Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Megan Sawtelle, Founder and CEO of AK Lean Virtual Assistance, LLC., located in Anchorage, AK, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
AK Lean Virtual Assistance, LLC is an operations and process support business that operates at the intersection between process improvement, business management, and administrative services. We specialize in document automation, knowledge management, and operational support for businesses with annual revenue of over $200,000 that are located in the United States.
AK Lean is a small, women-owned business with a team located across the United States. We believe in operating within relationships with other businesses to help them grow and accomplish their goals while providing insights into ways they could be operating more efficiently. We firmly believe that our client's successes are our successes.
To accomplish this, we infuse Lean Six Sigma philosophies and principles into providing administrative and automation support to businesses. While we're working in your business, we'll evaluate and propose ways to increase the efficiency of your time, resulting in either time saved or money saved.
Tell us about yourself
The original business plan for AK Lean was created as a capstone project to complete my Bachelor of Science in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship. However, it was promptly tossed into a drawer because, at the time, I was a single parent working full-time and needed health insurance. I worked for the state government for eight years and had the opportunity to work on a special project creating a new division in DOT and was introduced to Lean Six Sigma. I realized I had a love for processes and became a Master Blackbelt.
After the special project was completed, I didn't feel I could go back into my previous role as an Administrative Officer, so I pulled the business plan out of the drawer and refreshed it. Instead of being a traditional administrative business, I took my love of processes and passion for administrative operations and created a hybrid operation support business. My motivation for each day comes from two angles: the businesses we support and my employees.
The businesses we support often are on the brink of flourishing but don't quite know how to go to the next step. Many of them need process refreshed or extra support to move into that new level of operation. My motivation there is seeing how excited they are for their goals being accomplished and how relieved they are to have someone helping them move into that next step in their business.
My employees motivate me because they're able to live the lives that they want to live. Many of the people on my team, including myself, have situations that make it difficult to fit into a standard "9-to-5" job. The way I operate AK Lean gives my employees the ability to take care of their families, work to better themselves through education or take better care of themselves by not working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner was completing the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing about being a business owner is understanding that there is such a thing as being "too nice." When I talk about "too nice," I mean giving out services at less than you should be, not holding employees and clients to standards and boundaries, and not holding yourself to boundaries around your time.
When you are too nice, it can impact employees' engagement and morale in negative ways (most of the time, employees want direction, consistency, and boundaries), and it can financially impact you by undercutting what your services are worth. In the long run, undercutting services can lead to financial strain or lessen your reputation for being high-quality in your industry.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! Make sure you have all of your processes and procedures documented. This not only helps set boundaries and guidelines but can make your business more profitable if your end goal is to sell your business.
- Be focused on your services. If you're offering everything but specializing in nothing, you're not hitting the clients that you want to work with and will see your value. You'll spend more time weeding through discovery calls that don't go anywhere than actually doing work.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
If you're thinking of starting a business, don't be afraid to reach out to your resources. Many areas have small business development centers that can help direct you on how to set up your business correctly!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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