Helpful Articles

Time Management Tips for Entrepreneurs

Burnout is a big challenge for entrepreneurs. When you’re your own boss, it can be tempting to try to squeeze in five business days’ worth of work into just one day. The next thing you know, your boundless energy has turned into a constant dread of overwhelm. Here’s a few tips on how to avoid straying over to the dark side of entrepreneurship. 

  1. Break it down. Eating an elephant all at once is just a recipe for epic heartburn. By breaking down big client work and projects into manageable pieces, you can gain a clearer sense of which tasks will need to take precedence and how to best spread them across a time horizon. Project management tools like Smartsheet can help you register individual tasks, set timetables for completion and track progress as you go.
  2. Prioritize
    Not every task is equal when it comes to project work, and your time is precious. It can be difficult to discern how best to spend your valuable time and energy until you’ve done the work of laying out your project tasks. Once you have a sense of what items are critical to move a project forward, and which are just filler work, you can focus your attention on only those tasks that are most deserving of your time.
  3. Just say no. 
    Sometimes the best way to get out of a fix is not get into one in the first place. The drive for cash flow and growth may result in hasty decisions that can put you in a bind when you realize that the exciting client work you took on is eating up your current capacity or, even worse, exceeding your capacity. Before taking on new work, do your due diligence on capacity check to make sure that you have the resources you need to be successful. And don’t be afraid to say no to opportunity that just doesn’t make any business sense.
  4. Delegate and delegate often
    Never underestimate the power of sharing – sharing tasks, deadlines, scheduling and yes, sharing revenue. Adding on virtual assistants, part-time help, and subcontractors can make a big difference in both the long-term stability of your new venture and your mental health. While this support will represent additional cost to your business, if you plan it right, you can assign tasks that keep you from tackling critical, value-add project work. A great virtual assistant, for example, can free up valuable time by helping to manage your calendar and taking on time-suck activities. 

Top 5 Digital Tools for Sole Proprietors

So you’ve started your small business and now you need the right tools to make your life as a sole proprietor a little easier. We’ve got you covered with our Top Five Digital Tools for Sole Proprietors!

  1. Airtable. The database you never knew you needed.
    Still using those Google sheets? Time to enhance your experience, and the experience you provide your customers, through Airtable. Planning a marketing campaign for a client? Airtable has a template for you. Looking to build out your fundraising research? Airtable can optimize views for each funding opportunity, highlighting the information you want to share with your clients right away. It’s collaborative. It’s visual. It’s totally worth the $12/month.

  2. Calendly. Lets you set your scheduling parameters without the cost of the virtual assistant.
    Use Calendly to brand your scheduling link and page, set up all of the meeting parameters (duration, place – video/phone/in-person, etc.) and link it directly with your personal calendar. You can also check other people’s Calendly accounts with a view that only shows the times you’re available, and collect payment information as an add-on.

  3. Squarespace. Sitehosting made easy.
    With Squarespace you can easily host as many sites as you need, purchase and link to Google Workspace tools, and embed original coding and content. Squarespace has easy-to-use templates that can be adjusted to reflect your brand’s aesthetic, and you can add your scheduler and easily link to other tools (for instance Dropbox) for hosting sample materials that aren’t ready for public viewing or visuals that might take up too much bandwidth on your site.

  4. Typeform. Create visual, easy-to-use surveys.
    Typeform is a valuable form tool if you are regularly seeking out customer feedback and need something that is a big step above a medical intake form. You can add your own visuals or search from the company’s existing image bank. You can also make quizzes, polls, order forms, and tests and embed the final product directly into your website. Win-win.

  5. Wave. Simple invoice customization and tracking.
    Wave is an accounting tool that lets you customize your invoices to reflect your brand. It also tracks invoices and payments, and lets you run reports by customer, month, or almost any other way you would like to take a look at your finances. Additional services, like payroll, are available for a fee. For sole proprietors, being able to create, send, and manage invoices and receipts is likely more than enough to get you started. Bonus for the reporting features that allow you to capture average time for payment, accrual vs cash basis records, and profit and loss statements!

Cyberproofing Your Small Business

As if a global pandemic weren’t enough to raise the stress of small businesses owners, cyber attack is increasingly posing a critical threat to the stability of many small businesses. In its 2020 Internet Crime Report, the FBI noted that internet crime complaints jumped a staggering 69.4% in a single year with reported losses exceeded more than $4.2 billion. The top three crimes reported were phishing scams, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion. In addition, the FBI received 19,369 Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise complaints with adjusted losses of over $1.8 billion.

October is “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” in the United States and, in recognition of the observance, below are a few tips that you can adopt to help cyberproof your business.

  1. Encourage Common Sense Internet Safety. Research has shown that most cybersecurity breaches are due to human carelessness. You can take steps to reinforce proper netiquette and averting a cyber mishap by refreshing your team on internet safety basics such as not to open or forward mail from suspicious senders, use strong passwords, avoid downloading strange files, examine the sender email address to make sure it’s from a true account, and keep office software updated.
  2. Establish Easy Cyber Incident Reporting. Employees are your front line when it comes to thwarting a major cyber incident. Give your team an easy, no-judgment way to report suspicious incidents whether its by simply sending a quick email to you or filling out a brief form. With many employees working remotely, it is more important than ever that your team has a clear understanding of when and how to report on a possible breach. And encourage them to take action even if they think it might be a false alarm – time is of the essence.
  3. Plan for a Breach. The proliferation of technology tools has made it easy for any motivated cyber thug to target your business, and small and microenterprises are especially vulnerable to attack due to their limited risk management and cybersecurity resources. Forget the idea that you will be able to fend off all attackers and instead focus on Cyber Resiliency. You can do this by identifying what your key business data and processes are, taking steps to secure or backup those processes, and creating a plan of action on what you will do when an incident occurs, such as business email compromise, ransomware or malware attacks. 

Here are a few links of additional resources that can help to cyberproof your business: 

Working with Virtual Assistants to Support Your Business

Time management can be difficult for small business owners especially at the early stages of their company when most owners are trying their best to keep costs low. Often, this results in owners doing too much on their own. This is when a virtual assistant or “VA,” an independent contractor who works outside of your office on administrative tasks, can be a great value-add for your business – when done right. Here are a few tips and best practices on how to work effectively with a VA.

Consider Your Greatest Needs

Think about what you actually need a virtual assistant for? Is it for support with scheduling, research, or data entry? All of the above. One you understand what your critical needs are, it will make it much easier to find the VA with the right skill set to match your needs.  

Communication is Key

When you do bring on some, keep in mind that communication is important, especially when someone is working remote. You will need to set expectations on your preferred modes of communication whether that is by email, phone call, text or online work community platform like Slack or Asana. The more you can set parameters on preferred forms of information exchange, the better for both you and your VA.

Determining Hours

Unlike a fulltime, in-house assistant, VAs only work the hours you need. Figure out ahead of time how many will you need on a weekly basis to get everything done.

Setting Priorities

Setting priorities is key. As independent contractor, VAs typically have multiple clients and can have many task assignments occurring the week. You can help to focus their time by making sure your priorities and due dates are clear so they can plan accordingly.

Rapidfire Tips

Here’s a few rapidfire tips to maintaining a positive and effective VA relationship

  • Maintain a regular check-in schedule. At minimum, this should include a check-in at the start of the week to plot out your priority items.
  • Strategize together on how to address tasks such as calendar management and travel.
  • Establish a regular report schedule with your VA. At minimum, this should include a weekly or monthly breakout of hours and tasks completed.

Diversity in Contracting

Finally, consider diversity when it comes bringing on a virtual assistant. Just like any position, contracting with a VA is an opportunity to work with someone with different experiences and point of view from yours. A unique perspective can help to point out blind spots and a fresh approach to your business.

We’re interested in hearing what issues concern you.  Share with us your thoughts utilizing virtual assistants by emailing us.

Advocacy in Business: How to Make Your Voice Matter

Now, more than ever, it is imperative for small business owners and sole proprietors to find their voice on issues that matter most to them.  We’ve laid out three key steps to help you more effectively advocate for your business and industry. But first, some thoughts and insights into this fascinating and complicated arena.

What does it mean to be an advocate?

In its simplest form, advocacy is the act of speaking in support of a person, place, or cause.  Advocacy can take many forms – it can be meeting with a local elected official to educate them on your industry, issuing a newsletter on how a new law will impact your business, or organizing a rally on a particular issue that you care about.  

How is advocacy different from lobbying?

Lobbying is any direct attempt to influence a new or existing legislation through communication with a member of the legislature or any other government representative who has a role in the legislation. Advocacy, on the other hand, isn’t tied to a specific piece of legislation or ballot initiative.

Three key steps of business advocacy:  

1. Issue Discovery

Hone in on the exact problem you are trying to solve. What is the existing challenge and how can the approach be improved? Be proactive in identifying solutions to the problem. Quite often, the current challenge you are experiencing is the result of unintended consequences of another regulation. Calling attention to common-sense fixes can become the starting point for your advocacy.

 2. Personal Outreach

Determine who has the ability to create the change you’re seeking and build a personal relationship with those stakeholders. Know who your elected officials are, as well as the key figures that make decisions directly impacting your community, such as your local planning commission or police chief. In some cases, the decision maker may not be who you expect. Build a relationship with them – schedule a meeting and share your concern and proposed solution.   

3. Coalition Building

Align with persons or groups that share your interest in order to enhance and elevate your concern.  It might be easy to ignore one voice but it’s harder to ignore 1,000. This can happen in a few different ways such as joining your local chamber of commerce and leveraging them to raise your issue, joining an industry group that shares your interests, or finding a coalition of partners that share your same concern. There is strength in numbers, and the right partner or group of partners can augment your voice and raise your concern to a higher level.

We’re interested in hearing what issues concern you.  Share with us your top priorities by emailing us.

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