Archive for the ‘A Message for Clients’ Category

What Do You Love About Your Favorite Client?

What is it about your favorite client that makes him or her your favorite?

My favorite client is easy to work and get along with.

He’s been my willing guinea pig whenever I want to try something new (because he knows his business will end up benefiting in the long run).

He’s funny and easy-going.

He responds quickly to all my emails and never keeps me waiting or guessing.

We have great brainstorming sessions and he readily asks for and takes my advice.

I feel respected as a professional and the administrative expert in our relationship.

We’ve had some ouches along the way, like when he had to pay more money to keep working with me.

In the end, though he might grumble a little at first, he always realizes he makes more money, and his life and business are a lot easier, because of my support and expertise.

We make a great team.

How about you? What makes working with your favorite client a joy?

Get Your Synergy On

One of the independent experts who supports me in my business is my programmer, who has been working with me for about three years now.

My tech guy (as I like to call him) and I are in the midst of several big projects. In working together, it reminds me about how awesome the dynamic is when you work with someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship. Not to mention just being able to hand over work to someone else who knows what they’re doing so that my brain stays free for ideating (to borrow the term from the IBM commercial).

That’s not to say that I just throw work at him and forget it. It’s a participatory process.

I need to pay attention to his questions as they come up, and respond in a timely manner.

I appreciate his skills, attention and responsiveness, and give him the respect of responding quickly when has a question or needs feedback from me.

He is doing work that is important to me, after all, and it would be both rude and wasteful to make him wait on me for an undue amount of time.

The wonderful thing is that there’s a mutual respect that occurs in this dynamic, one that creates a whole other creative level for brainstorming and innovation to occur.

And for clients, it’s like this when you work with an Administrative Consultant as well.

The participatory process that is inherent in the collaborative partnership is why clients are able to accomplish so much more with an Administrative Consultant.

The back-and-forth give-and-take creates a synergy that allows you to work together at a higher, more productive level.

And the longer you work together and get to know each other, the easier and better all of that gets.

You can’t get that kind of dynamic working with someone impersonally or only occasionally on a transactional basis.

It’s something that only comes by working in close, one-on-one partnership with someone over a period of time.

The longer you work together, the more your shared body of knowledge and intimate familiarity grows and the more cohesively and intuitively you are able to mesh, think and work in sync.

Hysterical: Please Design a Logo for Me. With Pie Charts. For Free.

Omigawd, I can’t stop laughing. You HAVE to read this hilarious post by David Thorne:

http://www.27bslash6.com/p2p.html

The whole thing is just beyond witty, but I think my favorite lines are:

“I would then travel several months back to warn myself against agreeing to do copious amounts of design work for an old man wielding the business plan equivalent of a retarded child poking itself in the eye…”

and:

“Usually when people don’t ask me to design them a logo, pie charts or website, I, in return, do not ask them to paint my apartment, drive me to the airport, represent me in court or whatever it is they do for a living.”

Oh, and the graphics… can’t forget the graphics, LOL. So perfect.

Obviously, the post isn’t supposed to be politically correct, and it just wouldn’t be as funny if it were.

But amongst the irreverence, there’s this little nugget of truth (in response to the client’s  trivialization of  the work and request for what amounts to free services):

“Actually, you were asking me to design a logotype which would have taken me a few hours and fifteen years experience.”

Anyone else find this as hysterical as I do?

Continuity Is the Name of the Game

Here’s an article I wrote for clients and published today in The Portable Business™. 

Administrative Consulting is all about continuity, where ongoing administrative support is the name of the game (“ongoing” being the operative word here).

Administration isn’t a project.

It’s not something that is done once and presto! you’re done.

Administrative support is a collective group of ongoing tasks, functions and roles that keep your business organized and running smoothly.

This is precisely what separates administrative support from piecemeal secretarial services.

Said another way, administrative support is a relationship.

In order for it to work — indeed, for the magic to happen — it requires the active participation of both client and Administrative Consultant.

This means you, the client, are an integral part of the equation. If you are absent from the relationship, it won’t work and you will end up dissatisfied.

Here are three vital ingredients you must bring to the table to ensure you get to experience the most fruitful and rewarding aspects of working with an Administrative Consultant:

  1. Show up and be present. Your participation is necessary. An Administrative Consultant cannot care more about your business than you do. If you disappear for long periods of time and then all of a sudden show up with a flurry of requests you need done “like yesterday,” well, that just isn’t going to work. An Administrative Consultant has other clients to serve who are just as important as you. Don’t expect her to drop everything and disregard her previously scheduled work and commitments; you’ll have to wait your turn.
  2. No dumping. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Administrative support is not about dumping everything in a heap on your Administrative Consultant and walking away, leaving her with a mess to sort out. Every Administrative Consultant has her own work request methods and management systems. You will be required to follow whatever her process or procedure is for submitting work so that it can be managed effectively and accomplished in the most timely manner possible in a way that is fair and consistent for all her clients.\
  3. Be respectful. An Administrative Consultant is not your hired help. She is an administrative expert and collaborative partner. Business owners who can’t extend common courtesy and mutual respect are not a good fit for working with a Virtual Assistant. You show your respect by:
  • Paying on time without any hassles;
  • Making your meetings and appointments with your Administrative Consultant a priority, showing up prepared, and canceling with appropriate (not last second) notice when you can’t;
  • Answering her questions and returning your feedback and input in a timely manner; and
  • Observing the policies and procedures she has in place that allow her to give great customer service to her clients (all of them, not just you) and make her business (and yours) run smoothly.

RESOURCE: For more information on having a successful relationship with an Administrative Consultant, be sure to check out our free online client guide guide: A Client’s Guide for Getting Your Business Relationship with an Administrative Consultant Off to the Best Start

Rant: I’m Not Your Employee

Just saw some idiotic tweet on Twitter. Nothing irritates me more than reading any variation of the ridiculous phrase “…manage your Virtual Assistant…”

Exxxxcuuuuuuuuuuse me?!

Virtual Assistants are not “managed.” A Virtual Assistant is not an employee. Do clients “manage” their attorney? Their accountant? Their doctor? Their mechanic? Their plumber?

Why on earth do they have this insulting notion that they are going to manage us?

Why? Because Virtual Assistants themselves insist on allowing themselves to be led around by the nose by clients like a bunch of schmucks.

They don’t have the balls to come out and say “no” to clients, to say no to being “managed;” to correct clients when it’s clear they don’t have the proper understanding of the nature of the relationship.

They’re so freaking afraid of losing the client. What hostages! I can’t imagine living life like that.

It’s both sad and maddening at the same time.

To Would-Be Clients: I run my own business, thank you very much. I am not your employee. I am your Administrative Consultant. You’re not going to manage me anymore than I am going to manage you. I expect you to talk to me and about me with the same professional respect you would have for any other kind of professional you expect to help you in business. Otherwise, we have no business together.

Why You Just Gotta Pick the RIGHT Clients

Nothing good ever comes from taking on any ol’ client.

You’re not Walmart and this isn’t cookie-cutter work you do.

This is a personal one-on-one relationship as unique as you and each individual client.

Fit is going to be absolutely vital for it to be successful, enjoyable,profitable and of mutual value and benefit to you and the client.

Client’s who don’t “get it” are going to be painful to work with at best and a nightmare at worst.

I recently had a conversation with a business owner who stated she had learned in a internet marketer training that those of us in this industry must be managed and treated like employees.

I stopped her right there and asked her how she would feel if her clients spoke about her in those terms.

And of course she wouldn’t like that at all. It’s an absolutely insulting idea.

I further educated her that beyond professional respect and having the right attitude, for legal reasons it was of vital importance she understand that we are business owners and business owners are NOT managed or supervised in any way, shape or form — or else they are employees. And they can get themselves in a whole lot of expensive legal hot water working with missclassified employees. 😉

If you have a client who is nodding their head “yes,” but all indications are that they really don’t understand the nature of your relationship (i.e., business-to-business) no matter how well you have tried to educate them, and they persist in treating you like an employee, tell them “thanks, but no thanks.”

That kind of relationship will never work between two businesses.

You are eventually going to resent being treated like an underling and not being given professional courtesy and respect as a fellow business owner.

And ill-fitting clients can do a great deal of damage to your reputation when they aren’t happy, even if they are the ones in the wrong or don’t get it.

To clients, I say this… if you’re working with someone you feel you must manage and treat like an employee, there’s one of two things going on:

a) You’re a control freak who needs an employee, not an Administrative Consultant; or

b) You’re working with the wrong person.

Administrative Consultants are independent business owners. They aren’t your employees. They aren’t your “virtual staff.” They aren’t part of your “team.”

If they aren’t operating to a professional standard and can’t manage their own business and workload in a reasonably responsive and/or skillful manner, I really recommend you terminate your relationship with them and find someone else.

To Administrative Consultants, I want to remind you to lead your own show.

Don’t let clients dictate how your business is run or what your policies and processes are.

If your standard is to provide clients with a one-hour, weekly telephone meeting, stick with that. Don’t make exceptions.

You established your policies so that you could run both profitably and productively while being able to serve ALL your clients to an equally fair, consistent and dependable standard.

If that means saying “no” to clients when they want to call you every day (because you’ve set up a very intentioned work schedule and need the uninterrupted concentration)…

If that means saying “no” to clients when they want you to sit on a shared screen access as they talk to themselves and go through their inbox (because that is NOT a good use of your time)…

If that means saying “no” to clients who want you to “report” to them on a daily basis and/or turn in timesheets to them (you’re not their employee and this is an inappropriate request and expectation)…

So be it!

