Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Virtual Simplicity Blog is Moving

The Virtual Simplicity blog has a new home and a new look. It has moved on to my Sally Around The Bay Blog and will mostly focus on topics around social networking.

Please update your feeds to the following Web address:

I look forward to seeing you at our new Web home. I'm thinking about having a housewarming party with some prizes... more info to come soon.

You can also find us on Facebook at Sally Around The Bay.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Starting up a Business Economically

Working with entrepreneurs and start-up companies there is something I see time and time again. I see people spend a whole bunch of money upfront on things that are not really necessary (in my humble opinion). People purchase fancy letterhead, stationary, brochures, logos, Websites and business cards. They put a lot of attention, focus and money on the impression they are going to make but what they don't do is put a lot of attention and focus on the service they are going to provide or who they are going to provide it to. More often than not I’ve seen entrepreneurs within the first year of business decide to change their whole focus which means the letterhead, the brochure and the business cards are heading to the recycling bin and the Website and logo are being completely re-done.

I’ve seen people buy all sorts of offices supplies – a new computer, a new fax machine, a fancy printer, a scanner, a phone system, pens, etc.

I’ve also seen people use all these "things" they must have as an excuse to not put themselves out there and really start their business. I hear things like, "I can’t go to that networking meeting because I don’t have a Website yet or I don't have brochures yet or my Website isn't done yet." I'll let you in on a little secret… Websites are never done!

If you are thinking about starting a business I say start with the basics. Get a Website or Blog and a simple professional looking business card. The letterhead, brochures, logos and fancy Website are not going to get you business. What is going to get you business are your skills at networking and connecting with others, the quality of service you provide and a way for people to find you (ie. contact info on Website and business cards).

What are you waiting for? Stop trying to be perfect. Stop making excuses. Stop wasting money. Remember you have a service to offer that most likely someone else needs.

Do you need help getting started on your new business? Or getting over a slump? Contact Sally_K to set up a Business Brainstorming Session!

Pic of office supplies via Flickr User nickjohnson
PS. Thanks to Mack Collier for explaining an easy way to give photo credit when using creative common photos from Flickr.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How Not To Get A New Client

I am constantly giving the advice to entrepreneurs to network, network, network. I tell business owners to get out of their comfort zone and go out and network. When I say network I don't mean to go out and broadcast your services or to do hard sales. To me networking is about creating relationships, to get to know others and to let them get to know you. It is not about trying to get that person to be my next client. It's about making friends and building social capital. You never know who knows your next client or where your next referral might come from.

I recently had a networking experience that felt "icky" to me. How can I explain this? I met a man at an event, he heard me talking about Twitter and social networking (many of you know how much I LOVE to talk about this subject, I get a little passionate when doing so) anyway he asked me for my card and said he'd like to hear more about what I do. The next day he called and asked if I wanted to get together and have coffee to network some more. Being the networking advocate I am, I said yes.

When I arrived for coffee he introduced me to his colleague, explaining they had other meetings to attend today so she came along for this one as well. I thought great, I get to meet another person. They asked me all about Twitter, my blog, social networking and I blabbed on and on talking about being authentic, about how it's not about sales but is about relationships, they agreed and said they loved the concept because that is how they practice business.

About 15 minutes in to our conversation, I asked him why he wanted to meet today, if he just wanted to hear more about what I do or if he had any questions. Suddenly, his colleague took over and dove in to a total sales pitch trying to sell me a service I did not need, nor want. She went on and on, while the wheels were turning in my head and I was slowly realizing what was happening...

I was thinking to myself, did they even really care about what I do? were they here to sell me their services? I felt like a big dummy for going on and on about social networking. Maybe I was too presumptuous myself and should have spent a little more time at the beginning of the meeting to check in with them.

Meanwhile she is still talking about all the benefits of what they do and how much I will benefit from it. Then she said, "so tell me how we can help you?". I looked at her confused and said, "I'm not looking for help, I'm here today because he invited me. I'm not looking for X services, I don't need them. Thank you". I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the conversation but it just didn't sit right with me. We were all polite to each other but by this point I felt like they weren't being authentic, I felt they didn't really care about what I did, they just smiled politely and kept asking questions to keep me talking. I may be totally wrong, because they seemed like really nice people, perhaps they did care about what I do and they just have a different style of networking but I came out of the meeting feeling icky, which means I'm probably not going to use their services and I'm not going to refer them to my large network of friends.

