From Setback to Success: Revolutionizing Work-Life Balance with Katie Santoro

Feb 5, 2024 | Assembling The Band, Keeping the Hat Full, PodCast, Season 3, The Jam Room

The Back-Story

Have you ever wondered how a crushing setback could unexpectedly pave the way to success? Katie Santoro, the CEO and founder of River City Virtual Assistance, joins Tim with a tale that’s as enlightening as it is empowering. She opens up about her journey from closing a business during the pandemic to pioneering a new venture that champions work-life balance and combats burnout. To achieve sustainable growth, Katie emphasizes the importance of developing processes and systems that prevent burnout. She discusses time management, delegation, and creating a supportive team environment as vital components of her business’s success.

Who is Katie Santoro?

Katie Santoro is the founder of River City Virtual Assistants, which she established in 2020 at the height of the global pandemic. After years of considering virtual assisting, Katie was pushed down a new path due to burnout. She combined her years of experience in the legal and insurance industry with the experience gained running her first business venture, a yoga studio, to assist clients in various industries, from basic admin tasks to marketing and website building.

Katie’s vision to grow RCVA happened faster than expected. Still, she has been fortunate to grow her team with others like herself who want a true balance between household responsibilities and career aspirations. Working virtually allows the team at RCVA to take care of the house and home while keeping their skills relevant and contributing financially to their families. RCVA is dedicated to providing intelligent assistance. Each assistant is college-educated and brings experience from diverse career backgrounds. RCVA is also committed to providing meaningful employment at a living wage to individuals within the USA.

Show Notes

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In This Episode:
(0:00) Intro
(0:34) The positive note
(1:20) What didn’t go as planned
(4:43) Katie’s jam room
(14:57) Delegating tasks
(22:14) Handling contractors
(27:15) Making sure cashflow is positive
(34:40) Katie’s guest solo
(36:02) Ideal clients
(39:21) Matching process
(40:49) How to connect with Katie
(42:15) Outro


Read Transcript

Tim Melanson: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to today’s episode of the work at home rock star podcast.

I’m excited for today’s guest. She is the CEO founder of river city virtual assistants, and she helps businesses find skilled virtual executive assistants. So excited to be rocking out today with Katie Centoro. Hey, Katie, are you ready to rock? Sure. I am. Let’s do it. Awesome. So we always start off here in a good note.

So tell me a story of success in your business that we can be inspired by.

Katie Santoro: Oh, I think that this whole business is a story of success. Um, we’ve really built this business with a mission to craft a world free of burnout. Um, craft lives full, free of burnout. So we do that for our team members by giving them some really good work life balance.

And we do that for our clients by providing them. Um, with assistance to help them find work life balance. This business, River City Virtual Assistance, is really kind of built to help others support each other. Um, and it’s just been, for me, it’s been so fulfilling to be able to help keep parents and caretakers in the [00:01:00] workforce while also helping business owners grow their own dreams.

Tim Melanson: Wow. That’s awesome. And, uh, and so now when you’re kind of going through this, sometimes not everything goes as planned. And so there’s some bad notes along with the good notes. I’m wondering, can you share with us something that didn’t go as planned that we can learn from?

Katie Santoro: Yeah. Um, so first of all, I think that failure is a mindset.

I don’t look at things as failures. I like to look at, at things as opportunities. Um, now if you catch me in like the middle of a Tuesday, I will be like, I am failing at everything. But for the most part, every time that something goes wrong, it’s an opportunity to change and grow, readjust, learn new things.

For me in life, one of my, my biggest. Opportunities was really going through burnout. Um, I’m an over, I’m a recovering overachiever and it led to some pretty dark places of just pushing myself beyond what any human is capable of doing. My first business [00:02:00] was a yoga studio. I ran that business while I was full time in my corporate career, um, put myself hard into burnout.

And then I had to close that business during the pandemic. And at the time it was something that I thought was a failure. And it actually became an opportunity. Um, it gave me a lot of time to heal myself from the burnout and then it gave me time to figure out this business and grow this business. So failures always leads you to opportunities and hopefully success.

Tim Melanson: Yeah. And it’s, it’s interesting that you just put yourself into that mindset quicker when it’s happening, right? Cause you know, I don’t know how many I’ve, and I think almost 300 interviews and almost all the good notes come from a bad note. So it’s like, all right, you know, something’s bad’s happening, but you’re probably going to get through it.

You’re probably going to learn something. It’s going to lead you to another, you know, it just means that whatever you’re doing right now is not right. Right.

Katie Santoro: Right. Yeah. And it’s like, cry it out. Take the [00:03:00] moment to like, feel the failure and or what you feel is failure or the fear or whatever it is. And then.

Put on your big girl pants and keep on going because you’ve got an opportunity here to be better.

Tim Melanson: Well, I think that’s important what you just said to cry it out. Like, I think that so many people just try to avoid the problem and try to push it off and it’s not going away, you know, right? I mean, Hey, okay, maybe some of them do, but I, you know, it’s going to keep on coming up back up again.

Katie Santoro: Right? It is. And we really like one of our theories and business and the way that we run the business that we’ve grown the business is like when something goes wrong, if there’s a mistake made or there’s a failure made, we look at it and we say, you know, first you admit to it. So maybe that is admitting to somebody you mess something up or admitting to yourself, you mess something up and just feeling that feeling and then, um, apologizing for it and figuring out how to make sure it’s not going to happen again.

So you, [00:04:00] you admit to it, you fix it, and then you figure out how it’s not going to happen again. And that’s kind of what you do with your failures, right? You use everything as an opportunity to, how do we Like, how do we improve?

Tim Melanson: That’s exactly right. And, and that’s just it. If you don’t admit to it, if you don’t want to see it, then you’re never going to get to the point where you’re not going to let it happen again.

Right. And

Katie Santoro: it’s going to keep on happening and it’s going to, it’s going to continue to manifest itself.

Tim Melanson: Yeah. I totally agree with that. All right. So let’s talk a little bit about your jam room. So tell me about

Katie Santoro: that. So I’m really excited. I just redid my office. I redecorated it. You can’t see it here cause I have a screen up, but, um, you know, we lived in this house.

Over 2 years ago, the furniture that was in this office was from my old office, which was a very different set up a very different business. Um, and I finally, I was like, you know what? We’re redoing this, this, this office. So I’m in a converted, uh, dining room. [00:05:00] It’s a formal dining room. So I have a chair rail, but.

I chose a really pretty color. I think that, you know, you need something called in your office. We spent so much time in here. So I was really excited about that. I got a super functional desk that took me 4 hours to put together. Never buy the flat package. Furniture from Amazon, it will take you an entire day.

Um, but it’s got all the functionality that I need. Um, but things that are really important in my office for me. So the old office before I redecorated it, my gym was in here. My bike was in here. My weights were in here. And I kind of got to the point where I was like, I need to separate work at church from state because what was happening as I was getting to the end of my day, I was going to do my workout and I’d hear it ping on my computer.

And I pause my bike and I go back to my computer and I do what I, you know, I answer these emails. Same thing was happening in the morning. I’d like to start my morning with some meditation. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do my yoga because it’s pinging or the, you know, the screens are on. I know what’s going on.

So I said, I’m [00:06:00] separated church from state. So I moved my, my gym out of my office. This is now just a work area. Um, you need a cozy factor. So I’ve got a couch, I’ve got a little chair that. Dog sleep in the chair more than anybody else, um, but you got to have a little place to sit. I have a little table so I can drink my tea and work on my laptop from the couch if I want to.

Um, and then there needs to be wellness factors to it. So I’ve got my happy light, which is, you know, when it’s cloudy here, I need my extra sunlight. So I have a special little light for that. I still have a yoga mat and some blocks and a foam roller down here. If I need to just get on the floor and stretch the diffusers, I’d love to do different scents every now and then, but just thinking about all the things that you, that you need in the six to eight hours that you’re sitting in your office during the day, um, I’ve tried to incorporate all of those.

So coziness, wellness, functionality, a really pretty color, some natural light. And I’m going to move a plant in here soon from my. I’ve got about 50 plants [00:07:00] in my sunroom, so I’m going to relocate one in here.

Tim Melanson: Yeah, it’s for some fresh air, right? And some life, you know, in your office.

Katie Santoro: Yeah, and it cleans the air and it’s, they’re just, plants are good vibes, as long as you can keep them alive.

Tim Melanson: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of plants, a very green thumb. We’re awesome. But yeah, it’s, it’s so interesting. And I just had this conversation on the last podcast as well about how so many entrepreneurs, uh, especially, you know, work at home, they have something to do with fitness and meditation and that’s their regular practice.

And I just find that so fascinating that it’s like, so not, well, maybe it’s becoming more mainstream now. But it wasn’t. However, back five, what was it? 2015. I think when I started this podcast, it was like all the entrepreneurs were all doing meditation and they were all keeping up on their fitness.

Meanwhile, people going to the office were not. So what’s up with that,

Katie Santoro: right? Yeah. I mean, [00:08:00] well, we know the benefits of meditation on your ability to focus. We know the benefits of physical fitness on your ability to focus. Right. And When you’re living a life for me, like I love what I do and I want to continue doing it.

And I can’t continue doing it if I don’t take care of my mind and my body. So that’s where the fitness and the, and the meditation and the yoga kind of come in for me. Yeah. When I was, when I was in a corporate setting, you know, people weren’t getting out. You weren’t getting sunshine. It’s hard to get out during the day and take a walk and do exercise or stretch.

It’s weird to stand up and start stretching at your desk. And like, those are the things that that can lead to burnout, not taking those breaks for yourself. Yeah.

Tim Melanson: Yeah. Well, there’s the burnout parts of it. And then I think also a lot of jobs are very, um, not this and maybe you can get away with sleepwalking through it.

