3 Ways to Save Time and Handle Interruptions

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I read a recent article that stated “running a small business isn’t a job; it’s twelve jobs!” Most small business owners wear many hats.  They are the CEO, the marketer, the sales person, the bookkeeper, the social media strategist, the facilities manager and the list goes on and on.  All these things take up time.

I work with multiple small business owners and no matter what tasks I begin helping my clients with, the majority end up having me manage their e-mail because it takes so much time during their day.  A case study conducted by the Danwood Group found it takes 1.5 minutes on average to read and recover from each e-mail. Try these 3 simple tips to lessen the amount of time and interruptions throughout your day:

1. E-Mail can be a To Do List that others can write on.  If we are not careful, we will allow others to dictate our To Do List and how we will spend a big part of our day. Try this:

SCAN your inbox for urgent and important items when you first open your e-mail. Take care of anything urgent.
CLOSE your e-mail.
BLOCK 30-60 minutes on your calendar once or twice later in the day to process your e-mail…when YOU have the time.

2. Turn off your E-mail Notifications.  Turn them off on your phone, tablet and computer. Allowing every e-mail that arrives in your inbox to interrupt your day destroys your productivity. Remember you have set aside some time each day to read and process those e-mails.

3. Use Templates.  Ever find yourself typing the same sentences over and over when writing or responding to e-mails? If so, you should be using templates. Read through your sent mail and see what types of messages you are regularly sending, then put them in e-mail templates.

Time.  You can’t recover it, make up for it or reverse it.  There are 24 hours in a day and 168 in a week and those numbers aren’t changing. What you can change is using your hours more efficiently and wisely by decreasing the amount of time you spend on unimportant interruptions.

headshot2About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Business Concierge/Personal Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business. http://www.anotheryouerrands.com 937-416-2207

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Focus on Your Strengths and Delegate Your Weaknesses.

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HOW TO USE A PERSONAL/VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Imagine having your own personal assistant without the requirements of hiring full time staff, worrying about payroll, or scheduling.  This dream can be your reality!  There are numerous ways that a personal assistant can help organize your busy life.

 Administrative Duties:  Let’s face it, these are necessary but take time away from your passion.  Schedule meetings and appointments, return customer calls, process mailings and newsletters, data entry, e-mail and vendor management…

 Bookkeeping:  Keep the IRS off your back with routine bookkeeping, receipt management, accounts payable, account receivables…

 Courier:  Need a signature?  Pick-up and Delivery of documents, packages, office supplies, gifts, flowers…

 Compliance:  It’s hard to keep up with all the changes.  HIPAA training, compliance plans, regulations…

 Organization:  The average person spends 55 minutes each day looking for things they cannot find.  Office workspace, desk top, paperwork, systems, business cards, mobile desk…

 Research:  Necessary but takes a lot of time.  Internet research for content, blogs, competition research, large ticket purchases, vendor pricing and services…

 Travel:  For that business trip, long weekend or vacation that you have worked so hard for!    Itineraries, airfare, hotel, rental car, destination information…

About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Business Concierge/Personal Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business. http://www.anotheryouerrands.com 937-416-2207

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Reflections on the Past-Questions for the Future

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I officially opened my personal/virtual assistant business, Another You, LLC, 2 years ago in August.  It has been an exciting and eye-opening couple of years. Years that I am so blessed to have experienced.  Being a female entrepreneur has allowed me to bring money into our household and afforded me the time to take care of my family and take better care of myself.

My past career was in medical practice management. I answered to physicians and was responsible for staff (upward of 25). Tough gig! I love that I work for myself. I have only me to answer to.  I do not have to worry that others are not doing their best for my clients or my business.  I like that the success of my business was/is solely my responsibility.

Two years ago I started out with 0 clients and a lot of time.  Today I have a lot of clients and 0 time. Not that I am complaining as this is exactly what I wanted. I have clients that I work every day and others that hire me for projects only. I love the variety of my days. I love learning about my clients industries such as IT, law, travel, politics, non-profits, etc. I have had the pleasure to work with wonderful small business owners who treat me with the utmost respect.

I have learned so many new things and have reminded myself that I am smart and if I don’t know something, I can learn it easily. I have been given the chance with 2 of my clients to get back into my past with medical coding and billing.  I was even able to teach myself a new medical software program this summer!  Regretfully, I have also had to learn some hard lessons. Lessons such as, even though your client may be a local small business owner, you cannot always trust them to pay their bills.  I have also had to learn that not all people are true to their word or their written contract.

So where do I go from here? So far I have met my 1 year goals and my 2 year goals. Now I need to decide what is next.  What do the next 2-3 years look like?  I have cut down on networking because I am busy working on client accounts. I am receiving additional work due to client referrals.  I had 3 small business owners contact me this week regarding my services!  I only have so many hours in my day. When the days become too full do I stop taking on new clients? Do I hire someone? Not sure either of those options sound good to me.  But I know that when the time comes to make that decision, I will do what I have done these past 2 years and that is to make the one that works best for me, my family, and my business.  I love being a solopreneur!

Happy 2 year anniversary Another You, LLC!

Ripped Off! 3 Painful Lessons You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way (Like I Did).

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I guess it is all part of business, certainly one part that I do not enjoy…not being paid by your client.

When you bring on a new client you work hard to learn their personality, likes, and needs. You perform the service that  they have asked you to do. You answer all of their telephone calls and texts, no matter what time received. You cancel and reschedule appointments for them because they have a hard time staying on task. You give them your best and they thank you and tell you that they appreciate the work that you are doing. When the job is done, you send their invoice and…wait for it…”crickets”.  Now this particular person will not answer my calls or e-mails.

I help small business owners. The majority of my clients are local; right here in the Dayton area. Most of us know  each other or at least have knowledge of each other. Can you image the gall of a small business owner in your own town not paying for services received? What does that say about the person?  What does that say about her business?

When I contacted my attorney, she confirmed to me that this one of the painful parts of owning a business. So that you don’t have to learn the hard way like I did, I am sharing 3 Things that I Learned from being RIPPED OFF by my Client.

1. Get Your Money Up Front: The majority of Personal/Virtual Assistants that I come in contact with collect the fee for their services before the work is started. My business is still in the growing stage and I made the decision that I would not pre-collect for local small business. To cover myself, I work from a contract that was drawn up by my attorney. I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful people for the last 2 years that pay their bills. Then I met her! Now I have to collect my fees up front for all new clients for fear of non-payment.

2. You Cannot Always Trust People No Matter How/Where You Meet Them: Wow, this one is hard me. I have been blessed in my life to be surrounded by wonderful people.  Networking in Dayton is huge! I met this client through a large, well-known networking group. If you are reading this from the Dayton area I am sure you know this group and have probably attended many of their events. This is another reason that I felt confident in  taking on the work without collecting up front. We have many of the same people in common! This is certainly not the fault of the networking group. I truly enjoy the people who I have met through the group and a few have become very close friends. Then I met her! Now, I can no longer trust the fellow members of my networking groups.

3. Use Your Resources: Harvey Mackay, author of Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, lists the 16 cornerstones for a solid network. He discusses the industries you need have in your networking circle. Along with an accountant and a banker, an attorney is on that list. Have an attorney on retainer!  As I mentioned before, your attorney can help you with contracts and can move forward if/when you have to use the legal system to collect what is owed to you. Be familiar with the Small Claims Court policies of the cities your client resides in. If the unpaid debt is under $3000.00, you can file the necessary papers, go through the motions, and be awarded judgement for the amount of the unpaid debt plus your court costs.  Don’t forget your local BBB (Better Business Bureau). It is very easy to file a complaint against the business online.

It is really sad that as business owners we may have to go to the extremes that I have listed above. It is because of a few other small business owners that are unprofessional and dishonest and won’t pay their debts.   I, for one, have always paid my bills, both personally and professionally.     I would feel like a big loser if I didn’t.  I certainly would be concerned about my good name and the good name of my business in this small town if I was stiffing other business owners. Obviously, she doesn’t care about her name or her business.  What I (and now you) can do is learn from my past, use our resources, and move forward. As for her, what is it they say about Karma?

headshotAbout the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Business Concierge/Personal Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business. If you are a small business owner that needs more time during your day (and you pay your bills 🙂 ) contact me!        http://www.anotheryouerrands.com      937-416-2207

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7 Ways to Track Your Time and More

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Every small business owner and freelancer needs to be able to track their time, invoice clients, and manage their customers.   Here are a few of the most popular programs to help you do just that!
  1. Paymo:  Paymo is a great platform for small business owners.  I use it for my business and love it!  Not only does Paymo offer time-tracking and invoicing, it also provides project management. There is a free trial, so you can see if it works for your business  before you pay for it.
  2.  toggl:  Toggl is very simple and offers both  a free option and an upgraded option at just $5 per month per user.  Toggl will help you to keep track of your time and project budgets.
  3. Timecamp: Another awesome time-tracking tool has always free as long as you are a freelancer.  For larger businesses there is a 30-day trial period and then it is $6-$9 per month per user.
  4. Harvest: Harvest is loved by many.  It  allows you to track time and create invoices for  your clients. A one-user account costs $12 per month with unlimited clients, projects, and invoicing.
  5. Fusion Invoice: Fusion Invoice is a self-hosted invoicing system where you can actually own the software.
  6. Hiveage: Hiveage provides strong online billing. You can send invoices and estimates, accept payments online, track time and expenses, manage teams and view reports. Hiveage offers a free trial.
  7. Fresh Books: Fresh Books makes accounting easy.  You will be able to immediately start sending invoices, tracking your time,  and recording expenses right after signing up.  Fresh Books, which some think rivals Quickbooks, offers a free 30 day trial.

headshot2About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Business Concierge/Personal Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business.    If you are a small business owner who needs help contact Sheri.            http://www.anotheryouerrands.com               937-416-2207

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Summertime and the Living is Easy in Your Yard

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What’s going on in your lawn and landscaping in August?  Late summer in Ohio is known for hot, humid days.  As I write this, I am out enjoying a beautiful 80 degree, sunny morning with very low humidity out on my deck.  Rare for late July in my home town.

Blooms:  Many of your perennials like the Black Eyed Susan, Coneflower and Shasta Daisy will self-sow their seed.  If you leave the seed-heads on this will mean more beautiful blooms for next year and will provide food for your birds.  You should draw finches of all sort to Black Eyed Susan and Coneflowers.  A variety of Roses may get a second wind this month.  By late August you can think about planting landscape shrub roses.  Some of your annuals will continue to bloom in August while others will look worn and tired.  Fall will be here before you know it so it is a great time replace the  tired looking ones with annuals that are richer in color.  I tend to pick reds, oranges, and yellows so they will blend in nicely with my Harvest decorations and Mums later in the fall.

Bulbs:  Late August is the perfect time to move or divide bulbs that have become too crowded.  If the center clumps of your Iris look “woody” dig them up, separate the bulbs and replant all around your yard.

Lawns:  August lawns in Ohio are normally water deprived and brown.  As long as your lawn is not diseased, allowing the grass to go dormant will be better for the lawn and save water.  Put your sprinklers away unless we have had no rain for two weeks; then water deeply.  As soon as rainfall returns, the grass will green back up in a couple of days.  No fertilizer this month.

Shrubs and Trees:  There is not much to do except enjoy your shrubs and trees this month.  Nice shade trees are in demand in August in Ohio.  Take some time to retreat to them and relax in the cool shade that they provide.  Watch the birds and butterflies and listen to the buzzing bees and lonely sounding cicadas.

About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Business Concierge/Personal Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business.              http://www.anotheryouerrands.com                      937-416-2207

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Six Cool Things to Do in Your Business This Summer

deckchairs-355596_640Summer for many businesses tend to be slower than normal due to kids being out of school and vacations.  There are things that we can do during our slower times to help our businesses. Here are 6 cool things that you can do in your business this summer.

 Make a list of your top prospects. Every small business owner in a business-to-business company, should have a list of their top customers and their top prospects that they keep handy. Ideally, the list should be visible all the time, taped on a desk or posted on a wall. It often takes some research and homework to identify prospects, and in the day-to-day rush of business, that can be hard. During the summer, do some research and uncover contacts who have the potential to become big customers before the end of the year.

 Develop your fall marketing plan. Summer won’t last forever, and you want to be ready to land some big customers as soon as people are back at their desks. The summer months are a great time to do some strategic planning. Clarify and narrow your target market and figure out the best ways to reach prospects. Come up with a marketing budget and marketing vehicles so you’re ready to go.

 Redo your own marketing materials. While you’re focused on marketing, summer is a great time to freshen up and modernize your own marketing materials. When was the last time you took a hard look at your business cards? Brochures? Do you still have a fax number but not your social media handles printed on your material?

 Update your operations.A slow summer is the perfect time to work on internal operations. Switch any soon-to-be-upgraded on premise software programs to cloud-based applications.

Tackle a project. We all have a wish list of projects we’d like to take care of someday. It may be creating a new prototype of a product. It might be clearing out old inventory, cleaning out a storage room, or getting some much needed training. Do the spring cleaning you didn’t have time to do in spring.

 Get a mobile website. This is your most important summer task. When you realize that two-thirds of all Americans access the Web from their smartphone — and about 40% use their phone as their preferred or only method of getting on the Web — your site must look good and work well when people view it on a mobile device. If customers can’t easily read your content and navigate your site on their phone, they may go somewhere else.

A HUGE Thank You to Emma Farmer of Cybertary.com for this blog post.