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How to Grow Your Business While Keeping Your Costs Down

At the end of the month, do you ever find yourself wondering where all your money went?

When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for everything your business pays for. Rent for offices, pay and benefits for employees, office supplies and technology… These are all your financial responsibilities and the costs can really add up.

If you want to be able to grow your business while keeping yours costs low, you don’t need to cut corners or scale back. You just need to take a few simple, smart steps to reduce your overhead while maintaining, or even increasing, productivity in the office.

1. Keep your Spending to a Minimum

When you’re first starting out, you need to keep all of your costs as low as possible. It takes some time to start bringing in a steady flow of income and you don’t want to accumulate business debt. It can take some time to build a customer base and get your company’s name out there. During that time, you need to think as frugally as possible.

For example, do you really need every kind of office supply right now? Just buy what you really need, and skip anything that’s not completely necessary.

If you need software for your business, look for free programs online that offer equal functionality. Instead of Microsoft Word, for example, you could give an online word processor like Google Docs a try. If you want a permanent program on your computer, look for LibreOffice, an open-source piece of software that offers a complete Office Suite. Doing a little research online about products like these can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Buying office furniture can easily push your budget way past the breaking point. Look for used desks and chairs, possibly from companies that have recently shut down. You might be able to get them for a fraction of the original cost.

Instead of hiring an employee, there’s also the option of engaging virtual staff who work as subcontractors and won’t require payroll or benefit costs. A virtual assistant already has their own equipment and programs at their disposal. You won’t have to supply them with a desk, a computer, office supplies, etc. Additional cost savings come into play because a good VA is already an expert at what they do and require minimal training. Hiring a VA can be a great way to cut down on all of those small office costs that can really add up over time.

2. Outsource the Small Jobs

As the owner of a business, it’s your job to keep an eye on the big picture. Interacting with clients and setting up deals are important and time-consuming tasks. You probably don’t have time to also take care of your website, keep an eye on payroll and bookkeeping, data mining, and internet research. Doing these small but necessary tasks can take a lot of your time, and time is definitely money in a small business.

Hiring a virtual assistant to take care of these small tasks can save you a lot of time and energy that’s better spent elsewhere. When you’re in the middle of one of these small jobs, just ask yourself, “Isn’t there something more important that I could be doing?”

3. Hire a Virtual Receptionist Instead of a Full-Time Secretary

Having a secretary is just fantastic. They can drastically cut down on your stress level by answering calls, sending emails, taking messages, and screening whoever wants to see you. The problem, of course, is that a secretary can be very expensive. Not only do you have to think about salary, you also need to think about their benefits, the cost of their training, sick days… For a small business, it probably isn’t worth it.

Thankfully, you can get a similar level of office support from a virtual assistant! A great VA can answer your calls for you, manage your emails and your calendar, and work as your human resources representative, all remotely. You don’t have to pay for training, as they’re already proficient. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that the office is in their safe and experienced hands.

4. Cut Down on Office Space

This point is supported by the previous two tips. All over the country, rent is skyrocketing. Commercial, residential, and across the board. If you’re just starting your small business, you probably aren’t going to be able to afford a large amount of office space, but if you have multiple onsite employees like a tech support person and a secretary, you’re going to need physical space for them. This can lead to a drastic increase in rental costs that can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

If you hire a virtual assistant, however, you can get the exact same workplace support without even needing them in the place of work! You can save a ton of money, possibly even finding a nicer office, because you don’t need a tremendous amount of workspace when your team works remotely.

5. Use Digital Marketing

Marketing and advertising can be some of the most costly expenses for any business. Getting your name out there isn’t cheap! When you consider the cost of print ads, radio, even television, it can end up extremely expensive. So, have you ever considered upping your digital marketing efforts?

Digital marketing can give you a far greater return on your advertising investment. Having a great webpage acts as a digital storefront, introducing your brand to hundreds of online prospective customers every day. Tweeting and using social media networks can allow you to connect with your clients in a way that traditional advertising just can’t. What’s more, you can leave your digital marketing in the hands of an experienced VA, saving you money on hiring an expensive firm. Hands down, digital marketing will give you the best bang for your buck.

 

If you’d like any help keeping the costs of your business down, please give me a call. I’m an experienced online business manager and a resourceful and flexible online business consultant. I’ve worked with many small businesses over the years as a virtual assistant and office manager, helping them achieve their potential at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. Let’s talk about you and your business’ future success!

