Tag Archive: Virtual PA


Are you still a bag man or bag lady?

Are you a bag man or bag lady…..

You may wonder what I am talking about or possibly be thinking about people who are sleeping rough… but would you be surprised to hear that there are bag people in the business world too!!

Just think when you are out and about and you buy something – what do you do with the receipt? Shove it in your purse, wallet or pocket?

What happens when you go through a drive-through? Just drop it in your bag or put it in your door pocket?

You have just parked your car – what do you do with the parking ticket?  How often are they left lost on your dashboard, stuck to the window or thrown into the glove compartment?

Then at some point, you decide you need all these receipts and shove then in a box or bag and leave them until it is time to do your accounts. Then you get invoices and delivery notes – guess what! They get shoved in a box or bag too! You may smile and laugh at this, but this is still common within business and then gets handed over to a bookkeeper or accountant to sort out.

But it doesn’t matter to us whether you put them in an envelope each week, in a box or even in a carrier bag – who cares? We can help you.

So don’t worry about being disorganised or just using a bag, we can take your paperwork whichever way you want to give it to us, and we will sort it out and help your business run smoothly whilst you concentrate on doing what’s important in your business…

LOOKING AFTER YOUR CLIENTS

All we ask is, don’t use a Bin Bag! Just in case you throw the wrong black bag out. 

Who knows you may want to move forward with turning your bag digital with our Cloud training course. For more information on our Paperwork Bag conversion services contact us today and we will explain how it works.

Would you like to join me in the clouds?

Lets take your business ‘Sky High’?

How would you like to join me in the Clouds? Would you like to take your business “Sky High” and into the Clouds?

Taking your business into the Clouds where we take all the hassle out of running your business (the behind the scenes tasks of your company) providing you with all the Professional Services you need but never thought you could afford all with your mobile phone.

Did you know your mobile phone has a camera and it not just for taking photos of family and friends. How often have you taken photos for work but never do anything with them or wonder how to use them in your quote? Well now you can with our Digital Cloud Services offering.

When you are out providing a quotation, just take some photos of the project with your mobile phone. Then jot down the notes of the meeting and prices and take a photo of the notes you have made or you could use the voice recording on your mobile phone. Then using our secure Cloud service we provide you with, just save the photos into the Cloud and we will convert the notes into a formal quotation (attaching the photos) and email them through to your prospective client.

We can get that professional proposal or quotation done for you the very same day.

Another way of using our Cloud and your mobile phone is your paperwork.

Just take photos of your letters, invoices, quotes and receipts or other paperwork you receive and upload them to our Cloud. We can then create your office in our Cloud so you can see everything on the go and not wait for us to send things through to you – how impressive will that look to your clients or prospective clients when you are in front of them and show them all the information that so many other companies leave behind in the office.

So, why not let us here at Business Visions take your business ‘Sky High’ and reach for the Clouds.

To learn more about our Digital Cloud Services call us today.

English (UK) words that are commonly misspelt:

Acceptable

Accidentally

Accommodate

Acquire

Acquit

A lot

Amateur

Apparent

Argument

Atheist

Believe

Calendar

Category

Cemetery

Changeable

Collectible

Committed

Conscience

Conscientious

Conscious

Definite(ly)

Disappear

Discipline

Drunkenness

Embarrass

Equipment

Exhilarate

Exceed

Existence

Experience

Fiery

Foreign

Fourth

Gauge

Generally

Grammar

Grateful

Guarantee

Harass

Height

Hierarchy

Ignorance

Immediate

Independent

Indispensable

Intelligence

Its / it’s

Judgement

Knowledge

Leisure

Library

Lightning

Maintenance

Manoeuvre

Memento

Millennium

Miniature

Mischievous

Noticeable

Occasion

Occasionally

Occur / occurred

Occurrence

Official

Parallel

Parliament

Pastime

Pigeon

Possession

Preferable

Principal / principle

Privilege

Questionnaire

Receive

Recommend

Referred

Reference

Relevant

Religious

Restaurant

Ridiculous

Rhythm

Sandal

Schedule

Scissors

Sensible

Separate

Special

Success

To / too / two

Tomorrow

Their / they’re / there

Twelfth

Tyranny

Until

Vacuum

Weather

Weird

You’re / your

If you have any to add do please share with me.

What and When to Outsource – 7 Top Tips to help you decide what and when to outsource.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing – making your business more productive and profitable

Outsourcing necessary but time consuming business administration chores can make your business more productive, profitable and motivating.

Many small businesses complain they are ‘drowning in paperwork’ from all the invoicing, chasing accounts, paying employees, dealing with HMRC, promoting and marketing of their company. Added to this is the problem of fielding the many incoming telephone calls are often cited as the main chores that really sap the time, energy and motivation of business owners.

Outsourcing can be a valuable and strategic tool for making your business more productive and profitable – if you know when and how to take advantage of it. The key factors that need to be considered  are WHICH business functions are suitable to be outsourced and WHEN is the best time to ‘farm out’ this work for someone else to do.

