There’s Small Biz Power in Pickles

small biz pickles www.relianceoutsourcing.comYou can’t depend entirely on someone else for an income.

You can keep the day job, but the smart thing is to own several income streams.

A hobby easily turns into a business. Make soap. Sew aprons (a seriously popular item). Build websites. Create graphics. Teach your hobby, or craft, to someone else.

I’ll go back and scratch off the word can’t from my first sentence. You can depend upon someone else for income, but what if that one thing goes away?

I recently purchased a jar of pickles. Trust me, I paid way too much for this jar of pickles. I plopped down close to $5.00 more than I would for a name-brand jar in a grocery store.

Here’s the deal. The pickles are attractive. Yes, I said that. The pickles contain garlic gloves and pepper flakes, and they look like something straight out of my grandmother’s cellar (less the label).

The most important thing is, these pickles are handpicked, handpacked, and this beyond middle-aged woman stood outside in the heat to sell her wares. This is handmade to the max. What else? I adored the woman’s bright purple embroidered Mexican dress.

She grabbed a paper plate, opened an ice chest, and didn’t skip a beat. She barely took a breath as she placed one pickle sample after another on the plate, describing each one as if we were attending a pickle party. I was impressed with her salesmanship, right there in a roadside stand on a hot arid central Texas day.

Yes, pickles can be an income stream. Why not?

Do you buy from small businesses? Think about it.

The pickle lady insisted on having me try her fig bread. Talk about yummy! I didn’t purchase any bread because I was well into the double digit dollars with my jar of pickles and two tomatoes (that didn’t come from her garden…most likely from Mexico). Still, this little fruit stand was her small business and I liked knowing that my money went directly into her pocket that day. She was one enthusiastic woman!

What does this have to do with multiple income streams?

Small business, creativity, enthusiasm, and unlimited ways to make money…and to put a smile on someone else’s face while doing it.

 

 

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Virtual Assistant, A Team Member Who Works Remotely

virtual assistant www.relianceoutsourcing.com

What is a virtual assistant? A virtual assistant is a team member who happens to work remotely.

For the most part, virtual assistants are self-employed. They work from their home office. A virtual assistant (VA) maintains their own work space, equipment, hours, and taxes.

I formed my virtual assistance business, Reliance Outsourcing, after some deep thinking. First, I hired a life coach that helped me to focus on my strengths, on the positive values I brought to the lives of others. Then, a second business coach guided me towards thinking about what I really wanted to do in my work life. Did I want to remain employed, or was there a business in my future? I have reinvented myself several times, with a number of businesses under my belt, so I was not surprised that I chose to serve others through my own business.

I made my final decision after watching a video of a young woman who started and grew a virtual assistant business from her home after her first child was born. Her value system was similar to mine, and her main focus was what she believed to be her calling, to serve others, to be the right hand to business owners so that they were freed up to work on the core of their businesses.

Reliance Outsourcing was born. I mentioned to my long-time friend, Kayla Fioravanti, of Selah Press, that I had started a virtual assistant business, and much to my surprise she had a need. She directed clients to me that needed assistance beyond what she could offer at that time. We were a good match. We shared in similar values and beliefs, and in Kayla’s words, “They needed someone who could speak for them online.”

What a virtual assistant can offer is vast, we:

  • Take on the small jobs that you may not like to do
  • Take on tasks that you never find the time to do
  • Complete tasks that you do not know how to do
  • Free up your time so you can work on your business, not in it
  • Help you to be better organized through outsourced administrative services
  • Give you a second voice by taking on scheduling, calling, and even invoicing — Customer Service

Have you ever said you wished more hours could be added to your day? Well, this is the value of a VA. You need another hour, call your VA. You need a project to be completed that you cannot get to, call your VA. If we cannot complete the job, we’ll assist you with finding out who and how to get it done.

We, VA’s, are also resourceful. We listen and we advise. We don’t step on the business owner’s toes, nor into their businesses, but when they have questions, or need direction, we are always there. That is our job.

As a virtual assistant, I help business owners grow by doing what they cannot do, do not want to do, or do not have the time to do.

Kayla Fioravanti, of Selah Press, and I are both on the same Blog Challenge. We’ve coordinated our thoughts from different sides of the fence. She has hired her own Virtual Assistant, and shares her thoughts and experience through her post, Top Ten Reasons to Have a Virtual Assistant.

Slow Down to Accomplish More

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I said this today while on a business call, “We all seem to be running on empty.”

Slow down to accomplish more:

  • Clarity
  • Relaxation (mental and physical)
  • Less burn out

Work never goes away for many of us, and none of us can add hours to the day, that is, unless we get help through automation or hired help.

When we are trying to cram 10 hours into an 8-hour day it may feel like an impossibility to slow down, but, the immediate benefits are real,  and it goes beyond our office or work environment. The number one benefit is we feel better. We feel better while we are working, and we feel better when we are off the clock.

When we slow down we experience clarity, which helps us to finish up with the reality that we have done a great job — thorough, less mistakes = quality work.

While rushing, we lose focus on the big picture because our main focus is volume.

Here are some tricks for getting into the slow-down groove:

  1. When you feel like slamming through your work, ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish, and how should you go about getting there?
  2. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, shift gears and focus on a single task until it is completed. Breathe (not the shallow stuff), smile, and enjoy what you are doing.
  3. Imagine your dream job, describe how it feels while you working at it. Are you rushing through your work, or are you calm and enjoying your accomplishments as you focus on the task at hand?

Work tends to expand as it fills time. Example: You limit your work schedule to 8 hours and you later find yourself trying to squeeze 10 hours of work into 9, and you are still far from the finish line. Guess what? The finish line isn’t always firmly planted, and work expands like a balloon filling with water. Balloons bust open…messes ensue.

What is the remedy?

  • Planning. What can you accomplish in the hours that you have available?
  • Schedule, schedule, and schedule. Stick to the schedule once it is set. Say no to others, say no to extra requests, and say no to the little voice that whispers lies in your ear (you).
  • Schedule breaks. Pencil time in for YOU. Take a walk. Eat a nourishing snack. Meditate or pray. Call a friend. Do not cancel a single “you break” off of your calendar.
  • Schedule in blank time. This is where you allot time for overages. When you discover that a task is going to take longer to complete than you had planned, you can borrow from your scheduled blank time.

Work is work and play is play, and when we feel comfortable and relaxed while we work, our down-time and play time is enriched. Win-win.

How do you manage time? Do you believe multi-tasking is beneficial, or is it a deterrent to achieving positive results? What do you use for a scheduling tool? Do you schedule next day top priorities in advance?

 

Focus On The Income Makers

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Do you know the difference between working in or on your business?

When working in your business, you are performing the services and making the products that you sell.

When working on your business, you are doing most anything for your business other than producing what you sell. You may be:

  • Making cold calls
  • Writing blog posts
  • Writing a newsletter
  • Posting content to social media
  • Networking in person
  • Planning and setting goals (with action steps and dates) for growth

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? In business, 20% of the products/services sold usually account for about 80% of the value of sales, 20% of the customers usually account for 80% of the sales, and these same customers account for 80% of the profits. The 80/20 rule has also been proven in relationships and marketing as well.

So, the bottom line is, focus on what truly bumps up the profits. Focus on your best products and your best customers. Determine, where did those best customers come from, and determine how you will attract new customers like them. How did you form the relationship that you have with your top customers? How will you repeat that relationship and multiply?

What business tasks never result in sales or income? Ask yourself, what can you automate? What can you farm out? I used to say that I could not delegate anything out, but here I am, a virtual assistant, and I have heard my clients tell me how it has worked for them. Just by the sheer act of freeing up time, clutter (back log) is removed, and a fresh mindset surfaces. Business owners are freed up to work on their brand!

Never be afraid to survey your best customers. I have received invaluable feedback from customers, including how to better promote my business or products, what not to say (what turns them off), and what attracted that customer to me or my products to begin with. I once had a customer tell me that it was blog alone, another told me it was my newsletter. Your best customers support your business financially, and they are also incredibly valuable for business feedback.

Have you surveyed your customers? Have you considered sending a thank you card to your top customers, and asking if you can call them? Briefly tell them in advance what you will be talking about. This call can be of incredible value.

Work on your business, this is your main focus, and speed up (or chop down) the time that you spend working in your business. Have you considered any of these steps, or similar ones, and how has it worked for your business?

Free Is Never Free

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There are two of things that independent business owners give away that aren’t free at all. One is advice and the other is product.

I began receiving calls from a comrade. Several calls into the process, after answering many of her questions, I realized that 1) I was giving my product advice and knowledge away for free, 2) the business owner was in direct competition with me. Why would the CEO of K-Mart call the CEO of Wal-Mart for marketing and product advice? I eventually had to say no and it was painful. I felt the friendliness of the relationship that I loved die down. I imagined hearing the crickets chirp in the ensuing silence.

Micro and small business owners, plant your feet on the ground. Run your business with your brain, not with your heart. Allow your heart to bud your creativity, but do not allow your common sense to walk away while doing so. The middle of the road is the place to be.

I have been guilty of publishing blog posts loaded with information, much of it is still #1 in Google searches. I ended up blending these blog posts into a book, but that was after I had given it away for free. All of which is out there, in cyberspace, free for the taking.

Nothing is free.

You hand out free samples to customers because you want to generate sales. Samples are not free.

