Getting to know Rachel

Rachel is a strategic action taker with creative flare. She has a very successful career behind her with wide experience of providing exceptional business support to executives and leadership teams. Grab a coffee and take a couple of moments to get to know her better. Rachel joined The Passionate PA in October 2022 and is based in Cheltenham.

Getting to know Rachel

Alarm goes off at:
6.00am

Start the day with:
Tea and breakfast followed by a dash to college to drop my son off and a walk with our dog. It’s a great way to start the day being out in the fresh air.

Where do you do most of your work?
In my home office in Cheltenham.

What sectors do your clients operate within?
I am fortunate enough to work with some amazing creative businesses and charities, both sectors that I am so passionate about. With over 20 years of experience working across both the Commercial and Education sectors, I am used to working in fast-paced, ever-changing environments.

Best part of your work:
Working in partnership with my clients to find solutions that work best for them to make life that little bit easier, allowing them to focus on what really matters to them in both their business and life away from work. I love it when a client says they feel less pressure than before they had my support!

Worst part of your work:
The juggle; being a mum, daughter and friend as well as wanting to always deliver 100% to my clients.

Clients you add most value to:
Clients who are growing at pace with the “to do” list growing at the same rate! Reducing the pressure on entrepreneurs and business owners, giving them space in their own heads to focus on their business objectives. My passion and desire for all my clients is to offer flexible business support for them and their businesses.

After work you’ll be:
Spending time with my son and wider family. I also love to be creative and can be found making jewellery, baking or crafting!

Why a franchise with The Passionate PA and not go it alone?
Joining The Passionate PA offered me the best of both worlds, with the support from Kate (the franchisor) and the rest of the team which has been invaluable to me from day 1. Having the flexibility and freedom to manage my own business, clients and workload is fantastic… I have all the tools and support I need which means I can concentrate on what matters – MY CLIENTS!

What did you do before:
Executive PA work, Event Management and Lifestyle PA/Concierge.

Favourite drink:
Tea!!

Favourite location for a business meeting:
Anywhere that’s warm in both temperature and welcome!

What are you reading?
Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Wedding of the Year by Jill Mansell

Your guilty pleasure:
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream!

Favourite hobby/past time:
My family and walking our little dog Darcy!

Most inspirational/influential person in your career:
Joining The Passionate PA and working with Kate and the team, it is inspiring, uplifting and pushes me to be the best I can be for my clients. Despite all being different, we all share a common goal to be the best we can be.

Favourite animal and why:
Dog, unconditional love.

Greatest contact/supplier that deserves a plug:
Suzy Yardley – CEOChild Autism UK – A fantastic client of mine whose charity is very close to my heart. Suzy has been with the charity for many years and worked tirelessly to provide support and raise awareness for such a worthy cause.

Your business plan for the coming year:
To build strong, trusting, local relationships to ensure that I am the Executive PA of choice for Cheltenham and the surrounding area.

You can find out more about Rachel by clicking here! Or, give her a call – she does love a natter!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Getting to know Steph

Steph Taylor is a friendly and resourceful person with exceptional experience in people management. Grab a coffee and take a couple of moments to get to know her better.

Steph joined us in November 2021 after spending over two decades working for Sainsbury’s. Steph’s aim is to create a fulfilling business for herself using the array of skills and experience she has built up over the years. She understands business and the mindset it takes to achieve incredible things, despite all the challenges.

Getting to know Steph

Alarm goes off at:
I usually wake up at 7:00am naturally but my alarm is set for 7:15am just in case!

Start the day with:
I’ve recently started having a matcha latte to give me a morning boost, and having learned to make it properly I actually enjoy it! That’s followed by a mug of peppermint tea and the walk to school. The school run gives me the chance to get some fresh air and exercise so when I get home to my desk I feel energised and ready for the day.

Where do you do most of your work?
In my home office at the end of my garden. It’s just been completed and is a beautiful, dedicated and peaceful space filled with light and plants. It’s the perfect place to focus on the task in hand.

What sectors do your clients operate within?
My clients are really varied. I enjoy working with heart-centred and people-focused businesses including coaches, HR consultants and wellbeing professionals (to name just a few). With over 20 years of experience in retail and HR, I am used to fast-paced learning and delivery and thrive when I work with businesses where I can add value.

