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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October 1, 2008

Make Sure You Protect Family Time

While reading Elena’s EP Designs blog I came across her post about protecting family time.

Elena shares with her readers the following article:

Protecting Family Time by Melissa Khalinsky

For many home based businesses, the line between business time and family time can be blurred. It is easy for clients for demand attention at all hours. As parents, it is more important than ever to protect your family time, drawing a line between work and leisure.

Here a few ways you can protect your family time.

  1. Set office hours – even if your set hours are erratic, fitting around your children, set office hours when you will be working. Outside these hours, be un-contactable, by phone and email. Answer emails and phone messages during office hours.
  2. Schedule family time – you put all your business meetings in your diary, to ensure you keep your appointments. Do the same with your family time – and ensure you keep your appointments!
  3. Use voicemail – during family time, turn your mobile phone off and unplug your phone or screen your calls. If it is an important matter, your clients will leave a message or call back later. You may even want to change your voicemail message to let callers know when you will be back in the office.
  4. Have a separate work area – if possible, keep your work area separate from your living area. If a separate room is unavailable, set yourself up in a corner that is designated as your office. Set yourself up so that your work can be put away during family time, so you are not tempted to start working while you are with your family.

Remember, if you were working for someone else, and working nine to five, your clients wouldn’t expect you to be available after hours, on weekends or when you are on holiday. Your family time is precious – protect it.

Melissa Khalinsky is a work at home mother of 2 boys. She runs Business Mums Network, a support and information network for parents.

Article Source: The RepOZitory – FREE reprint articles from Australia for WAHMs and Business Mums.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 25, 2008

Do You Know Where Your Words May End Up?

When you write something on the internet – on your blog, blog comments, your website, articles that you publish – do you ever stop and wonder where your words may end up?

Personally, it never ceases to amaze me where my articles end up. I often see articles I’ve submitted to article directories on other people’s blog and websites, and I’ve even seen a couple in business newsletters that I subscribe to (all used appropriately and acknowledging the author, of course).

This week, I discovered that a post by Paul B. Brown on the New York Times Business Blog has quoted the Small Business Diva. Who would ever have thought? (NB: This is a great blog by the way – definitely worth visiting).

Now, would you like to know how I discovered this? No, I don’t have time to spend all day reading through millions of websites/blogs. I subscribe to Google Alerts. All you do is go to Google Alerts and enter the search terms you want to be alerted to, such as your name, your business name or even just an industry or topic that you’re interested in. Enter how often you want to receive email alerts, whether you want websites, blogs or everything, and your email address. That’s it. Simple.

When someone publishes something that includes your nominated search terms, you’ll be sent an email with the details.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 13, 2008

Handy Computer Shortcuts – Part 2

Recently I wrote about some handy computer shortcuts that will save you time on the keyboard. As promised in that post, Handy Computer Shortcuts, here are a few more for you to play with:

  • Take you to the start of that line – Home
  • Take you to the start of the document – Ctrl (control) + Home
  • Take you to the end of that line – End
  • Take you to the start of the document – Ctrl + End
  • Create a new document – Ctrl + N
  • Insert a page break – Ctrl + Enter
  • Decrease font size – Ctrl + Shift + <
  • Increase font size – Ctrl + Shift + >
  • To change lowercase text to ALL CAPS – Ctrl + Shift + A
  • To insert a date field – Alt + Shift + D
  • Delete the word before the cursor – Ctrl + Backspace
  • Delete the word after the cursor – Ctrl + Del
  • Double-click to highlight the word the cursor is in
  • Triple-click to highlight the paragraph the cursor is in

Have fun playing with those!

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

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 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 22, 2008

Handy Computer Shortcuts

Filed under: Time Management,Tips & Tricks,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 11:00 am
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There are lots and lots of keyboard shortcuts that you can use to save time when using the computer. I know some regular readers already use these shortcuts, but I also know there are others who aren’t aware of them.

Here’s a list of the most common shortcuts. These can be used in MS Word but you will find that they will usually work just the same in most other MicroSoft programs and in fact, in many other applications too.

For these shortcuts, first highlight the text concerned, then:

  • Copy – hold down CTRL and the ‘C’ key
  • Paste – CTRL + V
  • Cut – CTRL + X
  • Undo – CTRL + Z
  • Repeat – CTRL + Y
  • Underline – CTRL + U
  • Bold – CTRL + B
  • Italics – CTRL + I
  • Open a Document – CTRL + O
  • Save a Document CTRL + S
  • Print a Document – CTRL + P
  • Close a Document – CTRL + W
  • Select Everything – CTRL + A
  • Help – F1

There are lots more but I’ll share those with you another time. For now, if you’re not used to using the shortcut keys, just pick one or two of these functions that you use often and practise using them. Once you’re familiar with those and remember them by heart, choose another couple and start using those. Before you know it, you’ll be a whizz with all these shortcuts.

Here’s to your success in business…

Donna-Marie

June 11, 2008

Useful Website

Filed under: Small Business,Time Management,Tips & Tricks,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 6:10 pm
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Browser Shots is a great website to visit when you want to see how your website is viewed on different browsers.

Simply go to the site… type in your URL… select the browsers you’d like to get an overview of… click on ‘submit’ and wait for a minute or two. You’ll get an overview of how your webpage is seen by user’s of the various different browsers.

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

 

March 19, 2008

How Do You Get Motivated?

