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: 

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: 

ScaleUp Radio – From Freelancer to Franchisor

Scaling up a business isn’t easy, in fact it can be a little daunting. ScaleUp Radio exists to make it a little easier. The show is hosted by Kevin Brent, the founder of BizSmart.

Recognising the challenges that owner-managers face in scaling their businesses, Kevin interviews successful entrepreneurs who have ‘been there’, offering valuable insights and advice. With over ten years of experience working with hundreds of owner-managers, Kevin has distilled his learnings into a practical guide called the Entrepreneurial Scale Up System (ESUs), which serves as a helpful handbook for navigating the scale-up journey (buy a copy here).

About this podcast episode

Kate Chastey, our franchisor, was delighted to be asked to talk with Kevin on his renowned podcast. This episode delves deep into Kate’s remarkable journey and uncovers the ins and outs of the franchising world.

Kate’s infectious enthusiasm for her work shines through as Kevin explores her diverse experiences and the pivotal moments that led her to embrace the franchising model. They uncover the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned while experimenting with various business approaches before finding her calling in franchising.

This episode stands out as an invaluable resource for anyone interested in franchising or considering it as a viable business model. It’s also a great insight into the ‘human behind the business’ for any potential franchisees! Kate shares her personal insights and expertise, highlighting the advantages and opportunities that franchising can offer. It can help you gain a comprehensive understanding of how franchising works, its potential benefits, and how it may align with your own business aspirations.

Kate’s candid storytelling and the lessons she learned during her 13 years in business provide valuable takeaways for all listeners.

Key Takeaway #1: Buying into a franchise can lead to quick success
Starting a business from scratch can be a daunting and time-consuming process. But with the right franchise, you can benefit from a tried and tested business model that can catapult you to success within the first three months. Kate highlights the advantages of investing in a franchise rather than going it alone and explains how franchisees can recoup their initial investment in a short period of time with the Passionate PA.

Key Takeaway #2: The evolving role of Personal Assistants (PAs)
PAs are often misunderstood as solely administrative professionals. However, Kate sheds light on the extensive range of services that Passionate PAs provide for solopreneurs and SMEs. From marketing and business development to strategy creation and process automation, PAs offer a game-changing level of support for ambitious business leaders on their growth journey.

Key Takeaway #3: Cultivating a unique franchise culture
Kate emphasises the importance of creating a connected and supportive franchise culture that focuses not only on profit margins but also on a fulfilling work-life flow. With a strong emphasis on client happiness, mentorship and accessible support, franchisees of Passionate PAs have the opportunity to shape their own success while being part of a nurturing and connected team.

Click here to listen to the podcast

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Passionate About Profit with Kara

Having an accountant, and even a bookkeeper, is a great way to ensure that your business is compliant with all that HMRC require from you as a business owner. However, sometimes, neither of these services are enough to help YOU get emotionally connected to your numbers.

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Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Starting all over again – Jenni’s Story

Jenni is our Passionate PA based in Dorchester. She joined us in January 2018 and after a rollercoaster 5 years of personal and professional development, is delighted to share she will be a Passionate PA for a further 5 years!

This is Jenni’s very personal story of finding “a constant” during a tremendously turbulent period in her personal life, and why the decision to remain with #TeamPassionatePA was actually pretty simple.

Our franchisor, Kate Chastey, said “I have watched Jenni blossom as a Passionate PA over the last 5 years. She has found herself again, and strength I don’t think either of us knew she had at the beginning. Jenni is a wonderful woman and an incredibly Passionate PA, I’m beyond delighted she has renewed her Franchise Agreement. She is an asset to her clients – and she’s an asset to us!”

Starting all over again – Jenni’s Story

Around 6 years ago, my life reached a point where I knew things had to change. Having once had a thriving career, like many women, I had put “professional me” on hold to bring up my children. But in 2017 my children were 15 and 12 and growing up fast! I was needed by them less and less and my part-time job as a Facilities Co-ordinator for a well-known chain of travel agents was giving me little to no job satisfaction. My marriage was stalling too, and I was heading into my 40s feeling like my life was in freefall.


