40% of you are considering starting your own business

“I learnt within three months that networking is not about ‘selling yourself’, it’s about building relationships.” Former RN officer and entrepreneur Amanda Johnson shares how her core values and resolute determination to never ‘sell’ her services have contributed to her success, and why your business plan is an ever-evolving document, which should never languish getting dusty in your filing cabinet.


The Big Why

Ultimately for Amanda, she wanted a business that would improve her ‘work/life’ balance. This doesn’t mean however, that she’s free from juggling a busy home life and family.

Amanda says: “With young children, I still have to alternate between ‘mum mode’ and ‘business mode’ but I no longer have to go away for long periods. Running my own business allows me to be at home.”

What motivates you?

Deciding what you want to achieve for your business and why it’s so important will always keep you focused. Amanda established Your Executive Secretary (YES) in 2012 to provide Virtual PA and business administration services to small to medium-sized businesses.

The idea came to her when she could never get hold of the tradesmen working on her house and realised they needed affordable, ‘pay as you go’ administration.

Amanda says: “I wanted to make a difference to them. I wanted them to feel as supported, as if they were the chief executive of a large organisation with a support team.” She adds: “That was my original vision and it’s helped me channel and focus my efforts ever since. It’s important to understand your ‘why – are you trying to create a business that will make money, be one you’ll enjoy or something else.”


Amanda used her final three months in the military to research the Virtual Assistant (VA) business. A lot of this involved ringing up VAs directly and finding out what they charged and whether their services were popular. She also acquired a business mentor and employed a coach who knew about the VA business. These decisions proved ‘invaluable’ to her progress.

Amanda says: “This was critical. I learnt a lot about legal statuses and entities of businesses – becoming a limited company, for example, offered me greater protection.

“I originally wrote a business plan and left it sitting on my computer. I learnt quite quickly though it’s a document that needs reviewing on a regular basis and affects what I do day-to-day. I break it down into a five-year plan, three-year, then a 90-day action plan.”

Amanda’s website, Your Executive Secretary went live in December 2012 and on the day she launched it, she was out and about promoting the business. She admits, however, that she didn’t get results as quickly as she expected.

She says: “It can take time for the clients to come through the door, especially when you’re selling a service, not a product. I would say the real clients started to come in past the six-month mark.”

A ‘soft seller’

Amanda’s method of ‘soft-selling’ may not chime with the more traditional methods of ‘selling your services’ but they have certainly worked for her. “I don’t sell, I’m a soft-seller. I don’t want to keep going back to someone – I’d prefer them to buy me and my team because they know, like and trust us.” And it’s this tactic that has kept people returning to use her services.

Amanda says: “I think clients like my values – the innate core values that I’ve retained from my time in the services – in particular, the can-do attitude. I may not have used a piece of software but I’m prepared to go away and learn it.”

Continual learning

As Amanda has learnt, social media is a must but as she discovered early on, it’s called ‘social’ for a reason.

She says: “You can’t just broadcast the whole time. It took me a couple of months to take this on board and realise that you can’t keep pushing posts on to people – you need to engage.” She adds: “I encourage business owners to use the 4-1-1 rule – four posts where you give information away, one post where you share someone else’s information and one post which is sales-focused.”

Within two years Amanda was nominated for VA of the Year and awarded Runner Up. She continues to attract clients due to referrals and testimonials. Her business continues to grow and a large part of her time is now focused on mentoring and coaching people to set up their own VA businesses. “If I see potential in people, I like to help bring them along and achieve their own goals and dreams.”

Listen to Be Your Own Boss here

Amanda recommends The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann