Virtually Anything

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Please Bare With Me

Posted by collinsadmin on September 1, 2008

To all my blog followers:

First I want to thank you for reading my blog. Second, I am in the process of transitioning my blog to my own hosting service so if there isn’t much updating in the next few days don’t be alarmed, I will be back up and posting shortly.

Posted in CAS News, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Is Honesty Too Much To Ask Anymore

Posted by collinsadmin on May 5, 2008

Recently it seems that my trusting nature has gotten me nowhere but the shaft. I guess anymore you should expect to be taken once in awhile (which is very sad) but what gets me the most is the type of people who are doing it.

Recently I was giving something away for free and I had a short form where all I wanted was the email address and the name of the person and company who was asking for it (nothing extravagant just something to keep track of where it went) and wouldn’t you know it, I got somebody who left some pretty vulgar names in the form. Now I am not one to get offended easily but what irritated me most was that I put my time and energy into this item without asking a penny for it and I had somebody who was ignorrant about it. I don’t always expect to get real email addresses or names but I do expect to get respect.

I let that pass and just chalked it up to somebody who was just plain ignorrant (there is always one bad apple in the tree). Then, again within the last couple of months somebody on a forum was looking for somebody to make a form for them. They had many people who tried to create the form like he wanted but for whatever reason the people didn’t know what he was asking for. So I decided since that is one of my services that I would offer to do it for him. I told him it would be $10 and since my policy is that I make sure the client is happy before I charge them, I created the form and sent it to him for his approval.

A week goes by with no response, so I figure he’s busy and wait for another week. I then email him and ask if he was satisfied with it. Again no response. So I wait another week and email him again and he emails me back that he has been extremely busy and hasn’t had the chance to look at it and that he would get back to me as soon as possible. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten a response. Sure I could keep hounding him but I have better things to do with my time then track somebody, who obviously doesn’t have common courtesy, for a measly $10.

One of the things that I have learned from this experience is not to be so trusting (although I really hate to feel this way). Just recently I got a request from somebody who wanted to review an excel sheet that I created (which I am selling) but instead of me just emailing him the excel sheet that does all the calculations, figuring if he was interested he would pay me, I put it in a PDF format and emailed it to him. Had it been a few months ago that he asked me for the sheet to review, I would’ve sent him the regular one but I’ve been burned too many times and unfortunately, I have to keep my guard up all the time.

My question to all those reading is; Is honesty in this ever-changing technological world gone? Is it only going to get worse with the advancement of technology due to the anonymity it gives?

Posted in business, Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Friends are the backbone of society

Posted by collinsadmin on May 2, 2008

Recently I had a death in my family, it was expected but also a shock, and I took it kind of hard but I had a great friend who was there to help me through it. No it wasn’t my next door neighbor or somebody close to my location it was somebody clear across the country. Her name was Laura Wheeler from Firelight Web Studio. 

She listened to me when I felt I needed to talk and she offered as much support as she could.  Now, I know that she has a busy business to run but she took the time to respond to my emails and just offer me support. To me, that is a great friend.

With the advancement of technology and how busy peoples lives are we often forget to sit back and think about all the non-material things that we have in our lives. What I mean by that is family and friends. All too often you find people who are more concerned about themselves and the latest gadget that came on the market instead of taking 5 minutes to listen to somebody who needs a shoulder to cry on. I guess that’s why it means so much when somebody who you haven’t ever met face-to-face (and you probably never will) takes the time to hold out their hand and say I’m here and I will help wherever I can.

My hopes in writing this post is that you will take a couple of minutes and sit back and think about what you have in your life besides all the gadgets, money, material things etc and thank god that you have it. If you have somebody close to you that you haven’t called or told them that you love them, now is the time to do it because you never know when that person will be taken from this earth. Remember, without friends and family you are just another person on this land trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and you don’t have to be.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Excuse Me While I Jump In The Nearest Hole

Posted by collinsadmin on March 12, 2008

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re deep in thought either working on something or just off in LA LA land daydreaming, the phone rings, your forget your home number is your business number so you answer it simply by saying Hello.

To your embarrassment, you realise that it is a potential client and you are quickly snapped out of your thought process just in time to get all flustered and ready to jump in the nearest hole.

It’s okay, it happens.  In fact just today, it happened to me.  I was diligently working and the phone rang and I answered it simply by saying hello.  The person on the other line quickly says I’m sorry I must have the wrong number, I was looking for Collins-Admin Services. Before I get a chance to apologize, he simply hangs up the phone. That wasn’t even the worst part of it. The worst part was that his number came up private name, private number on my caller ID so I can’t even call him back. 