Take the lead in your own business!

You explain to clients how things work and what your processes are in your business, not the other way around.

That said, none of this is to punish clients.

You have standards, policies and processes intentionally and methodically set up in your business because they are what will enable you to run and deliver a professional service.

By saying “no” to things that don’t serve your business, what you are saying “yes” to in the process are great operating conditions that will allow you to provide superior service to all your clients – consistently, fairly, professionally and profitably.

It doesn’t serve anyone to allow your standards and processes to be stepped over and your time unproductively frittered away.

It’s a disservice to the business because it makes the operation unprofitable.

It’s a disservice to your other clients who aren’t making inappropriate demands and deserve your equal time and attention.

It’s a disservice to you because it will inhibit your ability to work with more clients and make more money.

And ultimately it doesn’t serve that client because you are establishing unrealistic expectations that you won’t be able to sustain and simply don’t work in the long-term big-picture.

Clients Who Want to Take ShortCuts with Your Processes

I had a business owner contact me through my consultation request form last week.

She didn’t want a consultation, however. Instead, she gave me a laundry list of questions she wanted answered via email, indicating she “didn’t have time” to go through my telephone consultation process.

I had news for this client. If you don’t have time for my processes, I don’t have time for you as a client.

Of course, I didn’t put it quite like that. I’m actually not accepting new clients right now, but before referring her to our directory, I explained to her the purpose and necessity for consultations.

No good generally comes from allowing prospective clients to take shortcuts with your processes.

First, as a business, you have processes and systems in place for a reason:  to help you find your right, ideal clients, and to operate your business in the most sustainable, profitable way possible.

That is to the client’s benefit, as well as yours. It’s a model and standard that has quality and integrity at its core.

But even more importantly, allowing clients to sidestep your important and well-purposed processes is a bad precedent to set in the relationship.

It tells the prospective client that your standards and processes are unimportant and to be disregarded.

This instills disrespect, and clients who try to shortcut everything tend end up being non-participants in the relationship who don’t do their equal part in the back-and-forth/give-and-take dynamic that is vital and necessary to your work together.

Clients need to do their homework and research; it is going to take time. Finding the right administrative partner is an investment.

They should be reading your website fully in order to determine if the next step is to talk with you, and if they are going to be worthwhile client candidates, they need to respect your processes. That is the first test of what they’re going to be like to work with.

If they don’t like that, they need to take a hike. Rushing or sidestepping the process doesn’t do them or you any good.

Of course, your job is to make sure your website has lots of relevant, substantive information to help them make that decision.

But it’s all just gonna take what it’s gonna take. And that’s as it should be.

Save your time, energy and consideration only for those clients who show they’ve done the necessary legwork, are happy to go through your processes, and who best demonstrate they are a fit.

Dear Danielle: What Is My Guarantee?

Dear Danielle:

I am interested in hiring an Administrative Consultant. My ideas are getting clearer, but I still haven’t completely thought through how it would work. I need to know that I can trust someone enough to give them access to my personal information and count on them to be reliable and competent enough to assign projects. My identity and reputation are at risk. What kind of references or assurances can I ask a candidate for? What can I do to safeguard myself if I do hire someone? –KP

For a relationship with an administrative support partner to work, you must first understand that this is a business-to-business relationship. I wasn’t sure from some of the terminology you used that you understood that so I feel it’s important to clarify this.

As far as know how it works, that’s the beauty of working with professionals who are in business for themselves. You don’t have to figure out how it works. That’s not your burden to shoulder. They will lead that process for you.

As business owners (not employees), we each have our own systems and processes for getting thing started with a new client.

One of the first things we do with any prospective client is have a conversation with you (i.e., consultation) where we ask you questions to learn more about you, your business and your challenges and goals in growing your business.

From there we make our support plan recommendations and together decide where the best place is to start supporting you.

If we decide to begin working together, we then give you the information you need to know about how our business works and what our policies and procedures are for communicating and submitting work requests.

As you consult with people in our industry to find the one who is right for you, they will explain how these things work in their own particular business, and how they can help you get started with their service.

As far as what assurances or guarantees you can expect, much of that is going to depend on how you go about your selection process.

Each person is an independent business owner. That means, you are going to need to do your homework, review websites and then talk with those who pique your interest and present themselves as the best qualified to meet your needs and the best match in terms of personality and chemistry.

None of us ever has any foolproof, 100% guarantee that we won’t have any problems with a service provider we select.

As consumers, all any of us can do is try to make the most educated choice based on value, quality, competence and fit.

That requires us to do our homework. Beyond that, there simply will need to be a minimum level of trust extended or else there is no basis for the business relationship.

Of course, I don’t advise any client to hand over vital, secure personal or business information right off the bat.