Best part of your work:
Partnering with clients to find bespoke solutions that make their businesses more simple and efficient, helping them to maximise their potential. I love seeing that “ahhh” moment when my clients are released from the pressure they’ve been feeling.

Worst part of your work:
Knowing when to stop, perfectionism, overthinking. When I am focused, in the flow and enjoying the work that I do, it’s hard to stop and leave it for another day. I love to make things just right for clients and I do tend to think about things….A LOT. As much as these are the worst parts, they also make me good at what I do so I can use them as my super powers as well!

Clients you add most value to:
The clients I add most value to are heart-centered entrepreneurs who care deeply about people and their values. I make an effort to embrace their company values and use them to inform my work. This allows us to connect on a deeper level and ensures my services align with what matters most to them. My goal is to support entrepreneurs who want to make a positive difference. By keeping people at the heart of what they do, and what I do, the magic happens.

After work you’ll be:
Before 7pm it is all about family time so it’s homework, family meals and, at the moment, building Lego. Once my small person is sleeping I will be relaxing on the sofa and planning our next family project or adventure.

Why a franchise with The Passionate PA and not go it alone?
With The Passionate PA, I get the best of both worlds – an established business model and the flexibility to manage my own clients, schedule, and priorities. This allows me to thrive as a business owner, parent, and family member. I can take advantage of Kate and the team’s expertise while maintaining autonomy over my workload in a way that enables work-life flow. I gain so much from this supportive team that empowers me to successfully run my business while never losing sight of my personal priorities and values.

What did you do before:
I worked for Sainsbury’s for 21 years, mostly in HR roles including store-based HR Management, HR Project Management and HR Change Management. My time at Sainsbury’s gave me the opportunity to partner with some exceptional business leaders across many disciplines; knowledge sharing, challenging and building an understanding of their motivation throughout. It has also given me a real passion for people and exceptional customer service.

Favourite drink:
Coke Zero. I don’t drink coffee, so it’s how I get my caffeine fix…As a parent of a 6-year-old boy I need all the help I can get!

Favourite location for a business meeting:
My new office! As well as anywhere that is light and airy with as much natural light as possible.

What are you reading?
At the moment, most of my reading is bedtime stories and school reading books. I do love all the books by Gavin Oattes though and plan to revisit some this year.

Your guilty pleasure:
Friday morning discos at home in the kitchen. It became a bit of a thing with my son in 2020 and it has carried on… we put a disco light on, turn the music up and have a good dance to some of our favourite songs, always starting with Friday by Riton x Nightcrawlers.

Favourite hobby/past time:
Does being outside count? I love being outside, especially with my family, enjoying our surroundings and making memories. So whether it is a walk, a day trip or a day at the beach that’s where I love to be.

Most inspirational/influential person in your career:
Alison Musselwhite. Alison has championed me throughout my career, coached me, encouraged me and sometimes just told me as it is. She guided me to take roles and projects that would give me the greatest opportunities to learn and grow as well as stretching me and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Her approach to coaching, people management and development is inspirational and her ability to manage complex people issues is insightful. Alison’s generosity with her knowledge and experience has made such a difference to so many people and their careers including me.

Favourite animal and why:
I love all animals so it is hard to choose one favourite but I’d say giraffes because they are such beautiful and graceful creatures. They almost always appear calm and those big, beautiful lashes are just gorgeous! I was lucky enough to see some on a game reserve in South Africa – by lucky, I mean I planned and added a stop onto our Honeymoon just to see them – and it solidified their place as a firm favourite. I also love penguins, which was another stop I researched and planned so I could see them on the beach!

Greatest contact/supplier that deserves a plug:
Nathan Andrews of Okana Limited. What Nathan has and continues to achieve is inspirational. Nathan is exceptional in his field, constantly seeking new insights and professional development. He goes above and beyond to ensure that his work is of the highest standard. Not only all of that but he is an all round amazing person, generous with his time, care and enthusiasm.

Your business plan for the coming year:
Embed, Build and Grow – Embed the knowledge I have gained through my start up journey giving strong foundations for all future growth; Continue to build a strong local network to share insight, knowledge and experience; Grow my business by partnering with great clients demonstrating the exceptional value I can add.

