Archive for May, 2013

What Is an EIN?

What is an EIN? How do I get an EIN?

For those in the United States or U.S. territories, an EIN (Employer Identification Number) is an identification number you get from the IRS used to identify a business entity.

This number used to be primarily for those businesses that had or intended to hire employees (which is why it was called the Employer Identification Number).

The IRS relaxed that standard in recent years, and it’s used these days as an all-purpose Federal Tax Identification Number.

This is particularly helpful for sole proprietors because they can obtain and use an EIN now instead of their Social Security number on forms they give to clients and others.

You need an EIN if you:

  • Started a new business or purchased a going one;
  • Hired or will hire employees, including household employees;
  • Opened a bank account that requires an EIN for banking purposes;
  • Are a foreign person and need an EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations;
  • Formed a partnership or corporation; or
  • Had a change in ownership or structure/formation of a business (such as changing a sole proprietorship to a corporation or partnership).

There is no fee required, you do not need to have employees, and you can obtain an EIN instantly right online.

In navigating these matters, always talk with your accountant and visit the IRS website for the most accurate, up-to-date information and advice.

This Isn’t the Sims

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This isn’t the Sims.

You are real.

Your business is real.

The work you do, which is also real, creates real benefits and results for clients in their businesses and their lives.

There’s nothing virtual about any of that, and those are the only things that matter.

A business is a business.

So stop using such a ridiculous, superfluous, attenuating word as “virtual” in your biz name and marketing.

Are You Being Treated Like a Dog?

Are You Being Treated Like a Dog?

I was reading a blog post from a fellow talking about how he communicates with his assistant. It amounted to what I call being grunted at. One or two word commands and directives.

I would never allow a client to talk to me like that. And you couldn’t pay me to work with anyone like that. Not for any amount of money. Because it’s demeaning and dehumanizing.

Countless people in our industry have written to me over the years about feeling demoralized working with clients who treat them like nameless, faceless robots.

Here’s how this happens:

They come into this industry and start their businesses with this crazy idea that they’re supposed to be good little assistants, seen but not heard, doing everything they are told, practically the family dog who’s supposed to fetch and shake and rollover on command.

They work with clients like they’re on an assembly-line, like they’re still that employee waiting to be told what to do, letting clients tell them how their business is going to be run and how things are going to be.

But you are NOT an assistant.

You’re running a business to deliver a specific professional expertise, no different than a doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc.

You are someone with special skills, talents and experience in the art and craft of administrative support. An expert. A specialist.

If you want a happy business and life, put your name and face on your business. Be the expert.

YOU tell clients how you operate and how you will work together. YOU tell them what the policies, procedures and protocols for working with you are. YOU tell them what your standards and values are, where the boundaries are and what the rules and guidelines are.

And in having standards, that includes expecting and informing clients that you expect to be treated with the dignity of a human being and spoken to in complete sentences.

You’re not a robot or a vending machine they are barking orders at or punching orders into.

Don’t allow them to view you as their personal assistant/servant/gopher or substitute employee.

I always use the example of attorney and accountant because that’s exactly how I want clients to equate the nature of our relationship, that it will be like the one they have with their attorney or accountant. How they work together and speak with them is the same way they will be working with and speaking to me.

Dump any client who can’t get with the program. If they want an employee, that’s who they need to hire.

And then, when you are left with the ideal clients who treat you with the proper manner and respect accorded to professionals who are helping them, treat each and every one of them like the VIPs they are.

That doesn’t mean being obsequious and subservient. It means making each one feel special, important and valued. And you’ll be able to do that at a high level for those clients because you aren’t allowing yourself to be demeaned and having your morale and energy zapped by crappy ones.

Oh, and stop calling yourself a virtual assistant. You call yourself an assistant and then are shocked/irritated/perplexed when they treat you like one.

Assistant is a term of employment. Stop using that word. It’s ridiculous in this day and age of business to be using that word.

This is why we are the ADMINISTRATIVE CONSULTANTS Association.

What Makes You Awesome?

What Makes You Awesome?

I was catching up on some of my ACA emails from last week while I was out on the road and some of the questions I received had me reflecting about self-esteem and confidence.

So much of our business success depends not only on professional self-esteem, but also our personal self-esteem, from which a lot of our confidence arises as a byproduct.

If someone suffers from poor personal self-esteem, this can hold her back greatly in her business pursuits. She can be more risk-averse and talk herself out of trying things and stepping out of her comfort zones because negative self-talk has already told her she’ll fail.

Which got me to thinking how can this be combatted? How can a low self-esteem be uplifted so a person can focus on her strengths and increase her confidence and feel inspired that she CAN do it in her business?

It seems like one great exercise would be to begin a list of all the things you think are great about you:

  • What are you proud about in yourself?
  • What are your personal and professional strengths?
  • What personal traits and qualities about yourself do you love and embrace?
  • What kind of professional skill do you excel at?
  • What scary steps did you take outside your comfort zones (these are successes you should be proud of and celebrate)?
  • What small victories and successes have you had?

Think of every positive thing you can and keep adding it to this list any time you think of something.

And then when you are feeling down about yourself, either in your business or your personal life, read that list. It will remind you of all that is awesome and great about YOU, that you CAN do this, and that you DO help and give to others every day with your unique skills, talents, qualities, expertise and YOU-ness.

How to Fix It: Outlook Email Signature Image Won’t Display

Has this ever happened to you?

You set up an email signature in Outlook that includes an image.

Everything is working fine. Then one day you notice your image is no longer appearing. Instead, all you see is that familiar red “x” where the image is supposed to be.

You have images enabled so that’s not the problem. And you checked with your email recipients and they all see your signature image at their end just fine. What gives?!

This used to drive me nuts and I finally found the culprit!

It has to do with the Outlook Temporary folder and and here’s how to fix it if you’re on Outlook 2003/Microsoft XP (that’s the only place I’ve ever had this problem):

  1. Close Outlook
  2. On your computer, click on START — RUN|
  3. Type REGEDIT in the Run box that appears.|
  4. The Registry Editor will appear with a list of files. Double-click on the OutlookSecureTempFolder.|
  5. An Edit String box will appear. Select and copy the link that appears in the Value Data field.|
  6. Open Windows Explore and paste in the link. This will take you to your Outlook Temporary folder. Select all the files in this folder and delete.|
  7. Now, open Outlook and your signature image will “magically” be displayed again!

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