Monday, August 23, 2010

Going Google across the 50 States: Google Apps eliminates geographical challenges for New Jersey-based virtual assistant agency

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple of months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

This week we’ll hear from Sarah Leah Gootnick, founder of Secretary in Israel, based in New Jersey and Israel. Secretary in Israel and Virtual Assistant Israel match college-educated, American virtual assistants living in Israel with business owners from across the United States and abroad.

The idea for Secretary in Israel came about when an entrepreneurial friend of mine in San Francisco told me how overwhelmed he was with all the administrative work for his IT business. He struggled to find a talented assistant within his price range locally. I introduced him to my friend who had just moved from the US to Israel. Not long after, he called to tell me that she was the best assistant he had had in years, and he encouraged me to start a business to provide this same service to other entrepreneurs.

As a result of his encouragement, we started Secretary in Israel approximately 2.5 years ago. At the time, we were in an unusual situation: our virtual assistants, all of whom are American college graduates, were living in Israel, and our client base of successful entrepreneurs were spread throughout the United States and abroad (including the UK, Australia, and Thailand). With our team located thousands of miles from our clients, we were, as you might say, “geographically challenged”.

However, with the help of Google Apps, geographical distance became irrelevant. Our virtual assistants all use Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, which enable us to work with our clients and seamlessly integrate into their businesses as if we were sitting in the rooms next to them.

One particular benefit that our virtual assistants and clients love is the ability to edit docs and spreadsheets simultaneously. Gone are the days of worry about who has the right version of a document and whether the hours of changes you’ve just made were put into the right version or not. With Apps, the document or spreadsheet is always current, and our team and clients can rest assured that important edits were entered in the right version.

Google Apps also allows our virtual assistants to work so seamlessly with their clients and their clients’ business associates that most people don’t realize our assistants aren’t in the same office. One of our clients told us that when people finally do meet him at his office, they often ask, “Where’s Hilary? She was so lovely on the phone. I’d like to meet her!” It’s at that point that he says with a smile, “Oh. She’s not here at the moment. She’s in Israel!”

Because of the collaborative focus of Google Apps, we’re able to run a business that provides a great service to successful entrepreneurs in the United States and abroad as well as career opportunities for professional, Americans in Israel.

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