Archive for March, 2010

How to Use an Administrative Assistant

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Administrative assistant, executive assistant and virtual assistant (VA).These are job roles with a broad set of duties. A great admin is typically a jack/jill of all trades, i.e., capable in a bunch of areas vs. specialized in one. And if the business owner, CEO, COO or similar position focuses on running the business with the big picture in mind, the admin is in the trenches making sure all the details are attended to. As a business executive, you know it’s important to stay focused on the big idea stuff but sometimes it’s hard to know what things you can (and should) comfortably let go of, as well as what things an admin can do. While no two clients have identical needs, I can give you a good idea of what Outsource Resource admins are used for.

Here is a list of the most commonly used tasks our admins perform:

  • Contact Management: Enter contacts into your database, set up ticklers and the like.
  • Scheduling: Schedule, reschedule and confirm appointments. For those who have a lot of appointments, this can be a big time saver!
  • Filing & Organization: Yes, people still have paper files and you save a lot of time if you need to pull a file and it’s where it’s supposed to be! One of our clients, a chiropractor, uses an admin twice a month to keep inventory organized.
  • Research: This is very individualized to the client, but could include researching an industry segment, finding contact info to make sales calls, or . . . the sky is pretty much the limit!

We also have clients who hire us to be greeters, answer phones, manage events, scan documents, do QuickBooks data entry, install software, photo research, and I’m sure plenty of other things I don’t even know about.

At The Outsource Resource, all of our admins are highly capable and experienced in a range of skills and software; they learn easily; and they’re delightful to boot! I work very hard to hire top-notch professional talent and I’m proud of our staff. Here’s a testimonial from a current client:

“When my assistant was assigned to me, there were only two things I could think of to put on her ‘to-do’ list and wasn’t really sure if I was ready for outsourcing. By the end of the week, the list had grown to 13 items . . . and that’s just because I didn’t want to overwhelm her. The service has been amazing. I put things on the to-do list and they just get done. I’m now outsourcing things that simply would never had gotten completed (because of a lack of time on my end) and my assistant is coming up with ideas I had never contemplated.”

If you’re contemplating getting administrative assistance but aren’t sure how to use an admin or aren’t sure your task can be done by one, give me a call! I’ll be happy to consult with you and help you determine the best course of action.

Finding the Right Software: Solution Explorers

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Last year I realized the need for project management software for The Outsource Resource. I started looking for solutions only to quickly realize the sheer number of options out there and my lack of time to research them. I hired two separate people to help me and allotted a handful of hours to each for the task—the reports I got back just weren’t very helpful. I was clear that having project management software would help The Outsource Resource but knew it wasn’t the best use of my time to locate it. Do you have a software need but don’t know where to go and don’t have the time to deal with it?

keith german

Keith German, Chief Navigator of Solution Explorers

That’s when I met Keith German, the “Chief Navigator” of Solution Explorers. After ten years selling software, Keith started Solution Explorers with the goal to transform the software buying experience, recognizing that identifying new software is time-consuming, overwhelming and often confusing. In talking to him I realized that the reason I hadn’t gotten useful information was that the task was much bigger and more complicated than I had imagined. Many tasks outside our usual realm are like this—it’s important for us to recognize when this is the case and be sure to always maintain focus on our most important tasks—and delegate or outsource the rest.

I felt like I struck gold when I met Keith. He had the background, the expertise, and the systems to take on the task. We worked together for several months—yes, it takes that long—and the experience has been a giant WOW.

For one thing, I got to keep working on my business, focusing on my three most important functions, which I wrote about in last week’s newsletter (client care, sales & marketing, and staff care). While I grew my business, Keith was behind the scenes “exploring solutions.” This is huge! Finding the right software can easily take 30–50 hours—and that’s time I don’t have.

Keith and I had regular touch points along the way to make sure he knew exactly what my needs were, to report on progress and then to schedule demos with the top three choices. From hundreds and hundreds of software options, I only had to consider three! Amazing! One of those choices ended up being the right one and I’m about to get started with it. (Vertabase) I know it’s going to increase quality and efficiency within The Outsource Resource, something my clients and staff can look forward to. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you have software needs but don’t know what to choose? Don’t have time to figure it out? Frankly, if you’re a small business owner and you bill hourly or are responsible for sales, making time to find the right software is most likely not a good use of your time—both because it takes you away from sales but also because it’s probably not your expertise. With Solution Explorers, you’ll save yourself time, frustration and heartache. You probably didn’t know such a service existed—but now you do!

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!

Friday, March 5th, 2010

I purposely wrote the word Prioritize three times above and you’ll soon see why. I’m going to make an assumption that every single person reading this is not getting to everything on their to-do list. While you might wish you could check off all the items, the good news is that it’s not necessary and probably not even desirable—and you can still be super productive and take care of business.

We’ll start with the macro level and I’m going to borrow from Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog here. The first thing you need to do is determine what are the three most important functions that you and only you can perform best. Brian Tracy refers to these as the Law of Three.

If you’re an IT consultant, that might be 1) working with customers, 2) learning about new technology, and 3) drumming up new business. If that’s the case, doing anything else—like bookkeeping or filing—becomes a poor use of your time and you should cut it out altogether, delegate it or outsource it. If you’re me (and lucky for you, I’m the only one who is), those three functions are 1) client care, 2) sales and marketing, and 3) staff care.

I’m willing to bet that if you take 60 seconds right now to figure out your own three most important tasks, you’ll be able to do it. They tend to be pretty obvious. So go ahead and do it.

On to the micro level. Within each of those functions there are many, many to-dos. For example, client care for me means talking with clients about their business support needs, matching them with the best staff member, following up to see how things are going, and responding to any communication from them.

So, how to manage all those pieces? I have a notebook that contains all of my to-dos, whether they be urgent or not-so-urgent. Each morning, out of that notebook I create a daily to-do list. Since I know I won’t get to everything, I further prioritize the items using the ABCD system. (Also from Brian Tracy.) A = I must do today; B = I should do today; C = It would be nice to do today; D = Don’t do it. Ds never get onto my to-do list.

The week before last when I was exceptionally busy and my to-do list included attending to new customers as well as writing a newsletter, my customers were the priority. I have always had a clear sense of priorities but the Law of 3 and ABCD systems have given me a really easy way to think about my priorities and make sure I focus on them. If you don’t already have a system that’s working for you, I suggest you try this one out.

If you do have a system you like, what is it? I’d love to hear!