BIGGEST LESSONS LEARNED AS A BUSINESS OWNER

Being a business owner, your own boss, in control of what you create can be wicked fun am I right?

However, there is a flip side that can be the complete opposite. Since reinventing and relaunching my business over three years ago I have learned a ton and continue to learn every day. Here are five of the biggest lessons I have learned and how they helped my company to grow.

USE SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES FOR EVERYTHING

To ensure that each task, each customer receives the same service, I ensure that I have a process for everything and a system to back it up. For instance, I set up an onboarding process that helps me get all the information I need from a prospect, provide them the information they need to get us up and running quickly and efficiently. This process saves everyone time and money. The same goes for accounting and invoicing. My Time tracking program integrates with QuickBooks to eliminate error and cut the invoicing process in half. “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rhon OR “You control your own wins and losses” – Maria Sharapova

TECHNOLOGY

Okay so I am a big tech geek and love learning and using programs, apps and systems that automate, help, reduce error, etc. Over the past three plus years I have come to rely on some amazing programs that help my business run daily. Some of them are TSheets for time tracking, QuickBooks for Accounting, Dubsado for my CRM, WordPress for my Website, Zapier for …well my Zaps and other integrations, Adobe Creative Cloud, Hootsuite for all our social and our clients, Google for Business, and the list goes on! So many cool systems. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka

DELEGATE

If you are a startup this might be difficult at first, especially if you’re a one-person show. However, you will reach a point when you will need help from others in order to reach your business goals. Some people find delegating a breeze while others will hold on to work thinking “by the time I explain it all I could have it done”. This type of thinking is detrimental to your workflow and your growth. If you are overloaded, get stuff off your plate. Take a half hour or an hour and get it off and done. Then you can focus on what is more important to you at that time. If you struggle with something, say web design, then outsource it to someone who knows. Don’t like blog writing? Pay someone to do it for you then you can do the stuff your passionate about. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney

TAKE CHANCES

If you never step out of your comfort zone you cannot grow. I stepped WAY out of mine when I started up. I had already been down this road but this time I was going to pave it my way. I set goals for myself, attainable, over many months and broke them down into achievable actions. I took the risk of investing in my business and having it flop. I took the chance of loosing client’s when I implemented packages and increased my pricing. I took the chance of being successful and dealing with all the hurdles that would come from that success. Owning a business is all about chances, risk and reward. It is well worth it if you learn from mistakes and not missed chances. “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”-Pablo Picasso

HONESTY AND ABOVE ALL BALANCE

I would rather be honest about my business, my services and not gain a client rather than hard sell someone and lose them later. When I started, I made a vow to myself that I was going to pride myself on honesty and if someone did not want to work with my company because of it, then so be it. Over the years I have had my fair share of being asked to do things that are against my business and personal ethics and I’m proud to have stood up and said, “no thank you”. My business is successful because I have the trust of those I work with. We trust one another and they know that my business is an honest one. We do what we say we are going to do and if something comes up, we tell our clients we do not offer excuses.

The reason most of us become business owners is not only to realize a dream or a goal but to provide a balance that can only come from being your own boss. Now that being said, balance is and can be one of the hardest things in business to attain. I started this company so I could have more time with my family, freedom to work from anywhere, no more anxiety around how many days off I have left because my kid needs to go to the doctor. Whatever your reason is for balance always strive to keep it. Sometimes you will maintain it and others times you won’t. Remember your big picture, your Why, keep it honest and treasure your integrity. “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. – Carl Bard

Owning a business is like being in school every day, an opportunity to learn around every corner. Learn from everything, your successes, your misses and above all your mistakes. What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned in your business that you think other business owners could learn from?

6 EASY WAYS TO WORK WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

So, you have considered hiring a Virtual Assistant, otherwise known as a VA?  Maybe you’ve even hired one, and now what?

How does it all work?

Here are 6 steps to a successful partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Contracts

Most professional Virtual Assistants offer contracted services to their Clients. A contract is a necessary requirement for most, as it protects not only the interest of you as the Client but also the Virtual Assistant. Be sure to carefully read your contracts and don’t be afraid to ask questions if needed.

