Opportunity Knocks (Time Sensitive Offer)

I received the loveliest review from my colleague Mary Culbertson the other day and wanted to share with you:

I’m always so thankful and appreciative to hear from my colleagues who have purchased my administrative support business products because I know we all lead busy lives.

So, when someone takes time out of their own busy day to let me know how I’ve been able to help them in their business journey, well, it’s just the best feeling in the world and makes my heart so happy.

Starting a business, any business, can be very daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. It’s not just the practical stuff that you have to figure out, but there’s all this mental chatter and self-doubt that goes on in our heads.

The one thing that I know for a fact helps people get over those nagging self-doubts and feeling unsure of themselves is having a plan, a template, a system to guide our efforts all along the way. This is what each and every business guide, template and tool in the ACA Success Store gives you.

I’m going to be launching something soon and it’s pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself.

I’m working on the finishing touches and if you’re on my mailing list, you’ll get the announcement (if you’re not on my mailing list, simply subscribe to this blog and you’ll be added).

This will be a getting back to basics of sorts and it’s going to fit the needs of both new and already started administrative support business owners.

And don’t worry. What it will NOT be is yet another huge program that is going to cost a small fortune. In fact, a large part of it is going to be completely free.

However, you are going to need the pieces to the system that I offer in the ACA Success Store to be able to participate.

So, toward that effort, I’d like to give you a little leg up in the meantime:

From now until midnight, Sunday (April 30), take 25% off all Success Store products with this code: opportunityknocks

Simply paste that code into the discount field when you checkout and it will give you 25% off your purchase price.

If you’ve followed me long, you know that I quit doing sales and discounts a long time ago, so this is a rare opportunity that would be foolish to waste. I won’t be offering it again.

Head over to the Success Store and place your purchase now.

I hope you’ll avail yourself of this chance. It’s going to be amazing!

Too Much Accessibility Is Not a Good Thing

Too Much Accessibility Is Not a Good Thing

Contrary to popular belief, too much accessibility is not a good thing.

This advice column is a good reminder of that.

It uses the example of a co-worker overstepping boundaries, but the same principle applies when it comes to clients: You don’t need to be so instantly available.

In fact, it can actually lead to the opposite effect of what you intend: poor customer service and unrealistic client expectations.

When you respond instantly to every beck and call, you are training your clients to think you have nothing better to do than sit there and jump as soon as they command.

That is NOT a good precedent to set in your administrative support business as it leads to all kinds of boundary overstepping, disrespect (of you and your time as a business owner with other clients to care for), and resentment (and resentment is a relationship-killer).

Keeping some buffer area around you is actually healthy for your business and the relationship.

This is why I’m always advising people in our industry to formalize their communication standards and turn-around times, and then inform clients about those policies and protocols so they know ahead of time how things work in your business and what to expect (as well as what they may not expect).

So whose fault is it when this becomes a problem?

Hint: It’s not the client’s.

That’s like getting mad at someone for calling you in the middle of dinner. You’re the one who answered the phone. They didn’t have a gun to your head. 😉

It’s you who has to adjust the behavior and set the standards.

I don’t let clients call or text me for several reasons:

  1. I don’t want to be chased around and sweated like that.
  2. I’d never get anything done.
  3. I’m not trying to be that technologically connected. Remember: healthy boundaries. Technology should be a tool, not an obsession. There’s a time and purpose for it, but outside of that, I don’t want it taking over and interrupting my life. For me, it’s a conscious decision to keep it to a minimum.
  4. I don’t want to have to chase after a million loose ends scattered all over a bunch of different channels. That just creates more work and chaos that is neither efficient nor a productive use of time and energy. Plus, it allows more room for error. Order is the name of the game.

I inform and instruct clients at the beginning of our relationship that all our communication is to be by email (with separate emails for each separate topic, by the way). Client calls are reserved for our regularly scheduled weekly meetings or by appointment otherwise.

This way, I can use my inbox as the central communication hub, have a “paper” trail (so to speak) for everything, and be able to keep everything organized, sorted and tidy in one place.

So, I tell clients: You can email me any time of day or night, but here is how and when your communications and requests are handled…

(I also explain why these standards are of value and benefit to them: because ultimately, they allow me to provide them with better service and support.)