Needless to say, I wanted to jump in the nearest hole because of my embarrassment. I did however dwell on it for a while thinking about how stupid I was but then it was a mistake (hey, I’m only human) and there is nothing I can do about it now except hope that if it was a potential client, he calls me back.

Another thing that helped was a good friend/colleague of mine, Laura Wheeler, gave me some great advice.  “If you beat yourself up over it, you’ll harm your ability to function.” Words to live by.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Does Your Online Presence Say About You?

Posted by collinsadmin on September 12, 2007

Recently I saw a post on a forum that I belong to asking what would come up on the internet if you googled your name or your business name. I then realized that with the power of technology, you could either make or break your business. In fact, last month I was looking at my website stats and I saw that there were people visiting my site from another site and I wondered what site it was because I had never heard of it before so I clicked on the link. To my horror, it turns out the site was written in what appeared to be Turkish and I don’t read nor do I speak Turkish or any other language other than English. But what concerned me the most was that the only words that I could decipher were not nice words.  It turns out the site was some kind of over 18 site.

So I panicked and I went into a forum asking for somebody who spoke Turkish or whatever language it was to look at the site and see why my site was being referenced in it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find anywhere on the site where I was being referenced.  I have not had any visits from that site since but it just goes to show you that if you put a presence on the web you have no control over who links to it.

Now I’m not knocking the web because as I have stated previously, if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t have my business right now. But this also brings me to another subject about an internet presence, online forums.

I do belong to some online forums, although I don’t participate as much as I probably should, but I do keep up with reading the posts. On one particular SNS site that I belong to there has been a ton of bickering and fighting and name calling etc. A lot of the forums on that particular site do get indexed via google and if it was me that was involved in the spats, I would be appalled to see it anywhere on the internet.

There are a few people on this site (and others I’m sure) that are very argumentative. Anything you post, they will find fault with it and are not ashamed to post their thoughts and then a full-fledged “flame war” has erupted.  I have lost a lot of respect for some of them who have become part of these “flame wars”.  Some people that I admired and looked up to have just completely lost all respect I once had for them.

So what does this have to do with business? Everything, if the moderator of those groups would not have deleted those messages they would have been placed on the internet for all the world to see. What would you have thought if you were looking for a particular business or a particular name and you googled them and you saw the name calling, the nastiness etc on the internet.  Would you want to do business with them? I wouldn’t.

The thing about the internet is it allows people the security of being anonymous.  It gives people the courage to say things they normally wouldn’t say in the “real world.” But remember, if you slip up one time and are nasty to the wrong person, your name could be tarnished forever on the internet. Or you could spend $10,000 for somebody to go on and put good things about you on the internet to save your reputation.

 Which sounds better biting your tongue or spending $10,000 dollars to fix it? Remember, what you say today could come back to haunt you tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Virtual Assistant Pricing

Posted by collinsadmin on June 4, 2007

There has been a lot of buzz on a few forums that one of the biggest objections to hiring a virtual assistant is the price.  While I understand the concern, there a few things I want to throw out there explaining why the prices are what they are.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a virtual assistant (VA) is only a secretary. If you think that, then you are still in the mindset of employer and employee. While some VA’s do provide general secretarial help there are others who are more specialized in their practice.  Such as web design, transcription, internet marketing, bookkeeping etc. With this in mind, the ones who provide general secretarial support are also business owners.  Being a business owner, they know what is needed to be successful. They are there when you need somebody to bounce ideas off of, show you ways to better enhance your business etc. Also, knowing the costs of retaining new clients are extremely high, the VA that you work with will more than likely be in it for the long haul. This means, they will not just walk away when something “better” comes along.

As stated in previous articles that I have written, hiring an in-house assistant is actually more than you think. Sure it seems like it is a lot less than hiring a VA but one thing you have to take into consideration is that when hiring somebody in-house after taxes, legally required insurance, break time, productivity (or lack of) you are paying at least double their salary. Not to mention the purchase and servicing of computers, printers and other technological items. 

Here is something to consider if your CPA only charged you $10 dollars per hour, what kind of service would you expect to receive? My guess is pretty poor service.  The chances are you probably wouldn’t get your taxes done on time, and if they were done on time, you could probably expect a visit from the IRS because something would be amiss, or your books would be a mess.  Sure they have a degree in something but why aren’t they just considered good in math? I will tell you why, because they have been around for a long time and you expect them to be good at what they do so you are willing to pay the higher price.

It’s the same concept for a VA, they are professionals who take business extremely serious and they will give you the kind of service that you expect for what is charged.  They are just a new and different type of industry. 

