What does it mean to give 110%, to give of your best? I believe it means taking something further than most people would. I believe it means to give or do as much as you can for the task at hand, and then a little more too. In this day and age of rush, rush, rush, people tend to take short cuts and say ‘that will do’ when often it barely meets the client’s needs. As VAs it is important we demonstrate to our clients that we are prepared to give 110% – that we will treat their business as our own and provide the best possible service – giving our absolute best. After all, their business is our business, and without it, we wouldn’t have a business, would we? So, this week, I want to encourage you, when you might be tempted to stop and do no more, push on and give that extra 10%. These are my thoughts….
One of my team wrote me about a man named “Bill Caudill, an eminent Architect (AIA Gold Medal recipient) who, between 1964 until his death in 1983, put out a regular memo to his people titled “This I Believe” or TIBs. He used to write his thoughts and send them to his management as a Memo and before long, they were being pinned on the noticeboard for the entire office to read. They generated so much interest that Bill continued this practice on a weekly basis. “
Today they’re available weekly via email and have some really interesting things to think on. It was suggested to me that perhaps I could do something similar for the VA Industry and I think it’s a great idea. But… I need your help. What type of things would you like me to share on? There will be times when something that I’ve been experiencing will become my TAMT but there will be times when you might be going through something that I could help you with. I know that there are people who read this Blog so I would love to hear from you.
Have a great week!
I was thinking this morning about a recent chat with a client who indicated through their conversation that I should be charging them cheaper because theyâ€™re getting me to learn a new system and it would then be something I could do for other people. When I say cheaper â€“ I mean considerably lower than I was charging â€“ although I had already lowered the rate from my real rate. It then occurred to me (this morning) that my entire business life has been spent learning new things as each client needed or wanted something extra.
A few short years into my business a client wanted me to manage a database for them in Access. Iâ€™d only used Paradox, FileMaker Pro and a small database program on an Atari before but I understood the principles of database design so thought it couldnâ€™t be too challenging. To help speed up the process I developed a project database of my own so I could better understand how the program worked. I have since designed and managed many databases in Access for clients in Australia, New Zealand and the US.
Then one day a client asked if I knew anything about ACT! Heâ€™d heard about it from an acquaintance and was sure it was the right program for him but he had little computer knowledge and asked if I would explore it for him. I had remembered seeing a free copy of it in a computer magazine my husband had so I dug it out, installed it and spent two weeks playing with it â€“ best way was to import from Access an existing database and see how it worked. After two weeks I felt confident enough to go to the local computer store and buy the upgrade and then announce to my client that I could use it for his business. He was delighted. That was 2000. Today I have 5 clients on ACT! and I synchronise their databases from my home office, manage their mail merges, email-outs, and so on. Iâ€™ve also done some research and set up and modified databases with the results of the research for others with this program, including for a couple of clients in the US.
In 1999 I had someone from church ring me to see if I knew Dreamweaver? I said no, but Iâ€™d be interested in learning. At that stage Iâ€™d only used FrontPage. He represented a web company that had taken on a large project that would take 6 months to complete with about a half dozen people working on it around 15-20 hours a week. He wanted Word documentation (over 6,000 pages) converted to html, then the coding stripped in Dreamweaver and uploaded to an intranet â€“ he showed me what to do and I taught my team members. It was a great project to do and at the end of it I had learnt a reasonable amount about Dreamweaver â€“ enough to feel confident in using it for my own websites. Iâ€™ve been using it ever since and now manage a number of websites for clients with this program.
A year ago a client asked if I would investigate shopping carts for them and after asking lots of questions via forums, checking out websites and costs, came back to her with my recommendations. The system she chose has no tech support in Australia â€“ although there is a company in QLD that uses it. Iâ€™m yet to find anyone in Melbourne who uses it. I did touch base with the QLD company once to find out some things but Iâ€™ve pretty much been on a steep learning curve to understand its workings. I spent many hours learning this system, pestering the support team online, and costed the job at half my regular rate so the client wasnâ€™t disadvantaged for the time I spent. It was a lesson worth learning and I now have this skill to add to my list of services.
