Monday, August 9, 2010

Back it up!

I am often surprised by the number of business owners who do not regularly backup their computer system so that a version is available if the original data is lost or corrupted. There are many unforeseen circumstances that may occur, for example, fire, flood, a computer virus or simply your computer crashes and causes you to lose your data. It can even be accidentally deleting a file.

Sometimes data is able to be recovered when your system crashes; however, this is often at considerable expense and requires taking the computer to an expert.

How many business owners would be lost without their files if their computer crashed and data was unable to be recovered? How much would it cost you to rebuild all the files you require in your system? You may keep all your business cards, but consider how much time it would take to re-enter all the data.

Recently, a client with a home-based office experienced data loss for the second time. The first time, her data was unrecoverable and she not only lost valuable business data, but also all her photos and family videos. At this time, she did purchase an external hard drive to backup files. When the data loss occurred a second time, some data was able to be recovered; however, the external hard drive was affected and some things were lost. She immediately called me asking for the details of the online backup service I use and signed up the same day.

A backup service is a resource no business owner should be without. It is too risky to fail to backup your valuable files. I use 'Carbonite' - an online backup service. This is a service I would not be without. My investment is around AU$70 per year for unlimited backup of my files including photos and video clips. The benefits are invaluable. To date, I have only needed to retrieve files on a few occasions. For example, nothing adverse happened to my computer, but unfortunately I worked on a file and clicked 'save without retaining a copy of the original. I was able to access my online backup service and retrieve a previous version of the file. The service is also great if you accidentally delete a file. Instead of recreating the entire file, you simply log in and retrieve the last backup version.

Many business owners are too busy or often forget to complete a backup at least weekly. With the Carbonite online system a backup is easily done. As long as you are connected to the Internet, the backup will automatically run in the background. I have not experienced any slowing of my computer whilst the backup is in progress. Initially, the backup takes some time depending on the amount of data you have stored on your computer; however, subsequent backups are seamless and you won't even realize it is running in the background. Basically, you do not have to give it a second thought and there is no risk of forgetting or not having time to complete this important task.

Please be advised that I am in no way affiliated with this service other than being a happy customer myself. I simply wish to share what I have found to be an invaluable resource. How much would you pay for peace of mind?

Click here to visit the Australian Carbonite website and here for the US Carbonite website and see if this is a solution for your business.

Friday, July 23, 2010

CEO or Small Business Owner - Is there a difference?

There are many elements required to ensure the success of a CEO; however, two key elements that come to mind are:

• knowledge of industry, products and services, and
• access to a team of highly qualified individuals.

Having a background providing Personal Assistant support to CEO level has made me realize how much a CEO relies on their Personal Assistant as well as other members of their team. This made me think: what is different about the small to medium business owner/manager?

The main difference is that small business owners don't have the same resources available to them that a big business CEO does. Common threads of thought among many small business owners are:

• I'm not a CEO – why would I need a support team?
• I feel it is best if I do it myself.
• It will take me too long to train someone to do things the way I like them done and I can't spend the time on this.
• I don't have the resources for a support team.
• I don't want to worry about whether or not I'm up to standard with leave entitlements, superannuation and insurance required for team members.
• It's too hard to put a new team member in place and I can't afford the time to do so.
• I wouldn’t know where to begin.

I’m sure you will agree that these belief systems are limiting. What makes a small to medium business owner different from a CEO? Other than the size of the budget you have to work with, really nothing. Just like a CEO in big business, the small to medium business owner has (among other things):

• knowledge and expertise within their industry
• knowledge of their business and business goals
• responsibility for attaining business goals and targets
• control over setting/changing goals and targets
• responsibility for ensuring an increase in the bottom line from year to year
• accountability for targets met/not met.

Following is some food for thought for the small to medium business owner:

Q: Could you imagine the CEO of a big business designing and typing up the company's Annual Report?
A: In my experience, the CEO only writes the 'Directors’ Report' or 'CEO Report' and in one of my corporate positions, I actually wrote this for my CEO. The creation, formatting, design and organization of printing, production and distribution would fall to the Personal Assistant.

Q: Would the CEO organize the company's AGM or other events?
A: This task would fall to the Personal Assistant or administration team to handle and ensure that all aspects of the event (i.e. venue, catering, invitations/notices, marketing etc.) were completed.

Q: Could you imagine the CEO typing their own correspondence or reports, designing templates and forms, creating their own presentations, handling their company's social media marketing or troubleshooting IT issues?
A: Simply put, no. There are team members available who specialise in areas such as: copywriting, IT, HR, marketing and design (to name a few).

Q: Does the fact that the CEO wouldn't consider doing these tasks make them lazy?
A: Of course not! Firstly, most CEOs wouldn’t have the expertise and completing these tasks would take far more time than leaving it to an expert in their team. But, more importantly, taking care of the multitude of tasks that their team can handle would not be the best use of their time. The CEO’s time is much better spent on core business issues that require their expertise and knowledge–tasks that build the business.

I ask again ... how does the small to medium business owner differ from a CEO? The answer is: you don’t. You still need to make the most of every second you have. It is imperative to the success of your business to spend your time on core business requiring your expertise and knowledge and concentrating on building your business.

So, how do you address the issues, discussed above, that many small to medium business owners face? The solution lies in partnering with a Virtual Assistant.

Consider how partnering with a Virtual Assistant will impact your bottom line, when you look at these benefits:

• free up time in your day to focus on core business and building your business
• no office space, hardware or software required
• no training required when you partner with a VA Certified Virtual Assistant
• no superannuation, income tax, leave entitlements or insurance to worry about.

You may not carry the title 'CEO' but you ARE the CEO in YOUR business. Your time is just as important as a CEO’s in the top 100 companies. The question is: do you value it as such?

Often, small to medium business owners have built their business up from nothing and letting go of control is difficult to do. It is in your best interests and in the interests of your business to partner with team members who are highly qualified and certified to ensure you receive the results you deserve. When partnering with a VA Certified Virtual Assistant, you can be sure you are partnering with a highly skilled professional who will require little or no training. Often, your Virtual Assistant can teach you something new.

As an independent contractor, you will only pay your Virtual Assistant for time spent on the project or a monthly retainer fee and perhaps some incidental costs (i.e. envelopes, printing and postage for a mailout) that you would incur if you did the job yourself.

Where do you start?

Engaging a Virtual Assistant is designed to be a hassle free process. To find out more, take a look at our recent article answering the question of how to engage a Virtual Assistant. This article will give you a good idea of where to start.

As the CEO of your business, why not consider building your team today to ensure your success. I’d like to invite you to continue reading about how one ‘CEO’ in small business found partnering with Online Personal Assistants.

“Before we began working together I lacked time to complete all necessary tasks. Also, my weak technical/computer skills meant I was slow to complete some tasks and other tasks I couldn’t complete due to a combination of both of these issues. After working with you I started doing my newsletter again on a regular basis. My last workshop was a joy and a pleasure and also financially successful because I was not exhausted and stressed. You took the pressure off by attending to tasks I didn’t have time for but which were essential to the success of the workshop. I now have peace of mind knowing I can make plans now and develop systems that I couldn’t do before left to my own devices. Further value is gained by your proactive approach and your office and business experience means you make suggestions as to what I could or should do that I was not even aware of. You are a legend and an answer to a prayer.” ~ Marlene Rattigan, ‘CEO’ of Kidz-Fiz-Biz

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Boost Your Confidence and be Successful in any Situation | An Event Review

Did you know that 68% of people lack confidence in their workplace? I’m sure you would agree that is quite a number. Are you one of those 68%? If so, I’m sure you often wonder what the difference is between people who ‘have that job’ and people who ‘struggle at work and life’.

Take a moment to ponder on where you are in life now. Are you:

* Procrastinating?
* Lacking motivation?
* Stressed or overwhelmed?
* Afraid of public speaking?
* Frightened of new responsibilities? Exams? Interviews?

Reflect on where you are now and where you would like to be in say, five years from now. Ask yourself, ‘On a scale of 1 to 10 where would I like to be?’

The areas of life we should look at include:

* Career
* Health & Wellbeing
* Finance & Wealth
* Family & Fun

A lot of us have certain barriers that hold us back. Often we have a lack of confidence where we question whether or not we deserve the success we would like to achieve. A second barrier is fear of failure – hoping that we passed that exam, that we didn’t disappoint our boss and we often say to ourselves, “I can’t do this” instead of “I can do this, no worries”. Our limiting beliefs and attitudes determine whether we can or can’t attain the success that we would like. A third barrier is perfectionism. Often we don’t start a project or on the path to our goals because everything is ‘not perfect’ or ‘just not right’. Rather we should choose to say “I’m as good as I can be”. Remember, nothing is ever perfect.

A model of what successful people do includes:

* Values & beliefs
* Tools & mindset
* Role model
* Feedback

Often it is important to understand what our values and beliefs actually are and what motivates us and drives us in life. Once we understand this, we can gather the tools and create the mindset that will lead us to success.

When it comes to feedback, many think it is criticism. The age-old term ‘constructive criticism’ is a myth. There is no constructive criticism as the word criticism, being a negative word, immediately causes us to put up our defenses. Rather, feedback is something we can receive, take on board and learn from. When we think of successful people such as Richard Branson, many do not realize that he experienced many ‘failures’ before becoming successful. How did he overcome these failures to move forward? He had the right belief and mindset – that is, “I can do it”.

Here are seven key steps to boost your confidence.

1. Clarify what you want – have a clear goal in mind.
2. Take responsibility – only you have the power to change your own situation and create your own successes.
3. Rethink ‘failure’ – take on board where you may have suffered a setback, learn from this and do things differently the next time.
4. Take more risk (comfort zone & self belief) – coming out of your comfort zone is where you will learn the most. When you do come out of your comfort zone, remember to reward yourself and celebrate your successes.
5. Set boundaries & recover faster – learn to say ‘no’ and believe that it is OK to say ‘no’. Also, shorten the period of time it takes you to recover from setbacks. Acknowledge the challenge or issue, learn from it and move on. Don’t hold on to things for too long.
6. Watch your internal voice – learn to make this voice your friend to ensure that it doesn’t sabotage what you are looking to achieve.
7. Take action – when you recognize the need for change, take the action. Remember, you are the only one who can control your successes.

Remember, work like money doesn’t matter, sing as if no one is listening, love as if you’ve never been hurt & dance as if no one is watching!

This article is a review of a presentation by Heike Fowler at the Australian Institute of Office Professionals WA Division June 2010 Dinner. Many thanks to Heike for sharing these tips for all of us to go and put into action in order to be successful in any area of life. If you would like to know more about Heike and the services she offers, please visit Heike’s website or watch her videos.

The Importance of Feedback and How a Virtual Assistant Can Help

Do you ask your clients for testimonials and feedback? Why is feedback important? How do you make it easy for your clients to tell you what they think of you?

When recently working with a small business providing a trade service to commercial builders, we were putting together a Letter of Introduction for the client to reach out to potential clients. At the end of this letter, the business owner had listed a number of references for the prospect to call if the prospect chose to take the time to find out more about the service the client provides.

On suggesting attaching a flyer full of testimonials, the client indicated that they didn’t have any ‘testimonials’ as such, just a lot of clients who would recommend them in a heartbeat!

The client had never asked for feedback or a testimonial from any of the businesses they currently service but this was an extremely easy process to put into place. There are many ways to ask your client base for testimonials and it is a MUST! Once you have these, you can put them on your website and any other promotional or marketing material that you create. Testimonials make it easy for a prospect to see what others say about you.

So, what did we do? In this instance, as the business doesn’t yet have a website, they opted to create a ‘Feedback Form’ to e-mail to their clients. How did we make this easy? We created a form so that the client only had to complete the form and email it back. This didn’t take long to create and the client now has testimonials to send to prospects.

I am an avid feedback and testimonial provider as I believe that if a service is great, I want others to know about it. I must admit though, when writing this article, I thought of the businesses and services I have used recently and there are a number of them that I haven’t given feedback to simply because I have become busy and forgotten. How many of your clients may need a reminder or prompt to give you some feedback?

So, why not make it easy for them? There are a number of ways to make it easy for your clients to leave feedback for you. Here are a few ideas:

* Create a form (Word or PDF) and systematically send this out to clients to ask for feedback to better your service and ask for a testimonial.
* Connect with your clients on Linked In and ask for a recommendation.
* Create a link on your website to an online feedback form created through a Survey Provider such as Survey Monkey or Poll Daddy or through your current Email Marketing Provider such as Constant Contact who also do Survey Marketing.

The beauty of creating a form rather than just sending an email and requesting a testimonial, is that not only does it provide you with specific feedback on areas for improvement, you can tailor your questions and prompt answers. Often times it can be difficult for some to think of something to write but with a few prompts, you end up with some fantastic feedback and a great testimonial.

If it is a little daunting to set up this system yourself, we would be more than happy to assist you! After all, a Virtual Assistant is there to make it easy for you!

So, if you have any feedback for us as a client or reader, feel free to comment or connect with us on LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Online Personal Assistants Receives Virtual Assistant Certification

When searching for a professional and reliable Virtual Assistant, there may be many options. How can you be sure that the potential Virtual Assistant has the skills and proficiencies necessary to complete your jobs accurately and on-time? offers a new standard for Virtual Assistant Certification. Clients worldwide are using this system to benchmark services they are seeking in a Virtual Assistant.

Recently, our very own Debra Barber, owner of Online Personal Assistants, received Virtual Assistant Certification from Online Personal Assistants are proud to be one of the few Australian virtual assistant services to receive this certification.

To qualify for the recognition, Barber was evaluated by an international team that assessed personal and professional traits. Evaluators researched her skills, education and industry contributions. Barber met the certification requirements and can now utilize the certification to gain business owners’ confidence when working with potential new clients.

Barber says, “Being VAcertified is vital to my business, as it proves to both current and prospective clients that my Virtual Assistant career is important to me. It also showcases the ethics involved with providing an essential service for many small to medium-sized business owners.” The certification demonstrates that an international group of peers recognizes Barber’s commitment to excellence within the industry. “It is a fantastic feeling and a great personal achievement to receive recognition from leaders within the industry; it is invaluable to be able to demonstrate your commitment to clients,” explains Barber.

We encourage business owners and managers to utilize a Virtual Assistant that is certified; clients can be assured that a certified Virtual Assistant has the skills and experience necessary to complete jobs accurately and efficiently. We are especially dedicated to providing excellent value to clients during the current economic challenges.

Clients find that partnering with a Virtual Assistant reduces stress, protects cash flow, eliminates administrative challenges and enables business people to concentrate efforts on growing their business. It is our goal to work with you to achieve a seamless transition between Online Personal Assistants and your office, giving you the opportunity to exceed your business goals.

We are proud of the recent certification and look forward to assisting you with your virtual assistant needs. Contact us today to discover how we can partner with you!

For more information about Online Personal Assistants, visit our website or contact us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to engage a Virtual Assistant :: Online Personal Assistants, Perth

There can be a variety of reasons to partner with a Virtual Assistant, including: time savings, cost reduction and an ability to focus on building your business. Recently, I was asked, “How do I engage a Virtual Assistant?” In this post, you will find answers to this important question and discover how Online Personal Assistants may be the appropriate solution for your business.

New clients contact us through various methods, including: website, networking or current client referral. After the initial contact is made, the first step is to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Prior to that meeting, you will receive a brief questionnaire that will allow us to prepare questions for your unique business. The meeting will take approximately one hour and may be completed face-to-face or via telephone, whichever is most convenient for you. During the initial meeting, you will tell us about your business and together we will develop a plan to support your business through our Virtual Assistant services. This plan will become your Productivity & Cost Saving Audit.

Deciding to partner with a Virtual Assistant means examining your business. What tasks are you doing that could be completed by someone else? Because your business is unique, your Virtual Assistant needs are also distinctive and individualised. You can work with a Virtual Assistant to your comfort level. Some clients know where they would like assistance, whereas others need help to determine which tasks can be delegated. Online Personal Assistants can help you discover those duties you can entrust to a Virtual Assistant.

After determining your business needs, we will send a proposal for your review. Online Personal Assistants works with businesses on a per-project basis or through an ongoing support role. You may choose to seek proposals from other Virtual Assistants. When doing so, consider whether you require a Virtual Assistant in your city, state or country. If location is not a factor, you may choose to search a Virtual Assistant Directory or conduct a Google search to find another Virtual Assistant for comparison purposes. Most importantly, determine your personalised goals prior to contacting a Virtual Assistant. This will ensure you receive the information most essential to you.

When searching for a Virtual Assistant, consider the following:
• Experience: Relevant experience is a factor in determining Virtual Assistant fees. (You may pay a lower rate per hour for one Virtual Assistant; however, if the typing speed of one Virtual Assistant is half that of another, you will pay additional fees because tasks take longer.)
• Knowledge: Ask yourself if you need a Virtual Assistant that has knowledge of your industry and how to manage a business. Consider a Virtual Assistant that shows initiative and can assist you with a variety of tasks.
• Budget: Determine your budget when you review a prospective Virtual Assistant. This will help verify if your chosen Virtual Assistant can work within your budget.
• Location: Decide if it is important to have someone local or if you can broaden your search to include other geographic areas.
• Specialised Services: If your tasks are specific and concentrate in a particular subject, you may want to utilise a Virtual Assistant who specialises in that area.
• Turnaround Times: Communication is imperative when working with a Virtual Assistant. Be sure your Virtual Assistant knows your deadlines and time requirements. The majority of Virtual Assistants will have a standard lead time. For example, Online Personal Assistants requires a three-day lead time for most tasks. At times, jobs will be completed well within this timeframe. However, sometimes the full three days will be utilised. Remember to communicate your requirements for each deadline to your chosen Virtual Assistant.
• Testimonials: If you are concerned about not meeting face-to-face, check testimonials of previous clients and conduct additional research to ease your mind.

The above list illustrates several items that should be considered when engaging a Virtual Assistant. Ultimately, you must also choose a Virtual Assistant who suits your needs, personality and work style.

Contact Online Personal Assistants today to discover the Virtual Assistant services you can receive for your business. By mentioning this blog post, you will receive a FREE Productivity & Cost Saving Audit valued at $199.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Packages available for Virtual Assistant Services, Perth

Many who subscribe to my newsletter would have seen the launch of some new packages in January 2010. These packages are now available when engaging the services of Online Personal Assistants.

We have come across a few clients who would find it a challenge to use the hours each month, even on our Basic Retainer Package and as hours do not carry over into the next month, this may be a disadvantage when utilizing the services of a Virtual Assistant.

In considering this, we have now launched our PrePaid Retainer Packages. The smallest of these is for 10 hours to use over a three month period. This is ideal for clients who only utilize a basic service most months and who sometimes require more assistance the following month(s).

These packages are:

* Mini-PrePaid Retainer Package - 10 hours with three months to use
* Medi-PrePaid Retainer Package - 20 hours to use over six months (bonus 1 hour with this package)
* Maxi-PrePaid Retainer Package - 40 hours to use over 12 months (bonus 2 hours with this package)

If a client uses their allocated hours before the expiry date, we top up again to the chosen package, with the new expiry date starting from the date of payment.

If you would like to know more about these new packages, please contact us and we would be happy to work with you in growing your unique business.