Surf the net for a virtual assistant that you might be interested in working with and have them do a small project for you and if you don’t like what they do or how they do it, then just don’t send them another project.  It’s that simple. The best part is, if you decide not to work with that VA you have found out immediately and you don’t have to worry about any type of retaliation from them (as long as you paid them) such as a lawsuit.

Tracy

Posted in Uncategorized, Virtual Assistance | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

When Was The Last Time You Did It?

Posted by collinsadmin on March 16, 2007

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not talking about that (got your attention though didn’t I). I’m talking about when was the last time you said thank you?  When was the last time you told your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your co-workers, or your employees thank you?

It is human nature to want to be appreciated. How many times have you worked your butt off for somebody or something and then you got it done and you didn’t even receive a thank you? How did you feel?  Probably pretty bad.  You tried your best, you worked hard and they couldn’t even acknowledge you for it.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to go out and send a thank you card or even send a gift, I’m just saying two simple words like thank you could go a long way. Why should you say thank you?  If it wasn’t for your parents you wouldn’t be where you are today. If it wasn’t for your siblings and all the times you fought you wouldn’t be the person you are today. If it wasn’t for your co-workers who else could you vent to when the boss ticks you off? If it wasn’t for your spouse, who else could you go to for moral support when things go bad? If it wasn’t for your employees, would your company be running as smoothly as it is?

 Those are just a few examples.  So why don’t you just take the couple of seconds out of your life and tell everyone around you how thankful you are for them and how thankful you are for all the help that they have given you. You would be amazed at the response you get from just two simple words like Thank You! 

Food for thought,

Tracy Collins

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Benefits Of Outsourcing-Part Two

Posted by collinsadmin on March 12, 2007

I thought I would do a follow-up to my cost benefits of outsourcing blog post because the previous one was a little vague.  In this post, I hope to break a few benefits down into their own section as well as explaining why they are beneficial.  So without further ado here it goes:

No Additional Office Equipment: If you have to buy a new computer you are looking at approximately $1000 (that’s conservative). Then along with that computer, you have the printer, which you can get a cheap one for approximately $40, but that is just a basic printer no other amenities.  If you want a printer, copier, and scanner all in one then you are looking toward at least another $100. Don’t forget the technical support in case something happens to the computer. Then you have to consider where you will put the computer and printer so you need to buy an office desk, there’s another $300.  Then where are they going to sit?  Buying an office chair, another $100.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg, not to mention additional paper, ink cartridges, pens, software etc. That all adds up.

Legally required fees such as Worker’s Comp, Unemployment, and FICA: We’ll say you pay your employee $10/hr.  So for Worker’s Comp you are looking at approximately $127/yr, Unemployment Tax (Federal), approximately $56, FICA, approximately $1591/yr. Not to mention, hiring a CPA to take care of all these things for you.

 No imposing of your workspace:  Well what can I say about this.  How much is your ability to be as clean or as messy as you would like worth? $100, $500, or more.  My guess is it’s priceless.  

Of course, there are a lot of other expenses that go into hiring somebody in-house such as slack time (coffee break, restroom break, chit chat time etc) you have to continue to pay even during these times.  Also, vacation time, sick time, training time etc.  The list goes on and on. 

I just wanted to post this so that you can see with a little bit more detail about what goes into hiring an in-house employee. So save yourself a lot of headaches and money by outsourcing your tasks.

Posted in Uncategorized, Virtual Assistance | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Impact Of Nay-Sayers

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

How many times in starting your own business did you have friends and family members tell you to get a real job, get a full-time job, or don’t be such a risk-taker? God knows that I have had my share of people telling me are you going to get a full time job once your kids are in school, why don’t you get a full time job so that you can make more money, or is it really worth the risk in starting a business.

The majority of us have been there right? If Benjamin Franklin wouldn’t have tied that key at the end of a kite string and flew it in a storm we wouldn’t have electricity right now. That was quite the risk, he could’ve died but it was well worth it to him and all of us. What about Bill Gates, if he wouldn’t have created the Windows software where would we be in technology right now? I guarantee we wouldn’t be as much of a technological society as we are.

The list goes on and on of risk takers. If you sit down and think about all the risk takers you will realize how beneficial these risks have been to modern society. Did they have family and friends who were nay-sayers about their business? I’m sure they did. What was the impact on the risk takers business? We might not ever know but whatever it was, it didn’t stop them from following their dreams.

The impact these nay-sayers have had on my business has been that I just have more drive and I am less likely to give up. Sure I still have a lot to learn about being in business for myself but, I won’t stop learning. I have always been one that when somebody tells me I can’t do it, I will do it just to prove them wrong. Sure, I have failed but that is when I admit defeat and continue on to the next thing that I am told I can’t do.

