Case Study: Email and Diary Management

Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about how you can outsource your inbox to a Virtual Assistant, as well as providing top tips for how to better manage your email yourself. This week I wanted to give you an example of the work I do for one of my clients, and how it’s helped.

Jon runs a hugely successful property management business in Essex. To keep his overheads low he runs a virtual office, with the vast majority of tasks associated with the business either being undertaken by himself and his wife, or outsourced to experts.

He has a marketing firm handle all of his branding and social media, his wife Reenie manages the admin, a bookkeeper comes in twice a month and then there’s me. I’m in charge of Jon’s email and calendar.

So, what exactly do I do?

Although Jon has his own email, only the members of his team know what it is. Every other email comes to the generic “office” email address, which I manage. On an average day we can receive anywhere between 50 and 120 emails per day.

My job is to whittle this number down significantly. Ideally to less than 10.

Every morning I therefore filter the emails and delete any obvious spam. Any newsletters that might be useful in terms of content production I forward to the marketing team, and then delete.

I then answer any obvious queries, for example, requests for information on when work will be completed, or a property will become available again. The answers are all easy to find, thanks to the processes we have already put in place, and it just takes a few minutes to grab what I need and send it over to the enquirer.

Next I focus on meeting requests. These can be 121’s from his various networking activities, meetings with existing landlords or new ones, property visits etc. To save email exchanges taking place I tend to pick up the phone and call people to book them in there and then. There is nothing worse than suggesting a time and date, only for Jon to have filled that slot himself in the time it’s taken the person I am speaking to to get back to me.

Finally, I forward directly to Jon any emails I am unable to deal with myself. Usually these will simply be brand new contacts or potential prospects, as he always likes to be the first contact. Over the last two years, I have never sent him more than 8 emails in one day. Everything else I save him from, which saves him an insane amount of time each day.

The process is repeated during the late afternoon, at which point I also check his calendar and confirm any appointments he has for the next day to avoid wasted time.

Where necessary I also arrange travel, both domestic and international, and send invitations to his database for viewings and any events he is speaking at.

The time he saves in not having to deal with the mundane day-to-day management of his inbox is worth far more than what he pays me to deal with it on a daily basis. He’d be the first to admit that he was sceptical about it all at first, but after working with each other for a few weeks, we got in to a great routine, and he’s never looked back. Most people know that it’s me they’re going to be hearing from, and none of them realise I am not based in the same area (though, my accent probably helps out with this a bit).

 

If you want to find out whether outsourcing your email could bring benefit to you and your business, please give me a call on 0161 883 2024, email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or send me an InMail. I am always happy to discuss your options, or provide tips to help.

Top Tips for Managing your Email

I recently wrote about outsourcing your email management to a VA, and why this can be hugely beneficial. While I am a great advocate of this approach, I am also a realist and I know for many people this is just not something they can consider, let alone get on board with.

With that in mind I thought it might be an idea to share some of my tips for getting on top of the Inbox Hell so you can work towards Inbox Zero.

# 1 – Set limits

If any of you have emailed me over the last few weeks you will have noticed I have an auto-responder set. Essentially it explains that my inbox is not monitored constantly, and is instead checked at specific periods throughout the day.

I find this is a great way to manage other people’s expectations. Some people when they send an email, expect an answer immediately; however, others are happy to wait up to 24 hours. For the largest part it depends on the precedent you have set, but also the urgency of the email itself.

Personally I find checking my inbox repeatedly throughout the day is a huge distraction. It is also a great way to procrastinate. If I have a task I don’t want to do, or am struggling with for some reason, you can bet anything I will just hit refresh to see if anything has snuck in that demands my attention. Nine times out of ten, even if it isn’t urgent, I will deal with the new email before tackling the task I’m avoiding.

Even I have my imperfections it would seem!

I know I can’t just change the way I am, so I have to remove the temptation full stop. Instead of spending a day with my inbox open (and therefore easily accessible) I close it throughout the day, and only open it at my pre-specified times.

This can be a great way to ensure your inbox doesn’t rule you, though I admit it can take some getting used to. How often you choose to check your inbox, and when those times are, will greatly depend on you. I have opted for three – early morning, mid-day and approximately 4pm. These times might work for you, or you might prefer to add in a couple of extra ones as well.

The point is, allow yourself time away from your email so you are not being dictated to constantly, or distracted by new requests.

# 2 – Introduce “One Click”

If you have adopted tip 1 you have suddenly drastically reduced the amount of time you have to spend on emails per day. This means you have to be far more efficient when it comes to actually dealing with them.

Over the years I’ve found many people handle their inbox very badly. They will open it up, see a number of new emails and then proceed to browse; perhaps opening a few, reading them, and then moving on to the next one. They might even hop around, cherry picking what they want to focus on. This is a complete waste of time as nothing is being dealt with, which means, at some point, you will have to go back and re-read an email to actually action it.

Stop the madness!

The One Click approach is simply that. Open an email and then click on just one of these buttons – reply, delete or archive/move.

Force yourself to do something with that email.

Does it warrant a reply? If so, provide it there and then. If it’s not your job to handle it, then forward it to whoever it is and CC the original sender in. Get it out of your inbox and in to someone else’s.

Is it simply for information purposes? Is it junk? Is it completely irrelevant? Then delete it! Just get rid of it and move on.

Maybe it’s not something you need this second, but will do later, in which case archive it. Hopefully you will have suitable folders set up so that you can assign such information to the right client, job, category etc. so it’s easy to locate at a later date.

# 3 – Keep it short and sweet

This is actually my favourite tip, and it concerns what to do when you are replying to an email.

Keep your reply as short as possible. In an ideal world, no more than three sentences! If your response is likely to be wordy, and therefore time consuming to produce, you are better picking up the phone and having an actual conversation. Remember those?

Not only is a lengthy response difficult for you to compose, it is also difficult for the recipient to read. Long emails tend to be skip-read, which means important information is lost, and valuable time is wasted. Why take all that time for no benefit?

Complex scenarios and concepts are often much better explained in real time, via an actual conversation. You are then better placed to answer specific questions as and when they pop up, and clarify anything in more detail if required. If you don’t have the time to explain it there and then, make an appointment for either a telephone or face to face meeting.

Get off the email merry-go-round and take back control.

Hope these help, feel free to let me know how you get on, or if you have any tips of your own that help you stay on top of your inbox!

How a VA can make you a better networker

One thing many people struggle with is making the most of their networking activities. It’s all very well finding the time to actually attend a networking meeting either weekly or fortnightly, but doing it right can be all too time consuming for some.

Networking isn’t simply about showing up and passing business cards around. You need to take the time to think about what it is you want to say – you only have 60 seconds to get your point across and make people remember you. Equally, you also need to commit to the follow up. If you’re not going to make the most of any connections or leads that have come your way, you’re totally wasting your time rocking up to an event in the first place.

I have one client who attends, on average, six networking events a week. All, bar one, are morning meetings which he likes because he can get them out of the way before most people have started in the office. However, he came to the realisation that he wasn’t keeping on top of everything effectively, which meant he was essentially wasting his time, and money, by going to all these different events.

In order to help reduce the strain on his time, and ensure that he is being as efficient as possible with his networking activities we have put a few things in place.

60 Seconds

Once a month we have a 10 minute phone call to brainstorm ideas and catch up on what’s been happening in his business. From this chat, and from my general day to day knowledge of what he’s been up to, I am able to write his 60 seconds/elevator pitches for him to use.

He prides himself on not using the same information over and over again, as he wants to keep things interesting for the rest of the people in the room. Thankfully I have a great system set up whereby I know what he has said in which group, and when so there is not likely to be any repetition.

CRMs

When a new member joins one of his groups, or a visitor has attended, he will send me a picture of their business card via WhatsApp. I will then add their details in to his CRM system, along with information of what meeting they attended, if they have been before and if he has set up a one to one meeting with them.

One to Ones

Before you think it, no, I do not attend one to one’s on his behalf! We did talk about it once, and I managed to talk him out of it. However, what I will do is liaise with people to book the one to one’s in the first place, and send confirmation of the appointment once it has been made.

He then records his one to one meetings on his iPhone, and sends me the audio which I will transcribe. From this I complete a “file note” for him, which will be attached to the individual’s record on his CRM and forwarded to them as well. This is to allow them to confirm that he has understood precisely what they do in their business and what sort of opportunities or referrals they are looking for.

I will then add their details in to a database so that in 11 months we will make contact again to arrange another one to one.

Referrals

When he is handed a referral or lead he will always pass me the details so that I can make the initial contact. I will find out precisely what is required, and pass over any information that the prospect needs to be able to make a decision.

If a meeting needs to be arranged, I will schedule it.

From there, the client handles everything else himself.

