Your Name: Michelle Campbell
Military Branch Affiliation: Army
Years as a Military Spouse: 16
Children: 13, 5, 3
Business Name: Forte Virtual Support Solutions
Year Established: 2012
Tell Us About Your Business: Forte Virtual Support Solutions is an administrative consulting company that offers a variety of support services to successful executive and business coaches, consultants, speakers, and authors who are experiencing a plateau and are poised for growth but are overwhelmed by the pressure of running their business and doing it all themselves. We help these busy professionals by working closely in their business to develop and implement solutions to their greatest creative, administrative, and operational challenges so they can work smarter and can get back to doing what they do best while maintaining a strong work/life balance.
Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? No. I have always admired people who owned their own businesses and were successful. I often thought about how liberating and great it would be to be my own boss. I thought about it for about five years before I actually took the plunge.
What motivated you to start your own business? I love my family and am 100% devoted to them. While I am and always will be a wife and mother first, I am also the type of person who wants to work and have my own purpose outside of my home life. I came across an article about Virtual Assistants by chance one day several years ago just after the birth of my second child and was debating whether to return to work or stay home, and I said to myself, “I can do this!” But, I never did. Not long after that, we received orders for Germany, and the thought of trying to figure out how to launch a business with a new baby was too daunting to entertain.
While we were posted overseas, life threw a few more curve balls by way of a deployment to Iraq and the unexpected arrival of our third child. I was not able to work because I couldn’t find a job that paid enough to cover the expense of daycare for three children with enough left over to make it worthwhile, so I was a stay-at-home mom. When we returned to the States and I was finally able to go back to work, life as an Army wife and working mother of three quickly became overwhelming. My husband commuted more than 90 minutes to and from work each day (and still does) and had little flexibility in his schedule, so I always had to be on point to drop off and pick up the children from daycare, be the one to take off work when the kids were sick, and still fulfill the responsibilities at my job. The pressure became exhausting and overwhelming, and the income left over after paying for full-time care for two toddlers and before and after school for my oldest plus gas and parking was not worth the stress. I got tired of juggling so many balls and wanted a change. I needed to stop the madness! That article about Virtual Assistants was always in the back of my mind, so I thought about it long and hard for a while and finally decided to leave my job and take the plunge so I could be there for my family and fulfill my need for professional satisfaction at the same time.
What is the best part of being an entrepreneur? Finally having the freedom and flexibility I have wanted and needed for a very long time is the best part. I am able to be there for my husband and kids when they need me without having to answer to anyone or explain to someone else why I can’t be in the office. I can chaperone my kids’ field trips if I want to, or take the day off if my husband is off work. The military doesn’t afford us the luxury of maintaining control over many aspects of our lives, but making this move has allowed me to regain control over my professional life.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur? Shutting down and turning it off. There is always a laundry list of things to do when you work for yourself. I work for a good part of the day and then do more at night after the children are in bed. I am still working to grow my business, and there is still a lot of fun challenging work to complete. When I’m “in the zone” or working on something that’s particularly challenging, I hate to stop working, so I often take advantage of the extra quiet time at night. However, I make a concerted effort to switch from business mode to mommy mode when the children come home at the end of the day.
Do you find that being an entrepreneur fits well with your role as a military spouse (or does it even factor in)? Yes, it does and it will. Right now, I am enjoying the flexibility it offers. And, I know when we move on to our next duty station later this year, my business will easily come along with me, and I will not have to look for another job again. Woohoo!!
How do you blend working from home and your family relationships? My kids go to daycare even though I work from home. I wouldn’t get any work done if they were home during the day and after school. Work time does encroach on family time occasionally, but I try to limit how much it interferes so I can be present when they are home. Craziest moment? I haven’t had one yet, thankfully.
Biggest lesson learned so far as an entrepreneur: I am stronger and capable of more than I thought. Once you learn to quiet those nagging voices that tell you can’t, you realize that you really can!
Best piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Be open-minded and flexible. You won’t know what you don’t know until you learn it. There are countless tips, tricks, and tools out there. Each time I connect with someone new or with a new group, I learn something I didn’t know before. Practically everything about my business has changed and evolved. It doesn’t look the same as my original concept. It has morphed into something quite different—something better—because I was willing to think about things a different way and change what didn’t work.
Favorite motivational quote: “Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life.” ~Alan Lakein