March  2015 | Volume 16 Issue 3

 

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE
Kathy Colaiacovo, PresidentKathy Colaiacovo

This month we are talking about Systems and Procedures… you know all those things we had to do when we worked in a corporate job where they had manuals upon manuals of procedures. Now as a Virtual Business Owner, it's nice to have the freedom to not have to follow those darn manuals. But is it really freeing you or is not having procedures actually causing you more stress and angst as a business owner? And worse, holding you back?

Personally, I was always terrified at the thought of all the work needed to create systems and procedures and keep track of how we do things for clients for my business. But now that I have started with checklists and processes and procedures, I find them very liberating and better yet – saves everyone so much time! Not to mention they can act as a checklist to ensure work done for a client has not missed any vital steps. Last thing I want to do is hand over unfinished or shoddy work to a client. Our businesses are built on our reputation. Delivering top notch work is key and your systems will help you do just that.

If you have not started creating and documenting how you do what you do and the special things to be included in all the work – I encourage you to include this as part of your daily routine… once you have them all in place, it will help you not only be more efficient but grow your business. After all, top notch service is what people want – and if you can deliver that type of service, more clients will discover you and share your name! Get started this week – baby steps and you will get there.

Maybe I will see you in Myrtle Beach at our VA Conference in early May and you can share with me what systems you are working on! I love hearing success stories… you will also be guaranteed to learn more to bring back to your business at all the sessions being held too.  There is so much happening at the Summit with the keynote from Gina Trimaro-Cilgrow on using Improv skills to network and close more sales. Then there are all the hands-on workshops we have – being an author assistant, social media, blogging, telesummits, team building and even learning the Work-Life Balance from Mimi Klosterman. Mimi is quite the success story, not only is she on the IVAA Board of Directors and runs her own VA business, she also home schools her 8 kids!  (Yes eight!!) Now that's what I call a work-life balance act! 

If you are new to the Virtual Assistance Industry and want to take part in the New Virtual Assistant Workshop day on May 3rd in Myrtle Beach – I am certain there are a few more spots still open and this is one day that you will never forget. Tracey D'Aviero and Yvonne Weld will take your business to new levels after a full day with them.

I am really looking forward to the workshop on the Dimensions of Human Behavior… Constance Ozimek will share how to understand and observe the behavior of other people – clients, team members, management, even family members – to increase the effectiveness of our relationships with them. This skill will also help reduce tension, conflict and have you see more success in working and interacting with others! Learn more and register here.

Enjoy the IVAACast issue today and have a great week.

Wishing you Virtual Success in 2015,

Kathy Colaiacovo
President, IVAA

Will you join us in Myrtle Beach?? We had a great time in Vegas last year… Don't miss out!

Live Summit 2014


GETTING STARTED
Why Putting off the Creation of Your Systems and Procedures is Keeping You Small
By Christine Bearse

Christine Bearse

I have heard this many times from other VAs and, truth be told, I have said it myself, "I am nervous about subcontracting work because it is my company name that they are working under." Imagine if Ray Kroc had said that. No matter your opinion of McDonald's hamburgers, if Mr. Kroc had never spent the time to standardize the systems and procedures around everything that happens at his restaurants they never would have grown to the size they are today. Perhaps you have no intention of hiring over 1 million workers a year, however, by not documenting your procedures you will most likely remain a company of one.

Why is this? Well, for starters, when you think about delegating a reoccurring project it seems easier to just do it yourself than explain to someone else how to do it. Even worse, if you have already explained it to someone and they leave, you really don't feel like going through it all over again. What a waste of time! If you already had the job written out step by step, it would be a breeze to delegate, right?

Here's another reason why documenting your steps makes sense. When you take the time to think carefully about how you do something, often you see ways that you can improve it. Just the simple activity of writing it sometimes helps you eliminate or replace unnecessary steps, making your procedures that much more efficient. If you have aspirations of being able to grow your business beyond just yourself, then efficiency is very important. Being able to explain how you want something done is paramount to achieving success as a leader, explaining exactly how to execute is going to insure quality results every time. Without a documented plan to follow, things tend to get forgotten or lost in translation. Next thing you know, the end product is only half of what you envisioned.

There are as many ways to organize your systems and procedures, as there are systems and procedures. A simple way is by using Dropbox. You could create a main folder and then create subfolders for each type of procedure. In each folder you could save a word file, text file or pdf of the procedure. If you use a team collaboration software you can save your procedures in there where everyone can access them. You could also just email the procedure to people as needed.