Documented Processes

It will be easier to delegate projects and/or tasks if you have clear processes for repetitive tasks outlined. This will reduce the margin for error by letting your VA know exactly how you carry out processes within your business. Once you and your VA are up and running together then you can hand over updating and creating procedures to them. An easy place to keep processes for everyone to access is in programs like One Note or Evernote. These programs allow you to create chapters, sections etc. and that makes it easier to keep things current.

Communication

Be crystal clear on your needs and your wants. Decide right off the bat what the best form of communication is for you both. Some VA’s prefer tasks to be added directly to project management software like Trello or Asana. Other’s preferring to receive instructions via email. You as the Client may prefer a phone call, email or even text messages. Whatever the form of communication, be sure to set out expectations.

Instructions

Further to documenting your processes be sure to provide clear and detailed instructions. Although most VA’s would love to add mind reader to their resume alas it is not an ability we yet possess! If you are not sure how to communicate via writing then be sure to call your VA directly, or do a little walkthrough video. Find a way to give clear instructions in a way that is easiest for you.

Use Technology

There are so many fantastic programs out there that make working remotely and with a virtual team easy. Here are some of the most common ones out there (most of them free):

  • Last Pass – Allows users to store and share access to programs, information etc. in a safe and secure manner without sharing your usernames and passwords.
  • Asana – Project management program that allows you to set up teams, projects, delegate work, communicate, set deadlines and more.
  • T-Sheets – Allows VA’s to track their time by the minute for accurate and honest billing.
  • Screen-Cast-O-Matic – Create videos, presentations, capture your screen as you work to provide a video operation manual. So many great features!
  • One Note or Evernote – use these for online manuals, policy and procedures, store your blog topics and mark them done, create checklists and more.

Hire the Right VA for your Business/Needs

It seems like that is a no-brainer, right? What a lot of people don’t realize is that most VA’s will have a couple of niche areas that they specialize in. For instance, some are designers/creative VA’s, others might specialize in certain fields like real estate, law or medicine. Depending on what you need you may hire multiple VA’s who can work together to get your business where you want it to be!

Ready to get your business organized, free up your time and get new projects started?

Contact us today to find out how we can help get your business to the next level!

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7 SIGNS YOUR SMALL BUSINESS COULD USE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

passion-led-us-here

I’m contacted daily by small business owners and solopreneurs whose businesses have undergone rapid growth but they’re not sure if now is the right time to outsource some of their administrative work.

Let’s take a look at some telltale signs to determine if your small business would benefit partnering with a Virtual Assistant:

YOUR DROWNING IN ADMINISTRATIVE DUTIES

Do you find yourself buried underneath a never ending pile of administrative work?

Small business owners and solopreneurs go into business for themselves because they are passionate about their product or service and want to spend their time with their customers. This often results in a backlog of administrative duties that must be attended to, or you run the risk of it affecting your business.

LOSING CLIENTELE

Are you struggling with client retention? Building up a strong network of clients is crucial for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs, in order for your business to thrive and prosper.

I’ve received many calls inquiring about my services, from small business owners and solo entrepreneurs who are distraught that their biggest client just walked and they don’t know what happened.

After further discussion it seems that they were either too preoccupied with:

  • keeping up with administrative duties to provide the personal attention that they had been giving previously.

or

  • they were spending all of their time with their customers and the administrative duties fell to the wayside. Regardless of the cause, the damage is done and a plan must be created to move forward.

NO BUSINESS GROWTH

Has your growth stalled because you are stuck working on all of the administrative business rather than income producing activities?

In order for your business to grow, you must find a way to spend the majority of your day on income producing activities, while balancing your administrative tasks. When in doubt, delegate!

OVERFLOWING EMAIL INBOX

Feeling overwhelmed by your email inbox?

Is your email inbox inefficient? Prioritizing and responding to email is an important part of running your small business. However, many small business owners struggle to balance responding to emails, and working directly with customers.

