corporate ladderYears ago I realized, in passing, that when people talked about “the corporate ladder”, or “glass ceilings” (in reference to women in business) they were discussing metaphorical obstacles I would never be able to overcome.

I didn’t have the patience to work for others, even in my “corporate” days (when I slaved away in a variety of bar tending positions) I had a short fuse for authority figures that didn’t live up to my expectations of upper management (I wanted to be employed by the Howard Roark of bars).

I also realized that gulping the b.s. women at times have to face in the corporate world, especially when scaling the upper rungs, would be intolerable. So I resigned myself to blogging, writing and trying more creative paths to freedom and success—then, I found entrepreneurship.  Read Full Article →

madness

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll

I used to do a very silly thing for several years. I believe it came from naivety mixed with a solid dose of ignorance. That silly thing was trying to teach.

I “came of (blogging) age” during an era of group think amongst bloggers where anyone would tell anyone who would listen how to lead a better, bigger, more interesting, life in a series of way. There were, and are, self-help-bloggers, how-to-become-an-entrepreneur-bloggers and my personal favorite: how-t0-become-blogger-bloggers. And I have been guilty of it all #shame.

I’m deeply repentent for my transgressions and now I must live with the consequences, which include people emailing me almost daily to ask how to escape the 9 to 5, how to start their own business, or how to do a variety of things that I at some point touched upon in this blog. The problem is I have no idea what to tell them.

I don’t know how I got here, I don’t know how Zirtual got to the size it is. If I had it to do over, I doubt I could retrace my steps over the last 2 years. I know I wanted something, fuzzy, and it got clearer as I progressed. I know it was very hard and I made (and make) a lot of mistakes. I know that we haven’t even scratched the surface of what we will do—but how do I know? I’m not sure.

I also know that I know very little and the amount of stuff I have yet to know both excites and exhausts me. But I do know one thing, be wary of people who try to teach by words versus actions. They’re normally not bad, just misinformed—like I was—but sometimes… they are very bad.

Before I headed off to NYC (for the month of September) I was going to change the name of this blog. Because I realized that “Escaping the 9 to 5″ is not only cliched but it’s not really relevant anymore. I did escape having to get a 9 to 5, and instead I now have a 9 to 9, seven days a week—and I couldn’t be happier.

I thought working four hours a week would make me happy, instead I found out that work 70 hours a week doing something I love brings true joy.

Our whole team operates with a work ethic that most people would call “mad” but when you think about it, why shouldn’t we be? We may be mad, but we’re madly in love with what we do, with the people we help and with the jobs we are creating.

And I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Madness sometimes is bliss.

People who achieve their goals are people who believe in themselves. No one can accomplish what they set out to do if they don’t actually believe they can do it, if they believe they will fail along the way.

It’s no coincidence that successful people are confident people – you have to have one in order to build up to the other. When examined in this straightforward light, of course it makes sense that those who are confident in themselves and their abilities will be able to find their way to the success they seek. It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes learning from failure, but if you don’t have confidence in yourself that you are capable of doing hard work – or of getting back up after a failure – then you will not reach the end goal and be the successful person you want to be.

Whether that success is becoming a better athlete, expanding a business, climbing a mountain, learning a new skill, or any other goal you have set out for yourself, you can only attain it by believing that you can. Read Full Article →

maren kate donovan As I taxi’d into New York City, watching the landscape unfold in front of me, I had the realization that I’ve been trying to get here my whole life. From being born outside of Dallas, to growing up in the soul withering heat of Vegas… deep down I was crawling my way towards America’s Mecca.

I have arrived. In style? Not really. Am I staying at the best hotels? No. I’m still bootstrapping baby. Am I more positive about my future and the future of Zirtual than ever before? Ab-so-freakin’-lutely.

I haven’t gotten far mind you… I really has explored maybe 6 city blocks in Chelsea… but’s it’s raining and I ducked into a cafe to get some work done. I am here for a combination of business and pleasure. My first visit to New York is coinciding with an amazing time in my business—and I can’t think of a better way to express that excitement than to document it here—on my trusty blog.

We now have a small high school worth of ZAs working for amazing clients spread all around the World. I am more convinced than ever before that starting this business was not only the right thing, but what I was meant to do. Never underestimate the pure bliss of creating jobs for hard working people and knowing that your company and culture makes a positive effect on their everyday lives. It is unreal.

I’m going to blog while I’m here and share what I’m learning, what I’ve learned and hopeful inspire someone to break free from the monotony of working a job they hate and take the risk to start their own thing. Read Full Article →

object in motionOne large iced green tea, one small extra-hot, hot chocolate. It’s the sweet and sour of this drink combination, the hot and cold duality of their natures that I love. I’m sitting in the same Starbuck’s that I have spent many a late night brainstorming the future of Zirtual at—the idea that started in a similar coffee shop in Las Vegas two years ago and has grown into a 25 person company based in the heart of San Francisco.

