Small Business Diva

November 12, 2008

The Importance Of Having Effective Business Systems In Place

When growing a business, it’s important to define, implement, and establish systems early on. A business system is a working combination of people and automated applications organised to meet a certain set of business objectives.

Every aspect of your business should have a system in place to gauge productivity, effectiveness, and growth.

Systems are put into place to leverage resources: time, capital, and assets. With established systems, you’re ensuring that every part of your business is being used to its full potential and is available, on call, when you need it.

Some basic systems every business should have include sales and marketing, inventory tracking, client lists, customer service, payroll, and production. For example:

  • If a new product is to launch, your Marketing system needs to be in place to plan a proper campaign that coincides with the product’s debut, street date, and promotional tie-ins.
  • If your company sees a shift in its overall business model, with sales growing in size, then it’s important that the support team also grows proportionately to handle the increased business. With a system in place that accounts for manpower, you should be able to make such adjustments with ease, without the worry of deadlines missed, revenue delayed, or new clients lost.

Documented systems ensure that your business will still continue to run smoothly and effectively if you’re not there to look after it. Furthermore, it will greatly increase the value if you ever want to sell your business or franchise it. To use an age-old metaphor, think of the business as a wheel with every established system being a spoke. If one is broken or for whatever reason, not functioning at full capacity, the wheel’s structure will weaken. To avoid a total collapse, the problem spoke will need to be fixed immediately. The same can be said of your business. By establishing individual systems and having your business be the sum of all parts, you’ll be able to identify such weak spots more quickly, address them, and get back to the primary objective at hand: success.

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September 10, 2008

Hectic Helpers’ Essential Weekly Tips

One newsletter that I subscribe to that I look forward to receiving each week is the Hectic Helpers Tip of the Week.

Kay from Hectic Helpers – your to-do list specialist – sends weekly ideas that will help get anyone organised. For an over-organised neat-freak like me, I can’t get enough extra handy hints!

If you would like to learn a few quick, easy ideas for getting (and staying) organised, subscribe to the Hectic Helpers Tip of the Week now.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 8, 2008

What Printer Is Best For You?

Filed under: Office Organisation,Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 3:15 pm
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Jenni Markham wrote a post on her blog last month about her experiences shopping for a new printer and it reminded me of some of my printer shopping experiences.  When you go looking for a new printer there are so many different designs, each boasting an assortment of features and with a huge variance in price.

Before shopping for a new printer it’s a good idea to decide what features you really need; what features would be nice but are not essential; and what your budget is. Everyone’s needs are different, so the printer that is best for me may be totally different to the printer that is best for you.

Things to consider and questions to ask about prospective printers include:

  • Do you require a colour printer or is black and white sufficient?
  • Do you require a high quality of printing or is it mostly draft quality you’ll be printing?
  • How many pages (roughly) do you print each day/week?
  • Do you require borderless printing (where you can print to all edges of the page – not all printers have this capability)?
  • What will it cost you to replace the ink or toner cartridges?
  • Approximately how many pages will you be able to print with each ink or toner cartridge?
  • Will you require fast printing?
  • What sort of media will you be printing on (e.g. paper, envelopes, cardboard, transfers)?
  • Do you require a printer with wireless capability (e.g. so you can print from your computer/laptop without cables connecting the devices)?
  • What is the manufacturer’s support like? Do they have a representative in your country/region?
  • What warranty is included?
  • Will you need to access photo memory cards direct on your printer?
  • Ensure that your computer can meet the printer’s specific software/hardware requirements.
  • If possible, ask around friends and associates for brands that they recommend or have had past problems with.
  • Once you have decided on the specific model you want it pays to shop around for the best price.

By spending a bit of time getting to know your exact requirements and asking a few questions while shopping around you may save yourself a lot of hassles and cost in the long run.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 2, 2008

My.Organiser Refill Pages Have Arrived… Nearly!

