Kathleen Gauden Of The Virtual Assistant & Company On The Self-Care Routines & Practices Of Busy Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders
An Interview With Maria Angelova
Gratitude list. Every morning and every evening before I go to sleep, I go through my gratitude list. Some may also call this prayer. I thank the God of my understanding for the gifts I have been given throughout the day. When I first wake, I am grateful for a good night’s sleep and the ability to live another day. Prayer is speaking to God, and meditation is listening to God.
All of us know that we have to take breaks in our day to take care of ourselves. “Selfcare is healthcare”, the saying goes. At the same time, we know that when you are a busy leader with enormous responsibility on your shoulders, it’s so easy to prioritize the urgent demands of work over the important requirements of self-care. How do busy entrepreneurs and leaders create space to properly take care of themselves? What are the self-care routines of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders? In this interview series, we are talking to busy and successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and civic leaders who can discuss their self-care practices and self-care routines. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Gauden.
Kathleen Gauden is the owner and founder of The Virtual Assistant & Company. She has been successfully working virtually way before COVID and way before it became the “cool” thing to do! She has many years of experience supporting CEOs, Founders, Board of Directors, and Entrepreneurs, and now coaches other Executive and Virtual Assistants.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is an honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you please share with our readers your personal backstory; What has brought you to this point in your life?
When I was attending Alpena High School in Northern Michigan, a very small and rural town, Burger King opened its doors, and it was a big deal in my small community. I applied for a job and got selected as a burger flipper, and I failed terribly! My manager, Elliot, saw something in me and made me his personal assistant, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, except for the fact that he wanted me to drive his car for errands which made me nervous! I quickly got over that when I was behind the wheel of my clients’ BMWs and Mercedes Benz! That is how I got my feet wet at being a personal assistant. I didn’t know it at the time, but many years later, it prompted me to start my business, The Virtual Assistant & Company, where my target audience was high net worth and high-profile clientele.
I left that small country town a couple of years after I graduated and moved to sunny Southern California. I began applying for jobs as an office assistant. In a very short amount of time, I was offered a role as an Executive Assistant supporting the Executives of Computer Sciences Corporation in San Diego, where I worked for six years. CSC was a Department of Defense contractor with several thousand employees worldwide. It was a significant role to step into with no experience.
After six years, I decided to leave the government and explore the world of businesses in the private sector. I supported CEOs in Biotech, high tech, startup companies, dot coms, real estate, and more.
What is your “why” behind what you do? What fuels you?
The primary motivator for starting my business was to start a family and be present for my children physically, mentally, and spiritually. Working from home allowed me to work around nap times, play dates, and mommy and me classes. Being there for my two children was one of the most important goals in my life. I wanted them to experience a wonderful childhood with lots of opportunities from a mother whose main goal was to set them up for success early in life.
How do you define success? Can you please explain what you mean from a personal anecdote?
I define (my) success by doing what I love to do! I love being of service and positively impacting my clients’ lives. I am not working at a job that I dislike just because I have bills to pay. When coaching other Executive or Virtual Assistants, I ask a straightforward question. “Does the work you are doing bring you joy” about 90% of the people I speak with say no. They do not like their manager, are tired of driving over an hour in rush hour traffic to get to their office, dislike being booked back-to-back in meetings, and are burned out on working 10–12-hour days!
I was exhausted and burned out from driving 1 1/2 hours to my employer’s office in Southern California rush hour traffic and then being on call 24 x 7. So, I shifted to building my business over the years to clients who resonated with me, the services I provide, and that I respect their industry. Simply put, I am an antidote to their chaos!
What is the role of a growth mindset in your success?
A growth mindset for me is always learning something new! I am open to being open. In my business and post-COVID, every assistant out there now wishes to work from home! But it’s not that easy. It takes grit, discipline, boundaries, and determination. On a monthly basis, I am taking classes to improve my craft, network, and help to simplify lives.
Can you please share three mindset mantras that keep you motivated, sane and propel you forward?
- Words become things, so choose them wisely.
- Never give up your dreams.
- For those that say it cannot be done, get out of the way of the person doing it!
You are by all accounts, a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I mentor new entrepreneurs that wish to start a business or get guidance in their current role. In my coaching calls, I share suggestions to help them regroup and get on the path they wish to be on. When I am interviewed on a podcast, I will offer a FREE coaching call to the first person that signs up for my newsletter and sends an email. I will do the same for the first reader that sees my article and reaches out. It’s great fun and a win-win for both of us! Please be sure to put in the subject line where you learned about my services.
I offer significant discounts throughout the year. My Black Friday Special is offering coaching calls for nearly 50% off! Only $69! I also decided to take my Black Friday Special and run it through the end of December 2022. You will be alerted of these fantastic deals if you follow me on my social sites and sign up for my newsletter.
Can you share a mistake or failure which you now appreciate, and which has taught you a valuable lesson?
Starting a business with no experience under my belt! I encourage anyone starting a business to perform thorough research and understand what sets you apart from other entrepreneurs in your field or industry. How will you market yourself to get clients? I was fortunate when I started The Virtual Assistant & Company in 1999. I ran ads in two affluent community newspapers in north San Diego County, one in Rancho Santa Fe and the other in La Jolla. I was inundated with phone calls the first week! I started to turn clients away until I had a thought. What if I hired other people to help me support my client load? That first year, I hired four assistants to support me in the field. I trained and mentored them, which is something I thoroughly enjoyed.
Set very clear boundaries with your clients. If you respond to emails, texts, Slack, and phone calls seven days a week and at all hours of the day and night, as I have, they will think they can reach out anytime. I now have set hours and healthy boundaries for myself and my clients.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Determination and resilience. When I shared with family members and friends that I wanted to start my own business and work from home, everyone told me I didn’t know anything about running a business. But it was my dream to do this, and I never gave up even though I stumbled now and then. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Eagerness to learn. With all the AI tools at our fingertips, I firmly believe in “working smarter, not harder. I consistently enroll in courses to improve my craft and learn about new platforms.
- Confidence. Trust your intuition and set boundaries. It’s normal to be nervous when speaking with a potential client, especially when starting your business. But if you have “red flags” when speaking with a potential client, ask yourself why and dig deeper before taking them on. They may not be a good fit for your business. Set a boundary and realize it is okay to say no.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
A book project! I am writing a book over the next year to share my “lessons learned” with other entrepreneurs that currently own their businesses or are thinking of starting one. I want to share my success stories and the things I wish I had known when I started my business. I will also discuss how to navigate situations and look for clients.
Okay, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about Self-Care. Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What does self-care mean to you?
I define self-care as making lifestyle choices that make me the best person I can be. It means that I have a work and personal life balance and am physically, emotionally, and spiritually aligned. How can I care for others and even clients if I am not running at optimum speed? When I am not, I take steps to regroup and get back into alignment.
I make sure I am physically active. My husband and I walk our rescue dog, Emmett, 2–3 miles almost daily. I also love running, mountain biking, and hiking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest mountains where we live. I enjoy yoga, gardening, and walking meditation. I also make sure I time block to enjoy our hot tub and infra-red sauna, our healing modalities at home.
Physical condition also means that I care about what I put in my body daily. I can still remember when I was a little girl, and my dad said, “your body is a temple, be wise about what you put into it.” I do not drink, smoke, or use mood-altering drugs, and I have a plant-based and gluten-free diet. I enjoy my morning tea and my afternoon kombucha or Four Sigmatic Mushroom drink.
I have educated myself on the foods and whole food supplements I take and know what works best for my body. I have not been sick in over eight years, so I’m doing something right! It is your health so take an active role in it. I also work with two well-known naturopathic doctors I have known for over 20 years, Drs. Mark and Angela Stengler.
With suicide, burnout, anxiety, depression, and addiction on the rise, taking care of your mental and emotional well-being is an absolute must. I have a fantastic business coach and an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) Coach that I keep close by!
I also incorporate essential oils, crystals, organic teas, and herbs that have a natural calming effect. They all bring me joy. Massage, energy work such as Reiki, chiropractic work, and acupuncture are also crucial for me. I enjoy meeting with my like-minded international networking business group monthly for support.
Spiritual health is at the top of my list. I meditate daily and read inspirational quotes from Mantra Wellness magazine and passages such as those in “Sunrise Gratitude” by Emily Silva.
I invest in my mental well-being. I listen to calming music, such as Solfeggio Frequencies, which you can easily find on YouTube. I also have a subscription to Soak and Insight Timer. Why? Because I am worth it!
I also am a big fan of Rev. Michael Beckwith and listen to his spiritual services frequently on Sunday mornings. I had the pleasure of doing some work for Rev. Michael this year, which was an honor.
Sundays, I enjoy setting myself up for success in the upcoming week. I also stay off social media and email and take a mental break from work.
As a successful leader with an intense schedule, what do you do to prioritize self-care, and carve out regular time to make self-care part of your routine?
Time block. I am a huge fan of time blocking, and it is also one of the tools I share with my very busy clients that say they have no time. Even if you only start with 15 minutes, do something just for you — reading, walking, meditating, or enjoying the birds. I also do this several times throughout the day.
Here is what my morning time block looks like: When I first wake, I list three things I am grateful for. This practice helps to set the tone of my day. I don’t immediately grab my phone and check my email and how many “likes” I have on Instagram.
I then head downstairs and enjoy burning sage or using essential oil in a diffuser to set my mood. I enjoy my morning tea, read a motivational passage, and meditate for 20–30 minutes. I have set myself up for success early in the morning, setting the tone for the rest of my day.
Throughout the day, I ensure I am taking little breaks, hydrated, and eating healthy and organic food. I am blessed as I can take a 5-minute break and look out my window and see snow-capped mountains and sometimes a herd of deer or birds of prey flying above. I also head outside a couple of times during the day and throw the frisbee or ball with our dog Emmett.
Because I am in my office much of the day, I have also created a sacred space that inspires me and makes me feel at peace and calm. I have numerous plants, crystals of all shapes and sizes, motivational books, a standing desk, a comfortable chair, and stunning artwork. My most recent piece of art is from a local artist specializing in wildlife and nature. I purchased a large picture from Jeffrey Murray Photography of four stunning horses looking out to the distance. Every time I am on Zoom, the gorgeous piece is in the background and a great conversation piece at the beginning of all my video meetings.
Will you please share with our readers 3 of your daily, or frequent self-care habits?
- Daily morning meditation and grounding. I plant my intentions for my day.
- Gratitude list. I have a gratitude list, which helps me squash negative self-talk and stay away from the “what if?” When we are grateful for what we have, we aren’t focused on what we lack. By simply listing three items we are thankful for each day, we can tune our minds toward more positive thoughts by appreciating and acknowledging what we already have.
- When stress or anxiety hits, I take a quick break to regroup. I grab my favorite essential oil and may listen to music, write, take a short walk, garden, call a friend, practice mindfulness, or do some yoga. All of this helps me reset quickly.
This is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experiences or research can you please share 5 ways that taking time for self-care will improve our lives?
- Resilience. Your personal and work life will be more enjoyable if you care for yourself. If you are frequently sick with colds, flu, or other physical ailments, enjoying life and performing your best for your clients is hard. If you start putting yourself first, that is the first step in self-care. How can you be there for others if you cannot be there for yourself?
- Be present and emotionally available for yourself and others. It is easier to be emotionally available for family, friends, clients, and your community when you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit. When I am out of sorts, people around me know. It affects my work. I am more inclined to always do my best in whatever I am working on at that given moment if I am in balance. When I focus on the task at hand, I do a much better job for my clients.
- Manage stress and anxiety. I used to be sick frequently, affecting not only my work but also my social and family life. If you set a morning or daily routine of self-care, you are better able to manage the inflight changes that come your way that frequently creates stress. It’s okay to start the day over at any time. Regular self-care will help you put your best foot forward on all fronts and teach you to set boundaries.
- Increased productivity and higher esteem. When I take the best care of myself, I am happier, more motivated, and more creative. I think of new business ideas and how to solve a problem that first seemed impossible. I am happy and sleep better at night. In high school, I remember having a teacher tell me that I would be married and pregnant at age nineteen, never move away from Michigan, and I was more of a follower than a leader. That left a lasting impact on my life for a long time. It also added to my lack of confidence and low self-esteem as a teenager. None of what he said was true. What it did do was inspire me to create the work and home life I desired.
- Gratitude list. Every morning and every evening before I go to sleep, I go through my gratitude list. Some may also call this prayer. I thank the God of my understanding for the gifts I have been given throughout the day. When I first wake, I am grateful for a good night’s sleep and the ability to live another day. Prayer is speaking to God, and meditation is listening to God.
Sometimes we learn a great deal from the opposite, from a contrast. Can you please share a few ways that NOT taking time for self-care can harm our lives?
I share this brief example as I want the reader to know that my life has not always been grand.
Many years ago, I went through what one calls in the legal world a high-conflict divorce with an alcoholic and addict. I could not eat, my adrenals became thrashed, I had trouble sleeping, I was sick frequently, I had panic attacks and depression, and my work and life were unmanageable. Through that experience, my ship would sink severely, or I had to learn how to swim. I chose to learn how to swim. I learned how vital forgiveness to yourself, and others was. Taking care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually was an absolute must. I sought help from a therapist and a life and business coach. I read many books and listened to numerous podcasts about narcissists, addiction, and self-care. I learned I was a swimmer and deserved to live a happy and peaceful life. I learned to put things back into practice one day at a time.
My physical, emotional, and spiritual health blossomed. I valued and loved myself again. My business started to take off. I had wonderfully creative ideas flowing. I met new people that taught me new things to help me personally and professionally. Working daily on my gratitude list, vision board, and self-care routine helped my entire life and business shift!
What would you tell someone who says they do not have time or finances to support a regular wellness routine?
Make time! If you cannot take time to take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?
Life is as grand as you wish to make it. I would tell that person that someone out there loves and needs them, whether it was family, a friend, or an animal companion. I would remind them to take baby steps. It’s progress, not perfection. I would suggest setting their alarm 15 minutes earlier than they usually would, then lying in bed and reflecting on what they are grateful for. I would encourage them to listen to guided meditation and beautiful music or walk in nature. Nature is the most significant healing element we have, and it’s free. Embrace nature as much as possible, even if you live in the city and go to a park.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
DJ Paul Oakenfold. Paul’s music motivated me to run outside with my dog, Emmett. When I run, I take in the fantastic nature around me, enjoy my dog, which also benefits from the run, and love the incredible music that inspires me to go further. When I complete my run, I feel super optimistic and have great creative ideas flowing to me. I am balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Namaste.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Sign up for my newsletter by visiting my website, TheVirtualAssistantAndCompany.com. I give tips that benefit entrepreneurs and those wishing to start their businesses. Connect and follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram: @thevaandcompany, and Facebook @TheVirtualAssistantAndCompany.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher, and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at email@example.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.