Three Ways to Make More Time

Ruth and I have just been to the Big Bolton Conversation, hosted by the fantastic team at theBestofBolton. I have to say, I was blown away by how well run the entire event was, and what an amazing mix of people were in the room.

As a featured supplier, Time Saving Heroes had the opportunity to have a stand in their “expo” section, which was great – as all exhibitors were B2B, and limited to one per industry.  People actually took the time to talk, and we made some fantastic connections we’ll need to touch base with later this week.

Going through the services we offer, and why we offer them, the dilemma of “too much to do, not enough time” kept coming up.  Obviously, it’s something we hear day in, day out with our existing clients, but it seemed particularly heightened today.

Many people want a quick fix, jokingly asking if we can turn their 24 hour days in to 33 hour ones instead.  Of course we can’t, but the truth is this question says a lot about our approach to managing our time.  Instead of wishing we had more, we need to be better at using what we’ve got.

Here at Time Saving Heroes that’s what we specialise in.  Working with what you’ve already got, and making it better.  You don’t need more time, you need to be more productive with the time you have.

On the drive from Bolton back to the office I got thinking about my top tips to help people manage this, and here they are:

 

#1 – Buy it

I’m always telling my clients they can do anything, but they can’t do everything.  The simple truth is if you take everything on there’s nowhere for you to go.  There reality is there are only so many hours in a day, and no matter how long you work, you can’t do it all.

The good news though is that you can buy time.  If you look at the tasks you currently spend time on, but don’t have to be dealt with by you, find a way to outsource these.  If you spend a lot of time trying to update your website, would it make more sense to pay a web developer to do it?  What about a bookkeeper to handle your accounts?  A Virtual Assistant might have all the necessary skills you need.

Whatever it is you need doing, there is someone out there who has the right skill set to be able to help you.

 

# 2 – Find it

It might seem like a daunting task, but actually taking the time to track how you spend your days is well worth it.  Logging everything you spend your time on, from personal tasks to replying to emails, will highlight all your many obligations throughout the day.

You can then sit and look through the things that are taking up your time that you don’t think are personally worth it.  Rather than adding more things to your list, you can see this as a golden opportunity to cut out the things that aren’t working or don’t really working.  This way, you can free up some of your time to focus on other things.

 

# 3 – Create it

OK, you can’t actually create time, but you can create the illusion of more.  For example, do you find yourself writing the same sort of emails day in, day out? Do you get similar questions from customers or clients?  If so, producing a standard response that you can send out with the click of a mouse is a great way to save yourself heaps of time every single day.

Rather than spending lots of time shuffling bits of paper around, why don’t you use something like Evernote to keep everything simple and organised in one place?  That way it’s always accessible as well and you can add to it as and when needed.

Can you multitask any of your chores?  If you commute to work, can you use this time to deal with your emails, or listen to an audio version of that book you keep meaning to read?

 

 

There are lots of ways you can do more with the time that you have. Perhaps getting on with it, instead of complaining about how much you have to do would be a good first step?  #JustSaying

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

The one thing your business needs to be successful …

Over the years we’ve worked with lots of different clients, across a wide range of industries and sectors.  When they come to us, one thing they all have in common is that they’re struggling.

 

It might not necessarily be financially, though we have seen that too. More often than not they’re struggling to get everything done.  The business owner, who might actually be the only person involved in the business, is left to do everything.  That means they’re stuck on a hamster wheel, jumping from doing the work, to sending out quotes, chasing new clients, following up on leads, and managing the invoices.

 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll never stop saying it: you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

 

Something always has to give.

 

When it comes to sole traders and small business owners, the thing that tends to give is their leisure and family time.  Which can cause problems at home, not to mention adding a huge amount of stress to the entire situation.

 

And whilst they’re busing working in their business, these individuals aren’t working on it.  The reality is the one thing your business needs to be successful, is you.  You are the only person who can take your business to the next level.  It’s your ideas and passion that have got it this far, and if it’s to go any further, you need to be the one directing it.

 

You can’t do that if you’ve got your head buried in Facebook Ads, or you’re tied up on the phone all day.  It just doesn’t happen.

 

So, instead you keep doing what you’ve always done.  Which means you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

 

How then do you make a change?  Maybe you need to take on your first member of staff, but you’re worried about how much time that will eat up, and how much it will cost.  It’s not an easy decision to make, and people can have huge reservations about it.  Understandably.

 

An alternative, of course, is to outsource.  A Virtual Assistant is a great way to manage that; however, there are numerous services you can outsource to a professional who has the skills you don’t.

 

Why not hire a bookkeeper to keep on top of your accounts?  Maybe it will cost you £20ph, but how much time will you save, that you can focus back on your business?

 

If you need a website, you’ll no doubt look for a website designer.  I know plenty of people that have cobbled together their own websites (and with WordPress etc it isn’t that complicated), but if you want something bespoke, you wouldn’t try to do it yourself.  It would take you hours and hours to try and learn how to do it, and then muddle through.

 

Why would you be sensible when it comes to a website, but not when it comes to other things that zap your time?

 

Outsource your weaknesses to Time Saving Heroes, and we’ll let you concentrate on your strengths, so your business can go to the next level.

 

Call us on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk – we’re always happy to have a chat to see if we can help you.

 

 

 

How a VA can turn you in to an Air Traffic Controller

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a boss, are self-employed, or a stay at home parent; chances are you regularly find yourself wondering if you’ll ever get to the end of your “to do” list.

 

Let me tell you now, no you won’t.

 

The reality of life, whether personal or professional, is there’s always something else.  As you work from the top, clearing items off, someone will be adding to the bottom.  If you’re really strapped for time, you’ll find yourself firefighting – only the really important and urgent stuff will get done.  Which is great, but that still means you’ve got this lengthy list of “other” things you need to find time to get around to.

 

Personally, I used to find the fact that there was a never-ending list waiting for me at home, or in the office, really stressful.  It was always there, in the back of my mind, no matter what else I was trying to do.

 

And then one day I finally accepted, that it’ll never get done.  There will always be a list, even if the items change day by day, the list remains.  Looking at me, with its evil judgmental eyes, whispering “you’re not good enough, you can’t beat me”.

 

Many of us feel the pressure to clear the list, to somehow prove that we’re on top of things.  Admittedly, it feels great when you tick items off, but clearing an actual physically written down list proves nothing.  There’ll be other things on there that you didn’t put on that list.  There is always something else.

 

This is the point I always try to drive home when I start working with a new client who wants VA support.  Invariably clients come to me and they feel completely overwhelmed.  They’re stressed because they have “so much to do and not enough time to do it in”.  They’re working late, barely seeing their kids, not sleeping or eating properly and are in danger of burn out.

 

Just as worrying, they’re in danger of falling out of love with their business.  Which then makes working a chore.  Just another thing they have to do, rather than something they have chosen.  This thing that keeps them away from the things they love, and helps them pay the bills.  For those that have cashflow problems, it’s not even doing that.  It’s just a millstone around their neck.

 

A friend of mine is an Air Traffic Controller in London.  I’ve heard him talk about how difficult the job is, the pressure, the speed with which everything moves, having to keep your eyes on so many different things, and I’ve asked him how he manages.

 

The answer’s simple.  Instead of looking at every single plane that’s circling around out there, you focus on one at a time.  You look at your planes, the ones that are taking off, coming in to land, or are just passing overhead.  You look at the bit you’re in control of, and you let your team mates worry about the bits they’re in charge of.

 

He said it’s impossible to look at all of it, you’d go mad; but yet, business owners invariably try to do just that.

 

Yes, a VA can undoubtedly help – it gives you another pair of eyes on the screen, and allows you to focus on your planes.  However, I promise you this is not a sales pitch.  I’d rather leave you with one important thought:  You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

 

Give yourself a break.  Stop worrying about the list, and instead focus on one thing at a time, do that exceptionally, cross it off, and then move on.

Case Study: Social Media and processes

We realised the other day it’s been a while since we last did a case study.  Actually, we realised a few weeks ago, but we’ll be honest, we’ve been that busy we’ve not had the time to sit down and pull all the information needed together to make it worth reading.

See, even the experts struggle at times!

Now however, we’ve made time and here it is.  A case study looking at how we helped a restaurant in Cardiff build its customer base, and increase loyalty.

The client

Our client, Davide, runs an Italian restaurant in Edinburgh.  It’s a nice looking place (we’ve not been, but we’re contemplating a day trip at some point), and from what we’ve been told has a great atmosphere and serves traditional Italian cuisine.

Right up our street!

The problem

Davide’s biggest problem was that as his restaurant is off the main thoroughfare he doesn’t get a lot of passing footfall.  People come to his restaurant because they know about it, and sadly for him, not enough people seemed to know about him.

He’d taken over the restaurant from another owner who, by all accounts, had run it in to the ground, and developed a bad reputation.

Despite doing a lot to not only renovate the space itself (including a state of the art kitchen) and revamp the menu, Davide never took the time to shout about the new place.  There wasn’t even a press release.

He’d spent lots of money on a website, but wasn’t actively promoting it. Anywhere.  It was an online version of the actual restaurant – looked great, but hidden away and kept secret.

Davide was the first to admit that he wasn’t doing enough, and he knew that’s where the problems lay, but he was so overwhelmed and confused by what he should do that he was essentially standing still, completely unable to make a decision on how to move forward.

What Time Saving Heroes did

First of all, Lu had a long chat with Davide over the phone.  It was clear that although he didn’t have all the necessary skills needed to tackle his marketing on his own, he did have a lot of them – what he lacked was clarity, a strategy and if we’re honest, a degree of self-confidence.

An hour into their chat it was obvious that just having someone to bounce ideas around with was going to be a huge benefit to Davide. Within that short space of time he remembered why he wanted to set up the restaurant in the first place, and how passionate he’d been about it initially.

Instead of beating himself up about what he could have done differently, Lu encouraged him to start taking one step at a time, and focus on where he wanted to go.  It was during this conversation that Davide said he wanted to encourage local businesses to use the restaurant at lunch times, whilst pushing his other customers to come in the evenings.

On the back of this we initially decided to focus on LinkedIn.  Lu re-wrote Davide’s personal profile, and really focused on how he and his team could provide a quick and easy lunch for those on a quick break, a great venue for corporate entertaining, and even hosting for networking events.  She also set up a company page that Davide could link directly to.

After an intensive training session via Skype, Davide learnt the basics he needed to start using LinkedIn effectively to make contacts in the local area.  By the end of the first week he had arranged meetings with a local networking franchisee (who wanted a lunch time venue), a call centre manager (who knew his staff wanted an alternative off-site food option that wouldn’t eat in to their break), and an investment firm who wanted somewhere nice and quiet to meet with clients.

At the same time we set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the restaurant and really started to focus on the domestic customers Davide wanted to attract.  We spent £50 on Facebook advertising, targeting a very specific age range and geographical area, which had great results. We also started using hashtags on Twitter to encourage happy hour, Fizz Fridays and Mum Mondays (where Mum’s ate for free, every week).

Almost immediately online bookings increased, as did walk-ins and Davide was thrilled, as you can imagine.  He never anticipated that doing a few simple things would have such a huge impact.  The great news for him, was that once we got him started, and showed him what to do, he could take over the reigns for himself.  Meaning that his marketing was handled in-house and wasn’t an ongoing cost for him.

However, that’s not the end of our relationship with Davide.

Once customers started coming through the door we encouraged him to set up, and maintain a database.  This would allow him to see where a customer had come from (Facebook, Twitter, local trade etc), and obtain their contact details so he could direct message in the future.  By asking for date of births, and other special occasions, we’re now able to,  on his behalf, send out specific emails offering discounts for Birthdays and anniversaries.

The feedback from his customers is brilliant – they love feeling like the team care about them enough to remember their special events, and they always come back and leave with a smile on their faces.

What Davide had to say

“The team at Time Saving Heroes are amazing, nothing is ever too much trouble, and they make me feel like I am their only client. I can pick up the phone and just have a moan to Lu, who handles it all with good grace and manages to lift my spirits when I’m having a bad day. Thankfully, such days are less now.

“I cannot say how much value Lu and the team have added, it’s much much more than I could have anticipated. I expected a bit of marketing, and instead I got friends, colleagues and someone who loves my business as much as I do.

“When you feel like you’re on your own at times, that’s worth so so much. You ever come to Edinburgh, the meal’s on the house”

 

We’ll take you up on that offer on day, Davide!

 

 

Why you shouldn’t just have your mobile number on your business cards

You might not know, but here at Time Saving Heroes we can design (and even arrange the print) of business cards.  We even offer packages to start-up businesses to help them get everything they need to launch in one place.

I was talking to one of our new start-up clients the other day about their business cards, and she was querying whether to put her mobile number on them or not.  She’s a one-woman band, working from home and therefore only has a mobile number.

Equally, because she’s in that starting zone the phone hasn’t started ringing yet.  At this precise moment she thinks the best thing she can offer her potential clients is constant access – she never wants to miss a call, because she never wants to miss business.

All of which makes perfect sense.

However, she hadn’t really thought about what happens when it does start ringing.  The problem with a phone is it’s quite difficult to ignore, especially if you think there’s a sale at the other end.  With most people not wanting to leave voicemails, we have a Pavlovian response to pick up.  Even if we’re at the hairdressers, the supermarket or in the middle of cooking dinner.

That’s all personal choice, but if a new client or a lead calls whilst you’re in an unsuitable location, and they can hear kids screaming in the background, or someone asking if you want fries with that, it’s not going to give the most professional of first impressions.

And they might not call back.

We had a good old chat about it, and she said the problem was she didn’t want to be tied to her house, and she didn’t want to get an office set up just so she could have a landline.  Which is when I asked if she’d ever thought about a Virtual Receptionist.

The benefit of using a call handling service is you have immediate access to a landline number, which will always be answered professionally, to give the right impression of your business.  Our service also means you can have a dedicated voicemail service for out of hours, or you can have calls diverted back to you to deal with if you prefer.

We have clients who give out their landline number on their business cards, and for sales but once a customer has been confirmed, they move them to their mobiles.  It’s one option, and one that works very well for many.

Another bonus of having a landline number is that it makes you look bigger than you actually are.  We all know that size doesn’t matter, but let’s not be shy, sometimes it does.  If you only have a mobile number on your business cards it says very clearly that you’re the only person to speak to.  There is no one else.

If you have a landline answered by a professional team, you automatically create a hierarchy.  Now, we’re not saying you’re going to get lots of complaints, but on the odd occasion when someone does want to complain, this hierarchy can work to your advantage.  Either the caller can be placated by an experienced customer service team, or they will feel their complaint has been escalated if they are eventually put through to you.

If they have access to you straight away, there’s nowhere for them to go after that if they remain disappointed.  Other than potentially social media. And nobody wants that.

 

If you want some advice about what to put on your business cards, are just starting out and want to find out about our packages or just fancy a chat (we love a good chat), give us a call on 0161 883 2024.

 

Three tips for dealing with your fear of delegation

Here at Time Saving Heroes we’re used to working with business owners who don’t necessarily have a lot of experience in managing other people.  Some have never been employed by anyone else, and others have not had managerial positions.

That tends to mean that whilst they are brilliant at what they do, they’re not used to delegating tasks to others.  I’m not saying that makes them control freaks, but …

Hey, we’ve all been there.  If you want something doing right, and all that. The problem with releasing control, even a little bit, is the risk that a task won’t get done right, or as well as you might have done it.

However, the real problem comes when you let that stop you from passing on things you don’t need to do.  If you keep hold of everything within your business, there is a very real risk that you’ll burn out – and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

Control isn’t about keeping hold of everything yourself, it’s about managing risk and delegating what you can, to the best person, whenever you can.

If you want an extra pair of hands, or some support as and when you need it, but are worried how you’re going to manage it, our top three tips might help.

# 1 – Figure out where to focus

No matter how amazing you are, there’s only so many hours in a day. You might be happy working 10, 12, or even 18 of them but that can only last for so long, and in our experience there’s a good chance some things still won’t get done.

As a business owner you need to work out where your time can best be spent.  Yes, invoicing is important but do you have to do it?  Could someone take that over, or even automate the process to save time, so you can focus your attention on the things only you can do?

Such things could be strategic thinking, building relationships, sales, new product development and so on.  You can’t outsource those things so easily, but you can let go of the time consuming admin.

We have seen so many business owners who don’t have time to work on their business, and take it to the next level because they’re so busy working in it on day to day operations.

# 2 – What are you scared of?

Our Time Saving Heroes pride themselves on being honest and open, and we always encourage are clients to be the same. Therefore, if you feel uncomfortable about working with someone else (even though you know it makes sense to), we want you to talk about those fears.

Vague feelings of discomfort are quite disempowering and will invariably mean you don’t go anywhere.  If we can help you clarify what it is that’s bothering you, we can actually help you to address that issue and move on.

For example, we’ve had clients say before that they worry the work won’t get done, or it won’t get done as well as they would do it themselves. Some even worry that they’re inconveniencing us when they pick up the phone to ask for a task to be done, or they come across as being bossy.

The flip side of course is asking how they feel when they hold on to everything themselves, then the conversation starts to change.

I’m stressed, frustrated, sleep deprived, anxious, out of control and standing still.

# 3 – Minimise the risk

It’s all very well us saying we’re amazing, we could even point you in the direction of our reviews and client testimonials, but that doesn’t help you that much if you’re genuinely anxious about taking that first step.

That’s why we want to work with you from the outset to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. We’ll look at your fears and then figure out ways to put checks in place to make you feel comfortable.

Taking the above example of work not getting done, we agreed with one client to use a task management system which they could use to assign and track tasks sent to their Time Saving Hero. They could set deadlines, and monitor progress remotely and therefore still felt they had control of the situation, without having to be completely involved. Within a few weeks that fear was gone because they realised everything was completed as agreed.

 

It is scary, and yes it can feel a little time consuming in the beginning as you get used to working with someone else, but the truth is, whilst you can do anything you most certainly can’t do everything.

If you’re ready to have a chat about how a Virtual Assistant can help save you time and money, pick up the phone and call us on 0161 883 2024. We’re happy to help, and have a chat about what you might need to delegate.