A year ago, when I was living in the Tenderloin, subsisting off of Ramen and Red Bull dropping $5 for two drinks at Starbucks would have caused me physical pain. I pinched pennies like nobody’s business and still do. Even today I feel a little silly/guilty over the indulgence of buying myself my two beverages when I’m just one person.

Regardless, as I wait to pick up my friend at the nearby BART station I decided to drop into my old haunt and enjoy a beverage—or two—and reflect on the last 18 months of my startup life. Read Full Article →

the joy of workingWhen I was a little girl I have many fond memories of my mother in the kitchen, she was and is a phenomenal cook and took great pleasure in making everything from a batch of brownies to a 4 course meal. Susan, who also blogs — about food no less — owned a well loved cookbook called The Joy of Cooking. I remember puzzling over this book as I grew older because — even though I was raised in a house where the kitchen was central — I despised cooking and couldn’t imagine how it could bring so many people such “joy”.

Today I understand my mother’s plight. Saddled with an ungrateful child who would eat her good food but turn her nose up at the idea of slaving over a meal for hours. I enjoyed the fruits, but didn’t respect the labor involved.

I now find myself in a similar situation with what I call The Joy of Working. We live in a world where people consume more than ever — services, products, experiences — but rail about “work life balance” and turn their nose up at people who live to work, versus working to live. Read Full Article →

red butler I have a rule about not writing things about our competition, but like most rules – this one was made to be broken. It came to my attention the other day that one of our ZAs had been asked by her client to cancel his Red Butler account. This wasn’t an odd request as we often get people who try several virtual assistant companies to no avail before they hear about Zirtual.

The ordeal that followed boggled my mind in so many ways that I just knew I absolutely had to bring it to light. It’s a story of awful customer service, stall tactics and faxes – lots and lots of faxes.

Let’s go back in time to last Monday. Our killer ZA Tiffany started her day off like most. She coordinated a few meetings, did some research on vacation spots and was asked by one of her Executive clients to cancel their Red Butler service – something that, at first, seemed pretty straightforward.

Tiffany’s client had contacted Red Butler via email to ask them how to cancel his account. They responded that he had to fill out a form and fax it in to cancel – yep – fax it in. Read Full Article →

sharing economy It’s an unnaturally warm day in San Francisco, a pleasant breeze wafts in through an open window while the faint sound of traffic is drowned out by a oscillating fan. In the last hour, Chloe – a Zirtual Assistant – has seamlessly booked a client’s last minute travel itinerary for South by Southwest, scheduled 5 meetings for various people and coordinated in-person errands for an SF based client through TaskRabbit.

It’s sounds like multi-tasking, but it’s also collaborative consumption. Chloe handles several clients who assign various tasks throughout the day, she acts as a personal concierge to some and an executive assistant to others. This is all made possible by sharing – yep – sharing.

It’s something that we don’t think of as adults, especially busy professional ones, but the collaborative consumption trend is more popular than ever and it’s just getting started.

What is Collaborative Consumption?

Simply put it’s multiple people sharing one thing for social, environmental or financial reasons. It’s been around for a long time – think boarding houses in the 1850s – but only in more recent years has the trend been identified and actually lauded as a better way to live. Read Full Article →

zirtual jobsI want to create thousands of jobs. Tens of thousands actually. I want to give millions of people more time on this Earth. I want to change the world.

Exactly one year ago, almost to the date, I incorporated a business called Zirtual. I had a fuzzy idea of what it was going to be, some sort of job board for freelancers – or something. I wasn’t really sure.

 

All I did know is that I wanted it to become a $100 million dollar company. I would chant this to myself, like a miserly monk, a hundred times a night, while I fell asleep on an uncomfortable cot in a hostel I was crashing at because I couldn’t afford anything better.

I chose a $100 million dollars because I knew that someone who built a company, from scratch – with no experience, in one of the most competitive cities in the world – would be deemed “a success” (and since I was a child I have always craved success, stability & the freedom that extensive financial means allows one).

Little did I realize how completely silly & short-sited I seemed every time I told someone I “was going to build a hundred million dollar business” – but, looking back, I’m glad I did. For two reasons… Read Full Article →

The other day I saw this exact sentence scrawled on the wall of a mansion some startup guys were launching their new incubator from. The walls of the massive rooms were covered in Idea Paint and covered with thousands of great concepts. This idea though struck a particularly deep cord, so much so I haven’t been able to shake the words for days now.

What would your life be like if you thought this year may be your last?

I’m not saying you have an absolute guarantee that it would be your last – if that was the case you may drop out of the workforce, live on a beach and spend your days writing letters to your loved ones. More the feeling you’d get if every day you knew you had a 50/50 chance of dying. You may still live within the rules somewhat, but you’d also take a lot of chances that could produce amazing results – because in reality, what the flip would you have to lose?

Imagine that feeling – living like 2012 is the last year you get to live your life the way you’ve always wanted.

That freedom, that amazing, tantalizing fearlessness comes only from having nothing to lose. This is why people can go from complete anonymity to extreme fame in only a few short years (think Lady GaGa). If you have nothing to lose – and everything to gain – you can take risks that the rest of the World would never fathom. Read Full Article →