Updating procedures, especially in our fast-paced, technology-based industry is essential. Once you have team members using your procedures and getting used to the activities, you may ask them to update or revise them as needed. Make sure to review revisions to be sure they still provide the quality you expect.

Here's how I suggest you get started: this week, every time you set out to perform a task for a client or your business open a word document (or text file). As you go about the task type exactly what you are doing. It is important to be specific with every step. For example if you are creating a newsletter for yourself or your client start by putting in the url of the program you use whether it be Constant Contact, Mailchimp or Infusionsoft, to name a few. Next, explain where someone could find the login details whether it be through an email to you or another team member or a secure database. State how often the newsletter is to be done whether it be weekly or monthly, etc and how a new document is named. Including a screenshot when something is hard to explain, like where to find the save button can be very useful.

Another way I have saved procedures is with screen capture or video capture software. I have used Jing and Snagit in the past to create instructional videos. It is sometimes faster to do than writing everything down if the activity is complex.

This bit of groundwork can seem overwhelming at first, but it can help you grow a successful business that you can be proud of, without worrying that your high quality standards will be compromised.


WORKING WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
To track time or not?
By Tracey D'Aviero

Tracey D'Aviero

Virtual Assistants need to have an effective and accurate time tracking system in place. It's easy, but it can get out of control if you let it.

'Losing time' can not only set your schedule behind, lead to disorganization and late night catch-up, but it can also impact your revenue if you forget to bill for work done.

Here are a few answers to those questions you have about time tracking:

Why should I track my time? First of all, because you need to know how you are spending your day. How much of your time is being spent on billable work? Non billable work? Wasted time? Things you dislike doing? If you write it all down, it will be easier to assess where you can make adjustments to make your business more profitable .. and more fun too! Also, as you start to get busier, the day can disappear right before your eyes. You want to be sure you are not losing out on billable time simply because you didn't write it down.

When should I track my time? Every day, every minute. There are resources (see a few below) that can help you do this by using a stopwatch to stop and start a timeclock, or you can do it the old fashioned way by writing it down. I use a spiral notebook and record every task I do every day (even breaks, lunch, and my own business stuff). By using a spiral notebook, I have a record for every day. I transfer my written notes into my time tracking program for billing.

How should I record tasks? In whatever way makes the most sense to you … whatever is easiest for you. If you choose a complicated system or one that confuses you, you will run into trouble more than once. My system is simple … I write my client's initials at the beginning of each line, and I record the task item I took care of for them beside it. I indicate the time I worked during the day. I record one task per line in my book for easy reference, and for easy transition to my time tracking program. In my time tracking program, I have each client set up with their rate and I also have individual tasks set up for all of the things I do. I enter each client's name and their task and the length of time I worked on it. At the end of the month, I run my reports and can provide the detail if the client wants it.

I charge my clients on retainer (or by project rate) – I don't need to track my time, do I? Of course you do! What if your client goes over your budgeted time… or is way under? Even if you are working with someone on a project rate, it's important to keep track of the hours you are putting in. When you decide to revisit your rate package (which you should do often!) you will have an exact measure of how long projects are taking you to do. If you are working with someone on retainer, it's good to be able to keep a detailed list of what you worked on for them at the end of their retainer term. Recording your time is helpful in both of these situations.

Any of these questions are easily answered just by developing a great system to keep track of how you are spending your time. There are all kinds of resources out there (some free, some paid) that can help you manage this part of your business. Myhours.com is free … it's what I have used for years. Paymo.biz is also free and popular with VAs. Freshbooks.com is a paid solution but also has an invoicing feature, and is another popular solution for VAs.

There are many other services and systems that you can use to track your time (just Google 'time tracking software' and you'll see!). No matter which system you decide to go with, be sure that it works for you, and above all … use it! Your business, your client and your bank account will thank you!


EVENTS

This past few weeks have been warming up here in Montana. Sunshine, flip flops and capris are preparing me for our time in Myrtle Beach. I'm looking forward to the warm sand between my toes. It's not too late to join us. I'm especially excited for the two preconference sessions we have available. The New VA day is always a hit and the Dimensions of Human Behavior will become a new favorite I'm sure. You didn't sign up yet….no worries click over now! Don't miss out!

