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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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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Small Business Owners are Wise to make a few New Year’s Resolutions.

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It’s that time of year again; a time to look forward to the New Year and reflect on the changes we want or need to make in order for our business to grow. With that said, try to remember to strike that delicate balance between work and life.  For many small business owners, the two are so deeply intertwined that it’s hard to separate.

1. Plan your day. Every morning make a “To Do List” and keep it in front of you. Make sure it is reasonable and achievable. Many people are their most productive in the morning so add your toughest item(s) and the ones that you dread most to the top of your list. After you get these items completed your day will seem easier and you just might find yourself whipping through the rest of your tasks.

2. Put time for you on the calendar. While you are planning your day be sure to schedule some “You Time”. It is so important to take the time to recharge and refresh yourself; a healthy work-life balance demands time out. Get used to scheduling time regularly to “meet with yourself” and stick to that commitment. If you don’t invest in yourself, who will?

3. Make customer service a priority.  It’s a fact that customer service can make or break your relationship with current and future customers. Looking ahead to 2017, customer service should be a priority for every small business. A key resolution would be to look at ways that you can get closer, strengthen your relationship, and stay on your customer’s minds. Remember that keeping a customer takes less of our time than finding a new one.

4. Promote your business regularly and consistently.   Too often the task of promoting our small business slips to the bottom of our “To Do List”.  If you want to attract new customers, you have to make promotion a priority. Make a New Year’s resolution to hire a marketing expert or take the time to create a marketing plan on your own and follow through.

5. Grow your business through partners.   When you’re feeling stuck with your business and you don’t know which way to turn, look to partners. With each year, I believe more and more that partner relationships are a huge key in running a successful business. No matter how small in scale the partnership is, it can reap huge benefits for your (and their) business.   I find that meeting with my partners is enjoyable, helps clear my head, and can easily be part of my “You Time”.

6. Join a new business organization or networking group.   There’s nothing like talking to other business people for sparking new ideas and making contacts. Whether it’s a group specifically designed for networking or an industry organization dedicated to a particular type of business,  making the effort to be a part of a group will revitalize you and your business. Give yourself a break and take some time “out of the office” to meet with like-minded individuals to network.

7. Learn how to delegate and get more help. Your business may not be growing sufficiently because you are trying to do too much yourself. Examine your operation for routine tasks that take too much of your time or for the ones that you dread.  Decide to let someone else handle these tasks. Delegation is key to a healthy work-life balance.

8. Give something back to your community.  Make a New Year’s Resolution to find a cause that matters to you and give what you can; money, time, or both.  Not only does it feel good on a personal level, but doing good is just a smart business practice. Those that give get.

Building and maintaining a successful  business can be time consuming and difficult. Use these resolutions to help your small business grow and just as important remember to make time for yourself, family, and friends.

Happy New Year and may Your Business Prosper in 2017!

About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Virtual/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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Something Made of Leather

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I started my Virtual Assistant business 3 years ago last month.  What a life changing event!  Owning a small business has its ups and downs-but in my case the ups have definitely outweighed the downs.  Personally, 2016 has been rough on my family.  Having the flexibility of running my own business has afforded me the much needed time to spend by myself and with family and friends.  Today, life is good!

 In my 3rd year of business I have learned that if you are hard-working, honest and do your best… referrals will come.  I have had the good fortune to work on 3 new projects this year that came from client referrals.  I am currently speaking with 2 new prospects that were referred to me by another local entrepreneur.

 Unfortunately, I realized that it is still difficult to terminate a relationship with a client even though they continually pay their invoices late.  I do have to say that the majority of the people that I have had the pleasure to work with are good, dedicated, hard-working clients.  I am thankful for all of them.

 I was reminded of how blessed that I am to have good health as I watched a client go through a long and trying medical issue this year.  I admired her strength and positivity as she continued to work part-time during this difficult period.  I am happy to report that she is recovering and back to work full time.

 So what will this next year bring?  I don’t know.  I am still looking to build my client list.  It is my passion to partner with other small business owners to help then grow and sustain their businesses.  I can help them save time, money and frustration by taking on their administrative tasks.  If you would like to discuss how virtual assistance can help you please let me know.

 But for this weekend, I think I will go out and buy myself something made of leather for my 3rd Anniversary!

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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Do You Need Another You?

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Has your small business grown to so much that 24 hours in a day is just not enough?   Do you want to be more productive and less stressed?   Do you need help digging out from your administrative pile?    If you answered “Yes” to any of these, now may be a good time to consider hiring a Virtual Assistant.

Produce Income.   How many administrative tasks are you taking on in your business that aren’t producing income?  You aren’t making money while you’re scheduling, managing your e-mail or posting on your social media sites.  All would agree that these tasks are important, but they take up precious hours in your day that you could use to grow your business.  Do what you do best and leave the other tasks to a Virtual Assistant.

Improve Time Management.  The reason most people start looking for a virtual assistant is because they are too busy and they know a virtual assistant can save them time.  A good VA will literally add hours to your day.  Use those extra hours to work on obtaining new clients, on sales, or spending more time with your family and friends.

Save Money.  Time is money.  Hiring a Virtual Assistant is cost-effective.   You do not need to provide a VA with room for an onsite office, office equipment or furniture.  You only pay for the time they work for you.  It is the most inexpensive, affordable and productive way to get your tasks done and free up your time.

Reduce Stress.  You feel overwhelmed with your workload.  A virtual assistant will give you peace of mind.  Give a VA the projects and tasks that you dread, that you put off or that you do not like to do.  With a Virtual Assistant you have no worry about insurance and other benefits, payroll processing, labor relations and other stress-inducing problems of running a business.

Think about outsourcing your time-consuming tasks to a Virtual Assistant.  It will help you maintain a good work-life balance, enable you to increase revenue, and save you money and maybe even your sanity!

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.    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

When Should You Fire a Client?

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The customer is always right. Or are they?   Have you ever had “that” customer?  The one whose name popping up in your inbox (or on your phone) just makes you cringe?

Define your best customers — those who are most satisfied, most profitable and are enjoyable to work with — so you can nurture and attract more just like them. At the same time, define which customers cost your business time and make you frustrated.

Breaking up may be hard to do, but when a client is costing you money or making you crazy, it can be a smart move.  As a small business owner, it is important to know when it makes sense to fire a client.

 Some clients think we’re their bank:  They ignore our payment terms and send in late payments. As every entrepreneur knows, cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, so when a client starts abusing the financial aspect of the relationship, it is time to let them go.

 There is the Chronic Complainer:  This is the client who never has anything good to say about you or your business. To them, you’re possibly too expensive or the service you provide is never good enough. This is the person who is often very demanding and cannot be satisfied.

 Then there is the Time EaterThese clients make you feel like they want you to be at their beck and call 24-7.   This client may frequently cancel or reschedule meetings.

      Ask Yourself:  Has this customer always been challenging?  Chronically unhappy people    rarely become satisfied people.  It may be pointless exhausting yourself to please others.    Does this customer mistreat your employees?  If a customer is verbally abusive or harassing one of your employees, let them go!

The process of firing mismatched customers is not pleasant for either side and is to be avoided at all costs. If it has to happen, use tact, courtesy, and professionalism to keep your business name in good public standing.  Discharging customers the wrong way can  lead to bad news for your business. Customers talk, and word of mouth about bad experiences travels fast and far.

Be positive:  Positive language in customer service can make your customers come away feeling more positive about the interaction, even if you’re delivering bad news.

Re-State the Situation:  Never use statements that can be taken as personal attacks like “you’ve been asking for too much.”  Instead, re-state the conversation to something that sounds more like this, “It seems like we haven’t been able to do our job to keep you as a happy customer.”

Apologize:  When we receive an apology, we no longer perceive the situation as a personal threat.  Tell your client that you are sorry that your services are no longer meeting their needs.  You may want to suggest another company…but beware-they may end up being a bad client there also!

As small business owners, our biggest priority is to making our customers happy, successful and loyal. If you can do that, you’ll grow your business. This means you may have to get rid of the bad customers who sap your time and energy from being able to make the good ones happy.

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.    www.anotheryouerrands.com  937-416-2207
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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

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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