Sunday, December 3, 2006

What's Your Weakest Link?

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comBetween running your business, worrying about year-end accounting, and doing some planning for the new year, it's a challenge to find the time to stop and look at where you're NOT doing a remarkable job. But, perhaps such an exercise may yield better results in the long-term.

If you take a moment and think about what part of your business doesn't quite run as smoothly as it should, or is there a typical business function that you haven't even addressed. This should be part of your planning for the new year. Do what you do better before you attempt to do more.

So, I asked myself last month, what could I do better? The answer was improve my customer service. What if instead of waiting up to two days to get a response from me, customers could get one in a matter of hours? Sounds like a great plan, but how can a small business afford to provide remarkable service like that?

Enter the Virtual Assistant!

The explosion of the Internet created a whole new industry, giving talented people the opportunity to work for companies remotely. Then International Virtual Assistants Association defines a virtual assistant as, "an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services."

There are many VA's out there looking for opportunities to fill up a 40 hour work week. The best part of this arrangement is that you can get what you need (say 5 hours of help a week) without having to foot the cost of hiring a full-time (or even part-time) employee.

Interesting, right? So, rather that try to fix the real problem (i.e. I'm wearing too many hats to provide my customers with prompt responses), bring in some extra help to offset it. When you distill down something like customer service (for a small company), it shouldn't add up to more than a few hours a week. (If it's consuming more than that, perhaps you have a weaker link in your business and need to dig deeper)

Several years ago (when the VA thing was starting), I contacted several VA's (and a few contacted me), but could never get past the mental block of what could this person really do for me that I'm willing to pay for. It's really the exploration of what your weakest at, or what you're not even getting to altogether, that will help identify where to invest in outside help.

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