If you’re a regular reader of A Good Sort’s blog then you would no doubt have read that the 2009 refill pages for their My.Organiser and mini organiser are due to arrive this Friday.

If you’re not familiar with A Good Sort and their attractive, practical organisers, check them out now.

August 20, 2008

Email Etiquette

Filed under: Communication,Office Organisation,Small Business — smallbusinessdiva @ 4:34 pm
Tags: ,

I’m writing today about a topic that has been annoying me for a while now… a topic that has recently been discussed at length on a business forum I’m a member of and more recently in the latest Women’s Network Australia e-Noticeboard. I figured that while there’s a bit of talk about it, it’s a good time to bring it up here and (hopefully) we can start sending a clear message to the guilty parties. I must admit, some of my dearest friends are guilty so if you do this too, please don’t take it personally.

The problem… people who forward emails without using the BCC: field and those who forward emails without removing previous recipients’ / senders’ addresses from the message. These are particularly the case with those, “Forward to at least 100, 000 people within the next 10 minutes or your wish won’t come true” type of messages but are seen in general business emails too.

There are three main problems with this:

1. If my name is one of those on the email – whether as sender or recipient – it then gets forwarded all over the place. Some people are very protective of their privacy and would rather that their details not be distributed willy-nilly. Okay, perhaps you trust all the people you are forwarding the message to, but what about the people they send it to… or the people they send it to… or… and so on?

2. Others are concerned that their address will eventually end up in the hands of spammers, thus opening them to being bombarded with even more spam emails.

3. It just looks messy! I really dislike having to scroll down through countless ‘to’ and ‘from’ lists, complete with various, “Thought you’d like this. OMG ROFLMAO!!! See you Saturday. Love Sue,” type messages just to find a useful bit of info in the bottom two lines.

Although this annoys me, it doesn’t upset me and I certainly don’t waste time worrying about it – and I still love my friends who do this – but I’d really like it if we could collectively start spreading the message.

If you are guilty of this, please:

1. When sending messages to numerous people and it’s not necessary for them to know who else you’re sending it to, use the BCC: field (it’s below To: and CC) and stands for Blind Carbon Copy. It means that each person in that address field will receive the message but they won’t see the names of others it was sent to.

2. When forwarding a message, please delete any irrelevant information from the email before you press ‘send’ (eg previous names, addresses, messages and signature blocks).

Another suggestion is that we all start to include a message in our emails along the lines of, “Thanks for deleting my email address and the FWD in the subject line before forwarding these to your friends and family.  Hardly any spam now.”

Okay… I’ll get off my soap box now.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

June 17, 2008

Helpful Ways To Remember User IDs And Passwords

Filed under: Office Organisation,Small Business,Tips & Tricks,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 7:44 pm
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Do you get sick of trying to remember all those passwords and user ids? I think I add a new one to the list every single day.

A great piece of software to help store all of these important details – securely – is Roboform. It’s free to download and not only securely stores your user names, passwords and other basic information for filling in forms (eg your name, address, company name), but once they’re stored, with just a simple click or two on your toolbar you can enter your login details for that particular site.

If you’re not keen on installing software on your computer, the girls over at A Good Sort have a great idea for how to manually store your user ids and passwords.

Here’s to your success in business…

Donna-Marie

June 2, 2008

Do You Keep Up With Your Blogroll Friends?

Filed under: Office Organisation,Recommendations,Time Management,Tips & Tricks,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 11:58 am

This is a question raised by Elena at her EP Designs blog – some people have a blogroll list so long a kangaroo couldn’t jump over it… do they actually keep up with those blogging friends? Do they regularly read their posts and comment on them?

Well, I must admit that I’m one of those people. I don’t have all my favourite blogs listed on my blog because there’s just too many of them. And yes, I do like to keep up with them all (although I must admit, never as often as I’d like). 

