LaToya Bass Founder of D&M Office Solutions, LLC
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LaToya Bass is the founder of D&M Office Solutions, LLC. She gets a feeling of accomplishment when she keeps things organized and running smoothly. She loves helping small business owners meet their goals and live out their dreams. She begins her process with each new client the same way.
Q: If you could explain yourself in a couple of sentences, how would you do that?
A: I am a big organizational fanatic. I thrive on keeping things organized and color-coded, so I try to help others implement that, as well. I also like to have fun.
Q: Can you tell me more about your business and your role?
A: We help other business owners get more organized with their operations, get their standard operating procedures in order and systems implemented, and then makes sure everything runs smoothly. We help with managing the teams and client management and also do training. My goal with the business is just to help as many people as possible. Being a mother of three, I want to make sure that I'm able to put my family first. That's one of the reasons I founded the business, but then the other reason was because I know there are other people who need help in their business, and just don't know it or don't have the time. Our main goal is just to help as many people as possible and I have been in business for three years.
Q: How did you decide to start a business, and what was the moment you decided to do it?
A: I have an accounting background. I worked as an accountant for years. I started in mutual funds and then transitioned over to small business accounting. I started working for a small business owner who had her own back-office accounting for other small businesses, so while working for her I realized how amazing she did with her clients. She loved her clients and her clients appreciated her, but when it came to having to send out proposals for potential clients, or sales meetings, things like that, it was everybody was running around trying to figure out where they had time to fix her stuff. That's when I realized, "Oh, if she needs this and she's an amazing businesswoman, I know that there are other owners who get clients but forget their own stuff." That's when I decided, maybe I need to put myself out there and try to help other people, too.
Q: What was your first year like?
A: Scary. It was very scary because when you go from an employee to a business owner, you worry. "Am I doing this right? Am I even equipped to do this? What rights do I have to be a business owner, I've been an employee my whole life." That first year was a lot of research and making sure I could do what I said I could do, even though I knew I could with all my experience. It was just that imposter syndrome kicked in. "Who do you think you are?" The first year was a lot of me tiptoeing around, making sure whatever people asked I did it, not knowing that it wasn't my passion to do certain things like social media, but I did it just to do it, just to make sure I knew what I was doing and what I knew what I wanted to do. It was a scary first year.
Q: Was there a moment where it was like, "This is it. I can do this." And that imposter syndrome goes away?
A: Yes. The moment for me, I was actually driving, and I was thinking about all these meetings I had coming up and these sales calls, and then the meeting I had just had with a potential client. It was one of the most amazing meetings. I was like, "You know what? It's a real conversation because I'm a real business owner. I know what I'm doing. I need to stop questioning myself." In that drive, I was like, "From now on, I'm just going to go into everything with confidence because I have the experience and knowledge to back it up. If I can't do it, just be completely transparent and say, no, I can't do that, but I'm willing to learn it, if you're willing to work with me."
Q: Was there anyone in particular that inspired you, or encouraged you to become a business owner?
A: The first person would be my husband. When I was just thinking out loud about being a business owner, from day one he supported me. He was like, "This is what you have to do. Are you doing this?" He was just on top of me, but in a supportive way. Then, the other person would be Shauna, when I worked at her company. She was absolutely instrumental. In watching her, she's my mentor without knowing she's my mentor. Watching her be amazing at what she does helps me in my day to day.
Q: How do you define success for yourself, both personally and as a professional?
A: Personally and professionally, I try to lead with love. That's my big thing. As long as I'm making a positive impact on people I feel like that's a success. When I get an email saying, "Thank you so much, that will really help me." Or, "You're amazing." Anything that just lets me know that what I did for them, they really enjoyed or appreciated, or can use, that is success to me. I'm in business, I don't work for free, so I have to make sure my business is making money of course. But the biggest thing to me is making sure I'm making that positive impact.
Q: What has been the most important skill that you've developed to be a good business owner?
A: Time management. Time management. At first, whenever clients sent stuff my way, I was scrambling. "I have to get this done today. I have to get this done today." I was just like, "No. Everybody can't get everything done in one day." I had to block out time and set specific days to where I'm going to work on my business internally, and then there are days I'm going to work on client stuff and block out time. This client gets this time, this client gets that time. Time blocking and time management are a really big, big help.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people who struggle with time management?
A: You have to sit down and actually think through your workday. From the time you wake up, if you have kids, put that on your calendar. "From here to here, I'm going to be doing stuff with the kids. From eight to nine, it's looking at my emails. And then from nine to 11 are client projects." And then take a break, take a lunch break, 30 minutes, an hour. And then back in the afternoon. Just block out time to where you have to actually do things. Make sure you're ending your day at the same time every day. Don't work until the work gets done. No, at six o'clock, I'm done. It's family time, dinner time, rest time, and then starts again the next day.
As long as you stick to a schedule. Create it and stick to it. Don't just create it, and then not look at it. Create it, print it, post it, so you can see it and stick to it.
Q: Have you ever thought about quitting? If so, can you tell us the story?
A: Oh, absolutely. I had an experience with a client, a previous client, and she was a micromanager. Some people don't understand, when you have an online business manager, or a virtual assistant, you're partnering with them, they're not an employee. She couldn't, no matter how many conversations we had, she couldn't grasp that. It got to the point where she was really aggressive with her words. After that meeting with her and that horrible phone call, I was like, "I don't want to do this anymore. If people are like this, I'm done." For two days I was like, "I'm not looking at any email. I'm done. I'm just done." Thinking through it, I was like, "I can't control people. I can only control what I do."
I just have to make sure that when I go into these calls of meeting people and these consultations, that I'm really asking the questions to make sure that they're not just a good fit for us to help them with their business, but they're also a good fit as a person. You don't have to work with everybody. From there I was just like, "Okay. Be more direct in who you want to talk to and how you talk to them." I was like, "I quit." I don't like mean people.
Q: In moments when you feel like quitting, what do you do? Or what do you do when it feels hard to be a business owner?
A: I journal, then I sit and meditate, and then I have my husband to talk to who is sometimes my clarity. I do get to a point where sometimes I'm an emotional thinker. I'll think with my emotions before my logic kicks in. I'll have a talk with him and he'll be like, "Okay. Take a couple of hours away, or take a day off, and just breathe through it. Then, come back refreshed." When I do that, I think a lot differently. Even when I get projects, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, how am I going to tackle this?" If I take a step away from it and then I come back to it an hour or two later, even the next day, I see a whole new way of approaching it. When I have those moments, I'm just like, "Okay, take a step back. Breathe. Relax. Journal out your feelings. And then come back to it."
Q: What does the future of your company look like?
A: Hopefully, I have an agency of virtual assistants and online business managers helping as many people as we can. Especially, for me personally, I don't have a lot of black-owned women business owners that I know personally, or even seen, that are really just doing amazing things. The more I can put that visual out there, that's the biggest goal for me. I want an agency.
Q: I love that. My last question: What would you want to learn from a community of other women business owners?
A: I want to learn as you grow your business, how do you grow your confidence. At this stage, I think I'm confident... See, I think. I think I'm confident. I'm confident in what I'm doing, but as I grow and I start getting actual W2 employees, how do I grow my confidence to know that I'm taking the right steps, or I'm doing the right thing? Being able to learn from other business owners, other women business owners, is really, really big for me.