5 Tips for Finding the Best Virtual Assistant in Toronto

So, you’re looking for the best Virtual Assistant in Toronto?

There are literally dozens upon dozens of people out there who call themselves Virtual Assistants. The problem is that they don’t all offer the same skills, dedication, and focus that you might be looking for. The best Virtual Assistant is someone who is able to give you their entire focus when you need it; someone who can help you out when you’re feeling stressed about the amount of work that needs to be done.

What are the qualities that you should look for when you’re trying to hire a Virtual Assistant?

1. Will They Be There When You Need Them?

One of the reasons you’re hiring a Virtual Assistant is because you need someone who can complete all of the little tasks that can build up and create a backlog on your to-do list. You need to find a VA who will be there when you need them.

A great Virtual Assistant should never be too far from their phone or computer, ready to respond to your messages within a few minutes of getting them, if not immediately. Although they might not be able to complete your desired task right away, they should be able to talk to you about it and set up a due date for the project that works for both of you.

2. Do They Ask Questions?

Have you ever given someone complex directions, asked them if they understood, and then they’ve just responded with a “Yup”? It always gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. If someone is actively engaged in a conversation, they should have lots of questions and thoughtful comments. The questions don’t mean that they don’t understand. The questions demonstrate that they just want to be as clear and get as many details as possible.

Inquisitiveness is a quality that a Virtual Assistant should have. A great VA wants to be able to do exactly what you ask as thoroughly and quickly as they can. Often times this requires that they ask quite a few questions. Curiosity is a fabulous trait, and one that you want to find in a VA.

3. Are You A Good Fit For One Another?

If you interact with someone on a daily basis, even if it’s just over the internet, it’s important to make sure that you click. Why would you want to spend time with someone who you don’t get along with? A Virtual Assistant is like any other employee in this sense. If you’re going to hire someone, make sure that you get along well.

When you first talk to a VA, ask yourself a few questions. Did you have a comfortable rapport with them? Did you feel at ease while you conversed? Do you feel like they understood you and you understood them? If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then you may have found your Virtual Assistant!

4. Do They Have the Skills You Need?

Although every Virtual Assistant should be adaptable and a jack-of-all-trades, there are some projects that might be beyond the average VA’s scope and ability. If you have a specialized business, or you deal with a lot of numbers and finances, then a general purpose VA might not be able to help you as much as you would like.

In these cases, look for Virtual Assistants who have the skills that you need for your business. From financial services to administrative tasks to online business management, identify your specific needs and make sure your virtual assistant can meet them.

5. Do They Complete Tasks On-Time?

One of the beauties of engaging a Virtual Assistant is to have someone that can complete the work you don’t have time to do. As a business owner, your time is extremely valuable. You need a partner who has your back. Whether you’re incredibly busy at a particular time of year, or there are important tasks that are just too time-consuming to do yourself, the last thing you want is to have to chase someone down for the completed projects.

You need to make sure that the Virtual Assistant you choose has the ability to hold to deadlines and get you the material you need on the day that you ask for it. Being able to stick to a deadline is an absolutely essential quality to look for in a Virtual Assistant.

Finding A Diamond In The Rough

Finding and onboarding the right Virtual Assistant can take some energy and hard work. You need to find someone who can handle the details, go the extra mile, and make sure that you’re getting the virtual support that you need to help your business grow.

When I first started Milky Way VA, I knew that I could bring my experience working in a diverse number of business environments to my clients. I know what it’s like to manage a business, and the level and quality of support that you need from your staff on a daily basis.

As a Virtual Assistant, I love helping my clients to reach their goals. I’m resourceful, have excellent time management skills, and excel in a number of areas such as financial matters, administrative duties, and online business management. If you’re looking for a great partner to help your business succeed, don’t hesitate to send me a message. We can have a chat to see if we’re the right fit to work together. I can’t wait to get to know you, your business, and your goals!

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions a Reality for your Business

Do you remember last year’s New Year’s Resolution? If you can’t, that’s ok. I suspect very few of us can. Studies have shown that New Year’s Resolutions don’t really work. Everyone always enters January with high hopes, but then they’re usually dashed by February. Why is that so often the case?

Most New Year’s Resolutions don’t succeed because they aren’t really achievable goals. They’re more like wishes. For example, “I’m going to lose weight this year” usually really means “I wish that I would lose some weight.” A wish isn’t realistic unless it’s accompanied by a plan.

The key to setting achievable Resolutions is to have both a specific goal and a method set out. Instead of just saying that you want to get in shape, a better Resolution would be to go to the gym every Wednesday morning. Setting a specific task provides you with parameters that give motivate to reach an outcome.

With that said, here are some excellent New Year’s Resolutions for business owners and entrepreneurs, and some concrete suggestions of how you can achieve them:

Wish: Get More Customers

Method: Redefine Your Social Media Marketing Presence

Even if you have a solid social media presence online, the new year is a great time to reevaluate and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

What kind of follower interactions are you getting on Facebook? Is your company Tweeting daily? Are you networking with new professionals on LinkedIn? Are your blog posts driving traffic? What kinds of content is getting the most engagement? By boosting your social media presence, you’ll be able to reach many more customers and readily engage with the ones you already have.

Some great ways to get your company out there are to start a monthly newsletter or ezine, write weekly blog posts that you can promote on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and readily follow other industry professionals on social media platforms to see what they’re up to. The internet is the best and most inexpensive marketing tool at your disposal. Try one of these three suggestions and monitor the response from your customers. I bet it will be positive!

Wish: Establish Yourself as an Industry Expert

Method: Learn More About Your Industry

Learning is the hallmark of success. It was true back when you were in school and it’s just as true now.

Learning more about your industry can only be a good thing. It automatically puts you leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors, who, odds are, aren’t going out of their way to learn anything new. By resolving to go to a conference, read more books, or just check out some great business blogs online, you can expand your knowledge of your business and get an edge over your competitors.

Of course, saying “I’m going to read more books” is easy, but actually reading them is more challenging. Pick a few specific titles that you want to read over the next year and put them on your nightside table. This will greatly increase the odds that you’ll pick one up.

Learning is a lifelong process, so make the upcoming year the one where you double down on your studies!

Wish: Grow Your Business

Method: Plan Ahead for the Coming Year

Do you have a written-out business plan for the future? If not, you should create one. Having a written out plan for the new year, with measurable targets and goals, can really help you keep on track. A yearly business plan should also not be set in stone. It should be malleable, and able to change with market realities and shifts throughout the coming year.

Write your business plan on your computer and then print off a copy. Keep it somewhere accessible in your desk drawer or a nearby filing cabinet so that you can make notes when you have any new ideas or thoughts. Every month, update the plan on your computer with the notes you’ve taken to keep it current.

Your business plan shouldn’t just be focused on what you want to do, it should also lay out some of the potential dangers and obstacles that might lie ahead. Having a plan to deal with these issues means that you’ll be prepared to quickly address challenges if they arise in the coming year.

Wish: Find A Healthy Work/Life Balance

Method: Block Off Personal Time In Your Calendar

A healthy work/life balance is about more than just leisure time. Your life outside of work is what refuels your heart and soul. Spending time with your family and friends reminds you why you do what you do.

Make personal time a priority in your calendar. Try to set up a weekly dinner or get together with friends, and keep it in your schedule. A good work/life balance can help to keep you healthy. Book regular visits to the gym in your calendar, or block off time for whatever your preferred form of exercise may be. Whether it’s a run, a dance class, or roller derby, regular exercise can help keep your body healthy, your mind alert, and your motivation alive.

Finding the proper balance between your time at the office and time away can require some give and take, and trial and error. Once you find it, you’ll discover that one will compliment the other! It’s a worthy goal for the new year.

Wish: Be Successful

Method: Rediscover Why You Love Doing What You Do

Every now and then, we lose track of why we do what we do. Work can become just that: work. The advent of the new year is the perfect opportunity to remind yourself why you started your own business in the first place.

Rediscover your love for your industry by doing the tasks you love more often. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, so why do it if you don’t enjoy something about it? Find that special something again, write it down, and look at it every now and then to remind yourself how much you love to do what you do. It will help you to redefine your vision of success.

The Heart of Resolutions

Of course, all of these suggestions are things that you should be doing all year round, not just in January! But the new year does provide a useful benchmark and a chance to reorient yourself.

Most of the time, achieving your goals is a matter of time. Specifically, not having enough time! A surefire way to achieve many of these Resolutions is to hire a Virtual Assistant to help you out so that you’re more available to take care of the things that are most important. A great VA can help you to maintain your internet presence, optimize your daily schedule, and just get all of the little annoying tasks out of the way so that you can remember why you loved your business enough to start it in the first place!

Please feel free to give me a call to discuss how I can make your life and business easier in the new year.

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