About me

The first thing I can tell you about myself is that I have a tendency not to be able to sit still.  This comes from having a fabulously busy life, which is fine, because I may have inherited the ‘uber-organised’ gene, if there were such a thing!

I am married with 3 great young children (seven, seven and ten).

Where do I live?

I live in Milton Keynes.  I was born in Liverpool but call Milton Keynes home, having lived here for 39 years.  I have seen huge business and residential growth, and Milton Keynes has long been considered a great overspill of London, as many Corporate Head Offices operate from here now.

I used to commute to London.

Milton Keynes is about 30 minutes north of London, which made for a great decade of commuting.  I became accustomed to a commute and long hours from a young age, working as a Personal Assistant in the Rail Industry.  I have 20-25 years as a Personal Assistant experience to reflect back on.  I enjoyed this period of my life immensely.

Business and homelife.

Only in the last year, have I founded Virtual Office Box, to create services that can not only offer great support to my Clients, but sit alongside my commitments as a Mum.  My office hours are 09:00 – 15:00 but you will see from my testimonials and interview with Jo Munro, that I have a strong work ethic, so can accommodate occasional out of hours support subject to my terms of business of course.

What are my favourite services?

Digital transcription; especially long pieces of audio, is one of my firm favourites. I find them extremely fascinating to listen to.  I have recently transcribed Grievance Hearings for a large corporate client, and confidential Court Reports for a Clinical Psychologist.  You can read more about digital transcription here and why it’s useful to any business.

I really do enjoy a challenge, so my consultation will make suggestions on how I can make a client more productive, efficient and organised.  It really is a part of my DNA and why I became a PA!

You may have seen me on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin?  If so, come and say hello!

Do I take time out?

Maybe not enough, but because I sit at my monitor for so much of the day, I have to be sure to exercise.  I have been running for the last year and have managed Race for Life 5k and 10k, but I really find it hard to pull myself away from working in my business.

I put time aside for my own business due diligence.

When I’m not busy supporting my Clients, I am busy with my own business due diligence.  This could be, working on my social media marketing strategy, further training to broaden my services; and of course, GDPR which has taken so much of our attention recently.  I have learned enough to be able to edit my own website without breaking it, and tailoring my business to suit the needs of prospective clients.

I’m also trying to learn to Blog – I have some way to go but hope they are useful!

Do I worry?

I try not to, I have learned not to be a natural worrier – I’m more a fixer.  If there’s a problem, I sort it – that’s what I do.  But if there is one thing I am still adjusting to – it’s offering my services, remotely.  For 25 years I was always in the presence of my Client or Director – so it takes some adjustment.  That said, many of my Clients are new to business and finding their way in the freelance world, so we share knowledge and work as a team, but ultimately my objective is to accommodate the Client and their systems.

Invite me to your Networking event!

I do wish to Network more.  I haven’t done this nearly enough as I have worked hard to refine my business.  It is madness, as I really enjoy meeting people.

With Milton Keynes being such a hub of business activity, I know there are prospective Clients that really could use an extra pair of hands, but there are some great connections to be made, that could help support my own business.   Get in touch if you would like to invite me to your event.  Say hello


Come and say hi, at shirley@virtualofficebox.com and read more about my story here:  My interview with Jo Munro – The VA Handbook


Shirley has been a delight to work with and, as a founder of a new business, has shown immense professionalism in her due diligence and approach.  It has been a pleasure to become Shirley's Insurance Broker because of her professional and friendly approach, and I wish Shirley every success with her business venture.

Julian Dent

Insurance Broker, http://www.southwestbroking.co.uk
Shirley is fantastic at providing a framework that ensures complex groups of senior managers all come together - communication, planning, action delivery, etc. You always know with Shirley that if you commit to an action, then she'll ensure you deliver in full and on-time! Pleasure to work with.

Tim Standen

Global Vice President, Ocean Customer Solutions at DB Schenker

I would highly recommend Shirley, she is extremely professional and provides a reliable service.

Shirley went out of her way to help when faced with my own tight deadline, and I would definitely use her services again.

Paul O’Leary MRICS

Director, Manor Surveyors Limited
Shirley has been very supportive in the compilation of my Employee Handbook, a huge task.   She was able to correct the Handbook and undertake lots of cross-checking.  Because of Shirley’s support, I have been able to get the task finished with far less hassle than I would have done alone.  I have saved myself valuable by having Shirley support.  She is a pleasure to work with and I would highly recommend her.

Julia Ramsden

Ramsbothams Florists, Bletchley
"I started needing Shirley's support in August 2016 to assist me with various secretarial services, and have not looked back since! I keep coming back to her as she is always able to contribute with an effective and personal approach that gets me the right results. Not to mention the speed in turning around the work, which I find priceless".

Israel Weltscher

Managing Director, Carlton Park Property Management

"A fantastic organiser (particularly of seemingly impossible fundraising events!) and a great person to have on board.

I couldn't recommend Shirley high enough".

Steve Alibone

Head of Finance, Arcadia Contract at DHL
"Shirley Cottam is an extremely capable and efficient person who is well suited to working at Board level"

Peter Rigby

Former Executive Director, Angel Trains
Shirley is an outstanding organiser / coordinator / deliverer of diverse tasks. What sets her apart is her energy, determination, pro-activity and good natured approach. She is an awesome "deliverer of stuff ". Shirley is always on time, produces work of great quality and usually way above expectations"

Richard Morgan (FCILT)

Supply Chain Director, Supply Chain Director Wyevale Garden Centres Ltd | former Supply Chain Director, Argos
"Shirley is very task focused with the necessary initiative and assertiveness required when working with Board members and dealing with senior clients"

Tim Dugher

Chairman at Railway Industry Supplier Approval Scheme (RISAS)
"Shirley is a very well organised and effective person with great inter-personal skills. Shirley would be an asset to any organisation"

Robert Baxter MBA, CDir, FIoD, MImechE

Managing Director at The Baxter Partnership

Get in touch

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+44 (0) 7880 503 123

Milton Keynes, MK5 7HY

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