I'm telling this story not to criticize these people but to share with any of you who may be wondering why you haven't "sealed the deal" lately. If you are having trouble "closing the sale" with clients maybe it is time to take a step back and look at your own approach to networking.

If you are going to invite someone for a meeting to try to sell them your services please let them know in advance. Maybe even find out if they are at all interested in your services. Time is precious these days.

My advice is to network, network, network but please be authentic when doing so.

After re-reading this, I realized I'm being a little hard on these people. I'm sure they are good, nice and caring people. I'm not saying people who do hard sales are bad people, just saying they may want to re-evaluate the way they look at networking and sales. It's totally fine to share what you do and talk about your business but that is different than trying to convince someone they need your services.

I'm stepping off my soap box now. Thank you for listening.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Urge to Purge Day 4

Today I purged the information booklet from my health insurance (because I never read it anyway), I filed some papers I need to save for clients, found my Get Clients Now! tracking sheets... hmmm maybe I will start that program again. I finally took the sent faxes out of my fax machine and filed them.

I put away Poncho's (my dog) file (with all the Vet receipts and other miscellaneous Poncho info) back with the personal files in the other room where it belongs! I also put away my recipe file that got left in here after I emailed Becki the Crock Pot stew recipe.

It seems my blog ramblings about organizing my desk have inspired a few others to do the same. After day 1 of my urge to purge my mom sent me a picture of her desk saying my problem (of a clutter filled desk) might be genetic.

(Very clever how she took the picture with the picture of my desk on her screen)

Today my mom sent me a new pic of her clean desk. She wanted to note that the flower was placed there just for the picture because she would never actually leave a vase there where water could be spilled on her keyboard.

Something I've learned (remembered) in these 4 days of purging. Keeping your desk clean and organized in an ongoing process. You can't just clean your desk once and expect it to stay clean. You have to always put away what you take out. It's a good idea to set time aside each day to clear off the clutter. I don't know about you but my desk is like a clutter magnet. My desk was cleared off a few minutes ago but now it has my book, my purple pen, my water bottle, my wallet and my lotion on it. If I don't stop right now to put these things back where they belong they may soon take permanent residence on my desk top.

Day 5 I will tackle my In box.

Urge to Purge Day 3

My desk is slowly getting more organized and starting to look better. I've actually been purging and putting away more than 5 things a day, but knowing I only have to do 5 things makes it easier. The latest items removed from my desk were a pile of receipts (entered in QuickBooks and filed away), a necklace, a belt, my sunglasses (reminder to self - this is my desk, not a closet!), a dime, a stack of business cards (either entered in my contacts or tossed), and a Community Class Schedule (no I'm not going to sign up for that great Spanish class that started 3 weeks ago).

Although I have put away and purged quite a bit, I'm still not happy with my desk. After taking today's photo I'm seeing what I need to work on next either the files and other stashed papers to the left or the so called In Box to the right (a.k.a. place to stick things I know I need to deal with but probably never will box). Notice Intuit QuickBooks Pro 2009 box... I don't know how many months it has been sitting there waiting for me to install the new version of Quickbooks. I could probably take those sent faxes out of my fax machine and file them too.

To reward my efforts so far I gave my desk a little gift. Yes I know adding things to my desk in the middle of clearing out probably isn't the wisest thing to do but whatever it makes me smile. I bought a friend for Robbie the Robot, a little purple and pink wind up butterfly. I also bought new purple pens because *gasp* I ran out of purple ink yesterday.

How is your purging going? Is your desk/office looking better?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Urge to Purge Day 2

After yesterday's post I removed 5 things from my desk. It's starting to look a little better. Oh and I also made a deal with myself to not add any new things to my desk. Whatever I take out I will put away. Whatever needs to be thrown away or recycled will be. However, I'm noticing I didn't quite stick to my deal. Even though there is less stuff on my desk today than there was yesterday, I added a few things (a necklace, my sun glasses, a coffee cup and a glass of water). This purging stuff is harder to do than it sounds.