If people seek to learn from you, then educate them. Offer consultation or class, for a fee.

Remember who you are, a kind and generous person, and then grow your business with goals and set guidelines. If the crickets chirp after you say no, it is not you. Everyone learns through hard work; this is how real knowledge sticks. Be the teacher if this is your goal, not for free.

How far do you go with handing out free advice? How have you drawn the line? Do you offer classes or consultation?

reinvent ourselves www.relianceoutsourcing.com

How I Reinvented Myself

reinvent ourselves www.relianceoutsourcing.comWhen we reinvent ourselves we basically create an entirely new version or make over who we are.

I found reinvention to be painful when I needed change. I believe this was because I didn’t want to close the door behind me. Now, I see how appropriate change was, and always is.

Who really wants to hear that I was a soap maker and a farmer, and that I miss all of that, to the degree that I wouldn’t develop into what I want, and what I feel God wants?

First, we should be happy, second, we should take our gifts and skills and use them to the best of our ability. Life changes. We use what we have, what we’ve learned, and we re-create.

See, I think we hang onto what we perceive as a need, but what we don’t see is our own personal value in what we can accomplish if we simply let go, and let be.

Okay, so, I (we, my husband and I) left behind a farm and goats, and a business, and my soap and lotion studio. I changed my life around completely for a number of years (rode across the states with my truck driving husband), and then I went back to work full-time. Going back to work after being my own boss for nearly 15 years was not easy, yet, I was filled with enthusiasm because I faced a challenge that I knew I could handle — a full time job in an accounting office (where my career originally began nearly 40 years ago).

I still work full-time in the “back office,” and I’ve also reinvented myself as a virtual assistant. This is a transition, right now as I speak. Remember, finance to business ownership, farmer and entrepreneur, return to finance and office, and now virtual assistant. I became an author in the past 5 years, with 4 books published, and now with several books in different stages of completion. I earned certifications as a life coach as well, and I have plans to grow that around the VA business.

There is value in this second ear, eyes, and brain for small business owners. I free entrepreneurs up to do what they want to do (not work in their businesses, but to work on their businesses, or both), and I end up being their trusted assistant. They don’t have to provide four walls, a desk, a phone, a computer, or pay payroll withholding taxes. How cool is that?

Reinventions can be positive moves. It was for me. It can be for you.

Remember this, you can let go when you think you cannot. You do not have to tell the same story over and over again, in fact, when you do exactly that, there is little growth for us.

Think about reinvention — who are you today? Have you totally flipped yourself from what you were (or did) then, to who you are (or what you are doing) now. Or, are you somewhere in between? Are you utilizing your best (skills, knowledge, gifts and talents)? Is there anything missing, or something that you have not let go of that could bog you down?

Remember one big thing. You aren’t what you do. You are who you are. There’s value in you, in your uniqueness and qualities. 

Why Your Small Business Needs a Bookkeeper

virtual bookkeeper www.relianceoutsourcing.comI am going to answer the common question, “Why do I need a bookkeeper for my small business?,” with several questions that may be helpful:

  • Do you know exactly how much the products and services that you offer are costing you?
  • Do you know how much profit you made last month, last quarter, or last year?
  • Do you know which of your products or services are making the most profit for you?
  • Is your bank or credit card statement reconciled? If not, do you know if your current balance is correct?
  • If you were audited today, would you have organized records at your disposal to present to a CPA or auditor?
  • Do you wait until the end of the year to gather all of your paperwork (receipts, etc.) for processing with your accountant or CPA? Does this lead to stress for you?
  • Do you have an assistant that can help you save money in particular areas, or tell you where you are losing dollars and cents, or (better yet) where your financial strength resides?
  • Do you have an assistant that can forecast your income flow, your accounts payables, or your receivables?

Many small business owners struggle in these areas, and most are embarrassed to admit that they need help.

A bookkeeper’s job is to accurately manage monetary transactions. She or he ensures that your financial records are just a fingertip away, at your disposal, ready to report (to you, and to your accountant — you no longer have to do that yourself. Yay!), and they provide a level of expertise (consulting) if you should desire.

Remember the week when you gritted your teeth, and drank coffee through the night, while gathering and preparing your paperwork to present to the CPA? A week (7 days) 8 -10 hours a day = 56 to 70 hours. Top that with a headache and nausea. Why oh why did I do this to myself AGAIN? Guess what? The truth is, you may ONLY need to hire a bookkeeper for 5 hours a month, or less, and she/he may save you hours of stress and money because your reports will already be prepared for the next step.

Why do you need a bookkeeper today? Your answer may be as simple as, “I no longer want that box or bag of disorganized paperwork hanging over my head.” So, you don’t want to dive into all of that yourself…that is where a system (help) gets you off of the hook!