Okay. And that’s totally fine. I mean, if that’s, if that’s the job, however, I can’t think of very [00:09:00] many, definitely not a solopreneur possible to sleepwalk through your job all the time. You, you have to actually interact with people and put on your best face, right? Uh, and I mean, okay, there might be portions of your job that are very monotonous that you can kind of just do the work.

There’s always going to be parts of it that you, you have to be there. You have to be present, right? And, you know, if you don’t have these. You know, exercise routines of some sort, whether it’s walking or anything like that, or, or, um, any type of like personal care. Like, I don’t want to say just meditation because it can be anything really that just allows you to relax.

Right. Yeah.

Katie Santoro: Yeah. And you You also really have to be, you have to be on a lot as an entrepreneur in a solar, you need to be able to focus. It takes a lot of self discipline. And for me, finding that self discipline is allowing myself those breaks during the day. My schedule does not have to be 9 to 5. My schedule can be.

7 [00:10:00] to 9, and then 11 to 12, and I can break it up during the day and take the time that I need. To kind of reset my brain. So a little bit of yoga, a little bit of walking, even, you know, taking an actual lunch break, not at my desk, it allows you to reset. So, and then you just have a lot more flexibility in your self care as an entrepreneur, um, which is.

It’s been really important for me. Yeah.

Tim Melanson: Well, and I’ve always seen that as a huge bonus. It’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to become self employed in the first place is to be able to, it’s not that you like, I think, I think that maybe not now, cause now it’s since lockdowns and all that stuff, people kind of understand what working from home means, but.

Back before that, nobody understood what it meant. And they just thought you did nothing all the time. Right. And, and even like, you know, Oh, you know, I want to work from home, home so I could do whatever I want. No, you still have to work. You have to work probably more. Right. But you can schedule that accordingly.

Right. And I had a young child when I started to become, became a self employed. So I [00:11:00] wanted to be able to spend the mornings, you know, I wanted to be able to, you know, go in the afternoon to his recitals and all that kind of stuff. I was able to just kind of shuffle everything around really easily.

Didn’t have to ask anybody’s permission. I still had to get all the work done. So what that meant is that I was working late some nights, right? You know, that, that’s, that’s okay. Right. I mean, as long as you can, you, you get to schedule your day in a way that you work best rather than companies saying, no, no, this is when we work, we work from year to year.

And you know, you might actually be sleepwalking through half your day because that’s just not your rhythm. Right. Uh, and you could change

Katie Santoro: that. Yeah. Think about how, like, if you know that you’ve got things going on at home, right? Like, you’ve, you’ve got to drop your kid off in the morning and you’ve got a recital in the afternoon and you have a block.

Of 4 hours to work are you going to spend those 4 hours walking back and forth to the water cooler? No, you’re going to sit and spend those 4 hours at your desk focus and deep work to get it done. And, you know, I work I run my business [00:12:00] on. 5 hours of work a day, and that’s. Very like, deep work. It’s it’s focused.

It’s concentrated and I get it done and I’m done. I don’t have to work, you know, that 9, 10 hours that would it this amount of work would require in an office because there aren’t those same distractions and you’re focused. Yep. Rima, not a self discipline. Uh,

Tim Melanson: yeah, I was going to say that. And, and some people are like, I think I kind of like we like that because I remember when I did work that cubicle job, it used to have been so frustrating.

Like I would go in and, you know, I get so much work done in such a short amount of time compared to everybody else. Like, like I really did have flexible time and I was very fortunate in the job that I was working for. They were more, they looked more at performance than they looked at how many hours I was in the office.

And that was a blessing, like if, if that hadn’t happened, I don’t think I would have learned all the things that I learned because I learned pretty quickly that I can go in for two, three [00:13:00] hours and get the same amount of work as somebody who was there all day. And I get why because they were walking around doing the coffee, you know, all that kind of stuff.

And I would go in the work that because I like, I would come in late because I would have a gig. Right. I had, uh, you know, uh, I was playing music at the time, so I would come in late and then just do as much work as possible and then go home at the regular time for supper. So, uh, so now if that is you, if you’re listening to this and you know, like.

Yeah, I feel like everybody else at the office is slacking. Well, chances are you’d probably be pretty good at this, because you’ve already got that self discipline that you are the one that wants to continue to get the work done. You’re not walking around in the water cooler doing social time all the time, right?

So those are the right people for this kind of business, right?

Katie Santoro: Yeah. And it works really well. The, the assistants that, that we hire at river city virtual assistants, um, they’re oftentimes caretakers and parents, and we ask them to time block and that works so great for them. We [00:14:00] know that like they’re dedicating two hours to the client.

So it works really well for the client too. And you can get a whole lot of work done in two to three hours if you’re just focused and time blocked on those things. So. We love time blocking. I, my whole day, like, I see it in my brain. It’s like blocks of time. And like, I can look at it and be like, I can get this much done in this time.

That’s what I’m going to do. And that’s going to be my focus.

Tim Melanson: I call it. I do, uh, I do Tetris. I call it Tetris. But just as big when I was a kid. Yeah. Things around because that block can go anywhere it wants. Right. You just got a block. You got to make sure they get that work done. You got a recital at that time.

Nope, I’ll move the block here. Yeah. So now that kind of like lends good to the next topic, which is talking about the band and talking about delegating and all that stuff. Cause one of the first things that people tend to delegate is some sort of assistant role. Uh, but I’m actually wondering, was that what you did?

Like what was the first thing that you delegated in your business?

Katie Santoro: Oh, the first thing that I [00:15:00] delegated, I actually brought on a business partner. So, um, I had a team, I was growing a team, um, and I realized that I could not give my all to my team and train them the way that they needed to be trained if I was also trying to run operations.

So I brought on, um, a friend of mine, we grew up together, we’ve been in our careers together. Um, we’ve just known each other for a It’s been over 30 years and I really want to admit that, but it’s been a really long time. Um, and she was at a place that I had been at. She was burnt out. She has children, um, and was going through all of the struggles of cobit and daycare and children and all that.

So, um, she came and I said, run the back end operations. So she started running the back end operations so that I could kind of run the team side and do the business development. Um, and then from there, we hired. Well, we took someone internally and we promoted her to a mentor or a manager. We liked the word mentor a little bit better.

And she. That’s what I do. She trans [00:16:00] people. So I said, okay, I’ve, I’ve, I’m working on the business development and that’s, that’s getting busier and busier. It’s taking more and more of my time. So what can we take off of me? And it was that mentor position. So we, we gave that to her. And then earlier this year, I said, you know, again, I’m at a point where I’m, I’m doing so much.

I’m working more than five hours a day, which I do not want to do. I’m losing my life balance. So I sat down and I started. Tracking my time every day, and I said, these are the things that I’m not getting to that are sitting on my brain that drive me absolutely nuts. And that’s usually what we start with with clients is we say, what is in your brain?

That’s slowing you down because, you know, you need to do it and you’re just not getting to it. Let’s start there. Um, so we hired someone to do that role. And for me, it was, it was, um, Like marketing, social media, sending out newsletters, sending a webinars, doing things like that. So she helps me with all that.

And then our next step is I’m spending a lot of time in business development, and it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of energy. I’m an introvert. I have to be, I [00:17:00] have to really protect my energy. So we’ve hired someone to. Help with business development and I’m training her on that now. And so we kind of, as my role grows, as my seat fills up and, and I, and I can’t do everything in my time blocks, I start to, to take them out and delegate them to other people and teach other people how to do it.

Something about delegation that, that people don’t always take into consideration is that it’s, it’s a gift to other people to say, Hey, I’ve got this thing and, and I want you to learn how to do it and, and run with it. Giving somebody else the opportunity to learn something new and enhance their skills.

It’s, it’s a gift. And if you can do it from a very, um, you know, you’re not micromanaging and you’re not toxic in any way you’re doing it in a very like mentor way, like. You know, these are my skills you build on it and it’s, it’s great. So that’s kind of the way that I look at delegating. Um, we don’t subcontract we bring in, you know, like our lawyer, of course, I’m not going to have a legal team full time.

So, uh, you know, the, [00:18:00] the, your lawyer, your CPA, um. Things like that would be more of a, not a contractor role, but, you know, retain our role. Um, but then for our team ourselves, we employ everybody. We don’t believe in contracting our assistants, um, because we kind of, we hire in that space of parents and caretakers.

So it’s women who. Um, have less of the workforce or, you know, want to return to the workforce, but they’ve got to figure out how that works best for their families. And when you contract someone like a lot of different agencies do, you as the employer, you as the, you know, contractor, contractee, contractor,

Tim Melanson: contractor, yeah, I think, yeah.

Katie Santoro: Contractor. Oh, yeah. Yeah, you’re, you’re putting the burden of taxes on that person. So, you know, as an employer, we pay taxes and we have to follow labor laws and we have to offer benefits. We have to do these things and it’s an expense as a business, but it allows our [00:19:00] assistance to continue working with us or our team members to continue working with us because we’re taking away the burden for them.

It was also really important to us to be able to offer benefits and PTO. Um, I know that I stayed in a, in a. In a job for way too long because I was afraid to not have health care. And I think women tend to stay in jobs and relationships for way too long. Things that are toxic and not good for them because they’re afraid not to have that safety net.

So it was important for us to be able to offer that and to offer that we had to employ. So employment just became our business model. Um, and we’ve. We’ve based our, you know, our pricing around that so that we can continue to offer that to our team members. Hi, it’s

Marc Mawhinney: Mark Mawinney from Natural Born Coaches, and I want to give two very big thumbs up to Tim Melanson and his Creative Crew Agency.