Stop and consider what your ‘core’ business is? Are the tasks helping you to grow your core business?

What is your main skill set? Are the tasks taking you away from what you do best?

Here are 7 Top Tips to help you make your decision about WHAT and WHEN to outsource:

  1. Outsource tasks that are not central to generating profits, competitive success or help you to grow your business.
  2. Outsource routine but necessary jobs that regularly ‘sap’ your valuable time and energy.
  3. Outsource tasks that reoccur regularly – like basic administration.
  4. Outsource tasks that are less expensive to have someone externally to do than to do yourself – or by a member of your own staff.
  5. Outsource activities that CAN be done cheaper in-house, but that drain the resources of you or your team and get in the way of achieving something EVEN MORE valuable to your business.
  6. Outsource when the task requires a skill that is so specialised that it’s just impractical to have a regular employee do it badly and take more time than a professional – i.e. designing and building a website, transcription, or writing marketing copy and image manipulation.
  7. Consider outsourcing when the activity that needs doing is one that nobody wants to do or feels they can do it well.

And don’t just look at the cost of outsourcing – think about the time and money it will SAVE you – and how it will motivate you to focus on the core activities of your business!

Outsourcing is a viable option for everything from transcription and dictation, bookkeeping, telephone answering, databases and mailings, graphic design, marketing, event organisation and website design. The key advantage of outsourcing is that it enables you to invest your resources into more profitable activities that drives your business forward.

Related article – ‘Outsourcing: You can’t afford not to’ The Globe and Mail  http://tiny.ly/fqw8

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/your-business/exit/taxation/outsourcing-you-cant-afford-not-to/article1942750/

 

Common Business Mistakes

How common mistakes may make businesses lose money and waste other valuable resources

Did you throw away your money due to making common business mistakes?

Sometimes it may seem like that is all you are succeeding at when you own or manage a business.For no matter what size business it is or how much expertise you have, you will make some costly mistakes once in awhile. Unfortunately, many proprietors and managers are completely unaware that they have made or are in the process of making costly errors. Thus, they may not know they are wasting or losing money, valuable resources or good business opportunities. This is especially true during the start-up stage, but can also occur at any stage of the enterprise’s development.

To demonstrate my point, I will present real-life scenarios utilising a fictional business with a fictional sole trader proprietor. Although the scenarios describe a small to medium sized business with a sole trader proprietor, these same errors apply to all business owners or managers of any size company. To make reading the article more enjoyable, see if you can spot all of Mr. Blunderhead’s mistakes before I reveal them at the end of the story.

Mr. Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts Shoppe

Start-up Stage:

William Blunderhead lost his job when the local brewery closed its doors a year ago. Unable to find new employment within easy commuting distance, Mr. Blunderhead began doing paid odd jobs for family, friends and neighbours. In his spare time, William indulged in his hobby of making handcrafted items. He mostly used whatever scraps he could find lying around his property, so it did not cost much to craft the items.

His wife, Martha Blunderhead, started using the items as gifts due to being short on funds for purchasing new items. Wanting to help young couple out, many of their relatives, friends and neighbours began buying the handcrafted bird feeders, bird houses and picture frames that William made. They paid outrageous prices despite knowing that the products were made from inferior materials and were of low quality compared to similar items made by more expert craftsmen. However, these friends, relatives and neighbours never let on that they were only purchasing the items to help the couple out. They all made a big fuss over the handcrafted items and praised William for his craftsmanship.

This success selling items to people he knew gave Mr. Blunderhead the idea that he should turn his hobby into an official money-making activity. He decided to use the last of his savings to purchase the raw materials to craft a small variety of items. After spending many hours crafting several items, William took them to the local car-boot market to sell. He set the same outrageous prices for the products as he had received from his relatives, friends and neighbours for similar items.

At first, Mr. Blunderhead only succeeded at selling one or two lower-priced items. Then he noticed that his rivals were selling similar factory-made products at a lesser price than he was charging for the handcrafted items. Seeing his competitors were making more sales than he was, William decided to lower his products’ prices. Due to the lower prices and spending an entire weekend at the car-boot peddling his wares, he managed to sell his entire inventory.

First Expansion:

After a few more successful weekends of selling his handcrafts at the local car-boot market, Mr. Blunderhead decided it was time to expand his business. He borrowed money from a relative to purchase a small travel trailer and more raw materials. William then increased the amount of items and variety of products. He started selling the handcrafts at a variety of venues, including art and craft festivals, car-boot markets, and on consignment in local shops. William based his product pricing on whatever similar factory-made products were currently selling for, no matter which venue or location he was at. Yet, despite his good intentions to run a business, Mr. Blunderhead still spent the majority of his time earning income from odd jobs for family, friends and neighbours. He did not consistently put crafts on consignment in shops. Nor did William consistently attend the festivals and car-booth events to sell his products.

Second Expansion:

After eight months of random self-employment and successfully randomly selling handcrafted items, William decided to officially become a business owner. He applied for the necessary permits and licenses, took out a small business loan, and rented a small shop close to his home. Then Mr. Blunderhead bought a previously-owned computer system to help with the administrative tasks. Thus, William became the sole proprietor of Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts Shoppe.

Not being used to being a full-time entrepreneur, Mr. Blunderhead sometimes found it hard to say focused on the handcrafting business. William made a few sales during the first month, but did not earn enough income to meet his personal and business needs. He also discovered that he disliked doing lots of paperwork and accounting.

Feeling pressured to make a more reliable income, Mr. Blunderhead once again turned to doing odd jobs. Since William was the sole employee of Blunderhead’s Handy Handcraft Shoppe, the shop was frequently closed whenever he was too busy with other projects. And he failed to set up a call service to field calls when he was too busy or away and could not answer the phone.

Third Expansion:

Eventually, Martha took over managing the shop so William could focus on making the bigger crafted items and doing odd jobs. She started adding in her own small handcrafted items and taking in consignments from other craft persons. Under Martha’s diligent care, Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts became a flourishing business.

Fourth Expansion:

Once the business became viable, William decided that they could double their income if they just had a way of speeding up the crafting process so they could maintain a bigger inventory. He also decided that it was time to start promoting the business, so he took out adverts in the local newspaper and set up a website. For the website, he chose to design his own site, utilising the free online web hosting and web design tools. He created a nice looking website and then sat back, waiting for all the new orders to arrive from people flocking to his website.

Expecting there to be a big influx in orders due to the new website and newspaper ads, William also hired two new employees. He’s planning on relocating Blunderhead’s Handy Handcrafts Shoppe to an empty shop on London’s High Street next year, if everything goes as planned. William thinks that if he can sell a few products at a higher price to London’s most elite citizens, then he and Martha will no longer have to work such long hours as they are currently working.

Mr. Blunderhead’s Mistakes

Mr. Blunderhead has made several errors that are common amongst business start-ups. However, he also made some that occur in well-established enterprises, as well as some that occur in much larger businesses. Were you able to find all of William’s errors?

Here’s a list of the errors he has made:

  • Reaction vs. planned action – Mr. Blunderhead did not carefully plan out his entire business operation prior to start-up. Instead, he was merely reacting to his circumstances. A successful entrepreneur takes time to plan out the various phases of the business, and prepares for the various possible consequences of all actions. He or she also sets attainable goals and reasonable deadlines for achieving them, and then re-evaluates the goals and business plan frequently. He or she then makes any necessary changes to the business operation or goals to fit his or her current and future needs and lifestyle. William also failed to take into consideration his lack of commitment, dedication, knowledge, training, and skills for being the owner of a handcrafting business. He should have found ways to compensate for these prior to opening the business.
  • Market research – Mr. Blunderhead did not conduct any market research prior to producing or pricing the products. He did not bother to find out what the current demand was or what his potential customers had a need for. William also did not research the true value of his products prior to pricing them.
  • One-size-fits-all, did not select a target market for each product – Mr. Blunderhead assumed that his products and prices were suited to everyone and did not select a specific target market for his sales pitch campaigns. He simply tried to sell his products to the whole world, or at least to everyone he came in contact with. He also mistakenly assumed that the customers who shop in High Street shops would want the same type of crafts as those who shop at car-boot markets. A successful entrepreneur focuses attention on a specific group of potential customers and gears the entire business towards satisfying that specific group’s needs and desires. Each individual is a unique being and likes to be treated as one. Not every person in the world needs each and every product or service, so it is a waste of resources to try to sell everyone those products and services. Nor is every person in the world willing to pay the same price for any particular product. Some customers are willing to pay higher prices while others will demand lower prices due to their particular life circumstances and how much value they place on the product.
  • Liability insurance – Mr. Blunderhead did not purchase adequate amounts of public and product liability insurance prior to selling his very first handcrafted items. He made himself and his family vulnerable to law suits, which could cost them everything they own. It could also cost him future assets as well.
  • Upsized too soon – Mr. Blunderhead opened a business and went into a large amount of debt without first considering all of the consequences of his actions. He did not take into consideration possible failure or the amount of time (usually at least two years) and effort it takes to establish a profitable business. Mr. Blunderhead also upsized at times when he was short on funds and ill-prepared for taking more orders for his products. He also placed himself in the position of needing to hire someone else at a time when he could not afford to do so. Moreover, Mr. Blunderhead upsized his business based off of pure hope instead of facts. He based it off the hope of having more customers rather than off the fact of actually having those customers. So if he fails to acquire more customers, then he has also placed himself in the position of facing a forced downsizing.
  • Lack of dedication and commitment – Mr. Blunderhead was not fully dedicated or fully committed to his business. He failed to be consistent in his hours of operation, and in his work ethics. Having erratic business hours drives away potential customers as well as establishes a poor reputation. It certainly creates a bad impression, especially if it is the first impression. A successful entrepreneur finds reasons to stay motivated, to stick to a routine work schedule, and to love his or her business on a daily basis. A successful entrepreneur also learns how to balance personal and business routines so that one does not interfere with the other.
  • Poor customer service, lack of communication – Mr. Blunderhead failed to give his customers, suppliers and other businesses a way to communicate with him. Old and potential new customers could not place orders or obtain information. Nor could they give positive feedback or express their dissatisfaction with a product. Suppliers could not ask questions about his orders or let him know when there was a problem with the order he had placed. And other businesses could not contact him with offers to network or outsource work orders to him. Even when he was in the shop, Mr. Blunderhead could miss some of these important calls if he happened to be too busy to answer the phone in a timely manner or was tied up on another line. A successful entrepreneur always makes it easy for customers, suppliers and other businesses to contact him or her via phone calls, emails, text messages and/or in-person visits.
  • Utilising used equipment vs. new equipment – Mr. Blunderhead failed to properly determine which tools and equipment he should purchase brand new and which to purchase as previously-owned. Although he could probably safely buy a used scroll saw, Mr. Blunderhead should not have bought an outdated computer system that did not come with a minimum warranty and tech support. William does not have enough computer skills, training or knowledge to repair the system or the funds to pay for repairs if the computer crashes. He should have also ensured the computer came with all the correct programs and applications installed that he required for his business use, since he did not have that much computer knowledge.
  • Methods of promoting business – William did not carefully select the methods for promoting his business. He did not think of a specific target market when advertising. Nor did William fully understand how to set up and use a website for commercial purposes. He did not understand the need for proper website maintenance, nor did he understand how search engine optimization plays into the website’s ranking in search results. He allowed his website to become stagnant over time. He also failed to take advantage of low-cost marketing strategies, such as utilising press releases.

There are numerous other mistakes that are commonly made by businesses of all sizes. Some of them are made due to not seeking expert advice and others are made from following the advice from other people. Many are made by overestimating or underestimating a person’s skills, knowledge, talents and capabilities. For instance, Mr. Blunderhead overestimated his business management abilities and underestimated his wife’s abilities, talents and knowledge.

Biggest Mistake Business People Make

However, one of the biggest mistakes that are made, yet seldom recognized is simply failing to perceive the situation through the other person’s eyes. All people tend to cope with any given situation by drawing upon their own perspectives of the situation and what they believe is the truth.  And no two people perceive anything in an identical manner, including absolute truths.

For instance, say a customer claims that a chair that Mr. Blunderhead crafted had fell apart when she sat down, without there being any mitigating circumstances. Mr. Blunderhead does not believe the customer’s claim, since he had crafted the chair to hold a large, heavy person and this customer was very petite. He insists there must have been some type of mitigating circumstances, which may have voided the product’s warranty.

The truth is that a supplier had provided Mr. Blunderhead with defective waterproofing sealants. Not realising the sealant was defective; William had coated the chair with the sealant and claimed it was safe to leave the chair outdoors. The customer had then purchased the chair and placed the allegedly waterproof chair in her garden. After repeatedly being exposed to rain showers, the moisture seeped through and began to weaken the wood. Eventually, the wood was weakened enough that the chair fell apart when the customer sat down. So as far as the customer knows, there were no mitigating circumstances. She truly believes the chair fell apart merely due to her sitting down in it.

As Mr. Blunderhead keeps trying to negate her claims, the customer becomes angry and threatens to file a lawsuit if Mr. Blunderhead does not honour the warranty. They have reached a standoff due to each person believing they are right and the other one must be wrong.

Nevertheless, if Mr. Blunderhead wants to save his business and reputation, he must act as if he believed the customer’s claim is true. Otherwise, the miffed customer may indeed follow through on her threat to sue. At the very least, she will spread the word that Mr. Blunderhead does not keep his word. She will spread her version of the truth to whoever will listen to her, who in turn will spread the rumours to everyone they know. This will most likely cause Mr. Blunderhead to lose potential customers and many sales.

However, this principle applies to all the various aspects of business operations and not just the customer care aspect. It should be applied when conducting market research, advertising, developing products, managing employees, and networking with suppliers and other businesses. Nevertheless, this principle does not apply to making mistakes. It really does not matter whether someone else thinks you are wasting valuable resources or throwing away your money. Only you can determine whether you are wasting these resources or throwing away your money due to making common business mistakes.

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Multitasking: Are you trying to be a One-Man Band?

Have you ever stopped to consider why employers highly value employees who are very adept at multitasking? If you have ever seen a one-man band, then you may understand why.  For you see, one-man bands may present perfect examples of how people attempted to multitask in the workplace as far back as the thirteenth century.

Most likely, some forms of multitasking have been around from the beginning of human existence.  Nonetheless, as it is with numerous other basic human abilities, most people remain inept at multitasking, especially when in the workplace. Thus, there is a high value placed upon those who can adequately multitask. However, not only do the one-man bands exemplify antiquated efforts at multitasking in the work place, they also demonstrate why most modern day people are still inept at multitasking.

What it Takes to be a One-Man Band

In order to be a successful one-man band, a musician must be very adept at playing several instruments well and have a thorough knowledge of music.  To play any musical instrument well, an individual must be proficient at listening, maintaining a steady pace, diaphragm breathing, interpreting verbal and non-verbal messages, and have great eye-to hand coordination. The person must be detail-oriented, as well as be able to adapt to changes quickly.  The person must also be able to engage both sides of his or her brain simultaneously.

Moreover, the musician must be able to produce the precise sound at just the right moment, for the specific length, and in the correct order.  He or she may also have to turn pages of a music book while playing the instrument, as well as memorize numerous songs.  The person must also have a thorough knowledge of where to place his or her hands and the positioning of lips or other body parts while producing each sound.

For an individual to be a successful one-person band, he or she must be able to do all the aforementioned things for each and every instrument that the individual opts to use for the “band”.  For example, if the person chose to use a guitar, drum, and harmonica, then the individual would have to know how to produce the proper notes on all three instruments.  He or she would have to transpose the music into a key that was compatible for all three instruments, and would have to know which instrument to use to play each of the harmonized parts.  The musician would simultaneously have to be able to keep beating the drum at exactly the right pace while strumming chords on the guitar and playing the melody on the harmonica.  Some of the songs or instruments may require the musician to read music in both, bass and treble clef simultaneously. If the individual is not extremely adept at multitasking or playing each instrument, then he or she only succeeds in creating raucous noises.  He or she fails to produce any pleasant, recognizable music, thus driving away the audience.

What it takes to be Successful at Multitasking

Just as it takes a certain set of skills to be a successful one-man band, it takes certain skills to be good at multitasking in general.  The person must be able to divide his or her attention while performing several actions simultaneously.  Therefore, the person must be able to use both sides of the brain simultaneously.  The person must be proficient in time management, stress management, crisis management, communication skills, and very detailed-oriented.  Like the musician, the individual must be able to perform actions instinctively and via memorization while using conscious thoughts and various body parts to perform other actions. He or she must be good at problem-solving, as well as be very decisive.  The person must be able to see the entire situation while dealing with each smaller detail in a proper, timely manner.

Multitasking vs. Rapid Task Switching

As one can see, it takes a very special type of person to truly multitask.  In most instances, humans simply rapidly switch between several tasks, making it seem as if they are doing all the tasks simultaneously.  Even most computers do not truly multitask, despite having the term “multitasking” be coined by computer science literature.  Some psychologists think that multitasking is humanly impossible while others think that doing so would harm the brain in some ways.  Yet, there are a few jobs that do require the human to actually multitask and not just rapidly task switch.  Transcriptionists, receptionists, surgeons, musicians and chefs all must be efficient at multitasking to some degree in order to be successful. Law enforcement officers, combat soldiers, parents, teachers and childcare providers must also multitask to some degree.

Research has proven that actual multitasking can save a person money and time, if done to an adequate degree.  On the other hand, according to Wikipedia (Human Multitasking) rapid task switching has been proven to end up costing the person more time and money due to the lack of focusing on any task sufficiently. Most people make mistakes when they cannot focus their full attention on what they are doing.  So the experts at Forbes (Multitasking: Good or Bad?) recommend that people should multitask whenever possible, but avoid rapid task switching by having more than one person performing the tasks that must be done simultaneously.

So if you are trying to imitate a one-man band and do everything yourself, you may want to consider outsourcing some of the administrative tasks to a virtual office or personal assistant.  If you watch the one-man bands closely, you will see most of them are merely rapidly switching between the various instruments and seldom play the instruments simultaneously.  Listening closely to that one-man band is sufficient evidence as to why it does not pay to be chinky when it comes to delegating tasks to other people.

 

Do I Dare Not Work While on Holiday?

Do I Dare Not Work While on Holiday?

Do I Dare NOT to Work While on Holiday? The folly of working while on holiday.

I recently read a BBC News article that was originally written in 2010.  According to the article Would More Holidays Be Good for Americans, the majority of Americans only get nine or less days of paid holiday per year.  And apparently, most Americans work right through their paid holidays for various reasons.  Reading this article made me glad that I lived in the UK where paid holidays are guaranteed by statutory law.  Then I came across this Citizens Advice Bureau article, “Thousands of workers denied legal right to paid holiday, says CAB report,” which was written in 2011.  The article made me realise that nearly 88,000 UK citizens work all year long without taking the paid holidays that they are entitled to.  Most of the reasons given by the UK citizens match those given by the Americans.  So it made me wonder just how many UK citizens currently ask themselves, “Do I dare not work while on holiday?”.

Reasons given for Working

Fear of losing their employment is the most common reason given for working while on holiday or for not taking a paid holiday.  This is the most common one because it is the one given by most Americans in all positions and the majority of low-income, low-skilled U.K. employees. Many employees were afraid to demand the allotted time off due to the management’s policies of firing anyone who made waves.  Others simply were afraid they would be replaced by the individuals who were filling in for them.  Still others were not even aware they were entitled to time off.

Having too heavy a workload or fear of being unable to catch up with the workload upon return from a holiday was the next most common reason given. This reason was mostly given by small business owners, as well as by employees who worked for short-staffed companies and government agencies.  The third primary reason was the individual did not want someone else to do his or her job due to fear the other person would mess everything up and cause extra work for the individual or cause the company to lose money.  This reason was mostly given by individuals employed in a management position or business owners.  The last common reason was that the individual did not enjoy having that much down time.  This would indicate the individual was a workaholic.  Or perhaps, the individual merely did not enjoy being alone or around his or her family and friends for extended periods.

THE PERILS of Working While on Holiday

Having a creative mind, I started envisioning an entire company where everyone insisted on working while on holiday.  I tried to imagine what it would be like if all the different types of fears existed among a large corporation’s employees. This is what I envisioned:

My story starts with Mr. George Peabody, the owner of a large chain of retail stores that caters to the elite upper class.  M. Peabody, having been sent off to a boarding school at an early age by a workaholic father, eventually married a well-to-do socialite at the age of twenty.  He had mostly married for the sake of moving up the social ladder and tapping into the young socialite’s inheritance.  By the age of 45, George had turned into a replica of his workaholic father.  He spent many hours working away at the office due to not wanting to deal with all the unpleasant family issues.  And he found excuses to bring his work along with him on the family’s month-long holiday.

Chain Reaction

Although Mr. Peabody was a workaholic, he did not expect his employees to give up their holidays or to work on them.  He even arranged to outsource some of the computer department’s work so the employees could take a longer holiday.  However, George was not much of a communicator and he failed to inform his employees what his intentions were.

So while Mr. Peabody was aboard the cruise liner touring the Caribbean Sea, his senior managers were left to implement the plan for outsourcing the computer department’s work.  Thinking that Mr. Peabody intended to permanently replace the tech support and customer service teams, the senior managers started letting a few of the non-essential, inept staff members go in order to finance the outsourcing project.  And to get the project done in a timely manner before the rest of the staff went on holiday, the senior managers either cancelled their own scheduled holiday travel or took their work on holiday with them.  Each senior manager was afraid to let someone else do the work, in case the other person messed up the project.  They were also afraid to not follow the owner’s example and emulate his work ethics, since each had been selected for their positions based on their productivity.

Since the senior management did not inform the lower management what the plans for implementing the new outsourcing project was, some of the lower management also started cancelling holiday plans and letting inept employees go.  They too started taking work projects home with them.  And when the company ran into complications due to the cultural differences, they turned to the employees for help in training the outsourcer’s staff.

The employees, who had no idea of what was happening, thought they were going to be replaced by the outsourcer’s staff.  They were too afraid of losing their jobs if they went on holiday or did not take their work projects along with them.  The employees became very demoralised and less productive.  Many sought employment elsewhere, figuring they were going to lose their jobs anyway.  This forced the remaining staff to work harder, frequently leading to employee absenteeism due to ill health caused by the additional stress.

Poor Mr. Peabody

In the meantime, Mr. Peabody was having his own set of work challenges.  After spending a small fortune on internet connections and sea to shore calls to keep up with emails and set up important appointments, George lost his smart phone.  The expensive phone, with all his important contacts’ information, took a dive overboard when George’s grandchildren accidentally tripped him.  The children had grown restless while waiting for George to take them swimming and had started rough-housing too close to George’s legs.  This would not have been too much of a disaster if the loss of the smart phone had not been preceded by the loss of his laptop.  A street urchin in the first port of call decided he needed the laptop more than Mr. Peabody did.   Then the ship was delayed and George was unable to arrive at the set appointments on time.  However, George had no way of contacting anyone to cancel the important appointments, since by then, the ship was too far out to sea to make a ship to shore call to his secretary.

The Happy Ending

Due to finally giving in and letting himself enjoy his time with his family and at sea, Mr. Peabody returned from his holiday well rested.  He felt truly inspired and invigorated by his recent travels to new shores.  However, due to the lack of communication, misinterpretation of intentions, and George’s work ethics, he returned to a company that was on the brink of total ruin.  Fortunately, Mr. Peabody was able to salvage his corporation by calling a company meeting.  He informed everyone what his intentions had been.  He then hired a local outsourcing company to handle all of the work for each department as he sent that particular department’s staff on a very well earned holiday.  Mr. Peabody also made it a new policy that no work was to leave the office, especially while the employee was on holiday.

The LOST ART of Transcribing – should transcription be treated as a ‘lost’ art – how transcriptionists and transcribers were viewed throughout history.

The Lost Art of Transcription

Should transcription be treated as a ”lost” art?

Recently, a friend and I were discussing how people frequently fail to perceive transcribing as a lost writing art.  Perhaps this failure is due to the common misconception that just about anyone can easily perform the duties of a transcriber nowadays.  Or perhaps, this oversight is due to the fact that most people simply do not think of transcription as any type of art, let alone as lost art.  Even the most skilled transcriptionists tend to forget they are among a special class of artists.  So perhaps it is time for everyone to revise their perspectives of transcription, especially now that there is a high demand for skilled transcribers.

Is Writing an Art, Craft, or Neither?

One of the major reasons for all this confusion is that there are numerous ideologies as to what comprises art and what comprises craftwork.  Some people think of writing as a form of art while others consider writing to be a type of craft or trade.  Others may consider writing to be neither art nor craft, since it lies somewhere between the two. 

Transcribing frequently requires the transcriptionist to have the skills of an artist and the knowledge of a craftsperson.  And still others consider transcription as a form of writing that should not be considered as an art or as a craft.  This is due to its more common legal and medical applications as well as the use of transcription for commercial, religious and political purposes.

However, historians and archaeologists have clearly demonstrated that transcribing developed as a very valuable form of art thousands of years ago.  In its original form, transcribing was carried out by well-trained scribes that were held in high regard throughout various cultures and countries.  These scribes were considered artisans despite the fact that the majority of their work was carried out for commercial, religious, legal, medical and political reasons.

Technology’s Affect on Transcribing as an Art

Up until the eighteenth century, there was very little confusion as to what constituted art, craft and professional work.  All forms of writing were considered to be works of art until the invention of the printing press occurred.  After the invention of the printing press and other technologies, the accepted standards and definitions for arts, crafts and professional trades became more controversial.  Reading and writing became more common skills among the various populations, which then made  the skills and knowledge required of transcribers appear less specialized and valuable. 

The same problem arose in other areas of art as well, when new technology made it easier to produce and reproduce painted artwork. Some would argue that screen printing and computerized graphic artwork should not be considered to be true forms of art.  Yet, a great deal of artistic ability and a high level of skill are essential for anyone who wishes to be successful in these fields of employment.

Misconceptions about Transcription

Common misconceptions also contribute to the confusion as to whether transcription is an art, craft or neither.  These misconceptions are intentionally and unintentionally spread via numerous forms of media that is produced by government agencies, commercial entities, and educational institutions.  With current economic trends forcing businesses to downsize and unemployment rates to rise, various government agencies are encouraging citizens to become self-employed transcriptionists. The government’s perspective tends to treat transcribing any type of data as easy to do, if a person has basic typing or keyboarding skills and the right equipment.  Numerous educational institutions and private industries which profit by selling training materials and courses also project this ideology to the mass population.

Numerous entrepreneurs and employers are also under the impression that anyone with basic typing skills and modern equipment should be capable of performing transcription tasks.  Then there are all those commercial enterprises which earn their income by convincing people that they can perform these tasks simply by using the companies’ products.  For instance, allegedly anyone can write a novel or business letter simply by utilising a software program that has the computer type whatever the person says into the microphone.  Supposedly, the document will come out perfectly, with no errors, even on the first try.  However, this simply is not true.  It typically takes a person literally hundreds of hours training any computer with speech recognition capabilities to even begin to recognize the person’s speech patterns.  The documents are filled with numerous errors, and the spell-checker does not catch all of these errors.

Why Transcribing Should Be Considered an Art

The value of any form of art is determined by how common the skills and knowledge required of the person performing the work are among the general members of society.  For instance, most humans can draw or paint on a basic level, such as drawing stick figures on paper.  However, very few can create an intricate, realistic portrait utilising oil paints, paint brushes and canvas.  The same holds true for musicians.  Everyone can produce sounds in a variety of ways, but not everyone can produce sounds with a perfect pitch, flow, and rhythm.  Nor can very many people accurately compose, arrange or transpose music onto a sheet of paper for multiple instruments.

Just as painting, sculpting, and playing an instrument on a professional level requires a person to have a special set of skills, talent, knowledge and expertise, so does writing.  While most humans are now capable of basic reading and writing skills, they do not have the special set of skills, talent, expertise, and knowledge that are essential for performing transcription. 

Most of the general population do not have an excellent command of their native language or the English language, including accurate use of grammar, syntax, spelling and vocabulary.  Even fewer humans develop excellent listening skills or are able to distinguish the various distorted sound and voices on a recording.  Still fewer can type verbatim what they hear being said at the same time as they are listening to a variety of people talking simultaneously.

A transcriptionist must type while listening to a warped recording of people speaking with varying voice quality, accents, tones, inflections and speeds of talking.  Since very few people are capable of performing these tasks, transcribing, especially in the form of transcription, should be considered a valuable art form.  And since fewer people are putting out the effort to truly develop each of the essential skills and their knowledge of the various languages, transcribing is indeed rapidly becoming a lost art, despite the recent increase in the number of transcription services.

Outsourcing – the secret to working smarter, not harder for business success! – focus your energy and skills on what you do best.

Working smarter not harder

Start working smarter not harder for business success

Ask anyone who has fulfilled their ambition to grow a thriving and healthy business what their secret is and they will tell you that they focused their energies and skills on what they do best!

Why many business owners fail is because they try to do everything for themselves. They run themselves ragged sorting out their website; organising advertising; figuring out their daily bookkeeping, sending out invoices and chasing payment; fielding phone calls; spending hours if not days on administration. They spend their precious time on necessary, but very time consuming and energy sapping tasks that could actually be done by someone else!

Smart successful business owners learn NOT to get swamped by all these jobs.

Instead, they spend their time doing what they are best at, using their specific talents to grow their business, engage with clients and take their business forward.

So, how is this possible?

Well, they outsource the jobs that get in the way of progress. They use a telephone answering service to free up their time and ensure that every prospective customer enquiry is answered professionally; get bookkeeping support to keep their accounts up-to-date, and they hire the services of a brilliant PA to keep them organised and deal with the day-to-day administration.

“Oh!” you say, “but this sounds expensive”. Well, actually it is not. Because these days you do not need to employ an office full of staff. The smart solution is to outsource the tasks you can off-load, by buying just the specific support you need.

So, the choice is easy… continue to spend all your energy making the wheels just keep turning in your business, or are you going to take the clever route and forge ahead in the direction you really want to go whilst someone else gets to grips with all those other jobs?

Many great Virtual PA’s and business support companies offer cost effective and efficient ‘virtual’ or ‘cloud’ services, so consider contacting one to see how they can assist your company.

For more information on some of the services click here or contact us, we would love to hear from you.

7 Simple Ways to Generate More Enquiries for your Business – These 7 powerful principles have transformed the fortunes of many local businesses.

Take a minute to read through each one and consider how they could benefit your business. They may seem obvious at first glance, but ask yourself… do you actually apply them on a regular basis?

BE PERSONAL… Stop hiding behind your logo… ‘people do business with people’! When showcasing your business, introduce the people behind your brand – it builds a huge amount of trust, brings your company to life and makes your potential customers feel at ease when making contact with you.

BE KNOWN… Most business opportunities come as a direct result of people knowing each other. Get yourself known personally by those who can refer business to you, build mutually-beneficial relationships and pro-actively generate ongoing ‘word of mouth’ opportunities.

BE FOUND… Make sure that when potential customers are searching for information relating to your specific services they end up with your business in front of them. These people are looking to do business with someone… make sure they find YOU.

BE INTERESTING… Potential customers like lots of useful and interesting information but only if it’s well written and simple to understand. Give your potential customers the information they want to know in a clear and easy to read format.

BE CREDIBLE… People are less trusting than ever. Make sure that potential customers perceive you to be an expert in your field and give lots of supporting evidence to back up your reliability and quality of service.

BE IN TOUCH… People’s circumstances change all the time. Have a system in place to keep in contact with your potential customers on a regular basis… you never know when they will need your services.

BE CONTACTABLE… It sounds obvious but… make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get in touch with you.

Dave Sharpe

What are YOUR Business Challenges? – Have you considered what your business challenges are and how you are going to overcome them.

Focusing on doing what matters, what is important and what will get the biggest results.

To get the business to a stage where I can take some time out each week, and a holiday each year.

Expand the operation so I can take advantage of an already solid and profitable business model.

Working ON my business, rather than IN it.

Building better levels of service and more rewarding customer experiences.

Having a Hotline to a ‘team’ member who can help me stay focused, get things done and help me grow the business.

Helping my team, and me, get better use of our time and stop working reactively, putting out fires, and become more pro-active about building the company.

Developing and building a strong working team so I can, not just manage, but lead my company forward.

To help me find or re-find my passion and get my heart and mind focused on enjoying running and building my business.

Finding a business support company that is both efficient and effective to help me add the right, motivated people to my team.

Deliver superior levels of customer service, create raving fans, and repeat buyers time after time.

What should be your free giveaway?

It’s very interesting how opinions have changed over the last few years in marketing about what your free giveaway should be. I don’t mean the format it should take (i.e. report, e-book, newsletter etc), but what the topic should be and the type of people it should attract.

I know I have certainly changed my opinion.

For the last few years in my business, I’ve been giving away 50 free ways to promote your business and you know what, it’s got results. I’ve attracted lots and lots of new contacts to my business and they’ve all been very happy to give me their contact details.

The theory then goes that once they’ve given you their contact details and therefore expressed interest in what you do, they should go onto buy from you, right?

Well no actually. Not necessarily.

The chances are actually much higher that they’ll grab your free giveaway with both hands and you’ll never hear from them again.

Now I’m not saying that offering a free giveaway is the wrong thing to do, but you must be very careful with what information you give away in order to attract the right people to your business.

If I offer 50 free ways to promote your business, who am I attracting with this information?

I’m attracting people who DON’T WANT to spend any money on marketing.

Is that who I want to attract? Well, no not really.

Who I want to attract are small business owners who want some help with their marketing AND who are willing to pay for someone to help them with it.

Could I change my free offering to attract these sorts of people? Absolutely! While I may not as many people signing up, they would be much more qualified and therefore much more likely to turn into clients.

While this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give these people free information, what they do get will a) much more tailored and personalised to them and b) much more likely to result in sales.

So if you currently offer something free to your contacts in order to get them to sign up for something, make sure that what you’re offering appeals the right set of customers that you’re trying to attract.

Think carefully about your offer and make sure you are attracting the right people to your business.

Ed: Thanks to Helen Dowling for another great blog.

 

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