MPAS UK Client Story
Please let us introduce you to one of our very special clients,
Stacey Keen from Keen 2 Assist (aka K2A).
Stacey has worked over 2 decades within corporate management and administration and is amazing at keeping clients and teams on track. Stacey is very special to us because not only is she our client, we are also her client! Hear what she has to say about what she loves and finds frustrating, as well as collaborations - do they work or not?
Stacey from K2A chats with Jess & Emma at MPAS UK.
Thank you so much for being one of our client stories.
For our newsletter readers, could you please tell us what you do and when you started your business?
I am a Virtual Assistance business supporting SME’s with their business administration covering all levels, depending on what their business requirements are. We offer support with systems and processes, by streamlining inhouse versions or finding external versions for them, whether paid or free. Getting those set up. We also do Project Management. We’ve got various services here. At the moment, I’ve been tweaking items, so I will be offering a few new future services. Originally I had the business up and running by name and everything else in the background, but obviously I couldn’t work on the business and in the business because of where I was working full time, my contract didn’t allow me to do that, so I officially took the leap at the middle/end of September 2021, and officially rocked the business fulltime from October 2021. Bit of a turnaround, bit of a change in pace but I have not looked back since.
I love your Top Tips on how to manage a team successfully, I found them on your website. What is your favourite way to build up your team/s and why?
For me, I love this aspect. I like to talk and I’m very confident having a chat with somebody but obviously like a business, no one is the same so you can’t treat and work with everyone in the same manner. I like to get to know people’s personalities within the business and their role, and also then utilising that skill set for me to be able to work with them and get the most out of them. That, to me, is the only way you: a) build the rapport with your team; b) get them and the productivity working in the manner you wish to get them to be processing everything. For me, that’s one of the biggest things and I think it is a skill set in itself that a lot of people don’t necessarily have nowadays; , or actually think “Oh I need to look at things in a slightly different manner” when working with a team or a team member. They may think it is “Somebody’s not pulling their weight” or something along those lines, but actually that is not going to be that case as they have not figured out how to work with that person on a totally different level. You might also find that person has the one skill set but then you uncover another that you never knew existed, so you’ve tarred them into that one role when actually you could utilize them for so much more or they might then want to move into a different role and use their other skill set. Such a tricky road to navigate but if it’s a skill set you’ve got, you really need to keep it there and utilise it.
You have specific Business Support Packages on your website and you also offer customised packages. This is clever as everyone’s needs are different. Is there a popular standard package or are they generally bespoke?
When you have that initial conversation with a company, they have a set idea in mind – when you really break it down and understand their needs and pain points, you then kind of have to coach them away from what their original plan was – not to say from sales point of view, but it’s actually that you know what will work for them and their company, And they’ve been a bit unrealistic with the hours maybe, or with the way things would be processed. Say they’re on one track and you know they need to be on the next train. We do have the retainer packages however we do tailor packages also and obviously depending on needs they go with the different hours and the rates. I would say the most popular packages for everybody who starts off is usually the retainer for 10 hours a month. As they get to know, like and you grow with them they can see what you can do for their company, then they realise they want extra services. Those extra services cannot always be put into their hours. We then have to review the hours/packages they’re utilising. Say we went from 10, and they wanted to jump an extra 2 hours, we would then tailor that package to fit into their business needs. We wouldn’t just say “Actually we’re set dead in stone, you need to jump to 15, pay for 15 and only utilizing 12” for example. Every business is different, same as personalities. There is not a one size fits all. Same as going to the doctor, not everybody’s body reacts the same way to tablets or different items. There could be something else in the background. You always need to bear that in mind and we do cross over on services as their total package builds as well. If they want partly project management, part admin services – we then create a bespoke package for each client underneath the hours that they want so we’ll be able to put the proposal together for them so they can see what they are getting.
We all have challenges in business, don’t we? Is there anything you find challenging in your business right now?
December is a tricky month. Everyone is trying to get organised for the new year, so they put enquiries out but then they don’t touch anything until the new year. You know from the new year, there would be an influx for January.
Speaking to other VA’s in different various groups, we’re all seeing the same kind of item at the moment. Having people coming through, doing discovery calls, getting proposals prepared, ready and sent and then nobody is coming back to you. You get to the point where you’ll be like “Okay, what’s going on here?”, and if you can pick up patterns very quickly, you’ll see it a lot quicker than some others. There’s been a lot of proposals sent and not a lot of people coming back to you. You will follow up and you’ll follow up. When do you stop wasting your time chasing or looking like a bit of a stalker? You don’t want to be that stalkerish person. Sometimes you don’t know how people are going to view that because you don’t know where their train of thought is going to go. How much time are you going to spend chasing up? You put “if you have change your mind, please do let me know” on the message so you end it for everybody but still no response. That’s a bit of a big frustration so far in 2023.
Bonus Q’s from Jess: Are you doing anything to basically counter the issue that you’re facing there? Have you got any plans to make any changes so that doesn’t happen anymore?
Hard one to figure out what you’re going to do with it. I have now decided that my discovery calls aren’t going to be free, they are going to be paid. If they do want to work with us and go through and complete all the onboarding documentation, that payment will be taken off their first monthly invoice. Then that way I know they’re actually going to be serious and not going to be timewasters. I’m not going to be in a situation further down the line - if they were already time wasting at beginning, I won’t be having that time wasting session at the end. Unfortunately, it’s forced my hand and not a lot of people do it. Forced the hand to then make sure we’re better off further down the line.
What is the vision for your company Keen 2 Assist aka K2A?
I’d like to retire early! (Jess agrees!) I see a nice Caribbean beach somewhere. By the end of this year, I’m going to be offering a lot more different services – purely because it’s been through collaborations and different services I’d like to offer now and can offer. Hoping by the end of the year (or within next 6 months ideally) to have 2 associates on board so the team will start growing and then hopefully I would like to build on that. However, further down the line, I haven’t decided if I want to move that into an agency or not, or whether I could separate the 2 businesses and create an agency completely separate to the current structure. With the new services and different skill sets I’ll have with the associates and the collaborations, the clients will have a lot more services that are offered to them so there will be a lot more flexibility with the packages being combined and tailored for them.
Is there any problem you need to be solved or are you feeling comfortable with how business is going at the moment?
At the moment, I haven’t got a serious problem. Obviously apart from one of the things that we touched base on earlier, of people not getting back to you. I’m really comfortable in the way the business is at the moment and the way it’s going. I know that I’m growing, that I’m going to need to build those associates up, so for me, that’s where I wanted to be and I’m hitting the target of when I wanted to do that by, which is part of my goals and vision board. It’s hitting all the parameters. So for me right now, I’m really happy.
Obviously, if I do have a little bit of slower time, that down time allows me time to think, and think about my current clients and what they need or is there another area where we need to be looking at. It gives me that down time not only to think, but prep and plan for my own business, get everything organized within my own business to be ready to hit the ground running, should all of a sudden we have a massive influx. That’s what I’m processing at the moment… to make sure my own business is streamlined within its processes and systems.
What do you love about your job in general?
