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.