• Build Relationships

    Building Relationships can add a strategic alliance with other business, so you both can grow. Here are some tips:
    • It is easier to service an existing clien than look for new ones
    • Help others succeed and they will pull you up with them
    • Give more in value than you take in payment
    • Values should be your talk and walk - not a mission statement handing on your wall
    • Come from a heart centered place
    • Give without expecting anything in return
    • Pay your team well
    • Invest in your team
    • Show your appreciation to client and team
    • Choose happy clients and happy employees
    • The cost of a negative client is more than the payment
    • Be yourself
    • Be truthful
    • Do something worth talking about
    • Learn and adapt
  • Common Business Mistakes

    The most common mistakes business owners make
    Janet Slack and Life Adventure Coaching http://lifeadventurecoaching.com/

    • Outsource business tasks where you can
    • Revisit your mission statement. Reminding yourself of why you're in business can help you find your joy again
    • Get new ideas by reading about how others combat burnout
    • Unplug whenever possible
    • Take the time to get organized
    • Practice saying "NO." Then say it
    • Build in downtime throughout your day
    • Make a list of your past successes and review it periodically
    • Give the "regular work hours" thing a try
    • Explore one of your interests. What have you always longed to learn or try?
    • Take a legitimate vacation or schedule a day off to play tourist in your own town
    • Take on a work project that challenges you to stretch. Sometimes, burnout = boredom
    • Re-examine your standards
    • Make sure you're getting enough quality sleep
    • Find a friend who's willing to make a regular date for coffee and conversation
    • Breathe and meditate daily
    • Check in with your own values. Are you still consistent with them?
    • Stop avoiding difficult conversations
    • Look for the humor in everyday situations
    • Volunteer for a cause you believe in
  • Marketing on a Shoestring

    Marketing on a Shoestring
    Complements of Asheville SCORE

    Business cards and brochures
    • Put a good photo on your business card
    • Use the backs of your business cards for advertising and promotions
    • Carry your business cards everywhere, all the time, and pass them out freely
    • Consider creating a one-panel color brochure rather than a tri-fold, black one

    Wearable promotions
    • Design a t-shirt. Wear your t-shirt.
    • Create a tote bag! Carry it everywhere!

    On the web

    • Get a website
    • Register a domain name
    • At the very least, get an e-mail account for your business
    • Make sure to add a signature line to all outgoing e-mails
    • Make sure to include your web address and/or e-mail address on everything you use
    • If you have a product to sell, consider auctioning it on Etsy.

    On the phone
    • Always ask for your caller's first name. Use it during your conversation.
    • Ask every caller how they heard about you.
    • Always ask for the sale or the appointment.
    • Make sure your outgoing message on voice mail is professional and clear.

    Ads that work
    • Give people a reason to call you
    • Find your unique selling proposition
    • Be consistent with your ad's basic layout to make yourself recognizable
    • Opt to run a smaller ad several times rater than a larger ad once
    • Ask about different publication locations
    • Proofread! Ask at least two friends to proofread your ad for you
    • Always ask to see the proof before a new ad runs
    • Send out press releases periodically

    Get organized
    • Collect data from each customer to determine where your business is coming from
    • Get a database program
    • Keep business cards of people you meet at networking events
    • Organize your email inbox into folders

    Keep your current customers/clients happy!
    • Ask for referrals
    • Send a thank-you when someone refers your services/products
    • Send birthday cards/holiday cards to your clients/customers
    • Make follow-up calls with new customers/clients
    • Treat every customer the way you like to be treated

    Keep in touch!
    • Send periodic newsletters to your database. Inform them of new products or services
    • Cut down on postage by sending postcards instead of letters
    • Add a sign-up box to your website so that visitors can subscribe to your e-mail newsletter

    • Set a goal of going to at least one networking function each week
    • Check papers like the Mountain Xpress for networking events
    • Go to trade shows or Chamber of Commerce events
    • When writing your name tag, list your business at the top
    • Set a goal to make a certain number of new contacts at each event