So why are these nay-sayers so prevalent, my opinion is because of three different reasons.

1. Jealousy
2. Don’t want to see you succeed (remember misery loves company)
3. They don’t want to see the friends or family members get heart broken when the business fails.

Here’s my response to those three answers:

1. Not my problem if you’re jealous be your own risk taker
2. If/When I succeed I would be a much happier person
3. Okay, maybe a little bit of a legit concern but, you learn by doing and from your mistakes so a little bit of heartbreak isn’t going to kill me.

One of the bad things about nay-sayers is it puts so many doubts in your head about your ability to run a small business that you just finally get beaten down and you give up. But you know what, nobody can tell you how to live your life. Nobody can make your decisions for you. If you have nay-sayers in your circle ignore them or tell them if they don’t think you can succeed then if your business fails they can tell you I told you so.

So for those with nay-sayers in your circle for every one comment that they give you, tell yourself two reasons you can do it.

For those who are nay-sayers, small business owners don’t need your negativity, they have enough other stress. Instead be supportive and keep the negative comments to yourself for if/when their business fails. If it does fail, be supportive not vindictive.

Until next time,

Tracy

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Importance Of Customer Service

Posted by collinsadmin on March 10, 2007

Today I was trying to order some supplies at Vistaprint.com and of course my internet and computer decided they didn’t want to work for me (who can blame them considering it has been in the single digits in my neck of the woods). I was trying to place the order and I got all the way to the point where they were asking for my billing address and payment information and then the next step was to complete my order. So I verified all that and clicked the button to complete order, but instead of completing my order it went back to the shipping and billing information page. So I thought well, maybe I didn’t do something right so I clicked continue and then went to complete order again. I then clicked the accept order button and low and behold it went back to the billing and shipping page again.

I was a little annoyed at this time but I was more concerned that I was going to get billed double so I looked at the contact us page and found the phone number to call them. So I call them once I get through the menu options (boy are those annoying no matter what company it’s for) and I reach a real live voice (WOO HOO a real live voice) and she couldn’t have been nicer and more courteous to me. She had my problem solved, and my order ordered in a matter of maybe 10 minutes. Needless to say, I will use their services again and won’t hesitate to tell everyone I know about the great service I received.

On the flip side, I can remember a well known company that I had to contact their customer service and it was just awful.

I got a bill in the mail saying that I was a month behind and I was like oooh crap. So I took a look at my check register and see that I wrote it out and I looked to make sure that I mailed it which I did. I then got online and looked to see if that check had cleared and it had before the bill was due. So I called this company and after not being able to get to a real live person for at least 15 minutes due to their “menu options” (trust me I was livid by then). I did finally get a real live person and explained to them that the check cleared, what the check number was, the day it cleared and so on and so forth. They argued with me and told me that they never received it. So I tried talking to that customer service representative until I was blue in the face and finally I had had enough so I asked to talk to the supervisor.

The supervisor then proceeds to tell me that there was nothing they could do. I mean come on, they had to have some kind of evidence that I paid the bill with all the computers and things out there right. So finally she says, “if you can get me a copy of the check and fax it to me and also the date it cleared” she would fix it. Well, in this computer age, I don’t get copies of my checks that have cleared anymore. To make a long story short I got the check faxed it to them and then called her back. Then to top it all off, they were going to charge me a $3.00 late fee. A late fee after I just proved that it wasn’t late. I know, I know $3.00 isn’t that much but if they charge 1000 customers $3.00 when their payment isn’t late that is a total of $3000 that they just got from unknowing customers.

So why am I going on and on about this? Basically, because you just can’t put enough emphasis on how important customer service is. Sure, we are outsourcing our customer call centers overseas because it’s cheaper to pay them but whatever happened to helping out our fellow man? Has money become such an issue in this country and this world that bigger corporations don’t care about how their clients (customers) feel just as long as they are getting a good deal with their employees.

I had a client contact me about doing some work for him, unfortunately I didn’t have the skills he needed but instead of blowing him off and saying he is out of luck it became my personal mission to find him somebody that could do that work for him. I found somebody too. I didn’t gain anything from it (well, I did get a referral). More than anything though, I had the satisfaction of knowing I helped out somebody and provided good customer service to them. Hopefully when they get to a point in their business where they need my services they will think of me because I helped them without asking for anything in return.

So honestly, would you rather take the extra couple of minutes and provide good customer service or would you rather be a big grump and not care about your clients? I would rather take the extra couple of minutes not only to gain customers but for my own personal satisfaction knowing that I helped.

Thanks for reading,

Tracy Collins

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »