AskAscend’s Legacy-Centric Approach to Virtual Business Support

Alakesha Murray is the President and CEO of AskAscend, a New York-based company specializing in virtual assistance services.

With nearly 25 years of experience working for large corporations and institutions in New York City, Alakesha brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to the world of virtual assistance.

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What inspired you to start this business?

For nearly 25 years before I launched my business, I worked for large corporations and institutions in New York City.  I jokingly say that I’m ‘cursed’ with a staunch work ethic and drive that makes it impossible for me to dedicate anything less than my “all” to every project I’m engaged with.

So, my time spent working in the entertainment industry (I was an NBC Page, and later worked in Corporate Communications at CBS Corp), at an Ivy League University, and for a large construction and property management company, frequently found me dedicated to churning out the best product possible for the organization.

Like so many of us, I worked long hours year after year hoping to gain approval from the higher-ups, seeking validation of my worth in the form pay-raises and elevated titles.  Over time, however, I realized the true beneficiary of my hard work was almost always the institution…leaving me feeling burnt out, invisible, and unfulfilled. Believing that I could put my skills – and, more importantly, my energy – to better, more meaningful use, and, quite honestly, wanting to spend more quality time with my family, I began setting the groundwork to launch Ascend Management Services, and its subsidiary, AskAscend Virtual Assistance.

I asked myself, “What if I could work with creative and visionary individuals and organizations who are in genuine pursuit of their aspirations?” Assessing my 2+ decades of professional experience, from advising to management, administration, and operations, and everything in-between, I stepped out on faith to build a business that offers much needed quality support to other motivated small business owners, non-profit organizations, and busy people everywhere (even graduate students!) who are striving to grow into their greatness.

What sets AskAscend apart from other virtual assistance providers?

AskAscend Virtual Assistance is a New York-based company that believes in “legacy,” specifically supporting the creation of legacy for an individual or an organization.  We believe anyone who takes the time to launch an enterprise or make life-altering choices like going to graduate school, must have a vision in mind, a goal they seek to achieve, a reason for taking the leap of faith into an unknown, where there are no guarantees.

Through a series of in-depth conversations, we endeavor to uncover our potential clients’ reasons for pursuing those goals, not only to understand the kind of support they need but to inform them how we may be able to assist in ways they might not have considered previously, as well as to determine if we are a good fit for collaboration.

We are particularly interested in those who seek to create positive change in their communities, local and beyond because in doing so, it shows they are hoping to make a positive impact on society, in the hopes of leaving it much improved than before, leaving a legacy.

Whether a non-profit that offers grants to organizations fighting gun-violence, a business that works with others to develop DEI initiatives, or a graduate student pursuing a law degree, each is in pursuit of a “greater good” if you will.  This is the type of clientele we work with.

What types of industries and clients does AskAscend typically serve, and how do you tailor your services to meet their specific needs?

We serve all industries, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and individuals. Our Virtual Assistants are curated to meet the needs of the client, and vetted to ensure they possess the skills required to do the work efficiently.

Working around our client’s schedules, we determine their needs and develop a project schedule. Sometimes, things come up that a client didn’t realize they needed help with, and we jump right in to tackle it. For example, recently, we helped a client identify caterers in another state for a business meeting for which we were originally only managing RSVPs and participant communications.

However, when the client asked us for help in this area, we set to work contacting and coordinating catering for the event. We also make use of tools that are meant to help businesses thrive, like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, for example.  We’re currently conducting research for a client who uses this system to identify contacts and connect with targeted audiences.

For other clients, we’ve helped manage their CRM systems or provided initial support and training so that they can manage the system independently. There are many business tools out there, so we stay flexible and informed in order to meet our client’s needs, staying within their budget.

Can you share some success stories or examples of how AskAscend has significantly improved the operations or efficiency of businesses or non-profits you’ve worked with?

One of our clients, a non-profit, was launching a new website, and needed to ensure that all the data that existed within the existing website (headshots, bios, etc.) were successfully captured, logged, and migrated to the new site, in collaboration with their website developer. Our team carefully combed through the existing site and ensured a smooth migration of data and the successful launch of their new website.

A client we’ve been working with for several years has benefitted from our observation of their operations, particularly with regard to the work of their project managers, and the realization that a better, more streamlined onboarding process for their project managers was needed in order for them to initiate work on the projects they were hired for. This was not part of the original scope of work, but after some time, and as our client’s client base grew, and more project managers were needed, it was apparent that consistent operations training and a robust onboarding process were crucial to the expansion of the business. The final result was the creation of their Operations Manual and several Standard Operating Procedures documents as well as other deliverables.

We recently assisted a local Harlem-based business owner by interviewing volunteers for a community event and serving as a point of contact for them in preparation for the event, hosting several meetings with the approved volunteers to ensure awareness of protocols and answer any questions they had. This allowed our client to focus on the many other tasks that needed tending to.

Currently working with a Law student who wants to maximize the law school experience beyond the classroom. We’ve learned that a law student’s schedule can be incredibly packed! Not just with courses, but networking events and club activities as well.

Realizing the value inherent in the extracurricular activities, the student sought us out to make the most of his time by building and maintaining a contact database of students, professors, practicing lawyers, and even judges that he’s met over time, and managing his calendar of activities and meetings, and the creation and training of a task management system so that he could keep track important deadlines and follow ups.  By all accounts, the system we set up for him is working well.

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