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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Starting a Business: What Skills do You Have?

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So you finally made the decision to start your own businessNow what?  Do you know what type of business you will run?  What are you passionate about?  What would you like to do?  What would you be good at?  What skills do you have?  Answering these crucial questions will lead you to understand what your new business will look like.

Luckily, for me, I managed medical practices for a lifetime.  During those 32 years, I gained countless administrative and managerial skills.  When it came time for me to decide what type of business I would start, it helped me to compose a list of things I knew how do to and things that I was good at.  I then I re-examined my list and drew a line through the skills that I did not like to do, the ones that did not fulfill me; the ones that stressed me out.  If you are going to do your own thing, you might as well be happy doing it, right?  For example, the first thing that I crossed off my list was “Managing People”I knew for certain that I no longer wanted to manage employees.  I needed to choose a business that I could do on my own with no need for staff.  With each skill that you cross off you will get closer and closer to what your new business will look like.

There are so many things to think about during this process.  What services will you offer?  Who will you be offering these services to?  What industry will your clients come from?  Do you live in the correct geographical area to be able to find these clients?

Are you a hard worker?  Owning your own business means that you will have to toil until all the work is done.  There is no such thing as a time-clock, at least at first.  There will be no 9-5 office hours for quite some time…maybe never!

Can you work alone?  Do you need daily socialization that co-workers provide?  Initially, you will probably be the only one on the payroll.  Will you be able to handle the seclusion of working hours on end alone?

Do you have support of family and friends?  Going alone is not easy and you will have days where you feel frustrated and even scared.  Do you have people to share these feelings with?  People that will try to understand and support you?  When you are your own boss, you have to be everything to everyone.  You will need to learn to balance your new business with your spouse, children, family and friends.  Do you have financial support? You may very easily have to forgo a steady paycheck for some time.

Go ahead and move forward with lists, research and planning.  This is the time to create the framework of your business.  Take one day at a time.  Do not lose focus or sight of why you are doing this.  You have a lot to do so get yourself organized.  If organization is not a skill that you possess, hire someone that can help you stay organized and on top of all the tasks of starting a business (detailed in a future post).

Owning your own business is hard work, but rewarding.  You do not have an easy road ahead of you but you do have one that will be exciting, life altering and well worth it.

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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Starting a Business: The Decision

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Webster describes a decision as “a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.”

I was a Medical Office Manager for 32 years.  I managed the day-to day activities of the office, multiple physicians, 25 staff members, and a practice full of patients.  Hiring, billing, collections, insurance, etc., need I say more?  It was a difficult, stressful job but one where I gained a wide variety of skills.

In January 2013, I lost my job.  The year before, our private practice was purchased by a large, corporate hospital network.  Not long after the practice made it through the 8 month, tough transition, the Network let me go.

After 8 weeks of mourning the loss of my career, I had some hard decisions to make.  At that point, I really did not know what I wanted to do but I sure knew what I didn’t want to do.  I did not want to manage medical offices.  I did not want to work for people that I could not trust and did not respect me.  I did not want to work for a large hospital network.  What did I know?  I knew that I had the discipline to work for myself and had always wanted to give it a try.  I knew that I had countless beneficial administrative skills; if you can manage a medical office you can do about anything!  I knew that as a wife, mother, and practice manager, I had assisted people all of my adult life.  So what type of business would be right for me?

It was my knowledge that people in Hollywood and other large cities have Personal Assistants.  But did people in Dayton, Ohio have them?  I did some research and found that there were Personal Assistants in large cities that ran errands for busy people and organizations.  They performed tasks such as shopping, scheduling appointments, and taking cars in for maintenance and pets in for shots.  They waited in homes for repairmen, organized paperwork and home offices, and ran errands.  I could do these things!  As well as running medical practices, I had managed our household for 34 years.  Additional research found that there was one woman in Cincinnati and two in Columbus that were working as Personal Assistants.  I could find no one in the Dayton area…I was on my way!

Decisions.  “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt.  It is a huge decision to start your own business.  Can I do this?  What if I fail?  What if I succeed?   What would success look like for me?  What will others think?  Will I be supported by the people in my life that are important to me?  Will I be able to make enough money for my household?

So I put together a simple, makeshift business plan and sat down with my husband.  Next, I spoke to my parents, family members, and a few close friends.  Luckily, I was supported by most-even though a few looked at me like I was out of my mind.  The decision was made.  I knew what the business was going to look like now what would I call it?  Another decision.

I had a small dinner party with my closest family members. After dinner, I passed around a list with my top 5 choices for the name of my business and asked them to vote for their favorite.  That evening Another You was born!

People often say that they find it hard to make decisions.  Unfortunately, we all have to make them, ranging from what to wear to life-changing decisions like who to marry and if to start a business.  The decision, for me, was not easy and neither was that first year!  But here I am, 4 and a half years later, and Another You is alive and well!  It did take a different path than what I had planned (which I will discuss in a future post) but I am in business and happier than I have ever been.  I am so glad that I made that difficult decision.  This is what success looks like to me!

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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What Joy Do You See in Your Business?

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Our Ladies Bible Study at Pennyroyal Baptist Church just finished the Fight Back with Joy series by Margaret Feinberg.  The series was designed to help us see the joys in everyday life.  As part of our homework, we were to write down 3 “Joybombs” (good things) that happened to us each day during our 6 week study.  A joybomb could be something rather large like getting a raise or small like a warm, sunny day in February in Ohio.  This repetitive behavior made me focus on, and more easily identify the good things that happen in my life every day.

The series led me to think about how I feel about my small business.  As entrepreneurs and small business owners, I wonder if we concentrate on the positive pieces of our business as much–or at all-as the negative ones.

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects.  After all, you need to take action when you lose a client or your computers go down.  You may need to review your Business Plan as you see your expenses rising or your competition closing in on your prospects.  But what about the good things that are happening each day that we are not focused on?

How would it change our days, attitudes, and our businesses if we started purposefully recognizing and recording the good things that happen each day?  All Star Baseball Player and Batting Title Winner, Wade Boggs, believed in the power of a positive attitude.  He was quoted as saying, “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”  Wouldn’t you like positive events, outcomes, and extraordinary results in your small business?

Today, I challenge you to heighten your attention and recognize the good things that happen in your business each day.  Take it a step further and list these details on your calendar, in your journal, or on your To Do List for the next 30 days.   I think you will be amazed to see just how much good is happening with your business that you never really noticed before.  Look for reasons to celebrate!  Pursue the Positive!  Jot down your Joybombs!  See how this small exercise changes the way you feel about your business and how you act towards others.  I’ll start:

  1. An existing client gave me additional tasks to work on today.  This means I am building a a stronger relationship with him and making more money for my business.
  2. I had a hearty laugh (2 really) listening to the voice mail of a client’s client.
  3. Since I work from a home office, I was able to sit outside today with the sun hitting my face while I wrote this blog post.

Your turn.  Record 3 positive things that happen in your business each day-it can even be a person that you encounter.  You will be happy that you did!  Don’t forget to let me know how this simple experiment changes the way you feel about your small business.

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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Small Business Savings on Office Supplies

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Now that you have reviewed your expenses (End of Year Checklist for Small Business) and understand how your money is being spent, what are you going to do with that information? For many small business owners office supplies seem like a minor expense. But every year, businesses in the United States spend billions of dollars on office products. If you do not manage and control your office supply expenses, these purchases can add up very quickly.

• Buy Generic:  Name brand supplies have name-recognition but most of the time they are not always cost-effective. Many generic supplies are just as good and can be purchased for less. Generic or “house brands” are also more likely to go on sale.

• Dollar Stores: Dollar stores buy up products that have been discontinued, have packaging problems, or did not sell somewhere else. The stores purchase products for great prices and these savings are passed along to you. Making a special trip to a dollar store may not make sense but if you pass by one when you are out, you might as well stop in and check for discontinued name-brand supplies.

• Office Superstores: Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy and other superstores frequently offer the lowest prices on supplies. Most major national retailers offer a discount by signing up for their free rewards programs. For example:
Staples Rewards: Members receive up to 5% back on everything except postage and gift cards. They have a price match guarantee, $2.00 back per recycled ink cartridge, and they offer members free shipping.
Office Depot/Office Max Rewards: Members receive 10% back on paper, ink, toner, copy, print, and shipping. They offer rewards for recycling ink cartridges with a purchase, member’s only coupons, and birthday bonus rewards.

• Negotiate with your Supplier: If you have a favorite supplier for office supplies, you may be in a position to negotiate pricing. It never hurts to ask!

• Shop Online:  Check out discontinued and online specials before heading to the store. Online stores typically offer better discounts than in their walk-in stores. In most cases, shipping is quick and efficient, which means you can schedule automatic delivery of things you need on a regular basis. When you order online, Staples and Office Depot usually ship from your local store and you can get in-stock items delivered, free of charge, in 1-2 business days.

• Bulk Ordering: Look for items that you can purchase in bulk but remember just because something comes in a larger package does not mean it is cheaper.   You may actually find it is cheaper to buy 10 small packs of 10 pens than it is to buy 1 pack of 100.

• Buy Ink Off-Brand: Perhaps one of the most common ways to save money is buying off-brand ink cartridges. A few suggestions before you buy:
1.  Know your warranty:   If you have a new printer, you may want to consider letting your warranty expire before you try off-brand ink. Not using the manufacturer’s ink cartridges can void your warranty.
2. Know your cartridge: Get a good look at your brand name cartridge and know the numbers printed on it. Be sure to purchase the correct cartridge.
3.  Know your price:  Depending on your printer’s make and model the off-brand ink may be just as expensive as the brand name.

Do you know how much you spent on office supplies in 2016?   What can you do to save on office supplies?

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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