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here! Or, give her a call – she does love a natter!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Dictation is a dying art! Or is it?

Dictation is a dying art, right? 

WRONG. There is so much efficiency to be had in the work place if you, the business leader, can harness this skill. Whether you have a traditional PA, need to send a voice note to your strategic freelance partner (your Passionate PA 😉) or you actually just don’t fancy typing and want Microsoft Word to do the hard work for you, this skill is an efficiency game changer. 

In today’s fast-paced business world, time is money so they say. Effective communication and efficient workflows are essential for success and everyone’s happiness.

One valuable tool that often goes overlooked is dictation. By using dictation effectively, you and your teams can save time, increase productivity and streamline operations.

In this blog, we’ll explore the top ten tips for mastering dictation and reaping the benefits it offers.

Top 10 Tips for Effective Dictation: Boost Your Business Efficiency

  1. Choose the Right Tools: Invest in high-quality dictation tools and software. A good quality microphone and dictation software can make a world of difference in the accuracy and efficiency of your dictation. However, a modern smartphone can work just as well, as can a computer’s mic if you are dictating straight into Word or an app on there. 

  2. Set the Right Environment: Create a quiet and distraction-free environment for dictation. Noise-cancelling headphones can help eliminate background noise and improve the clarity of your dictation for the human or the machine that will be listening to it.

  3. Practice Regularly: Like any skill, dictation improves with practice. Spend time regularly dictating texts, emails or documents to build your confidence and accuracy. 

  4. Use Proper Pronunciation: Speak clearly and enunciate words properly. Avoid mumbling or speaking too fast, as this can lead to errors in transcription.

  5. Organise Your Thoughts: Before you start dictating, if it’s a long memo, organise your thoughts and plan what you want to say. This will make your dictation smoother and more coherent.

  6. Train Your Software/Human: Many dictation software programs allow you to train them to recognise your voice better. Take advantage of this feature to enhance accuracy. If you are working with a person, take time to discuss abbreviations and terminology you’ll be using. 

  7. Use Commands and Punctuation: Learn the commands and punctuation marks that work with your dictation software. This will allow you to control formatting and structure more effectively e.g. when a comma is needed, say so. When you need a new paragraph, make this clear. When you need a numbered list, start with “point 1 colon” (1:). 

  8. Keep a Backup: Always have a backup plan. If your dictation software fails or you lose the voice note you sent to your PA, how will you recover your thoughts? You can create automatic back ups for your voice notes using cloud storage like OneDrive and Dropbox.

  9. Edit and Proofread: While dictation can save time, it’s essential to edit and proofread your transcribed content. 
  1. Stay Updated: Keep your dictation software and hardware up to date. Manufacturers often release updates and improvements that can enhance your dictation experience.

Effective dictation is a valuable skill for business owners looking to boost productivity and streamline their operations. By choosing the right tools, setting up a conducive environment, practicing regularly and following these ten tips, you can master dictation and enjoy the timesaving benefits it offers. Embrace dictation as a powerful tool and watch your business efficiency soar.

Our Favourite Tools

  1. Apple Dictation
  2. Microsoft Word
  3. Voice Memos on iPhone
  4. Otter.AI
  5. Google Docs Voice Typing
  6. Nuance Dragon Anywhere

Meet The Team

Each of our Passionate PAs has an extensive skill set and varied business background. We are all business owners and come together as #TeamPassionatePA with a shared ethos; to make a difference to our clients’ lives through our unwavering motivation, striking efficiency and remarkable ability to simply ‘make things happen’.


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Getting to know Kara

Kara Birrell is a commercially savvy problem solver with a true passion for profit. In all previous roles, she has been responsible for business operations and driving income and results. Grab a coffee and take a couple of moments to get to know her better. Kara joined The Passionate PA in August 2022 and is based in Southampton.

Getting to know Kara

Alarm goes off at:
7am in the winter, 6am in the summer, all depends on the daylight available. I don’t really like walking my dogs in the dark, I can’t see the rabbits and deer that they could end up chasing!

Start the day with:
Cup of tea whilst catching up on emails and social media, then horsey chores and out for a dog walk.

Where do you do most of your work?
An ideal week comprises of 3 days in my clients’ offices or out and about with them, and the other 2 days working from home.  I like to work face to face with clients on ‘the shop floor’ to get a full picture of how their business works so I have a full understanding when I head back to work from home of what is needed to help them achieve their goals.

What sectors do your clients operate within?
A selection of creative and highly skilled sectors, as well as consultancy services too.

Best part of your work:
I treat all businesses that I work with as if they were my own.  I am passionate about helping turn clients’ passion into profit and I get a real buzz from assisting with a business’s growth, both in terms of turnover, but more importantly, their bottom line.

Worst part of your work:
Not being able to stop. I can be like a dog with a bone when I take on a new challenge, I won’t stop until I find a solution!

Clients you add most value to:
Sole traders whose passion turned into their growing business. Often these business owners are uber talented in what they do, but lack the time, or skills, to focus on the essentials in the background of their business. That’s where I come in to create really valuable partnerships.

After work you’ll be:
Walking my dogs or horse riding out in the New Forest with friends, which may include a stop at the ice cream van, pub, or both on a summer’s evening!

Why a franchise with The Passionate PA and not go it alone?
I have done similar work alone in the past, but I missed the camaraderie of working in a team. I have always been a people person and enjoy being able to share the highs and lows with understanding colleagues. It is also great to be part of a growing business and having the chance to learn all the time. When you work on your own, you can be guilty of becoming somewhat stagnant without having the drive to move with the times, which is essential in business.

The Passionate PA really struck a cord with me with their similar ethos of wanting to go above and beyond expectations when it comes to helping businesses… but of course always with that commercial eye on our own operations too.

What did you do before:
I had a long career in hospitality, reaching the pinnacle at Head of Operations for a hotel chain. This career gave me a wide range of skills that are easily transferrable to all sectors. With hotels struggling to reach a mere 4% net profit, it has given me a real figure focused view on business, finding the fine line between making a healthy profit without losing the quality.

Favourite drink:
Bubbles, ideally a chilled bottle of Veuve Cliquot, but any Champagne or Prosecco is still good with me.

Favourite location for a business meeting:
Probably on the terrace at The Balmer Lawn Hotel. This is a hotel that I used to manage and one that I am still very fond of, plus it’s great to have the chance to catch up with some of my ex-colleagues whilst I am there.

What are you reading?
I struggle to read unless I have unlimited time to finish the book from the moment that I started it. This means that books are usually only a holiday treat for me, I almost read a full library during lockdown!

Your guilty pleasure:
Rock music. I have always had a very eclectic taste in music, anything from opera to hard rock. As I’ve got older, I seem to have become more of a rock chick, I love going to live music gigs, surrounded by fans that are more than half my age, with a fellow rock chick friend (not my partner, he really doesn’t share this guilty pleasure!).

Favourite hobby/past time:
Dog walking and horse riding, getting out in the beautiful New Forest. As much as house prices in the New Forest are somewhat out of my reach, this beautiful National Park is only a very short car drive away (I could actually walk there if I felt inclined!). I feel blessed to live where I do and take every opportunity that I can to be out there to enjoy it, rain or shine.

Most inspirational/influential person in your career:
I think this has to be a previous boss and hotel owner, Chris Wilson. He always seemed to have more faith in my capabilities than I had at the time. He always filled me with the confidence I needed to take on the many daily challenges I faced whilst managing his hotel.

Although, I think that I may have now found a new ‘most inspirational person’ in Kate with her endless positivity.  I thought that this was a trait of mine, my glass is always half full (unless it’s a Champagne glass, then there is always room for a top up), but I think Kate may well challenge me on this!

Favourite animal and why:
It’s a close one between horses and dogs for me, but I think dogs win for the supply of the endless unconditional love that they offer. They are always so pleased to see you! Horses, on the other hand, are only really pleased to see you when you have a bucket of feed in your hand. I currently have 3 rescue dogs, 2 from Italy. I found one of them whilst on holiday and after a Prosecco or two, I made the crazy decision to bring her back to the UK, bearing in mind she was heavily pregnant at the time! That was a logistical challenge to say the least, but 3 months later she arrived on my doorstep, 4 of her puppies arrived a month later and now all have fabulous homes with my friends across the UK.

Greatest contact/supplier that deserves a plug:
Peter Holding, All Parties and Events. I have worked with Peter over the past 10+ years at different venues that I have managed. I have watched his business evolve into more than being just a DJ as he took on supplying photobooths, event AV and much more. He is always great to speak to for advice on all things music and lighting in all areas of events and properties. He has always been very generous in supplying his services free of charge for charity events, along with my birthday parties too!

Your business plan for the coming year:
To find a base of clients who have a real passion for their business, who would benefit from the addition of my ‘passion for profit’ to help their business thrive.

You can find out more about Kara by clicking here! Or, give her a call – she does love a natter!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Getting to know Nicola

Nicola Anderson is an experienced and commercially savvy action taker offering executive level business support to ambitious business leaders. Grab a coffee and take a couple of moments to get to know her better.

Nicola joined us in May 2022 after an extraordinarily successful career in Commercial, Operations Management, and Strategic Leadership. With a calm and knowledgeable approach, Nicola is a troubleshooter and problem solver, that gets things done. She particularly enjoys partnering with people centric business, that are looking to grow or diversify.

Getting to know Nicola

Alarm goes off at:
7am

Start the day with:
A very large coffee (or two, yes I’m an addict!) whilst checking LinkedIn and my emails. Then writing a ‘To Do List’ for the day ahead.

Where do you do most of your work?
Mostly in my home office, but I also enjoy meeting up with my clients and attending networking events as much as I can.

What sectors do your clients operate within?
Currently I am working with several entrepreneurial business owners who deliver training, motivational speaking, events and coaching. I also have a client who runs a tendering and bid management company, and another who is guiding small businesses towards achieving net zero, something that I am very passionate about.

Best part of your work:
The freedom it gives me to make my own decisions and manage my own diary to work for me and my family. Plus, the variety it gives me, I love being busy and having lots of balls in the air, solving problems and making other people’s lives easier.

Worst part of your work:
Having an office so close to the fridge!

Clients you add most value to:
Growing businesses that need someone with commercial and operational experience to help them save time by introducing efficiencies and processes to streamline their business and to be their sounding board and ideas generator.

After work you’ll be:
Found in the garden, reading a book, spending time with family and friends or watching cricket at Trent Bridge. Anything that makes me appreciate life and smile.

Why a franchise with The Passionate PA and not go it alone?
I wanted to feel part of a team and I so do. The support from Kate Chastey is amazing and the other Passionate PAs are awesome too. We are such a supportive team and the skills and experience we have collectively are hard to beat.

What did you do before:
For the majority of my career I have worked as a Commercial and Operations Manager in the construction industry. I loved nothing more than delivering high value, complex projects, and coaching and mentoring my teams. To see others reach their potential is so rewarding.

Favourite drink:
After coffee it has to be Aperol Spritz, preferably in the sunshine!

Favourite location for a business meeting:
West Bridgford in Nottingham, it has such a great cosmopolitan and community feel about it. Plus, the added bonus is that you may even bump into a famous cricketer or as Trent Bridge is just down the road!

What are you reading?
I have just finished Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before by Dr Julie Smith, which was a great read for understanding the mind and emotions better. I am now reading a How to Hack Your Hormones by Davina Taylor, and Alex Scott’s autobiography.

Your guilty pleasure:
Spending too many hours watching Sky Sports! I think it comes from growing up with two sport mad brothers and my Dad, and now living with my husband and two sons who all love sport too. I was brought up as a Chealsea fan, but I would say that I am definitely a Nottingham Forest fan now (just don’t tell my Dad!).

Favourite hobby/past time:
Definitely gardening, I love spending time outside in my garden and on our allotment, growing fruit and veg as well as beautiful flowers.

Most inspirational/influential person in your career:
The whole Passionate PA Team, such an awesome and talented group of ladies, led by Kate Chastey. Together we achieve such great things!

Favourite animal and why:
Cats, love their independence and self-sufficiency!

Greatest contact/supplier that deserves a plug:
Gemma Wilks founder of the Rushcliffe Business Partnership. Gemma delivers fantastic events in fabulous locations across Nottinghamshire, attended by great business owners and are such fun!

Your business plan for the coming year:
To develop a client base that I can build solid, trusted relationships with to help them achieve their business growth plans and become their confidential sounding board and trusted partner in business.

You can find out more about Nicola by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Want to improve your productivity and focus?

Steph Taylor is our Passionate PA based in Christchurch, Dorset. She joined us in November 2021 after a 20+ year career in Human Resources and Change Management.

In her role as a Passionate PA, Steph helps her clients manage their To Do Lists and create productive routines to help their businesses thrive.

In this blog post, Steph looks at the hard-finish technique – the idea of having a set time by which a task must be completed – and adds some tips to optimise your productivity.

Want to improve your productivity and focus?

Have you ever noticed how much work you can complete when there is something exciting waiting for you at the end? It could be a family outing, a date with your special someone, or a long-awaited holiday.

The anticipation sharpens your focus and drives your productivity. But you don’t have to limit this level of productivity to those special moments. By using the hard-finish technique, you can consistently achieve heightened productivity.

Set Clear Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is the first step towards a successful hard finish. Before starting your work, or at the beginning of the day, establish a specific finish time for your tasks. Clearly communicate this deadline to your colleagues, team members, clients or even your family – and of course, yourself.

Pop that time on a post-it note and stick it in plain sight.

By doing this, you create awareness and external accountability, reinforcing your commitment to completing your work within a specified timeframe. Setting expectations and having others aware of your schedule will help you stay on track and encourage their support.

Use Time Blocking

Time blocking is a key part of achieving a hard finish too. It involves scheduling specific time slots for different tasks or activities – e.g. admin/email and ‘deep’ project work.

Multi-tasking is not productivity’s friend!

By allocating dedicated time blocks to your work, you create a structured schedule that creates focus and minimises distractions. Make sure you include breaks within your time blocks to prevent burnout and maintain mental clarity, and also add ‘creep time’ too – as things will inevitably slip into your day.

Experiment with different time periods to find what works best for you, for example, deep work is often best in the mornings when your brain is fresher. Consistency and discipline in adhering to your time blocks will enhance your productivity.

Prioritise Tasks Wisely

To achieve a hard finish, you need to manage your time and priorities effectively. Identify your most important tasks and prioritise them accordingly. Use time management techniques, such as Eisenhower’s matrix, to categorise tasks based on urgency and importance.

By focusing on high-priority activities, you will make sure your time is allocated wisely, allowing you to make significant progress toward your important goals.

Remember, not all tasks are created equal, so investing your time and energy in the right areas will deliver the greatest results.

Break It Down

Sometimes, large and overwhelming tasks can be a barrier to our progress and productivity. A helpful approach is to break down these daunting tasks into smaller, more manageable subtasks. This makes the task seem less intimidating and even allows you to measure your progress, gaining a sense of accomplishment along the way.

Here at The Passionate PA, we believe in celebrating even small victories as this can provide motivation and help to maintain momentum. Remember, progress is progress, no matter how small.

Include Transition Time

Transitioning from one task to another or shifting between work and personal life can be challenging and take more time than you think, leading to reduced productivity. It is useful to plan intentional transition activities. Allow yourself a short period to recharge and shift your mindset.

For example, taking a 5-minute break to step outside for some fresh air or going for a short walk can help clear your mind and prepare you for the next task or phase of the day – especially if you are shifting from transactional tasks to deep work.

Intentional transitions act as mental buffers; they enable you to detach from the previous task and refocus your energy on the next. By using transition periods, you enhance your ability to maintain a consistent level of productivity throughout the day.

Optimise Your Environment

Your physical environment can have a huge impact on your productivity level. Review your workspace and make adjustments that will help you to focus and concentrate.

Minimise distractions by decluttering your area and keeping only the essentials within reach – consider leaving your phone in another room whilst you are in deep work mode.

Also consider incorporating things that inspire and motivate you, such as plants, a vision board, or personal mementos. Additionally, ensure that your workspace is comfortable and ergonomically suited to prevent physical discomfort.

The hard-finish technique is a powerful tool to help you reach your productivity potential. By using this, and the top tips above, you can consistently achieve high productivity and build momentum towards achieving your goals.

Remember, the key lies in committing to a specific finish time and maintaining focus throughout the process. We encourage you to try the hard-finish technique and witness your productivity soar!

You can find out more about Steph by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: