My Fourth Year

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August…of my favorite months.  Summer is winding down, the neighborhood quiets as school starts up, and the sounds and smells remind me that fall is just around the corner.  Normally HOT in August, Ohio has (so far) been a cooler month.  It is a beautiful 76 degrees with no humidity as I sit in the sun on our back deck writing this post.

Four years ago this month, I started my Virtual Assistant Business.  How blessed I am that I can both work and enjoy this wonderful day.  The start-up and day-to-day running my business has been difficult at times but it has afforded me a happy, low-stress life.  A life that I thank God for every day and one that I never take for granted.

My fourth year!  What have I learned?  Clients come and Clients go.  This uncertainly used to freak me out!  Over the past couple of years I have learned that God always provides.  As soon as I lose/term one client, the opportunity for another has always been close by.  My new clients come from referrals…mainly client referrals.  What better marketing for my business could I ask for?!!

This year I have watched as 2 of my clients businesses have grown expedientially.  Sadly, I lost a client earlier in the year as her business had grown so much that she needed a full time employee.  Another client just hired his 2nd team member earlier this week!  How exciting to be part of such growth!  I am so proud of the work that all my clients are doing.

I have learned that most small business owners have at least one thing in common,  They need help with organization; whether it be their email, calendar and scheduling, or short and long term goals.  Most need accountability, help with focus, and assistance staying on task.  These are my strengths!  I help them, by using my strengths, so they can focus on theirs.

I love being a part of my client’s industries.  Where else can I learn about IT, law, mental health, ultrasound, probate, and non-profits all in the same day?!!  My clients not only respect me as their assistant but treat me as their partner.  They value and ask for my thoughts and opinions when making many important decisions for their businesses.

So what will this next year bring?  I don’t know but I am not concerned.  I know that one of my passions is to help other small businesses owners start, grow, and maintain their passions.  I know that I will continue to be blessed with great clients, enough work, and being able to work from home (and sometimes my deck).  I know that life is good and this is where I am supposed to be.

Since flowers are the traditional gift for a 4th Anniversary,  I think I’ll run out and buy a couple of fresh cut bouquets for my dining room table and office (just as soon as I can pull myself away from this glorious work location).  Happy 4th Anniversary Another You!

About the Author:  Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Virtual Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Sheri helps small business owners save time, money and frustration 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.    www.anotheryouerrands.com  937-416-2207

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No Living Man All Things Can

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I had a recent conversation with a colleague about how many small business owners and entrepreneurs have a hard time with the delegation of tasks.  I get it.  When you have the type of personality that it takes to start your own business it is hard to give up control.  But sometimes it makes too much sense not to delegate.  For example, my colleague told me about a successful small business owner who had over $30,000 on the table in outstanding AR.  The problem was not disgruntled clients that did not want to pay; the issue was that this business owner simply did not have the time to make follow up calls.

Why People Don’t Delegate

  • Not Enough Time: The perception is that you do not have enough time to properly explain the task or teach the skills necessary for a delegated task.  The truth is that delegation always takes longer the first couple of times you hand off a task. But later it will save you hours, days, and weeks.
  • Loss of Control: Most small business owners are used to doing everything on their own.  They are uncomfortable giving up control.  It is frightening to allow another person-maybe even someone that you do not know-to complete a task for your business.  But isn’t one of the payoffs expected from all the hard work in running a successful, small business the freedom to no longer have to do the “daily grind” work, the “menial” work, the “frustrating calendaring and tedious phone call” work?
  • Not sure Who to Delegate To: Many entrepreneurs do not have the funds to hire a full time or even a part time person.  Many small business owners only need help 3-5 hours per week.  Where are you going to find a hardworking, reputable person who only wants to work a few hours a week?  Where do you find a hard worker that does not need benefits?

What to Delegate

I tell my clients to give me what they don’t like to do, what they dread, or what they are not good at.  Most of them start off with tasks such as:

  • Client Follow Up
  • E-Mail Management
  • Scheduling/Calendar Management
  • Invoicing/AR Follow Up
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Data Entry
  • Recruiting

Tips for Successful Delegation

  • A clearly defined task will produce clearly defined results. Open and routine communication is a must, especially at first.
  • Let go of dictating the how and focus on the what.   Describe what you want and let the assistant decide on the how.
  • Start with a small project or task.  This will help to develop communication and trust between you and your assistant.  After you see how the task was successfully completed, you will feel confident to delegate more.

Back to the small business owner with the 30K in AR.  Think of how a few hours a week in collection calls would change his business not to mention his peace of mind!  To me, it is a no brainer that this is a task that he needs to pass off to someone.  It pays to delegate!  I know that delegation can be difficult but it is a skill that you can improve through time, effort, and practice.  The next time you find it hard to let go of a task, remember the ancient proverb:  No living man all things can.

About the Author:  Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Virtual Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Sheri helps small business owners save time, money and frustration 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.    www.anotheryouerrands.com  937-416-2207

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Please Remember that I am Your Customer and Not Your Friend

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Our recent purchase for basement carpet was a good reminder about how and how not to treat your customer.  We were referred to a specific sales person at a local carpet company.  When we got to the showroom, he was busy with another customer and the manager (we’ll call him Frank) told us it would be at least an hour before the other person was free but that he would be more than happy to help us.

We proceeded to tell Frank of our situation and our carpet needs.  Frank proceeded to tell us story after story that had nothing to do with our carpet.   Frank thought he was funny.  Frank talked way too much about things other than our carpet.  I kept trying to bring Frank back around to the subject at hand.  The visit was exhausting!  Here’s the thing, we have used this company multiple times in the past and have always been very happy with both the product and their installation.  We were easy!  We were a sure sale!  We were going to buy from this man if he would just stop talking over us and sell us a piece of carpet!  Frank, I am your customer…stop talking and listen to me.

We chose our carpet and Frank set up a time to come to our home for drawings and measurements.  He told me that he would be out on a certain day between 1:00-1:30.  The day came and the 1 o’clock hour went.  Frank, I am your customer…call if you have been delayed.

I called Frank’s cell and left him a message that it was my understating that he was to be out between 1:00-1:30 and that it was now 2:00.  Frank promptly called back and when I answered he said, “It’s your friend, Frank, I can be there in about 20 minutes.” So instead of between 1:00-1:30 now Frank was going to be here closer to 2:45.  Frank, I am your customer…my time is important.

When I opened the door to let him in, Frank loudly proclaimed, “It’s your friend, Frank!”  I swear, I think I rolled my eyes at him.  Frank, I am your customer…not your friend.

During the course of his measurements, Frank told stories and jokes and laughed at them all. Worried that he was not focused on the job at hand, I excused myself to go upstairs.

We ended up purchasing our carpet from Frank and his company because of our history with them but most of all because we have been very  pleased with one of their employees who has laid our carpet in the past.  Bless his heart, Frank did end up giving us a good deal for our carpet.  But I am afraid that if this were the first experience that we had had with this company, I would have gone elsewhere due to my lack of confidence with Frank.

When I am your customer, I want you to treat me friendly but professional.  I want you to listen to me more than talk to me.  I want to be confident in the service that you offer.  I want to be your customer…not your friend.

About the Author:  Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Virtual Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Sheri helps small business owners save time, money and frustration by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks and customer service.  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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4 Tips 4 Remembering Names

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Remembering names is one of the simplest yet most important factors of interacting with people.   A person’s name is the single most important word to them. As Dale Carnegie said, “If you remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my feeling of importance.”  Use these 4 tips to remember names.

  1.  Pay Attention: Be sure to pay attention as you are introduced.  You’d be amazed at how little attention we pay to the person we are meeting. Clear your mind and focus on them not on you or what you’re going to say next.
  2.  Repeat: As soon as you’re introduced, say, “It’s lovely to meet you, Jane.   Repeat the name silently to yourself a few times.  Repeat the name throughout the exchange. Try to also use their name during conversation and when the conversation is at an end.
  3.  Mental associations: Make a visual connection with a person’s name to something memorable in your world.   Try to connect the name with a familiar image or famous person.  Associate the person’s name with a picture that is easy to recall.
  4.  Did I mention Repeat? Use their name frequently:  People typically like the sound of their names so this tips bears double mention.  Try to use their name at least three times during your conversation:  when introduced, during the conversation and conclude with their name.

After meeting the person,  jot down notes with their name, where you met, how you met and the specifics of your conversation in a “new contacts” file (paper or electronic).  Take a look at your notes prior to the next time you anticipate seeing that person.

Although it makes us uncomfortable, we all forget names.  If you absolutely can’t remember a name, try to offer any information you can remember, such as where the two of you may have met. Alternatively, if you shake hands and introduce yourself, your contact will most likely follow suit.

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About the AuthorSheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal/Virtual 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.    www.anotheryouerrands.com                                                                                                          937-416-2207

The Art of Customer Appreciation

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The truth is that your business would be nothing without your clients. March 19th is Client’s Day and it is the perfect day for you to start to do something nice for your clients.  Showing appreciation is important, yet not all of us practice that consistently with our customers. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be anything big. Keep it simple. It’s amazing how little it takes to set yourself apart from your competition. Your budget and the number of customers you have will determine the type of gestures you decide upon. But keep in mind, a sign of appreciation to those who keep you in business is a marketing strategy that is worth the price.

Finding creative ways to show your customers you really appreciate them is a smart investment in your business. Showing appreciation to your customers encourages repeat business. Our greatest loss is the customer that disappears quietly; the one that no longer feels valued or important.

Pick Up the Phone: You could simply call them to let them know you appreciate doing business with them. This kind of personal touch is sure to be remembered for a long time.

Write a Note: Go old school and hand-write a note to thank your customers. It’s surprising how rare this is. Can you remember the last time you received a handwritten note from someone?

Send Cards on Unique Holidays: Of course, send a holiday or birthday card to your clients if you wish. But add the extra “Wow Factor” by sending cards to a customer on a unique holidays (like Client’s Day) or a customer’s anniversary with your company.

Send a Gift: Recognize special events in your client’s lives by sending a small gift. The event could be a birthday, promotion, a new addition to the family or a new home. Send a treat like cookies, brownies or candy.  Be sure to consider your customer; if they are into fitness send something a bit healthier. The thoughtful timing of your gift speaks volumes and will not be soon be forgotten.

Gift Baskets: Surprise your best customers with a gift basket. Include a personalized thank-you note from your business. The contents can include anything from chocolate, fruit, coffee, wine, breakfast foods, BBQ items, to almost any gift.

Being busy is often cited as a reason that we do not work on our Art of Customer Appreciation. This is an area to focus some time and resources on. Ask yourself, “What is more important to my business than my customers?”  A little goes a long way. Small tokens of appreciation and unexpected “Thank You’s” get you remembered. Make it a habit to thank your clients on a regular and unexpected basis.

headshot2  About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal/Virtual 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