Yesterday I purged (actually put away) my pens, the little bulldog clip, sticky notes, kid's school directory and my check book. I purged an old sudefed pill that was in my desk drawer and has been in there for probably a year. Why was I saving a sudefed pill in my desk drawer? Who knows?

You may have noticed the little wind up robot on my desk from yesterday's photo or maybe you didn't because my desk was so messy he fell over.

The little robot is named Robbie. When I was in 4th grade I wrote a story about Robbie the Robot explaining that the reason my desk was messy inside was because there was a robot named Robbie that lived in there and messed it up every night while I was at home sleeping. My teacher thought this was so funny, he shared the story with other teachers, students and my parents. A few months ago in Diva Day I was complaining about my messy desk and remembered the story of Robbie the Robot. I shared the story with the group and someone suggested I get a robot to keep on my desk and remind myself not to be so hard on myself about my messy desk.

I'd like to introduce you to Robbie. However, now that I'm a grown up it is time for me to take ownership for my own mess. It is not Robbie's fault. I can't blame Robbie. Robbie is here to remind me to keep my desk clean. When he falls over it's a reminder to me that it's time to stop and clean up the desk again.

It's time for me to purge (or put away 5 more things). How are you doing with keeping your desk clean? Did you find any strange things on your desk or in your desk drawers?

The Urge to Purge

Hi my name is Sally and my desk is a mess. (See picture to the left as proof). I have the urge to purge! I am a Virtual Assistant with a business called Virtual Simplicity and I help other people get and stay organized. With that profession you'd think I'd have a spotless desk wouldn't you? As much as I hate to admit it my desk is not spotless, it is messy! I struggle everyday with this. I want a spotless desk!

I recently met Jen from Inspired Home Office through Diva Day who explained to me that it is okay to have things on my desk. A desk in use is going to have stuff on it. So Jen's words gave me some encouragement but I still want that clean and shiny executive desk that I picture myself having. I want to walk in to my office and look at my desk and feel a sense of relaxation. Not walk in and get mad at myself for having such a messy desk.

In an effort to achieve the desk I dream of, the desk I preach about... I am going to start purging. I got the idea to purge 5 things a day for 5 days and thought it would be fun to invite others to join me. Is your desk a mess? Do you want to do the 5 things a day for 5 days purge?

There is a section in mine and Yvonne's book called:

Pitfall #4 - Clutter

When you visualize a successful CEO’s office, do you see a messy, clutter-filled office with so much paper work piled up you can’t even see the top of the desk? Or do you see a spacious, clean, simple office with an organized desk and a big, shiny workspace?

Now look around your own office and desk. Does it look like the successful CEO’s office or is it a clutter-filled mess? Schedule a few minutes at the end of each today to put back what you have taken out (i.e. files, office supplies, etc). - Managing Your Thriving Business For Success.
I think it is time I start practicing what I preach. It's so easy to give advice and sometimes so hard to follow it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I'm famous!

Okay, well maybe I'm not famous... but I was interviewed on The Juice by Jory Des Jardins. It was fun (and kind of intimidating).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Being Authentic is Professional

I'm on an authenticity kick right now. I mean I've always believed in being authentic, real and full of integrity but sometimes it's hard to figure out who my authentic self is. I guess I'm trying to find MY voice.

I just sent a proposal to a potential client. I have to admit I procrastinated on this proposal because I was feeling a little intimidated. Not intimidated about the work, because I know my team would do an awesome job on the project. What I felt intimidated about was how I was going to present my proposal. This potential client had received a proposal from a big company and she showed me the proposal to ask if this is something I could do for her. The proposal was very professional looking and presented in charts and easy to read.

For some reason, because I saw that proposal I felt like I had to submit a proposal that looked just like it. I don't do my proposals like that. I'm pretty simple and straight forward. I write out what I will do for you and how much it will cost. I don't add all the bells and whistles.

This morning I realized I wasn't being authentic by worrying about how my proposal should look. I realized I just need to send her my proposal the way I write them. It is then up to her to decide if she wants to work with me the person who sends simple and straight forward proposals or work with the company that sends the pretty, polished and formulated proposal. Whoever she chooses is probably the right person for her.

Are you being authentic in how you present yourself to your customers and potential clients?

Is your business THRIVING or just surviving?