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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End of Year Checklist for Small Business

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Here are some things every small business should look at as the year-end approaches. With so many things on your plate, it’s a good idea to create a checklist for your end-of-year activities.

1. Get your books in order. Whether you are a solopreneur with a box full of receipts that haven’t yet been entered or a small business owner who has a bookkeeper on your payroll, you have to get this step done before you can do anything else.

2. Review all your systems from top to bottom. A system review can be an eye-opening experience for business owners. Carefully examine what is working and what isn’t. Don’t assume that just because you have had a certain system in place from day one that it is adding value to your business or your customers.

3. Review your expenses and vendor contracts. Run an expense report and see where you are spending your money. Is it money well spent? Are you getting a good ROI from all of your memberships? Are you really reading all those magazines that come each month? Take a look at how much business you are doing with each vendor. Are you getting optimum pricing based on how much you are working together?

4. Touch base with your best customers. Be sure to tell them you appreciate their business and ask if there is anything you can improve on or do differently to help them grow their business. Send them a Christmas card or gift or plan to send them a card at the beginning of the New Year.

5. Take a good look at your website and social media platforms. You need to make changes to your website to keep people coming back and take advantage of SEO. Is the content on your website and business social media profiles up to date? Dedicate some time for touching up, revamping or overhauling your digital presence.

6. Revisit your pricing. Once you understand your business’ financial picture, it’s time to get honest about how things are going. Many freelancers and small business owners make the mistake of under-charging their clients: is your pricing adequately compensating you for your time, experience, and costs (which include taxes, retirement plans, health insurance, and more)?  The start of the New Year is a natural time to bump up your rates.

7. Goals. Pull out your business plan and any other planning documents and review this past year’s goals. Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Why or why not? Set Goals for next year. Be specific, give them a timeline, and make sure they are measurable and written down.

8. Revisit Your Business Plan. If it has been a while since you examined this critical document, now’s the time to get to it. Review it to ensure it’s still aligned with your company goals. Change what needs changing. And if you never had one, this is the time to make one.

9. Meet with your accountant. The end of the year is the perfect time to meet with your accountant to plan your taxes. Discuss with them what you should do with excess cash and take a look at anything you can write off.

10. Get Organized. If you’re like a lot of business owners, your desk is cluttered, and so is your desktop. Spend a few hours throwing away and shredding things you don’t need and organizing your computer files. I guarantee you’ll feel more together come January.

headshot2About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal/Virtual Assistant service based out of 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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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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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

3 Ways to Save Time and Handle Interruptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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