I have been using them for a long time, and I am 100 percent happy they get the job done right. They [00:20:00] are fast and they let me focus on my business. I don’t have to worry about anything. So again, I want to give them two very big thumbs up. I have no problem recommending them. I don’t give testimonials for everyone because my name is attached to it, but I gladly do so for Tim and the Creative Crew Agency.

So use them. You won’t regret it and good luck.

Tim Melanson: Awesome. Awesome. And that’s like a, the reason why I wanted to talk about that is because. Most of the people that come on to the show and even myself, I’m a contractor and I also tend to work with other contractors. And, you know, the benefit to that is that everybody’s got their own business.

Um, but the disadvantage to that is that you’re hiring a business rather than hiring somebody that’s dedicated to you. And, uh, I mean, there have been some times when. Uh, there are tasks. Wow. Social media is a great example, actually, of a task that is pretty all encompassing. Like, you’re, you know, to hire a contractor to handle all [00:21:00] of your social media, that’s probably gonna be expensive, is my guess, right?

Uh, because, you know, there’s, like, interacting, there’s lots of stuff, and, and having an employee on staff that could actually handle that would be so much easier. And so, when I’m working with You know, companies that have employees, first thing I say, well, get one of your employees to do that part, because if you’re going to hire a contractor to do that, it’s just not going to be very good.

Um, but I do like what you’re saying as well about the security of it all, even though there is a bit of a shift, I think happening right now, where people are sort of trying to take more control of their financial future and maybe, you know, becoming more self employed there also is decades of. Of us, you know, sort of thinking that employment and the benefits and all that stuff is safer.

And that’s not going to go away in this generation. So, you know, giving people that security that they actually want is huge. I would think. Right? It

Katie Santoro: is. It is. And so we [00:22:00] then contract them out. To to businesses who aren’t ready to hire, but as we’ve given that container of employment, our clients get that same level of, um.

And dedication and reliability that they will get from an employee because we’re employing them. We’re giving them that. And when you employ, we’re able to ask our team members like, Hey, like you’ve got, you’ve got a time block this time out. This is what the client is paying for you. You know, you’ve got to have your deliverables and you have to do these things.

And then we’re able to train them to, uh, but you can’t. A lot of training with a contractor, and you shouldn’t have to train a contractor in theory, and they should come to you with all of the skills. Um, so, you know, we’re, we’re taking care of all that and then giving an employed trained contractor to our.

Tim Melanson: Yeah. And I think one of the disadvantages that I’ve seen over the years about contractors that they sometimes come and go to, like, and that makes sense. Like, I mean, even on [00:23:00] my side, like I, so my business, by the way, is I build websites and my wife does all the branding and design. So between the two of us, that’s what we do.

Um, but now we sort of read is that our business every little, every once in a while, like we raise our prices, you know, we sort of go, okay, are these clients working for us at these class not looking for us? And so there are times when we might actually be firing clients. Well, probably isn’t going to happen very often with an employee, like, unless the employee is not performing, right?

The employees there all the time, right? So you might, uh, be in a situation where you could get hired by your. And now you’re like, Oh, no, I’m going to find somebody else right now, whereas you’re not probably going to get fired by your employee. Okay. They could quit. But like you just said, the chances of them quitting are less because you’ve given them, you’re giving them the benefits, you’ve given them all the things that allow them to stay.

They’re less likely to leave you at that point. They know what they’re getting paid, you know, [00:24:00] and they’re probably not going to be coming to you like, like employees are actually notoriously bad at asking for raises. Uh, chances are that’s probably not going to change, right? Uh, what do you think?

Katie Santoro: Yeah. Um, and, and we build that into our, our pricing structure, right?

We believe in giving people raises on, um, we are not like a, you need to work, you know, all these hours. I’m not impressed by an email at 9am or 8am or late at night. Like I don’t care what working just worked. So, so we give raises based on, uh, tenure with us. So how long they’ve been with us. Um, and then the quality of their work and, and the very few things that, that we ask for, which is showing up for your clients, being reliable, being consistent, um, delivery of quality product and, um, and yeah, so we, we give raises based on that and we handle that.

So our clients don’t have to, um. And, you know, it’s, it’s built into our pricing. We’re able to do that. We want to do that. We want to keep people. So we got people [00:25:00] on our team. I have people on the team that have been with me since I was just a freelancer and I couldn’t handle the amount of work that was coming to me.

Alisa, our lead mentor, um, has been with me since that time. So is Julie, who has since gone into doing some more skilled work with us. Um, but. You know, they, they’ve been with us a really long time and, and we’ve been able to keep them.

Tim Melanson: Well, and then that kind of leads into the next question, into the next topic, which is about cashflow, because that’s another thing, right?

When you’re, when you’re hiring a contractor, like, so, you know, I’m trying to look at this from, from different sides, being self employed, sometimes you’ve got this going on. Where there’s like a bunch of income coming in all of a sudden and then it’s you have a couple dry months and then you back up, right?

