One of the most important lessons I learned in my business early on, was how important it is to have and maintain a strong foundation in your business. In order to support our growth and efforts to achieve our goals, our business needs a solid infrastructure on which we can build. If this infrastructure is not in place, you could find yourself in a position where you are growing too fast too soon and not serving your clients nearly as well as you should be. This in turn will create unnecessary stress and frustration, which equals a not so happy Virtual Assistant who is working harder and making less money than she should.
So, it’s important to take stock of your business periodically and see how your foundation is holding up and what improvements you need to make. And if you’re just starting out, you’ll do yourself a HUGE favor by setting up a strong business foundation from day one. This is the perfect time of year to consider these points, as we are heading into fall and the final quarter of 2009. If you set aside time now to analyze your business operations and start making adjustments, you’ll be primed and ready to jump into 2010, while most everyone else is still trying to wrap their heads around their New Year’s resolutions!
Following are my top five tips for assessing your business and strengthening your foundation:
1) Review and revise your business plan – Many times business owners create a business plan when they are first starting out, get excited about it, but then file it away and never look at it again. Sometimes new entrepreneurs don’t even take the time to develop a simple business plan. This is a BIG mistake! Going through the steps to create a business plan is a terrific way to get all of your ideas out on paper and to create a roadmap to follow to grow your business. Its easy to think one can keep all of their ideas, goals and strategies locked safely in their memory. But there are two things wrong with that. 1) You absolutely can’t remember all of the details and 2) you’ll have a more difficult time working towards them because you haven’t committed your thoughts to paper. So schedule time on your calendar NOW to review and revise your business plan. (Or if you’re just starting out, to create one – which we will help you with in our “Get A Strong Start” class). Think about all that you’ve accomplished thus far in 2009 and map out your goals for 2010 and then how you’ll achieve them.
2) Take stock of your financial situation – For some this can be the least “exciting” part of running a business. That is having to deal with all of the “number stuff”. But, most of us start our companies to make a profit and support our families – not to unintentionally be running a non-profit organization where we work for free. You won’t know which category you fall into if you aren’t clear on the financial state of your business. If you are not already doing so, ask your accountant or bookkeeper to start running monthly reports of your expenses and income so you can see how profitable you REALLY are. You may be surprised to find out which of your services is actually most profitable and then start focusing more attention on those. Also, you’ll see clearly how your expenses are affecting your bottom line and what adjustments need to be made.
3) Review your business standards to see if they are still working for you – One of the things my coach helped me to do when I was first starting out was to create a set of standards for my business. This included the hours I would work, my fee structure, how I would handle different clients situations, illness/vacation, etc. – basically ALL of the details of how I would run my business. I highly recommend that you take the time to outline your standards as well. It’s your business, so the way you work and operate your business should be reflective of and work for you. After doing this you’ll be clear about your boundaries and can then easily (and tactfully) share them with your clients to ensure that you are supported and protected to do your best work.
4) Fine tune your marketing systems – Some Virtual Assistants have a bad habit of only marketing their business when they need a new client. That is a big no-no! As a business owner, you should only be spending your time on two things – 1) serving your clients and 2) marketing your business. If you don’t have a marketing system in place – meaning a strategic plan for how to consistently present your services/solutions to your ideal clients and enroll them in your practice, then now is the time to implement one. You should be regularly attending networking events where your ideal clients hang out, following up on leads, engaging in social media and pursuing other effective marketing strategies. Map out a plan of how you will market your business for the remainder of 2009 and then commit blocks of time on your calendar to work on your marketing efforts. Marketing your business will be a lot easier (and much more effective) if you consistently and comfortable share what you have to offer instead of operating from panic mode because you need a new client.
5) Start implementing systems in your business – You likely do some of the same tasks over and over again in serving your clients. At the very least, each week/month you’re doing bookkeeping, marketing, reporting to your clients on project progress, etc. As such you should be developing systems for every aspect of your business. A system is simple a list of guidelines or instructions about how to handle a particular task or project. It’s way for you to implement quality control into your Virtual Assistant practice so that you consistently deliver high quality results for yourself and your clients. It’s a way to save time, because you won’t have to think about or try and remember how to handle a particular project. And it’s a way to make more money. “How so?”, you may ask. Because you can easily delegate certain tasks to someone else, freeing up your time and mental energy to pursue your high-payoff activities. The more you systematize your business the more organized and profitable you will be. So, start today in outlining the steps you take to operate your business and serve your clients. Compile the instructions into one central document or binder and create your own operations manual. As you continue to grow you’ll have all of the information you need to run your business right at your fingertips.
Likely, you set out to be a Virtual Assistant because you wanted to pursue a career that would give you more control over your schedule and earning potential. So make it easier on yourself to achieve your goals, by taking steps to tighten up your foundation and get clear on your goals. Running a successful business obviously takes effort and dedication. And having a strong infrastructure and a solid plan to follow will ensure that you are spending your time and energy on the activities that will get you the results you want!
Your action plan for this week:
1) Pull out your business plan and schedule time to review and revise it by October 31st. (If you’re just starting out, set aside time to create your plan by the same date).
2) Pull year-to-date reports on your financial situation and review them with your bookkeeper or accountant to see what adjustments may need to be made.
3) Outline the details of how you will run your business so that it is working for YOU, not the other way around.
4) Review the strategies that have been most effective in marketing your business and then create a plan around how you will consistently implement these tactics to attract new business.
5) Start creating systems for EVERYTHING you do in your business and compile the information in one central location.