To get more done change your daily habits

When it comes to getting things done, I have the same pressures on my time as everyone else.

Children to organise, my own business and the challenge of preparing myself for the Great North Run last weekend. So why do I push myself to the limit and what is that limit?

First of all, I’ve decided that each one of us has the same 24 hours in the day and try as I have I can’t squeeze 25 hours out it. What I can do is determine my priorities.

In his book, Deep Work – rules for focused success in a distracted world, Cal Newport suggests that too much time is being busy doing shallow work (work that serves no real contribution to what we want to achieve).

By this he means, stupid amounts of time checking Facebook and other social media during the day. A desire to read and respond to the constant stream of emails arriving in the inbox (other people’s priorities).

I recommend the book or the Audible version which I have been listening to at 1.5 speed. See, I knew I could squeeze 90 minutes out of an hour – lol. He provides really helpful insights into how to work deep to get things done.

Secondly, I determined what I wanted to achieve and then narrowed it down to intense focus. To do this as Cal suggests, I needed to appreciate that only 20% of possible time spent on a project would really make a difference and I set about determining what that 20% was. We are easily distracted in each working day and naturally drift to doing stuff that is time-consuming and enjoyable rather than the activity that really makes a difference.

Finally, I set up a daily routine and stuck to it, until it became a habit. That was the most challenging part. Other habits pull us away, like a magnet, from the changes we need to make in organising our day.

“For things to change, we must change”. Jim Rohn

If your habits and your focus are not serving you in getting you to where you want to be, you must do something differently.

Why we must pay more attention to building relationships

relationships matter

In business and in life, relationships matter, which is why we must pay more attention to building relationships.

It is said that business is about relationships and I reckon it’s difficult to grow a business without strong relationships. Relationships with your staff, with your customers, with your prospects and with your suppliers.

So what is it about relationships that have the potential to create so much joy and yet people fear the outcome and remain an introvert. Why don’t people who deal with the public put relationships as the focus for each day? A smile, a courtesy, a thank you.

I was recently talking with somebody new to business who realises that the basis of business is relationships. She was fearful of taking a business forward because she admitted that she didn’t know how to create relationships. The sort of person who avoids networking events for instance.

Perhaps she thinks this is something complicated. Certainly, a lack of confidence or low self-esteem will have an impact on the way we are approach talking to people.

I’ve found some simple truths that allow me to create rapport with most people and the start of a relationship with many.

Abandon the agenda.
This is especially prevalent at a networking meeting but not so much in the supermarket queue. Enter into conversations out of genuine interest and curiosity. All too often at networking meetings, I come across people who put up a facade of being engaged yet, in reality, they are not listening – simply waiting to speak. They have an agenda and it’s easy to guess what it is after a few minutes. Good conversationalists ditch the agenda and make the other person feel that they are the only person in the room.

Be interested
… rather than interesting. Be genuinely interested in who you are talking with. When I see someone with a supermarket trolly full of party food and drink my first thought is that maybe they’re having a party. It’s easy to say, ‘looks like someone is in for a good party.’ It’s easy to engage people if you are interested and you stay curious.

Thank You
… goes a long way and especially when people least expect it. Showing appreciation is good practice for developing relationships. We all love to feel appreciated and the biggest reason customers become ex-customers rarely has anything to do with price or the competition. They feel they are being taken for granted.

When was the last time you spoke to your best clients and showed some appreciation? OK, a challenge if you have few hundred, but what’s stopping you getting your virtual PA or a telemarketer to schedule the calls. Let’s not say it can’t be done – find a way.

Relationships matter.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and professionals who travel extensively.
Linkedin Profile

Why we should embrace failure

People look at failure in a number of different ways but I think failure is good. Awesome in fact. Fear of failure is holding us back. Incidentally, I’ve certainly pushed through my comfort zone to record this video.

 

At 28, I set up an online business and it flopped. Didn’t know what I was doing and my goodness, I’m glad that I failed in that business.

I learnt from my failures and went on to my second venture, which was an online magazine. I sold it. Not for a massive amount of money but for a profit. Failure served me well.

Marriage. First one, failed. Second one, learning from my mistakes, and doing ok. It’s not all about failure in business. You can fail at personal stuff too.

Failure is awesome, it’s part of personal growth. You need it in your life to move forward.

Why are more men taking up secretarial work?

why are men taking up secretarial work

It’s not unusual for me to be talking with a male entrepreneur who sees the potential in becoming a virtual assistant. So why are men taking up secretarial work?

So what is driving this surge in interest?

The role of secretary and personal assistant was once occupied by efficient and capable women, but it wasn’t always that way.

According to Tess Reidy in her article in the Guardian.

“At the turn of the 20th century, secretarial jobs were well-paid and well-respected, and predominantly filled by men. However, as women fought to join the ranks of the employed, the profession lost its status, pay decreased and men sought work elsewhere. By the mid–1960s, it was a role primarily associated with women. In 1962, a survey revealed that 28% of companies believed sex appeal was a requirement of the PA’s job.”

In the same article, she talks about 25-year-old Joshua Watson, the executive assistant to a female senior director at Barclays, having previously worked as a receptionist and PA.

He does not see himself as working in a woman’s role. It’s not an issue for people from his generation. It’s a good career for he is passionate about organising and has exposure to the top people in his company. He’s ambitious, he wants to climb the ladder.

The surge is perhaps due in part to the highest rate of graduate unemployment since records began, and an awareness that salaries for corporate PAs can reach £75,000 a year.

The fact is that thousands of graduates end up working in jobs that don’t require any qualifications.

Ambitious young people are finding new ways to enter the business world. A PA gets to work with everyone in the company. Directors, Partners and all the teams. It’s a pretty obvious way to get noticed if you think about it. Virtual PA’s engage on an even wider business reach.

Susanna Tait, managing director of Tay Associates, in the same Guardian article agrees. She said she has seen a “huge” increase in numbers of male applicants. “We have witnessed the role of the PA evolve immeasurably and, with it, the pool of applicants it attracts,” she said. “As well as organising and managing commitments, they are required to project-manage schedules and communicate with a vast network of contacts. It’s an obvious career choice for ambitious individuals keen to operate at the centre of the business sphere.”

The nature of the profession is changing rapidly. Responsibilities increase, technology advances and teamwork becomes increasingly important.

In addition here in the UK, the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of EU Brexit negotiations is likely to see sectors downsizing especially banking and finance, retail, media, technology and law.

These sectors, together with audit and professional services, employ over 50,000 graduates each year. Will this open up opportunities for outsourced PA services?

Will a proportion of the 50,000 graduates each year see the opportunity to take their future into their own hands, perhaps exploring their options in a franchise model like Smart PA?

Recent interviews I’ve held suggest they will.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA.Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and professionals who travel extensively.
Linkedin Profile

considering starting a business

considering starting a business

Many people get to the point in their life when they are considering starting a business of their own. It’s a big step and one that should not taken lightly. When starting a business first look in the mirror, for there’s a big difference between the mind set of an employee and that of an entrepreneur.

Increasing numbers of people are opting for a franchise business model as opposed to trying to make it on their own. A quality franchise offers a proven track record of success with ongoing training and a help and support structure. So important for anyone new to business ownership.

However, the question still remains. Can I make this work and will I make a good franchisee? What does the mirror tell me?

When you consider investing in a franchise you must start with research, part of which is to be honest with yourself. What personal qualities will I be bringing to the table?

PASSION
Naturally you have a certain amount of drive, or else you would never leave the relative safety of your job and career. But how much passion do you have for the product or services you plan to offer. You will face long hours and hard work, especially at the beginning (nothing new there). You may face frustration at the speed in which you can scale your business to the point where it provides you will meaningful returns. Without passion (thinly disguised as enthusiasm) you will not find it easy to face these challenges. Sure, you’ll receive help, support and encouragement from the franchise team and the other franchisees like you, but they can only light a spark that ignites the fire that’s already within you.

THE WHEEL’S FINE. NO NEED TO RE-INVENT IT
Franchisors spend time and money developing and refining their brand and their business systems. They will not be looking for someone who wants to come on board to reinvent the wheel.

So one special characteristic is that of being system-orientated with a strong leaning towards partnership mentality (think John Lewis). Understanding the franchise model is important for you get to share the brand with fellow franchisees. You will want to be supportive in protecting who the brand is perceived by others.

WAIT – HOW ABOUT CUSTOMERS!
Naturally, being able to create customer confidence and loyalty is important if you are to ensure repeat business and referrals.

Apart from feeling comfortable around people you will need some element of sales skill. Obviously the franchisor will offer help in this area but you need to feel comfortable with the ethos of sales for you will need to persuade (encourage) people to buy your products and services. Trust me, nothing sells itself. This is something often missed when people decide to turn their skills into a business of their own.

ATTITUDE
In the end, much of the approach towards starting a business is down to attitude. A positive ‘can do’ attitude is easy to adopt when things are going right but real character shows through when things don’t run so smoothly. Hey, if business was easy, no one would be looking for a job.

PERSONALLY SPEAKING
I have experience as an employee, of being successful in a corporate environment, of running my own business and of being part of a successful franchise operation. I know all of these things to be true.

A good franchise provides a head start and the success engine that will help you drive your business faster and with GPS navigation to wherever you want to go. You have are given the keys but you have to drive it. Here’s to your Success.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and professionals who travel extensively.
Linkedin Profile

is a franchise a perfect self-employment solution?

When I visit any strange town or city, I am struck by the number of businesses that I’m already familiar with. Familiar coffee or fast food brands, hairdressers even. Chances are that they are franchises. So I figure, ‘is a franchise a perfect self-employment solution?’

The fact is that opening any business in the high-street is expensive and high risk. To minimise that risk you would do well to access the experience of a company willing to partner with you and share their experience. A franchise might offer the perfect opportunity.

I am not suggesting all franchises are created equally. Each has its own personality and requirements to protect their growth and brand. You need to read the small print. You need to consider the money you have available to invest along with the risk you are prepared to take. But hey, that’s the same with any business venture.

So let’s be clear as to what we buy when we invest in a franchise. We buy time.

It takes a time to develop skills and to gain experience. It takes a time to build a reputation. What is the true cost in the extra time we spend trying to figure all this out ourselves? Building awareness slowly could move profitable revenues from this month to next quarter. From this month to next year. Lack of cash flow is one of the major challenges in any business and running out of money is a key risk.

A reputable franchise has the skill set and business model to minimise such a risk. They already know what it takes to build a successful business and they don’t have room for failure.

The main issue with a franchise business in the high street, however, is the money you have to risk and tie up. Brick and mortar business ventures are expensive to set up and maintain.

However, there are many work-from-home franchise models that have minimal setup costs and affordable license fees. Profits are generally excellent to good. You could work fewer hours, or work hard and make twice as much as a franchise.

In the digital age, many of these franchise opportunities are powered by technology and without the high investment of a brick and mortar business this opens up business opportunities without the traditional costs.

I am a keen advocate for the franchise business model for the right people and I appreciate that franchising isn’t for everyone. Neither is medicine, teaching, sales or graphic design.

However, if you are facing 2017 with a burning ambition to set out on your own, remember that you need not face the challenges on your own or with the high cost or risk of a brick and mortar franchise business.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and professionals who travel extensively.

Linkedin Profile

do new business owners need trainer wheels?

I recently read that half of all British businesses are now based at home and one in 10 domestic properties is home to a business, according to research conducted in association with Direct Line for Business and PC World Business.

Why should I be surprised? Advancing technology is making it easier than ever for people to be more flexible in business. The idea of someone running an entire business from home now seems very realistic.

76% of homepreneurs have never been involved in running a business before.

It’s easy for those of us who have been in business for a while to forget the challenges of starting a new business.

Like riding a bike. What can be so difficult? Until you get on the bike! At which point you realise that balance is key. So it is with a new business requiring so many areas that need attention. Aspects of the business that frankly, you don’t have the aptitude, skills or interest in.

Naturally, each person will approach the challenges of their new business with enthusiasm, often confused with ‘ignorance on fire’. I know, I’ve been there.

Embark on a new business and you can plan your strategy, product or service development, your marketing. You can control your expenses, manage your cash flow etc. but you can’t do everything yourself, even though you might think you can.

Just like we underestimate the calories we consume and overestimate the exercise we take, we are not brilliant at everything. Choose your surrogate support team carefully.

Surround yourself with people who will support and inspire you to be more than you believe you are. You will get to where you want to go, faster and with less heartache.

You will need this support and might be surprised to learn that you don’t always get it from your family. see What to do When Your Spouse Does Not Want You to Open a Business

Oh, to see into the future. To be able to avoid the challenges and have someone who has ‘been there’. Worry not, if you can get through it before your funds run out (cash flow is a major cause of business failure) you are awarded a ‘been there – got the t-shirt’ badge. It’s called experience. Hopefully, a profitable one.

Walk in the footprints of those who have already been where you want to go.

At SmartPA, we provide more than the services we invoice. We provide an emotional intelligence and desire to help entrepreneurs achieve more.

Our franchisees bring their own individual experiences in business and provide a support system that inspires people to be, do and have more.

And for those homepreneurs who are considering starting up their own virtual PA services, I say this. Why on earth would you want to face the challenges on your own when you can take advantage of the experience of a team who have laid down the footprints.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA working with Smart PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively

Linkedin Profile

what do I get for my franchise fees?

franchise fees

I work closely with a leading UK franchise, so I guess I know at first hand what it takes to be successful as a franchisee.  Although I am asked many questions, one stands out in particular and that is the question ‘so, what do I get for my franchise fees?’

I love this question, for it shows me that someone appreciates that their investment into a franchise needs to deliver additional value over an above going it alone.

They want to know what they are buying and why wouldn’t they?

When you buy into a franchise you should be buying a product or service backed by a business and marketing system that has been tried, tested and proven to work to generate profit.

Of course, everyone who goes into business for themselves will have these goals in mind.  Anyone who has been in business will know the hidden traps, distractions and challenges that face everyone new to the business.

‘With a franchise, you can put an old head on young shoulders’

I guess that is the hidden answer to the question, ‘what do I get for my money’. A safer alternative to starting out on your own. Buying the time and money wasted making the mistakes everyone makes.

Sure I can talk about a business that allows someone to be their own boss and benefit from working at home. Flexible working hours, increased income, better work-life balance or minimised childcare costs are important for many and a good franchise enables people with the right personality and temperament to achieve these goals.

However, the person I’m talking to has likely already considered that they can do this on their own, without the cost of a franchise. This is nearly always the question behind the question.

Starting out on your own is an act of faith with ‘no safety net’ by way of knowing what typically happens and how to deal with the challenges to be faced.

There really is no substitute for experience.

Yes, you can work out how to set up, run and develop a new business but brainstorming smarter options is best done with people who have already done what you plan to do.

Every new or established business will face challenges and times when business isn’t so brisk. Even a franchise. However, rather than figuring out what to do on your own or with an equally inexperienced family member, it’s better to talk to someone who’s already made their mistakes and learnt from it.

A good franchise team offers valuable support, inspiration and know-how to help their franchise partner through the tough periods far better than someone who has never faced those same challenges before.

It is important to surround yourself with experienced people who can guide you through the good and bad times. No one does anything of any consequence on their own.

For the many who are new to the business, a good franchise holds out a helpful hand to guide the newbie along their well-worn path to success.

They have the success map from a path well trodden so you don’t get lost in cul-de-sacs or travelling the wrong way up one-way streets. Better to work for yourself as part of a like-minded team than work alone and on your own.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross is an Award Winning Virtual PA. Her background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal provides invaluable experience. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business. She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively

What to look for when appointing the perfect PA

The time has come for you to scale up, get more done. The time to move from great to awesome. Time to appoint a personal assistant, so here is what to look for when appointing the perfect PA

There’s a great deal to being a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) and Patrick Bet-David highlights some of the demands he makes of the person who helps him get more done.

His demands are specific and that is the way it should be. My clients come from many parts of business but they all have two things in common. They all want to get more done and they have finally come to realise that they can’t do it all by themselves.

Traditionally, when entrepreneurs come to this conclusion they default to the employment route. They look to add someone to their payroll.

This is 2016. We live in the digital age and scaling a business is much more effectively done with specialist skills as and when they need them.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross provides support for the BNI Dorset region as personal assistant to the Executive Direct, Paul Haley and as Director Consultant for a number of BNI Groups.
Rebecca is also an Award Winning Virtual PA with a background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal, amongst others. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working ON their business, rather than IN their business. She is especially looking to work with business start ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively

Linkedin Profile

Networking Heroes Never Make This Mistake

Networking reputations are in the spotlight at every networking event you attend. Make sure you don’t make this one big mistake.

We know that personal reputation is hard won, easily thrown away. So why do people think so little of their reputation that they dilute it each time they pass a lead.

Let me put this in perspective. If someone was to pass you lead at a networking event you would be pleasantly surprised and possibly, get excited. However, in my view, at a referral meeting like BNI (Business Network International), it could be seen as the lazy option and actually destroy your reputation.

Unlike ordinary networking meetings, BNI focuses on qualified referrals (personal introductions). When you receive a referral at a BNI meeting you can reasonably be assured that a) the person you are being introduced to known to be in the market for your product or service and b) they are looking forward to your meeting in anticipation (maybe excitement).

I don’t know about you, but if someone gives me an introduction based on this criteria, it’s something to be excited about. A genuine opportunity to do business and my reputation has been expanded upon by the person making the introduction.

A lead is merely the passing on of a name we ‘think’ might be an opportunity. Three important elements are missing. a) neither of us knows for sure if the person is in the market for my services b) they are not expecting my call c) they know nothing about me as the person making the introduction has not actually made a personal introduction.

When someone passes me a lead, especially one disguised as a referral, I make an immediate judgement on the person who has given it to me. I am either impressed with the effort they’ve made and for thinking of me or I judge the person to be either lazy or half-hearted. Experience has shown me that where a lead is concerned, a wild goose chase and frustration follows.

Someone’s reputation for trust and integrity is silently highlighted in everything we do. A hard won reputation, so easily thrown away.

My advice. Don’t pass leads, seek qualification and build your networking reputation.

rebecca crossRebecca Cross provides support for the BNI Dorset region as personal assistant to the Executive Direct, Paul Haley and as Director Consultant for a number of BNI Groups
Rebecca is also an Award Winning Virtual PA with a background experience working with IBM and the Wall Street Journal, amongst others. She specialises in providing creative business and administration support for entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of working on their business, rather than in their business.

She is especially looking to work with business start-ups, entrepreneurs and professionals who travel extensively  Linkedin Profile