5 Things You Need To Do Before You Outsource Anything!

Here at Time Saving Heroes we’re clearly fans of outsourcing.  If you don’t have the time, knowledge or inclination to do something, there’s no reason why someone else can’t take it off your hands, and that someone doesn’t have to be a member of staff.

 

Outsourcing specific tasks can be a great way to keep overheads down, and remove the stress of having to actually manage a workforce. However, we also know it’s now always plain sailing.  Many of our clients have come through referrals, and most have had bad experienced with Virtual Assistants in the past.

 

How then do you make sure whoever you’re outsourcing a task to (whether it’s a HR firm, VA or web designer) is actually up to the job?  Here are Lu’s top tips to minimise heartbreak down the line.

 

#1 – Google them

This one should be pretty obvious, but if you’ve been given the name of an individual or company, actually look them up.  Ideally a search will bring them up on LinkedIn, and show their website – but what else do they have going on?

 

Hare they on Trust Pilot or any other independent review site?  Do they feature in affiliated bodies or on industry sites?  Find out as much as you can from the get go.

 

#2 – Social proof

Social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are great ways to find out more about a company and/or individual.  What does their LinkedIn profile say?  Do they have any recommendations or endorsements?  What’s their approach to social media like, and do they actively get involved with other people online?

 

These are all valid questions no matter what you’re hiring for, but definitely take that in to account when looking for a self-confessed social media specialist.

 

#3 – Time management

Everyone charges differently, whether it by the hour or per job.  You need to make sure you understand your partner’s pricing structure, and how that can impact you.  If they do charge by the hour, is it full or part of?  Will they keep a timesheet so you can see precisely where that time is being spent?  If you block-book time, can you be sure that time is being used, and do you have control of how it’s used?  If you have multiple projects, will they allocate time equally, or based on urgency?  Are you in danger of 20 hours being used on one thing, and having to buy more time to get the other jobs done?

 

#4 – Payment terms

This goes for everything – find out what the payment terms are!  Don’t assume it’s 30 days, even if that’s your company standard.  Equally, ask about VAT and any other charges you might be expected to pay.

 

Are phone calls free, within reason?  Or does every single bit of contact cost you money?  Make sure you know what the score is before you sign up so as to avoid any nasty shocks down the line.

 

#5 – Sign a contract

Unexpected invoices can quickly sour relationships, so it’s important everyone knows where they stand.  You might be as good as your word, but are they?  Have a contract signed at the start so there are no arguments later on as to what was expected.

 

If they don’t have a contract as standard, run a mile!

 

 

Remember, Time Saving Heroes offers a wide range of services from content writing to social media management and invoicing to document preparation.  If there’s anything you don’t have time for, Time Saving Heroes can help.

 

Give us a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

Now you can Tweet-Tweet with double the characters

If you’re not a huge Twitter fan, then you might not be aware that this week there’s been a major shakeup in the world of the Tweet.  The strict 140 character limit has now been replaced by a new one – you now have 280 characters in which to share your thoughts.

Twitter announced their plans to increase this limit some time ago, and a select group of users have been trialling it for the last month or so.  The logic being that people will now be able to express more of their thoughts, without running out of room.  I admit, given what some people think about and deem worthy of sharing, I remain to be convinced whether this is a good thing.

Many have taken the news quite badly, suggesting the whole point of Twitter, and its great appeal, is the brevity with which points have to be made.  Increasing the character limit will, they argue, make Tweets harder to read as there is more to get through. Not only that, but in our experience, if you give people the option to say more, they will – just because they can, not because it adds anything to the discussion.

Of course, one of the biggest complaints about the increase is that it detracts from some of the more fundamental problems with the platform.  Twitter has long been associated with rampant abuse, harassment and bullying – hooray, now people can abuse people using more words!

The limited data that has been made available from the trial sessions indicate that, once the novelty had worn off, those with access to Tweet 280 characters, tended not to go much above the original limits.  Equally, those who could Tweet slightly longer thoughts received more engagement, and spent longer on the network than other members.

It is worth noting, however, that it was a single figure percentage of overall users that were able to trial this option before today’s launch.  So I guess time will tell on this one.

Twitter’s logic appears to be with the aim of making the platform easier for newcomers to use, and I definitely think it will help.  In my experience, many businesses seem to avoid using Twitter in their social marketing mix for fear of the Tweet limitations.  With the option to say slightly more, hopefully people will find a renewed interest in engaging.

Let’s watch this space.

 

 

Tragedy is not a marketing opportunity

This is a blog post I never thought I’d write, but unfortunately tragic events are becoming an increasing part of our everyday lives.  In the last few weeks we have had the MEN bombing, London Bridge attacks and just yesterday the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

I know there are far more incidents worthy of comment occurring throughout the world, so please forgive me for focussing solely on those closer to home.

When breaking news occurs, and starts to dominate social media what should you, as a business and brand do?  How do you react to it, and indeed should you make a comment at all?  The reality is no social media platform comes with an etiquette guide to troubling events, and whilst we may all suggest relying on common sense, in the heat of the moment such an apparently common attribute is often lacking.

Here’s the first things you should consider to avoid getting it wrong.

Ask yourself why

In the wake of a tragedy, celebrity death, terrorist attack or natural disaster you may feel compelled to say something.  That’s undoubtedly human nature in this constantly signed-in culture we live in, but stop for a second and ask yourself why you want to comment.

Just because everyone else is saying something doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to say nothing – you certainly shouldn’t say something just because you want to jump on the band wagon.

Equally, if you do want to say something consider whether it has to be via your company.  Is the current event or situation linked in any way to your industry?  If not there is every chance any comment you make or any links to the trending hashtag will be seen as a cheap marketing ploy. If that is the case then trust me, any clicks and interactions you get off the back of it will not be worth the negative responses you will foster in the vast majority of people.

If your industry or business is connected in some way to what’s happened then people will undoubtedly expect you to comment.  Failing to do so can be seen as being as unnatural as those who try to force the issue.  Don’t feel you can’t say anything, just make sure you put some thought in to it before you press send.

Get the message right

I confess I was appalled this morning by a post I saw on a local businesses Facebook page.  Late last night (less than 24 hours after the Grenfell Tower fire started) a letting agent posted a photo of himself when he had a brief stint as a fireman over four years ago.

Knowing the gentleman concerned I have little doubt the tone was meant to be one of solidarity and genuine compassion for those involved. However, the use of two photographs featuring himself ensured the post was solely about him. The associated content was just as equally focussed on him, with a statement that he had previously lobbied the local fire service and council for the installation of fire alarms to be made a legal requirement in private rentals (before this became ratified by government).

I was left feeling he was looking for external validation and applause – all on the back of a tragedy in which countless people have lost their homes, possessions and in all too many cases, their lives. This is no doubt not the case, but the shoddy way the posting was handled meant I know I am not the only one who was left querying the motivations.

This business had genuine reasons to be commenting on this tragedy – I do not dispute that for one second. It is simply the way it’s been done that was entirely wrong. No real message was passed on, there was no benefit to the wider public, it was instead “look at me, I’m wonderful”.

A far better response would have been to remind people (a few days later) that if you live in a rental property it might be your landlords responsibility to ensure there are suitable alarms and detectors in the property, but that it remains your duty to check they are working at regular intervals.

The above message could actually save lives.

The original one cannot.

Err on the side of caution

If you are not sure if what you are posting is relevant to your business, audience or industry, but you still want to say something, it is often wise to err on the side of caution and simply post on your personal accounts instead.

Let the message come from you, not your brand; at least then either way you cannot be accused of seeking validation or promotion.  Get it wrong and people are unlikely to forget quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

Look for the helpers

Everything’s a little bit quiet today.  The sun, which started brightly, has even muted itself behind the gathering clouds and the usually cheerful birds are tweeting in whispers.  Driving home from this morning’s subdued networking meeting I was struck by the regular silences on the radio.  Presenters, infamous for their humour and constant banter, today stuck for words. Listeners, phoning in to say their piece, struggled to speak round the pain in their hearts.

Today is a sad day for Manchester.

For us all.

Manchester is my adopted city, and I love it.  More importantly, I love its people, for they are the most amazing I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  So many of those I have come to know and love since moving here were caught up in the events of last night.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning there are numerous posts of people announcing they are safe – not from an attention seeking “it could have been me” perspective (as many are suggesting) but from a genuine it could have been them, because they were there. It could actually have been them, or their children, or their loved ones.

This shit is real.  It always has been, but right now it’s on our doorstep.

While my heart goes out to everyone today, my mind turns to my babies, especially my little girls.  They sit and watch the news with us.  They invariably hover around my shoulder as I scroll through Facebook.  They see things, they sense things; they cannot be protected from this.

And nor should they.  They need to know that the world is not always a beautiful and safe place, but equally, they need to know that there are beautiful people in it.

How then do you balance all that?  How do you inform any child of the realities of terrorism, without inadvertently letting the terrorists “win”?

I am proud of the fact that in the 8 years I’ve been doing this parenting gig, I’ve never told another parent how to do their job.  I’m not about to start now; I merely express the opinion that trying to hide this from your child, especially if you are raising a proud Mancunian, is not a good idea.

You cannot hide this, it’s everywhere.  If you don’t explain this to them, if you don’t tackle it head on, they will fill in the blanks, and God only knows what they will come up with.  The reality is terrifying, it’s heart breaking, it’s shocking but their imaginations are vivid and for them, the blanks may be so much more frightening.

For us, we have sat and talked. We have reminded our girls that they can ask questions, at any time, about anything.  If they tell us they’re scared, we won’t tell them not to be. Hell, I’m scared, I refuse to lie to them and make them think it’s all OK.  It isn’t.  Not whilst maniacs are running around in the world willing to kill themselves, and innocents, for the sole purpose of creating fear.

I cannot dismiss their fear, because they need to know it’s OK, that it’s a valid response.  They need to know when they’re scared, they can talk to us and not feel that they are being dismissed. Equally, they need to know that the world does not fall neatly in to goodies and baddies.  That baddies aren’t lurking on every corner, so that everything becomes a potentially terrible ordeal.

Yes, like Mrs Rogers, I am going to look for the helpers.  I shall point them out and I shall sing their praises.  I will tell my children about the people who drove others home, who opened their doors to strangers, who donated blood.  But I shall not pretend that evil doesn’t exist or it can’t touch our perfect little lives.

Because last night evil arrived on our doorstep, in our community. It struck in the heart of the venue I was at only the other week, where I have laughed with my precious babies. It is here, in the middle of everything we hold dear, there are armed police in our shopping centre this morning, there is fear everywhere; but no, it won’t win.

We will not stop. We will keep moving forward and we will continue to support those who need our love and compassion. And our children need to see that pain so they can really understand the goodness that comes out of it, from the people who really deserve our attention.

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Are you surviving or thriving?

As you may be aware this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May 2017).  Like many I have had my own problems with mental health; however, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  I suffered from the “baby blues” after the birth of our first child.  It was *only* for 8 weeks (though it felt significantly longer, I can assure you), so as such was not classed as being Post Natal Depression.

Regardless of what “it” was, it was Hell. I class myself as lucky because one morning I woke up and for whatever reason, felt better.  “It” stopped.  I was back, and ready to begin this amazing journey as a mother.  Thankfully it’s something I have never experienced again.

But it terrified me.  At the time, it was just scary – I wasn’t in control, I felt like a stranger in my own life.  However, that was the least of the problems. The biggest issue was I felt I had no one to talk to. My Midwife was great, but she was busy.  I was a new Mum and anyone I hinted to that I felt a bit wobbly, put everything down to my inexperience and lack of confidence.

I say all this, but the reality is this post isn’t about me.  It’s about you.  I only tell you my own experience in Cliffs Notes form to remind you that the vast majority of us have something lurking in the background, and if we don’t, we sure as heck have the potential to.

You see, we all have mental health.  Many might say they have “good” mental health, but let’s get one thing straight here, good mental health does not simply meant the absence of a mental health problem.

Good mental health is really all about having the ability to think, feel and act in ways that allow us to live a full and enjoyable life.  It’s the ability to cope when challenges are thrown our way, to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, and keep on moving on with a genuine smile on our face (even if occasionally it is replaced with tears and screams of rage).

Here are some interesting statistics for you taken from the Mental Health Foundation:

  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
  • 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
  • Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributed according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
  • One adult in six had a common mental disorder.

I know we’re all busy, and could argue we have “better things to do”, but why not take a moment to find out a bit more about your own mental health?  There’s a short survey available here that will help you understand where you’re at.  There’s also signposting if you need any support with anything.

Trust me, you don’t have anything better to do right now.  Go on, look after yourself.

#Legsit: Are we making a stiletto out of a kitten heel?

No one could have missed the Twitterverse reacting to the Daily Fail’s recent headline coverage of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit meeting.

Rather than running an intelligent piece discussing the conflicts and tensions underlying it and current events, Sarah Vine opted to provide a “light-hearted verdict on the big showdown”.

The account was so “light-hearted” that she went on to say “what stands out here are the legs – and the vast expanse on show. There is no doubt that both women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal. Consequently, both have been unsheathed.”

Vine even referred to Sturgeon’s legs as “altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed” and “a direct attempt at seduction.” At which point I confess I up-sicked a bit and had to lie down in a darkened room for 10 minutes.

There is absolutely no doubt that this headline, and the entire article for that matter, is utter tosh.  Forget triggering Article 50, it suddenly feels more like 1950; however, there is a Pavlovian response when it comes to the Fail and this popular bandwagon.

Forgive me if I am missing the point, but I honestly couldn’t give a monkey’s.  I’ve written about everyday sexism on multiple occasions, and yes, this is a prime example – but what do you expect from a paper of this quality?

They have deliberately taken the view that it’s important to offer a dumbed-down version of events for their readership. So, they have looked at their target audience, ascertained the political context of the meeting was too “adult” for them, and have had to turn it in to a piece about legs and apparently Sturgeon the Seductress.

No, sorry, feeling sick again now.

I get the disgust, I get the “not in our name” and I get the condemnation; however, it’s just adding fuel to the fire and giving them more air time than they actually deserve. Can you imagine how much they can add to their online advertising rates now you’ve all taken the time to click on their original story? A story you would never have read in a million years if it hadn’t courted controversy.

IPSO aren’t going to be investigating the complaints received as they have not been made by either of the individuals concerned, who are at the heart of this so-called “discrimination”.  Which makes me think we’d all do a lot better if we were a little more May and Sturgeon in this matter.

While they both might be appalled that their meeting has been reduced to a commentary on their pins, they both accept it is what it is.  The Fail has run equally stupid front pages in the past – I for one will never get the image of David Cameron in his swimming shorts out of my mind.

However, there is often less indignation when it is a man on the brunt of it – when their political story has been boiled down to an image of their flabby middle-aged paunch jiggling about in the waves.  It’s no less derogatory, and no less pointless. But it is apparently less jarring.

Don’t get me wrong, I despise the fact that papers can take an important issue and turn it in to something completely trivial.  I hate the way photos of anyone are taken and people feel it’s their right to pick the model apart, commenting on physical attributes rather than anything that has any real meaning. But I hate it more when people get their panties in a bunch because it’s a woman on the receiving end.

Say what you like about the Fail, as least they’re consistently shit.  They’re an equal opportunity offender in that sense.

 

 

 

Strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them

As anyone who has spent any length of time with me will attest, I like to talk. Actually, more specifically, I like to talk with people – not at them. I actually despise the sound of my own voice, so I try hard to ensure it’s never a one way thing. I have many conversations with many different individuals on any given day, but invariably the most challenging ones are those I have with my daughters.

They are currently 7 and 6, and one of the things I love most about children at this age is their ability to see things the way they are. Everything is so gloriously black and white, and when you’re so used to seeing all the different potential shades, it’s refreshing to have a frank conversation with someone who doesn’t have an agenda.

As a family we home ed all our children, and the girls have recently been studying the Titanic with me. We’ve touched on issues of class and social hierarchy, and of course equal rights for all has raised its head a few times. Last night, the eve of International Women’s Day, I found myself being challenged again.

My eldest asked why we still needed IWD – all women are surely equal now?

Sigh.

I love that she thinks like this; however, it makes me sad to realise it won’t be long before the real world shows itself to her and she understands the sad truth.

I explained that in some countries women were still not free to choose who they would marry. That, in Iran, three out of ten women don’t even have the right to choose what they wear. We discussed the forced hijab, we touched on domestic violence.

The conversation could have gone on for hours, but their shoulders are not that wide, and I don’t want them feel they have to carry the weight of their gender. Ever. Let alone right now.

I don’t carry it, and I refuse to. I have never thought of anything I have, or haven’t achieved, and attributed it to my gender (apart from childbirth, before any of you get cocky). If I have done something amazing it isn’t in spite of the fact I have a uterus. If I have failed, it was because I, Lu as a flawed individual was found wanting, and not because I didn’t have boy bits.

However, that doesn’t mean to say for one second my gender doesn’t come in to play during my interactions with others. Especially within the world of business. The problem is sexism permeates everything, and sneaks in through the language we use, often without people realising.

In the last week alone I have had a disagreement with a “gentleman” who ultimately referred to me as a bitch, purely because we conflicted on the best way to proceed over an issue. Had I been male, and our disagreement the same, I sincerely doubt name calling would have been part of the discussion. Certainly not to his face, for that is a sure fire way to instigate a fight. I confess to having broken three different people’s noses in the past, so in honesty, this was a bit of a risky move on the part of the name caller. Gentle, delicate, defencless little lady I sure as Hell ain’t.

I have also been labelled “bossy” because I asked another man to do something for me to help move a project forward. A man in the same position would not have been subjected to that. Bossiness has inherent negative connotations, in fact, the definition is “fond of giving orders; domineering”. Synonyms include overbearing, autocratic, officious, tyrannical, oppressive and harsh.

Bossiness is something that is ascribed to women who attempt to lead; who make decisions, who hold authority, who manage situations, who have the audacity to ask men to do something rather than do it themselves. It is not a word used to discuss men in the same position. A man would be admired for his leadership skills, and if challenged, he would be respected. Not called a bitch.

Finally, just yesterday I was in a situation where another man tried to intimidate me. Pulling me to one side, he positioned himself two steps above me so he would be able to lean down over me, and he shouted in my face. He would never have done this with another man, as it was so confrontational it would have resulted in a fight; but somehow, because I am a woman, this is OK. He knows he is “safe” because the worst I am going to do is cry.

Of course, I didn’t cry.

I did get a little bit of rage though.

My rage, as always, is more directed to the fact that for many they believe it’s OK to belittle, discourage, and intimidate women – as long as you don’t actually threaten them or touch them.

I assure you, it is not.

Stop.

Think about the words you use. Before you call a woman bossy, ask yourself if she is being unreasonable in which case challenge her, or are you simply put out because she is exerting control over the environment?

If you disagree, own that. Don’t resort to name calling, in any situation.

If you have a point to make, do so without trying to impose your height, weight or strength on someone smaller, lighter and physically weaker than you.

Be respectful to women. We constitute half the population, and we’re mothers to the other half.