TOO MUCH TIME MARKETING THE BUSINESS

I know, this sounds like an oxymoron, how could you possibly be spending too much time marketing your business?

You’re right.  You do need to market your business in order to get clients, it’s a fact of small business.  However, without a plan you can waste countless hours on social media, creating/proofing ads and throwing a bunch of quickly produced, non-brand representing flyers into the wind hoping for something to catch.

NO WORK LIFE BALANCE

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Feeling burnt out?

When your business is your passion, it’s often difficult to create the separation of work and home.  There’s always work to be done and it’s easy to fall into the vicious cycle of working 24/7.  In order for you to be effective and your business to flourish, it’s important to dedicate time for you that is spent on non-work activities.

BILLS ARE LATE ARE LATE OR NOT GETTING PAID AT ALL

Proper bookkeeping is an essential part of all business and it’s important to set up an Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable so that you can keep track of your small business finances.

How did your business measure up?  Is now  the right time to partner with a Virtual Assistant so that you can redirect your focus and attention on income-producing activities?

SYSTEMS SAVE SMALL BUSINESSES

Small Business

While sitting here preparing my mountain of receipts for tax time, I realized that I was not taking my advice and using a system to streamline this process. I needed to develop a way moving forward that would save me time, and with that it would save me money, not to mention my sanity, when preparing my taxes.

I have systems in place for almost everything in my business which helps me maximize my time and minimize my effort. Systems, I think, at least, are a HUGE must do in businesses of any size but especially for the Entrepreneur. We all have systems we follow on a daily basis in our personal lives. These systems allow us to make the most of our morning and get us to your desk on time. Some of us lay out clothes the night before, set the coffee maker to brew automatically (you know that life blood you can’t go without) or leave at the same time each day to beat the traffic. This system you have created is to make life easier. Why not have systems for your business as well?

Here are a couple of systems you should implement or modify to help you and your business.

  1.  ONLINE CALENDAR

Utilize a reliable online calendar that syncs with your phone, computer, iPad, and whatever other electronic devices you may have. If you have trouble keeping up with your appointments, then schedule everything into your calendar with reminders. Put your to-do list in your calendar and use it to hold you accountable. Remember if you need to leave the office for a meeting be sure to account for your travel time so you are not late. If keeping up with appointments and being where you need to be is a challenge, consider hiring someone to manage your calendar for you.

2.   ONLINE STORAGE

Use a program like Box, DropBox or Google Drive to store all your documents so you can access them anywhere. Keep it organized in a manner that works for you. Set up a filing system online so you can quickly find what you need and not waste time searching through folder after folder or worse get somewhere only to realize you left your paper file at the office or home. Keep your system simple. If you will be hiring staff or staff uses your filing system be sure that they know how to keep it organized in a way that works for you. Procedure manuals are great for keeping this information in and all businesses, small or large, should have one (that is a blog post for another day).

3.     ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE

Accounting is a huge pain point for a lot of businesses, including my own. Really who likes doing all that nit-picky paperwork every month (unless you are an accountant of course or numbers are your thing). Noooo, thank you. However, it is a necessary evil, or as we all know businesses die, and or the tax man gets very cranky. Utilize an accounting software that streamlines the process for you and keeps it manageable. Work with an accountant that supports the way you do your business and can suggest ways to make it easier to track your income and expenses. Perhaps even outsource your monthly accounting, if your budget allows, so you have only minimal involvement. As Entrepreneurs accounting can eat up a huge chunk of our time, the easier and more intuitive we can make the system the better. When all else fails, outsource to someone who loves accounting and will take great care of your business and you.

While this list is small and obviously not all-encompassing the key to remember is to keep it simple, automate, automate, automate, and delegate where you can. Be sure to document your systems once you find a series of steps that work for you and your business so that others may follow them. Be open to suggestions and try new things. You never know when someone might make a small tweak and all of a sudden bang! All the pieces fall into place, and now you not only have time on your hands but a proven winning system.

If you find yourself in a place where you don’t know where to begin please feel free to contact me for a free 15-minute consultation. Let me help to simplify the process.