I love supporting SME’s who need help. Not only just getting organised within their businesses so it takes away all their pain points and their issues and stresses. Sometimes when somebody’s within their business, they’re so within it the admin falls to the back of the task list. I’m really passionate about this, I don’t like when people diss administration. No matter what role you’re in, you always have admin as part of any role. However not everyone likes it or loves it. I love it. I think admin is a calling. If you’re a really organized person and you can keep things organized and running, you’re great but if it’s something you don’t like and you keep putting it off, you could be hampering your business from growing. Major problem. I love to work with clients and I love to see their business go from zero to hero just through a few little simple changes. And I think the word ‘simple’ is the best option there. When you’re looking at streamlining systems and processes, they could’ve gone from a team of 2 to a team of 7, all of a sudden, those processes do not work anymore. It’s just about scraping them through and coping. But they’re looking to hire more and then when they get more in, that breaks. You really need to think about what it is that you actually want and where you’re going. I love taking those business on that journey - from their original idea - they’ve got this idea that it’s going to work if they change this, this and this. But actually, because I’ve had so many years within the administration word, I’ll say to them “do you realise if you do that, it’s going to break this aspect, you need to think about everything for the end result”. It could be that we actually adapt their internal systems and processes, or we go away and we find something new for them.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
I would like to be at a stage where all of my Friday I have the morning to work on the business and then don’t work on a Friday afternoon. Work the Monday-Thursday, you’ve got all your items in place, everything has been dealt with for your clients, you know the hours are done for week or month. You can just focus your core items on your business and then think “Okay, I’ve got the afternoon off”, go to lunch with the girls. A lot of my friends don’t work on a Friday afternoon, they’ve got the flexibility. The kids are at school so they’ll go for a coffee. I think it would be nice just not to stress and go for a coffee, then think “actually I’ve got to go back now… I need to work”. They say “but you own your own business” and I say “yeah, I need to work to bring the business in, to get the business to work”.
Is there anything that’s keeping you up at night when it comes to your business?
Sometimes it is hard to switch off, if you’ve had a bit more of a problematic day and you’ve got to think about it and you haven’t had the time.
My husband always says to me “When you don’t talk, I worry. When you’re quiet, I know something’s going on”. You’re thinking about something, brain ticking over, processing check list as you go through it in your head. Nothing at the moment keeping up at night. I do use a lot of sleep meditation, affirmations and manifestations. Before I go to bed, I always make sure that I actually utilize these. I put the headphones in, get my breathing under control. If it is a day that’s a little more stressful, I’ll use one to manage that in a better format with the meditation. I think working on your mindset, your meditation, your manifestation, they’re all part of your business. You have to have those in place anyway, they’re part of your goals - that’s what you’re aiming for.
From Left to Right:
Stacey & Cassie from Havering Means Business (HMB),
Stacey & Rob on their wedding day,
Stacey, Cassie (HMB) & Carol (Dor2Dor) at a local event December 2022.
What makes you happy in life and in business?
For me, I love being with friends and family. I’ve always been a very family oriented person so being with my closest friends and family, spending quality time with them whilst we’re all on this planet for such a short time, I really want to make sure I make the most of it. I can’t be present with them if my mental state is somewhere else. It is important to have them side by side. Doing the mindset, the meditation, yoga, anything along those lines, it’s really important. It puts me in the right frame of mind to be present with them rather than with them but not actually being with them.
What type of communication works best for you? E-mail, phone, face to face?
I don’t really have a preference but obviously if we can do face to face, sometimes e-mails can be misconstrued, the same as WhatsApp messages. Sometimes people have got so much going on in their brain, that when they put it across, it doesn’t always come across in the best light in the other form of messaging. Sometimes, when you’re speaking to people face to face, you are away from that hustle and bustle of being distracted because you are face to face together. Face to face meetings work better than somebody on video because they could be playing around with their e-mail whilst trying to talk to you, and you’re trying to get an answer from them and you need that answer to process the next step but you’re not really getting an answer because they’re not paying attention to what you’re actually saying. For some clients, I have you guys in Wales, another in Wales, one in Blackpool – if someone is not local, I will always do video. Unless a call is easier if they’re on the road. I would generally like to wait to have those conversations face to face, especially to have that eye contact – it’s interesting to read people as well. The other side of that is when you’re giving options and communication, to read their body language, depending on if you can pick up on people’s body language via video and face to face. Another skill set.
What do you think makes a successful client-supplier relationship?