Late last year I found myself really struggling to keep up with them all, clicking from one blog to another. Then I spent an hour or so and subscribed to all my favourite blogs. If you haven’t already done this, I highly recommend you do. You can use a simple program like Bloglines or Feedburner. Add all your favourites and then just log in there each day or each week. You can see all the new posts since your last visit and read them in one place. If you want to comment on anything, you can easily do that too.

Here’s to your success in business…

Donna-Marie

 

April 9, 2008

The Essential Business Guide

Diva Promotions have just launched their Essential Business Guide, full of practical tips and information for running a successful business.

The Essential Business Guide

To get your hands on this, you can download it now for free from one of my sites – Jacaranda Business Support Services. It’s on the left hand side, under the heading Who wants some free stuff?

It contains great articles from various authors on a wide range of topics about running a business, including one by Yours Truly, explaining the basic differences between PR, Advertising and Marketing… and which is best for you.

Here’s to your success in business…

April 7, 2008

Having a Bad Day?

Filed under: Bits & Pieces,Office Organisation — smallbusinessdiva @ 11:58 am
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Think you’re having a bad day at the office?

Have a look at this quick little clip over at The Tall Poppy. Short, sweet and good for a giggle.

I hope you have a great day today 🙂

Here’s to your success in business…

February 4, 2008

Does Your Working Environment Inspire You?

I was just reading a post at Annette Piper’s Under the Loupe blog where she proudly displays the picturesque view from her front verandah. While some may find it tempting to sit and admire this view all day, Annette says that she finds this setting inspirational.

This got me thinking… does your work environment inspire you? I must admit, I’ve moved around a lot – from the bush to the beach and now to the suburbs – and I can honestly say, my work setting does affect my motivation levels and inspiration.

For some of my work, particularly planning and some writing, I find I work better by the beach so I make an effort to get to the beach with my laptop on a regular basis. (No, I don’t take my laptop onto the sand, but I do sit near the beach or somewhere where I can see and hear the waves crashing). 

Unfortunately we can’t always work in the setting that works best for us as individuals, but there are things you can do that will help:

  • If you work from home and have a choice of which room to work from, make sure you choose the one that makes you feel the most motivated, productive and inspired. One where you’re truly comfortable coming to work all day. For some, this may be a room with a view, while others may be distracted by the view and be better off somewhere else.
  • Is there a lot of noise around your house, or noisy neighbours or traffic? If so, try to choose a room that’s quieter than the rest.
  • Make an effort to fit your main workroom in a way that inspires you to be there. Clear the clutter, decorate it appropriately for you… if you work best with soft music playing in the background make sure you’ve got music in there; if you like fresh flowers around, add flowers; if you like a stylish, colour co-ordinated office with no personal items around, visit your local stationer and invest in the products that make you feel good.
  • Make sure you have enough room to move and do what needs to be done. Working in too small a workspace can be incredibly stifling to productivitiy.
  • Ensure you have enough lighting and if not, do something about it. Lack of light can be another factor that discourages us from spending time in a room.
  • If you love working in a particular setting – such as the beach or the country – but this isn’t possible right now, consider adourning your walls with some quality pictures/prints of the settings you like and look at them often.

Those are just a selection of ideas. If anyone else has some ideas you’d like to share, please let us know.

Here’s to your business success…

January 16, 2008

A brilliant idea for laptop users

Recently I met Karin Bryer who runs Global Innovations. One of the products she supplies is this PORTAnoteBOOK (as well as PORTA-Books). This nifty gadget is ideal for resting your laptop on and has many benefits including being ergonomically friendly and helping to increase airflow (thus reducing the heat build up). Plus, it has built in storage space.

At such an affordable price I know I’ll be getting one.

Have a look at this video for more info or visit Karin’s site.

Here’s to your business success…

December 19, 2007

What do you wish you knew before you started your business?

It’s almost Christmas and as a special thank you for everyone who reads and posts comments on my blog I’d like to give you a gift.

For the last couple of months I have worked alongside 15 talented business owners to write an eBook full of handy tips, ideas and guidance for successfully running a business. Each business owner has contributed their own article about what they wish they had known before they started their business. Hopefully these articles will give you some ideas and help prevent you from making those same mistakes.

