Pick Up the Slack!

We’ve found a new favorite secret weapon. In the realm of communication, productivity, and downright fun, we’ve been using one of the best tools out there in the virtual business world. It isn’t often a magician shares their secrets, but since we exist to make your life easier, we’re not going to keep this gem under our hat. If you’re looking for an innovative, user-friendly (and free!) app to incorporate into your work-world and make life easier, this is it. Welcome to the world of Slack.

Email strings clog up your inbox, people reply before reading the entire thread (or before reading any of it, most likely), and it’s maddening to try to keep multiple conversations with multiple people organized and relevant through email. The basis of Slack is to keep your team connected, and weed out the fluff. My team email has cut down significantly and our communication, camaraderie and clarity regarding all things has increased.

You can create multiple “channels”, and people specific to that channel’s topic can be invited to the conversation. You can have 1:1 conversations with team members in private channels. You have control and influence on the focus of the group involved, and topic at hand by creating channels specific to each. Genius!

As is likely to happen in conversation, someone will say something critical and you’ll make a mental note to go back to it later, because you read it right as you were headed out the door to your important lunch meeting. When you return, you can’t remember who said it, or even what channel it was mentioned in. Cripes.

Slack has you covered! Rather than spending your time scrolling and re-reading, Slack has allowed all content to be searchable. If you remember someone mentioned a million-dollar-idea on selling Skor bars attached to the side of 20 ounce Dr. Pepper bottles (I’m not saying, I’m just saying…) do a search for “Skor” and voila! Every mention of it shows up in your side bar. Thank you Skor Slack!

Slack also throws a lot of encouragement your way. Every time you log in, it displays a little message to brighten your day. Or maybe it’s just for me, because I’m its favorite. Either way, I’m happy to use a program that cares about keeping my work streamlined, efficient, and it doesn’t hurt when it throws me a compliment or two. Even if I can customize it to whisper sweet nothings to me and read my own compliments. I’ll take it.

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Sometimes conversation isn’t enough, and requires a little more meat. Slack has thought of this, too. You can upload files: PDFs, images, documents, links. Need to show someone a proof before committing to purchasing an item in print? Slack the file to your team for review. Want to showcase your infant’s cute outfit boasting your favorite sports team? Annoy your team by turning Slack into your personal Instagram account. (Not really. Please don’t do that. Just create a channel called #cutekids like I have with one client, and call it good.) Files are searchable as well, and Slack can integrate with just about any app and program out there.

With more than 50 programs Slack can integrate into your communication world, it truly becomes your one-stop-shop for engaging your team to facilitate their questions and ideas. Instead of sharing your Dropbox file, or Google Drive, just drop the specific document into Slack for others to see or review. Done and done.

 

Let’s review.

  • Slack is efficient. Effective. Encouraging.
  • It’s also mobile (available for download on iOS or Android systems) and can keep you in the loop wherever you happen to be.
  • It’s consistent. It’s the same on your phone as it is on your Mac, as it is on your VA’s PC.
  • Seamless and efficient, and free. Just the way I like it. Did we mention it’s free?

Friend to friend, magician to secret-searching-audience, I’m not sure I can recommend this program enough. We use it, we love it, and it has revolutionized how our business operates. Don’t delay, install Slack, and I promise you won’t regret it. What are you waiting for? Pick up the Slack!

The Balancing Act

The year is new, your ideas are fresh, and you’re motivated more than ever to build your business! You sit down to document your goals and plan your steps and hear an all too familiar voice whispering to the doubt you’ve shoved to the back corner of your mind. “You have no idea how to make this work.”

I get it. I’ve been there. I find myself there again at times. With all of life’s demands, it can be a real challenge to figure out who gets what piece of my pie. Family, church, work, friends – how can I manage all of them, and manage them well? It’s easy to feel discouraged or overwhelmed. It can feel more like an out-of-control circus than the life you dreamed of. I’ve got some encouragement I’d like to share with you, however. Consider it my new year’s gift to you. You’re welcome.

Allow me to present: The (Entrepreneur’s) Balancing Act. Focus on striking balance in these three areas, and you’ll be less prone to lose your footing.

Balance in Business

It’s important to figure out what you should focus on. As an entrepreneur, there are more than a million things that need to be done to grow your business. It’s no secret: you don’t do all of them well. The most crucial thing you can do to be successful IN your business, is to get OUT of the things you don’t excel in, that you don’t like to do, or that you don’t know how to do. It’s important that you do the things only you can do – and outsource as much of the rest as you can.

So – if your business is in the real estate industry – you don’t need to be designing your flyers. You need to be engaging your clients and staying current on real estate trends in the market. You know this. I know this. Your clients know this. Your VA will know this, too, and will work alongside you in the essentials you need to get done, but don’t need to be doing yourself.

Lose the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality, and instead, adopt a new mindset: “If you want something done right, delegate it to someone who does it well.”

Balance in Finances:

Once you assess what your hourly worth is, you’ll promptly see the ROI in having a VA. If your hourly rate is $200 per hour – based on your products or services – and you spend an hour formatting your blog posts for distribution, it won’t take you long to see that spending a fraction of that on outsourcing to a VA is the wiser investment.

Especially for those just starting out, there’s the reality of what you need done, versus what you may be able to pay. It may not be in your budget to hire a full time employee, or to hire a high-end VA when you start out. However, there are alternatives, like Fiverr, O’Desk and eLance that can get you started with outsourcing until you’re ready to bring on someone who will play a more collaborative, integral role within your team.

Be mindful of your investments. If you’re going to take the time to train someone on the ins and outs of your niche, hiring a temporary fix probably doesn’t suit your better interests. Set financial goals, work a budget, and determine the best course to get you the most bang for your buck.

“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” ~Zig Ziglar

Balance in Personal Life

Building a business isn’t easy, and it often takes a toll on every other area of your life. Ordering takeout instead of eating a balanced meal, skipping your daily workout so you can work on the next “urgent’ thing, or getting only four hours of sleep instead of your necessary seven hours because there’s just too much to do. Assessing the things in your personal world that need attention – perhaps it’s a regular date night with your spouse, or having lunch with your boy at school once a week – are the things having a VA can free you up to do.

Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help. She didn’t do everything by herself, and I’m guessing it was because she was smart enough to know she couldn’t. She put family first and was still able to rock the business world. You can do the same.

Don’t forget you need to take care of yourself. Don’t forget about the fun-loving you who has a doting, supportive family. Don’t forget about your friends who encourage you as much or more than you encourage them. Don’t let relationships suffer in the name of success. You’ll miss the mark.

Your work will become a healthy part of who you are. Don’t allow yourself to become your work. Find a routine that incorporates both worlds, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the dream you always envisioned.

The good news is balance is possible, and not as elusive as one might think. The key is employing the right procedures (and people) to help you get there. The better news is you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. That’s why I’m here.

Are you ready to start the year off standing tall on both feet?

If you’re on the fence, take a look at what some of our clients have to say about hiring a VA.

Stand Out!

Thanks to Kid President, we all know “Life is too short to not be awesome.” In life, in work, and even in play, we’re always searching for ways to improve, excel, and ultimately, succeed. It’s easy to get lost in the mundane and the routine, however.

When our work seems repetitive, or perhaps we’ve fallen into a creative slump, it’s hard to find our way out of our self-imposed rut.

When we reach that point of lull and dull, we have two choices. One: we can do nothing, and go on status quo. Let’s face it, that would be lame, and doesn’t really count as a choice.

The second choice, and the one we’re going to run with, is being more awesome. Wow your team by using these seven simple tools to own your next project, and maybe earn a bragging right or two.

Here are our tips to make sure you stand out in your next project.

. : 7   T O O L S   T O   O W N   Y O U R   P R O J E C T : .

1.  Invest in the Outcome

Before you begin, put stock in the desired end result. Look at the “big picture” and define what it is you’re going to accomplish. Set goals that enhance the worth of your time, energy, and effort. If you’re going to own this project, you’ve got to be willing to plunge into the very heart and soul of the mission behind it.

2.  Have a Plan

A carpenter doesn’t build a house without a blueprint. Too much can go wrong, and if even one post is off by the slightest measurement, the entire framework of the home could prove worthless. No one will buy a house that won’t stand up to even basic expectations. The same goes for a project thrown together on a whim. Don’t go into your work without a carefully thought-out plan. Stay on task, hold yourself accountable, and line out the details. When obstacles present themselves, and we all know they will, show your strengths in your preparedness. “Poor planning on your part” makes for a lousy end result.

3.  Communicate Your Message Clearly

Speak to your audience in their language. If you’re an IT manager training users on a new software roll-out, for the love of all things pure and holy, don’t talk to them in techy-jargon. Use terms, phrases, and key-words your audience will be familiar with. This will keep them engaged, involved, and interested.
Be sure not to underestimate the importance of relaying essential details of your message, either. Spending too little focus or attention on your communication can be detrimental to your end-game. Get to know the people you need to communicate with, spend time learning how they best receive information, then deliver the best infomercial for your cause anyone has ever been witness to.

4.  Stay One Step Ahead

After you begin the communication process with your peers, be prepared for the inquisitive souls within your work environment. Anticipate the fact there will be questions, and answer them before they have the opportunity to be asked. Rely on your confidence in, and knowledge of your project to showcase your carefully thought-out responses to possibilities, potential problems, and promised results. Look at your project from all angles, and quench the fires before they start.

Try to think in systems. When you organize your project in steps, tasks, and short-term results, you can lose yourself in the process of the “what” in your work. Instead, stay focused on the “how”, and the impact these separate steps have on the long-term outcomes. Implement cohesive systems rather than individual tasks, and you’ll be able to cover more territory ensuring you achieve the results you’re after.

5.  Be Ready for the Overwhelm

You’re lying awake at night thinking about what you should have done, forgot to do, or need to do tomorrow, in order to keep things moving on this project. You’re exhausted. You’re burnt out. You’re working your tail off, and no one seems to care. You might feel overcome by the tedious nature of ensuring this project’s success. You flat-out want to quit.

It will happen. But have hope! These will be the times you really have to kick it in gear. Seek out some encouragement. Take a minute to collect your calm. Remind yourself (repeatedly, if you have to) of the achievement that awaits you on the other side. Power through, remember your initial investment, and strive for those returns. It will be worth it to follow through to the end.

6.  Empower Others to Participate

Remember your college capstone class and the group project you just ended up doing yourself so you could be assured it was done right, and you’d get your credit to graduate? Me too. Let’s let bygones be bygones for the success of our project, though, and leave those college-day habits behind. Enlist the help of others, utilize their strengths to further your progress, and build rapport with your team. Don’t hoard your ideas. Let the suggestions and support of others spur you on to finish strong.

7.  Resist the Temptation to Take All the Credit

After you’ve kicked butt and taken names, you’re going to draw the praise and attention of your peers and managers. Don’t get a big head. A little humility goes a long way, and it would behoove you to always give credit where credit is due. Thank your team members, thank the people who encouraged you, and thank your manager for entrusting you with the project you just completely knocked out of the park.

These seven tools are sure to help you own your project, if you take the time to implement them. Beef up your business tool box, and listen for your name to be dropped as the go-to guru for the next big deal.

One last thing: Don’t hoard our ideas, either! Share this with a colleague, and get crackin’ at being more awesome.

There’s an App(licant) For That

You’re carrying the load of growing your business and somehow making it work. The stress and strain, however, is taking a toll and you’re not sure how you’ll be able to maintain your productive pace much longer. You’re wearing a figurative superhero cape, but find it’s snagging on business hurdles along the way.

As much as it pains you to admit, you’ve realized you can’t do it all. If only there were a successful sidekick you could bring on board with you! A Robin for your Business Batman! In today’s technological age, we’ve got great news: there’s an app(licant) for that!

There are a bazillion-and-one reasons hiring a VA is one of the best business decisions you’ll ever make. There is also a sizable pool of VAs to choose from. From the gamut of qualified VAs, how will you determine the right fit for your business? It can be tricky finding the right VA for your needs. But it doesn’t have to be. 

Our primary purpose is to match high-caliber, qualified VAs to your most pressing business needs. We excel in building working relationships that last. We screen, interview, and re-interview every member of our team, to ensure our clients (you) have the best of the best.

We want you to be our greatest success story. When your to-do list is too long, and your patience runs short, here’s how a VA will fill in the gaps:

H O W   A   V A   W O R K S   F O R   Y O U

D E L E G A T E

Decide what essential tasks you can trust in the hands of your VA. You need to be available to take care of what really matters for you and your business, and your VA can do the rest. What are some of your weaknesses? I know, I know, your greatest weakness is being “too committed”. The problem is, your over-commitment is taking a big bite out of your productivity. Need some ideas on how to share responsibility?

  • Correspondence: replying to emails, web form submissions, social media comments, phone calls, etc.
  • Calendar Management: scheduling meetings, appointments, even blocking time for you so you can concentrate on what needs your attention.
  • Social Media: let your VA manage your tweets, posts, image design, and even your blog content.
  • Travel Arrangements: hotel reservations, transportation arrangements – leave the details to your VA, so your only responsibility is showing up.
  • Invoicing/Bookkeeping: numbers are a universal language and can be managed from anywhere!

There are a myriad of tasks and responsibilities your VA can assist with. Don’t be stingy keeping them all, and spread yourself too thin as a result. Think of all the work you need to give attention to, and delegate the rest that may distract you otherwise. Whether you need basic record keeping, or extensive project management, there’s an app(licant) for that.

Deep breath. Don’t you feel better already?

C O M M U N I C A T E

There are plenty of ways to stay in close contact with your VA. We understand your need to communicate details, changes in plans, and even hold meetings. When hiring a VA, it is essential to also employ user-friendly communication tools. You may not have the luxury of walking into your VA’s office to chat, but there are several convenient communication tools available. Web conferences, phone calls, or even instant messaging are all viable options, and you can rest assured your VA will be at-the-ready and available for you in your hour of need.

Check out:

When we match clients with VAs, we take scheduling and availability into consideration. We want your VA to be ready when you are. Communication is key. It’s VA 101!

C E L E B R A T E

Now that you’ve prioritized your responsibilities, shared your vision (and tasks!), and have the groundwork laid for a successful working relationship with your VA, take time to celebrate!

And hey – there’s no one better to plan your party than your VA! The perks keep getting perkier.

If you’d like to schedule a consultation to see what a VA can do for your business, or discover who may be the best fit for aiding your success, drop us a line today. We make you, our priority!

 

Virtual Assistant: Your Social Media Management Solution

Have you checked your Facebook feed today? Jill had a killer bagel for breakfast at her favorite coffee shop. Crystal’s dog did something cute. Again. Tom posted another video of himself singing “Let it Go.” (No seriously, Tom, you let it go.) It’s easy to get lost in the lives of others. Everyone is posting everything and they’re doing it every day. Making sure your business stands out in the social media world is no small task. The importance of this task raises an equally important question: Who are you entrusting to promote your business’ platform on social media?

Social Media Management

We’ve all read the horror stories of employees taking to their employer’s social media accounts for revenge. Or perhaps you’ve seen the typo-laden updates that receive absolutely no mercy in their audience’s comments. The trend of using internal staff to manage a social media presence is one many small business operations adopt, but is it the right choice for you? Let’s say you ask Cheryl, your devoted employee, to manage your business’ online presence. Cheryl happens to love Ryan Gosling, and all of his memes. Soon your business page is overrun with his face and “Hey Girl” phrases, with a sloppy reference or #hashtag tying it back to your product or service. Shudder. Cheryl means well, but the bottom line for your business just dropped completely out of the running. Allowing inexperienced staff to maintain your online audience and branding may save you initial expense, but it also has potential to generate far greater risk. Remember Susan Boyle’s album release hash tag disaster? (#susanalbumparty) Ending up on the list of Top Ten Social Media Fails is an honorable mention you want to avoid altogether. The good news is, social media infamy can easily be avoided.

RGI

Every business needs their own cozy corner in social media because consumers are searching online first for the products and services they’re after.  Hopefully this comes as no surprise, but a full page ad in the phone book won’t have clientele knocking down your door. Everything today is featured and found online. A full-time Social Media Manager may not be feasible for your organization’s budget or needs, but having a presence in social media is imperative nonetheless. How can you achieve balance between having a professional presence online, and stretching your company’s dollar? Here’s where we come in. Hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) is not a budget-buster, and will generate return on your investment. Working remotely and with the luxury of flexibility, your VA is able to focus entirely on the task-at-hand for your business. In as little as five hours per week, your VA can keep your social media presence groomed to fit the needs of both your organization and your audience. Even if your VA loves Ryan Gosling, (and who doesn’t?) you can rest assured they will do what’s best for your business, without solely relying on images of their celebrity crush. Hiring a VA to manage your online needs will save you time, expense, and headache long-term. Ethical, efficient, and experienced practices are a VA’s guarantee to you, making the choice to hire one as part of your extended-team a worthwhile one. Engaged market groups, measurable results, and a well-groomed presence are a few of the many benefits afforded your business when you hire a virtual assistant to manage your online presence in the world of social media. An experienced VA will create positive and professional content relevant to your consumers and your cause. From account creation to audience building, all areas of developing and implementing your company’s social media strategy can be handled off-site by your VA.

Your VA will provide the services your organization needs to maintain a powerful presence in front of an engaged audience, and all for economical cost. Working as closely with or as independently from your VA as you require, you can trust your social media needs are being catered to, while you and your staff take advantage of the opportunity to pour your energies into other areas of your business. Let Cheryl take care of planning your office party and ordering your post-it notes, and leave your social media marketing to your VA.