But what could I do? 

Even though my children were growing up, my daughter was a national level competitive swimmer, so I had the responsibility of 4.30am starts and late evenings by the pool as well as competitions at weekends all over the country. I knew that a full-time employed role would be unsustainable, especially if it involved a commute.

I threw myself into my volunteer role as the Club Secretary for my daughter’s large swimming club and this gave me the satisfaction that I craved – but for no pay! By using the skills I had garnered over 20 years of my professional career, I was able to work with a small team to turn an ailing swimming club into a profitable organisation and we guided the club through many many challenges – I needed to use every ounce of energy and passion I had to keep the club going. And whilst I loved the challenge that this role gave me, I knew I needed to throw that passion and ambition into a paid role!


And then the lightbulb moment…

Whilst pondering this conundrum over a coffee with my friend and successful business owner, Ally Case, Ally pointed me in the direction of The Passionate PA. Ally tagged me in a post seeking a Bournemouth franchisee and I immediately reached out to Kate. We hit it off immediately. I knew this was it – the ability to build my own business but work the hours I needed to on a freelance basis, working around my family, and at first, still maintaining my volunteer role.

Getting off the ground wasn’t easy, and Kate and I faced many barriers, but finally, in January 2018, I got there. I signed the Franchise Contract and I was officially a Passionate PA franchisee!

I’ll be really honest, at first I struggled with the commitment required to maintain the standards of the franchise, but I then learnt that this only serves to ensure I am the best version of myself and delivering my best work – achieving the success I so desired. Franchising is the ultimate way of working in my opinion – the choice to work when you want, with whom you want and create a lifestyle business, but at the same time the backing and support of a ‘Head Office’ structure.


Where am I now?

That was 5 years ago, and I can honestly say, I haven’t looked back. It has NOT been easy, I can promise you that. In the 5 years since becoming a Passionate PA, I have faced the toughest of personal circumstances; my marriage eventually broke, we faced a global pandemic, I moved house and became a single Mum. I look back and wonder how I ever got through.

But The Passionate PA has been a constant. I love working with my loyal clients. The role I take on for ambitious leaders is very rewarding and I’m entirely in control of my earnings.

When the time came to renew my contract as a franchisee or move onto pastures new, there was no questions. As I enter my next 5 year chapter as a Passionate PA, life couldn’t be better. I feel like I have all my confidence back – I’m just a wiser, more mature version of the ambitious girl I once was.

I am now in a wonderful relationship with a supportive partner, I have moved 25 miles away to a new town and built a whole new life with our blended families. I also have the client set of dreams. I earn an excellent income and have the ability to push that further when my (now 3!) children fly the nest.

I love my work and now throw all my energy and passion into life as a business owner. I have the backing of an amazing and incredible team of Passionate PAs and we are sharing the journey with all of its ups and downs. Each of us treading a unique path, but do you know what… I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, with anyone else!

You can find out more about Jenni by clicking here!



Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Is there life after a corporate career?

Claire is our Passionate PA based in Ringwood. She joined us in January 2018 after a very successful corporate career.

In this personal blog, Claire shares insight into why she felt she had to resign from her role with an investment bank, and the damage that transition did to her confidence. She also talks openly though about the “best decision ever” – joining The Passionate PA and building the flexible business she’d always dreamed of.

Our franchisor, Kate Chastey, said “In 2023, Claire is celebrating 5 years as a Passionate PA – and we are delighted to say she will be with us for at least another 5 too after resigning her Franchise Agreement! Claire is one of the most diligent, hard working and inspirational people I know. She’s a multitasker extraordinaire.”

Is there life after the corporate world?

Before having children, I had a great career with a well-known investment bank. I ran a fantastic team of people, worked with prestigious clients worldwide, I earnt good money – life was good and I loved it.

But, when my husband and I started a family, my whole world turned upside down… I returned to a part-time role with the bank, but I was not prepared for the lack of sleep and feeling torn in so many directions. I shifted between feeling very grateful and overwhelmingly guilty every single day.

I could no longer commit to the long hours (and nor did I want to) and most devastatingly for me, I felt that I was looked upon differently by my colleagues and some friends. My personal identity was so connected to my successful career, finding a ‘new me’ was very hard.


The Difficult Decision

This was one of the toughest times in my life, so making the decision to resign from the bank after my second son was born was the right thing to do but equally, truly terrifying for me. I’d been in the corporate world for nearly 20 years… what if no one else would employ me? What if I couldn’t find a fulfilling role to fit around my family life? What if my previous zest for life never returned?

So many doubts hung in my mind, but I had faith that this was the end of a chapter and, when I was ready, I could start something new. Resigning gave me time to be a mum and enjoy my children whilst they were really young – and also time to think clearly about what I wanted life to look like.


What could be next?

I took a few years out, more than I planned, and so I began to feel restless and unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, being a Mum is a privilege, but I wanted, no needed, to work. I need to be ‘Claire’ again – the whole me, not ‘just Mum’.

I knew I needed to feel valued and respected, to be able to use my skill set and experience but it seemed that at every option I explored meant I either had no choice but return to full-time employment or take a much lower paid, unfulfilling role.


Finding my sparkle again

As fate would have it, I was approached at school pick-up one day and asked if I would consider taking on the role of Chair of the PTA. No one else would take on the responsibility and that meant an important part of the school would disappear. I couldn’t let this happen, so I eagerly accepted the voluntary role and began to work hard organising and planning the fund-raising activities for the year ahead.

I threw myself into the PTA, resurrected my business brain and discovered that I loved event management, organising, analysing costs and expenses, and much more! This put fire in my belly again and I loved every minute of it. It gave me back my confidence and I was thrilled to significantly increase the profit for the events I ran which led to the purchase of iPads for the school which I am particularly proud of.


Fate strikes again…

Nearly a year in, at the end of one of our meetings, the PTA accountant told me that I must reach out to Kate Chastey from The Passionate PA, saying that I would be a perfect fit!

I was intrigued…

I’d never been a PA, I had a PA myself in my previous role but when I started looking into the franchise, I discovered that the possibilities were endless! My traditional view of a PA was not the same as a freelance Passionate PA. My goodness, the skill sets within the team were vast, the clients they were all working with excited me and the potential to earn great money whilst working flexibly was second to none!

After that first meeting with Kate, I knew that I’d found something truly special. The idea that I could start my own business, with superb experience, guidance and support right behind me, was something I had only dreamed of.

I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship and the idea of being my own boss was close to my heart. My Dad has always run his own business, very successfully, and I grew up admiring his work ethic and the sheer passion for what he does. I talked this franchise opportunity through with him and my husband and so my journey as a Passionate PA began!


That was 2018

I’m five years in now and I can honestly say that I LOVE my work! This was without a doubt the best decision that I have ever made professionally; I run a successful business that lights me up inside. I get to work with awesome clients who are now friends too. I choose when I work and with whom and I can use my corporate experience to help my clients grow and expand their businesses which is really fulfilling.

I’m also continuously learning and so the challenges and opportunities are super. To date, I’ve worked in the manufacturing sector, with coaches and trainers, with charities, wellness ambassadors, private clients in Dubai, peer groups, marketing and SEO and many more. A true highlight was with a client in the beauty industry – helping with collaborations with Marie Claire and L’Oreal! I love how varied my work is and how much I can help clients achieve their dreams too.


Best decision ever!

Being a franchisee gives me the best of both worlds. I have the unwavering support of my franchisor, Kate Chastey, who not only believed in me but has encouraged and supported me every step of the way to build a business on my terms.

Team Passionate PA has an impressive selection of commercially savvy and ambitions women. We all have different types of expertise and experience and work together to support and encourage one another, whilst having a lot of fun too!

Being able to offer my clients the experience shared across the team is priceless and enables me to offer an exemplary service which I am incredibly proud of.

So, is there life after the corporate world – hell yes! And it’s better than you can imagine.

You can find out more about Claire by clicking here!



Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Business Automation with Louise

You know you want to add a powerful all-in-one sales and business management platform to your business, but the tech is a bit scary. Are you looking for someone to implement the system and make it work hard for your business… if so, Louise is your perfect partner.

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Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

From humble beginnings to Business Owner

Kara is our Passionate PA based in Southampton. She joined us in August 2022 and, after her first 6 months in business, has decided to share her story in the hope it may inspire others. With a 30 year career in Hospitality, Kara wondered whether there would ever be life beyond the sector for her and whether a franchise really was the springboard she needed…

Grab a cuppa, in this blog Kara shares her personal story in her own words.

From humble beginnings to Business Owner

My World of Work

My career started early, at the age of 14, washing dishes at a local hotel. Not long after starting this role, I was promoted to a weekend waitress which was when my love for hospitality started.

I went to university to study Hotel Management, where I learnt the fundamentals of running a business where success is dependent on hitting margins.

Throughout my career, I learnt far more than my university qualification covered though; the complexities of recruitment and HR, marketing, rate strategies, property management and compliance, to name but a few.

I worked my way through the ranks to eventually become a Hotel General Manager, and finally, the pinnacle of my career as Head of Operations for a group of hotels. If I am honest, my love of hospitality dwindled towards the end. I was running out of challenges, something that I thrive on. I was earning a good salary, but had no experience in any other industry, how could I find another career, with similar earnings, with such a specialised CV?


Seeking New Challenges

I had looked at franchises in the past, but none appeared to offer the challenge I was seeking or offered a comparable take home pay. They looked to me like they were recruiting for another ‘number’ – I have too big a personality for that sort of role!

A post from The Passionate PA popped up in my social media and sparked my interest, so I took a further look. The bespoke services offered, along with the ethos to ‘go above and beyond’, really struck a chord with me.

I booked a Discovery Call but, unfortunately, it was at a time when my team at the hotel needed me the most. Sounds crazy, I know, but my team were like family to me. We were in the process of adjusting to a post-Brexit/mid-Covid world and the ship needed a captain!

I cancelled that call with Kate to stay where I was needed.

A year later, and the time had finally come for the career change I had been craving. The Passionate PA had remained in the back of my mind. I am a people person, but I wanted to be self-employed. I didn’t want to ‘go it alone’, especially in a business I had no experience in, I wanted to be able to share my highs and lows with understanding colleagues. More importantly, I still wanted to learn, especially now that we live in an ever-evolving digitalised world with so many remote and hybrid options.


Getting The Full Picture

After further research into The Passionate PA, I sent another enquiry to Kate for more details. What I really appreciated was how there was no quick sell, quite the opposite in fact. She tells me now, she got very excited as she’d remembered my CV from a year earlier – but I didn’t know that at the time!

My Discovery Call with Kate finally took place, and she gave me a clear picture of what taking on this franchise would entail – both as a business owner but also on a personal level. I loved how easy Kate was to talk to, down to earth but incredibly informative. I felt I would be in very safe hands!

Kate suggested I researched other options and that I spoke to her Franchise Advisor, Ian Bradley too. He also suggested I be thorough in my research not just about this particular franchise, but about what becoming a franchisee would entail.

At Kate’s invitation, I also spoke to a couple of existing Passionate PA – the longest standing one and the newest, a great mix for honest feedback. The longest standing franchisee had a similar start to her career as I did. She assured me that my skills in hospitality management were easily transferable to this new career… she has since been proven right!

The ‘recruitment process’ was reassuringly thorough, it wasn’t just about whether I wanted to join this franchise, it was also about Kate learning about me to be 100% sure we could work together to build the business I desired.

This was a huge leap for me, I understandably had reservations and endless questions, all of which were answered fully and promptly by Kate.

We then met in person for lunch and it was like I had known Kate all my life! I imagine it was almost an interview process, but it felt far from that. We talked and ate yummy food. We even hugged at the end!


The Awaited Offer & Starting Training

A few days later, I was delighted to receive a franchise offer – I was going to join THE team of savvy business professionals! Woohooo! And what a relief it was to receive this news as I had already made my mind up that this was definitely the right move for me.

Once I was signed up, the online training started. This was broken down into easily digestible modules, with weekly Zoom calls with Kate to discuss any questions I might have.

The highlight of my onboarding was my Launch Retreat at a beautiful AirBnB. As much as this involved many 121 masterclasses and a professional photoshoot, it certainly didn’t feel like ‘work’ as it was fabulous to get to know Kate better, sample her delicious cooking and I got to meet a few of the other Passionate PAs too as they joined us for a training day.


Time For Clients

And then it was down to business! Getting started in my new career was nerve wracking, I was worried that I wouldn’t find clients quickly enough and I even considered getting a weekend job. But Kate assured me that I didn’t need to worry… “hold your nerve” she used to say, and she was right!

There were soon enquiries from potential new clients, and Kate initially joined me on my introductory Zoom meetings for reassurance. It wasn’t long before I was at capacity with Kate drip feeding me leads over the next few weeks.

Kate quietly let me learn to fly solo, but she continues to be there when needed, always checking whether I need more clients, whether I need any support, along with listening and advising on my journey as my current clients develop. I actually call her my Fairy Godmother – she’s just ‘there’ whenever I need her and always seems to have the right answer or question for me.


Team Spirit

I really enjoy our monthly ‘Biz Dev’ team calls, seeing the full team together, hearing how they are getting on, along with our continual training from Kate. I also love the special face to face masterclasses with overnight stays – the team spirit is just wonderful. Such a fun bunch of ladies to socialise with, and learn with, I feel truly honoured to a part of this team!

It is fabulous that we all have our own individual skill sets and personalities, which Kate fully appreciates when dealing with client enquiries. Her role is to match the client enquiry with the right Passionate PA. But, she also relishes the opportunity to really help each Passionate PA create their own version of success too. I, for example, want a full-time business with project work in the financial arena. Other Passionate PAs want part-time, others focus on completely different skill sets to me. That’s what makes The Passionate PA so unique for clients and for franchisees – there is no one size fits all.


Looking Back

I genuinely thought I would miss my previous career, it had been my life for over 30 years but, I honestly haven’t once looked back. I have a thriving business, clients that challenge me every day (in a good way!) and I’m earning more than I was in my last employed role – with scope for more as my business grows and develops.

I am eternally grateful that Kate has given me this opportunity, I never thought work could excite me this much… oh how wrong I was!

You can find out more about Kara by clicking here!



Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Making numbers simple for business owners

Kara Birrell is our Passionate PA based in Southampton. She joined us in August 2022 after a 20+ year career in Operations Management and Hospitality.

Kara has always had a passion for numbers… more specifically, profit! In all her previous roles, she has been responsible for margins and, in the hospitality sector where margins are notoriously tight, Kara relished the challenge of not just knowing the numbers herself but inspiring those around her to care about them too.

In this blog, Kara shares her top three tools for making the numbers in your small business simple and meaningful.


Making numbers simple

Everybody knows it’s vital to have a handle on their business’s numbers, but why? How can a small business owner with responsibility for everything from service delivery to marketing, IT to strategy planning, be expected to know one end of a P&L from another?

I get it. And here’s the truth… a lot of people do not understand their numbers.

However, getting a handle on them at an early stage will be the difference between a profitable business that allows you to live the life you desire, and a self-employed “job” where you become trapped.

In my many years of working in hotels and restaurants, and running my own hospitality consultancy, it was very common to find business owners who ran their business finances from their bank account. But this is just a daily snapshot of where your business is, it doesn’t give you a full picture or a forecast for what’s to come.

It is vital that all small business owners have their finger on the financial pulse to:

  1. ensure that they can afford to pay their bills when they are due
  2. ensure they can pay staff and freelancers for the value they are adding to the business, and
  3. (most importantly) ensure the business is actually making a healthy profit.

As a small business owner or sole trader, you might well be thinking I don’t need big profit margins – just enough to pay yourself is plenty?

But, hold up… what about planning for your future and the growth of the business, paying taxes and saving for a rainy day – that will require investment and nobody wants to be a busy fool!

As much as financial reporting may well be seen as ‘over kill’ for a small business, it can be a doddle. I promise 😉

Here’s a simple guide to a few basic financial reports that are easy to produce in excel yet essential for the success of your business.

TOOL #1: Sales Forecasts

This is a simple projection of what business you currently have secured on your books or in your sales pipeline, and then what further sales you hope to make.

‘Secured’ means deposit paid, full amount paid or purchase order received.

‘Hope’ means exactly that; you think it’s going to happen based on an intelligent estimate, but there is absolutely no guarantee yet.

A simple excel spreadsheet with the months listed at the top, and then your projected sales figure underneath is all you need. All your figures should be excluding VAT, if this is applicable to your business.

Top Tip: It’s great to look back on your forecast at the end of the month to see how close your forecast was. This review, which should only take a few moments, will give you a good guide as to how much you understand your sales pipeline. If both figures are very similar, you’ve nailed it!

TOOL #2: Cashflow Forecast

Simply put, your cashflow forecast will give you an indication of how much you should have in your bank at the time when bills need to be paid.

Again, a simple excel spreadsheet will suffice with your outgoings and actual/anticipated income in different columns.

Top Tips: Your sales forecast will help with your income figures, but you also need to take into account the following:

  • If you don’t take payment at the time of the service/sale, put in strict credit control procedures and make sure that your customers are fully aware of your payment terms before the service/sale is agreed. Make sure you have a procedure for chasing payment when it’s overdue!
  • Negotiate good supplier terms. Make sure there is no big difference from when you pay your suppliers, to when your customers pay you.
  • If you need to hold stock, it is vital that this is tightly controlled with regular stock takes. Cash in the bank is far better than products in your stock room. It’s a fine balance to get stock in at the right time, at the right price, while avoiding having cash tied up in it.

TOOL #3: Profit and Loss Account

You can easily produce a basic monthly profit and loss account for your business. The point of this is to understand your profit margin. In simple terms, it is your turnover less all your expenses and you want it to be as high as possible otherwise your business may not be viable.

A simple guide:

Once you have the above reports in place, it should give you a far better understanding of how your business is performing on a weekly or monthly basis. Doing this review yourself also means there are no nasty surprises at the end of the year from your accountant.

Making margins matter

Now that you have a way to track your numbers, you can ask yourself whether your margins (gross and net profit as a percentage of turnover) are close to your industry’s recommended margins.

A quick Google search will tell you roughly what these are, but a great accountant will also be able to advise.

If your margins are far higher or far lower than your industry’s recommended figures, then it’s time to dig a little deeper into your numbers…

  • Can you control your spending?
  • Can you cut supplier costs?
  • Is it time for an efficiency review?
  • Can you increase your selling price, without over pricing yourself against your competitors?

Numbers are the life blood of any business. People only really find them boring when they haven’t fully understood their importance. It is essential for any successful business owner to know where their numbers are likely to be at any given time and these tools should help you do that.

If you would like help in setting up these financial reports for your business, or digging deeper into the numbers to determine what they really mean for you, then please get in touch. Profit is my passion so I would love to help!

You can find out more about Kara by clicking here!

Further blogs from The Passionate PA: