Outsourcing: Team Member or Trusted Partner?

Outsourcing: Team Member or Trusted Partner?

Outsourcing some of your business tasks could be just the thing to keep you from total overwhelm and eventual burnout when you find yourself juggling too many details to focus on the true mission of your enterprise.

You spend a lot of time running your business. Then there are the occasions when you need specialties that are beyond your expertise.

How to maximize your time and get the most out of everything you do?

The term “outsourcing” refers to hiring others to complete a portion of your business workload.

Free up some of your time or complete projects that you are not necessarily skilled in by taking advantage of a VA’s expertise.

Outsourcing some of your tasks can also help your business grow by leaps and bounds.

Why outsource?

A virtual assistant can help you by doing many of the tasks that must be completed but take up too much of your valuable time.

This gives you the freedom to do the things that help your business thrive.

For example, if you make money by selling products and recruiting people, consider delegating some of these tasks to a VA:

•Answering emails
•Creating newsletters for your team and your customers
•Posting recruitment ads online

You can now take the time that you would normally spend on those tasks and use it to connect with potential clients.

Say you’re an internet marketer who creates and sells information products. A virtual assistant can handle administrative duties such as:

•Distributing articles and press releases
•Researching new topics
•Drafting your articles, special reports, etc.

This will allow you more time to market and sell your products.

When to outsource?

Many people believe they have to wait until they are making more money before they can begin to outsource.

This is a vicious cycle because there is a limit to how much money you can make while trying to do everything yourself!

If you’re waiting until you have the “extra money” to pay a VA, you are wasting precious time that you could be leveraging to boost your business to the next level.

If you think you can’t afford to outsource, there are actually many ways to do so on a budget.

Start by outsourcing one or two tasks a month; add to this number as your profits grow and you can afford to delegate more duties.

You might also trade your products or services in lieu of payment.

For example, if you specialize in designing graphics, offer to design a logo instead of a cash payment.

If you are in direct sales, offer to exchange something from your catalog. You may find a virtual assistant who would be willing to make that trade.

Or are you hesitant because you don’t yet realize the true value of outsourcing?

Look at it this way:

Say you bill your clients $50 per hour but you have to spend three hours per week sorting emails. Instead, hire a virtual assistant for $25 per hour to do that job.

You’re charged $75, but you are freed up by three hours per week to earn $50 per hour — which equals $150.

In this case, hiring a VA made you money, it didn’t cost you a penny!

What to outsource?

Giving someone else control of any part of your business can be hard. To make it easier on yourself, delegate the tasks that are most time-consuming.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing something yourself, outsource that task to a specialist.

You should have a list of the routine duties that are keeping you from earning more revenue.

That’s going to help you narrow down the type of assistance you need. You can then decide if you are seeking administrative, technical, or creative support.

Be prepared when you decide to begin outsourcing.

Clearly communicating your needs and how you like to work will make the process of hiring a new VA run more smoothly.

Ask and answer questions that will give you an idea of how well you and the potential contractor will work together.

Experienced VAs with management skills can give you suggestions to spark your own enthusiasm and creativity, taking on the role of trusted partner as well.

Choose wisely: Your virtual assistant can become a valued member of your team, able to handle a wide variety of the tasks you most need doing.

This article is part of an ongoing series on how small businesses can improve their procedures and processes to maximize their growth. What topics would you like to see featured? Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments!

Small Business Inbox Management: Best Practices

Small Business Inbox Management: Best Practices

Email: Can’t live without it, can’t live with it.

Used effectively, it’s a time-saving communication tool helping you stay in touch with your clients, vendors, and team members. But mismanaged, your inbox can become a nightmare time and energy zapper!

Having a plan of attack is crucial to taking and maintaining control. Inbox Zero was originally conceived as a strategy to manage email and increase productivity. Schedule a block of time to clear the clutter and finally take command of your inbox.

Follow these five steps:

Delete: This should be the very first thing you do and is the easiest step of all. If you know from the subject line that you’re not interested, delete immediately! That will probably eliminate at least 50% of the inbox overload.

Do: Next, quickly scan short emails and take immediate action. Experience the instant gratification of handling a task as soon as it hits your inbox so it never reaches your to-do list!

Defer: Then, schedule tasks when it’s more convenient. This tool removes an email from your inbox when it’s forwarded to a future date/time of your choice. Send yourself unlimited reminders for free from any device on any email client. And there is nothing to install. Check it out here: followupthen.com.

Delegate: Don’t hesitate to forward tasks to other team members with specific, easily understood directions. Give all the information required to ensure satisfactory follow-through.

Respond: Always respond proactively, starting with a subject line that explicitly states what the email is about. Be sure instructions are clear and provide concrete steps for the reader to follow. For example, give scheduling options rather than leaving a meeting request open-ended.

If you use Gmail or Outlook, this multipurpose tool can defer sending and receiving emails to another time, give follow up reminders, and even assist with crafting actionable responses. It’s free for 30 days with all the features of their Professional plan, but after that, the Basic plan is free forever. No credit card is required to sign up: boomerang.com.

Once you have control of your inbox, maintain it with these tips.

  • Calendar email review for no more than twice a day.
  • Disable notifications to avoid distractions.
  • Check your inbox in the evening and schedule tasks for the next day.
  • Opt out or unsubscribe immediately if you don’t want to be contacted.
  • Try SaneBox to separate email into inboxes for immediate action or later review.

What are your favorite email management tools and tips? Let us know in the comments below!

This article is part of an ongoing series on how small businesses can improve their procedures and processes to maximize their growth. What topics would you like to see featured? Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments!

What’s Your Business Plan?

What’s Your Business Plan?

So you either had an MBA prepare a costly business plan for you or you sweated through creating one yourself, with all the bells and whistles.

And then, once past the startup phase, never looked at it again.

That’s really a shame because ignoring your business plan can seriously hold back your business growth and development. Here’s why:

Your business plan is a living document, intended to be reviewed and revised regularly. It needs to reflect the current goals and status of your business.

Your competitors, marketing strategies, goals, and stage of business development have all changed.

You need an updated plan to stay in the game.

When to review your business plan:

  • A rival has moved into your territory seeking your ideal clients using a different marketing strategy. You should change the tactics outlined in your business plan to counteract the increased competition.
  • You want to introduce a new product and need to convince investors to finance your venture. The stale information in your business plan is NOT going to impress them.
  • You realize your entire focus has shifted and you’re now targeting a different audience. You probably won’t reach them with the obsolete ideas from your original business plan.

Don’t wait for a triggering event to initiate a business plan review. It should be done annually, quarterly, or even monthly if your situation demands.

No excuses!

If you have avoided reviewing your business plan because crafting the original was such a headache, stop! You only need to make necessary changes rather than starting from scratch.

TIP: Your updated plan should actually be more streamlined and concise than the original.

How to analyze your business plan:

A good place to start is with the executive summary since it’s already a short outline of each section. You want to clearly express the revised who, what, when, where, why and how of your company.

Plus, reviewing your executive summary can revive your passion and get your creative juices flowing. And having a streamlined guide to follow can restore the enthusiasm you need to approach your new goals.

Not only your business plan but also your operations manual and business procedures should be reviewed regularly.

Your internal operations manual will update any processes that have changed and aid in onboarding new staff. And clearly stated company policies help your clients understand how your business is run.

If you’ve made so many little tweaks over time that neither of these documents is relevant anymore, it’s definitely time for an upgrade!

What if you never prepared proper business documents to begin with? Imagine the benefit of having a blueprint in place with the information you need at your fingertips to keep you on the right track!

How long has it been since you revised your business plan or operating documents?

If your answer is either “too long” or “never,” consider having us assist. We can help you review your documentation to be sure you’re aligned with your current stage of business development. Let us know your needs here.

This article is part of an ongoing series on how small businesses can improve their procedures and processes to maximize their growth. What topics would you like to see featured? Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments!