The StartupNation Blog Trends, tips and real-life anecdotes from industry experts

Archive for “Fund Your Business”

3 More Free Publicity Tools

Since many of you commented on my last blog entry, here are three more free tools to help you with your small business PR activities: 1. Help a Reporter Out PR Pro Peter Shankman set up this great site at http://www.helpareporter.com/. Simply enter your name and e-mail information. And each day, you’ll receive a list [...]

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Exclusive Interview with PINK’s Cynthia Good

Recently, I caught up with Cynthia Good, CEO, founding editor and co-owner of the award-winning PINK Magazine, www.PINKmagazine.com. PINK reaches more than two million professional women every year and has raised more than $60,000 for nonprofits benefiting women and girls. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Cynthia was a news anchor on television stations nationwide, created her [...]

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StartupNation on ABC News Now, helps an entrepreneur in need

Tory Johnson, frequent reporter on ABC’s Good Morning America show and anchor of the ABC NewsNow series focusing on careers asked for a little StartupNation love recently. One of her faithful fans, Natalie, of ChicSweets, asked for ideas about how to move her business forward on a variety of levels, especially in the transition from part-time [...]

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Small Business Profile: Guideposts.com

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of Guideposts.com—a site devoted to helping people find and reach their potential. This site interested me not so much from an entrepreneurial standpoint, but because of its history. The nonprofit organization was founded in [...]

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Why the Time is NOW to Hire a Virtual Assistant

With over 70% of the economic experts expecting a last quarter uptick in the economy, now is the perfect time to start preparing for the extra business.  I am a big fan of using virtual assistants to help build out my team during peak seasons.  This is an especially useful business strategy in today’s market place.  One of the best lessons a recession can teach us is that in many circumstances variable costs beat fixed costs any day.  To survive the feast or famine rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, you need to make sure your expenses mimic those same ups and downs.

Benefits of Virtual Assistants

Adding virtual assistants to your workforce is a terrific way to turn a traditionally “fixed” expense, like payroll, into a more cash flow friendly variable expense.  Let me explain how it would work.  For example, most business advisers suggest that payroll expenses should average 20-30% of your sales.   This would mean that when sales are flush at $250,000/month that translates into payroll expenses of $50-75,000.  When sales hit a downturn at only $50,000/month, your payroll would then move back to a more manageable, $10-15,000.  As a business owner, how closely you adhere to this ratio means the difference between bleeding red and staying in the black.

Additional Benefits Include:

  • No payroll taxes or employee benefit expenses
  • No “on site” office space requirements
  • No costly training programs when hiring experienced VA’s
  • No long term commitment
  • No morale draining lay offs during slow seasons

Understanding the Relationship

When considering virtual assistants to help manage business tasks, there are a couple considerations to keep in mind.   For starters, they are not your employee but independent contactors.  This means they will most likely have other tasks and deadlines on their schedule while they are working for you.  READ: They are on their clock- not yours.  Make sure you are respectful of time constraints and provide as much advanced notice of tasks, deadlines, and special circumstances as possible.  As with many business relationships, communication is critical.  You can’t blame a virtual assistant for not living up to your expectations if you never made those expectations clear.  In other words, don’t just say you need something “right away”, make sure you define “right away” as within two hours.

Getting Started

I also think it is wise to start slowly when building a new relationship with a virtual assistant.  For example, instead of requesting that they create a new website for you, start by having them update your blog template first.  As each task is completed satisfactorily, and communication strengthens, you can then proceed to larger and more complex tasks.  Also, be sure to discuss with potential VA’s their strengths and weaknesses to ensure the best experience possible.  If you are in the real estate field, consider searching for VA’s with backgrounds in real estate.  If you an entrepreneur looking for marketing help, be sure to search for VA’s with a background in marketing or who are currently active in social media.

Tips from an Experienced VA

For more tips, I turned to Dawn Martinello of Monday Morning VA.  As an experienced virtual assistant herself, she had some great insight to share.  She can be found at MondayMorningVA.

  • Be sure to have an exit strategy.  Does your contract give you an out if you don’t mesh well?  This is especially important for first time clients.  For example, our services are non-refundable, but for first time clients we give a 7 day grace period in which they can bow out of the contract if they aren’t working well with their VA.
  • When you’re considering outsourcing keep the price in mind.  My rule of thumb is that an entrepreneur shouldn’t be doing anything in their business that doesn’t earn them at least 2/3 of their regular rate.  That means if you’re a bookkeeper who charges $30.00 per hour, you should consider outsourcing anything that doesn’t earn you $20.00 per hour.  The reasoning behind this is that business people need to spend their time and energy on what generates revenue for them.  Spending 4 hours trying to update your website doesn’t earn a bookkeeper anything!

If you have never considered hiring a virtual assistant to build out your team, I strongly suggest taking a second look.  As technology continues to advance and better networking platforms are built, virtual work relationships will only become even easier.  A couple great places to start your search for virtual help include Guru.com, Freelance.com, RentACoder.com, or a simple “virtual assistant” search on Google.

Business Owners, feel free to leave any questions or experiences you would like to share in the comments. Virtual Assistants, be sure to leave any additional tips and your contact information including your area of expertise.

I’d love to hear your comments below and please be sure to follow me on www.twitter.com/glamajama! Want more DIY PR tips? Sign up here

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With over 70% of the economic experts expecting a last quarter uptick in the economy, now is the perfect time to start preparing for the extra business.  I am a big fan of using virtual assistants to help build out my team during peak seasons.  This is an especially useful business strategy in today’s market [...]

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Go Paperless and Grow-David Durick, gotoBilling.com

On Tuesday, we heard from David Durick of gotoBilling, www.gotobilling.com. This business experienced a 307% volume increase during the recession so I sat down with David to get his insights for other small business owners. Here is the rest of that interview and more of David’s tips: What kind of marketing and publicity activities have helped GTB [...]

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How Do You Grow During a Recession?

Some companies are doing well during these tough economic times. That’s why I sat down with David Durick of gotoBilling, www.gotobilling.com, to find out the secret to their success (and how marketing has played a role in their significant growth over the past year). Here’s what David had to say… What do you do at [...]

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Small Business Profile: Night Helper Watch

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of NightHelpWatchers.com.—a company based on an invention by Lisa Charleston. Lisa started NightHelpWatchers.com in 2004 after being laid off from a nursing job in a home-hospice facility. She transitioned into being a stay at [...]

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Small Business Profile: Visible Logic

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of visiblelogic.com. A well-designed message can position your organization, product or service to look unique, capable and strong enough to go head-to-head with any competitor of any size.  That is just what Emily Brackett (founder of Visible Logic) [...]

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Buy One, Give One

Referencing my prior post on Creative Capitalism, here is another business with a 1 for 1 model. A new project by California eco-urban design firm LJ Urban aims to make giving more concrete—quite literally—by matching its sales of homes domestically with funds to build homes in the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso. Urban has [...]

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Small Business Profile: OutspokenMedia.com

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of Outspoken Media, Inc.—an internet marketing startup that was founded in January by three women who wanted more for their clients. Partner Rae Hoffman just finished 20th in the recent Startup Mom competition, an [...]

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The downside of “-ish”

I was recently asked by a strategic partner of StartupNation’s, when’s your site relaunch occurring? My answer was, “End of June-ish”. I realized at that moment, that i was guilty of being an “-ish”. An “-ish”, you ask? It’s the grey area in our brilliant plans. It’s the risky fudge factor that makes us inefficient. [...]

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Strategies for You in Residential and Commercial Real Estate

Given the global recession, real estate presents new challenges and opportunities for business owners. Businesses especially are affected by the pressures of reduced demand and tighter lending criteria. The fact is, you’re challenged to do more with less. I just moderated an expert panel on video as part of the Wells Fargo Webcast Series on this very [...]

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Small Business Profile: Heinz Marketing

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of Heinz Marketing. Matt has held positions at companies such as Microsoft, Weber Shandwick, Boeing, The Seattle Mariners, Market Leader and Verdiem. In 2007, he started Heinz Marketing to help clients focus their business [...]

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Presidential Branding

Looks like the Obama’s should have registered their last name to enjoy ongoing royalties. Some interesting examples of halo branding. Where businesses capitolize on the brand elements of another entity. Examples: ATT + TOMs Shoes, Obama Red Wine (below) Maybe I should pick up some Obama Red to wash down my Freedom Fries… From Speigel [...]

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Join in on my webcast, Details below

My good buddy and ally in advocacy for small business success, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing has organized a great webcast happening at 9a Pacific this Wednesday. It’s all about strategies for success in starting and growing a successul business in this environment. Use this link to find out more and to register. I [...]

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Partner: Beat The Economy Together

I wonder if products have the same experience people do, that when they meet their match, they feel like they are “home?” I’ll bet the product manager of this doosey has earned his bonus: Hillshire Farm ham and turkey + reusable Gladware = Green, Money Saving, The-Big-Corporation-Proves-It-Can-Still-Listen-To-Customers   What partnerships could you consider in your business? [...]

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