obviously cover all 50 states, but when I am speaking to a potential client If I actually find out what their needs are, are they going to need someone physical at maybe an event, I just organized a corporate retreat in Las Vegas, I don’t live in Las Vegas as it’s shared. I’m in Oregon. So I was not able to be there. But I had points of contacts there. And so if or when something came up, I had somebody that my CEO, my, my client, that’s a CEO could reach out to that individual and have on point. And, for example, another instance was I had a new client in San Diego and the tech industry, real estate tech industry reached out to me and said, Hey, we just signed up a new client, I’d like to get a bottle of wine delivered to them today. Well, especially with COVID, things take a lot slow, you know, things are a lot slower. They don’t happen instantaneously. Like, like they have sometimes in the past. Lucky for me, I like you have a Rolodex of individuals that I’ve worked with, I’ve talked with, I’ve mentored that our associates, you know, I that’s one of my strengths is networking and having a large network. So I reached out to somebody who had supported me as an assistant and I asked her, I need you to go to La Jolla, I need to you know, spend $130, or whatever it was on a bottle wine habit delivered to this individual as a thank you can you handle that? And she gladly took on the assignment. So for me, not unlike other EAS, even in a workforce, always kind of I don’t want to say being a devil’s advocate. But that’s what comes to mind. You know, if plan A doesn’t work, What’s plan B, always have a backup plan, because you just never know. I never tell my clients. No, I can’t do that. I I find workarounds, I find solutions to their needs.
Jeremy Burrows 11:57
That’s great. So, you know, just as you’re running your own firm, and you found this person that was able to deliver the wine, just logistically talk us through like, did you say to the client, I can make that happen, but there’s going to be an extra fee so that, you know, you could pay this person to run the run the wine and like, how did that work? I know there’s several of assistants in my community who have either started their own virtual assistant, remote executive assistant, freelancing gig, or they want to, and you know, as a logistics person, myself, and as most assistants are always thinking about the details, right? How did that work? Like? Was it like, hey, I need this there. And you’re like, Okay, I’ll make it happen, but it’s gonna cost an extra, you know, $200 or whatever?
Kathleen Gauden 12:47
No, I actually asked what his budget was. And he had shared it with me and I said, not a problem. Let me see what I can do. And I happened to remember about 20 years ago, when my daughter was very little, she had a playdate with a, you know, little girl, obviously, her age and the her parents owned a wine store. That was their business, their wine connoisseur. So I reached back, going back 20 years when I met this person and said, Hey, I’m so and so my daughter, Natasha played with your daughter and need a bottle of wine delivered, here’s my budget, can you make it happen? And he said, we have it. This is, you know, these are the selections I have. This is the pricing. When I reached out to my individual and asked her to do it for me, I just took on, I particular took on that cost, I get paid well for what I do. And I’m very grateful for that. And people that work for me, enjoy working for me, and happy to help me in any way. So the only thing that it cost Mike my client, he gave me a budget and I said it’s gonna I think it was $10 more in that price range. And he said not a problem, which $10 You know, when you’re ordering 100 and some dollar bottle of wine is no big deal. So I made it happen. $10 over totally. Okay. It was a win win situation for everybody. Yeah, like
Jeremy Burrows 14:11
you said, you know, you asked what the budget was, you know, instead of saying, oh, you know, I’ll go do some research and come back, like, go ahead and get the budget up front.
Kathleen Gauden 14:19
Absolutely. Absolutely takes time. And it, you know, one of my mantras, and I think you’re part of this too in the AI community is working smarter, not harder.
Jeremy Burrows 14:29
Yep. Exactly. Exactly. Well, awesome. So why do you prefer to work as a freelance freelancer, if you will, versus a full time employee at a you know, with one executive or couple executives at one organization?
Kathleen Gauden 14:47
Well, you know, that’s another great question. I want to say I’ve put my dues in I can remember way back in high school when I was taking some business classes and I Can’t remember the teacher’s name, but I can see her face. And she was very strict. And it was, you know, learning how to type and learning computers and learning, you know, office skills. And I went, Oh, I’m never gonna do this, I hate all of this. I just I was a kid, you know, 1718 years old. It’s not what I was passionate about. And so cut to I moved from Northern Michigan to California after a little shortly after high school a couple years after. And I somehow one person turned me on to what was called manpower, it was a temp agency, and they got me in, to accompany that was a defense contractor as a temp. And I started, that’s how he started my corporate role. And I remember being terrified as I think I was 20, maybe years old. And the company was Computer Sciences Corporation in San Diego, and it was working for the director. And it was it just intimidated the heck out of me, but I had very supportive group there. And everyone said, you know, we’ll teach you what we need to know, they really mentored me, and I was there six years, and then I dabbled in some other industries. And then when I started my business, I just, I guess you can say I had corporate burnout, entrepreneurship runs in my family, I have a couple of brothers and a sister that are older than me that started their own business. So it’s in my blood. And I start blazing, I start thinking, you know, what am I passionate about? What do I want to do, and it kept going to, you know, as I shared earlier, shared earlier on being of service, and I found that I want to, you know, I want to be able to travel, I want to be able to make my own schedule, I want to be of service to others, I want to sell myself, and I like, you know, I enjoyed, and I’m grateful for all the wonderful people and mentors and friends I’ve made working in corporate areas, but I just got really burnt out on that. And I love working from home, you know, it’s a totally different world. It’s not for everybody, it just fits my personality. I like being my own boss, I guess that’s part of it is, is it’s not that I don’t appreciate, or I haven’t a challenge with somebody telling me what to do, because my clients do share their needs with me. But it gives me more sense of, I don’t want to say control, but more freedom, you know, I get to do what I want, when I want. And kind of how I want I’m very selective of any virtual assistants that work on my team. I’m very selective of clients who want to hire me, I would say, and I don’t mean this in an arrogant or disrespectful way, but probably about 50% of the clients that I speak with, they’re not a good fit for me. And I, I, I let them know, you know, I appreciate your interest and my services, but it’s not a good fit. So I, I get to pick who I want to work with. I get to pick my team. And for me, that’s exciting. Very challenging, but exciting.
Jeremy Burrows 18:18
Yeah, that’s great. So there’s a lot of people listening right now that heard what you just said over the last 60 seconds. And they thought, oh, that’s me. That’s what I want. That’s what I want. And I know you do a lot of coaching for virtual assistants. So the two, the two kind of most popular questions. I’m sure you get these hundreds, hundreds of times, well, but the two questions are one, how do I get clients? And then two? How do I how much do I charge? And how do I how do I how do I figure out charging so would you just kind of tell us a little bit about what you do with a coaching VAs and then maybe try to answer those two questions.
Kathleen Gauden 19:00
Yes. So my coaching business is more of a boutique coaching. I like doing one on one with my bas. And you know, the people say well, there’s all kinds of kinds of coaches out there there are so do your homework. And the way that I like to present myself is I say, Think of me as a spiritual life style coach meets a virtual assistant coach, I’m kind of a blend of both of those. I don’t just talk about how to be a VA and how to transfer your EA admin personal assistant skills project management chief of staff whatever, into a virtual assistant. We kind of talk about a little bit of everything because that’s what I’m about i For me it’s a lifestyle change. It’s not just hey, I collect my you know, my paycheck or or my monthly retainer and go about my business for me. If you Want for me, not for everybody. If you want to be successful, you really have to dial into what your passion is. What are you excited, excited about? What do you not want to do? And so as my husband Anthony, always likes to say, does it bring you joy? And if you’re talking with a client now get about, I’ll get around to how do we find those clients. But if you’re talking to a client, and you’re getting excited, and you like the work that they’re doing, and if you’re liking the, what you’re hearing, and they’re responsive, and they’re, you know, they answer, you know, it’s a two way street, they want you as the VA to respond quickly and be on point. I want my clients to offer that to me, you know, in order for me to help you, sometimes you the client have to help me it’s a relationship. So I dial in with my my VAs, I find out what do they really like to do? Well, for me, I’ll give you an example. I love working with entrepreneurs, I love working with startup businesses and sole entrepreneurs. Those are people that or are, you know, going a mile a minute start serial entrepreneurs, startup business, it’s a different animal. But that’s what excites me. I love that a lot of the startups don’t make it. And I know that it’s a big risk. But it’s fun for me. What do I not like? If somebody comes to me and says, I’m looking for a full charge bookkeeper in QuickBooks Online? That doesn’t bring me joy. I don’t like that. I don’t want to do that for a client. If somebody says I want a bookkeeper or somebody that does ce o, somebody that can work on my website? Again, not me, I have no interest in that it does not bring me joy. So when I work with someone in coaching, we talk about what do you really like to do and give you some assignments? What do you really not like to do? Because what you don’t want to do? And I’ve learned this the hard way is say, Yeah, sure, I’ll do your payroll, I can do that. I can figure it out. And then find out you know what, I don’t like payroll, it’s not fun for me. That’s not, that’s not my passion. So we talk about that. And then we talk about dialing in your resume, we talk about