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

How to handle outbound calls

It was only a few months ago that I mentioned one of my least favourite tasks was outbound sales/cold calling.  In typical fashion, over the last few weeks I’ve been asked to do some outbound sales calls for a few new clients.

Never one to turn someone away, I decided to take on the work, and as always, throw myself in to it.

I moaned a bit under my breath, but no one else had to hear that.  Well, apart from the dogs, but they’re used to my little rants by now.

Generally speaking if I do anything like this I like to be completely prepared.  In an ideal world there would be time to develop a bit of a script, maybe do some tests of it, tweak it and make sure it’s as good as it can be.

However, with these recent jobs, they’ve all had a certain amount of urgency to them.  So my back’s been a bit against the wall.  No time to really prep, just jump straight in.

Which always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

But that’s life.

With that in mind I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve picked up over the last couple of weeks in the hopes that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you might feel a little more able to pick up that phone and make a start.

# 1 – Be professional, and happy

I’ve received many a cold call myself, and I’m always struck by how miserable everyone sounds when you answer the phone to them.  Don’t get me wrong, I entirely get it.  I might be the 50th person they’ve called that morning, and everyone else has told them to bog off, they’re despondent, miserable and wondering where they went wrong in life.

But that’s not my fault.

Which is why it is essential that you put a smile on as soon as you pick up that phone and act like every call is the first one you’ve made all day.  Be professional at all times, and where possible use the person who’s answering the call’s name.

# 2 – Introduce yourself

Take the time to introduce yourself and your company. True, they might not take it in there and then, and will probably ask you to repeat it, but it’s a good habit to get in to.  Equally, it’s a nice way for you to ground yourself in to the conversation.

“Hi, I’m Lu and I’m calling from Time Saving Heroes. We’re a local company who specialises in helping microbusinesses increase their productivity and income.”

I’ve found that this approach works better than clearly identifying what you do, provide or sell.  This arouses a bit more interest than simply saying “I’m a Virtual Assistant and I wanted to discuss how I could help you.”

# 3 – State your purpose

In an ideal world you’ll have a specific reason for wanting to call these businesses, so explain it. Having read a few blogs about this sort of thing it’s clear that framing this purpose in the form of a question is likely to illicit better results.

“If I can show you how to get more done, without employing staff or significantly increasing your outgoings, would you be interested in hearing more?”

# 4 – Schedule a meeting

If they’re interested in finding out more then set up a meeting, if it’s appropriate to do so.  If they’re out of the area, then a conference call might be the better way to approach this.

Offer two times to give a choice, and do not put the ball back in their court by saying “when shall we meet?”.

# 5 – Follow up

Make sure you get all the necessary contact information from your prospect. Ask if they have an email address (so you can send a meeting invite/confirmation), and then send the information as promised.

 

No matter what the outcome of the call, make sure you remain bright, breezy and professional and you thank them for their time and help.

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.

 

 

It’s not about the cost, it’s value for money that matters

Last week I had a meeting with a potential client (John), who had been referred to me by a business coach I’ve worked with previously who is helping him to grow and streamline his business.

John runs a pest control business that, although still relatively young (under two years) is doing very well.  The problem is that now the phone has started to ring, and the enquiries are coming in he’s realised he doesn’t have enough time to do everything himself.

The reality is he can’t spend all day out on jobs, then go out on quotes, follow up on enquiries, answer phone calls and then send invoices.  Not if he actually wants to spend any time at home with his wife and their three month old son.

We got chatting and talked through the issues he was experiencing, and he agreed he definitely needed an extra pair of hands to help things run more smoothly.

Then we got to the really fun bit – costs.

I like to think I keep things really simple when it comes to our fees: £25 per hour for our Virtual Assistance service.

However, John immediately baulked at the idea of paying “so much” for another person’s time.  In fact, his exact response was “I could just hire an admin assistant and pay them £7.50 per hour, it would be so much cheaper.”

Now, I know John thinks he’s saying “you’re so expensive”, but what I’m actually hearing is “I’m looking at this the wrong way.”

I practically rub my hands with glee as I roll my sleeves up for this challenge.

Although John actually only needs a few hours of practical admin assistance per day, he wants someone to be around during office hours to answer his phone and handle queries.  As such, he would have to employ a full time member of staff.

The biggest problem here is that he currently operates out of the back of his van.  An admin assistance, regardless of what you paid them, wouldn’t be able to do that.  As a result he’d need to locate office space and pay a deposit to secure it.

He’d then need furniture and equipment to put in to that office space.  Having an employee on site would also mean he’d need employer liability insurance. He’s confessed he has no experience of hiring staff, and wouldn’t know the first thing when it came to establishing whether someone was experienced enough or not. His preference therefore would be to use a recruitment firm to handle all of that for him.

Taking all of that in to account, his nice cost-effective admin assistant has cost him in the region of £4,286 before they’ve even set foot in the building!

It costs nothing to get Time Saving Heroes on board. No equipment, no space, no insurance. Nothing.

That’s a considerable saving right there.

Now let’s look at the monthly costs.

By the time you factor in salary, office rent, professional fees (such as auto enrolment, payroll and HR support), NI and pension contributions our employee is likely to cost in the region of £1,776.74pm.

Alternatively, John could hire a Time Saving Hero for a maximum of 2 hours a day (as that is what he think he needs in the way of real admin support) at a cost of £1,000pm.

He could then sign up to our call handling service at £55pm to ensure his calls are answered between 8.30am and 5pm.

All of a sudden paying £17.50 more per hour has saved him £721.71 per month.

When I put it like that, he saw things differently.

We started working together this morning.

Guess what’s back …

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

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

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

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

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

18301624_754114678084586_1807267223704904617_n

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

 

We look forward to taking your calls.

 

 

What do you think the biggest challenge would be in this role?

Back in April I wrote a piece outlining some of the questions I think it would be wise to ask a Virtual Assistant before you started working with them.  Over the last few months I’ve been answering these questions so you’ve got an idea of my stance when it comes to work, and whether or not Time Saving Heroes might be the right solution for your business.

Today I’m looking at what the biggest challenge might be in a VA role.

Of course, it’s difficult to answer that question accurately right now without having a specific client in mind. However, there are some things that often come up when starting a new VA working relationship, so I’ll tackle those.

Feeling overwhelmed

Many clients get in touch with a VA because they’ve reached the point where they want to clone themselves. Essentially they have so much to do, and too little time to do it that they end up feeling completely overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, that feeling can last well in to a VA relationship with clients feeling so confused about what it is they want to achieve, and therefore unsure what they should be offloading to their new right hand woman.

It’s perfectly common, but it can take a little while to get over.  Personally I always sit down with a new client and ask them what their biggest problems are at the moment, and what it is they want to achieve.  We then start with that, and wait for everything else to naturally fall in to place.

Failure to delegate

The vast majority of my clients are microbusiness owners or sole traders. As a result they’re the only people that have ever worked in the business, and it really is like their baby.  It’s one thing recognises that they need help to take things to the next level, but it’s a whole other ball game actually getting to the point where help is accepted.

Many clients find delegating hard work, especially if they don’t have any real management experience behind them.  Problems can arise if they worry that they won’t get done, or that it won’t get done to a good enough standard.  Some even worry that they’re going to come across as being bossy if they keep putting demands on you (even though it’s your job).

Again, I always sit down and try to get to the route of the problem and ascertain why they’re reluctant to delegate work when they know they need to.  Talking through their feelings, potential control issues and what they’re worried about is a great way to get them to see the bigger picture, and start to resolve the barriers they’re putting up.

I’m 50% VA and 50% therapist most of the time.

Communication

Communication can be an issue in any relationship, but when you’re predominantly working in a virtual capacity it can all be made a lot worse.  Clients will always have a preference as to how they want to work, even if they don’t openly state it.

Conflicts can arise if they tell you to email them with everything, but then don’t respond to the emails because actually they’d prefer you to call.  Or vice versa.

Some clients really want someone to be in charge of them, but they don’t articulate that.  Which means you can spend a few weeks waiting patiently for them to get back to you, when in reality they need you to pick up the phone and nag them.

All new relationships take a while to settle down, and a good VA working relationship is no different. You have to take the time to get to know each other and find a way to work in harmony together.  Once that’s done, there really are no problems.