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Yearly Archives: 2014
In the U.S., July 4 is the celebration of our nation’s birthday. We often spend the weekend with parties or picnics or family reunions or weddings. The weekend often ends with tired, but happy, people. When you look at a calendar though, July 1 is sort of like “hump day” for the year. The year is now half over (or half begun) and it’s a time to take stock, assess what is or is not working, and plan for the rest of the year.
This might also be a good time to realize that it’s only 6 months until the end of the year and I’m willing to bet that there are a few people that haven’t even begun to think about taxes yet. (WHAT??? You want me to think about taxes in JULY.)
YES, I actually want you to think about taxes in July. Actually, it’s something you should be thinking about every week, or at least every month, and you should be doing some record keeping so that when you do your taxes (or go to see your tax preparer) in 2015, you are somewhat prepared. I realize that sometimes it’s easy to procrastinate, and I want to encourage you to not fall too far behind.
I’m a big fan of various Google Apps (HELLO — FREE!!), so I’m going to point out a few ways that Google Apps can be used in keeping track of your expenses.
Google Calendar https://www.google.com/calendar
Besides allowing you to keep track of your schedule, share your schedule, and syncing with a number of other applications, Google Calendar keeps track of where you’ve been. If you use Google Calendar thoroughly and faithfully, at the end of a week (or month, or 6 months) you can go back through your calendar and check what you’ve done. You can look at each event and see if there’s anything you’ve done that needs to be documented.
Google Maps https://maps.google.com
After you’ve checked your Google Calendar, you’ll realize that you’ve had some travels (meetings or lunches you’ve attended) that you forgot to write down mileage for. This is where Google Maps comes in handy. Just enter your starting location and your destination and you know your mileage (double it for a round trip).
Google Docs https://docs.google.com
Specifically Google spreadsheets. You can use a Google spreadsheet to enter your costs (mileage, advertising, office expenses, deductible meals and entertainment, etc. etc. etc).
Anytime you’re using any type of spreadsheet (Excel, Google Drive, Numbers), I highly recommend beginning with the end in mind. If you’re looking to do your own bookkeeping so that you can either do your taxes or send them to a tax professional, figure out what you’ll need at the end of the year and input the proper categories. (For myself, and many solopreneurs, look at Schedule C).
Next week we’ll look at a few other Google Apps that can make your life easier.
- Five Cloud Apps To Manage Your Business Remotely (woman.com.au)
- 5 Reasons Why You Should be Using Google Apps for Business (mysocialagency.com)
*Disclaimer, I’m not a tax professional.
Every year Naperville North High School does a report about their senior class. This year the number one college location for the 2014 Huskies is College of DuPage (a local two-year community college). The number one major … undecided.
It seems like a wonderful plan for many students. We’re lucky to live in a country with so many options for our young (and not so young) people. Before you send a high school graduate off to wherever they’re going next, how can a parent best help them?
This brings us to our fifth (and final) introduction for National Small Businesses. One way to help guide high school students is to contact an educational consultant such as Anita Gajula at College Prep Mentoring. Anita can work with students and their parents to find their way through the confusion that is the collection decision and application process.
(And really, anyone that can get more than two words out of my son deserves some recognition.)
(Click on the video below, you’ll be “Happy” you did).
Starting a Virtual Assistant business was, for me, a rather pleasant accident. I was taking courses at the local community college to update my skills while I was thinking about re-entering the job market. There was a course under Office Technologies titled Virtual Assistant, and since it was an online course I knew I could work the course work around my schedule. Fast forward 16 weeks and I had done a basic business and marketing plan for my course. Once I decided that would be my next course of action, it was easy to move forward.
As I did last year at this time, I’m celebrating National Small Business Week by doing a 5 part series of small business owners that I have had the pleasure of working with.
Today we’ll meet Michelle Smith at Z & B Consulting.
Michelle is known as an “idea person” who works to help companies create awareness, strengthen relationships and ensure success. She is the creator of the “Marketing Morsels”, “Magnify Your Marketing,” and “Maximize Your Marketing”, a 3-pronged strategic approach to business success. She also publishes a newsletter, which you can subscribe to on the landing page of her website.
That’s what she does for a living. But what she really does is create connections. Michelle is a walking business directory of local small business in the western and southern suburbs of Chicago. She’s great at getting to know people, and she absolutely walks her talk.
I will often tell potential clients that if they have a project that I can’t help them with, I am usually able to find someone who can. As a person that has many connections (and makes a point of getting to know all the local virtual assistants and some not so local VAs), I can make that statement with almost complete confidence. As a friend and colleague of Michelle Smith, I can absolutely make that statement with complete confidence. We make a pretty strong team, and typically we can find someone that can solve most any small business problem.