Were you able to join us on March 19 for our Expert of the Month? Live Events –What is in it for you? It will be available shortly in our files for replay, if you missed us. Thanks to the education department for their inspiration here.

For the Live Summit, we would like you to provide us some input for the Thursday A.M. sessions. Our first hour will be a group learning (quite possibly a small group of experts sharing their knowledge). Due to overwhelming request we are bringing back our Campfires (last year in Vegas we had our speakers spearhead a table discussion).

Here's where you can help. Please send a note to events@ivaa.org with Group Learning in the subject line. Then give us a topic for either the group learning or the campfires. Along with a sentence on how that may assist you in completing your week of Rejuvenating, Reigniting and Revitalizing your business. Please get your ideas to us by April 3 to be included in our final planning sessions. If you'd like to lead a Campfire, you can volunteer to do that as well.

I am so fortunate to have an exceptional team of volunteers helping with both summits. Yes we are working on live summit as well as online. They have my never-ending gratitude for their wise ideas, great questions and wonderful enthusiasm. Please be sure to thank them when you meet them at the summit.

Grace White

Grace White
Event Director
grace@ivaa.org





STAFF WRITER BIOS

Christine Bearse ran her own successful VA business for over 6 years before becoming a business and goal setting coach. As the Goal Whisperer, she now helps women business owners overcome the obstacles they face when trying to grow their businesses and achieve their goals. Read more about her and how she can unlock your potential at christinebearse.com.

Tracey D'Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Tracey trains and mentors professional women and men who are brand new to the VA industry or who have been struggling to make their business successful. Her mission is to educate professionals on how to build and grow successful and profitable virtual businesses in the VA industry by implementing systems and smart principles. Contact Tracey for speaking engagements, group training or private coaching at www.yourvamentor.com.

IN THIS ISSUE
President's Message
Getting Started - Why Putting off the Creation of Your Systems and Procedures is Keeping You Small
Working with a Virtual Assistant - To track time or not?
Events

IVAA Live Summit 2015

 CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

JOIN IVAA NOW!
Now with flexible installment payments for your annual membership - quarterly, semiannual, or annual payments. Enjoy all the benefits IVAA has to offer at a payment plan that works best for you.

Click to Join TODAY!


Click here to submit a Blog Article to IVAA (members only!).


IVAA CALENDAR

IVAA Coffee Chat
Mondays, 10AM and 5:00 PM - ET (alternates weekly)

Café Virtual
2nd Tuesday of every month at 5:30PM ET

New Member Orientation
2nd Wednesday of every month at Noon ET

Peer Discussion
2nd Thursday of every month at 5PM ET

Expert of the Month
3rd Thursday of every month at 5PM ET

IVAA Board Meeting
4th Wednesday of every month at 10AM ET

Register at IVAA (login for full list) times in Eastern US



IVAACast Staff
Managing Editor:
Emma Farmer

Staff Writers:
Christine Bearse
Tracey D'Aviero

Staff Assistants:
Ramona Nichols


Update your Email Address
Inquire about advertising with IVAAcast

Our Preferred Partners

Answering Service
eLiaise, Inc.
Attorneys
Erik M. Pelton & Associates
Caterers
Earl Enterprises
Coaching - Niche
VA Training Academy
Grapevine
REVA Academy
Coaching - VA
JERPAT Training and Coaching
The VA Business Coach
Your VA Mentor
Computer - Remote Access
SaneBox
Contact Center
eLiaise, Inc.
Education - VA General
VA Classroom
Author's Assistant (The Publishing Store)
Academy of Virtual Professionals
On the Right Track - Training and Consulting Inc
Education - VA Technical
Business Management Daily
Strategic Virtual Solutions
Education - VA Social Media
Alicia Rittenhouse
Email Marketing
Constant Contact
Marketing Services
Coast 2 Coast Business Support Solutions
Merchant Accounts
UPS
Printing
CTO Resources
Project Management
Virtual PM In A Box
Software (General and for VAs)
SaneBox
DigitalSorbet
Software Training
Bell Corporate Development, LLC
WPApprentice.com
Telephone/Video Conference Svcs.
UniTel Voice
VA Shopping/Networking
VA Networking
BeMyVA.com

To learn about how you can become a preferred partner, click here. (If you are an IVAA member you will also be able to see more about how to get your special discount with each Partner)