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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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

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!

Who Are You and What Do You Need?

Who Are You?  The question is much more than a song from the late 70’s by the Rock and Roll band The Whoquestion-622164_1280

You are a solopreneur or a small business owner. You work out of your home or a small office. You have been in business 1-5 years and, thanks to all of your hard work, your business is really starting to take off.  You work by yourself or have a small staff.

During a normal day, you are out of the office providing services, networking, and building your business. You get back to your office and you still have bills to pay, customers to call, and invoices to crank out. You check your e-mail where you have 30 new ones plus those 100 that have been sitting in your Inbox for weeks…let’s be honest…months. You see on your calendar that you were supposed to post on your social media sites this week and you have no idea what to post or how to get images that are both engaging and legal to use. Everything you read from “expert marketers” say you have to blog…not only do you have to blog but you have to blog consistently. Who has time to think about and research content? You look at the clock, its 6:00 already and you still have hours of work. You move forward and spend the next hour or two completing a few things on your “To Do List”. You are tired and would really like to see your family and friends. You log off of your computer and as you are reaching for the light you see that box of receipts that you have not entered into your accounting system. Maybe tomorrow.

Does this sound like you? This is a normal day in the life of most small business owners that I meet. They just don’t have time to do everything that needs to be done! They love the focus of their business but really do not care for some of the necessities of running it. They need help but don’t want to hire staff nor have the room for them.

What do you need?

You need someone who has the skills and the time to take on administrative tasks, customer service, social media marketing, e-mail management, and more. You need someone who won’t take up office space or require furniture and equipment. You need someone who you only have to pay for the hours that they actually work. You need a trusted and reliable professional that can handle your needs in a confidential, efficient, and timely manner so you can focus on building your business. You need a Personal Assistant. You need me.

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.            http://www.anotheryouerrands.com           937-416-2207