    Give it away!
    • Donate products or services to charity auctions or business events
    • Offer free products or services to people who are likely to be good referral sources for you
    • Offer a price discount for your long-time clients
    • Volunteer your time. Network with people you have something in common with

    Talk it up!
    • Have your "elevator speech" well-rehearsed and ready to go.
    • Offer to be the guest speaker at regular meetings of civic groups
    • Need practice with public speaking? Join Toastmasters
    • Teach a class or conduct workshop

    Get into the right frame of mind
    • Set small, manageable goals for yourself. Write them down!
    • Stay focused and keep a positive attitude
  • Stay Connected

    Stay Connected by Meredeth Elliott Powell

    13 ideas to stay connected to your top customers, so they stay connected to you. Customers want, expect and demand more value from their relationships. These changes mean customer contact, service and retention is more important than ever!

    So how do we stay in contact with our customers that often? How do we stay connected without being annoying? Here some ideas and suggestions:

    • Follow-up visit to give your client a copy of the "plan" you will be working on for them
    • Birthday card or Anniversary card celebrating the first day he/she becomes your client
    • One introduction to another business professional you feel it would benefit them to meet
    • One article or other information about their industry – changes/enhancements
    • One drop-in with doughnuts, cookies or something for the full team
    • One invitation to an event sponsored by your company, ball game, theatre, etc
    • One phone call just to check in and see how things are going and if they need anything
    • A business referral – call or send a note to let them know you sent business to them
    • Connection on Linked-In, Facebook, and/or Twitter – comment on their status
    • Newsletter with information (done twice a year) with valuable information for clients
    • Invitation to a networking event they would be of benefit
    • Casual lunch, coffee – as for referrals and offer to send referrals to him/her
    • New Years Card – Celebrating another year of working together!
  • Upgrade your Business

    11 Steps to Upgrade your Buiness Sharon Oxendine Western Women's Business Center https://thesupportcenter-nc.org/lending/wwbc

    1. Pick up the phone and ask your customers what's important to them

    2. Differentiate your business

    3. Collabrate with a business partner. Someone who compliments your business

    4. Upgrade a skill and learn one new skill a month

    5. Start a newsletter

    6. Build client relationships by traeting them to lunch or coffee or customer appreciation day

    7. Automate any and all processes you can

    8. Do something green

    9. Declutter your workspace or computer's desktop

    10. Think outside the box in your marketing

    11. Network!
  • The World of VAs

    VA BABY!

    I’ve been asked why I love being a Virtual Assistant, VA. The truth is, it comes naturally and I’m good at it! Certain characteristics make a good VA, such as good organization skills, being results oriented and self-motivated, but there is more to consider.A VA is a game changer in business, and you should take the role seriously.

    If you are considering a career as a VA, look inside your own life. Do you want to become a VA because you want to make more money, have more “free time”, or to be your own boss? Sounds great, right? However, here are the facts:

    Become a VA to make more money? You can charge up to $30/hour based on your administrative skill set. Keep in mind $15 of the $30 will be for marketing, networking, office space, taxes, supplies and equipment. Suddenly, you “make” $15/hour.

    • Become a VA to have more free time? You will definitely have free time! Keep in mind, for every minute you do not work, you do not get paid. For every break you take, the project is still waiting to get done. You do not have to work every minute of every day, but you DO have to balance your money with your time.
    • Become a VA to be your own boss? Yep! You also get to be the bookkeeper, marketer, networker, receptionist, complaint and collections department! Oh! And don’t forget you are the project manager of your current projects.

    It can be done! I do it and I love it! However, you must be prepared to work hard, put in the time and do it right. If you think it’s quick, easy money, becoming a Virtual Assistant may not be for you.

    Let’s get started!

    1. Find your niche. Your clients will find you more easily if you specialize. I can do a lot of administrative tasks, therefore “mania” serves me well! Ultimately, pick the things you like doing. In the long run, it’s better to say “no” to doing things you dislike and you’ll do a better job. Everyone wins.

    2. Decide on your business name and legal structure. Your name should be a representation of your personality and values. The legal structure of your business can vary. Consult an attorney if you have questions.

