Helpful Advice For Busy Individuals

What Real Customer Service Looks Like

Every business owner knows that customer service is the heart of their business.  Serve customers to the very best of your ability so they return and so they will tell others about you.  Sometimes acts of customer service are the “same old, same old” and need refreshing.  Or maybe you just feel the need to provide more or better customer service but aren’t sure what that looks like.

Be a Listener.

Listen to what your customers are telling you with the purpose of hearing what they have to say.  Some people just want to be heard.  Others are looking for expertise.  Offer your expertise when appropriate but be sure you and your employees are listening at least as much as you talk.

Be Responsive.

Customers want to be heard and they want fast service.  Sometimes you might be able to anticipate what they want before they even express – or know it – themselves!

Be Accommodating.

Customers drop the ball as frequently as companies do.  And let’s face, we are all human so it’s going to happen to all of us.  How we handle it is what’s important. Accommodate your customer as much as possible; you’ll have a customer for life!

Build Trust.

Spend a little time developing a relationship with your customer.  Relationships build trust.  Share your expertise in building the relationship.  When your customer needs you, they’ll come back to you…because you took the time to build a relationship that results in their trust.

Live Your Company Values

Establish values for your company.  What is important to you?  Is it important to you that your customers know you look out for them?  If so, let them know when a sale is coming up on something they purchase or give them some insight into a purchase or service they will appreciate.

Know Your Competition.

Every business has competition.  Know who yours is and then figure out what sets you apart from the competition.  What do you do or offer that is different?  Specialize in the thing that you are good at doing or selling.  Some products you believe in more than others.  Sell those that you truly believe in.  Don’t focus on being better than the competition; focus on being the best at what you do or what you sell. Take care of your clients and they will return time and time again!

What Makes an Excellent Assistant?

As the owner of a virtual assistance agency, I am constantly balancing the client/assistant ratio. Which means I’m always on the lookout for great virtual assistants, or administrative assistants who desire to be virtual assistants.

I find excellent assistants by listening to conversations; frequently it comes up that someone is looking for work. I also rely on Ziprecruiter to find excellent assistants.

Over time, I have learned to really get specific on the personality traits that I look for in an excellent assistant. So…

What makes an excellent assistant?

First, let’s look at what does not make an excellent assistant. Among the zillion resumes I have reviewed in 7+ years, I can tell you what quickly goes into the trash pile:

  • No office experience. There must be a belief in the universe that anyone can be an assistant. There isn’t much that causes my anger meter to quickly hit the hot button faster than getting resumes with no office experience. It demeans this industry. Experience as a waitress, waiter, fast food worker, call center assistant, customer support center assistant, fundraiser, receptionist, hairdresser, nail tech…none of these provide the qualifications or experience to be an excellent assistant.
    These career choices have their own necessary skill set. I am certainly not in possession of the skills required for those careers. I do not understand why people with this experience reply to ads for an experienced Executive Assistant or an experienced Virtual Assistant…but they do. Doing this is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Resumes with typos, incorrect punctuation, incorrect capitalization, incorrect grammar, inconsistent formatting, difficult to read, misspelled words…all these indicate a lack of skill as an assistant. I am embarrassed for the individual submitting resumes with these errors.
  • Not following instructions. If I place an ad and request a cover letter and resume, that’s what I expect to receive. If my ad requests the email be used as the cover letter and the resume attached, that’s what I expect. If my ad requests interested individuals respond to an email address, that’s what I expect. If the applicant can’t follow these instructions, there is little hope of other instructions being followed.

Now let’s look at what makes an excellent assistant. Personality traits are more important to me than skill set. It is not difficult to learn the necessary skills, but it takes the right personality to implement those skills in a way that provides excellent support as well as taking command of the individual being supported.

What does this look like?

  • Professionalism. An excellent administrative assistant knows how to be professional. They are able to appropriately and comfortably address and carry on a conversation with any level of management. They do not take the conversation personally, and by that I mean they do not get personally insulted by something said or implied. They treat everyone in the entire company with respect – janitors, mailroom staff – everyone gets the same level of respect as the CEO. They don’t play office politics. They do not participate in any form of gossip. They don’t drop hints about what they do – or don’t – know. And customer service is always a top priority.
  • Collaboration with the boss. An excellent assistant views themselves’ as their boss’ partner. They anticipate and fulfill the needs of the boss. The strive to accomplish the boss’ objectives and complete every task they can for their boss. They offer appropriate suggestions. Their goal is to make their boss look good.
  • Outstanding organizational skills. An excellent assistant is the calm in the storm. They are able to be calm because they know everything going on with every level of the company. They know the projects going on and the status of them. Being detail-oriented and proactive allows calm regardless of the pressure.
  • Excellent communication skills. As the company’s go-to person, the assistant’s ability to communicate concisely and clearly in person as well as in writing and email is mandatory.
  • Willingness to go the extra mile. Excellent assistants never need their hands held. They are independent thinkers. When they become overwhelmed, and it does happen, it’s how they handle the overwhelmingness that sets them apart. They prioritize, they delegate, and they follow up in a proactive manner. They help become a positive change agent in your organization, finding opportunities to streamline and improve your business operations. An excellent assistant tirelessly resolves problems, averts every crisis, and ensures all commitments are fulfilled, even if others involved tend to push-back.

To summarize, an excellent assistant is confident, reliable, flexible, well-organized, and smart. They are an amazing asset to their boss and organization.

I’ve also posted this article on LinkedIn. Check it out here.

How You Get In Your Own Way!

Ever had someone tell you that you just need to get out of your own way?

Sometimes when I work with business owners, I have to find a professional way to share that statement! I know it sounds ridiculous; how do we get in our own way? I’ve done it, and I bet you have too!

Don’t Let Go and Trust Others?
Ever been accused of micromanagement? As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it is so easy to do! You birth a business…this thought enters your mind like a little flower seed…you think, think, and think some more, which is like water and fertilizer on that planted seed…you start doing things to make your idea a reality…which is like the seed germinating, bursting through the soil, and beginning to grow…and before you realize what’s happened you have started running a business…which is like the bloom of the flower opening!

Who do you trust to cut that bloom, put it in fresh water, and enjoy it? No one but yourself!

Well, it’s the same way with starting a business. But if you don’t let others help you grow your business, you’ll find either you have health problems – probably a heart attack – because you cannot begin to keep up, or your business loses traction and begins to die because you just cannot spread yourself thin enough to keep up.

Let go; let others help you! Do what you do best and let others do the rest!

Little Front-End Time?
Are you a planner or a do-er? Most people are one or the other.

Do you have an idea and spend a lot of time mulling and thinking on it, or do you have an idea and go into action? While it is true that some people spend too much time thinking and never get to the doing, there is a lot to be said about the thinking.

This great idea you have for a business…did you do any front-end work? Did you do enough research to be sure the idea is feasible for business development? Did you talk to people at the Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Council or professional business people? Did you investigate the costs of starting the business? Can you run it from your home or do you need to rent space? Did you decide if you can do it all alone in the beginning, or if you must have staffing to get it off the ground? Did you research if you’ll need legal advice, financial support, marketing, website, etc.? It is better to put the research time in up front, rather than trying to find the time somewhere along the way. Spending the time and money on the front-end and developing a solid foundation for growth will save you money, headaches, and heartaches along the way.

Don’t Accept Solutions?
Have you gone to a master mind group or something similar and shared some of your business struggles? Did group members share potential solutions with you, but you shot them all down for various reasons? Sometimes we business owners are so caught up in how things are done that we won’t even consider deviating from that path. Sometimes the solutions we reject the most loudly are the very ones that will throw us out of the pothole we’re in. Take the time to listen and think on ideas that are not initially appealing; you might be glad you did!

Don’t Appreciate Being Challenged?
Ever had someone challenge your ideas or way of doing things? Especially someone younger and less experienced? Have you caught yourself getting defensive, wondering who they think they are presenting something that challenges your thought process? You are in good company; we have all done it! Not letting go and trusting others usually is tied closely to not appreciating a challenge. If you’re being challenged with how you do things, take it as a compliment. I know that is a mindset shift, but it will encourage you to take a hard look at what you are doing and how you are doing it…and maybe even cause you to make changes that are in your company’s best interest.

And if you’ve found all of this frustrating – good! You’ve been challenged. What are you going to do about it? Click here to let me know; I really am interested in knowing if you’ve been challenged, and how you’re handling it!

Change…my word for 2019

When the new year rolled in many Facebook posts went up with discussion of the ‘word for the year’. I like the challenge that comes with a ‘word for the year’…it keeps something that is of some importance motivating me for some period of time.

Some years I lose connection with the annual word more quickly than other years. I do find it ironic that we are just a couple weeks into the year and no more discussion about the ‘word for the year’!

However, my ‘word’ has stayed with me and a lot of change has already occurred:
* Several key appointments have been completed.
* My first new client of the year was secured!
* I presented options to a client and ALL were agreeable!
* I secured two excellent new team members to assist with SVA’s growing operations.

Now mid-month, my perception of change has slipped a little. I pondered on that word a bit this morning:
* Change does not happen instantaneously just because I want it to.
* Change must be worked at. It is not perfection. It is trying, achieving, failing, and trying again. Change is hope. There is always hope so there are always opportunities for change.
* Change stops when I quit caring and when I give up hope.

So…
* Do not give up!
* Do not stop!
* Each day is a new opportunity!
* Each hour is a new opportunity!

Whether it’s the option of changing or staying the same – or changing out of necessity (Picture #2 came to mind!), change is achievable. It is worth the effort. The results are worth it!

What are you going to change today?

Get your tinsel out of a tangle and keep it that way in 2019!

Bring on the holiday season stress.

I’m sitting at my kitchen island creating this blog. The vacuum cleaner is resting next to me, reminding me to clean the floors when I get up from the island (maybe this blog will be longer than I planned!). I have two Longaberger baskets full of cookies baked and packaged by elves for Santa and Mrs. Claus to deliver to the assisted living facility tomorrow night.

There are gifts staring at me screaming, “Wrap me! Wrap me!” for Santa to deliver in the morning to the grandchildren of our friends. Sadly, our friends lost their home just this week to a fire – along with all the Christmas gifts for the grandchildren from mom, dad, and grandparents. There is a pile of work on my desk upstairs, which is probably why I’m writing in the kitchen. One grandchild just went home, two are on their way to spend the night. I’m tired and looking forward to December 29 and our four-day trip to unwind from all this fun!

Don’t misunderstand; I do enjoy the holidays. But somewhere between December 7 and December 23 the pace of life picks up. I continue to do everything I’ve always done; be a homemaker, wife, mom, nana, and business owner…and then I add the blessing of onboarding new clients, the need to onboard new freelancers, as well as Christmas shopping and baking. Squeeze in a few Christmas light drive throughs and dinners out with friends and…you get the picture! Somewhere in all that the importance of the season to me gets lost. Every year I commit to myself next year will be different, and then life happens, I forget my commitment, and I’m sucked into the vacuum that defines December.

read more…

The Most Obvious Reason Your Business Isn’t Growing

How to Grow Your Business

You’ve read the books, the blogs, and case studies. You did the work, investing in your brand and marketing. Heck, you’ve even completed market research, asked current and former customers how you can improve their experience, and implemented their answers.

But your business has hit a growth plateau. It isn’t growing.

Sure, it isn’t failing and you’re grateful for that, but you can’t seem to break the code, say the magic words, or uncover the secret to launching it forward to reach new heights. And you’re not one to settle for okay or good enough.

So what is it that you’re missing? You feel like the secret to moving your business forward is something obvious, but you can’t quite see clearly through all the day-to-day noise. And you can’t get the distance you need from your business to begin to peek at the big picture. Sadly, your full calendar doesn’t seem to be letting up in the near future for you to create some breathing and thinking space.  read more…

How to Increase your Revenue While Working Less

Increase Your Revenue

You want to make more money. No, you need to make more money. Once you factor in how much you’re losing to expenses, taxes, and the never-ending list of improvements you’re making to your business, it becomes painfully clear that you’re putting in a lot of hours without as much to show for it as you would like.

Maybe your business is at a make-it-or-break-it point. Your business must become profitable, or you must choose another career path. It’s a tough spot to be in, and the pressure of the situation definitely isn’t helping you to think more clearly or objectively.

How in the world can you increase your revenue without chaining yourself to your business? How do you make the hours you devote to your business more profitable?  read more…

How to Make Tax Time a Breeze Even If You Hate Numbers

A New Tax Quarter

A new tax quarter is already underway. How’d the last one go for you? Was it simple for you to update your accountant on any significant income or expense changes? Or is that even something you thought about?

Sure, quarterly tax payments are something your accountant estimates for you based on your income and expenses from the previous year. But what if there is a significant shift in your business this year? Well, we have found that the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises when filing your taxes next year is to keep your tax professional in the loop throughout the year.

“But Lorie, that’s really hard to do when I don’t even know what’s going on with my business finances. Everything is thrown into a shoebox at this point.”

I’m glad you said that. Let’s explore the shoebox concept. read more…

Why You Should Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

Outsourcing

It’s an intimidating word for many small business owners. Outsourcing means letting go a little, handing off something that up until now has been solely your responsibility. It’s like watching your baby take her first steps without the safety of your hands holding her up.

Outsourcing doesn’t have to be nervewracking, though, not when you have the right team to outsource to.

Imagine You Suddenly Have More Hours in Every Day

Really. Imagine it. What if you had an hour out of every day that you didn’t have anything scheduled or planned? What would you do with that hour? Sure, you could reinvest that time into your business. Use it to network. Or better yet, use it to actually follow up on those leads from the networking meetings you regularly attend. You could use it to catch up on all the other work sitting there, waiting for you.  read more…