So, what am I saying to you? Iâ€™m saying that it is worth considering learning a new skill or program for a client when they ask you to. Iâ€™m not suggesting you should do this for new clients â€“ they need to get familiar with how you work; the speed with which you work and your own capabilities â€“ learning a new program for a new client would be difficult to do and it could end up being a costly exercise if they haven’t yet built confidence in you. However, for an existing client and one with whom you have a good working relationship, agreeing to learn new software (which you should purchase if you intend to use it later for other clients) and putting in the time and effort involved is well worth doing â€“ itâ€™s called â€˜learning on the jobâ€™. Instead of an employer paying for this learning, or you paying for a course, you do it in the course of your time for the client. And having an understanding or agreement in place with that client that you would charge for x number of hours at a reduced rate until youâ€™re on track with the program is worth doing too.
So, I encourage you to keep up-skilling â€“ you make yourself more attractive to new clients as they come along, and it could mean you do not have to turn back jobs that come along that you might have turned back only 12 months ago.
Go to it!
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2005 4:37 pm Post subject: Network, Network, Network
There is nothing like networking to give your business a boost. It is a bit like planting a seed, watering it and then watching it take root – it can take a few months before the first nibbles come in, but when they do – it is usually worth it!
You’ve heard the saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’? and in networking that is very much the case. How often have you heard someone tell you of a problem they have or something they’re looking for and you knew someone who could solve their problem? That’s the same thing with networking! It is important to get your face (or your name) out there so people get to know who you are and what you do.
Today networking can be done locally and online globally – I strongly recommend you do both. You’re going to pick up an audience from both avenues and you shouldn’t depend on only the one source for building your business.
One often overlooked avenue for networking is the product launch! If you use a particular software or product, keep abreast of updates and product launches and go to them – not necessarily because you’re looking to upgrade or buy, but so you can meet others who plan to! So, even if you have the lastest whatever, going to the launches still make good sense – the people there want to learn how to use xxx and you already know so you can connect with them confidently about it! I almost ended up with a ‘job’ (I’m self-employed and don’t want a job) as a distributor/reseller for a software product because the organisation staff recognised my knowledge of their product when chatting to me at such an event. It was nice to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’, I’m happy doing what I’m doing. And yes, I did meet prospective clients who also recognised my knowledge of the product and were keen to get the best out of it for their own businesses.
It is often hard, when starting out as a VA to determine what information you should be seeking, whether something can be sourced elsewhere, or whether you should be doing it all on your own? I participate in several VA forums and often see new VAs asking for items that they really should be sorting out for themselves. Things like contracts, rates sheets, brochures, business plans and other items.
What should they expect help with and what should they be doing on their own? The key word here is ‘expect’. In an employee world we get everything given to us in relation to our employment – we’re told how much we’re going to be paid (unless we’re in the fortunate position of asking for a particular rate of pay), we’re told what the contractual basis of our employment is, we’re given the materials to work with – in other words we do as is expected of us by our employer and we get what we expect of them.
But when we are working for ourselves, the reality is there isn’t anyone to tell you what you should be charging, what your contracts should consist of, how your brochures should look, and so on, and if we don’t have any prior experience and no knowledge at all, it is hard to make decisions about these things. The shortcut? Why not ask other VAs if you can use what they’ve already spent time putting together? Saves you time, saves you effort, saves you having to think about it right? Wrong!
The process of putting these items together, doing the research and the sums, working out what’s right for us, finding out our legal obligations in relation to our geographic location for our contracts, and working out our rates based on our skills, experience AND geographic location (cost of living) is all part of developing the image for our business, and building and moulding what it will be. There is no shortcut to a learning process if it is something that will become part of us. It’s not learning something by rote or copying off our neigbour’s book in class – it’s putting in the hard work and moulding and shaping something that will have our image, our personality, everything that is about us and what we represent and offer in a business. This can only come with time, effort, experience – I’ll repeat that one – experience and so on.
This is different to what a franchisee might experience – they’re learning a system and duplicating what has already been put in place. But for each individual VA you aren’t duplicating what someone else is doing – you are moulding and shaping your own business and offering services based on your own experience and skills.