How do these three things relate?
- A 5-part blog series on small business owners
They really do relate and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Recently a graphic designer I know wrote a blog post about logo design and how you shouldn’t be afraid to make it personal. (You can read it here).
Before I started my business, I took a virtual assistant course at the local community college. One of the topics covered in the course was logo design, and as part of the assignment I came up with the butterfly idea.
Six months later, when I met with my graphic designer, I realized that I was really tied to my butterfly. They represent (to me) freedom and growth and “becoming” what you truly are. This is what I want not only for me and my business, but for my clients and their businesses.
Someone once pointed out that there may be people that think that the logo is less than “professional” looking (and sometimes it’s a good thing to point out pros and cons of any business decision when someone is consulting you), but I knew that this had become such an integral part of my vision for my business that if someone was bothered by it, they probably wouldn’t really want to work with me. And that’s okay (I’m always meeting new Virtual Assistants and if someone wants someone else to work with I can arrange introductions).
This brings us to the two introductions I want to do for my series on small business owners.
Beth Tomas is a graphic designer and the person that posted the blog post that got my mind going in this direction. Beth’s tagline (I love Beth’s tagline) is “I turn your dreams into pretty pictures.” She will sit and she will listen to you and try to get to know you and create a logo (or web images or brochure or flyer or …) that best represents you and your business.
Melissa Noto is another graphic designer. I’ve seen some of the cards and flyers she’s created for other business owners I know and she does a fabulous job at representing you and your business.
Yes, I’m promoting two different people in the same field, and yes neither of them is Suzanne Wills, who I wrote about last year. I have seen work from both of these women and they both do a fabulous job.
The important thing when working with any service provider is to find someone that you are comfortable working with and who can best relate to you and tell your story, because when it comes to telling your story through your brand. You want to person that can best understand your story.
(You may now ask “Okay Mary, what on EARTH does any of this have to do with Popeye?”)
One thing Popeye always says is, “I am what I am and it’s all that I am” (except he says “yam” sometimes.) Be who you authentically are and you will soar like one of my butterflies.
- 6 Tips for Expanding Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn. Susan Gilbert (entrepreneur.com)
- Make Your Brand Pop By Telling Your Story. Matthew Toren (entrepreneur.com)
- 3 Lessons From the ‘Breaking Bad’ School of Branding. Geoffrey James (inc.com)
Today, we meet Wanda Schlafly at MiFun.
Recently I was taking one of those ubiquitous quizzes that one finds on Facebook. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. They propose to answer questions like, “Which TV mom are you?” when in reality they exist to mine data. One thing I’ve noticed from questions in some quizzes and results of some polls that are taken is that most of the data mining is trying to reach millennials. On the one hand it could make one surmise that once you reach a certain age, nobody cares what you have to say.
This is not true. And not only does Wanda Schlafly care what people have to say, she also cares to document it for posterity.
Wanda Schlafly is the owner of MiFun. Part of what she does is to teach seniors (or anyone) how to get the most use out of their iPads: how to connect using Face Time or Skype, how to share photos, how to connect with your children and grandchildren, and how to play gtames.
But the other part of what Wanda does is to help people make audio or video recordings of their life story. This is something to think about especially around Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) when we realize that even if the data miners might not be interested in what certain groups of people have to say, it’s never too soon to get the family stories on tape, so that your children (and your children’s children) can connect with your parents (and your parent’s parents). No matter how independent we think we are, there are deep connections that run through a family.
*Okay, originally I was going to talk about how Wanda can, and does, help business people do videos that can promote your business on LinkedIn or YouTube. But let’s face it, we all can get a bit sentimental around Mother’s Day.
**On the other hand, you could surmise that if nobody cares what you have to say, you could say whatever you dang well please. This is why we love Betty White so much.
One goal in my business (and my life) is to be a resource to people. I truly enjoy finding ways to help other people out. One way to be of assistance is to help people find the right resource providers or joint venture partners. For some time I struggled with the right format for making introductions between people until I hit upon a article at Forbes.com titled “How to Make the Perfect Email Introduction” (see “Related Article” section.) This article describes a basic template for introducing two people via email.
There is one point that the article misses, which I’d like to add. BEFORE doing an e-introduction, double check with both parties that they are willing to “meet” a new person.
This is a very valuable way of allowing two people to meet because you can describe in detail why you think they would be able to connect, they will both have each others email address, and they both have a common connection.
People are most likely to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. But if someone cannot find a person they know, they may feel a bit more at ease working with someone that comes with a strong common connection.
How to Make the Perfect Email Introduction. Andy Ellwood. (forbes.com)