    3. Marketing. Your marketing represents you and your team. All of your marketing materials should have a consistent message and appearance, such as your website, business cards, social media, rack cards, etc. Review other VA websites for ideas. Think about how you want clients to perceive you.

    4. Find your team. It’s a good idea to talk to people you already know about being on your team. For example, if you do not want to specialize in social media, then find that specific team member.

    5. Your fee. You can charge by the hour, project or monthly retainer. Be flexible, but pick the best one for your company. Don’t undervalue yourself. You are a business owner and a valuable resource for many. If a potential client baulks at your rate, the bottom line will always be an issue.

    6. Create your space. Make sure you choose a clean, quiet and productive environment. It’s not professional if you are on the phone and hear dogs barking in the background. Make certain you can concentrate. Your kitchen table is not an appropriate office space!

    7. Set up your virtual toolbox. You will be virtual for most clients, so your tools should be virtual as well. Examples would be portable computer and printer, smart phone, portable internet connection, etc. Think of your setup as an office on wheels.

    8. Network! Network! Network! Did I mention networking is the single most important thing you can do for your new business? You can be an expert in your field, you can have all your certifications updated, and have your virtual office ready, but people don’t know you exist. Show them!

    9. IRS. Review the sub-contractor vs employee rules by the IRS.

    Here are my personal suggestions:

    1. Keep learning. It’s important to keep your skills updated. Learn new technology, not only in your industry, but in your clients’ industries as well.

    2. Do one thing at a time. You can specialize in several, but doing one task at a time makes sure it’s done right the first time.

    3. Reach out to other Virtual Assistants. The best advice you will ever get is from another VA! Plus, having other VAs to refer to helps ensure your clients are well taken care of.

    4. Sometimes counseling is part of the VA role. Overwhelmed clients need to talk out issues, concerns and doubts. Listening and offering advice (as it pertains to the office) is a part of what makes an awesome VA.

    5. Identify and protect your boundaries. VAs are not subordinates. We are an equal team player and should be treated as such.

    6. Be human. Be yourself. People appreciate sincerity.

    7. Ask questions! Be clear in your communication. Sometimes your clients think they’ve given you enough information, but haven’t.

    Don’t assume you can figure it out. You’ll waste time. If you are still intrigued in the possibility of becoming a VA, don’t stop. There is plenty of information on the web about Virtual Assistants and the true asset they can be to any business owner. Do some research, ask your colleagues. Consider me a resource. I will gladly help.
  • Secret Weapon

    Virtual Assistants Are the Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon

    Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Task Mania’s Katrina Bragg of Asheville shares her expert insights about what it takes to grow personally and professionally with a great Virtual Assistant!

    Are you working on your business or in your business? Before you answer, consider whether this scenario sounds familiar: Morning: check email, voicemail, respond to the easy ones, leave the others, check calendar and realize you have a presentation today at 5:30 at the Chamber!

    While you’re working on the presentation, a reminder beeps-a client is now two months behind on payment. You make a mental note. Now you have a new client meeting. Then the phone rings. A friend refers a potential client. While on the hour-long phone call, another reminder: lunch with yet another referral partner!

    Afternoon: meeting with a client who has questions about your new services from your website. Wait! Your website has not been updated in months. Hmmm. Check your email again and there are several you could knock out in just a few minutes. OMG! Chamber meeting and still unfinished presentation! Grab business cards and brochures and go. You didn’t schedule drive time, so now you are sliding into the room at the last minute with not enough business cards, brochures and no professional presentation. After the meeting, an attendee wants 10 minutes to pick your brain. Not wanting to be rude, you agree right there in the meeting room. A few minutes turns into an hour.

    Evening: You’ve skipped dinner and now you are too tired to eat. Your kids are getting ready for bed and you have not seen your partner in 3 days. Even though it is late, you turn on the computer and see if anything needs your attention. It will only take a minute. Two hours later you lie down and try to stop your brain from thinking about tomorrow.

