5 Reasons to Use Facebook Live

Virtual Assist Facebook live blog

I find making and watching videos of myself embarrassing. I also don’t care about how I look online, and I may in time come to regret that. However, the more I learn about Facebook in particular, the more I realise I need to get over myself and get into Facebook Live.

I’m pretty annoyed with myself because I read something about Facebook Live a few weeks ago and why it is so effective, but can’t find any trace of it (blame my head cold). What I do have is Mark Zuckerberg from 2014 saying that in 5 years Facebook will be mostly videos and to date, his prediction is pretty much spot on (for more info see Facebook hits 8 Billion Daily Video Views). I also have read feedback from some serious Facebook users and social media “influencers” stating that compared to their other posts, their video reach is huge.

Reach is important because it represents engagement, and social media algorithms love engagement. The more likes and comments you receive on your posts, the more likely your content will show up in people’s newsfeeds. This improves your business’ online presence. I spoke about the importance of this topic in 10 ways to improve your online presence, but just to remind you all again, a good online presence breeds loyalty from you followers, who will hopefully turn into loyal customers.

After some research I’ve compiled the following list:

5 Reasons to Use Facebook Live

  1. Higher engagement – I’ll explain a bit about Facebook live. When you are live, your followers can like and comment live too. You can acknowledge people who are commenting while you film which makes the followers feel acknowledged when you interact with them. They in turn with comment, and keep commenting. A photo or pre-recorder video generally only produces one comment from your followers, if any at all.
  2. Humanises your brand – Once the live stream is over, the video will show in the feed of your other social media followers. Viewers will see you interacting with others, making you and your brand appear more relatable. If your customer already trusts you and your brand, making a sale is a lot easier.
  3. Saves Time – Writing posts takes quite a while. Most of my posts take around 15 minutes to construct and find an appropriate image to go with it. A live video takes as long as required, and much of the time you will be on the move to make it more interesting. Much better than constructing a post.
  4. It’s Prioritised – Facebook in particular are prioritising Facebook live over other posts. Your followers will also receive a notification that you either are live, or were live. You have more chance of people seeing your live post than any other forum, and what’s the point in doing this if it’s not going to show up.
  5. Instant Feedback – It’s a great way to gather information from your followers instantly. You and your followers are pretty well put on the spot, and it’s a good thing. It’s no different to being able to turn to a colleague and ask a question instantly compared to sending an email and waiting for a reply that you may never receive.

Facebook Live has its risks. You need to watch your language, and you never know what’s going to happen at any point in time, which is an issue you don’t have with pre-recorded material. If that makes you nervous, try to be in a controlled environment where possible (i.e. somewhere quiet). The uncertainty is why I’ve steered clear, but I’ve realised that if I’m going to be a part of Facebook I need to get into live streaming.

Now, I know I’ve written a lot about online presence and Facebook lately, but the simple fact is that I have been asked to. If you’d like me to write about something else, well you’ll have to ask. Feel free to comment below, or get in touch.

If you want to see me give Facebook live a crack, like our Facebook Page, and if this has inspired you to you’ll have to let me know your Facebook page so I can keep an eye out and provide support where ever I can. I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone goes, good luck!

5 Reasons to Pay Supplier Invoices On Time

Virtual Assist pay your invoices

I wanted to write this because as you may already know, I’m not a fan of chasing receivables (refer to 7 tips to stay on top of receivables.)

Our clients at Virtual Assist are excellent; late payments are something we don’t need to worry about in our current state. However, we spend a lot of time at other businesses where invoice due dates are regularly ignored.

To acknowledge this difficulty, I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to all those struggling small businesses that need invoices to be paid on time with:

5 Reasons to Pay Supplier Invoices On Time

  1. Reputation – It doesn’t cost much to pay an invoice on time, but it could cost your relationship with your supplier. It doesn’t take long for your company to move down the priority list if you are marked as a late payer.
  2. Recommendations – This is an additional aspect of reputation, as I find suppliers will be more likely to speak of your company in high regard if you are timely at paying your bills. Personally, I am not going to vouch for a business that doesn’t see the importance in paying when due.
  3. Save funds – Virtual Assist offers a cheaper rate if paying upfront (the reasons for this are also in 7 tips to stay on top of receivables). You could always ask your supplier if they are interested in a similar arrangement. It is worth asking as it will benefit both parties.
  4. Credit history – If your late payments end up being referred to a credit agency it can impact on your chance of receiving lines of credit in the future. It’s not worth the risk or the hassle just because you couldn’t manage your receivables appropriately.
  5. Flexibility (when you may need it most) – You may hit hard times, so it is a good idea to pay on time in the times that you just in case you ever hit a patch where you can’t pay, your suppliers will be more likely to afford you some leeway, or even payment options.

Unfortunately, the tone of this blog is a bit “smack on the back of the hand”, but it does seriously get to someone like me. Do you feel the same way? I would be interested to know. Just a warning though, you would need to have a pretty convincing argument to sway my views on it….


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10 Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

Something I learnt this week is that having a group of strangers audit your website in front of you is, for lack of a better word, rough.

It is for someone like me anyway. I put a lot of thought into most things, and my website is no exception. So having it critiqued unexpectedly in a group session was not easy.

giphy 10 300x163 - 10 Ways to Improve Your Online PresenceThe story is that I was attending a lunchtime training facilitated by Mike Clark from ThinkRight, which was focusing on optimising your online presence. I thought he was going to go through the importance of a good headshot, how to manage your social media etc. Instead, Mike searched our websites, brought them up on a projected screen and had a qualified website developer review them along with the other attendees.

Mine was first up. Funnily enough, I had just spent the weekend changing the theme to our website because I wasn’t feeling it anymore. I had chosen a theme with a BIG revolving banner where I could place three services Virtual Assist provides. Once I was happy with the new look I sent it to some peers in the Virtual Assistant (VA) world to review and didn’t look at it again.

And that there was my fatal error.

giphy 11 300x225 - 10 Ways to Improve Your Online PresenceThree things happened:

  • One person asked “so what do you do? It doesn’t say anything”. My answer was “well it’s just a banner, which is just an overview”.
  • “What’s your company name?” Good question, since my fancy new revolving banner did not include my logo.
  • Another questioned, “so where are your services?” My answer; “well you scroll down”. “Oh. I didn’t realise; it’s not something I knew you could do”.

All completely valid points. Do you know why my peers had missed them? These people live and breathe websites. They know: my company and its branding; a banner is just a teaser of what your business offers; and that you automatically scroll down when you land on a webpage.

Do you know who didn’t know this? THE PEOPLE USING MY WEBSITE! I got so much out of this training session, and I wanted to share this will you all.

I spoke with Mike and he kindly agreed to help me compile the list below in the hopes of helping others with their own online media presence:

10 Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

  1. Be professional – No swearing, no whining, be positive. All of your content on every online platform must adhere to this. People respect professionalism; it’s that simple.
  2. Establish target audience and focus on them – Who is looking for you online? Think gender, occupation, interests, age group, location. All these factors will dictate the look of your online presence in every way, even down to the time you post something on Facebook. You must know this before you start so you can target it appropriately.
  3. Branding, branding, branding! – Please, no headshots at your uncle’s 50 with someone’s arm around your shoulder. It looks bad. Just pay a good photographer (I recommend Avodah for those in the Manawatu. $80. One hour. That’s it), and you’ll receive some amazing images that you will be proud to use over the next five years.

Also, make sure you use consistent background images and logos across all platforms. That way, customers can go from Linkedin to Facebook to your website and know they are in the right place since everything flows and looks similar.

  1. Be clear on your purpose – Are you selling a product? Are you providing a service? What is the reason you have an online presence at all? You must have a clear objective, and then communicate that on your online medium. Otherwise, your audience will be lost and disinterested which makes the whole process a waste of time and money.
  2. Think about your “Call to action” – A call to action is what you want to happen when customers view you online. Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to read your blog on Linkedin? Do you want them to like your Facebook page? What ever you want them to do, make that very clear, the first thing they see in fact, so they then do exactly that.
  3. Optimise your layout – Don’t have your main objective at the very bottom of your website. It must be the first thing people see. For example, many individuals don’t know what a VA does, so I have pinned a blog about what a VA is to the top of my Facebook page. Use what’s on offer to showcase your services.
  4. Understand the online platform – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is something you need to know about, as well as the Facebook algorithm. If you do not understand how they work or their terms of conditions, it will not only decrease your ranking but potentially result in a suspension if you don’t know the rules. It’s very real; I know businesses have been affected.

N.B. the Instagram algorithm has also just been updated, and it has changed the reach of images to your followers.

  1. Play the game – Did you know that if your images are highly pixelated or if your website is unresponsive that it decreases your search ranking? Even verifying your business Facebook page or registering for Google for Business can make a huge difference to your SEO. It doesn’t take long (well actually, Virtual Assist’s Facebook page is still not verified because as a sole trader it’s virtually impossible, but I digress…)
  2. Humanise yourself online – Your customers want to know that they are dealing with a respectful, approachable business and that humans are working there happily. They want to hear about your progress in the business world and feel like they are apart of that journey. By humanising yourself and posting relatable content online, you will build up an interested and loyal following of customers, who will then refer interested and loyal customers to you.
  3. Update your content regularly – I update the Virtual Assist website a lot, not only for practice but to stay relevant. It also increases your SEO. Facebook, in particular, will not work at all if you don’t post regularly because of the algorithm. There’s a fine line between regular and spam though, so be careful otherwise you will lose followers and potential customers.

It’s a big list this week, but incredibly important, because if you don’t know what you’re doing with your online presence, you will lose customers, and completely waste your time in the process.

Mike is an excellent trainer across many subjects. If you are interested in learning more, you can contact him via the ThinkRight website or Facebook page.

I will also be holding a training that focuses on Facebook for Business shortly (looks like October) so stay tuned for information on that. Also, I would love to hear your feedback on this article, so feel free to comment below or contact us here, and for more tips for business, like us on Facebook.

6 Reasons to Have a (Decent) Business Facebook Page

6 Reasons to Have a (Decent) Business Facebook Page

For me, this week has been all about Facebook.

Not only have I spoken to a lot of business owners about it and how it has impacted their bottom line (all said increased their exposure to potential customers as well as their profits), but I have had a positive experience with it in the last 7 days.

Here’s the story – one of our clients has been considering holding a DIY night for some time. They understand the importance of nights like this and how successful they can be, but the last one they had run was a lot of effort with only a little payoff. I could see why they were stand offish; that is not overly motivating.

So, rather than relying on word of mouth I suggested we create an event on Facebook and promote it accordingly. Worst case, it doesn’t work, and we don’t do it again. In just two weeks the attendance list went from 6 to 40, many of the attendees were brand new customers, and we sold more of the product we promoted in 3 days than was usually sold in a year.

giphy 6 300x169 - 6 Reasons to Have a (Decent) Business Facebook Page Of course, it wasn’t just Facebook. We had a very talented speaker who was open and honest about the product, and we thought long and hard about our advertising campaign/target audience. However, none of that would have mattered if we didn’t market the night to the people who were genuinely interested in attending. For an event like this you need a bit of experience in marketing, as well as creating and managing a Facebook event, but the point I am trying to make is that Facebook is a beast, and if used correctly it can pay off significantly.

What did we do in this instance? We promoted the event on Facebook for $30 and targeted women between 25-65+ in the local area who were interested in DIY and interior design. All up it took 10 minutes to boost this event to these people.

After this experience, I wanted to create a list of reasons why businesses should have a Facebook Page. In fairness I sometimes question the point. Virtual Assist does not have many Facebook followers or page likes at this stage, but it is growing. I know the likes I have are genuine (more on that in Why Social Media Likes Don’t Pay the Bills by Stevie Says Social, who I HIGHLY recommend following on Facebook), and my take is that the more businesses using Facebook correctly, the better. Facebook should be more about education and quality than pictures of people travelling and making me very jealous. So here we go…

6 Reasons to Have a (Decent) Business Facebook Page:

  1. Helps SEO optimisation – What you post on your Facebook Page can directly link to your website, which helps your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This results in a higher ranking (i.e. whether you are at the top of a Google search). If you are not sure what SEO is and its benefits, refer to SEO Strategy in 2017: What’s Most Important, because it is REALLY important.
  2. Increases your exposure to potential customers – On March 2017 there were 1.94 billion active users of Facebook, which increases 18% per year. 76% of females and 66% of males of the world’s population is on Facebook. All of this may mean nothing to you because you are a local business working with locals, but you can easily figure out if it should matter with a little trick I have. If you have a Facebook page, have a look at “boosting” a Facebook post. You don’t have to complete the boost, but it will tell you exactly how many possible users are in your target market at any given time, and how much it would cost to reach them.
  3. Lower your marketing expenses – Starting a page costs exactly $0, particularly if you already have your branding sorted. Facebook ads are relatively inexpensive when compared to other forms of advertising (which all have their place).
  4. Reach a highly targeted audience – Who do you want to reach? How much are you willing to pay for that? Answer those two questions and then promote your page. Not only will your page show up in the feeds of your target audience, but Facebook will provide you with feedback on your promotion. There are not many forms of marketing that will give you such detailed information.
  5. Facebook insights – When you promote anything on Facebook, you will receive an insight into this promotion. No more guessing if your ideal customers received your advert. Insights tells you how many likes you received, its overall reach, it’s performance. Everything. This knowledge helps establish what works and what doesn’t when it comes to advertising your products or services.
  6. It builds loyalty – If you provide your followers with valuable and even entertaining information, your followers will stay loyal. They will remain so even if you make a mistake because it is all about how you manage it. If you are respectful and educational, people will appreciate it and want to repay you with loyalty.

There is a reason I added “decent” in the title , and it’s because of these crucial points about managing Facebook:

  • It’s time-consuming – I spoke with the owner of About Thyme this week, which is an excellent local business in my area, and the owner stated that she could spend at least an hour on Social Media per day engaging with followers. That may seem like a lot, but it was benefiting her bottom line so much she felt that it more than paid for her time. In other words, you will need to designate time to Facebook, so make sure it will pay off before you go ahead.
  • Do it right – as a consumer and a business owner, if you are going to have a Facebook Page you need to do it right. No one respects an average/below average page. If done properly it will work, and you will get business out of it. Several apps that can help with this are referenced in 10 Free Tools to Help Streamline Your Business, and my biggest piece of advice in this area is to find someone who does Facebook well within your industry, and follow their lead.

I hope this has motivated you to pay attention to how Facebook can help your business. If you would like any further information please get in touch.

On another note, I am currently in talks with the Manawatu Chamber of Commerce to host a more detailed training which focuses on Facebook for business. If you are in the region and would like to attend, either comment below and I can email you the details once confirmed, or (even better) like Virtual Assist on Facebook, as I will be posting a link to the event on there.
I can assure you that the more you use it the easier it is, and a training may be just what you need to get started on your Facebook for Business journey.

5 Key Personality Traits to Have a Successful Business

Virtual Assist personality test blog

***WARNING*** it gets emotional, but I assure you this is businesss related.

The first time I really came to terms with the person I am was when my husband and were in pre-marital counselling.

Now, before you judge or assume we were so mismatched we needed an intervention, this was far from the case (FYI for all those out there saying counselling isn’t for them, Metallica – arguably one of the hardest rock bands in the world – do therapy).

My now in-law’s recommended we do this. They give this advice to couples routinely, and the honest truth is that we did it out of respect for them. I didn’t think I’d get anything out of it. But I can say wholeheartedly that we got so much out of it, I now recommend it to anyone in a partnership.

It’s confronting. There was a lot I didn’t want to face about myself. I cried quite a bit.

giphy 300x180 - 5 Key Personality Traits to Have a Successful BusinessI got a lot out of it and I think all my relationships her helped, not just the one with my husband.

Not long after we were married, I was working for Chevron Australia, where employees were routinely asked to do the e-colors personality test (free app available at iTunes). I’m weary of doing these because I don’t want to be labelled or pigeon-holed by my co-workers, but the fact was it was life changing. The results were spot on.

giphy 1 300x240 - 5 Key Personality Traits to Have a Successful BusinessBecause Chevron is such a beast we were fortunate to have the opportunity to have a one on one session with the designers and creators of e-colors (which would have been incredibly expensive), who explained in-depth the benefits of such a program, and how to use our personal pro’s and con’s to our advantage.

So last week after 10 years I decided to re-do the e-colours test. Not surprisingly, my results had changed slightly, which I would expect after having children. I’m not so hard on myself, much less of a perfectionist. I have learnt to be much more calculated (thanks to Si), but I am still hung up on how people view me and my output.

So, what’s this all got to do with business… Well for good reason many people aren’t willing to accept who they are. Like I said it’s very confronting. But the fact is that it doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to run a business, and if you don’t know who you are and where your true strengths lie, how can you put the right people in the right places to support you in your endeavour?

I’m not saying you need to do a personality test at all, but I would recommend thinking about what you enjoy doing, and then handing over the rest to someone else. The right someone else. Below is a list of 5 Key Personality Traits to Have a Successful Business to help you figure out if all these boxes are ticked:

  1. A willingness to take risks – Are you able to view a situation that may be a bit on touch and go, but can calculate if it’s worth a try? (FYI I’m not good at this. I want to know it will end up perfectly, and I also hate losing face. So, I married someone who loves risks and is good at them, and I also have a business coach to support me in this area.)
  2. Great networking skills – I really enjoy meeting business owners at these events, and it’s pretty much where I meet all our clients. Fact is, if you aren’t personable, it doesn’t come across well and you may lose customers for it.
  3. Initiative and self-discipline – You need more than a good idea, you must be able to see it through. If this sounds like you perhaps pair yourself with someone who would keep you accountable.
  4. Passion/enthusiasm for what they do – It’s not really work if you love it. If it feels like work, then it will get old real quick. If you can find a way to generate money from the things you love doing, you’re on to a winner.
  5. Creativity/adaptability – Sometimes things don’t go to plan, and pivoting or evolving in this ever-changing world is often necessary. Being creative about how you market your company can also save you a lot of time and money.

It’s taken me a long time to accept that I’m not the best at everything, and I’ve had to accept where my true strengths lie and put the right people in the places I wasn’t so strong. I’m even getting quiet good at handing over the areas I’m proficient in, thus freeing me up to focus on revenue generating areas in my business.

If you feel like you are lacking in any of these areas and would like to discuss further, please get in touch.

We would also love to know how you feel about this subject. Do you agree that you can’t do everything, or can you? Has this been eye-opening for you, or the opposite? Feel free to comment your thoughts below. We appreciate all constructive feedback you can give.

giphy 4 300x169 - 5 Key Personality Traits to Have a Successful Business

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The Top 10 Reasons You Should Hire a Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistant blog

Let’s face it; this should have been my first blog. Explaining what we do at Virtual Assist would probably have been helpful from the get go, but better late than never.

Virtual Assist is, rather obviously, a virtually based support company (if it wasn’t I made a huge mistake when I named it), but when I’m at business development events I am often asked “what is that?” so it’s not that self-explanatory.

So here it is – a virtual business or assistant is based “virtually” i.e. Are not on-site. They already have current hardware and software, high-speed WiFi access and fancy office equipment. We store files in cloud based systems and work in cloud based applications (apps) to work in this capacity.

That’s explanation is probably still too complicated. I know I take it for granted that I have an understanding of what working virtually means and I shouldn’t.

It is a very new concept for most business owners. Going to work between 9-5 has been the norm for countless years. It makes sense that everyone is available at the same time. Or does it?

giphy 9 300x229 - The Top 10 Reasons You Should Hire a Virtual AssistantAs a virtual assistant (VA) I spend no time in traffic. I break when I need one, and I don’t charge you for it. If I’m tired I don’t work, instead I have a nap and work afterwards. If my kids are sick, I can be there for them and work while they are sleeping or napping from home. If I’m sick I don’t work; I catch up during the weekend. It’s the epitome of a flexible working arrangement because the deal is that as long as I get the job done on time, my clients don’t care where or when it happens.

I can’t speak for other VA’s but I try to support local small businesses by holding meetings in cafes rather than meeting rooms. My working carbon footprint is minimal, and I have very few overheads. Best of all, I don’t have to look good! I don’t have to get ready for work physically; I just start when I’m ready, PJ’s and all.

giphy 7 300x199 - The Top 10 Reasons You Should Hire a Virtual AssistantFor me, 9-5 at the office is over-rated. My work life balance is awesome. Virtual is the way of the future.

So, with all this added up, I love my job. Getting out of bed is not a burden for me because I get out of bed when I feel like it, and I know this is reflected in my output. Can you say for sure that your employees feel like this? Refreshed, well rested, this enthusiastic about their job? It’s something to consider.

You may be wondering how virtual assistant’s benefit other companies. Well, for example, small business owners have to wear a lot of hats. Some tasks can be handed over, but is it enough to justify taking on another staff member? And are they going to care about your business as much as you?

You may have little/no extra desk space, or the funds to afford another computer. Then there is training a new staff member, managing them, hand holding them… The list goes on.

None of this is necessary when you engage a virtual assistant, and what I’ve just listed is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there are so many benefits I’ve compiled the Top 10 Reasons You Should Hire a Virtual Assistant.

  1. Reduced costs – Virtual Assistant’s (VA’s) are independent contractors, which means you don’t need to even think about payroll taxes, vacation pay, sick days, etc etc… We charge you for the hours worked. I can not speak for other VA’s, but Virtual Assist has very few overheads, so our pricing is very competitive.
  2. You pay for what you use – No need to hire part-time employees and hope you have enough work to keep them busy. With a VA you only pay for the time spent working. I’m not sitting at my desk cruising Facebook and charging you for that (unless you’ve asked me too of course).
  3. Flexible working arrangements – Work can be performed outside normal business hours. Generally speaking, VA’s are workers looking for flexible work hours, that’s why they do this type of work. This is helpful to small businesses because we can be available when you are, which a lot of the time is before 9 and after 5.
  4. Increased revenue – VA’s take on those every day essential tasks you don’t have time for, allowing you to focus on growing your business and increasing your revenue. It doesn’t make sense that you spend time on something you can outsource for “X” when you could be out there earning “Y”.
  5. Speed! – Business owners often tell me they do their administrative tasks late at night after a long day. You can not say that the quality of your work would be very high in those kinds of conditions. VA’s are quick at what they do, experienced, and we work when we are in a good head space.
  6. Space saving – As previously mentioned, most of the time there’s no need to provide a VA with office space. I already have a well set up office with a sit stand desk; I don’t need another one.
  7. Little training necessary – You tell us what you need, and we do it. VA’s are trained professionals. It’s that easy. The only training required in most cases is an initial hand over.
  8. Highly skilled – A VA may have skills that you don’t and have no interest or time to learn. I spend a lot of time upskilling and keeping in touch with all new and upcoming computer systems and apps so you don’t have to.
  9. Reliable and Loyal – VA’s are business owners too, and as a business owner I care about my output. The contractors I hire are also business owners, and they feel the same way. We want you to tell others about our services, so our reputation is everything, which translates to superior service.
  10. Capability – You would be surprised at the range of skills a VA can offer. At Virtual Assist, we provide bookkeeping, event management, and even web design, and we can do this because I engage and manage contractors who specialise in these areas. I know from experience how handy this is for small businesses since they need a little bit of a lot of things.

If you still can’t see the benefit in going virtual after that, I don’t think you ever will. I honestly feel that working virtually is the way of the future; we can’t keep supporting congested roads and commuting into major cities, it just isn’t sustainable.

If anything listed has spurred an interest in virtual businesses or assistants, please get in touch. We would be more than happy to discuss this with you further. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page to keep up with all things virtual.

All I can say is for me, right now, going virtual is the best thing I’ve ever done, so maybe you should give it a try too.

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10 Tips to help you to have a successful team meeting

Virtual Assist team meeting blog

I have always been a fan of getting together face to face. It’s amazing what you can pick up on when you sit down, talk and listen.

Even though Virtual Assist is primarily virtual, we spend a lot of time on site at various businesses when helping them establish or streamline their administrative tasks. Whilst on site we generally pick up on the feel of the business and whether the team is happy. If we feel any type of negativity, it is generally in businesses that do not have regular team meetings.

People need a safe place to air their differences or difficulties so they can be proactive about resolving them and moving on. If there is no place to air these issues, negativity can easily seep in. Just one unhappy employee can infect the whole team, resulting in a toxic working environment which decreases productivity.

It is much easier to just main a healthy working environment.

When I first started working as a Beauty Therapist we had team meetings every fortnight. We would go over our targets, discuss goals and how we were tracking, as well as speak about the difficulties we had faced within our roles. It was a great way to communicate with the team and receive experienced advice, as we were usually too busy working privately with clients than to catch up.

The phones were off, the door was closed, it was just us.

I thought this was the norm and it wasn’t until I was working overseas that I realised it wasn’t. I was working for a company that was entirely chaotic, team meetings were non-existent. I did not last long in this role as I loathed how disconnected they were from their workers. Ever since, I have advocated for regular team meetings where ever I have worked.

Why are team meeting so important you ask? They help team leaders to:

  • Establish a healthy working environment
  • Build supportive relationships in the team
  • Learn what is inspiring their staff, and use that to motivate them
  • Force members to take a break from their daily grind
  • Gather feedback
  • Teach and set goals

However, ineffective team meetings can be equally as damaging. If your team does not see their worth or find them boring, it will cause even more resentment than there already is. So here are 10 tips to help you to have a successful team meeting:

  1. No interruptions! – Close the doors and turn off the phones. Meetings are important and need to be treated that way. You need 100% focus for them to work.
  2. Start off on the right foot – When I worked at Chevron team meetings began with the facilitator asking everyone attending be engaged and have a genuine interest in being there. Without having your audience on board with a positive head space and are interested, then the meeting can go downhill and fast. Any negativity will seep into what you are trying to achieve, but this brings me to my next point…
  3. Compare the past with the present, and outline the future – Comparing where you were, discussing where you are, and strategising where you will be with your team is very motivated, and makes everyone feel like they have had a say in the company’s direction. If employees feel they are being taken along for a ride and that they have no say in the direction they can become discouraged and unmotivated very quickly.
  4. Be engaging and productive – Have actual accounting figures (if applicable) as well as a clear and concise agenda. Figures are very hard to argue with, and agendas can be followed to ensure there is a focus for the meeting. If anyone gets off topic, you can always redirect the conversation to the agenda.
  5. Be collaborative – Don’t just share information, resolve problems. You will need to have an inviting and safe environment so people can speak up, but problems are not problems if you help fix them. Also, ask for input from your team on the agenda so they feel involved, meaning they will be more likely to get involved.
  6. Document keys points – You can have as many team meetings as you time, but they simply will not be productive it minutes are not taken. You don’t have to write down every single point, but each discussion point can be summarised to be referred to at a later agreed time/
  7. Recap – By recapping what was discussed in the last meeting you can then discuss if any goals previously set have been met. This keeps everyone accounted for. Make sure that goals have an expected finish date so everyone understands the time line and all are on the same page.
  8. Have differing facilitators – This can be tricky as a lot of introverts will not be keen, but it is a good way for people to experience how hard it is to lead a team meeting, and it’s good for building confidence. The regular facilitator still needs to be involved and ready to step in, and most importantly be supportive
  9. Have figures! – This is most important. Your staff cannot help with production if they do not know the financials. You should send the applicable figures to the team prior to the meeting so they can view and be ready to discuss.
  10. Choose the correct meeting format – Rather than meeting face to face, there may be various types of meeting formats that work better for your team, particularly if they work virtually or remotely with varying time zones. Stand ups may be more appropriate. If this appeals it is a good idea to discuss with your team about what format they would prefer.

Don’t be complacent about the importance of getting together and nutting out ideas. I can assure you it will help your business and its productivity, so it will be time well spent.

If you have any feedback on this, please get in touch, and remember to like us on Facebook to keep in touch with all things business and Virtual Assist.

I’ve heard some dramatic stories about team meetings in my time, so I hope you are able to achieve a collaborative and productive team meeting going forward. Good luck!

5 Tips to Land an Ideal Client

Ideal Client

As a business owner, ideal clients are very important to me.

There was a time in my life where landing every deal was what I set out to do. I would get upset if I “lost” a business opportunity, even take it personally. It took a long time (and a lot of sales training) to realise that you don’t want every job, you only want the ideal ones.

My first job (a life time ago!) was as a beauty therapist, and the most important thing to me was to get clients to return, and they did. I had the fastest growing client base in the clinic’s history. I didn’t care who, I just cared that they came back.

As time went on I noticed a trend. There was a big difference in my job satisfaction and my ability to on-sell valued products when I was with the clients I genuinely cared about. I was ineffective and even doubted my abilities (let alone on sell) when I was with the “vampires” i.e. those that were such hard work that they sucked the metaphorical life out of you.

Even more notable, the clients that I favoured referred nice clients. This trend has left a big impression on me, and that was that I didn’t want everyone, I wanted the best ones.

To explain, an ideal client is a vendor who values your services and remains loyal with little question of your worth. They trust that you are making the right decisions on their behalf, thus allowing you to focus on what you do best. Trust me, ideal clients are much less stress and worth the effort to find.

If you need help with discovering who your ideal client is, “How to discover your perfect target customer” is very helpful and a great place to start. However, after you know how to quantify your ideal client and then find one, you have to get them on board too. So here they are:

5 tips to land an ideal client

  1. Suss them out – A lot of companies try to limit their consultation time and for good reason, time is money. For me, I’d rather put in a lot of effort at the start (whether that be multiple conversations over coffee’s or several phone calls) to figure out this person/company and their agenda. If I get it wrong and they aren’t ideal, the relationship will not work long-term, so any time you invest will be wasted anyway. In addition, the doubt created by non-ideal client is not worth putting your business through, so do your due diligence.
  2. Be specific – if you don’t know what you do or understand what your business goals are, how can you possibly explain your services to an ideal client? You can’t. If you change your direction or appear inconsistent at any point, you can appear unprofessional and scattery. You must know what you do, and communicate it well (work on your elevator pitch), so you are all on the same page right from the start.
  3. Be honest – Being tactfully open and honest about your agenda is the best way to ensure you engage an ideal client, because they are able to make a confident decision about engaging your services. How can there be any misunderstandings if they know everything from the start? My ethos is that there is no point withholding anything because it always comes out in the wash, and if that offends them or puts them off, then they are not ideal.
  4. Explain your value – If you can sit down and clearly say that your service will cost “x” amount, but it will generate “y” in value for them (and it actually does), and most importantly, they see the value in that, then they are ideal. If they don’t, don’t waste your time any further. If you are valuable and they can’t see it, they flat-out don’t know what they are doing.
  5. Care about them – I know, I know, it’s not friendship it’s business, but the fact is that with a bit of time, people know if you are disingenuous, and business is still run by people so caring does matter. If you do not care about what they are trying to achieve, you won’t care about helping them achieve. How can you remain motivated if you don’t care? How can you get your act together to do a good job if you don’t care? If you don’t care it will not be ideal.

If you want to know more about ideal clients and their importance, I highly recommend reading “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman. Actually, I would recommend this to anyone in business. It is easy to read and leaves no stone untouched, so do yourself a favour and buy a copy.

Most importantly, get in touch if you have any views on ideal clients. I think they are a big deal, but maybe they aren’t…

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10 FREE Tools to Help Streamline your Business

Virtual Assist 10 free tools to help streamline your business

I wrote this one by popular demand.

I’m not going to lie, I’m giving away trade secrets which will allow you more time to spend elsewhere. Just call me the Val Valentino of business support. I could be getting myself into BIG trouble with others in my industry, so I hope you appreciate this.

I find one of the biggest difficulties in running a business is remaining consistent. Customers respond well to regular contact as it makes them feel appreciated, and social media platforms are only effective if you post regularly (for more information I speak briefly about SEO’s in 5 tips to start your own blog and reasons why you should). So, it’s best to set up robust systems from the start which will withstand the test of time.

Below are applications (apps), tools and resources that will help streamline your business’ processes and procedures. They are either free, free for a period of time, or free for low users:

10 FREE Tools to Help Streamline your Business

  1. Password Management: LastPass – Do you have so many passwords you can’t keep up? LastPass is the answer. It also helps if you outsource passwords to employees because you don’t have to change them all if they resign
  2. Customer Relationship Management: Insightly – I love this app because it integrates with Xero and MailChimp, so you only have input a lead/customer’s details once, and that’s it. It provides the lifetime value of a customer at a glance, and you can manage sales pipelines flawlessly. You can also link your email accounts so any relevant correspondence with clients can be saved, so the whole team knows what’s happening at any point.
  3. Task/Project Management: Trello – My whole life is in Trello, even my shopping list. Manage projects by setting up a “board” and each task can be given an owner along with a due date. It’s organisation on steroids.
  4. Design/Branding: Canva – This is effectively the poor man’s Adobe Illustrator. If you ever hire a virtual assistant, I’d bet good money they designed their logo in Canva.
  5. Email Marketing Management: MailChimp – This one is very obvious to me because it is SO good at what is does. Even the paid version is cheap ($10USD per month) considering how effective it is with direct marketing. A huge part of my role is MailChimp because it is cost effective. If you don’t have any marketing or design experience it will take you a lot longer to get the hang of it than me (5 hours compared to 1 hours), hence why it is such a large part of my role. Give it a crack if you can, it will be worth it.
  6. Social Media Management: HootSuite – Not only does it allow you to consolidate all your social media platforms to manage in one place, but you can schedule posts well in advance.
  7. Royalty Free Images: Unsplash – All images (whether it be on social media or in internal documents) need to be royalty free. Unsplash has lovely photos available. (Just remember that images should have to correct pixel size or your website will not be optimal – for more info refer to “pixels needed for sharing photos online“).
  8. Photo editing: PicMonkey – Using an image on social media can be an effective way to grab peoples attention, much more than a wordy post. PicMonkey can help you edit images and turn them into a meme. If you are using royalty free images, you may want to edit them, since you’ll generally find them on every poor unpaid blogger’s website.
  9. Timesheeting: MyHours – Track time, and even invoice it out. It also has a start/stop app for your phone which is very handy, particularly for people like me who is interrupted by phone calls a lot.
  10. Contract management: HelloSign – You no longer have to stand over someone and watch them sign your engagement letter. This app sends your contract so it can be digitally signed, and automatically follows it up if it remains unsigned.

There is something in it for Virtual Assist too, as there is usually a big difference between working with companies that utilise apps and those that don’t. We want to work with companies that want to keep things running, and running smoothly.

Just remember, most of what is listed is appropriate for small/start up businesses. There may be other tools out there that are more suited to your organisation, but the fact remains – there will always be something out there to make your life easier. 

A large part of what we do at Virtual Assist is align businesses with systems best suited to their needs, and we spend a lot of time investigating and quantifying them. If you’re interested in anything I have (or haven’t) listed here, please get in touch. Helping businesses is what we love, and what we do best.

We would also love to know what business tools you use and why as it helps us expand our own understanding of tools, as well as our knowledge base. So feel free to comment below on what works for you.

And don’t forget, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our blog to keep up with all things business and Virtual Assist.

7 Tips to Stay on Top of Receivables

Stay on Top of Receivables

I despise receivables. Asking people for money if the worst. I find it incredibly confronting, and just the thought of it puts me in a bad mood.

Receivables is all about the money your business receives for sales. Unpaid invoices either highlight a breakdown in your customer/supplier relationship or emphasises that this vendor is not an ideal client (otherwise they would pay their bills on time!) Either way it’s showing that something is wrong. However, I also know that in general, cash is pretty important, so I either have to get over myself or find a better way.

Without the timely payment of sales, your business’ cashflow will be ineffective, and simply put, it will not sustain this. It’s as simple as – the less money you have in the bank, the less you can utilise to build your business – and statistics show that the longer an account remains unpaid, the greater the risk of it not being paid in full (I read this once and have no idea if it’s actually true, but it sure sounds good).

But how do you know if you have a problem? Well, the answer lies within a simple ratio –

If this the answer is over 40%, you’ve got issues. In fact, if you backtrack this calculation using historical monthly figures you can discover exactly when your problem began, and I bet it will correlate with an event that took place, whether that be financial (the G.F.C hit), or personal (marriage dissolved).

No matter what the reason, managing receivables is not just tough, but costly. When I was a full-time bookkeeper managing the receivables was a large portion of my role, I’d say 30% of my time. Now just think about that – 30% of my wages paid by the company was spent on chasing up money – and I found that most of the time, people weren’t paying because the sale had not been managed properly by the sales staff (to this date I believe receivables should be handled by sales).

So imagine this, what if that whole part of the sale was no longer necessary? What if that 30% could be utilised to grow the business, rather than simply sustain it? Is this possible? Yes.

Now it would all be great if we could work like supermarkets i.e. receive payment on the spot from customers, but pay suppliers 30 days after the sale occurs (oh the cashflow!) but we can’t, so I’ve listed some tips I picked up along the way to help get rid of that time spent on chasing payments.

7 Tips to Stay on Top of Your Receivables:

  1. State payment terms in contracts – This is key to ensuring timely payments. If anyone is unsure of their obligations, you have a signed piece of paper to back you up.
  2. Establish routine payment terms – Generally speaking, in New Zealand accounts receivables are easily managed because most business payments are due on the 20th of the month following invoice date. This is great because you know on the 24th that you can focus on following these up. I don’t know why other countries haven’t caught onto this. If this is not possible in your business, it is a good idea to put time aside once a week to focus solely on overdue receivables and document all correspondence.
  3. Process invoices electronically – There is no chance of your invoices being “lost in the mail” if you have an electronic record of it being sent. It also cuts down on losing days to snail mail where your invoice could be getting approved on the other side.
  4. Allow online payments – Receiving cheques or cash adds a huge amount of paperwork for administrators, as well as risk (i.e. losing a cheque or keeping money on site). Just having to walk to the bank to deposit the funds physically is incredibly time consuming. Trust me, try to process as much as you can via online banking, and even offer as many online payment options as possible i.e. Paypal, Stripe etc.
  5. Incentives – Giving vendors another reason to pay in a timely manner can help move things along. Some (like myself) offer prepaid bundles at a discounted rate. This is possible because of the time saved in following up payments means the discount pays for itself (along with the increase in my cashflow with the items being prepaid). Many companies charge a percentage extra each month an invoice goes unpaid, but I have to admit that in my experience, it is very ineffective and generally creates more work for bookkeepers
  6. Send statements – Once again this is easily done in New Zealand because invoices for the month prior are due on the same date, so sending statements can help administrators ensure they have input all invoices due into their system. Even without this payment term, statements are a handy way to keep your company in the forefront of your customer’s mind.
  7. Review ageing reports – This will not only tell you how long an invoice has gone unpaid but highlight repeat offenders so you can manage them accordingly in the future. It may be best to establish a system where bad debtors prepay a percentage of future work, but the aged report is where you can start the discussion.

Some of these may seem self-explanatory, but it never hurts to read something like this and have it confirm that you are on the right track already. The worst case scenario you can sell your debt to a debt collection agency, and if it’s been at least four months, I would recommend that. The more time you spend on receiving this money the less profit you make from the deal itself, because time is money, so know when to cut your losses.

For me, I’d rather discount my rate slightly to receive funds prior to the job. My client is taking a risk on prepaying, but they will receive the reward in the work I perform, as well as this discount, so it is win/win. However, I would be very interested to hear from you about your techniques in keeping your receivables from ageing, so feel free to email me, or comment below. The more ways I can avoid asking people for money the better!

*Post publish edit – I should note that many of the above are reliant on utilising an accounting package, which is an absolute must in my eyes, they are worth their weight in gold. Before you say it’s too expensive, WaveApps is free and a good place to start, or Xero (which we use) has a 30-day free trial.