Keep in mind that this is an ongoing, collaborative relationship. As you continue to work together, your relationship and trust level evolves. If at some point it makes sense to give your administrative support partner access to certain security information in order to conduct work on your behalf, that’s something you can decide at any point along the way.

To help you select a qualified, competent and professional Administrative Consultant, I wrote a guide to help business owners know what to look for and why: How to Choose an Administrative Consultant

Grateful for Client Who Pay on Time

“Payday” is coming up for me on the 25th and I am reminded how grateful I am for wonderful clients who pay on time.

I am super-picky about who I work with.

Long experience and tough lessons learned (I’ve been in this business since 1997) have taught me that I absolutely can not afford to work with anyone who is a drain on my time, my energy or my spirit.

After years of refining and streamlining my business and gaining more and more clarity about who I work with best, who I like working with, and who is profitable for me to work with, I now have a client roster of wonderful folks who appreciate my work and are a pleasure to work with.

One of the benefits of those relationships is that I am never paid late. Part of that has to do with the standards and policies I’ve put in place in my business.

I work on monthly retainer where clients pay in advance for a monthly plan of administrative support customized for them. And I have all of my retainer clients on auto-pay so all I have to do is run their credit cards on the 25th of each month and I’m paid.

No late payments. No waiting around for checks. No chasing after my money and forgetful clients.

It’s a convenience for my clients as well and eliminates one less step they have to keep track of.

The other part is simply that I work with people who value our relationship and what my work brings to them and their business.

I am so grateful to all of my clients, who honor me with their business and confidence!

How to Properly Educate Potential Clients About What We Do

An attorney was relating that he was a solo with no employees and was finding himself spending an inordinate amount of time on administration and paralegal-type work.

He was aware of our industry and wanted more information to explore that route. However, he had a few misunderstandings about what we do (e.g., he thought he wanted someone local who could run work-related errands around town), so I spoke up to better educate him and nip any misconceptions in the bud.

I thought I would share my response with you all here as well.

(Notice that I specifically emphasize terms like “independent professional,” “business owner,” “administrative expertise” for example. This helps convey the proper nature of the business-to-business relationship.)

***

Hello Solo Attorney,

I’m so glad you’ve asked about how to get the administrative help you need in your practice.

A few of the reasons business owners hire an Administrative Consultant include:

  1. They don’t have room/space/equipment for in-house staff
  2. They prefer working alone and don’t want another person in their “space”
  3. They aren’t a large enough business that they have the kind of workload to justify the expense (and administrative hassles) of in-house staff, much less attract the interest of anyone qualified.

That said, you have to understand that we are not employees.

Administrative Consultants are independent professional — exactly like yourself — who are in the business of administrative support. Many of them who have paralegal and legal secretary training and experience specifically cater their support to attorneys.

Knowing that you are are hiring a service and not an employee, it’s also important to understand that there are going to be some differences in how you work together and what work they can support you with.

In the same way that you are in the business of practicing law, Administrative Consultants are in the business of administrative support. They don’t “run errands” or things of that nature. You’ll want to contact a concierge service for that. A local college student or paid intern would also fit the bill.

We Administrative Consultants, on the other hand, are in the business of taking on many of your administrative burdens and supporting you administratively in certain areas of your business.

They do the administrative work that would normally take your time, energy and attention away from the real work — the practice of law — that makes you money.

The great thing about Administrative Consultants is that you are getting a higher caliber of administrative knowledge, expertise and service than you would generally find in a temp or college student.

My association’s industry surveys indicate that the majority of those in our profession have at least 20 years real-world experience and training before going into business for themselves.

(But you will need to be discerning and do your homework because in the age of the internet, anyone can slap up a shingle even if they have little or no skills or qualifications to do so.)

Working together virtually is inherently more efficient and cost-effective. There is a huge amount of technology available that makes it a breeze to work together virtually, and Administrative consultants are experts when it comes to this. These are our tools of the trade after all and how we run our businesses.

You also don’t need to have a huge amount of work for an Administrative Consultant to be interested in working with you like you would with other support options. We typically work with clients in commitments of 10 –30 hours per month.

Plus, you are getting someone who is actually IN business, which means they’re interest is in sticking around and supporting you for the long-haul, not here today, gone tomorrow.

You can’t make a real investment in students or freelancers or work-at-home types who are just looking for side income because there’s no real business commitment on their part. The minute their life/interests/priorities/circumstances change, they are gone or become unreliable.

Administrative Consultants understand your work and business is important. It’s important to us as well.

Besides being in this business myself for over 10 years, I also run a professional association for Administrative Consultants. Anyone who is interested in finding qualified professionals to help support you administratively can check our Administrative Consultant Directory.

To help you know what to look for in a qualified Administrative Consultant and how to find the right one, be sure to also check our the ACA Client Guide.