Small Business Diva

July 30, 2007

Home Office Security – what you NEED to know

Filed under: Office Organisation — smallbusinessdiva @ 6:00 am

Operating a small business may require you to meet many strangers. While this is generally accepted as part of business – and often an enjoyable part of it – how can you protect yourself if you operate your business from home?

Most people we will encounter will be genuine, sincere people who wouldn’t even contemplate doing any harm. Unfortunately, it is difficult to pick the tiniest percentage who do not mean us well. Here are some precautions you can take:

1. Be wary of inviting strangers into your home. To avoid this, perhaps you could offer a free pick-up and delivery service (this can include the use of a courier). If you go to a client’s home to pick-up or deliver work/goods, avoid entering their home. This can be a courtesy issue as well as a safety issue.

2. Consider meeting with prospective clients/new business associates in a local cafe.

3. Ensure that you can see your front door from your office. If not, it is imperitive that you keep the front and back doors locked (this is a good idea even if you can see the door). Ideally, security doors and windows offer protection without you becoming a prisoner in your home. Time and time again you hear of homes/offices being burgled while someone was in another room, and all to often this could have been avoided.

4. Avoid giving out your home-office address on general advertising, stationery, etc. Get a Post Office Box for all business mail.

5. If your workplace is not a part of the main house, ensure that it is adequately secure when you’re not there (even if you just popped up to the house for a bite to eat).

6. Don’t leave any money or valuables on the premises. Bank taking regularly to minimise loss if you are burgled.

7. Consider installing a burglar alarm and smoke detectors (smoke detectors are compulsory in some cities) and make sure you have all your business asssets adequately covered through insurance. Remember, not all home contents insurance policies will cover your home office/business assets.

July 28, 2007

Email Etiquette

Filed under: Tips & Tricks — smallbusinessdiva @ 6:00 am

One of the business forums I’m a member of has recently been having discussions about what is and isn’t appropriate in the world of emails. Some members think the points discussed (trimming messages, including signatures, etc) should be common knowledge, but quite obviously they’re not.

I thought it appropriate then to share a few tips to make sure your emails comply with today’s ettiquette:

1. Do not SPAM! (sending unsolicitored email). Although laws surrounding this area vary between countries, it really is not acceptable, ethically, anywhere. Only send email newsletters or promotions to people who have willingly given you their address for this purpose and always give them the option of having their details removed from your list.

2. When sending email to a number of recipients, send as a BCC: (Blind Carbon Copy). By doing so, each recipient will only see their own address at the top of the message and not the addresses of all the other recipients.

3. Check and reply to emails regularly and promptly. I follow the 24-hour rule where I endeavour to reply to emails within 24-hours. Sometimes it’s just a simple acknowledgement such as, “Thanks for your email regardings xxx, Bruce. I’ll keep you in mind. Kind regards, Sam,” or at other times it may be a quick message to let them know that you’ll do such-and-such for them later that week or by such-and-such timeframe.

4. Be courteous at all times.

5. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation before sending your emails. In addition, avoid using ALL CAPITALS as this implies yelling, makes the message difficult to read, doesn’t look professional and is just bad manners.

6. When replying to an email, always refer to the message to which you are replying and/or leave the original message in your reply.

7. If you’re posting to a group/forum, remember to trim excess messages from the bottom. Some members may be on a ‘daily digest’ or dial-up and don’t want to be reading through oodles of the original message over and over. Just leave enough in there so readers know what your message refers to.

8. Always put something appropriate in the ‘Subject’ field.

9. If you are sending an attachment always include a cover note in the email so the recipient has an idea of what it is you’re sending and whether they feel it’s safe enough to open.

10. Always sign off your emails. A standard signature block with your name and basic contact details is great.

This is only the tip of the ice-berg and even these suggestions will vary depending on your circumstances. However these guidelines give you a good place to start. Do you have any tips you’d like to add? If so, I’d love to hear them. Happy emailing!

July 26, 2007

All Women Blogging Carnival

Filed under: Recommendations — smallbusinessdiva @ 4:15 pm

I was recently reading a blog post over at The Tall Poppy and read about a great concept – The All Women Blogging Carnival.

The idea behind a blogging carnival is to help share blogs of a similar theme. In this case, the theme is ‘women bloggers’, so it doesn’t matter what the topic is – if you’re female and you have a blog, have a look at The All Women Blogging Carnival for more info.

 What a great way to share some of the fantastic blogs that are around.

July 20, 2007

Resume help

Filed under: Tips & Tricks — smallbusinessdiva @ 10:00 am

Here is a great blog by one of Australia’s leading resume writers: http://beverley.mumspace.net

It’s full of great tips for writing resumes & cover letters, along with other tips to help you secure the job or your dreams.