So you’re doing this all the time. And so sometimes you’re, um, your contractors could be experiencing some setbacks and that could require them to raise their prices. Do all these. You know, things, whereas if you have an [00:26:00] employee, they’ve got this stable income that they’ve sort of banked on and they’ve got their whole lifestyle.

Stand around. They know what they’re getting paid. They’re not going to end up in a situation unless they’ve got some personal things going on where they need a bunch of money all of a sudden, because they’ve got that already, right? So that that’s something that you would be stopping this from happening.

If you hired an employee, which would make them probably more focused on you. Rather than on now, Oh, sink or swim. Like, cause you know, when this happens, I mean, for me, anyways, it’s never zero. It never goes out. Is it, you’ve always got this like base of clients if you’re doing it, right. Right. Um, so, you know, if that were to happen and I hadn’t planned for this to be happening and saving the money and making sure that the cashflow is positive, that I could be in a situation where I’m actually raising the price of these little.

I have, because I don’t have enough money. Um, [00:27:00] so, but anyway, that, that put aside, what about like, how do you make sure? Cause you mentioned a few times that you count for all that. So how do you make sure that your cashflow is positive? From the get go.

Katie Santoro: So from, from the very, very get go, um, the way that my business partner and I both worked is we still took clients.

We did client work. We have since transitioned out of that. I transitioned out last year. She transitioned out just this year actually, but we wanted to make sure that we were paying. I know from my last business that I, that I closed prior to this business because of the pandemic. There were many months where I didn’t pay myself.

I paid mine. I use contractors in that business, um, which was learning the difference between having a contractor and employee. Um, I, you know, I would pay myself and that causes resentment and it causes burnout. Like it’s important to be able to be paid by what you do. Business owners, I think, sometimes think, Oh, well, I’m, I’m running the business.

I, you know, I have to pay [00:28:00] everybody first. So I’m about to worry about myself. But if you, if you don’t worry about yourself first, you’re not going to be able to take care of other people. It’s that whole theory of like, you know, you’re on the airplane and you’re going to put your mask on before the person next to you.

Yep. So We, we started with that foundation. We would do client work and make the money that we needed to make, to support ourselves and our families. And then, um, in our free time after that, then we worked on building the business and bringing on other people. The way that we kind of handle our, our cashflow is we almost have like a subscription model.

So our clients. Higher blocks of time per week, and that our assistants dedicate those blocks of times to their their clients every week. So it sets up this mutual understanding and trust of everybody’s time. The assistant knows that they’re going to be paid, you know, they say, I want to work 10 hours a week.

We get them 10 hours of work a week. They know that’s the income that they’re going to make their family can rely on it by keeping them relying on their being able to rely on their income and not having the back and forth that were freelancer [00:29:00] or contractor. It keeps them with us longer. And then on the client side of it, they know what their budget is always going to be for their assistant.

They know that they’re, they’re, they’re getting this block of hours. Their assistant can do that much in that block of hours. They’re getting that fine back for themselves to do their own thing. And the price will stay the same. In the occurrence where, you know, the assistant needs a couple more hours for a special project or something, it’s all in writing.

It’s, you know, we never bill people for tons of hours. I just believe in having that, like, clarity in what everybody is making, what everybody is paying, so that everybody can really rely on it. I can’t use the world words reliable and consistent more. It’s just, it’s 2 of our biggest values. It’s what we’ve grown off of and that’s built into our pricing and our contract structure.

Um, another thing that we do on cashflow, you know, when you’re, when you’re billing, we bill people, we bill our clients every 2 weeks because we pay our assistants every 2 weeks. So it’s bill, pay, bill, pay. So we’re insightful. I mean, we need to make sure that we [00:30:00] can make payroll because if we can’t make payroll, the people who don’t get paid are then me and my business partner.

Yeah, we need to be paid, right? Because we’re working really hard as well. So we just kind of built into our contract that we have to have payment on file and it’s encrypted in our, in our billing system. They get seven days after the invoice arrives, they get seven days to, you know, dispute it if there’s any problems with it.

And we will always listen to those problems and work through it. But we need to make sure that, that we have cashflow so we can pay everybody. And that’s what we do. So. It keeps the cash flow going. Um, there’s a point, I think last year where we had, you know, both thousand dollars and overdue invoices. And we were like, how are we going to make payroll right now?

We were at a point where we had really good cash reserves, which we’ve since worked on for that reason. But we’re like, how do we. Like this feels like a failure, right? Like if we are not paying ourselves and we can’t make payroll, that is a failure in our business. How do we improve upon this? What is the opportunity here?

And that’s where we came up with the idea to use the systems [00:31:00] that we have for the encrypted payment type so that the cashflow keeps going. Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Melanson: Right on. And I’m totally, no, and I’m totally on board with that. That was those time blocks. We do similar things in our business as well. And it was, uh, the, the whole back that I had was, well, but what if they don’t need that much time in a month, right?

