Guess what’s back …

In 2014 we started offering call handling to some of our existing clients.  It proved to be such a popular service that we rolled it out to everyone and anyone, and it definitely became one of our more valuable offerings as far as business owners were concerned.

However, as is often the case with business, the sailing didn’t stay smooth for ever.

Following some staff changes Lu was predominantly answering calls on her own, and with the onset of morning sickness, she became concerned the quality of the service offered would be compromised.  It was a difficult decision, especially as it meant losing some clients altogether, but the call handling was stopped in early 2016.

I treat my clients like good friends, and I want to do the absolute best for them. Dropping the ball when it came to their businesses just wasn’t something I was prepared to do.

Nearly 18 months later and things have changed.  The morning sickness has been replaced by a 10 month old boy called Eric, and now we have a team in place dedicated to handling all the calls you can throw at them.

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If you want to find out more about the various packages we offer (including a holiday cover package) please get in touch. You can call 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

 

We look forward to taking your calls.

 

 

So many business cards, so little time

Today Time Saving Heroes had the pleasure of exhibiting at The Big Bolton Expo, hosted by thebestofBolton.  Having attended a number of different expos, both as an exhibitor and a delegate over the past three years, I can honestly say this was hands down the most professional, friendly and well run event I’ve been to.

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The organisers did a great job of being on hand to help with any questions, and were always friendly, calm and fun to talk to.  At other events I’ve seen the people “in charge” running around like headless chickens, which I always think leaves a poor impression.  It also makes them very unapproachable if you do have a query.

With such a well-run event it’s impossible to come away, no matter what side of the stand you were on, without a handful of business cards and a bunch of new contacts to follow up with.  While it’s always important to follow up, after splashing the cash on a stand, it’s imperative. You need to justify that time, effort and just as importantly the financial expense.

This is where a VA can come in handy.  I know some businesses have a team behind them, and some may even have a whole marketing department, but for sole traders and SMEs this is not the case.  After spending a whole day exhibiting, you’re going to want to crack on with “work” the second you’re back in the office the next day, and then, before you know it, an entire week has passed and you’ve not sent a single email.

Admittedly, the contacts aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up in a timely manner.  The longer you leave it the harder it might be for someone to remember you, and any conversation you might have had.  Sending an email the next day leaves a good impression – it shows you’re organised, if nothing else.

How a VA can help

Here at Time Saving Heroes we have a number of clients that we only work with after expos and conferences.  It’s the only time they need to use our services.  Whilst every client in this situation is different, here’s what we do for most:

  1. If the client is local they will either drop off their new pile of business cards, or we will collect from them. If they aren’t local, they tend to take photographs and send them to us via email/Dropbox etc.
  2. Once we have the business cards we collate all the information in to a spreadsheet, which can then be easily uploaded in to their CRM systems. If we have access to the CRM system itself we will upload the data directly.
  3. If any information is missing from the business cards/leaflets we will take the time to search this out. It might be that there’s no Twitter handle on the card – so we will look to see if the business or individual is on social media, and find all relevant links.
  4. For most clients we will have pre-written their initial contact email, and now we will send it out on their behalf. It might be a specific email, or it might be in the form of a newsletter, depending on the client’s preferences.
  5. We will ensure we make contact with all businesses and individuals on behalf of the client via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other platform they deem to be relevant.

 

After that we can help schedule certain individuals for further follow-up, as well as writing any other emails and/or newsletters that the client might want to send.

 

If you have been to an expo, conference or any other networking event and are worried that you don’t have time to capitalise on the new contacts you’ve made remember Time Saving Heroes. We are your secret weapon in the fight against time.

 

 

Let me be your chicken

As headlines go, you’ve got to admit that one went and got your attention, didn’t it?

This morning I decided to treat myself to a plate of bacon and eggs (scrambled, for those of you who are curious and crave the details). The kids were occupied with their toast, all was quiet (briefly), and I got to thinking about a riddle I’d heard years ago.

In a bacon and egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the chicken and the pig?

The simple answer is that the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

For many employers, recruiters or business owners it may seem that when faced with the chance to work with a chicken or pig, you want the pig. You want someone who is going to be all-in. However, I’m not so sure that’s really the best option.

When you think about the role the pig has to play in our breakfast scenario (apologies vegans and vegetarians out there) his sacrifice is perceived as commitment. In order to be part of the plate, he has to be slaughtered. The problem with this is that the pig can only be slaughtered once (no doubt something the pig, himself is relieved about).

Equally, the pig has no say in the process. The pig is caught up in someone else’s agenda, and remains a passive bystander until he is taken to the slaughter house and his lights switched off.

I’m not sure that’s actually commitment.

Not when you stop and think about the chicken. The chicken is born to lay eggs. It is in her very DNA. She does so without any prompting, coercion, very little encouragement and with no fuss. She voluntarily contributes to your breakfast, all you have to do is touch base with her once in a while and collect the eggs.

Your chicken will continue to lay eggs for as long as she is physically able to. Unlike the pig, she is not a one-time contributor to the plate.

Assistants can be either a pig or a chicken. The pigs are full of enthusiasm, but once they have given what they can, they burn out and have nothing left to offer.

Chickens can go the distance.

The chicken is the one with the real commitment.

Now, excuse me while I go and re-brand the business. What do you think of “Time Saving Chickens”?

Receipts, expenses and mileage: three words a VA loves to hear

Every three months or so a pile similar to the one in the cover photo ends up on my desk. In fact, that photo was taken this morning, and the contents are still staring at me, whispering “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”.

It’s at this point I realise I’ve not left the office for days and I might have a few “issues”.

However, I digress.

This pile of papers is evil, and gives one of my clients a serious case of the heebie jeebies. Which is why it has navigated its way to me instead.

The contents include bank statements that need to be reconciled with numerous receipts, cash receipts for expenses claims, cheque stubbs that need to be tied to paid invoices, invoices that might still be outstanding … and in all honesty, a host of other nasties.

However, it’s come at a great time for me to provide another example of something you can outsource to a PA (whether virtual or otherwise). If you run your own business chances are you don’t have time to deal with this sort of admin. Yes, it’s important, and if you did do it on a regular basis the pile wouldn’t get so high but let’s not kid ourselves, in a toss up between filing a receipt or quoting for a job, we all know what’s going to win.

There is no contest.

Being able to drop a pile of paperwork like this off with a VA is a hugely liberating experience (so I am told, anyway). One client recently said

Giving you a carrier bag full of receipts is like a two hour therapy session. I immediately feel like a weight has been lifted because I know whatever is in that bag of c*@p is no longer my problem. You will deal with it and send me a lovely little spreadsheet a week later.

So there you have it – a VA is like therapy, but significantly cheaper.

If you have receipts piled up, mileage that needs to be recorded or expenses that need to be claimed give me a shout. Time Saving Heroes are on hand to deal with all the time consuming tasks, we can even upload to cloud based accounting packages or scan documents for later reference. Whatever you need, we can get it done because we are your secret weapon in the fight against time.

Call 0161 883 2024, comment below or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk if you want to book in for some time therapy!

How a VA can make you a better networker

For the last few weeks I’ve been talking about how a VA can be a huge help when it comes to sorting out an overwhelmed inbox. This week I thought I’d look at other ways an extra pair of hands might be able to help you run your business more efficiently.

Let’s look at networking, one of my favourite things about being a business owner.

One thing many people struggle with is making the most of their networking activities. It’s all very well finding the time to actually attend a networking meeting either weekly or fortnightly, but doing it right can be all too time consuming for some.

Networking isn’t simply about showing up and passing business cards around. You need to take the time to think about what it is you want to say – you only have 60 seconds to get your point across and make people remember you. Equally, you also need to commit to the follow up. If you’re not going to make the most of any connections or leads that have come your way, you’re totally wasting your time rocking up to an event in the first place.

I have one client who attends, on average, six networking events a week. All, bar one, are morning meetings which he likes because he can get them out of the way before most people have started in the office. However, he came to the realisation that he wasn’t keeping on top of everything effectively, which meant he was essentially wasting his time, and money, by going to all these different events.

In order to help reduce the strain on his time, and ensure that he is being as efficient as possible with his networking activities we have put a few things in place.

60 Seconds

Once a month we have a 10 minute phone call to brainstorm ideas and catch up on what’s been happening in his business. From this chat, and from my general day to day knowledge of what he’s been up to, I am able to write his 60 seconds/elevator pitches for him to use.

He prides himself on not using the same information over and over again, as he wants to keep things interesting for the rest of the people in the room. Thankfully I have a great system set up whereby I know what he has said in which group, and when so there is not likely to be any repetition.

CRMs

When a new member joins one of his groups, or a visitor has attended, he will send me a picture of their business card via WhatsApp. I will then add their details in to his CRM system, along with information of what meeting they attended, if they have been before and if he has set up a one to one meeting with them.

One to Ones

Before you think it, no, I do not attend one to one’s on his behalf! We did talk about it once, and I managed to talk him out of it. However, what I will do is liaise with people to book the one to one’s in the first place, and send confirmation of the appointment once it has been made.

He then records his one to one meetings on his iPhone, and sends me the audio which I will transcribe. From this I complete a “file note” for him, which will be attached to the individual’s record on his CRM and forwarded to them as well. This is to allow them to confirm that he has understood precisely what they do in their business and what sort of opportunities or referrals they are looking for.

I will then add their details in to a database so that in 11 months we will make contact again to arrange another one to one.

Referrals

When he is handed a referral or lead he will always pass me the details so that I can make the initial contact. I will find out precisely what is required, and pass over any information that the prospect needs to be able to make a decision.

If a meeting needs to be arranged, I will schedule it.

From there, the client handles everything else himself.

This is an approach that works perfectly for him, but might not be ideal for everyone. However, I hope it gives you some idea of how outsourcing some tasks could take the pressure off you, and allow you to be more efficient at work.

If you want to have a chat about how you could improve things in your office, why not give me a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

Ask Me Why I Love My Job

Every week I write a blog about what it means to be a Virtual Assistant, how you can use one to benefit your business, and what you can outsource to one.  This week though I thought I would do a piece on why I love being a VA.  To be honest, there’s a bunch of reasons but here are my top 3.

# 1 – The clients

Anyone who has ever worked with me in any of my many customer service roles will probably find this a bizarre thing for me to say, but I love my clients.

I’ve always been quite infamous for my dislike of customers (FYI, they are NEVER right when you work in retail), and I’ve never tried to hide this fact from employers (or customers, for that matter).

However, there is something very different about the people I work with and for these days.

My clients are professional business people, they are driven, they are enthusiastic and they are forward-thinking.  Yes, there are some exceptions to those rules and I have come across a whole new level of not nice people (trust me, those are not the words I am using in my head) but generally speaking, my clients are all kinds of ace.

One of the best things though is the fact that I get to work with them over time, which means you can build genuine relationships with them.  Whilst I do offer an ad hoc service, and sometimes it may be months between working with someone, over the years you build rapport and you get to know them, their families and their interests.

I may work alone, quietly from my office, but I definitely feel like I am a big part of their team, and I adore that.

# 2 – The variety

Being a VA means you have a tendency to take on a wide number of roles for different people.  For some clients I just manage their email, for others I do research, book venues, source suppliers, do data entry or chase outstanding invoices.

On top of the regular work I do for people, I get random requests from one-off clients, or people who only plan to use me for one task.  The things I get asked to do can range from the mundane to the downright bizarre, and I love the sheer variety.  I never know what’s going to land in my inbox from one day to the next, and I think that’s quite exciting.

The most bizarre thing I’ve been asked?  Well, that’s a whole other blog!

# 3 – The challenge

Being an assistant of any kind is a challenge, being a VA is even more so.  Some of my clients I have never met face-to-face, in fact, some I’ve never even had a telephone conversation with, we just communicate via email.  That can be a huge challenge in some ways, especially when you consider how easily things can be misconstrued in text format.

Equally, juggling the various demands of multiple clients, all of whom have different deadlines to work to and (rightly) expect to be your priority is difficult, to say the least. However, I thrive on that level of challenge, and no, I don’t always get it right, but the vast majority of the time I do.  Most importantly, I learn from the times that I don’t.

On top of just doing my job, I am actually running my business, which means I have my own invoices to send and debts to chase, research to do and marketing to stay on top of.  I think that makes me well placed to genuinely understand the time pressures my clients are going through, and at times that means we find ourselves lamenting just how bloody hard it all is over a glass (or three) of wine.

Case Study: Email and Diary Management

Over the last two weeks I’ve been talking about how you can outsource your inbox to a Virtual Assistant, as well as providing top tips for how to better manage your email yourself. This week I wanted to give you an example of the work I do for one of my clients, and how it’s helped.

Jon runs a hugely successful property management business in Essex. To keep his overheads low he runs a virtual office, with the vast majority of tasks associated with the business either being undertaken by himself and his wife, or outsourced to experts.

He has a marketing firm handle all of his branding and social media, his wife Reenie manages the admin, a bookkeeper comes in twice a month and then there’s me. I’m in charge of Jon’s email and calendar.

So, what exactly do I do?

Although Jon has his own email, only the members of his team know what it is. Every other email comes to the generic “office” email address, which I manage. On an average day we can receive anywhere between 50 and 120 emails per day.

My job is to whittle this number down significantly. Ideally to less than 10.

Every morning I therefore filter the emails and delete any obvious spam. Any newsletters that might be useful in terms of content production I forward to the marketing team, and then delete.

I then answer any obvious queries, for example, requests for information on when work will be completed, or a property will become available again. The answers are all easy to find, thanks to the processes we have already put in place, and it just takes a few minutes to grab what I need and send it over to the enquirer.

Next I focus on meeting requests. These can be 121’s from his various networking activities, meetings with existing landlords or new ones, property visits etc. To save email exchanges taking place I tend to pick up the phone and call people to book them in there and then. There is nothing worse than suggesting a time and date, only for Jon to have filled that slot himself in the time it’s taken the person I am speaking to to get back to me.

Finally, I forward directly to Jon any emails I am unable to deal with myself. Usually these will simply be brand new contacts or potential prospects, as he always likes to be the first contact. Over the last two years, I have never sent him more than 8 emails in one day. Everything else I save him from, which saves him an insane amount of time each day.

The process is repeated during the late afternoon, at which point I also check his calendar and confirm any appointments he has for the next day to avoid wasted time.

Where necessary I also arrange travel, both domestic and international, and send invitations to his database for viewings and any events he is speaking at.

The time he saves in not having to deal with the mundane day-to-day management of his inbox is worth far more than what he pays me to deal with it on a daily basis. He’d be the first to admit that he was sceptical about it all at first, but after working with each other for a few weeks, we got in to a great routine, and he’s never looked back. Most people know that it’s me they’re going to be hearing from, and none of them realise I am not based in the same area (though, my accent probably helps out with this a bit).

If you want to find out whether outsourcing your email could bring benefit to you and your business, please give me a call on 0161 883 2024, email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or send me an InMail. I am always happy to discuss your options, or provide tips to help.