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oda_logo120One of the challenges small businesses face is that they are, well... small.  That reaches a threshhold where it is hard to get everything done, and customers tend to have more confidence in larger companies.  One way companies address that today is to use virtual assistants.  On Demand Assistants is an Ithaca company that is offering experience and quality services to small businesses.

"Executives at corporations have secretaries who work right outside their cubicle," says owner Jen Lindblad.  "They can go to them for every little thing they need, whether it's reviewing their email, scheduling appointments, or setting up meetings.  We offer those services virtually so you don't have to set us up with a computer and an office and benefits."

The company provides virtual administrative assistance to business owners.  Services include virtual assistants, event planning, database management, and customer service.  Events may be local or on the Internet where events may be online meetings, conferences, or webinars.

"We get everything set up for them, and help them to broadcast through their newsletter, listserves, and social media to draw attention to it," Lindblad says.

New clients begin by filling out a questionnaire.  That helps define the work that needs to be done and the client's goals.  Lindblad likes to get to know the companies she works for, and to understand their goals so she can represent them seamlessly.

Currently the company consists of Lindblad and her associate Amy Kelsey, who works from Candor.  Between them they have over 25 years experience in providing these services.

"We have a very good relationship," Lindblad says.  "She is able to do a lot of the writing.  We do blog posts and newsletters and social media updates for clients.  Amy has been able to take over a lot of that, as well as transcription."

oda_jenJen Lindblad

Originally from Vestal, NY, Lindblad hoped to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology after high school to learn clothing design.  Instead she got temporary jobs as a secretary, which led to a temp job at Cornell.  That turned into a full time job.  She found herself teaching older employees how to use their computs and digital business tools.  After six years she went back to Vestal to work at Modern Marketing Concepts, where she learned marketing techniques and project management.  She spent five years there, then returned to Cornell for a total of 11 years coordinating events, community relations, bringing people together, and building relationships.

About two years ago she had an accident that forced her to work at home.  She began working part time from home for Cornell, then added another client.  That made her realize that she could run her own full time business from home.

"It really has evolved from that," she says.  "It has become more about helping small business owners and less about the novelty of working from my home office."

The company has clients from as far afield as Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.  Lindblad says she likes to work with clients in the U.S. even though the technology doesn't preclude her from going farther afield.

"I think it's important to have business be either local, or at least in the United States as much as possible and still be affordable for the business owner," she says.  "My clients think so, too."

Time zone differences mean that Lindblad's hours are long, or as she calls them, 'flexible'.  But she says that works for her clients.

"It's beneficial, because a lot of people who work on the west coast give us their assignments," she says.  "While they're sleeping we're working on it. When they wake up it's done."

She uses social media and business networking to drum up business.  She also receives proposals via her Web site.  She regularly connects with other virtual assistants  they network and refer each other for specialized or larger jobs.

All in all Lindblad enjoys bringing quality services to businesses that need them, but don't need full time employees to fulfill them.

"I like getting to know people and learning about how they got into business," she says.  "And what their goals and aspirations are, and I like helping them to achieve those things faster than they otherwise could have.  It's really exciting to be part of helping someone else succeed, and that, in turn, helps me succeed."

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