And then I honor those standards I’ve set and don’t overstep my own boundaries.

Have you formalized your communication and turn-around standards and protocols? Have you incorporated that information into your client guide? Are you going over that information with clients in your new client orientations?

If not, make it a priority to do so now. You’ll thank yourself later, and clients will both respect and be impressed by it.

It demonstrates to them that you have good management skills which gives them greater trust and confidence that you will competently manage and deliver the work you do for them.

And, you’ll be modeling smart business practices that they can implement in their own businesses (with your help).

Um, Hello?! Do You LIKE Being Devalued?

Telling people you cost less and that they’ll save money by hiring you is basically TELLING them to devalue you.

It’s a cattle-call to all the worst kinds of clients out there (you know, the cheapskates who want everything for nothing and think nothing you do is good enough).

You might think this is the sexy message it takes to attract attention, but what it gets you is the wrong attention from the wrong kind of clients.

All this talk about saving and lower costs and being affordable and cheaper than an employee, etc., puts people in poverty/scarcity mindset.

But you need for clients to stop clutching the purse strings in order to invest in you and themselves.

So, you’re defeating your purpose by making your marketing message all about the money.

Stop doing that.

Something worth having is worth paying well for. (And clients who pay well are worth having, believe you me. You want that for yourself, don’t you?)

Stop talking about the money, and start talking about all that clients gain from working with you.

My Challenge to You

Start a list of all the ways your clients’ circumstances are improved by working with you, all that they gain, how they benefit.

DO NOT list anything having to do with money or saving it in any way.

The resulting list (which you can keep adding to throughout the life of your business) is what your marketing message should be all about.

(Keep this list in a tool like Workflowy so you can add to it on the fly quickly and easily.)

Better Yet, How Important Is It to YOU?

What Is Important to YOU?

A new colleague posed this question to would-be clients on another forum:

“On a scale of 1-10, one being low and ten being high, how important is it to you to connect on a personal level with your administrative support partner?”

What I want to know is how important is it to YOU to have a personal connection with your clients?

Once you know what kind of clients YOU want, you can focus on attracting the kind of clients who are ideal for you.

A few years ago a colleague came to me seeking help out of a desperate situation in her administrative support business.

She had inherited her business from someone who used others to do the work. So, the clients she also inherited had no personal knowledge or connection with the person(s) who did the work. They just barked orders and expected it to be done.

The problem with that is she came to resent being treated like a robot, like a human vending machine.

Because there was no personal, human connection, these clients treated her poorly, spoke to her disrespectfully, and on top of that, expected everything instantly, and, of course, wanted to pay little or nothing for it.

And there were virtually never any thank-yous or words or gestures of appreciation. That’s what happens when you have an impersonal, transactional relationship with clients: you get treated like a commodity, a human vending machine.

She also didn’t have a business website — and didn’t think she needed one since her practice was already full and she was having difficulty dealing with her current clients as it was.

I explained to her that without a website, she was missing out on the opportunity to humanize her business and fix the very problem she was having.

A website would allow her to put her face and personality on the brand, pre-educate potential clients about how her business works and the kind of clients with whom she was looking to work — thereby presetting expectations and organically prequalifying more ideal client candidates.

You can do the same.

Figure out who would make you most happy working with and gear everything on your website to speak to those types of clients and educate them about who is a fit for you.

This makes for a much happier, more fulfilling business.

You may have to kiss a few frogs before you perfect your client-qualifying criteria. Just don’t think that you have to accept any and every client who comes your way, or that you have to live and die by what clients (think) they want.

YOU get to decide what you want your business to look like and how you want to work with clients and what kind of clients you want to work with. Everything else will fall into place from there.

When you build your business to suit your needs and requisites first, the right clients will follow. You’ll get more ideal clients, and your business will be much more profitable and gratifying.

***

How about you? Do you have a business website or are you trying to get by with just a LinkedIn or Facebook account? How much of a personal connection do you prefer with your clients? Have you ever had clients who didn’t treat you like a person?

You Are NOT a Remote Worker

I find it annoying when articles written about people in the administrative support business refer to them as “remote workers.”

People who are running businesses are not “remote workers.”