July 18, 2007

8 Time Savers

Filed under: Time Management — smallbusinessdiva @ 10:00 am

Here are 8 time savers that have helped in my quest to balance work & family life:

1. Plan to have ‘in days’ and ‘out days’. On your ‘in days’, stay in your workplace all day. Have a list of prioritized tasks and do them – one after another. You will achieve so much that you’ll fell better about spending quality time with your family or doing something for yourself in the evenings. Similarly, on your ‘out days’, list all the errands to be done and just do them.

2. Plan your meals ahead and go grocery shopping only once each week. Prepare a few meals to freeze for quick meals later.

3. Make sandwiches in advance and freeze them, too. Each morning just grab a sandwich out of the freezer and pop it into the lunch box. You can freeze a lot of cakes, muffins, lamingtons and other treats too. They will have defrosted by lunch time.

4. School bags and clothes can be prepared the night before. If you find yourself really pushed for time of a morning, put all bowls, breakfast cereals, cups and vitamins on the table or bench too.

5. Use your diary appropirately, attending to matters when thye need it (the longer you leave it, the harder it will become).

6. Keep your home and work space tidy. You can easily waste hours looking for misplaced items.

7. Consider oursourcing chores such as ironing, lawn mowing or bookkeeping. How much do you earn per hour? How much is three hours of cleaning really costing you?

8. When friends drop in unannounced – ask them to make you a cuppa and then do some filing or hang out the washing while the two of you chat. I guarantee, if they don’t take the hint and leave, at least you’ll be catching up on some chores!

July 16, 2007

When time matters

Filed under: Time Management — smallbusinessdiva @ 10:00 am

Effective time management is crucial in successfully balancing work and family time. To find extra time in your day, first keep a journal of how you spend you time over a two or three day period. Include everything, even time on the telephone, watching television and reading. Next, use these notes to identify your greatest time wasters. Then determine where you can eliminate or limit them.

The trick to finding extra time each day is to work smart, not hard. Be organized and have everything well planned and you will find that you have more time to spare.

July 14, 2007

Quick tips & short cuts

Filed under: Tips & Tricks — smallbusinessdiva @ 5:57 pm

There are lots of keyboard shortcuts you can use to save time on the computer. Things like control + c to copy text, control + v to paste text or control + s to save the current document.

Plus there are also a lot of less well known shortcuts that are well worth practising.

I’ll post some of these tips here from time to time but I also recommend that everyone goes to http://freelancepa.com.au/E-Newsletter.htm and sign up to receive the regular ‘Time-Saving Tip’ newsletter. Lisa offers some great ideas and you can also request copies of previous hints.

July 12, 2007

Time to get organised

Filed under: Office Organisation — smallbusinessdiva @ 1:05 pm

Eariler this week I spent a couple of hours with a friend and client who runs a successful small business from her home. I went there to help her de-clutter and tidy her office – to get her organised.

This lady is great at her job and has fantastic relationships with her customers. However her biggest challenge in business is keeping up with the administration side of things. She detests doing admin tasks, bookkeeping, replying to mail, etc. and we recently discovered that this is because her office is so disorganised and messy that she can never find anything. The worse it gets, the more she avoids that room and the worse the problem becomes.

Sadly, this is all too common however it can be easily remedied. We began by clearing her desk – taking absolutely everything off and giving it a dust. Then we began to put back WHAT WAS REALLY NECESSARY. First, the major things like her computer. Then we added a set of in/out trays, stacked in the corner. Finally, ONE personal photo.

In one of the trays we placed a notepad, the phone message pad and a folder containing notes – you know the sorts of yellow post-it notes you have stuck all over the desk? Write them in a handy book or notes in a file/folder.

Next we went through the piles of paperwork and spread them over the floor. These were sorted into the following piles: filing, accounts, to be acted on, reading. Then each of these were put into different coloured manilla folders in the top in/out tray. Easy! When she wants to check on an account, she looks in the purple folder, and so on.

Pens and other often-used stationery items were all put into the top drawer, except one biro that was left on her desk.

Get into the habit of acting on paperwork as soon as you get it and it won’t pile up and get lost. If something needs filing, put it straight into the filing folder. If it needs acting on, do it NOW or put it in the folder to be done when appropriate. If you want to read it, do it now or again, put it in a folder til later. You may not be able to deal with each item immediately, but at least it’s out of the way and you know exactly where it is.

After just under two hours we had the place looking spotless. You will find that by keeping things tidy and in order you will save a heap of time in looking for things, you won’t overlook important documents and you will feel so much better about actually going in to your office and doing things!

As for my friend… she is feeling much more productive now. What’s the next step for her? We’ll be setting up some systems to simplify her workload and automate as much as possible.

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