Like, like now they’re paying too much money. Aren’t they? Like, well, won’t they be upset about that? And what has your experience been on that?

Katie Santoro: Um, though it can go two ways, right? Like, like, we’ll look at it. If, if the assistant is working with a client and we tell the client, like, this is your time walk.

It’s 10 hours a week. We ask you to fill that. It is a minimum. If the assistant isn’t getting 10 hours a week of work, they’re going to come to me and say, Hey, I’m bored. I I’m being paid for this time and I’m not doing anything. And like, I need more work. So we work with the client to saying what else can you give to them?

What [00:32:00] other things can you delegate to fill up their hours? If it’s an issue of, okay, we need to knock down hours and go down to a lower package, then we adjust it. Um, but you know, for the most part, it’s just kind of, if, if you want that person to be available to you, you have to pay for their availability.

So if you want them to be there for you every day from 9 to 11, you need to pay them for that, whether or not. You have the work to fill it, because they’re taking that time away from their families. They’re taking that time away from their personal life. In my mind, it’s just, it’s just the right way to work with other people.

But if you do need less hours, cool, like, let’s knock it down. On the flip side of that, if our assistant has asked for 10 hours and you only want 5, we’re going to get them another client. So they may not be available when you want to go back up in hours.

Tim Melanson: You know,

Katie Santoro: there’s always room for like movement, but at the same time we need to be consistent and reliable with each other.

Tim Melanson: Yeah, and I think what you just said about availability is the key [00:33:00] point to that. And that’s really what I’ve experienced as well is that when you explain it that way to your client and say, okay, listen, um, you know, okay, fine. You might not have. Any fires or whatever that, you know, on, on any particular day, but you’ve paid for that person to be available when you do, right?

And, and that’s worth something, right? I mean, it’s not just like, oh, well, we didn’t have anything today. So we’re not going to pay. Yeah, but you might have. And if you did, then that person would have been there to handle that, which they were yesterday, right? Right? And that’s kind of the way you look at it.


Katie Santoro: let’s find a bit. We are very. And this comes from my own, like, burnout and my own, like, toxic work environment. We’re very clear about, like, your assistant is going to tell you her work block, and that can shift during the day, right? Like, if the client needs them at a different time, or if, if the assistant has, you know, a school drop off or something, like, Those hours can shift a little bit, but what you can’t do is expect your assistant to be available for you 12 hours a day.

You can’t [00:34:00] expect them to answer emails at 9 p. m. You can’t text them. We’ve had clients try and text people at like 7 p. m. on a Friday, like, no, that’s outside of their work block. You’re not paying them for that time. We don’t work, you know, unpaid time. It’s you’ve got to, you’ve got to respect other people’s boundaries because they are setting these times aside for you and that’s, you know.

That takes a lot from them. So,

Tim Melanson: okay. So it’s time for your guest solo. So tell me what’s exciting in your business right now.

Katie Santoro: Oh, um, so many exciting things. So last year we really focused on building processes and systems. I love processes and systems because they’re reliable and consistent. Um, of course we’d like to go back and tweak them every now and then, but we’ve just put ourselves in a really good position to grow and grow in a way that feels really comfortable for us.

So. Like I said, we looked at our time and we said, this is how much time I want to spend in the business. Where can we delegate other things out? Um, and we’ve just set it up to where it’s [00:35:00] just a comfortable business. I love doing what I do every day. I’m not burnt out. My team members love what they’re doing every day.

We love supporting each other. We love supporting our clients. So this year I’m just really excited about sharing who we are and what we’re doing and how, what we’re doing is a little bit different. It’s actually very different from what other agencies are doing. I’m just excited about growth. I’m, I’m excited about, like, every time that we get a new client that we are able to help, I’m excited to help that person.

And every time we hire a new team member, I’m excited to have that person on the team. We get so much knowledge from each other. We learn from each other. So I’m just, I’m always excited about growth and, but sustainable growth in a way that is not burning me out and I can still love my life and love my job.

Tim Melanson: Yeah, exactly. Which is important. Right now. Right. So what would be the best type of business or. Solopreneur or whatever that, that would, that would work the best at, at, uh, working with you.

Katie Santoro: Yeah. So we work with a lot of solopreneurs and entrepreneurs who are at the [00:36:00] point in their business where they need help.

They might not necessarily always know what they need. So that’s part of our discovery process where I sit down with them and we talk about what’s going on, where their blocks are, where we might be able to help them delegate some things. We help them learn how to delegate. Um, we recognize that not all entrepreneurs and solopreneurs have been in a position where they’ve worked with an assistant, so they might not know how to work with an assistant and how to delegate.

So we help them with that. We also acknowledge that our assistants cannot know everything that they need to know to help a client, because a client might have tons of different tasks, tons of different programs they’re working on. So that’s why we have our mentorship program, and we also have like, you know, we’ll round table things together in our group chat.

