Developing Your Business Potential

Finding the best work ethic and opportunities that are available to you as a business owner doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to look alone.  In fact, if you simply look for the right resources, you can find potential everywhere.  To truly succeed at any business also means finding ways to build relationships and teams. The idea behind being a virtual assistant means you have the ability to find freedom financially, through time and by doing something that you love.  Beyond this, it also means developing services to others as well as building abilities for what you can offer.  If you want to be effective in your business as a virtual assistant, you can expand into networking with other virtual assistants. Coming up with a team of professionals who all have unique abilities but the same mindset for success will be beneficial for you to do what is needed through your virtual business.  Whether you are just beginning or want to expand into different services, you can easily begin to network to find like minds.  These like minds may be missing links to help you find what is needed for your potential.  By doing this you will enhance your ability to work with others on the success of your business. The uniqueness of having a virtual assistant team is that you will still be independent and own your own business.  At the same time, you will be supporting others that are working towards the same goals of freedom that you are, only from a different angle.  Combining all of these angles together is what makes a complete circle of opportunity that will lead to success. Even though a virtual assistant is known to do things on their own as their own business owner in order to gain independence, it does not mean that they have to stop form collaborating and expanding with others.  By building a team of virtual assistants, there will be the ability for you to expand on the success that you have begun to envision.

How Do You Treat Your Women?

Marketing wisdom tells us that 80% of all household purchases are made by women, and no business owner can ignore them. Marketers of kids’ gear, food, cosmetics and clothes are good at reaching women, but women buy gender-neutral stuff too, like cars, auto services, technology and just about everything except Viagra. Yankelovich marketing consulting firm reports that 60% of women 16 and older are working. They comprise over half of all college students and about 38% of small business owners according to the 2002 figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A February 2002 study by Prudential Financial found that of 400 American women surveyed, 37% live in households with incomes of $50,000 - $100,000, and 12% were in the $100,000 annual income range. No business owner can afford to ignore this market, but not ignoring them is not the same as attracting them.  Attracting them is not the same as winning their loyalty, either. There is definitely a difference in dealing with women because they notice the small stuff.  While men tend to make judgments based on first impressions and key interactions, women never stop gathering information. Women develop a collage of impressions about a business from a hundred small factors; everything from its cleanliness to the design of the shopping bag. Smart business owners turn this to their advantage by investing in small amenities women can appreciate. Many young women today are much wiser than the boomers were at the same age. They have traveled widely and are accomplished and picky consumers. The key to winning the loyalty of women shoppers and your share of this market is to offer carefully selected choices rather than a plethora of everything from A-to-Z that overwhelms them Eileen Fisher, designer of women’s clothes, adopted this strategy and offers simple clothes in a limited palette.  Furniture stores such as Storehouse Furniture in Atlanta have pared their selections to an “everything goes with everything else” array.  Even house paint companies are adhering to this strategy of paring down and offering carefully selected choices. Look!  Women have so many work and family responsibilities they don’t have time to research and ponder every buying decision.  They also aren’t trying to impress their friends by having the most toys.  While a man may want 16 different size screwdrivers in his toolbox, you show a woman a tool with 16 interchangeable heads and she’ll buy it.  Now she has one instrument which takes up less room but accomplishes the same thing, costs less in the end, and does the same job. Whether buying for themselves of for the business they own or manage, women make final purchasing decisions based on the relationship with the seller, not on statistics and voluminous data.  Given a choice on two nearly identical products, women will choose based on customer service and relationship with the vendor. Men want to buy the product and leave, while women want to know how it works.  Prescott True Value in Arizona has a loyal following of women running households on their own due to divorce or widowhood.  By having enough staff to guide the customer and answer questions they have good to unequaled repeat business from women. Andy Andre, the owner of Prescott Arizona True Value store has learned that customer service is respect.  “It’s taking the time to explain things to a customer and not talk down to them” he says. Entrepreneurs assume that marketing to women is all about discounts and giveaways, but care and creativity is what really attracts women.  If a man is ignored by a sales clerk he thinks, “What a jerk.” A woman will think, “I hate this company.” It’s the small things, good and bad, that make the impact on women customers.  Learn this, and you’ve got a handle on your share of a growing niche.

Hang On To Top Employees

The best way to keep your top employees is to know them better than they know themselves.  Use this knowledge to create the career of their dreams, and they’ll stick to your company like glue.  The new “biz-speak” for this is called Job Sculpting. The concept of Job Sculpting as defined by career experts, Timothy Butler and James Waldroop, in the Harvard Business Review, is that good people will stay only in jobs that “fit their deeply embedded life interests---that is their long-held emotionally driven passions.” To adopt this strategy, spend a lot of effort listening to your company stars.  For each one of them, try to identify what life interests are dominant with them, and then offer them the assignments that satisfy this interest.  It may mean simply adding another assignment to the existing responsibilities, or it may mean switching one set of tasks to another employee.  It may even require moving your “star” employee to a different position altogether. To learn what kind of interests you’re looking and listening for, use these 8 identifiable areas:
  1. Application of technology.
  2. Quantitative analysis ability.
  3. Theory development and conceptual thinking.
  4. Creative production.
  5. Counseling and mentoring.
  6. Managing people and relationships.
  7. Enterprise control.
  8. Influence through language and ideas.
If you have a top employee who has been working in the area of customer service, but lately seems dissatisfied, after talking with him/her you might learn they would rather be dealing with the vendors.  Your star might be just the answer you’re looking for to find that latest innovative product that could be added to your stock (conceptual thinking), and employee B would rather interact with the customers.  By a simple switch of responsibilities, you have two happy employees that feel they’re now contributing to your business and not just putting in time for a paycheck. It’s always more cost effective for the business, and better for employee morale to keep your existing employees happy with their careers.  It takes a toll on your business when you have to fill an empty employee spot with a newcomer who has to be trained in the way your company functions. Time is money, and time used to train a brand new employee is the highest cost of doing business.  However, the time spent by you to find out what will keep your top producers happy to be working for you – is the best investment you can make in your business.

Become Your Own Personal CFO

Budgets and personal finances are not most people’s favorite topics, and certainly not one of mine.  Even bank executives have problems in this area, but if you’re an entrepreneur so do you.  You’re concentrating so much time on your business, your personal checkbook takes a back seat.  Then one day you are met with the startling fact that you’re not saving enough for lean times and you panic. Well, just apply your professional talents to the situation and become your own personal CFO.  By using your CFO eyes on the situation, it somehow tempers the pain of dealing with your own money.  To get started, here are 5 rules for treating your personal finances like a business:
  1. Be Your Own Board of Directors.  To make good decisions, you must know what you’re trying to achieve. In business, Board of Directors write mission statements to keep the company on track with goals.  At home, it’s up to you to define your mission and make sure you’re fulfilling it by writing down your goals.  Not just your financial goals either, but your “life” goals.
  2. Know Your Operating Costs.          Do you know what you spend every month on average?  Businesses do because they base their budgets on historic spending patterns.  Most people, however, don’t know what it costs to keep their lives running.  You can make out detailed budgets, but find out at the end of the month that you haven’t stuck to it.  So instead of doing a budget that dictates how much to spend, do a “cash flow statement” that records how much you actually spend each month broken into several categories.
  3. Know Your Net Worth.     Companies measure progress toward goals through balance sheets which list their assets and liabilities.  Your net worth is your balance sheet where you list everything that you own.  That means your checking and savings accounts, investments, car, house, etc. minus everything you owe.  Track your net worth quarterly to make sure you’re moving toward your personal goals.  Without this step, you might not see the impact of your money decisions until it’s too late.
  4. Forecast Money Decisions Results.  When a business makes important decisions, they use a process called “scenario planning”.  They look at the possible outcomes of one choice compare to another.  You can use the same process to make smart money decisions.  For any choice, pick two options, and then look at what each answer would do to your cash flow and net worth.  Remember, there are no “good” or “bad” choices – only choices that put you closer or farther from your goals.
  5. Track Progress by Annual Reports.  Just as companies assess their progress in their annual reports, you need to review your list of priorities every year.  Have you accomplished any goals?  Have your spending patterns changed? Did you spend less than you earned?  Did you save as much as you planned?
You need to treat your money like you treat your business.  Give it the time it deserves, because in the end the time you spend is really an investment in yourself and your dreams.


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