Archive for December, 2015

14 Quick Steps to Prep Your 2016 Calendar for Ease and Success

10 Quick Steps to Prep Your 2016 Calendar for Ease & Success

The new year is two days away and if you haven’t yet, now is a good time to prep your calendar to take 2016 in ease and stride.

One of the ways to facilitate your freedom and success is to be prepared for it. That means taking charge of your time by being conscious about all that you have on your plate and creating space for important actions, events and goals. Your calendar is the starting point for this.

This should take you no more than 30 minutes; if you’re using calendar software, even less time than that.

  1. Block out all holidays for the year. Be sure to block out any extra days as well (e.g., two days for Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays).
  2. Block out all personal days for the year that you plan to be closed (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries).
  3. Block out all known/intended vacation dates (or any other weeks/days that you intend to take off for whatever reason).
  4. Block out any known business events, training, conferences, etc., you plan to attend. Steps 1-4 before anything else is important because taking care of you and your business is always first priority. You can’t take great care of anyone else unless you first take great care of yourself. I’m also an advocate for taking plenty of time off from your business. The more time you take to recharge your energy and creativity, the better your business and clients are for it.
  5. Next, block out your Admin Days for the year. Using the repeat/recurring function, schedule them through January 2017.* An Admin Day is the one day of the week you devote strictly to your business administration and personal development. For example, Mondays are my “business days” where I am officially closed. I don’t do any client work; instead, I focus on taking care of my own business and use that time for administration and planning, research and development, learning, etc. I shade out that time because it makes me conscious about not making any appointments on that day. If you don’t need a full day, block at least half a day (e.g., Mondays from 8a – 12p).
  6. Then, block out your regularly scheduled weekly client meetings for the year. For example, Tuesday is the day of the week I use for my weekly retainer client meetings. Each client gets a one or half-hour time slot, same time each week, with a half hour or 15 minutes of buffer time between meetings. I established this practice when I realized how much more difficult it was for me to dive into work and maintain momentum when I had meetings scattered all over the course of the week. I’m much more productive when I keep them to one day and know I won’t have to interrupt my work and concentration the rest of the week.
  7. Carry over other regular meetings. Review this year’s calendar. If you have regular weekly or monthly meetings, be sure to carry-over and repeat those as well, Perhaps you have a weekly call with your business coach on Tuesdays at 3p and a monthly board meeting at 1p on the third Wednesday of every month. Get all of these regularly scheduled appointments on your calendar for the entire year.
  8. Block out lunches and breaks if you are someone who has trouble remembering to take time away from your desk and computer. This might seem silly and unnecessary, especially since we business owners can eat or take a break any time we like. But if you are someone who has difficulty maintaining boundaries, these can serve as daily reminders to be conscious about taking care of yourself. Taking breaks is super important, not only for your personal health, but the health of your business—you can’t take excellent care of others unless you first take excellent care of yourself. Remember, you want a humanly/sustainably paced business, not a business that leaves you no breathing room and leads to burn-out and overwhelm.
  9. Carry over regular weekly and monthly task reminders and other important to-do’s. For example, downloading and reconciling bank statements.
  10. Mark important dates. Are there client birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates you want to remember on a regular basis? Are there important goal dates and benchmarks you want to be reminded of? Add them to your calendar!
  11. If you have share an online calendar with any of your clients, repeat steps 1-6 there as well so they are aware of when you will be closed/unavailable. Likewise, by adding your weekly client meeting to their calendar for the year (step #6), no one has to spend any further time on scheduling.
  12. Rinse and repeat for your clients (if helping organize their calendars is something you happen to do).
  13. Schedule a To-Do in November to “Prep next year’s calendar.” If you’re using an online calendar, set it with a couple advance reminders.
  14. And while you’re at it, schedule a reminder in December to archive the current year’s documents and emails (more on that in another post).

* This is so that when January rolls around, if you’ve forgotten or been delayed or sidetracked in prepping your calendar in December, you can simply click on each recurring/repeating event and update the end date.

Cheers to a fantastic new year for us all!

May Your Holidays Be Merry and Bright!

May Your Holidays Be Merry and Bright!

After getting my nails done last Saturday, I fully intended on going straight home.

I ended up shopping until 11:30 pm, all for myself.

Am I a terrible person? lol

In my defense, they had some fantastic sales going on. I got the best pair of jeans for $20. TWENTY BUCKS, people! Just doing my part to stimulate the economy. 😉

Plus, all joking aside, other than shopping for the blankets, socks and outerwear I bring to the homeless shelter every year, my family and I decided we weren’t going to be exchanging tangible gifts this year.

We have no little ones to shop for in the family. (I am having glamma pangs, though, so daughter, Imma need you to get right on that, mmmkay?)

We’re all grown, don’t need anything; anything we really want, we can buy ourselves. And none of us wants or needs more “stuff.”

It’s also been a pretty trying year for all of us with one crisis after another with my dad, who has Parkinson’s disease and increasing dementia related to the disease.

None of us has any desire this year to waste what precious little free time and energy we have getting caught up in the Christmas shopping frenzy.

So, I told my family I was opting out, and they all heartily agreed.

Instead, we decided any gifts we exchanged would be of the time/experience variety: being together and doing things together. That’s what we all truly value and cherish most.

I talked to my family about how important this time we have right now is in creating new, special memories with our dad as a family while we’re still able to, especially since we don’t know how much longer he will be with us, either mentally or physically.

Creating fresh moments and experiences that aren’t all centered around taking care of him (which can be extremely draining and frustrating) will be such a blessing when that time comes. It’s important that those are not our only last memories of him, and to create some happy, joyful ones that are a break from the day-to-day, for him and for us.

We did this on 4th of July. I had everyone over to my house on the beach. The weather was gorgeous. We talked and laughed. We ate delicious food. We sat and walked on the beach and dipped our toes in the water. We watched some Doc Martin. We had a couple beers. We lit our own fireworks, and in the evening we watched the community fireworks all along the shores.

Getting my dad out of the house can be difficult and he tires easily these days so I couldn’t believe he actually agreed to it. But I know he’s so happy he did. We all still laugh and talk about that day. It was so fun and magical and wonderful.

In that spirit, we are going to the mountains for Christmas. When I first suggested it, I really wasn’t expecting dad to want to go and again was shocked that he agreed.

My dad used to collect TR3s when I was growing up and the inn and restaurant we’ll be going to has all kinds of fond memories for him from his car club days when he would pile mom and us kids all in for roadtrips to the mountain.

It’s turned into the perfect plan and we’re all really looking forward to it!

So, dear friends, my heartfelt wish for you is, no matter what difficulties you may be going through right now, that you are able to carve a moment out to tell your loved ones how much you love them (no matter what difficult, conflicted relationship you might have), give them a big smooch and a squeeze, and spend some good, quality time laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

You will be so grateful you did for the rest of your life. Because it’s not the “stuff” you will remember; it’s these expressions of love and memories of time spent together that will lift your spirit.

May your joys be many and your burdens light this holiday season and in the year to come!

xoxo,

Danielle

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client?

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client

Dear Danielle:

I work for a small business and the majority of my job is done offsite and remotely. When I came into the business there were no systems in place, no manuals or training tools available and patients accounts were all out of balance. I have worked to restore these areas in addition to the accounts receivables. I am no longer able to ignore the nagging pull to launch out and begin my own administrative support business. However, I feel that I can retain my current employer as a client. I am costing them more I believe. I have been paid by the hour as an employee and it has been a tremendous cost to get things up and running more smoothly. Now that I understand all the inner workings of the business, offered my advice as well as support, I feel my inside job has come to an end. There are many more factors to list but I don’t want to take advantage of your time. Please tell me your thoughts on this. How I should move forward? —Anonymous by request

Hi Anonymous 🙂

Thanks for your question.

If you feel you can turn this employer into a client, go for it.

Since you asked me, though, I’m going to let you know why former employers don’t make for the best of clients.

  1. Employers tend to want to keep working with you in the same old ways. That’s a problem because when you are running a business, there is necessarily going to be a difference in when and how you work together. You can’t be at their instant beck and call the way you were when you worked for them as an employee. They had your undivided time and attention because you were their employee, being paid to be dedicated solely to them 9-5. But as a business owner, you have other clients to serve, other important duties to attend to (or you will have, and you have to operate and plan your business around that eventuality). You simply are not going to be able to work with them in the same way as you did when you were an employee, not if you are going to grow your business and have time and room to work with other clients. And that’s not a transition that many employers are able or willing to make.
  2. Not all, of course, but generally employers are employers for a reason. Many very specifically want employees who are dedicated solely to their interests and to whom they can dictate hours, roles and duties. Likewise, some workloads simply require in-house dedicated staff. Contrary to popular belief, not every business/client is a good fit for what we do. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes is an effort in futility. Why bang your head against that wall when there are others far more suited to (and interested in) being clients rather than employers?
  3. Past employers tend to resist changes. They only know you and the relationship they had with you in one context — employee. This can be problematic and make it incredibly difficult for them to see you in a new and different light, which is necessary if the business relationship is going to be successful. It is absolutely vital that clients understand the relationship in a business-to-business context and that there is going to be an entirely different dynamic at play. But past employers tend to be stuck in employer/worker bee mindset and want to keep you in that box and treat the relationship like that. What that means is, instead of extending you professional courtesy and respect and viewing you as their administrative expert and trusted advisor, many can be stuck in a pattern of barking orders at you and thinking it’s their place to dictate everything. A client who doesn’t understand he is a client, not an employer, has a whole different demeanor in his communication and behavior, and not for the better. And that just does not work in a business-to-business relationship.
  4. Their preconceived notions or relationship with you can limit their thinking and keep you boxed in. When you start a business and consult with fresh potential clients, it so much easier to educate them and manage their expectations in the way you need them to be because you’re working with a clean slate, so to speak.

That said, if you think this employer has good client potential despite the above, there are things you can do to help facilitate a successful new business-to-business relationship:

  1. Have a consultation process. If you don’t have one, you can get that with my Client Consultation Guide.
  2. Never take shortcuts with your consultation process. What I mean by that is, many people think because they already know and have a previous relationship with a potential client (such as the case with a former/current employer) they don’t have to conduct a full and thorough consultation. And that’s a really bad idea. Because part of what the consultation process does (at least if you are following my client consultation process) is it helps give proper context for your new business-to-business relationship with each other. This helps employers-turned-clients understand the new relationship so they can treat it and conduct themselves accordingly. It helps these past employers view you not as their employee/worker bee, but respect you as a business owner, someone who is going to now be their administrative partner/expert and trusted advisor. It also helps them understand that there are going to be necessary and significant differences in how and when you work together.
  3. Have a Client Guide ready to give to new or prospective clients. A client guide is a map, or decoder ring, if you will, written in friendly, positive, client-centric language that informs clients about how things work in your business, what your policies, procedures and protocols are, what your standards and expectations are for working together, and what rights and expectations they may have with regard to the work and results. This is another tool that helps facilitate a successful relationship moving forward and gives former employers/new clients proper context. It helps them see you as a business and no longer their employee. If you don’t already have one, you will get a free Client Guide Template included as a bonus when you purchase Set-01 (the Administrative Support Business Set-Up Success Kit) from the ACA Success Store.
  4. Have a proper business website and direct your past employer/potential client to it. And by “proper” I mean it is set up and populated with content that will inform and educate prospective clients about what you do, how you do it and how it helps them. This is another way you pre-educate clients in the way you need them to be and set and manage proper business expectations and understandings in them, which in turn helps them view and interact with you as a business owner (and not their employee). If you don’t have a website yet or your current website isn’t getting good results, be sure to check out my Build a Website that WORKS guide. This guide tells you exactly how to create a business website that gets results — i.e., more consult requests and ideal clients.
  5. Always use a contract. This is another area where people do themselves a huge disservice by taking shortcuts. They think just because they already know the person, they don’t have to go through those motions. But here again, a contract is another tool the use of which extends far beyond its mere practical application. Besides making sure the terms of the relationship are clear and in writing, just having a contract and going through the contract signing process helps former-employers-turned-clients understand the new business-to-business context, which helps ensure a successful working relationship moving forward.

There was something else I wanted to address that is a common misstep for new business owners: thinking your value is all about being cheaper than an employee.

Let me say this loud and clear: your job is not to be cheap.

Your job as a business is to deliver a service that improves the life and business of the client. And that costs whatever it costs.

Value, in the context of a professional service business, is not about discounts and savings and two-for-one specials.

Value is about how the results of your work improves their circumstances and makes business and life better and easier for the client, how it helps them achieve their overall goals and objectives.

This is a frequent topic on my blog so I have a little bit of homework for you. I want you to read these blog posts to help you overcome the scarcity/poverty/employee mindset that new business owners are so commonly susceptible to:

In fact, I have a whole category on my blog on this topic that is extremely eye-opening and empowering for everyone: Value Is Not About the Money

And remember that you are not your ideal client. You can’t base your business decisions and fees on what you would pay or could afford to pay.

Because that’s not how your ideal client thinks or operates, and you’ll never build a financially solvent, sustainable or successful business if you stay stuck in that mindset.

Your ideal client is one who is quality-minded and can well afford professional services. This client values administrative support because he understands this is the work that will help achieve his big picture goals and objectives. This client therefore wants a highly-skilled administrative expert and partner (not an order-taker) who will lead, guide and advise him in the administrative process with a view toward results.

As Seth Godin so elegantly put it recently: “You are not a task rabbit. You’re a professional doing unique work that matters.”