So if an assistant is struggling. With learning a new program, or there’s a glitch in something, they’ll come to our team and say, Hey, has anybody experiences? How do I learn it? And then they can bring it back to their client. So, um, that really helps our solopreneurs and entrepreneurs because they’re getting a knowledge base of like.[00:37:00]

At this point, 18 different people who can help bring knowledge to them through their assistant. Um, so the solopreneur entrepreneur, who isn’t necessarily ready to hire an employee, but wants the reliability and consistency of employee wants the knowledge of an employee. And then also executive, so we work with some companies that are, you know, like, in early stages, they have funding, but they’re also not ready for the full time, or maybe they’re totally virtual and a virtual assistant works better for their team.

Um, so we’ll match them with a, with an executive assistant to help them there as well. And we also help. We help people with their personal life. We are very aware that like, you can’t run your business if your personal life is going crazy, right? Like you can’t work during the summer if you don’t have a summer camp for your kids.

So we’ll help our entrepreneurs and our solopreneurs figure out summer camps and contractors for their house. And you know, all those little pieces that like sit in your brain and slow you down. So we, we switch [00:38:00] between executive assistants and personal assistants, depending on what our clients need and how we can support them best.

Tim Melanson: That’s cool. Yeah. Because, uh, like that’s something that has come up before is one of the first things you might be able to delegate is the housekeeping, right? Yeah. Like you, sometimes you have to think out of the box a little bit, right? It might not necessarily be that I need someone to handle my email.

Maybe it’s someone that handles your house,

Katie Santoro: right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, the mental load of being. You know, a homeowner or having a house, like the things that you have to do around the house, the mental load of children, the mental load of, of taking care of pets. Um, some of us are helping take care of parents like that mental load is so heavy and if you can just have somebody else to be like, oh, my gosh, like.

You know, the gutters are leaking and I can’t even wrap my brain around how to find somebody to fix that to be able to give that to an assistant gives you so much more space to go back to your family or your business with a little bit more. Clarity and like [00:39:00] ability to use your brain. We’ve only got so much big into that.

Tim Melanson: Love that. So what does the process look like if someone was looking to possibly hire somebody from you?

Katie Santoro: Yeah. So, um, scheduling a call with me, I, I am a natural problem solver. I love to solve problems. Um, and that’s part of our discovery process. We talk about where you’re stuck, why you’re doing what you’re doing, what you need done, and then we talk about how we do it.

And then we match our, our clients with an assistant from our team. We match on availability skill set, which a lot of it can be, uh, trained and then personality. We want personalities to get along and then we assign. So the assistant gets their own mentor for the first 3 months with us. And the client gets their own success specialist for the first 3 months with us is usually the same person.

So they’re working with the assistant and with the client to figure out. How to match the skill sets with the needs and then those 3 months, there’s a really big learning curve for the [00:40:00] clients. So we want to support them in those in those 1st, couple of months and teaching them how to work with an assistant.

So we really try and support them to make the relationship as successful as possible. And then from there, it’s off to the races, like, we really believe in the 1 on 1 relationship between an assistant and client. I don’t want to micromanage anything. As long as everybody’s showing up and being adults and doing their job, I don’t need to get involved.

I will get involved. I will, I will manage the situation if there’s something that needs to be managed. But for the most part, we want our, our clients to really work with their assistant as if their assistant is, is part of their team and part of their business. Well, that sounds

Tim Melanson: awesome, Katie. So, how do we find out more?

Katie Santoro: Um, our website, rivercity va. com. If you go there, you can schedule a meeting with me and learn a little bit more about us. We are updating the website. So, expect more things to come soon. Um, and then I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. Thanks to my virtual marketing assistant, um, but you can find me on, uh, LinkedIn.

It’s just Katie Santoro. Awesome. And [00:41:00] we’re also River City virtual assistance has a business page on LinkedIn as well, where you can find some more information, some more like technical information and information about some webinars that we do.

Tim Melanson: Oh, so you do webinars as well. That’s cool. Yeah. Yeah. We want to,

Katie Santoro: um.

What do you learn on those? So the next one that we’re doing is the, uh, top three. Things that you can assign to an assistant to get your return of investment back as quickly as possible. People are always afraid to start investing in an assistant because they’re like, I don’t know what they’re going to do and am I going to, you know, is there going to be a return of investment?

And, and that return of investment is often time, which for an entrepreneur can mean either a little bit of sanity or a little bit more revenue. So we give a webinar on that and then I’m preparing one to do next month on delegation has. It’s a hard one. It is hard asking for help and then actually getting someone to help you do that.

Tim Melanson: so much [00:42:00] for rocking out with me today, Katie. This has been a lot

Katie Santoro: of fun. Yeah, same. Thanks for having me.

Tim Melanson: No problem. And to the listeners, make sure you subscribe, rate, and comment. We’ll see you next time with the work at home rockstar podcast. Thanks

Katie Santoro: for listening to learn how you can become a work at home rockstar or become a better one.

Head on over to work at home. rockstar. com today.

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