“Remote worker” is a term of employment meaning “telecommuter” (i.e., an employee who works from home).

Attorneys are not remote workers. Accountants are not remote workers. Web designers are not remote workers. Bookkeepers are not remote workers. Coaches are not remote workers. And neither are people who provide administrative support as a business remote workers.

These are professionals who are in business providing a service and expertise.

This stuff is so important to your mindset in business because how you think of yourself, how you understand your role, directly affects how potential clients see and understand your business as well, and it affects how your relationship rolls out from there.

Discussions like this are good reminders to always keep in mind that how you think about yourself and the service you’re in business to provide and the words and terms you use impacts how you portray your business and how would-be clients see it, and the kind of clients you attract.

If you don’t want clients who treat you like their employee, you need to portray your service in a more business-like (not employee-like) manner.

That includes not using employment terminology in any way — including the word “assistant” or “remote worker.”

***

How about you? Did you realize that “remote worker” is a term of employment? Is there content on your website that can be improved so clients are better informed about the nature of your
business-to-business relationship?

Competitive Advantage Isn’t About the Competition

Competitive Advantage Isn't About the Competition

You all are smart enough to understand that “competitive advantage” has nothing to do with your colleagues, right?

“Competitive advantage” is about emphasizing those unique traits, attributes, experiences, perspectives and strengths that help your ideal clients connect with you.

It’s what helps bring your educational marketing message to life and stand out from the sea of rote, repetitive scripts that everyone else parrots.

It’s about illuminating your uniqueness, giving your right clients a reason to choose you, making it easier for them to recognize your special, extra sparkle and discern that you’re the right fit for them.

It’s not a competition with your colleagues.

It’s a communication that happens between you and your potential clients.

***

Have you thought about or identified your unique and extra attributes that clients enjoy when they work with you? Is this something you struggle with? Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments. Maybe we can help. 🙂

I Am Replaceable

 

I was watching a video one recent morning and it reminded me of something that I wanted to share with you:

I am replaceable… and that’s a good thing.

What I mean is this:

I am not indispensable because I keep my clients dependent on me.

I’m indispensable because I empower them to run their own businesses without me if, when and where they need to or should they ever choose to.

Any of them could walk away from me tomorrow and be okay and not lost as to what or where anything is.

If I got sick or anything happened to me (god forbid), they are all in great shape to be able to take over and run with things themselves.

I don’t withhold their own information from them (e.g., think web designers who withhold passwords or sign up for client domains and hosting in their own names instead of the client’s).

I don’t make them have to go through me to get access to their own documents, administration and services.

I specifically use certain tools and work with clients in ways that they always have access to everything they need.

They stay with me by choice, not because they’re stuck and it would be too much trouble to extricate themselves.

They stay because I make their business (and life) better. I ease their burdens. They have less stress and more free time.

Because I’m good at what I do and always do what I say I will, they trust me implicitly.

Those are the best reasons for clients to stick with you.

Truth or Platitudes?

Truth or Platitudes?

I read an article recently where the author observed that most people don’t really want to know what it takes to be successful:

“Most people want to hear platitudes about success. You have to work your ass off to create a successful business. But when you start talking about the work required, their eyes glaze over. They don’t want to hear the truth about what it takes to be successful.”

The difference, the author notes, is that winners DO want the truth (not platitudes) about what it really takes to get a business off the ground — the good, the bad and the ugly.

As a business trainer and industry mentor for the past 13 years (in business for 20+), I have to say, I tend to agree.

It’s what separates the ones who are going to succeed and those who are likely to close up shop within a few short years.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being positive and optimistic.

You’re going to need it to keep believing in yourself, persevere during the difficult start-up times in business, and endure the naysayers in your life who want you to “go get a real job.”

The problem occurs when people become addicted to woo-woo and magical thinking and seeking out platitudes is all they focus on. (This is exactly how they get sucked into the web of lies and illusion from internet marketers.)

You have to strike a balance between encouragement and optimism and getting honest, pragmatic business learning and advice and taking action (doing the work).

Because believe it or not, all those platitudes and “inspiration” can turn your brain to mush, no matter how “uplifting”  they are, if that’s all your diet consists of.

