Time Wise Clients

One of the things I’m probably a little too uptight about is time. More specifically, my time! I hate wasting time or letting my time unnecessarily be eaten up for no apparent reason. And where I struggle a lot with this, is with clients.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s always beautiful and sunny that makes people in Los Angeles want to linger longer, share more stories and squeeze in another joke.  I don’t know, but whatever it is, I have seen hours of my time slip away because of side conversations and random randomness.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that the best way to keep a client is to build a relationship with them .  And because I travel to my clients, this is is always done in person for me.  With that being said, so many of clients get a little too comfortable with me and our conversations will digress onto other topics unrelated to the business at hand.  And what happens?  2 hours just turned into 6.  Not very responsible, I’ll admit, but the reward — if we’re looking on the bright side of things — their business and referrals.  Some of you may say, well in that case, go ahead and give them 6 hours.  But the truth of the matter is, I may keep their business and earn someone else’s, but 6 hours (which is 25% of the day) doesn’t leave much time for other important things.  What else could be just as important as a client?  Uh, other clients?  Working on the business?  Tweaking my marketing efforts?  Sleeping?  Just to name a few.  And if I give a client 25% of my day, then I’m allowing that person to only monopolized my time, but also my business.  And one of  the first rules I learned about being in business was never let one client dominate your business to the point they are your business.  Because when they leave, so does your business.

But I’ve gotten better with managing my clients on my schedule.  Because I have to responsible for my time, even when they’re unaware of it.  And it’s made a huge improvement, because now I can better assess where and how to spend my time with them when I’m done meeting with them.

  • For starters, I tell them before we meet what time I have to leave.  That way they get an idea how much we’ll be spending together and better helps them organize their questions for that meeting.
  • I set my alarm.  Oh, hell yes, I do.  It’s rude. It’s loud. And disruptive.  And that’s the point.  When I say I need to leave by 3;00pm, I need to show them I mean it.  So the alarm goes off as an audio reminder.  They still have questions?  Email them to me.
  • And since I brought it up, I make email the first point of communication.  Let’s meet for the pertinent stuff, email all the other, please. That way I break the habit of having to meet for every little whim.
  • Keep in-person meetings down to once a month, if necessary.  I tried this with one client, and it went over superbly.   For the secondary meeting, we held a Google HangOut session which shaved off a total of an hour from our normal meetings and I loved that. Not too mention, gas is still over $4 for gallon here in L.A.  Let’s save the road trips for something more meaningful, right?

It was suggested to me to charge for in-person meetings to deter those clients who feel they need to meet all the time.  I’m not comfortable with that yet, but there may come a point sooner or later.  I figure if someone’s paying for my services, I’m not going to nickle and dime them along the way.  No one enjoys that and very few, if anybody, returns for that kind of abuse.  But I’ve found the strategies mentioned above very helpful thus far.  I get my time back.  And that’s what I really wanted.  Yes, I want to meet with my clients — work in the business — but, I also want to be able to work on the business.

 

 

June Business Gadgets on Sale

Spend less for what you need .  We know smartphones, tablets and laptops are not only helpful for businesses, small or otherwise, but critical in today’s market to effectively compete, close deals, complete transactions and conduct operations.  And if you can do all you need to do for a fraction of the cost, wouldn’t you be all over that like white on rice?  But let’s not forget items that we can use on business travel, recording imagery, communicating, the office or the employee lounge/kitchen and anything else we need to take care and manage business.

Through Costco/ Costco.com

Through Brad’s Deals  (FYI: These deals to expire and sell out fast!)

  • Refurbished Fijifilm AX655 Camera for $50
  • 7- Piece Luggage Set for Travel for $100 plus free shipping
  • HP Pavillion 10 TouchSmart Laptop for $285
  • Apple TV (from BestBuy) for $100 plus a $25 Gift card
  • Keurig K45 Brewer for $105 plus free shipping (and coffee cups)
  • Rocketfish 3G Mobile HotSpot for $18
  • RCA Charging Station for $14 plus free shipping
  • Motorola Power Pack for $10

Through Groupon

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (7″, 8″ & 10″ screens) for $109.99
  • iEnjoy MyBolt Battery Charger for $11.99
  • Blackberry Z10 4G LTE for $189.99
  • Acer 15.6″ Touchscreen Notebook for $299.99

A penny saved is a penny earned…!