When it comes to getting motivated, particularly when you have a business to run, some people recommend starting your day by doing a few quick and easy jobs from your ‘to do’ list. This helps to get you started and hopefully the momentum will keep you motivated to continue working through your list.

Meanwhile others, such as Dale Carnegie, suggest that you “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”

So who’s right?

The easy answer is… whichever works for you!

Personally, I find a mixture of the two methods helps me. I usually begin the day by getting stuck into a few quick, simple tasks, then hit the biggest, most challenging job for the day. The quick tasks get me into the flow of the day, then by getting the most difficult task on my list for that day completed it’s such a huge relief, leaving me feeling like I’ve really achieved something. Then it’s easy for me to keep going through the rest of the list.

What works best for you? I’d love to hear your ideas, or any other methods and suggestions you can offer.

Here’s to your business success… 

February 11, 2008

Finding Time to Achieve Those Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Filed under: Small Business,Time Management,Words of Wisdom & Inspiration — smallbusinessdiva @ 11:11 am
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Reading Jenni’s blog at Papercraft Designs I came across this great quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson – US essayist & poet (1803 – 1882):

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.”

I really love that quote. It is perfectly in line with one of my theories in life, that if you want to be the best at something – or at least up there with the best – you should practise it or learn about it daily.

One of my mentors many years ago told me that if I wanted to be good at something I should learn or practise it for at least 15 minutes every day. Even just 15 minutes a day, over time, will greatly build your knowledge or abilities.

In my last post I mentioned that “small deeds done are better than big deeds planned.” Sometimes we think of big deeds, or goals, but just can’t find the time to take action – often because it’s going to take a lot of time. However, if you commit to focusing just 15 minutes each day on your ‘big hairy audacious goal’, you’ll be amazed at how soon that time, and those small achievements, will add up.

Now there’s no excuses!

Here’s to your business success…

January 29, 2008

Corporate Gift Giving Made Easy

Filed under: Recommendations,Small Business,Time Management — smallbusinessdiva @ 11:47 am
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I was just reading this Fresh Fruit post on My New Shiny Shoes that talks about giving fruit as a gift (actually, it was the gorgeous pic of a tray of mangoes that caught my attention!)

The post got me thinking about what other gifts you can send to people, particularly gifts to customers, suppliers or business associates, and even more specifically, gifts that you are not able to deliver in person, such as when the recipient is interstate.

I often think of sending gifts to associates, sometimes just for the sake of it or because I know they’re going through a difficult situation, but it’s usually the thought of packaging and sending the gift that puts me off the idea. So, I’ve decided to make a list of my favourite ideas so next time I want to send such a gift, I don’t have to stop and think about it too much.

I love the idea of the fruit gift, and then there’s the delicious gifts offered by Rainbow Designs. Getting away from food, the Beauty Banquet has some tasty looking soaps that would make a lovely gift package and Kylie from Tilda Virtual Services suggests giving clients/associates a subscription to a relevant magazine.

The thing I love most about these choices is that in all cases, they handle the postage and delivery of the gift! If you’re buying for someone in another country, a quick search online will usually come up with a number of suggestions – a great way to save time as well as shipping costs.

Do you have any other ideas for corporate gifts suggestions? If so, please share them… I’ll add them to my list 🙂

Here’s to your business success…

January 27, 2008

How do you find Australian Business News?

Here’s a great site that’s worth visiting – and subscribing too… Plugger – for Australian Business News.

Plugger is an Australian business news website aggregating news and providing a news search engine. You can search for news on your business or industry, and if you register, you can also receive one daily email of news up-dates about your customers, competitors and other related issues from a wide variety of sources.

Plus, you can publish your own news and media releases simply by emailing Plugger (your news must be within the body of the email or a page on a website, not an attachment) or you can log-in and  post your news. Logging-in lets you track the popularity of your post.

Best of all, it’s free to join Plugger. It’s a great way to post and track your news or to monitor customers and industries.

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 28, 2007

An overwhelmed life

Here’s another video by Juliet Funt who presents great information with a humorous twist. This is her impression of a typical day… one I can certainly relate to!

October 22, 2007

Are you making the most of your time?

Filed under: Bits & Pieces,Time Management,Words of Wisdom & Inspiration — smallbusinessdiva @ 10:03 pm
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I came across this quote today:

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot,”

Michael Althsuler.

I like the sound of that!

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 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…

September 8, 2007

How to combat procrastination once and for all

“You don’t have to be great to start. But you do have to start… to be great. When you believe in yourself and tell yourself, ‘I can do it,’ your confidence, motivation, determination and energy will all join together and propel you towards your goal.”

~ Zig Ziglar

I love that quote and live it almost every day. There are times when I have a task to do and I just can’t quite get the motivation to do it. You know what it’s like… you know you must write a letter to so-and-so but you don’t know where to begin. So you keep finding other things to do. You might even spend a whole day getting plenty of work done… but that letter is still waiting for you.

When I get like this, I just make myself do it. Do anything to get started. If it’s writing something, I just sit down and start writing – even if it’s just gobbledegook. I always find that within minutes, the words are flowing and the first draft is soon written.

If it’s some new project you want to tackle, begin by researching or talking to others who may be able to help. Find out what you need to do and if necessary, break it down into baby steps. (Remember the saying, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.)

Just as Zig Ziglar claims, once you begin the task – no matter how small that beginning act it – you will soon gain the motivation, energy and desire to keep going because you’re so caught up in the moment. If you don’t do this already, just try it. You’ll be amazed at how much you will achieve.

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