Monday, December 28, 2009

5 Steps to Create a Successful Marketing Plan

Dr. Maya Bailey

RISMEDIA, December 18, 2009—As a Master Business Coach, I often hear from my clients the following story: “I feel stuck in my business. I really love to help people, I am excellent in negotiations and contracts, but I really hate prospecting. I just can’t seem to bring myself to pick up the phone.”

How often have you had those feelings, or have known of someone else who does? The thought of marketing makes most people clench their teeth, tighten their stomach and engage in marketing avoidance behavior that sends their business down the drain.
My clients tell me: “If only I could learn to market myself, I would love my business. I would be making a fortune.”

If you have these feelings, you’re not alone. There are specific reasons, including the following, why people avoid marketing:

1. “I don’t want to bother people.” How many times have you said it yourself before you picked up the phone? The fear of bothering people is huge. In the same breath, most business people tell me that, “I hate it when a telemarketer calls me at home and I don’t want to do the same thing to other people.”

2. “I don’t like tooting my own horn.” So many of us have been taught, especially women, that it’s not good to promote yourself. This is especially difficult for women who have come from a background other than sales before they started their own business. Often times they were employed in a company and marketing was never a part of their job.

3. “I don’t want to be rejected.” Some people are so terrified of being rejected or disapproved of, that they will even avoid calling their former clients. I have written previously in other articles about the phenomena of having a sphere of influence, which is your “goldmine,” but being afraid to “mine it.”

Fortunately, there are solutions for creating a successful marketing plan. Here are 5 easy ways to transform “marketing” into a pleasurable and profitable experience.

1. Think of giving- Whenever you think of marketing yourself, think about the fact that you are actually “offering” a valuable service. We get back what we give out. If you think of giving out a valuable service, and you focus on what you have to give, you will radiate a powerful force of positive energy which you will attract back to yourself in terms of clients and sales. The “secret” is to focus on being “the giver.”

2. Know your unique selling points- Most of the time when I coach my entrepreneur clients, they hugely underestimate what makes them unique. When I ask them, “Why should I work with you instead of someone else?” They honestly don’t know. Here’s the “secret”: make a list of the compliments you have received from former clients. Did they tell you that you were friendly, easy to get along with, very knowledgeable, extremely dependable, or great with follow-up?

As you make the list and think about it, you will start to become aware that what you have to offer as a business person is yourself.

You are unique. There is no one else like you. The more you like yourself and approve of yourself, the more you will radiate out a positive energy of self-love, gratitude, and appreciation. These energies are the highest energies that you could send out. They are guaranteed to magnetize back to you the ideal clients that you want.

Read the rest of the marketing tips here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Ultimate Home Business Resource List

I've been getting quite a few phone calls and emails from friends who are thinking of starting new year with a business of their own. Although I might not have all of the answers, I try my best to be a valuable resource to them. Thats why I was quite excited when I came across "The Ultimate Home Business Resource List" in a recent Start-up Nation article.

I found these resources to be extremely beneficial. I hope you will too.

______________________________


When it comes to the US economy, there’s one vital sector that hits very close to home: home businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, 53 percent of businesses in the United States are based from home, and this number is expected to increase.

In recognition of their importance, we set out to create a Home Business Resource List that would serve the needs of entrepreneurs setting up shop from home. We asked experts, talked to home business owners and scoured the Internet, and this is what we found.

1. Government Resources
2. Marketing Solutions
3. Outsourcing
4. Technology
5. Accounting/Finance Software
6. Legal Assistance
7. Inventions
8. Setting up Your Home Office

Explore all the details here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Social Networking: Must or Time-Drain?

For most people, the answer might be both.

As a small business owner, you probably read about the importance of social media networking in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You might even have a Facebook Fan Page for your business.

All these networks are wonderful to generate more contacts, to gain more visibility for your business and expand your contacts. However, many small business owners also realize that once they have all their profiles set up, participating becomes an incredible time-draining activity with no specific or direct or measurable benefit for their business.

Here are THREE key points to help you make the most out of this important social marketing activity. Make sure you:


Plan it! As with any marketing activity you perform for your business, make a plan that includes not only objectives but also an action plan. Set specific goals to ensure your social networking happens for a reason and will help you get more leads and/or clients.

Schedule it! Allocate time for your social networking activity. You don't need to be available all the time. If you participate you must realize social media implies a two-way communications channel. You will have to respond and be active, but organizing this will ensure you make the most out of your time on these social networking sites.

Automatize it! There are many great online tools to systematize several parts of your social networking communications. Familiarize yourself with the tools available and implement the necessary ones to make your time on these networks a productive one. Better yet--hand this task over to your Virtual Assistant!

Written by:Owner of The Bilingual VA, Victoria Miles for Virtual Assistant Networking.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Three Tips for Effective Time Management for Professionals

Is time management one of your biggest challenges? You are certainly not alone if that is the case. Many small business owners and other professionals are always looking for ways to make better use of their time. If finding a way to implement strategies for effective time management is something that appeals to you, you may find the tips and ideas presented here to be beneficial. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same time management problems. Look for tips that can have a positive impact on your own personal time management challenges.

3 Time Management Tips for Professionals
1. Get Organized – If you are disorganized, you’ll end up spending a lot of time each day looking for things, which is a complete waste of your time. Instead of wasting time searching for items, set aside a chunk of time to get organized and include time in each week’s to-do list to spend time getting re-organized. When you get in the habit of doing this, everything in your office will be in it’s proper place so you won’t find yourself wasting time searching for items that aren’t where they should be.

2. Reduce Socializing at Work – If people tend to stop by your office regularly to socialize, and you find yourself getting embroiled in lengthy conversations that keep you from taking care of your work responsibilities, you have a time management challenge caused by too much socializing. Consider rearranging your workspace so that it’s difficult for people to camp out in your workspace for long periods of time. Try placing the visitor’s chairs in your office so they aren’t right by the entrance to your office, or place stacks of books or files in the chairs. You may also want to get into the habit of standing up when people enter your office. This can be a signal to them to keep the conversation short and sweet.

3. Plan Your Work Wisely – When coming up with a plan for getting your work completed, think about what times of day or days of the week seem to work best for certain tasks. If you experience a drop in energy during the afternoon, schedule tasks that you consider mundane – such as filing or updating your computerized contact directory – for that time of day. If you are at your most energetic during the morning hours, use that time to contact prospective clients and to work on those parts of your job that require maximum creativity and energy. If the phone seems to ring endlessly on Friday afternoons, make sure that you’ve taken care of all of your deadline work for the week before then.

Article taken from the Small Business Channel at American Banking News - October 11

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Business Marketing Tips

As interviewed: John Jantsch, Founder, Duct Tape Marketing for Score.org

What are some starting points for crafting an effective
marketing strategy?


1. Talk to your customers. They have a better sense of what makes you unique—the things that generate loyalty and referrals. Ask them what you do that they like, and you may be surprised by the responses. It may well be the little things that set you apart.

2. Build a network of strategic partners. Surround yourself with best-of-class providers of products and services that customers need. Recommend them to your customers and they’ll do the same for you. During the recession, organizations that delivered these kinds
of referrals didn’t suffer much.

What are some helpful metrics a small business should consider for gauging the effectiveness of a marketing strategy?

Setting goals for revenue and profit are obvious choices. But also consider percentage of business from referrals, and satisfaction factors that your customers say make the difference for them.
Again, you’ll likely uncover qualities about your business that you’d never thought of.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Take Your Dream From Concept to Company

Every aspiring entrepreneur maintains a vision of what professional success looks and feels like for them. However, as tangible as it may be in mind, transforming that concept into reality presents challenges. “Essentially a vision is long term, or a fast-forward look at where you want to be,” says Dee Marshall, life coach and founder of Raise The Bar, a Newark, New Jersey-based coaching and consulting practice. “In order to make the vision a reality you have to begin with organizing your thoughts,” Marshall says. She recommends utilizing a vision board—images, pictures and affirmations of your dreams and desires compiled in a central location such as on a poster board or in a book—to help organize your thoughts into a visual concept. With pictures, words, and even actual objects, goals such as those you may have you’re your business can be literally brought to life. But what do you do after you’ve created the vision board and are ready to put action towards those aspirations?

Here, Marshall offers six ways to get your business off the ground: Put it on paper. Create a one page outline that includes a mission statement, vision statement and objectives. “If you can’t come up with a one-pager, then it could be an indication you are not ready for entrepreneurship,” warns Marshall. But even that shouldn’t deter you, because it is common to have difficulty writing down objectives and goals initially. It can also be a driving force when obtaining goals becomes challenging.

Apply SMART guidelines.

Specific: Vagueness leaves room for error. Being as precise as possible limits the chances of confusion in implementing your goals and objectives.

Measurable: Pursue goals that will offer you the ability to, at any point in the process, evaluate your effectiveness in actualizing them successfully.

Action-oriented: Shape your objectives around actions that will bring you closer to fulfilling your vision.

Results driven: Goals and objectives you focus on should provide concrete tangible outcomes.

Time bound: Attach and stick to a realistic deadline.

Read the Entire Article

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Time to Reclaim Time (and the Confidence of Your Clients and Customers)

Flying by the seat of your pants is no way to run a business. Playing fast and loose robs you of flexibility. It creates havoc, and instills disorganization and unprofitability in your business. You might kid yourself into thinking your lack of structure is not evident from the outside, but I guarantee you, clients, colleagues and others you work with recognize it loud and clear via untimely follow-up, missed deadlines and poor communication.

The more intentioned and methodic you are with your processes, the more freedom, flexibility and organization you give yourself and your business. One of the very best ways to reclaim ownership of your time also uses one of the simplest tools available--your calendar! Following the steps below will help put you on the path to gaining control over your time and workload, and maintaining the confidence of those who choose to work with you.

1. Holidays, Vacations and Other Days Off. First, enter all holidays, known vacations and any other days you intend to be closed. If you take two or more days off for certain major holidays, be sure and mark those "closed" on your calendar as well. At the beginning of each month, schedule a reminder to give clients and others a courtesy notice of your planned days of unavailability.

2. Dedicated Days. Do you have a dedicated day of the week for something in particular? For example, Mondays are my administration days. I don't conduct any client business and am "closed" to them on that day each week. Some people like to take Fridays off in their business to attend networking or training functions or just have a plain old "mental space" day to keep their creative juices flowing. Whatever the case, be sure and enter those dedicated days on your calendar.

3. Regular Meetings & Tasks. Do you have regularly scheduled meetings or tasks you perform each week or month? Get those on the calendar. (TIP: Uninterrupted work time is necessary for critical thought and concentration; avoid taking calls or scheduling meetings during your main project schedule. You might consider devoting one day of the week or only certain hours of the day for meetings and phone calls).

4. Routines. What are your routines? Do you tend to use the first part of the morning for getting in gear, taking care of loose ends and checking emails? Then schedule it! For example, I block out every morning until 11am for just such purposes and never schedule meetings before then.

5. To Dos and Deadlines. Setting aside time on your calendar for errands and other to-dos will help get them accomplished. Likewise, if you have important deadlines you mustn't forget, enter those dates as notes. (TIP: Add the actual deadline date on your calendar, and set the auto-reminder to alert you several days or a week in advance to give yourself plenty of breathing room.)

6. Break and Lunches. Taking breaks and lunches is good for you and your business (no one is served by you being tired, hungry or stressed out). If you're one of those folks who has to be reminded to tear yourself away from your work to take care of yourself, add these to your calendar as well.

The time you are left with is your available project/work schedule. You can be as meticulous or free-flowing with this time as best fits your work style. If you have a mix of clients and odds and ends work of varying degrees of complexity, you might not feel the need to schedule every little thing, and instead prefer to just get things done one after the other during those open blocks of work time.

If you have a few larger projects that require a bit more planning and coordination, you might see fit to schedule dedicated hours for each project to better manage them. Either way, the system above will give you the structure and foundation in order to better manage your business and workload. You'll get more done, be more organized, and those who work with you will recognize (and appreciate) the huge difference it makes.

Author: Danielle Keister is a business advisor and innovator in the Virtual Assistance profession.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Facebook 101

This week, I attended Facebook 101 for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners, facilitated by Terri Holley of Creative Blog Solutions. The class was extremely informative. Although I am a Facebook user for both business and personal purposed, the workshop gave me excellent "nuggets" of information that will enable me to enhance my experience.

For example, did you know that you can customize a page on your Facebook site so that its more brand focused? The benefit of this would be so that people who are not your friends will land on it and get an idea of you and your brand.

We also learned about ways to make all of our social media avenues come together. As always Terri laid things out in an easy to understand manner. It was alot of information, but I did not feel overwhelmed by it. I would highly suggest it to anyone looking to learn the world of or enhance your current experience with FACEBOOK.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

'Virtual Assistants' in Higher Demand

Down Economy and Need to Cut Costs Have Employers Turning to Telecommuters
By Emma L. Carew
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Michael Hanik used to have 12 employees, a warehouse and trucks to run his medical devices catalogue company. But four years ago, he turned to the Internet to look for ways to reduce overhead costs for his Rockville-based Total Medical Systems. He now has just three employees on the company payroll but as many as 50 contractors working for him, some of them known as "virtual assistants."

The term, around since the Internet became widely available, encompasses anyone who telecommutes and does administrative tasks for other businesses, usually on a contractual basis. Most do tasks such as document preparation, paperwork and accounting. Some have niche areas, such as bilingual translation or creative services.

In the current economy, Jane Weizmann, a senior consultant at Arlington-based human resources consultant Watson Wyatt, said she's seeing more businesses with a "part-time cadre or network of people" who telecommute and bring different skill sets to projects as needed. "It's a lot less expensive than having resources on staff, sitting on the bench and waiting," she said.

Virtual assistants allow companies to save on real estate and equipment, as well as on benefits, which can add 35 percent to a base salary, Weizmann said. She cautioned, however, against businesses relying entirely on outsourced work and contractors. The high levels of turnover can create an unstable workforce. "You can supplement your core capability, but you can't replace it completely with 100 percent outsourced work," she said.

The numbers are difficult to track, because there is no formal certification and not all people doing similar work call themselves virtual assistants, but one small trade group, the International Virtual Assistants Association, said its number of new members doubled from 2007 to 2008. To date this year, IVAA has added 160 new members, bringing membership to about 900. With no warehouse space to rent, no salaries or health benefits to pay, and no supply cabinets to keep stocked, Hanik estimates he's decreased his business costs by 65 percent through outsourcing and using virtual assistants. "It's a tremendous revolution," he said.

IVAA officials say the number of virtual assistants is increasing as companies lay off their administrative and executive assistants. Plus, the barrier to entry is low, because most people already own the equipment they need, such as computers, printers, fax machines and Internet access. "You meet people at the conferences who say, 'Oh, after I was laid off four times, I decided to become a virtual assistant,' " said Lauren Hidden, marketing director for IVAA. "They get tired of the insecurity of being an employee." Even though the real estate agency that Pharice Brown used to work for laid her off, it still needed someone to complete her old tasks. That started her career as a virtual assistant and president of Bladensburg-based Pharice Brown and Associates. "Even though the Realtor wasn't able to pay me the salary, he actually helped me get my start," she said. She said many of their customers are small, independently owned businesses that found her online or through recommendations. Brown now makes less than half her former $50,000-per-year salary and has cut back on spending so she can afford paper, printer ink and software. She has been without health insurance for nearly a year. "I carried my own insurance until I just couldn't afford it anymore," she said. Brown said she loves the flexibility of the work and being her own boss, but money is tight, and when there are bills to be paid, she'll occasionally work below her normal fees just to get paid.

Rosa Pichardo, who runs a virtual assistant business in Silver Spring, said part of her success through the recession has been her niche: working with Spanish-speaking business owners, largely translating documents. Pichardo, who was a travel agent in her native Dominican Republic, said that when she started up Rossie's Enterprises in 2004, it was hard to find customers. But now the business has grown to include Pichardo, her son and another employee.

Starting your own business can be difficult, IVAA officials caution. "Some people join and never really get off the ground," Hidden said. Salaries can vary based on qualifications, what people charge and how frequently they work. Hourly wages may range from $20 to $75. Brown said she has coped by starting other businesses. Right now, demand for her interior design firm is low because people are not redecorating their homes, but the demand for the résumé-writing services of her virtual assistant business has increased. Catalogue-company owner Hanik found Kim Lazernik, a former computer software tester, on Craigslist. When Lazernik was laid off in 2007, she formed Silver Spring-based Virtual Computer Services and put her skills to work on projects for small businesses, such as photo scanning and data entry. Lazernik has definitely taken a pay cut since starting her own firm. (Her old job paid more than $100,000 a year.) She now works about 20 hours per week, charging $35 to $40 per hour. But, she says her expenses for the business balance out with the money she saves on commuting and career clothing. Like Brown, she currently does not make enough to be saving for retirement. "I love what I do. I wake up happy every morning," she said, but added, "I'm thankful for the years I had a 401(k)." At 49 years old, Lazernik said the career change is permanent. "There's no reason for me to stop doing this."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Announcement

Tamika Johnson, MBA, of administrative partners, llc has been invited to join the faculty of the Art Institute of Washington as a part-time Professor. She will be teaching a required course entitled "The Business of Graphic Design".

The course will teach students how to present themselves in a professional manner when seeking job opportunities. It will also cover responding to requests for proposals and writing a business plan among other things.

Tamika is very excited to return to her alma mater to participate in the learning and development of new graphic designers.

Monday, July 6, 2009

No Interst Loan for Business Owners

SBA ARC Recovery Loan...

About the SBA Arc Loan

  • The loans are specifically set aside for business debt consolidation (up to $35,000). Pay off existing business debt and have no payments for 12 months!
  • No FICO score requirement.
  • Lenders are motivated to approve the loans because of the 100% government guarantee (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).
  • Eliminate high interest credit card payments.
Click here for more information and to apply.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

2009 Women Entrepreneurs' Expo, "Ride On, Ride On!

A wonderful conference to attend if you are in the MD/DC/VA area is the 2009 Women Entrepreneurs' Expo in Springfield, VA.

See the details below - and note the early bird specials.


Early Bird Registration for the fabulous 2009 Women Entrepreneurs' Expo "Ride On, Ride On!" is now open! This incredible event, in its ninth year, will be held Friday, October 23, 2009 at the Waterford in Springfield. Act before August 7, and the entire day packed with events and opportunities for you to grow your business is just $75, a savings of $20 over the regular price. Limited $20 scholarships are also available, and exhibitor spaces have early bird pricing as well!

This year, we have made room for 75 vendor tables, and a powerful agenda with eleven workshops and networking sessions, including a facilitated speed networking event so you can meet many of the powerful women (and a bunch of good men) who will be in attendance! This is an event that must not be missed. Many have described it as "THE BEST event for entrepreneurs" in the Washington area!

We are thrilled that Kristina Bouweiri, President and CEO of Reston Limousine will be our keynote luncheon speaker, to share the story of how she turned a one limo company into a 130 fleet miracle which annually makes over $100,000 in donations to local charities and non-profits. Visit our website for more details or if you're ready to take advantage of the early bird rates, click here to register online!

See you at the Expo!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Identifying Your Target Market

Identifying your target market is the most important thing you can do for your business. You have to understand who your customers are and where to find them in order to be successful.

The first step in identifying your target market is to understand what your products/services have to offer to a group of people or businesses. To do this, identify your product or service's features and benefits. A feature is a characteristic of a product/service that automatically comes with it.

Here’s an example, if toothpaste has a stain-removing formula - that's a feature. The benefit to the customer, however, is whiter teeth.

While features are valuable and can certainly enhance your product, benefits motivate people to buy.

An example is anti-lock brakes; they are features on a car, but the benefit to the consumer is safety.

By knowing what your product/service has to offer and what will make customers buy, you can begin to identify common characteristics of your potential market.

For example, there are many different consumers who desire safety as a benefit when purchasing a car. Rather than targeting everyone in their promotional strategy, a car manufacturer may opt to target a specific group of consumers with similar characteristics, such as families with young children.

Now is the time to renew your customer database and determine who your target audience is. The next step is segmentation or breaking down that market so that you can very specific as to whom the solution is provided.

Parts taken from an article by the Edward Lowe Foundation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Day Without My Sunshine (My Blackberry)

I hear many successful business owners state that they will never get a blackberry or any other PDA, because they don't want to be THAT accessible ALL the time. While I get that, I think of my PDA as my friend that keeps me in the loop with just one glance. Since I manage other peoples' businesses/business operations, I have multiple email boxes including my own and just one look at my Blackberry keeps me in the loop with everyone.

Well today, was the day the Blackberry was not with me - well it was, but AT&T had inadvertently deactivated my SIM card and cannot transfer the data until I go into the store AGAIN *I was just there yesterday*. So I had an inactive PDA all day - very annoying.

BUT, I survived even though I felt like a piece of me was missing. This experience really helped me to practice what I preach regarding productivity - checking email at an appointed time and not all day, and batching. This happened by necessity and not by choice. But the experience taught me that I can, in fact, survive a day without my blackberry and leads me to think...

Blackberry and other PDAs....
Do they really assist with efficiency or are they just cool distractions?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Systems...

Over the past couple of weeks I have been getting lots of training on developing systems to get things done within a business. From a recent Online Business Managers Meeting, we discussed 10 Systems that will further help our clients achieve greater success.Of these, there were two that really stood out to me as truly areas for development for most business owners with whom I work.

1. Marketing system. May times businesses stop marketing when they have consistent clients - failing to build a pipeline for future growth and opportunities. This could include a consistent schedule for newsletter distribution, blogging, social media or regular contact with clients.

2. Phone calls and email management - Do you have general systems in place to deal with certain requests (i.e. if someone emails you or calls regarding pricing or information about a product or services)?

The benefits of systems is invaluable. It not only keeps the business owner consistent in dealing with clients and prospects, but it also allows him/her to delegate with a greater level of ease. Having systems even allows the business owner to be able to take vacations or deal with family emergencies knowing that standard operating procedures are in place. Now doesn't that sound like a process worth investing in?

Monday, May 18, 2009

What are Autoresponders and How Can They Help Your Business.

I have received inquiries from potential clients about Autoresponders and how they can expect this to be beneficial to their business. I've come across an article that really explains it and its benefits.

What is an Autoresponder? By Michael Cheney
Lots of people talk about autoresponders and how you can use them to grow your business online. But what actually is an autoresponder? Quite simply, it’s a piece of software that enables you to send emails to people automatically. This doesn’t mean that it writes the emails for you and it doesn’t involve spam or sending unsolicited email. What it means is that you set up a sequence of prewritten emails that are sent out to prospects on your database at regular intervals.

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Time and time again internet marketing gurus tell you that the money is in the list. This is not by accident. The online marketing specialists know that this is fact. The more people you have on a mailing list that are interested in your products or services, the more sales you will make.

You can use an autoresponder to essentially send emails out to your prospect list, even when you’re not at a computer. What you do is you create, lets say, a seven part email course. Then you can set the intervals for the emails to, say, once a day and send them one part of the course each day. So you write the emails one time and then anyone joining that list will automatically be sent those emails for the next seven days.

This doesn’t matter if you’re online or if you’re away from the computer. They will get sent automatically. They also get added to the list automatically. And if they choose to unsubscribe, all of that is taken care of without you having to lift a finger.

The main benefit to using an autoresponder is connected to the fact that the majority of people need to be told about a product seven times before they buy it. So I want to ask you, how many times are you telling your visitors about your product? Chances are it’s less than seven.
They’ll land on your homepage or somewhere else on your website and they’ll look at your offering, but the majority of your sites visitors will disappear. So unless you can get them onto an opt-in mailing list, either a course or free information that is of multi-part format, the chances are you will have lost them forever. You can use an autoresponder to send these messages out to people with their permission convincing them and educating them about your product.

