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.

 

 

 

Your call is important to us – or is it?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of calling a large company or call centre, you are likely to have been exposed to the joys of the automated system.  The pre-recorded voice asking you to select the correct option (many of which never really make sense) and assuring you, every 30 seconds, that your call is important to them.

 

In an ideal world you might hope that your call would be answered immediately, by a cheerful and helpful real live human being. However, with a large organisation experiencing a high volume of calls, that’s not realistic and most of us accept that.

 

Which is why the small business has an advantage.  Your phones aren’t going to be ringing off the hook, you’re not going to have an automated system, or a queue of frustrated people waiting to speak to you.  You should be able to deliver immediate customer service, answers and resolutions the second your customer needs it.

 

Yet, so many small businesses fail to do that, because they don’t have an effective call answering system.

 

Yes, it should be simple; you have a phone, doesn’t matter if it’s landline or mobile, someone calls, you answer.  Job done.

 

Why then, when we phone sole traders and SMEs do so many calls go unanswered?  You ring, no one’s there. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s a voicemail facility – but do you leave a message?  The reality is few people do.  When they do, statistics (and our own personal experiences) show that very few of these are ever returned.

 

I know, having spoken to many small businesses about their calls that for some, they’re just too busy.  Take a plumber client of mine as an example. If he’s on an emergency call out, he charges by the hour.  Admirably, and rightly, he won’t take other calls whilst he’s on a job, so as not to add extra time that the client has to pay for.  Instead, he lets any calls go to voicemail.

 

He works on the basis that if it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

 

Of course, if it’s important they won’t.  They’ll phone the next number on their list and hope they pick up instead.  His callers have an issue they need resolving.  If he doesn’t answer, they’re no closer to getting a resolution. The hunt must continue, without him.

 

Another client, an electrician this time, will answer calls no matter what he’s doing.  He’s answered them whilst halfway under floorboards, in the shops, whilst driving and also when stuck up scaffolding.  He barely misses a call, though when he does, he won’t return them.

 

On the surface that seems great – he’s keeping on top of things. However, he isn’t.  When he takes a call when he’s on a job, he’s distracted.  He’s invariably got his hands full, and therefore doesn’t have the chance to make any notes.  If he does, it’s an illegible scrawl on the back of a receipt or pasty wrapper, which gets added to the pile of rubbish festering in the footwell of his van.

 

He’s taken a call, been given a lead, has been asked to quote – but he can’t remember who, where, when or what.  So nothing comes of it.  Maybe that customer will call back, but the chances are, if they’ve waited in for him, and he’s not shown up, they won’t.  If they do, the same is only likely to happen again.

 

And a final example, the graphic designer who doesn’t like people.  Admittedly, we’ve all been there, but this client hates talking on the phone.  Can’t abide it. To the point where he actively avoids answering his calls, won’t listen to voicemails and never phones anyone back.  He wants everyone to contact him via text, or email, or Messenger – which begs the question, why put your mobile number on your business cards?

 

All of these clients have benefitted from our call handling service, because we ensure that every single call is answered, and dealt with on their behalf.  The web designer never has to speak to anyone, we do it for him, even calling people back if he has a question he needs their help with.

 

The electrician now has emails from us providing him with all the information he needs to complete a quote: name, address, contact details, date, time and synopsis of the issue.  We manage his calls, and his diary so all he ever has to do is turn up.  Which, thankfully, he is now doing.

 

And the plumber, he has us just taking messages for him.  We ascertain what the issue is, provide him with the information, and at 5pm every night he goes through his emails and calls every single customer back.

 

If your customer’s calls are important to you and your business, then make sure you actually demonstrate that by answering them, dealing with it appropriately or calling them back.  If you can’t do that, for whatever reason, Time Saving Heroes can.

 

To find out more, give us a call on 0161 883 2024; email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or get in touch with us via our Facebook page.

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.

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.