We’re giving this to you for free… nada… zip… zilch. Plus, you’re welcome to give it away to anyone else you think would benefit from reading it. The only stipulation is that you cannot alter it in any way and you cannot sell it.

For tips on time management, marketing ideas, balancing work/family, business ethics, niche marketing and lots more download your gift – What I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Business.

Happy reading!

Here’s to your business success…

November 14, 2007

How do you send large files over the Internet?

I am often asked how to send large files over the Internet as quite often there is a size limit or timeout limit on general email accounts, particularly if you are using a standard home-usage account.

I love two companies – Send This File and You Send It for this type of thing. Please note: I don’t get any commission for recommending these companies, I just do so because I love the service they provide.

They work much the same way. Basically, you select the file you want to send, click a couple of buttons, then your file is uploaded to a private area on their site and they will email a message with a download link to your selected recipient/s. The recipient of the file will receive this email saying that their file is ready for download; they click on the link and download the file. Easy!

This is fantastic when you have a file containing lots of high quality graphics, audios or videos.

You can sign up for a free account to trial both these companies and for many, the free account is all you’ll need. However if you find yourself wanting to use the service more and more, there are various upgrades that may be more suitable.

Check them out now… once you’ve tried them, you’ll use them wherever possible!

September 28, 2007

10 ways to improve your audio recording quality

A few days ago I posted a blog about transcription – what it is, who uses it and in what circumstances.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the cost of having your recording typed up into document format varies greatly but as a general rule, the better the quality of your recording, the more affordable having it typed will be.

There are so many things you can do to improve the sound quality of your recording, things such as:

  1. speaking as clearly as possible
  2. making sure you are talking somewhere with little, if any, background noise (interviewing someone in a cafe setting is absolutely disastrous)
  3. do a practise recording first to test your volume settings and the positioning of your microphone
  4. avoid background noises such as dogs barking, telephones ringing, heavy traffic. If these noises occur or one of the speakers needs to cough or sneeze, pause speaking and, if necessary, repeat the last few words
  5. spell any difficult words, particularly names
  6. be aware of shuffling papers and clanking glasses/coffee cups while recording. Even though you will hardly notice the sound, the microphone will pick them up and it makes it more difficult for the transcriptionist to hear the words
  7. where there is more than one speaker, identify each speaker clearly
  8. avoid speaking over the top of one another and interrupting. In a group situation, the group leader should ensure that only one person speaks at a time and if necessary, ask speakers to repeat their comments made while others were talking
  9. speak loudly enough to be heard
  10. ensure that you have spare batteries for your recording device before you start recording

As a final note, I always suggest that people find a transcriptionist before they begin recording. Any professional service will be happy to go over these types of suggestions to ensure that you get the best possible quality recording, which will in turn make their job quicker and easier, thus costing you less $$!

September 23, 2007

Do school holidays and work-at-home-mums mix?

School holidays have just begun here in Queensland. I posted this on my personal blog early this year and it got some great feedback, so I thought I would share it with readers of the Small Business Diva too.

My baby is now in his teens and at high school (boy, I feel old saying that) so it’s really no more difficult to work when he’s home all day. In fact, I enjoy being able to sleep in a bit!!! In my case, the occasional, “Muuuuum… I’m hungry,” is dealt with by a simple reply of, “There’s the kitchen,” while pointing in the general direction of said kitchen. If he’s getting something yummy I’ll often follow up with, “I’ll have one too while you’re there,” or “Put the kettle on for me would you Darl?”

Okay, so I have it pretty easy, but it wasn’t always this way. He was little once – many, many sleeps ago – and I often have young nieces visiting for the holidays or, at one stage, young foster children here. School holidays always remind me of how difficult it can be juggling the ever-professional-business-Mum with Mum-of-kids-on-school-holidays.

I found the most important way to survive these times was to BE ORGANISED. To start with, mark the school holidays in your diary in advance and try not to schedule too many appointments during this time.

There are lots of ways you can involve your littlies in your business – help packing orders, sticking labels or stamps on envelopes, simple sorting. I also made a habit of keeping a miniature desk and chair near my desk, along with a toy phone and some simple stationery items (espcially a stapler and a hole punch – they love those!) That way the kids can be creative while playing ‘pretend’ workers too. I also kept my old computer at a desk in my office and my son would sometimes sit up there ‘doing his work’ with me. Of course, his work involved software such as MS Paint, PrintMaster Gold (card making – lots of graphics in that one) or a couple of Sesame Street games.

If you need to run errands, time these around your child’s needs so they are not tired and grumpy.

Where possible, try to arrange ‘kid-sharing’ with a friend or relative. On one day, you can look after their kids and just spend the day with them. The next day, the other person has the kids and you devote time to your work. Alternating outing days with home days can help reduce boredom too.

Try to avoid getting caught up with work for too long at a time. Kids may get resentful and play up just to get your attention. Where possible, alternate time with your kids and time in the office.

The most important thing is not to be too hard on yourself and your expectations. Remember WHY you’re working from home in the first place. In many cases it’s because you want to spend more time with your family (working in your slippers in just a bonus ).

What are your tips for balancing work/family during school holidays? I’d love to hear them.

September 21, 2007

Finally… a solution for kitty keyboards

Whenever I use the computer at my Mum’s home I have to fight the cats for the keyboard. They love nuzzling your hands, trying to encourage you to pat them, while you’re trying to type!

Finally… here’s a solution:

http://www.kittykeyboardkover.com/

Kitty Keyboard Kover in action

September 19, 2007

How can simply recording your work save you time?

Filed under: Office Organisation,Small Business,Time Management,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 12:30 pm

I was speaking with an associate of mine earlier today about transcription and who uses a transcription service. She was surprised at the number of ways this service could benefit others so I thought I would share some of these with you.

For those who don’t know much about transcription, that’s when you speak and record (dictate) your words for a transcriptionist to type and format for you. This service has been provided for many, many years with cassettes, then mini and micro cassettes. While these tape options are still available, digital recording is now the way to go. The quality of the recording is usually much clearer plus you don’t need to worry about the tape getting damaged or chewed up. Better still, the digital voice files (mp3, wav, etc) can simply be emailed to your transcriptionist or uploaded to a secure server for your transciptionist to retrieve which saves both time and money compared to having tapes couriered.

Once the audio file has been typed and formatted – usually as a Word document – it is simply emailed back to you. Easy!

This associate that I mentioned earlier thought that transcription services were only used by lawyers or high-profile business-people dictating their letters.

Not so! Here is a very brief list of some of the uses of transcription services:

  • doctors – letters, reports
  • lawyers/legal staff – various letters & reports
  • busy students – lecture notes & assignments
  • business people – various documents such as interviews, books, blogs (yes, even blogs!), letters, reports, critiques, manuscripts, seminars, presentations, conferences, articles, newsletters, market research, focus groups, plans… basically anything that needs to be written up.
  • people writing books, particularly historians, biographies and family history, or elderly people who want to tell their story.

There are so many ways… this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another of the benefits of using a transcription service is the time saving. For example, if you have hours of audio to be typed and you need the completed document urgently, it may be physically impossible for you to type it all yourself. However, many professional transcriptionists are part of a larger team and the workload can easily be shared. With numerous people working on your files it will be much easier to meet your deadline. And don’t worry about the confidentiality side of things. Most professional transcriptionists will happily sign a confidentiality agreement and strictly adhere to these policies. Their business reputation is their livlihood.

There are various points to consider when sourcing a good transcriptionist plus many things you can do while recording to help reduce the cost of this service. I’ll post about these over the coming week along with what sort of equipment you need to get started.

Stay tuned…

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 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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