This is simply a form of permission marketing. People will give you their permission to receive emails in return for you giving them free, quality information. Do not load the messages with over-hyped sales pitches, but give them real quality information with a small mention about your product at the end.

What you’ll find is that people come to know you and grow to trust you over time as you send them more and more information. The longer you can maintain this relationship with them, the more likely they are to actually buy from you. The beauty of this is that using an autoresponder saves you the costs of printing, posting and packaging and enables you to contact and keep in touch with all your prospects around the clock without actually having to do anything.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Variety of Services Starting This Month

administrative partners, llc has enhanced their services to better meet the needs of small business owners. Please refer to the list attached for new services we are offering starting this month.

Project Management
Do you have multiple incomplete projects- just waiting for your attention? To distracted to see a project through to the end? Having a designated owner of your projects and task makes all the difference. A project manager manages resources, time, money and scope of projects. administrative partners, llc keeps your projects moving while you focus your time and energy on thing that only they can do.

This service includes:
-o- Responsible for a projects from start to finish
-o- Leads teams in negotiating multiple relationships within any project
-o- Functions as the “hub” of the project
-o- Maintain a healthy client relationship throughout project
-o- People Management: Find, Hire and Manage Virtual Teams

Administrative/Productivity Consulting
Work more efficiently. Revaluate methods that are not working so that you can continue to grow your business.

This service includes:
-o- Productivity analysis
-o- Recommendations for productivity
-o- Streamline and simplify systems and processes
-o- Maintain accurate reports of the business metrics – helps business owners make informed decisions about their business
-o- Implementing and managing new revenue streams

Getting Started Package*
(6 month trajectory)

The Getting Started Package assists small business owners in realizing their vision of owning their own business. The package coordinates the start up activities that need to occur. These services include:
-o- Registration of Company Name
-o- Research and secure domain name registration
-o- Business Plan Consulting
-o- Marketing Strategy
-o- Pricing Strategy
-o- Logo Design
-o- Business Card Design
-o- Letterhead Design
-o- Website design
-o- Marketing brochure

Next Level Business Package
(6 month trajectory)

The Growing Your Business Package is designed for the business owner who has been in business for a while and who is looking to streamline their business.
-o- Includes our Productivity Consulting service (3 months)
-o- SEO Management
-o- SEO Reports and Analysis
-o- Website Optimization
-o- Link Building Website Promotion
-o- Virtual Assistant services (10hrs/mo)
-o- Internet Marketing
-o- Upload a Video
-o- Set-up and maintain social networking profiles
-o- Website maintenance
-o- Autoresponders
-o- 1Shopping Cart set up
-o- Newsletter template design (print or online)

Specialized Services

-o- Order entry
-o- Order tracking and follow up
-o- Marketing campaigns
-o- Billing and invoicing
-o- Manage Company Store capabilities


Transaction Coordination
-o- Keeping tasks on schedule
-o- Tracking contingencies
-o- Listing Presentations
-o- Buyer Consultations
-o- Manage Drip Campaigns
-o- Design and mailing of postcards
-o- Management of farming areas
-o- Website updates
-o- Special Projects as needed

Venting...Residual Income

Lately, I've been going to networking events, meeting great business people/entrepreneurs and I enjoy doing this. Unfortunately, there has been an aspect that has increasing began to get under my skin. That is, business persons who are trying to recruit others to sell their products/services so that they can gain residual income.

Now don't get my wrong - I am sure there are people out there looking for ways to generate additional streams of income, I'm just not one of them. And more importantly, can I take a moment to learn about your actual product/service and what it provides before I'm bombarded with invitations to sales meetings.

You see, selling your product is what YOU do, not what "I" do. I might want to use the product/service, but being pushy and trying to help me understand why I should take on an additional business is not very appealing to me. Actually it totally turns me off to the point where I don't even want to learn about your product/service anymore.

I'll have more substance with my next post, but I just had to get that out.

tj

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

George Fraser - An Awesome Speaker

This Sunday, I had the pleasure of seeing George Fraser of Frasernet at a local Sisters 4 Sisters Network event hosted by Bowie State University.

I think the best way to put it was that Mr. Fraser was electrifying. As he mentioned, everything he shared with the audience wasn't new, but just said a different way.

Here are some of the quotes that I found empowering.

"Leaders understand the importance of time."

"Leaders know who they are."

"You don't have time to be unhappy and mediocre."

"Greatest hindrance of potential is success."


The most important part of what Mr. Frasier does is stress the importance of networking. He shared with us the 3 types of networking - all of which are important to success.
  1. Personal (friends, familiy, people at home)
  2. Operational (network at work that help get things done in your life)
  3. Strategic Network (These are people who are where you want to be)
Finally he left us with a great quote by John Henry Clark "What people do for themselves is based on what they think about themselves."

To find out more about George Fraser and his exceptional Power Networking Conference visit his site at http://www.frasernet.com/.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Business Card Tips

I ran across this great article about business cards and what to put on them. This search was prompted by a discussion over at the Virtual Assistant Forums about what title to put on your business card. Many struggle with this aspect of marketing - especially small business owners. Hopefully you will find this helpful.

Business Card Tips
Networking is an invaluable opportunity, and one that should not be wasted. In order to maximize networking, it is strongly suggested that all business professionals carry business cards. The business cards can be exchanged during introductions, both as a convenience and as a memory aid. In other words, business cards allow networkers to further the relationship through future contact.

Business cards may include one or more aspects of striking visual design, but should also contain important contact information. Use this guide to make the most of your business cards:

1. What to IncludeAll of this information should be included on a professional business card:
Name - This does not have to be your given name, but should be what you expect people in business to refer to you as.
Position - This is really optional; many small business owners find themselves wearing many hats, and may find it beneficial and/or less confusing to leave their official title off the cards.
Address - Physical office location and/or mailing address.
Website - Adding a website address to business cards is now very common and expected.
Email - Email is also now a very common and popular communication channel.
Phone - Include your business phone number.
Instant Messaging/ICQ Address - Internet chat address.

2. Double Sided CardsIf your company is global, or your sales territory focus is in a region where your spoken language is not the predominant language, you might wish to consider using the backside of your business card to include your information in an alternate language. You can also use the back of the card to provide more extensive information and details about your products and services. Or, if you do a lot of local business, you might want to include a small street map to your office on the back of your card. There are lots of things you might be able to do with all that blank space on the back of your cards.

3. Conversation Starters- Savvy sales people often use their business cards as a conversation starter. Of course, the card needs to be unique or unusual in order to generate a dialogue. Some of the more interesting cards I've seen recently were printed on micro-CDs, on magnets, on translucent plastic, etc.

4. Standard Size - Even if you are aiming for something unique, you should still not diverge from the "standard" business card size. For managing their contacts, many people will create a business card rolodex, or may have a hand scanner specifically sized for business cards. So stick with the standard size -- otherwise you may be excluded from their contact databases simply because your card didn't fit!

5. Order Quantity- Quantity discounts apply to business cards. When pricing printed business cards, check to see where the price breaks occur; sometimes you can significantly increase the quantity of business cards for very little additional cost.

6. Quality Matters - Flimsy cards that are paper thin, and cards with ragged perforated edges, just scream "amateur". If you are going to print cards yourself, be sure to use heavy business card stock, and use stock that has "clean-edge" micro-perforations. And "glossy" finished stock can also help boost the quality perception of self-printed cards, especially if lots of color is used in the card design.

7. Brand Cards - Your business cards should be similar to all of your other printed promotional material. Business cards should contain your business or product logo. Double-check the colors with the printer to make sure the correct pantone colors are used. This will ensure that the logo is printed using the correct and matching color scheme.

8. Keep CurrentInformation contained on the business card should always be kept current. Business cards with obsolete information crossed out are very unprofessional. If any information on the card changes or becomes obsolete, have new cards printed to reflect the change, and throw the old ones away.

9. Change It Up - Textured business cards, or cards with scalloped edges, stand out. Consider a wide variety of ways to make your card jump out of the pack. The texture or color of the card can also be utilized to ensure your card stands out.

10. Legible - Use a legible font that makes the text on the business card easy to read. Avoid making the fonts too small. Use contrasting colors, and avoid using porous paper that will allow the ink to bleed and the text to blend into the card.

11. Spelling - There is little more embarrassing than business cards that contain typographical errors. Proofread the cards multiple times. Let me say that again -- proofread your business cards! And have other people proofread them too, as they will often be able to spot mistakes that you've overlooked.

Maximize the power of your business cards. Whether you are networking, or just being personable, business cards are a must in the professional world, and crucial to business marketing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

5 Must Have Business Books

(from Entrepreneur Magazine)

No single business book contains everything you need to know--and some even offer advice nobody ought to hear. But these five have withstood the test of time to become books no one should start or run a business without reading first.

  1. Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings... Before You Take the Leap, by Thomas K. McKnight
    (FT Press, $27.95)
    The heart of this book is its 44-item checklist for evaluating business ideas by a hugely experienced veteran of business launches. By the time you've evaluated everything from your personal attitudes to exit strategies, you'll know as well as possible your chances for success.
  2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber
    (HarperCollins, $16.95)
    This revisit of the 1995 classic on general small-business management famously shows entrepreneurs why and how to stop working in their businesses and start working on their businesses.
  3. Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits From Your Small Businesses, by Jay Conrad Levinson (Mariner Books, $14.95)
    Now in its fourth edition, the original guide to small-business marketing packs the same high-impact, low-cost punch that made it a standard when it first came out in 1983. Now, however, it's updated with tips on websites, blogs, podcasting and other up-to-the minute techniques.
  4. The Business Planning Guide, by David H. Bangs Jr.
    (Kaplan Business, $24.95)
    This book's jargon-free writing and inside tips from a former banker and entrepreneur have made it the first and only choice for countless entrepreneurs getting started.
  5. Start Run & Grow a Successful Small Business, by Toolkit Media Group editors
    (Toolkit Media Group, $24.95)
    If anyone ever publishes the perfect all-in-one small-business reference, it will look a lot like the sixth edition of this 720-pager. It touches on everything, from accounting to staffing, with checklists and forms.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Updating Business Plan

This first year of business has been outstanding for administrative partners. We've gained a book of diverse and dynamic clients and have cultivated and grown many strategic partnerships. Now its time revamp... just a little bit. This year has helped us understand our strengths, passions and we will continue to provide the same types of services, but on an even deeper level.

So... I have to update my business plan ALREADY.

I say this to say that many times you don't know where your business is going to end up. You may start with one vision, only to find that you can achieve much greater success than you first imagined. Along the way it is important to update your business plan. When you start a new path or level of service - update your business plan.

Your business plan is your pathway to success. Not to say that you can't deviate from it at all, but its primary goal is to keep you focuses on growing your business.

As we update, in some areas re-write the business plan for administrative partners, looked forward to a more in-depth level of service for our exisiting clients and an more valuable position in taking care of our new target markets.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trying to Decide What Email Marketing Service to Use?

This wonderful resource was shared with me by another virtual assistant.

With so many options out there, sometimes its hard to know which product would best meet the needs of your business. Attached is a link to an email marketing comparison chart. I found it helpful in just checking if I was using the right product for my business. I hope you will find it helpful as well.

http://email-marketing-service-review.toptenreviews.com/

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Networking Opportunity in Detroit....

Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo: where deals are made.

Black Enterprise • March, 2009 • All Access: Your Monthly Pass to B.E. Events, TV & Radio
MEET US IN THE MOTOR CITY! Further compounding on the success of over 13 years, the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo is back--taking place May 17th-20th, 2009 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance & COBO Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan. This event is definitively the nation's largest black business conference. Bring your best ideas, big and small, because you never know just who you might meet. Registration is now open! For more information go to www.blackenterprise.com/events.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Networking and Recognizing Those Making a Difference

Yesterday I was honored to attend one of my clients events - Pretty in Pinstripes - produced by A Jarrett Affairs & Productions, LLC. Judge Glenda Hatchett was the Keynote Speaker and brought such realness and fire to the luncheon.. adding to the title "A 2009 Power Luncheon". AND if you have not heard Kersten Stevens (an AMAZING VIOLINIST) you must look her up. Her music is indescribable.

It was a great experience to network and meet exceptional women in business and government. This was a most appropriate event during Women's History Month. We must continue to support each others effort in business, government, community and in any areas difference are being made.

Congratulations to the honorees.... They were truly exceptional women and I hope to be like them when I grow up.

For more information about the event you can visit www.prettyinpinstripes.com.

See you next year.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Managing During Times of Uncertainty

Last night, my wonderful photographers and friends at EyeWonder Photography invited me a business meeting for photographers. They though the topic was relevant to any business owner, and I couldn't agree more. The topic was Managing During Times of Uncertainty, the speaker was Asher Epstein, who is the Director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at University of Maryland, Smith School.

There was great information shared, but in the end the speaker wanted us to remember the "8 Takes", so I thought I'd share with others.

1. Cut fixed costs - allow for variables
2. Preserve cash
3. Change proposition - Focus on expertise, what differentiates you.
4. Focus on core servicers
5. Generate revenue from exisiting customers.
6. Be opportunistic.
7. Don't blame the macro economics for the micro economics
8. Don't assume that old patterns will return.

*** Be honest with trends that affect your business ****

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

As the Business Turns...

Is your business always evolving? When was the last time you looked at your business plan? Is it totally different now? Did you think you want to offer a specific service only to find out that it isn’t quite where you want to end up.

As business owners we may often find ourselves in that state of mind. This isn’t all bad because typically that innovative thinking and ability to create is what made us small business owners to begin with.

I believe I’m experiencing a metamorphosis of my business. Being an executive assistant is what I know, but acting more as productivity, efficiency consultant for my clients is what I enjoy more. Thinking about those years of basically running the operations for Vice Presidents for many years, I’m finding that the more in depth avenues of business is what I enjoy – perhaps that’s why I got a business degree – go figure. I enjoy helping them brainstorm for a new marketing tag lines, helping them put together a request for proposal, apply for government certifications and just basically anything that will improve the operations of their business, while they continue working on it.

Because of that I’m looking deeper into online business management services for my new, existing and future clients, who want to go beyond what they are doing but don’t have the time to give to doing to. I’m looking forward to sharing more about these plans in the next month or two.. in the meantime, I guess I had better update my business plan.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who Has the Time for Social Media?

I know I know, its all the rage. Business owners are finding clients using it and its quite effective. But seriously, who has time to update status all day. I'm really struggling with the idea that its worth my time. I know that any marketing avenue takes time and consistency before you can see any real results. But is my target market really online in social media outlets? Is that where I'm going to find them.

No offense to those who think twitter/facebook/linked in are fun, but I'm looking for people who are looking to concentrate on spending their time servicing their clients not updating on what they are doing, reading, thinking all day.

Most of my frustration might be due to the fact that I personally don't have time to truly explore the wonderfulness of these marketing avenues. But I just felt like venting today..

BTW, check me out on facebook/linked in/ and twitter (virtualbizmger)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Practicing What We Preach

As a Virtual Business Manager, my job is to assist business owners in growing their businesses by taking tasks off their plate that take time away from core activities of their business. Well recently I followed my own advice. I hired a virtual assistant to assist me with a small subset of my tasks related to my business, and I must say it is turning out to be one of the best decisions that I've made for my business. It has enabled me to concentrate on both marketing, networking (both social and otherwise) and servicing my existing clients. In a nutshell, I guess this is a testimonial that hiring and assistant is well worth the effort, even other virtual assistants do it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who’s Your Target?

As administrative partners, llc moves into another year of business, it is time to rethink some of the effectiveness of certain areas of business. The most glaring detail at this time would be profiling and duplicating our best client. Identifying what makes him so great. Is it his concise and clear communication? Or the fact that he truly uses us as partners day-to-day and not just a task here and there meaning he really "gets" the whole partnership part of our mission statement. Whatever the reason, we love him and want all of our clients to grow up to be just like him. The dilemma lies in the clients that we've taken on but are far from fitting that ideal profile. While I'm happy to say I really sincerely like all of our clients, I can't say that all of their work styles fit within the ideal client/Virtual Business Manager situation for administrative partners, llc. The question then becomes – are they trainable? Do we even want to train them? Of course in the economy no one wants to lose a paying customer, but is it worth the time and frustration that comes with working with someone outside of our target. What does a small business do?

We've decided to truly profile our clients going forward. We want to work with small business owners, who want to help themselves; one who understand that there is a need to delegate tasks that take time away from the core service of providing for their clients. They need to understand and appreciate that they can't do it by themselves; nor should they try. They will focus on what they are good at – running their business. They will not micromanage. They will trust our ability to succeed. They will be clear about expectations and provide constructive feedback where applicable.

I'm looking forward to signing on many more ideal clients this coming year. With the new range of services we are planning to offer this year, these clients should not be hard to find.





Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Meet administrative partners, llc's Newest Client

Doris E. McMillon is the President and Chief Strategist Officer for McMillon Communications, Inc., a full-service communications and marketing firm specializing in strategic positioning, branding and effective communications. Ms. McMillon has co-anchored and reported in prime-time news hour slots including tenure at Metromedia/Fox New York flagship station, WNTW-TV, where she went undercover as a welfare recipient for the hard-hitting, Emmy Award winning series, The Welfare Rip-off. For more information, please visit her website at www.mcmilloncommunications.com.

administrative partners, llc will be assisting McMillon Communications prepare for a request for proposal as well as all administrative tasks that will assist Ms. McMillon in growing her business.

We are happy to welcome Ms. McMillon into the administrative partner’s family.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Business Proposals

What should go into a business proposal?