LinkedIn, those are two very, very important tools that I use. And I, you know, I send my resume out occasionally. But LinkedIn, getting LinkedIn really dialed in. And I worked with somebody that was an expert with LinkedIn when I worked at Brian Tracy International. And he really taught me the right way to set up the LinkedIn for my business and for myself, right. And so those are, those are two very important tools. Where do I look for work? There’s a lot of online platforms, LinkedIn, I trust, and I’ll come back to that in a moment. And there are things such as remote.io remote.co, there’s up work in there’s many others that I share with my VAs during a coaching session that they can get acquainted with, and they can look at but the one thing that I want to caution you even on LinkedIn, there are scams, sometimes if it’s too good to be true, sometimes it is. And and I even had an experience when I was on LinkedIn, this year where I applied for something that sounded really good. And I but I had a little bit of a red flag or reservation like, huh, I don’t know, come to find out it was a scam, somebody was representing themselves saying they worked for a certain company, and they did not. So I caution you with those online platforms, I have people that reach out to me all the time with my through LinkedIn, and my website, checking on my services and setting up appointments. So again, those are things I would talk to, you know, with a VA to, to, you know, what is your budget? It’s the same thing I would ask a client, you know, are we ready to talk about websites? Now, let’s get you know, let’s, let’s take some free platforms first, you know, LinkedIn, and let’s learn how to build that out. And then we we can dial in that, you know, based on resume and getting endorsements, a lot of endorsements and really building that network. The second question that you asked me was, how do I price myself? Well, that’s also a very good question that’s going to take some research, and it’s going to take you elicited took me if somebody listening is going well, how do I figure that out? It’s going to take I want to say a little bit of soul searching, what are you worth? What’s going to make you happy and doing some homework, you know, the virtual world is a little little bit different than an executive assistant that lives in California, right? Going to the office, I know what that salary is. So that’s easy. So I know how to navigate those waters. Or if somebody is in Michigan from my home state, that’s a different salary if you’re going into an office, but when you’re a virtual assistant, this is very important to keep in mind, you are all just say competing with everybody all over the world. So you have people that could be in the Midwest, New York, maybe even offshore. So there’s different price ranges. So I would encourage, and I do the the VAs that I coach is, is let’s find out what your skill set is. And we drill down, you know, are you what are you an expert in? What are you an intermediate? And what are you maybe not so good in and finding your niche is is important as well. So again, some homework, and some research will help dial in that salary. Because we don’t want to overprice ourselves, right? Because when you say that when I’m applying for a position, let’s say for for a client on Upwork, I can see what other people are bidding. So some platforms allow you that luxury. So if if a client’s lead, and again, I’m referring to Upwork. If a client’s budget is maybe, I don’t know, 25 to let’s say, $55, do you want to you know, place yourself at 55 or $60 an hour, maybe if you’re worth it, but it depends on that client. What, again, its value value, what are you worth if that client wants the cheapest person? I’m not that person because I’ve worked very hard at my skill set.
Jeremy Burrows 26:46
Yeah. Well, it sounds like Siri was in the background. Speaking of virtual assistants want to get in on this. And that was pretty funny. Good time. Yeah.
Kathleen Gauden 26:57
Siri always has an opinion. You know, even when I don’t want one, she’s always given it to me. So I thank her and take what I need and leave the rest.
Jeremy Burrows 27:06
Nice. Awesome, Kathleen. Well, thanks for sharing a little bit of your story and insight. As we kind of close things up on this episode 164. Again, shownotes are at leader assistant.com/ 164, LEADER assistant.com/ 164. And I will put all of the links to Kathleen’s resources, and social media and website and all that. But if there’s one place, Kathleen, that you would like people to go to find out more about you, where would that be?
Kathleen Gauden 27:40
I would like you to visit my website, thevirtualassistantandcompany.com. I took a lot of time, money and energy into that site. Because one thing that I really want to be very transparent about is i i want you to see who I am. I am not a VA coach for everybody. I am not a virtual assistant for everybody. They have a certain type of vibe and personality. And you’ll either really like me or you know, find somebody that that you really resonate with. So I hope you’ll stop at that site and take a look in shoot me an email, sign up for my newsletter. I will be giving away. Jeremy I want to mention a free one hour VA coaching call for anybody that is listening to this wonderful podcast that you have put together. You have many great people that you interview. So thank you for that. But if anybody is listening and goes to my site and signs up, I will be picking someone from the list and offering them a 60 minute free VA coaching call.
Jeremy Burrows 28:53
Awesome. That sounds great. I’ll have to look at awesome, Kathleen, well, enjoy the crazy weather. Good luck with your business. There’s actually one more question I was gonna ask how many assistants do you have? Or VAs do you have working with you on average,
Kathleen Gauden 29:12
your team usually usually about two to three, I keep it pretty, pretty low key. I’m not looking to go huge or big. Again, I’m very boutique and very specific on who I want to work with in my business as well as the clients I attract. I will say that in the next probably I will say three, maybe six months somewhere in that period. I will be looking for another one to two part time virtual assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 29:45
I will share all those links in the shownotes and leaderassistant.com/164. And yeah, thanks again for being on the show. And hopefully we can meet in person someday.
Kathleen Gauden 29:57
I hope so too. It’d be my pleasure. or thank you so much
Unknown Speaker 30:11
please loom you on Apple podcasts. Goburrows.com