fbpx
Mary Wu, Social Media Consultant

Home » Small Business

Category Archives: Small Business

Tuesday Tip – It’s that time again

ID-10079666It’s almost August – which means it’s almost BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!!!

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.

Girl Writing Back To School As A Symbol For Education

Girl Writing Back To School As A Symbol For Education

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.

Staples Back to School Deals (moneysavingmom)

“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

DSC00314

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.

5169634I’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

 RELATED ARTICLE

Yesterday I met a new person at a coaching event, and glanced at her blog. One of her articles:

Mistakes … Or Are They? Tashony Nalyse at tashonyalyse.com

I guess sometimes we all need a lesson.

 

Starting out

Naperville North High School

Naperville North High School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

Anita2This 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).

Related articles

Starting Over

Recently I was reading about how President George H.W. Bush (41st President of the United States) celebrated his 90th birthday by skydiving.* You can watch the video at this link. While I’m pretty sure that I would never actually jump out of a perfectly fine airplane, I have to give kudos to President Bush for following his passion.

For the fourth in my small business series, I’d like to introduce you to Felicity. Sometimes it might be hard to pinpoint your passions. You might have so many that it’s hard to narrow down (and not all of us have the means that someone in the Texas oil business has to chase all our dreams). But for those of you rethinking your future goals and desires, or for those looking toward a promotion or career change, you can contact Felicity Solomon at Savvy Services.felicity2

Whether you’re thinking of a new career opportunity or trying to realize your dreams, a life coach would be a great person to have on your team. (After all, our 41st President couldn’t have jumped out of a plane without an entire team to help him).

Related articles

*He announced the jump on his Twitter feed. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 year old age group.

 

Little Bits at a Time

Michelle croppedStarting 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.

 

 

 

 

Branding and Popeye

How do these three things relate?

English: Popeye Village in Anchor Bay, Malta, ...

English: Popeye Village in Anchor Bay, Malta, scenery of Popeye film. Deutsch: Popeye Village in der Anchor Bay, Malta, Kulisse des Films Popeye – Der Seemann mit dem harten Schlag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. A 5-part blog series on small business owners
  2. Branding
  3. Popeye

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Record Your Legacy

mifunAs 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’ve had the pleasure of working with.

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Heartbleed – two simple steps to take NOW

ID-100125771Most 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…)

How to Prepare your Business for your Vacation

Guest Post (with minor edits) courtesy of Evie Burke at One Insight Closer. IMG_2099a

Whether it’s spring break or summer vacation or winter holidays, we all need a few days off, or even a vacation (!) to have some time to relax.

Sounds wonderful right? But then you start to think about all those things that you want to or should be doing for your business right now – and suddenly taking any time away from your home office sounds less wonderful and more stressful.

On some level though, you know you need the time away – a time to rest and not think about your business. You just don’t know if that’s possible.

Let’s take a step back and remember having a JOB (play with me here). Remember going on vacation then? If your job was anything like mine, going on vacation meant that you had to set aside some extra time before you left to tie up any loose ends, to let clients and/or co-workers know you’re going to be gone and to update anyone who was going to be handling some of your responsibilities while you were gone (and maybe letting them know how to reach you in an emergency).

You know that that process was? A system, even if you didn’t call it that or think of it that way, it was the system that you, or the business you worked for, setup to make sure that things ran relatively smoothly while you were gone.

Let’s step back to today. What is your system for taking time off in your business?

Okay, I hear some of you laughing (or sighing) that you are your business and if you’re not there things don’t run. Nothing happens when you’re not in the office – or worse, if you’re not in the office things start to fall apart. Well, that might currently be true, but there are probably a few things that you can do before you leave or set up to happen while you’re gone to make sure nothing falls apart and that things run smoothly when you return.

  1. Let your clients know you’ll be out of the office
    Just give them a heads up. This could be a quick phone call and a follow-up email so they have the dates and other information at their fingertips. And let them know how to contact you if you’re in a business where emergencies happen and they might need you now. Let them know how to handle that.
  2. Tie up loose ends
    If you have any projects or communications that have under 15 minutes left on them, finish those up. These things will take longer to do if you wait until you return, because they won’t be fresh in your mind.
  3. Decide what can wait until after you get back
    If you’re anything like me you’ve suddenly decided that those two bigger projects that you put on the back burner should really be DONE before you leave. Because you don’t want to think about it when you return. You want to have time available for those great new ideas that will pop up when you return from vacation.This is where I remind us both (you and me) that some things will have to wait until after vacation. Trying to cram too much in before you leave will result in frustration and the temptation to take work with you on vacation (don’t do it!). Instead, decide ahead of time what can wait. Make a list if you need to and then you can schedule those things when you return.
  4. Out of Office email reply
    Most email programs have this. Set it up for the dates that you’ll be gone and let them know when they can expect a reply back from you.
  5. Update your voice mail message
    Again, let people know you’re out and when you’ll get back to them.
  6. Set time aside for replies and phone calls when you return
    Set aside a couple hours on your first day back in the office for returning emails and phone calls (and cleaning out your inbox).
  7. Plan the first couple days you’re back in the office
    This one is really important for me. Last year I didn’t do this when I went on a two week vacation. Actually, I “planned” on planning my first week back on the airplane ride home. Yeah, so on the airplane ride home I think I slept, talked with my husband and maybe read a couple of chapters of a fiction book. So, my first week back “in the office” I did catch up on email and send my newsletter, but that was about it…I realized that first week back would have been a lot smoother, and more productive, if I would have planned a few tasks to be completed that week. I could have gotten back into the swing of things a lot faster.
  8. Write and schedule your newsletter in advance
    If you send a newsletter, you can write it in advance and schedule it to go out while you’re gone. And if you have a VA you can write everything in advance and pass it along to her early.
  9. Enjoy your time off!
    Allow yourself to mentally unplug from your business and enjoy your time off!

You deserve some time off! Put it on your schedule and start planning for it!

In the comments below share what else you do to prepare for vacation or even a day away from your business.

(Additional note on #8, if you don’t have time to write a weekly blog post, remember to ask if someone wants to do a guest blog — Mary).

Photo by Mary Wu, on a previous vacation.

 

How to “Social” your Media

Memorable_Jaunts_Indian_Women_Entrepreneurs_Feb_2014Karthika Gupta, a photographer I know, recently did a blog post titled “Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Field.” She shares some lessons that she learned from three female entrepreneurs living in India. Karthika pointed out that these women are running businesses without some of the tools that most businesses take for granted, like business cards and websites. However, even without the use of a computer I feel we have lessons to learn from their “social” media.

 

Know your customers. While these three women business owners in India have gotten to know their customers through frequent personal interactions, that might not be an option for people in virtual industries. However, even in our technology driven world, we can understand our customers by trying to understand their needs. We can engage with our clients (and potential clients) on their social media pages. We can subscribe to their newsletters and know what promotions they are offering (and even share those promotions).

If some of your clients live near you, you can get to know them better, perhaps over a cup of tea.  (more…)