This is an approach that works perfectly for him, but might not be ideal for everyone. However, I hope it gives you some idea of how outsourcing some tasks could take the pressure off you, and allow you to be more efficient at work.

If you want to have a chat about how you could improve things in your office, why not give me a call on 0161 883 2024 or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk

How much is your time worth?

Here at Time Saving Heroes we provide a variety of different services, but they all boil down to one end goal – to save you, our client, time.

As a business owner you will be only too well aware that time is money, but precisely how much is your time worth?

£25 per hour? £50 per hour? £100 per hour?

Everyone is different, and much will depend on the nature of the work you do and the expertise you bring to the table – but we should all know how much we’re worth on an individual basis to our business.

No matter what you are worth in monetary terms, are you the only person that can bring in that revenue? If you are a sole trader, then clearly, the answer is “yes”. Even if there are other members of your team, perhaps you are the only one that secure the high-end fees. Perhaps you are the only person that generates new income and revenue streams because no one understands the business the way you do – it is, after all, your baby.

It begs the question then why you would waste your time doing tasks that other people could do. Perhaps you don’t see it as wasted, they are no doubt tasks that need to be completed to ensure the proper running of your business – but do you need to be the one who does it?

Have you stopped to consider that for some tasks it would be far more beneficial, financially, to pay someone to do them instead?

Consider the case of Bob (a real client, but not his real name).

Bob is a tiler and, on average, earns £250 per day. He’s very good at what he does, in fact, many regard him as an “artist”. Only Bob can do the physical work that his clients pay him for. Bob’s average day is no longer than six hours. He therefore earns £41.67 per hour.

However, Bob also does all the admin for his business. He dedicates every Monday to answering emails, writing up quotes, sending invoices and doing his bookkeeping. Bob has no real admin experience, is not confident with computers and spends 10 hours every Monday just trying to run his “office”. He admits himself it’s not his forte, and because things are completely ignored Tuesday-Sunday, by the time Monday comes around again it’s a bit of a mess.

Within a week of working with Bob we were able to streamline a lot of his processes and we now only bill him for one hour a week to complete all his admin needs. Yes, this costs him £100pm but in exchange he has now saved himself 10 hours per week – which he has turned in to time he can complete more work. As a result, he can now charge an additional £250 per week, which is a whopping £1,000 per month of extra income (or £900pm if you deduct our fee).

By using Time Saving Heroes he has earnt an additional £900pm! Now, that’s what we call return on investment.

Of course, not everyone is in that position, and we are not suggesting for one second we can produce the same results for all our clients; however, the principal remains the same. By reducing the time you are wasting on things that you can outsource, that we can probably do more efficiently than you because this is our area of expertise, you can dedicate more time to your area of expertise.

Why not give us a call today on 0161 883 2024 to find out how we can help you be more efficient, and make more money?

Why you should outsource your Inbox

We all know that a VA is thereto hep you become more productive, and will stop you from feeling overwhelmed.  But how exactly do they do that?  What tasks can they perform to make your business life run more smoothly?

Of course the answer to that isn’t entirely simple. A lot will depend on what you do, how good you are at delegating and letting go of control, and what your VA specialises in. Some VA’s have a varied skill set as many will be time served PA’s, others may focus on specific areas.

However, one thing your VA should be able to do is handle your emails.

Now, hear me out. I know there’s a huge part of you (if not the whole part of you) that is visibly recoiling at the thought of handing your inbox over to someone else, someone who may, in all reality, be a perfect stranger, but ssssh my pretty.

Take a deep breath and carry on reading.

According to an O2 Business report published in 2015 the average worker sends 4,000 emails per year. Working on the basis there’s 365 days in a year, 105 of which fall on weekends, eight of which are public holidays and 28 are owed as personal holidays, that average worker only actually works 224 days a year. That is assuming they are never ill or have to take a personal day.

That means, on average, they are sending 17 emails a day. It might not seem like a lot, but assuming each email takes a minimum of five minutes to compose and send (which, in all honesty, is unlikely), that’s one hour and 29 minutes per day just sending emails.

Or, to put it another way 19,936 minutes per year, which is also known as 332 hours or 13 days.

That’s 13 days a year lost in email responses alone. And that’s assuming they’re quick and easy responses in the first place, or you’re a fast typer.

Apparently we receive even more than we send – 6,000 on average per year. You can do the math on that one.

The point is emails can be hugely time consuming, and a lot of them are utterly pointless. There is no legitimate reason that the task of dealing with them can’t be outsourced to a VA. Other than you perhaps find it a little alien and difficult to relinquish control.

Think about the emails you receive on a day to day basis. How many of them ask for the same sort of information? Could you set up template responses to send back a quick-fire response, or direct enquirers to a particular page on your website? How many are junk, forwarded from mailing lists you subscribed to years ago? If you’re not getting the benefit from them or the information you once thought you were, cut the clutter and unsubscribe immediately. How many group emails are you included in, that keep you tied up in a long thread that really has little or nothing to do with you?

These are just some examples, but it’s very easy for a VA to sift through the rubbish, reply to the standard requests and leave you only with the actual things that require your attention specifically.

Why not spend the rest of this week keeping a note of how much time you’re spending on your work emails? What could you achieve if you were a bit more precious with your time than you were with your inbox?

Find out how Time Saving Heroes can help – call 0161 883 2024, email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or get in touch with Lu via LinkedIn.

What’s the point of a Virtual Assistant?

When people ask me what the point of a Virtual Assistant (VA) is, I always reply “to make you better”. While no two VA’s are the same, their fundamental purpose is. Namely to make their client’s life easier, one way or another. What that means, in reality, will depend on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

We all have a very specific skill set, and it may well be that you are the only person in your business that can do whatever it is that you do. If you are spending your time doing other things, such as answering the phone, dealing with mundane enquiries, typing up invoices or even getting involved in debt collection, your skill sets are being wasted.

If you are doing everything else, then you can’t possibly be focussing on what’s needed to drive the business forward, and that means you’re going nowhere fast. A VA can take over these time consuming tasks on your behalf, thus freeing your time up to spend on other aspects of your business.

If you constantly feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do, always say you wish there were more hours in the day (or bemoan how much time you actually spend at work) and want to be more productive and less stressed then it’s time you seriously considered hiring a VA.

The New Year is a great time to make some changes, both personally and professionally, and an experienced VA on your side could be the kick up the what-not you need in your business. Having someone who “has your back”, no matter what, could provide you with a large amount of extra time, to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

If you want to find out more about what a VA could do for you and your business, pick up the phone and give me a call today on 0161 883 2024. Alternatively, message me on LinkedIn directly or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk

I am always happy to help.

Have a great day, and all the best for the New Year!

Why we are the perfect match for your business

Deciding to outsource any part of your business is a big decision. Hiring an accountant to do your books makes sense and probably won’t cause you much consternation (apart from when the invoice lands on your desk).

Equally, a HR Consultant is worth their weight in gold when it comes to ensuring staff are happy and not threatening you with a tribunal every five minutes.

But what about the other little tasks? The things that you genuinely think you can handle, or learn how to do adequately. As mentioned last week these little things can take up a lot of time, which ultimately costs you money because you’re not dedicating your attention to revenue generation. Outsourcing to a professional in that particular field could end up saving you money, not

No doubt you have sat down and meticulously worked out the benefits of getting someone else to do whatever task it is. It’s not a decision you take lightly, after all, you’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy building your business. It’s your baby. Or one of them. How do you know you can trust the person you are handing some of the reigns over to?

Finding the right person to collaborate with or rely on can be tricky, and it’s well worth doing some homework before you jump in to the first relationship that comes along.

Here at Time Saving Heroes we are good at what we do, we are well respected and people speak very highly of us. However, even we are realistic enough to know that we are not the right fit for everyone.

As a business owner or even an individual you will have certain things that are deal breakers. For some its cost, for others it’s response time, others value qualifications while some look for longevity and experience within the field. Only you know what is likely to tick your boxes and make someone the right proposition for you.

One thing I can say about Time Saving Heroes, other than our ability to do the job in the first place, is that we are approachable, and responsive. When a customer has a query or even a concern about what we are doing for them, their business or their brand, we react immediately. Such conversations don’t happen often, but when they do, we don’t hide from them. We want to tackle any difficulties you have with our service up front and honestly. You can always get hold of us and know that we will do what is needed.

As we are friendly and approachable, and we always keep lines of communication open with our clients, people waste no time in coming back to us with any problems they have. A particular approach on social media may not be working, it may be the wrong tone of voice, or the wrong vibe for your business. Picking up the phone, or having a face to face meeting can quickly put an end to any concerns, and will allow us to look at an alternative approach immediately.

We value every one of our customers, we know just how important your business is to you so we will respond to you immediately, or as close to immediately as possible. This is one thing we can guarantee at Time Saving Heroes – you will never be ignored or passed over for a bigger client.