Values, morals and principles play a very large part. I would never work with somebody that I don’t feel comfortable with. Need concise communication. Both need to know which angle you’re working from, on same page. You need to have that like, know and trust rather than “you’re just an invoice number”. I don’t work that way with my clients. Different for large conglomerates, unless you deal with someone as direct point of contact. With small-medium businesses, having that personal touch is what people want, what they’re paying for, what they like. We’ve come so far away from that type of service, if you look at “Dial 1 to get through to this area… Say yes” etc. Nobody wants to talk to those automated machines. They put the phone down, start again, as they get very frustrated. For me, having that relationship and that close knit communication and point of contact with clients, suppliers and providers, I think it’s very important. It makes the working relationship go a lot further. People have lost a lot of etiquette and this is another area of etiquette that’s been dropped. Times have moved on, people think everything should be instantaneous post-Covid, because everything went instantaneous where everyone had to make changes to accommodate what was happening in the world. I don’t think they’ve realised that it’s going back pre-Covid, but everyone still expects you to be in that instantaneous kind of environment. I’ve got pre-messages set, if they call me and I’m on another call with client. “I’m really sorry, I’m on a call, I’ll touch base with you shortly”. Just another way of letting them know “I see you, I can’t deal with you at the moment”, keeping communication open and flexible.
We all have our own workflows. How do you manage your clients?
When onboarding clients, I use a system called Dubsado. Good CRM system (CRM = Client Relationship Management tool). You’ve seen Dubsado and utilized Dubsado. It takes away the manual element to be more streamlined and automatic. Everything is electronically signed. Once you get that back, you get notified . You can send the welcome pack before the first invoice. Everything has your branding on it, makes things a hell of a lot easier. You can integrate your payment system. My accounting system QB, I integrate that so it lets you guys (my accountants) know when everything’s been connected and what needs to be processed. I do like a good workflow. Being productive.
We at MPAS UK have a unique relationship with you @ K2A – not only are you our client, you are also our team manager (which you do so well, thank you for all you do for us!) – why did you choose MPAS UK as your client/accountant/bookkeeper?
I went to an accountant previously to you. I’ve known Jess a good couple of years now, met on a course, we really clicked. I was talking to Jess about the accountant I’d been to, wasn’t very happy. The more I was speaking to Jess, I loved the way her brain ticked. She thinks of things outside the box. This is the reason why I asked you guys to give me peace of mind, to do everything for me.
Would you recommend collaborating with another business and do you have any tips for other business owners on making a collaboration a success?
Yes, I do think collaborations are amazing for your business. Not only because you can benefit each other with the services you offer, as obviously we’ve got going on. You could have multiple collaborations, anything from having a working relationship and a package you’ve designed together . You could also look at having a passive income – if you know you have someone you’d be working with, you can promote someone else’s business, the code they use can get you a percentage back. With your own morals, values and principles, you have to be very careful who you connect with. A lot of people do it for the sake of doing it. Should choose people very carefully. I work with you guys. We work very well together. I have other collaborations and I work with a tech company at the moment. I’m working on project with them. How I got to work with them was: I met a gentleman at a networking event, purely from the questions I asked at end of his presentations, he chose me to work with – our personalities gelled, they work very well with each other. Don’t just jump into it for the sake of it. Jump into it because a) you love it, b) something you want to do. But also make sure personalities fit very well.
What is the single most important benefit you get from us @ MPAS UK as your accountants/bookkeepers, above all else?
The only thing I can say is peace of mind, because I just know it’s all being dealt with and I don’t have to worry. If you need something from me, I’ll get the information for you and I can send it across. It’s just done. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to think “OMG, I need to get this done” or “OMG, am I late? Am I going to get a late charge?” I don’t have to stress, it’s just Zenlike, it’s done so I’m happy.
And just for fun:
Imagine if you could bring life to any fictional character. Which one would you choose and why?
I have 2, both very strong female warriors. I think we need more strong female warriors in this world. Lady Sif from Thor or Lady Jaye from GI Joe.
Thank you very much, Stacey. We're so thankful for you and your time and we hope K2A continues to grow successful, just as you deserve. Can't wait to see what happens next for you!