    If you had a Virtual Assistant (VA), they could have:

    • Review your email regularly, responding and/or flagging important ones for your review
    • Ordered business cards, brochures and other marketing materials last week
    • Contacted the late-payment client at the end of last month
    • Had your presentation done a week ago
    • Updated your website 4 months ago
    • Followed up after the meetings with your clients the next day

    Remember that attendee at your meeting who wanted to pick your brain? Well, if you utilized the services of a VA, you could have simply said “I’ll have my assistant set things up for us.”

    What is going to change if you are not willing to offload some work? What is glamorous about being exhausted and overwhelmed after a stream of 12-hour days? If you want to get your life back, and grow your business to support that life, then something must give. You can no longer continue to do everything yourself and expect to turn a profit or succeed.

    Think of it this way. When you hire an individual to do social media for your business, she is a type of VA. She doesn’t have a desk at your office, but she still creates blogs, posts and discussions on your behalf. Same thing with a website or logo designer. Almost everything can be done virtually! The entire point is, start creating your virtual team.

    Ready, Set, VA!

    Here are my three steps in determining if you are ready for a VA:

    Step 1: To-Do or Not To-Do? Start with a pen and paper. Draw 3 lines down the sheet to create four columns. In each column, title as follows: “Tasks I Cannot Do” (like web design), “Tasks I Hate to Do”, “Tasks I Should not Do”, and “Tasks I love to do.” Fill in the columns with whatever comes to mind. Be honest. Now that your lists are complete, mark out the titles and change them to:

    Column 1 “Hire Someone Now”
    Column 2, “Never Going to Happen”,
    Column 3 “Time Wasters” and
    Column 4 “Fun Things I Miss Doing.”

    Now take a deep breath. Put the list where you can see it on a regular basis. Review it periodically. When you really start missing column 4, you are ready for help.

    Step 2: Character Counts When hiring a VA Consider the type of person you do and do not want to work with. You are bringing a new person into your life and business, and even better, you can choose who that is. This list is for you, so be honest. Make a list of undesirable characteristics you would rather not see in your assistant. Then, consider the opposite, positive characteristics. This step is to help you set clear intentions. We only focus on the positive. Don’t underestimate personality. For example, if you are bossy, you do not need a bossy assistant, right?

    Step 3: Budget Misconceptions If I told you my rate was $30 an hour, what would your reaction be? “What! $30 an hour for office work??!! I can do it myself for FREE!” Yes, yes you can. But consider this. Let’s assume your rate is $50/hour. The monthly newsletter takes you 5 hours a month 50X5=$250 of your time. A VA can do the same newsletter in 2 hours (2x30=$60). You can put this in your Time Waster column.

    The cost benefits of hiring a highly qualified VA include:

    • No cost of buying additional furniture and equipment to use
    • You pay only for the hours your VA works
    • No unemployment compensation, social security or income taxes
    • Saves you time, a non-renewable resource, and increases your professionalism
    • Keeps you and your clients moving forward with ease

    Virtual Assistants offer the added insight of being a business owner. We are doers, implementers and are results driven. VAs are highly-skilled, educated and experienced. They are additional peers lending support and will suggest ways to improve your operations. Essentially, your future VA functions as a partner in the success of your business. When you are ready for work-life balance, a Virtual Assistant is the savvy entrepreneur’s secret weapon.
  • Hiring a VA

    Who’s Perfect for You

    Congratulations! You’re ready to fuel your success with the hire of your first virtual team member. Asking for help is a giant leap forward, but your focus is clear and you’re over the moon. What’s next?

    Step 1: Get ready for Intrusion

    Your VA should be “up in” your business, asking nosy questions about how things are going. Are you struggling to pay your vendors? How do others see you in the community? Where do you see your business growth a year from now? Are you ready for change? What is not working anymore? Are you going to be honest with me? Your VA should be part of your business. She will listen to your ideas, question your decisions, change your processes and streamline your systems. Understanding this #1.