There are some things that tend to be similar across business proposals. These are tendencies and not rules. The only time there are rules is when the customer issues a Request for Proposals (RFP). An RFP, if it has sufficient detail, will tell you what should go into your proposal and how it should be presented. Sometimes, the nature of a product or service being offered or industry practices provide some guidelines for proposal composition and/or layout.

A typical business proposal might include:

* An Executive Summary introducing your company, what you will do or provide to the customer, and how the customer will benefit from what you propose.
* A statement of work or technical approach describing what you will do or provide to the customer. An implementation schedule and description of deliverables is usually included. If products are being proposed, then product descriptions are usually provided (the amount of detail depends on the customer’s requirements).
* A management plan describing how you will organize and supervise any work to be performed. A schedule of major milestones and allocation of resources may be provided.
* Corporate qualifications that describe your capability to do or provide what you are proposing. Relevant prior experience is usually highlighted.
* A Staffing Plan that describes how the project will be staffed is sometimes on large service contracts. If particular people are important to the approach, their resumes are usually provided.
* Contracts and Pricing. If the proposal is being used to close a business deal, then business and contractual terms are usually provided.

Some RFPs will set a page limit on the proposal. Some don’t. Some RFPs will tell you the format/layout to use, and some won’t. Some RFPs will tell you what evaluation criteria and process the customer will follow. And some won’t. The customer sets the standards and defines the rules.

If your proposal is going to be submitted to a Government agency, then the composition and layout of the proposal may have regulatory requirements to comply with. In the case of the Federal Government, these are usually based on the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

(Taken from www.captureplanning.com)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fostering and Effective Relationship with Your Virtual Assistant

Celine Rogue wrote an article that I totally agree with called The Art of Delegating Tasks to a Virtual Assistant. This article laid out good information on how to work with a virtual assistant for the most effective working relationship.

A few simple/basic tips that might come in handy are:

B.0Be specific about your expectations. This will save both you and your virtual assistant time. She/He will not have to try and decipher what you mean by your instructions and then go back and forth via email or other medium for clarification. Expectations should address the timeframe of completion or check in as well as any information necessary that you might have in order to complete the task in a timely manner.

Partner for Growth.You will see the best result of your relationship if you partner for growth – not just a task here or there, but trust assistant to actually work with you on the nuances of administrative issues that will help you become more effective

Give it time to work. With every new relationship there are often growing pains. Work with an assistant for at least a few months to work through some of the growing pains. Many of those issues may be due to a lack of effective communication, which can be tweaked over time. Make sure to check in every other week or so, to determine how the relationship can be improved over time.

Sign up with an administrative partner today. Watch your business soar.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Managing Multiple Clients and Projects

Managing multiple projects for multiple clients can be a little daunting for new or even experienced solo and small business professionals. Without a system for keeping track of deadlines, client feedback, and team activity, you might quickly find yourself on the other end of an angry phone call with an unhappy client.

Here are three tips to help you work more effectively with multiple client projects:

Communicate More Efficiently
Clients are like everybody else, they get stressed and uncomfortable when they don’t hear from you. But they don’t want to hear from you just because of your charming wit and soothing voice, they want to know the status of their important projects!

A weekly status call or email might be sufficient when you have just a couple of low-key clients. However, when your client and project load increases, you could quickly find yourself spending precious hours on the phone just to provide status updates.

One easy solution is to keep task information online so that clients can login at their convenience (even at 3am) to find out the latest status of their tasks, and even more detailed information (optionally) like time tracking information or how much retainer time they have remaining.

Keep Files and Comments in One Place
Another simple way to keep things organized is to gently move your clients towards accessing files and giving feedback in a central location. Online project management software can help your clients easily upload or download project documents that you’re collaborating on, as well as make comments on a specific project or file without sending dozens of emails back and forth.

The key advantages of this approach is that your responses won’t get lost or misplaced - you’ll have a clear, coherent record of your project conversations. You’ll also be able to reference the latest version of your files in a consistent way.

This winds up saving lots of time that might otherwise be spent with a client providing feedback about the wrong version of a file, or missing your response to a query.

Track Deadlines Proactively
Even with the above measures in place, you still need to keep an eye on the dates you’ve committed to clients. At a minimum, you can adopt a simple system to prompt you about upcoming deadlines, and also to update clients if you are unable to meet those due dates.

One way of doing this is to keep a project or task calendar for each client that shows each upcoming deadline. You can refer to this calendar once a week or more frequently as needed to make sure you’re clear on client commitments. If you have a team, you can also add their commitments for more timely followup.

If you are using an online project management service like ClientSpot, you can also have the system remind you and your team of upcoming deadlines by email a couple of days before the fact. You can also monitor the status of tasks across all projects, clients and team members, or check just the work assigned to a specific person.

By staying on top of deadlines, you can also pro-actively notify your clients if things start to slip. Most clients will not only be understanding of an occasional delay, but will appreciate the early notice so that they can adjust. Not that you want to make a habit of missed deadlines, but at least by monitoring them carefully, you can still provide excellent customer service by informing clients early and giving them options to reschedule work.

These tips were written by Client Spot. No doubt they want you to use their service, but I think the overall message is the same. In order to provide a better more efficient process of tracking projects and keeping clients in the loop, there has to to be some type of system in place and an online project management tool, such as Client Spot or Basecamp can do wonders for your productivity.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Strategic Partnerships Can Help Grow Your Business

One of my business goals this year is to form strategic partnerships with other small businesses. I believe that the overall experience has the potential to be a win-win in every case -- thats waht makes them strategic.

Lynne Meredith Schreiber recently wrote an interesting article about such partnerships on Startup Nation on this subject; particularly how to form a productive partnership. He admonished business owners to "do [their] research and identify a handful of good companies that might make great partners; have a clear understanding of goals, make sure the corporate culture matches yours, then meet to talk about it."

In working with a start up business owner recently on a potential partnership, I realized that we did not have the same goals. Although this did not stop the partnership and we continued negotiations to make it a win/win situation for both us, it is important that the goals of the individual business are at least understood and respected before forming a partnership. If this cannot be worked out, perhaps that is not the best partnership for either party.