Bobbie Racette, Founder & CEO of Virtual Gurus
1. What does Virtual Gurus do?
Virtual Gurus taps into the gig economy by providing a wide range of virtual support services to growth-stage companies. We provide assistants for everything from administrative to medical, financial and real estate. As a team, we pride ourselves on matching our clients with the best assistants based on both personality and skillset.
2. What inspired you to start? What problem are you solving?
I wanted to start a company that could create jobs for Canadian workers. Given the state of the Calgary economy, oil and gas layoffs were happening at a rapid rate and administrative positions are often the first to go. I knew there were administrative people out there looking for work and it was an ideal time to connect them with employment and build our client base. Although working with overseas assistant companies can fill a specific need, a lot of our clients need help with client facing work and it’s an asset to have an assistant who is familiar with the Canadian marketplace and who can be integrated into a client’s company culture and brand.
3. How long did it take you to go from idea to launch?
I originally started providing virtual assistant services myself knowing that I was going to be laid off from my job in oil and gas. Within a few weeks, I had more clients then I could handle on my own. This sparked my idea to create a platform where other Virtual Assistants (VAs) could manage their clients. I starting working on the idea in 2015 and officially launched in 2016. We have now serviced more than 650 businesses and have VAs across Canada.
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
Because we can fulfill so many different needs and have the ability to work in several different industries, it was difficult to determine which clients would be the best fit for our services. After a year or so, we realized that we can best serve midsize growth-stage businesses who aren’t ready to pay a full-time salary for support staff. We help them by giving them 100 per cent productivity based workers without the added hassle of hiring employees. As we continue to grow, we will be able to service enterprise-level clients with fully remote, functioning support by servicing multiple employees with a multi-tiered platform (i.e. providing contractors for bookkeeping, administrative tasks, social media and digital marketing).
5. How did you go about building your team?
We currently have three full time employees, 40 contracted Virtual Assistants, 150 Virtual Call Center Agents and we are currently working on building our sales team and operations team. I am the CEO and I run operations with my VP of Sales and Marketing, who works with our sales teams to manage budgets and our agency to execute our marketing tactics. We also have an account manager who works with all our clients and contractors to ensure projects are completed and that the right assistant is matched with the right client.
6. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing what would it be and why?
We have just restructured to ensure we are in the right position to scale and our next step will likely be to hire a Chief Operating Officer. I have also been considering seeking a co-founder soon - someone who understands the gig economy.
7. What are your greatest achievements so far?
Personally, I would have to say how much I have changed. When I first started this company, I was a totally different person. I was shy and introverted and now I shake hands with confidence. During all this, I have stayed true to my culture and who I am and that is extremely important to me.
For the business, I would have to say our growth. We had 180 per cent growth from 2016 to 2017 and this year we are on par for over a million in revenue. To accomplish this within only 2.5 years of being alive is huge.
8. What are your future goals for your company?
To begin working with larger Fortune 500 accounts where we can begin to build strategic support systems for them. We are also launching our Virtual Assistant Academy which has 17,000 people waiting for it to launch. This platform will provide courses on virtual assistance / freelancing.
9. How can companies make the most of their experience with Startup Calgary?
My advice to any startup is that success does not happen in a vacuum. You need to be out talking to people and never be afraid to take advice and grow from constructive criticism. We all have so much to learn from each other and support organizations like Startup Calgary. You will get the most from your experience if you utilize the network, build relationships and work with your peers in the community.
10. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
To make sure your idea is something that you love staying up late at night thinking about and working on. Surround yourself with people who are as excited about it as you are and never stop learning!
11. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup? What did you learn from it?
Keeping the customer service quality at an acceptable level is our biggest challenge and we are constantly looking for ways to improve it. Learning to be more proactive than reactive as a whole company and getting multiple departments to understand this is easier said than done. As CEO, I’ve learnt that, as soon as I change my attitude, the attitude of my team changes with it.
12. If you had to tweet another startup advice, what would it be?
Rest, reevaluate, but don’t ever quit.
Learn more at https://canadianvirtualgurus.com/
Published on July 10, 2018