    Step 2: Clear Understanding and Deliverables

    To get started, make a list of the job duties you want your VA to do. Be generic. Remember you are hiring for the position of Administrative Assistant.
    • monthly newsletters
    • client invoices
    • ordering marketing materials
    • managing correspondence
    • coordinating calendars and scheduling
    Add deliverable timelines to your list:
    • monthly newsletters on the 1st Tuesday each month
    • client invoices on the last day of the month
    • check marketing materials each Wednesday, order accordingly
    • manage correspondence by 10am daily
    • coordinate calendar and scheduling at 8am and 3pm daily
    This list is clear and easy to follow. Being specific creates checks and balances for both you and your VA to ensure you reach your goals.

    Step 3: Interviewing and hiring

    To start, ask friends, family, colleagues, vendors and clients for referrals. Someone in your circle is already using a VA and should be happy to share them.

    Secondly, search on LinkedIn and reach out to someone you find interesting. If you decide to use an online search option to find your perfect VA, be certain to read the fine print, do your due diligence, and follow your instincts.

    Interview questions:

    Make this process fun and exciting. You are looking for the perfect VA, and you never know where the relationship will take you. If you are local, ask to meet in person for coffee, lunch or at the dog park in an informal setting.

    A good VA will have the perfect answers for all your typical interview questions, have a conversation instead, throw them a curve ball. During an interview I once asked a young lady to “be comfortable” and she took her shoes off. We are still friends today! You want to see the good, bad and ugly right up front so you can make the best decision possible.

    Here are some great interview questions:

    • What do you think about my website?
    • What is the worst and best vacation you’ve taken?
    • What was your first job?
    • How do you relieve stress?
    • What offends you?
    • What are 5 things you can do with a watermelon, besides eat it?
    • How would your friends describe you?
    You might think these questions are not important, but you can tell a lot about someone by these questions. For example, if they are an out of the box thinker, prepared, able to laugh about a bad experience and if they can manage stress. You can also tell what they think of themselves.

    Now, isn’t this more fun than asking, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Where do you want to be in a year?" BORING! Stop asking questions everyone is prepared to answer if you really want to get to know someone.

    Step 4: Managing

    You have picked your VA! Congratulations, you are not only the business owner, you have become a manager. How do you get started? The good news is, your new assistant has a set-up process and can guide you through, so let her. Next,

    1. Start out by delegating one task from your list. Pay attention to the communication method. Did the VA meet the deadline? Does the work encompass your vision? Did you get something extra? If yes, then GREAT, move to the second task. If not pick up the phone and talk to your new VA. Find out what went well and what went wrong, then start again.

    2. Within the first few weeks have a “face-to-face” meeting. Ask your VA what is and is not working in the relationship. Talk about what things you are expecting in the near future and ask your VA similar questions. There is nothing worse than being blindsided! You should both know about upcoming events, changes, etc. you are on the same team!

    3. It is ok to have an agreement in place. In fact, it is a good idea. An agreement can define the scope of work, milestones and goals, payment terms and deadlines. It can also provide a confidential clause and non-disclosure agreement.

    4. Give yourself 30 days to determine if your new VA is a good fit. If it’s not working, you should be comfortable letting go. It is important not to waste time with a VA that is not a good fit for you, and for your company. Get busy finding someone who is!

    Step 5: Common mistakes made by business owners

    1. When hiring a VA, you are hiring a sub-contractor according to the IRS. Read the rules and follow them accordingly.

    2. Respect your VA. She is another business lending support to your growing company, not your subordinate.

    3. Most work performed by a VA is under a confidentiality clause, so please don't ask for examples when interviewing. Instead, ask them to do a small task and see how you like their work.

    4. VAs do not want and will not be micro-managed. Most have quit full time jobs for this reason.

    5. Introduce your new VA to your vendors, clients and other people in your company.

    6. Offer your VA incentives and appreciation. Most VA’s work alone and are not part of the “office” environment.

    7. Trust your instincts.

    The fact is,working with a Virtual Assistant has come a long way. It’s more than filtering emails, it is about business growth. It is about understanding that you, as the business owner, can grow your business and do a whole lot more with the right VA. Stop doing it alone. Help is available!