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Some people that read this blog have school kids and look at this as an opportunity to start spending more time on their business. Some people reading this might go “OH DARN” that means traffic …
But most small businesses forget one really special event at this time of the year.
BACK TO SCHOOL $ALE$
That’s right, even if you don’t have kids, or your kids are well before or past the age of school, you can still take advantage of all those school supplies being on sale. There might be some back to school items you don’t need, but most “office” supplies are covered in the back to school sales. For example, mini staplers that can fit into a middle school locker can also fit in a purse or briefcase. Unless you have a locked office, I’m willing to bet that sometimes your pens wander off your desk. (Okay – even if you’re the only one that touches your desk I’m still willing to bet ballpoint pens disappear – see note below*). Every time I give a client a report or a contract, I put it in a two pocket folder. I rarely pay retail for those (they are either $0.10 or $0.15 during August). I know some consultants (I’m looking at YOU Michelle Smith at Z & B consulting) that often make use of colored markers and easel pads. Even if you don’t explore every sales flyer to find the “best” deals, you can’t walk down a school (office) supply aisle at this time of year without deals jumping off the shelf at you.
“Tips” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
*In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams has a theory that ballpoint pens slip off to their own planet and live (the ballpoint pen equivalent of) the good life. For their sake, I hope it’s true, because the ballpoints never stay on my desk.
The Best Laid Plans (or Drop Back Ten Yards and Punt)
“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.” Rene Descartes
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” Herm Albright
Many business owners have plans. You can have a business plan, you can have action steps, and you can have detailed descriptions for every aspect of your business. Sometimes, of course, things don’t go as planned. I have two examples from different business owners I know that had “glitches” in the past week and how they overcame these.
I’m in a Mastermind group run by Michelle Smith at Z and B Consulting. We meet once a month for this group, and we were scheduled to meet on February 2, 2015. A few days before our scheduled meeting Michelle looked at the weather forecast and, well, the forecast didn’t look real pretty. As you can see from the attached photo (or from the photos many of my friends took out of their window over the weekend), it does look REAL PRETTY – but not very travel friendly.
Michelle, using the information she had available, decided that our monthly “meeting” would be held “virtually” using Fuze. I look forward to seeing and working with this fabulous group of people every month.
Meanwhile, in a completely different corner of the country (where snow is never an issue), another friend was preparing for a client call. This woman works with many of her clients virtually so often all she needs is a quiet place (like her home office) and a good Internet connection.
Of course, if she decides to upgrade her service (to BETTER help her fabulous clients) and there’s a “glitch” with the upgrade, this leaves no Internet connection for her client call (which she records as part of her best practices).
After discovering that the issue was with the upgrade, she managed to negotiate a free cellular Hotspot connection until the upgrade was completed on Tuesday.
We’re all going to run into glitches; let’s hope we all handle them as well as these two business women.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Wu at Amanda Wu, Photography, Copyright 2015
Yesterday I met a new person at a coaching event, and glanced at her blog. One of her articles:
I guess sometimes we all need a lesson.
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.
Most people that know me would say I’m rather level headed. I’m not likely to over react to situations, and I have a pretty relaxed attitude about most things. But then, all of the sudden, there’s a major security bug that has been discovered (after being present for two years).
You’ve probably heard about heartbleed. As I often try to do, I’m going to attempt to explain the steps you need to take in simple lay terms.
(If you haven’t heard of this, that’s fine; just do these two things, now would be good)
Check your sites. Go to the Heartbleed test website and type in the name of any site you do business with (I started with my bank). There is (in the related articles section) an article from Mashable titled “The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now.” (more…)