If inspiration is the thing you’re seeking, let me tell ya, there’s nothing more inspiring that deciding on a target market, doing the work to get to know them (e.g., asking them questions, getting involved in their professional communities, researching their industry), learning what their common needs, goals and challenges are, and developing your administrative solutions and marketing message around those things.

That’s the kind of direction and focus that makes the kind of headway that gets your motor running and fuels excitement (and more action) in your emerging business!

I see so many people in our industry who spend more time trying to network with their colleagues than ever they do with their target market. And then they wonder and get depressed about why they aren’t getting clients and moving forward in their business.

The other pitfall is they get involved in “networking” groups where a) their target market isn’t to be found, and b) is just a room of other people trying to get clients.

You aren’t going to find clients in those places. Decide on a target market and go where THOSE people are and learn them. THAT’S where/how you’re going to get clients.

(For those who are new, a target market is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to. If you need help deciding on your target market, download our free guide How to Choose Your Target Market.)

What are your thoughts?

  • If you examine your own actions, are you chasing after feel-good platitudes and otherwise focusing on what you want to hear instead of honest business advice and what you need to know? How do you discern the difference?
  • How prepared are you to put in the time and do the actual work required?
  • How much time are you wasting dinking around with colleagues, signing up to each other’s social media accounts (I call this “playing business”) compared to actual work learning how to be better at business, involving yourself in your target market’s communities and getting clients?

Save

When Kids Crash Your Video Call

I can’t stop cracking up at this. Utter comic perfection:

The three-year-old parade-stepping into the room. The escaped baby. The mom flying in like she’s sliding into third base (and then backing out of the room on her knees with the kids as if that makes it all less conspicuous). And him looking like, “Please don’t notice. Please don’t notice. Just kill me now.”

I mean, you couldn’t script it better than this, lololol.

Poor guy. Obviously, we try to prevent these kinds of interruptions when we’re on a professional call, but when they happen, all you can do is take life in stride and laugh.

Have you ever had a similar mishap when talking with a client? How did you handle it and what are your best tips for working when kids, family and pets are determined to get your attention?

How to Come Back from Burnout

How to Come Back from Burnout

A recent article I came across on Lifehacker (What Causes Burnout and How to Avoid It) inspired some thoughts about burnout.

Burnout happens to everyone in our business, to varying degrees, at one time or another.

Some of it is the natural ebb and flow of things, and it’s good to be cognizant of that.

It’s also not necessarily a permanent state. There are some underlying causes for burnout that you have some measure of control over.

For example, burnout can happen if we don’t feel appreciated in our work, if we aren’t getting enough positive (or any) feedback from clients, if we’re being treated like a peon rather than a respected administrative partner:

Burnout can also happen when we over-complicate our business. What are some of the things you can examine there?

  • Can your systems and processes be simplified?
  • Are you making exceptions to your normal processes for certain clients? (Maybe it’s time to stop doing that.)
  • Are you billing by the hour and tracking time for clients and submitting time reports to them? Maybe it’s time to stop doing that as well.  (That was a rhetorical question. Yes, it’s HIGH time everyone stops doing that!).
  • Are you charging different rates for different clients? How about deciding what and how you charge and applying it to ALL of your clients?

Every exception you make, every standard you step over, every policy you bend, is making your business (and life) more difficult. More ease goes a long way in curing burnout.

Maybe you aren’t charging enough and constantly being broke is bringing you down. Well, things are never going to change until you do something different.

What could you differently there? RAISE YOUR FEES, SISTAH!

The alternative is to stay broke and unhappy in your business, which I’m going to guess is not what you went to the trouble of starting it for, now is it?

  • If you’ve never done any kind of proper business planning around fees, be sure to download our free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator. This is going to help you get clear and conscious about the economics of business and what you really need to be charging for a profitable, sustainable business that will earn what you need to thrive.
  • Get off the hourly-billing merry-go-round — because it’s killing your business. Watch this video to learn why.
  • Learn how to implement value-based pricing instead in your administrative support business. This will teach you a whole other simpler, yet more profitable, way to run your business and offer your support.

Have you experienced a bit of burnout at any time in your business? What did you feel was the root cause of the burnout? Were you able to overcome it and get inspired again? What helped you?