The 4 Critical Factors to Discuss in a Successful Production Call

For those of us who began our careers in a corporate setting, many will recall having team meetings. The really successful companies were those who figured out how to do these meetings effectively enough it would encourage the team to improve the business and ultimately the bottom line.

One of the biggest factors I found from my days in Corporate was that the more they encouraged each team member to participate the more “buy-in” they would get from the individuals. It’s the same in any business; how can you expect someone (ie your Virtual Assistant) to get as excited about your success as you if you don’t bring them in and make them a part of that success.

Production Template Dec 4

A Production Call Template

This is why production calls are so important to the success of your team and ultimately of your business. Perhaps the biggest reason many people don’t have these calls with their teams (even when that team is simply them and a Virtual Assistant) is they just don’t know what to cover to make it successful.

Preparation is the key to your success in making sure you are moving the business of your dreams to a reality and as such there are four critical factors (or areas) to consider and discuss in each production call with your Virtual Assistant. I would suggest that you make an agenda based on each of these critical factors such as the template I have created (shown to the left).

Critical Factor #1 – What are we doing well? What are we not doing as well?

The first thing you need to discuss is existing and outstanding tasks. Start by first looking at each task from your previous production call and ask yourself these questions:

  • For the completed tasks …
    • What did we try new that really worked well and we could implement again in the future?
    • Is the process for this task documented? If so, does it need updating or was the process easy to follow? If not, who can create this process before we “forget” how to do it?
  • For the outstanding tasks …
    • Is anything or anyone holding up the process or are we on track to meet our deadline?
    • Do we need to bring in someone else to assist or reassign the task to someone else or are the appropriate parties still involved?
    • What changes need to be made to move this task forward again if it is “stalled”?
    • What changes need to be made to our current policies/procedures to ensure the task is completed more efficiently the next time?
    • Were our deadlines met or are our deadlines still realistic or do they need to be adjusted?

Once you have the answers to these questions you will begin to see patterns (especially after several weeks and months of doing the production calls) as to common strengths and weaknesses of your team. Changes, improvements and enhancements can be made to ensure everything is working well.

Critical Factor #2 – Time to look at the next week and what is on each of our plates and how best to finish the projects that have been started.

The process is only as good as all of the moving parts in any situation. It is critical that you are always setting realistic deadlines and not setting yourself up to fail. Many of us get excited about a new idea and want it to happen right now without any regard for timing. The other thing to remember is often this particular project is not the only thing on your plate and so you need to understand and ask each team member what is on their plate for the upcoming week. Do they have the time available to allocate to this project and/or what deadline should be set that realistically reflects their available time.

Another mistake entrepreneurs make is often referred to as “shiny object syndrome” where we have too many ideas going at any one moment. I was at a business conference a few years ago for Virtual Assistants and the speaker was telling us that as Virtual Assistants the best thing we can give our clients is to help them complete their many unfinished projects. It is best to see a project from start right through to completion so that you can start making money from that project. If you are a shiny object type person then make sure you ask your Virtual Assistant to hold you accountable to getting each project done before moving to a new project.

Critical Factor #3 – You have to make sure you have all the tools needed to complete the project in a timely manner

Nothing will stop a process more than when someone is waiting on someone else for something so they can move forward. As a Virtual Assistant I often found I was waiting for passwords, newsletter content, … the list goes on. If your Virtual Assistant (or in some cases your client) doesn’t have what they need to move forward on a project, the entire process will stall and very little progress will be made.

As my business coach told me, ‘only you can hold yourself accountable.’ In other words way too many of us look to others to hold us accountable. If you are going to tell someone on your team you will have something to them then make sure you have it to them. Don’t be the one who is constantly stopping up the process.

When it comes to this part of the production call it is important to write down, verbalize and share what those tools (passwords, resource links, etc.) and deliverables (newsletter content, website copy, etc.) are, who will be responsible to provide those and most importantly when they promise to deliver.

I can’t say it enough … don’t be the one responsible for stopping the process! Commit to getting what you say you will and when you say you will.

Critical Factor #4 – Upcoming events and promotions are an important thing to discuss as preplanning means greater success!

One of the tips I love sharing is about events and conferences. If you are planning to attend an event or conference and want to have the greatest success, share it with your Virtual Assistant. There are a few things your Virtual Assistant can do to help you have greater success at these events.

Each of us has (or should have) goals when we choose to attend an event. For most it is the same goals:

  • Education and learning
  • Meeting potential clients
  • Meeting possible joint venture partners
  • Researching potential markets

When you share your goals with your Virtual Assistant they can actually help you to achieve your goals, even if they aren’t attending the event. Get your team to do research ahead of time on attendees so you know who you MUST reach out to. Often these events have facebook groups and/or a hashtag on social media they are using. Utilizing these tools your Virtual Assistant can start to put together a “must meet” list of attendees for you. Using this list they can arrange coffee and/or lunch dates with these people even before you leave home.

Creating the Virtual Assistant You Want (and Need) in 5 Easy Steps

Virtual AssistantOne of the things that frustrates me more than anything is when a Virtual Assistant/Client relationship breaks down. Whether it be because the Virtual Assistant decides to move on saying it wasn’t the “right fit” or the entrepreneur “gives up” on their Virtual Assistant it is equally disappointing. Why? Simply because I believe a lot of these relationships could be “salvaged” with a little bit of work. [Of course there are some that can’t, but I believe for the most part given a little extra work they could turn into long-term relationships.]

Many entrepreneurs have the misguided notion that it’s up to the Virtual Assistant to make sure the relationship works because after all they have experience working with other clients. This is so not true. You are the key to making sure the relationship with your Virtual Assistant grows and prospers.

Before I share with you some ideas for “turning your relationship around” you first have to decide you want that relationship to grow and prosper and deserves your time. To do that ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do I genuinely like this person and would like a long-term relationship with them?
  2. Do they have the gumption and smarts to figure things out given the right environment?
  3. Do they have the program skills (Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, etc.)  that can be built upon and support my business needs?

If you have answered yes to these questions than it is good to know that most situations can be salvaged and ultimately turned around when you follow these five simple steps!

#1 – Share your vision

When your Virtual Assistant can connect everything you do to your “bigger why” then everything (no matter how big or small the task) starts to make sense. It is when your Virtual Assistant doesn’t understand why you are doing certain things that the day-to-day simply become tasks and the implementation of these tasks become “robot-like.”

For most Virtual Assistants it is when they start to understand your passion and your drive and the why behind everything that the relationship can begin to grow and prosper. I suggest not only sharing your long-term why and vision, but share your goals and shorter term goals that will fit into that long-term picture.

#2 – Model the behaviour you are looking for

The best way to have someone work efficiently and effectively with you is to model the behaviour you are looking for. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you get things to your Virtual Assistant when you promised?
  • Are you respecting your Virtual Assistant’s time?
  • Do you take the time to make sure your communications are understood?
  • Do you ask questions to make sure you understand everything clearly that is needed from you to move closer to your vision?
  • Are you allowing others to do what they do best or are you micromanaging?

If you expect your team members to act a certain way you first have to check that you are acting the way you wish them to act. Don’t become a “do as I say, not as I do” type client.

#3 – Check-ins are important

Nothing is more important than checking in with your team members from time to time. Make sure there are no bottlenecks in the process and if there are ask yourself “what do we need to change to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The biggest mistake you can make is to assign a project and forget about it. In no way am I suggesting you micro-manage the project, but you need to have a system for checking in to make sure everything is moving forward. Perhaps the best way to do that is by scheduling weekly check-in calls to ask the following questions:

  • What have we accomplished since the last time we spoke
  • What tasks are at a stand still and why
  • What systems do we need to change or tweak to make sure we don’t run into this problem again in the future
  • What is the next step we need to take to progress closer to our vision

#4 – Give praise where praise is due

Nothing makes someone want to do better than to be complimented and appreciated for the work they have put in to date. Each person on your team needs to be made to feel as important as the next member and seen for the contributions they bring to the table.

It is important to remember that everyone (no matter how big or small a role they play) plays an important part in the big picture. Think of and picture your car; every part of that car from the engine down to the oil that is running through the engine is important to ensure the car continues to keep moving and operate like a well-oiled machine. The same is true in your business and of your team. When one team member stops moving in sync with the others it can throw everything off.

Appreciation goes a very long way … it doesn’t have to be big and a simple “Thank you” will often suffice!

#5 – Stay on your Virtual Assistants “A” list

Just as I am sure you have an A list of clients (you know the ones you absolutely love and would do anything for) so too does your Virtual Assistant have a similar list. The best ways I know to stay on your Virtual Assistants “A” list is to:

  • Pay them when you promise to pay them
  • Commit to the hours you “promised” them
  • Work hard to grow your business
  • Don’t fall victim to “shiny object syndrome” and continually change directions
  • Love your business more than they do and stay close to your passion every day

Implementing these five steps will get you well on your way to creating that relationship you are looking for. It will take some work, but I guarantee it will be so worth it in the end!

Virtual Bookkeeping – How Does It Work?


So you have taken the step and decided bookkeeping is just one of those tasks you really would prefer to outsource. You have interviewed several candidates, but no one has really felt like someone you could totally depend on. Your friend suggests someone, but they live several hours away. You would love to work with that person, but you ask yourself how it can be done?

There are several ways to work with a virtual bookkeeper and it is be best to talk with your virtual bookkeeper (VB) to determine which is best for you, but here are just a few ideas to get you started.

How to Get the Documents to Your VB
Option #1 – Set up Virtual Post Office
By Purchasing a Post Office Box in your VB’s hometown and ensuring all your bookkeeping related documents are sent to that mailing address will make matters easy for your VB. They simply visit the post office regularly to pick up any items that are delivered. If asked about the address by your clients and/or suppliers, you can simply state this is the location of your satellite office.

Option #2 – “Snail Mail” or Courier
Once you receive the documents you can bundle them up and forward them to your VB by “snail mail” or courier. The only drawback in choosing this method is there can be a delay and deadlines may be missed. Of course, it does give you the opportunity to review your invoices and approve or reject them.

Option #3 – Scan Documents and Send by Email or FTP
Finally, if you are still a small business, a very viable option is to scan all the documents that need to be inputted into your accounting software and either email or FTP these documents to your VB. If you are a larger company, this may not be a feasible option as you would probably spend more time scanning and emailing then you would simply entering the items. If you do choose this option, please remember to email your VB every transaction you make including on-line payments, checks written, invoices received, credit card receipts and invoices sent. If there is not an actual paper document then details can be sent to your VB for entry.

What Options are There for Systems to Use
Option #1 – VB Maintains Records
This is perhaps the easiest system to use. By having your VB maintain the records solely there will be no concerns about missed entries, incompatible software programs and lost data. Also, from the VB’s point of view it is the best alternative simply because it is easiest for them. Why?

Option #2 – Online Options
Several bookkeeping software programs now have an on-line capability. All data is entered on-line and can be accessed by both parties; the VB and the client. There are several advantages and disadvantages to using this system and if this is your choice it is best to do a lot of research before deciding on the software package you will utilize.

Option #3 – VB Logs Onto Your Computer to Access Bookkeeping Program
Another option is to have your VB access your computer directly. There are several programs that make this a viable option as well. You can also set up your system to allow your VB direct access to your server. Keep in mind that with some programs since only one person can access your computer at a time this may not be a viable option for you. Also, your VB will have troubles as printing will no longer be an option. For many reports it is key to have a paper trail and this may not always be a possibility.

I Still Want Access to My Records, but How?
Option #1 – Online Options
If you do choose one of the on-line options you will always have direct access to your computer records. Of course, these records may not mean anything to you unless you ask your VB to interpret them or you have some simple bookkeeping background.

Option #2 – Transfer File
You can choose to have the data file transferred back and forth between yourself and your VB. The only risks you take with this are that the file is somehow corrupted, you overwrite a current file during transfer or entries are missed because each of you enters transactions at the same time. Another thing to keep in mind if you choose this option is that you and your VB will have to maintain the exact same software package. Many VBs update their software frequently so this could be a costly choice for you.

Option #3 – Maintaining the File and Having VB Work Utilizing Your Computer
If you do choose to have your VB work on your computer file directly by accessing your computer, you will have full access to your records. Of course again you may not fully understand what you are looking at and may need some interpretations.

Option #4 – VB Sends Full Reports Each Month
At the very least, even if you fully trust your VB and allow them to maintain full control of your bookkeeping software, you should be receiving a full set of reports each month. This will allow you to stay on top of your financial decisions and make crucial business decisions.

What Things Should I Ask to Be Included in My Monthly Reports?
1. Financial Statements
Incl: a) Balance Sheet showing all your assets, liabilities and your investment in the company
b) Income Statement showing profit and loss for the month (nice to have a year-to-date too)
2. Balance in Bank Accounts
3. Accounts Receivables listing including all amounts owed by your clients/customers
4. Accounts Payable Listing including all amounts owed to your suppliers
5. Bank/Merchant Account Reconciliations
6. Detailed Trial Balance Showing All Entries Made during the month

Of course, this can be modified to suit your needs, but if you are making financial decisions these items will be critical to make the best decisions for your company.

How Will We Pay the Bills?
Option #1 – Separate bank account – on line access and/or signing authority
This is a fantastic idea and one where you can set up a “bookkeeping” account wherein you deposit only the funds needed to pay bills in that particular month. All incoming monies from payments from your clients/customers are maintained in a separate main business account. As funds get low, you can transfer more funds from your main business account to this operating account. This way the only access that your VB needs to your main business account is one of simple data entry. For your operating account the VB can have signing authority and on-line access as the funds will only reflect the amount required to pay invoices.

Option #2 – Prepared Checks – Attach to Invoices
Your VB can also prepare the required checks and attach them directly to the invoices with an addressed envelope. These would then be returned to your attention and all you would be required to do is to sign the check and insert it into the envelope for mailing.

Option #3 – Supply of Signed Checks and Ask for the Stubs to be Returned Each Month
Another option is to pre-sign some checks for safe keeping by your VB. If this is an option you choose I would suggest ensuring that the stubs are returned to you frequently so you can maintain a record of what the checks are being utilized for.

Option #4 – Email Listing of Accounts to Be Paid and You Issue Checks and Return to Your VB
Perhaps the popular option is to simply have your VB send you a listing of the checks to be written and the amounts. Once you prepare the checks you send a return email showing the check numbers and date the invoice was paid. This will allow you to maintain full control of what is actually paid for and when that payment is issued.

How Do I Stay Knowledgeable with my Clients/Suppliers?
Option #1 – VB Gives Full Detailed Reports to Client (in layman terms)
If you would prefer your VB to remain “behind the scenes” and hidden from your suppliers and purchasers, it will require several things be in place for this system to work. The first thing is to have detailed reports, written in layman terms for your advantage, so you always are aware what is happening in your financial picture. The second is to have the ability to contact your VB at a moment’s notice to ask questions of them. Finally you will require some knowledge of simple bookkeeping and how it works.

Option #2 – VB Sets up Invoicing, etc. to Have Their Direct Line for Inquiries
One method that works amazingly well is to have your letterhead and invoices show your VB’s phone number listed as Accounting Department – Direct Line. Although this won’t stop your clients from contacting you, you can simply direct them to send all accounting related inquiries directly to your accounting department. Of course your VB would have to be willing and able to handle these inquiries on your behalf. Most people will not even realize they are calling somewhere not local, especially if your VB has a toll free line. It will also create the illusion you are a large company with several departments.

What about the Filing System
Option #1 – Virtual Filing Setup, Your Maintenance
Virtual filing can be done, but the first thing you will want to do is to send everything you have to your VB. That’s right, box it all up and send it by UPS; all your blank checks, cancelled checks, your receipts, invoices, etc.. This will allow your VB to set up a filing system for you. They will document and record the names of your files and send these files, already prepared, back to you. By allowing your VB to set up your files they will know which files you have and will keep a record. Then each month they will return your documents with labels as to which files each document is required to be filed in and if a new file is required they will create that file for you. Still worried about finding the time to file, that is fine too once a year you can send a few files at a time to your VB and they can organize them for you and send them back.

Option #2 – Simple Filing System
A second option for filing that some VBs have used is to simply put all the documents in large brown envelopes and mark the month on the outside. Within that folder they will have smaller envelopes for sales, purchases and miscellaneous documents. Then the only thing you have to do is put the envelope in a large box for year end purposes.

Option #3 – VB Maintains Filing
If your VB has the capability and desire, it is a great idea to allow them to maintain the files at their location. The biggest advantage of this is all the records are at their fingertips. This is key when they are dealing with phone calls from your suppliers and purchasers and need to have the answer within minutes.

Finding the right filing system will depend on whether your business is large or small and how often you will be required to access previous month’s documentation.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to outsourcing to a virtual bookkeeper is you are not limited by your geographical location. You can find the person that feels right for you and will be the best fit for your company regardless of location. That means that you can find a person you feel you can trust even if they live several hours away or across the other side of the country it can work.

One cautionary note I always suggest is to have someone else do tax preparation even if your virtual bookkeeper is capable. This will provide a check and balance system for your accounting records and eliminate any worries you have of trust.

Growing Pains!!

typing on keyboardEvery single business goes through growth pains at one time or another. How you handle them will be the key to successfully creating a thriving business.

With my business I have definitely experienced a number of growth pains, but I have taken the time to learn from each experience and allow it to improve my business and myself. I looked each adversity in the face and determined that I was not going to let adversity get me down. I had a business worth fighting for and so do you.

So if you are working from home and can no longer do it alone, what are you to do? Maybe you would love to move out of home, but the costs are prohibitive and you actually enjoy the benefits working at home affords you. So what is a thriving business owner to do? The answer is simple – outsource.

The biggest benefit of outsourcing is the ability to have a team of people working with and for you, but without the frustration of having to find the space to “house them”. Imagine being able to pick up your phone or send an email asking someone to assist you with a project. Does it really matter whether it goes 10 feet away to the next office or 10 miles to another office? By outsourcing parts of your work, you can have a team of highly skilled professionals assisting you with every facet of your business which will in turn allow you to concentrate on what you do best.

There are so many different roles that can be outsourced today, the answer to what needs to be outsourced for you and your business lies in the answer to this simple question. “What tasks are there in your business that you dislike doing the most?”

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is the Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A and Yvonne can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!

Are You A “Mover” and A “Shaker”?

7K0A0603We all know that the people that succeed in business are called the movers and the shakers. So what are you doing to become a mover and a shaker and really create yourself a thriving business?

Most people look at goals as being divided into the categories of short term and long term, but I am suggesting that we start looking at goals in a new direction. For every goal that we set for our business, we can fit them under two separate categories: “The Movers” and “The Shakers”.

The “Movers” are goals that entice you to “get a move on”. These are new goals – ones that cause us to want to start or try something new. They get us “moving” towards our visions.

The “Shakers” are goals that come from wanting to make a change and wanting to “shake things up”. By creating this change in something that isn’t working for us we, again, move towards our visions.

To define what new goals or changes need to be made to existing goals, look at your vision and what you want your business to become. What’s going to move you in the right direction? What needs to change to get you in the right direction?

The “Movers”
Do you need to add new marketing and networking goals to grow your client base? Have you thought about joining organizations, whether they are online or local to your community? Do some research to find out where your target market hangs out. If the organizations you’re looking at cost money, research them to make sure that is where you dollars are going to be best spent.

Have you thought about passive income? Why not make this a new goal? Writing an ebook or special report on something you’re knowledgeable about is great for passive income. Once you’ve written an ebook and people have seen that you know a lot about a particular subject, it may move your closer to your vision.

Finally an important “mover” goal could be to get training on a new piece of software that may assist with your client-base. It shows you’re trying to stay on the cutting-edge of things.

The “Shakers”
Do you not have enough hours in the day, week or month to get everything done for your clients?

One “shaker” goal that a lot of businesses are going to is subcontracting. This does change the way your business operates but, by subcontracting the work out, you can get move done in less time and continue to keep your clients happy.

Another goal that could shake things up would be to change your target market. If you’re targeting Real Estate professionals but you aren’t qualified or don’t offer the services they really need, you might want to take a look at your services and see what other professionals may need them.

Your “Mover” and “Shaker” goals don’t have to be major ones either. They can be very minor goals that you add or change to keep in line with the vision of your business. Whatever you do, just make sure that they’re goals that you’ll be able to meet and start “getting a move on” and “shaking things up” for your business – that will keep your business thriving.

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is the Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A and Yvonne can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!

How Are You Getting the Word Out?

dreamstime_m_34109550 - CopyUsing a marketing campaign assists in getting all types of clients. Using the right marketing campaign will assist in getting the right clients for your business.

There is a variety of ways to market your business and we will discuss a few of those. Remember, though, marketing techniques that someone uses to target Real Estate businesses may not work for someone who is targeting individuals in construction — the old saying “What works for one may not work for someone else”.

So, let’s look at some marketing techniques that you might think about using:

Press Releases
If you are starting a new business, planning an event, having a seminar, or anything that you think is newsworthy, write a press release about it. Not only does a press release get the information out about your announcement, your business name gets out there too.

Depending on your target market, you can send your press release to local newspapers or go online and submit it to specific geographical areas or internationally. There are a number of free press release sites online that you can submit to.

Market your business online by getting a Website. The cost for a domain name and a host is not a huge investment considering the advantages. You can also have a very simple site made at a very low cost too. If you have products that you are selling, add pictures of them to your site so that your target market can actually see them. At the very least your Website can act as an on-line brochure that you can direct your target market to.

Direct Mail
Direct mail can be a little costly as a marketing tool, but it can also be a very effective tool. Sending a personalized introduction letter, and maybe adding a small token, can get potential clients to remember you and your business. Just remember a very important rule of direct mailing is to give people a “call to action” or reason to keep your mailing and follow up with you.

Answering Machine Messages
Even though you may not be able to answer your phone, potential clients are still going to call you. Leave a message promoting your products or services or giving them a reason to actually leave a message.

Business Cards
Whoever you know or meet, hand them a business card. No! Hand them two business cards — one for them and one to give to someone they know. If you hand two business cards to 25 people, you now have 50 business cards out there marketing for you.

Referral Rewards
If someone refers your business to someone and they become a client, offer the referrer a reward. It can be a flat dollar amount, a percentage from an invoice, a gift certificate, or maybe you offer them a certain number of hours free of your services. People are more likely to promote you and your business if there is something in it for you.

License Plates
Next time you order plates for your vehicle, why not do something catchy? For example, I could get a plate that says “ABLE-VA” for my Virtual Assistant Matchmaker business. You never know what you can come up with that people might remember.

Some other examples of marketing techniques would be:
– advertising in the yellow pages
– having a booth at a trade show
– advertising in the newspaper
– a sign on your vehicle
– cd-rom business cards with a presentation on the cd about your business
– and so many more!

Make sure that you also find a way to track your marketing efforts so that you know where your dollars are being best spent. Just don’t overextend yourself — one good marketing campaign is better than several mediocre ones.

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is the Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A and Yvonne can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!

How to Establish Your “Must Have” List versus Your “I Really Want” List

18704639_sWhen you first start your business, your list of “wants” will probably be quite long. Identifying what you must have as opposed to what you really want is critical to responsible financial management. In other words, you’ll never create a thriving business if you spend all your money on everything you want.

Although we may really want EVERYTHING for our business, we must know how to determine a must have versus a really want for our business – budgeting is important. Did you hear that? Budgeting is important. No business can survive without it…well, not for very long at least. Make a list of what you have coming in as income, what you have going out in expenses and what you have leftover. Then from what you have leftover, determine how much of that you can spend on things that you need for your business. Based on how much you have to spend, prioritize the purchase of things you really need, not things you really want.

Determining what we truly need today and what can wait for tomorrow can be hard at times. We all want to have the latest and greatest software, computers and accessories, but do we really need them? Now make a list of what you really need to run your business versus what you really want. Put them in separate columns. Be sure to think about each one and be honest about whether or not you really need it or you just really want it. One way to make a decision is to look at the numbers.

Determine the return on investment of each cost associated with your business. For example, buying a $2,000 software program that will be utilized to bring in revenue of $400 per year is not a good investment, but spending $200 for a product that will make life easier and save hours each day is a good investment. So determine the return on investment for each of the items in your “really need” list and see if that process results in any of those items being moved over to the “really want” list.

Once you’ve moved everything you can from the really need list to the really want list, prioritize your really need list. Again, be honest and use the information from the return on investment analysis you performed earlier to assist you in your decision making. Careful planning and smart spending are critical when developing a thriving business.

Hopefully by now your really must have list is probably much shorter and much more manageable. On the same token, your really want list is probably much longer and more overwhelming than you had originally planned. That’s fine – just perform the same process and move some of the items to a new list. Call it the stuff you really don’t need list. There are bound to be several things you can move to that list.

Remember creating and maintaining a thriving business means planning carefully and spending wisely. When you carefully consider what you need versus what you want using a process, you’re business is sure to thrive as is your bottom line. Budgeting is important!

How to Decide If It Is Time to Incorporate Your Small Business?

dreamstimemedium_1827726Incorporating is not necessary for every business, but making that determination can be challenging. There is so much information out there and much of it is very hard to decipher. Many businesses, especially new ones, struggle with trying to decide what structure to choose not only when first starting out, but also as they begin to run and grow their business. At what point does it become necessary or advantageous to consider incorporating?

The best strategy to consider before making any decisions regarding an appropriate structure for your business is to speak with a lawyer. A lawyer can tell you whether incorporation is right for your business. Of course, I am not a lawyer myself, but through my experiences I have learned there are just a few other things you should have answers to or at least consider before consulting with your lawyer:

Is Liability an Issue for You?
As most of us realize and are aware, one of the key reasons anyone would consider incorporating would be because of the limited liability to you, the owner of the business. Since an incorporated business is a separate entity, owners are protected from most of the liabilities of the business. Many people mistakenly believe that by incorporating you are protected from all liability – this is just not true. Be sure to discuss what issues might arise in your particular business and whether you would be better protected through incorporation. Also, make sure to have your lawyer explain to you just which liability issues you will not be protected from even as an incorporated business.

Do you want your business to survive your death?
Keep in mind that incorporations continue to exist even if the owner dies. As a shareholder in your corporation, you can leave your shares in the company to someone else through your Last Will and Testament. How important is this to you and your business? Of course, for many owners who are still small and going it alone they need only consider themselves. However for others, who have employees or contractual obligations, these also need to be addressed when you discuss your plans with your lawyer.

Do you want the ability to market shares in your company?
How important is the growth of your business? Imagine being capable of raising capital for your company through the sale of shares. Only incorporated companies have this option. If this is a goal for your company, incorporation may be something you need to consider. Of course there are still options for raising capital for your business if it is not incorporated and you can also speak with your lawyer, accountant or bank manager about those options as well.

Would you benefit from the tax advantages?
Before consulting with your lawyer, make sure you also speak with your accountant. The way taxation is handled with corporations is very different from proprietorships and partnerships. At some point there will be taxation advantages to incorporating your business. Knowing what those advantages are and at what point they will “kick in” will be a key factor in determining whether or not to incorporate. The same can be said for the reverse and there are in fact, also tax advantages to having a proprietorship or a partnership. Only your accountant can best determine this based on your individual business.

How does incorporating affect a potential buyer’s opinion of you?
Not all, but some clients are more willing to do business with an incorporated business. To them having Ltd, Inc., LLC, or such, associated with your name tells them you are “swimming with the big guys”. Of course for others incorporating can have the exact opposite affect as their target market likes the illusion of the personal relationship that goes with a proprietorship or partnership. The key will be in knowing your target market and determining what their attitudes are. Unfortunately this is one area where only you hold the answers and a professional may not be able to assist you in making this determination.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer as to whether incorporating your business is the right choice or a necessary choice. Only you, with the help of your lawyer and accountant, can decide what is right for you and your business to ensure you are creating a thriving business.

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is the Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A and Yvonne can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!

What is Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

33908387_sSimply put, a Unique Selling Proposition is that “thing” that gives you a marketing advantage over your competition. So what is it that makes you stand out from the crowd? What competitive advantage do you have? In order to truly create a thriving business you need to figure out just what your unique selling proposition is and then tout it to everyone that will listen. What will make someone drive past five other coffee shops to visit yours?

Remember when determining your USP, it is not always what you perceive, but rather how you are perceived by your client that is important. Really get into their head to understand what they are looking for and what drives them to utilize your service or buy your product over your competitors. Then make sure you deliver on the promise you are providing.

When determining your USP, write down the top three reasons people are buying from you today, then look at some of your competitors and write down the top three reasons people are buying from them. I am sure you will start to see a pattern. Answer the question “My customers would rather buy from me than from my competition because …” If you cannot truly answer that question, now is the time to develop your own unique selling proposition.

When developing your USP, here are some areas to consider in making yourself stand out from your competition:

Develop a unique product or service no one else offers. Sometimes this is much easier said that done, but it is the most obvious way to establish a Unique Selling Proposition.

Offer More
People continually want more; just look at the fast-food industry where everything is offered “super-sized”. I am sure you will find it hard to find someone who hasn’t bought something in bulk just because it was “a good deal”. Perhaps the key to establishing a Unique Selling Proposition is to simply go a step beyond and create your own “grocery list” of services unique to you. For example, a Web designer who also provides custom graphic design is more likely to get business than someone who provides only Web design services. The bookkeeper who provides administrative support as well as bookkeeping will stand out from other bookkeepers because they provide far more “value” for a potential client.

Find a New Market
Perhaps the solution is as simple as introducing a successful product or service to a new geographic area or a new target market. Many products and services have had great success and may or may not have success in a new area.

Give Them a Reason to Come Back
Providing an added benefit to your clients will give them a reason to keep coming back. Look for example, at all of those stores that offer a cash back reward system for their customers. What can you offer your clients as an incentive to have them return?

Of course, the key ingredient to the success of any business is to create a buzz and get people talking about you, your business and the products or services you are providing. When people are excited about what you have to offer, you will have created a thriving business. Creating a Unique Selling Proposition will give you the edge you need to attract clients to your product or service and get them talking.

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is the Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A and Yvonne can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!

What Is Your Business Story?

writing on chalkboardEvery business has a story. Afterall that is what sets each business apart and makes them unique. You can look at any two businesses and they will never have the same story. Your business story tells others about what your business looks like, why you do the things you do and how. It tells others all the important things so that they can truly understand your business as you do.

When we start our business, we have this vision in our head. We know what we want to do, how we are going to do it and why. Some take the time to write out a business plan, while others jump in with both feet figuring that they will “wing it” as they go. We spend a lot of time as business owners reading about the importance of business planning and many financiers and investors would never give you money without being able to see a solid business plan. So, if you took the time to write this plan when you started your business, have you ever taken it farther? Do you update your plan as your business changes? Have you written out your policies, your procedures, your BUSINESS STORY?

Your business story should be written in such a format that anyone can read it and step into your shoes. They should know your purpose and your vision, together with the steps necessary to achieve that vision. Here are five key ingredients to include in your business story:

  1. Description of your target market, your niche and the products or services you provide and why. Let the reader get a feel for exactly what your clients look like, act like and desire and what products or services you deliver to fulfill their needs and desires.
  2. Your visions, goals, hopes and dreams for the future; the exact steps you hope to take your business in to achieve these dreams.
  3. The policies you have put into place to protect your clients, your products and services and most importantly your business reputation.
  4. The procedures you follow each day to achieve those successes including all the behind the scenes tasks, your sales process and your formula for creating the top notch products and services you provide.
  5. Your no-fault, absolute, make everything better, disaster recovery plan, a.k.a. your contingency plans. Those things that you will put into place to make sure that anytime there is a “hiccup” in your business it will go unnoticed by your clients.

Creating your business story is easy you just have to look within your heart and your head and it will almost write itself. Now you just have to set aside the time to write it out. This is important and you won’t realize how important until one day you face that obstacle and say “If only I had written my story!!”

About the Author:

Yvonne WeldYvonne Weld is the Virtual Assistant matchmaker and she helps entrepreneurs find their ideal Virtual Assistant so they can have more time to focus on making more money in their business.

If you are having difficulties getting started with your Virtual Assistant or have questions simply about Virtual Assistants in general, schedule a free VA Q&A and Yvonne can help you navigate the Virtual Assistant world!