Treat Yourself Like A Business

People tend to think that business is confined to  — oh, I don’t know — a place, a corporation, an idea, an industry, a niché, a building, even.  It’s believe that business — or, a business– has set parameters as to where and how it can operate and the parties involved.  People think the idea of business is clearly defined and straight-forward.  But it’s not that cut and dry.  We’ve seen strange and unusual ideas take flight as businesses all the time.  A business can be anything.  Anything from accessory and handbag rentals —www.bagborrowsteal.com — to pet day cares and spas.  If there’s a want for it, there’s a business for it.  But businesses aren’t confined to just an idea.  Or, at least, they shouldn’t be.  Everyone walking around — shopping for clothing, buying groceries, hanging out the movies or headed to work — are mini businesses. We’re all just walking sole proprietorships.  And most of them don’t even know it.

Yes, you are your own business.  Which means you have a brand and reputation and a company culture.  And you also probably have a mission statement and code of ethics — they may not be written down, but you surely live by them.  Think of them as the things you would and wouldn’t do as well and your plans on succeeding in this life.  And yet, rather than protecting your company’s assets (YOU!) and building the company, you create liabilities, you mismanage your cash flow, and you’re not always too mindful of your mergers and acquisitions (your employment roles).

Downtown LA Biz

Seriously.  You are a business, whether you’re aware of it or not.  Which means you need to start treating yourself like a business.  How?  Watch when and how you spend your money.  This means creating a budget and finding the best deals possible when making purchases.  Look for opportunities to invest in yourself.  Whether that means taking a few college courses, building a strong network of professional relationships or finding time to volunteer to gain new skills.   Be mindful of the contracts and agreements you enter into, and make sure you stay abreast of the trends that affect you.  You can always take time to make you (the business) better. But as serious as this may sound, you’re also a person.  You’re a person-business — a business-person — a person who happens to also be a business.  You should, from time to time, indulge in the human activity that you find enjoyable and keeps you sane, but also remember you have obligations to yourself (the business).  There is no difference between you and the big corporations other than the scale in which operate and the reach of your market and influence.  But that too can change depending on how you treat the business (you).

 

{photo credit: porbital via freedigitalphotos.net}

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Be Using Google Products…

… at least, in their early stages while they’re building and establishing themselves.

  1. Gmail Account – It comes with EVERYTHING!  Now, We all know how more professional it looks to have an email address with your company website domain, but there’s no rule or law that says you can only have one business email.  I have contact@intelboutique.com (and a few others) as well as intelboutiquela@gmail.com.  It allows me to create a Google + profile, connect with others and promote my business blog. 
  2. Google + –  Speaking of it, Google + has rebounded and bounced back from unnecessary to useful.  Like any other social media platform, you have to find your audience and what drives them to read and engage on Google +, but once you do, you’ll find worth your while.   Nonetheless, it’s another tool brought to us by Google that can help businesses stand out and grow.
  3.  YouTube –  One of the best, if not the best ways, to promote your business is the use of videos.  Why?  Videos are watched, shared and commented on more than links, quotes and yes, content.  Maybe it’s our short attention span or that we’re bombarded with so much information that videos give us the right platform to digest data.  Whatever the reason, jump on it, it works!
  4. Hangout (formerly known as GChat) – This is perhaps my most favorite tool because, I am not a fan of Skype. Hangout/GChat is video conferencing and instant messaging all wrapped up in one.  You can hold video meetings with your team, you can voice text conversations and share links and videos.  Making virtual businesses easy to conduct .. well, business.
  5. Google Drive –  If you’re still sketchy about “The Cloud” Google Drive offers you a place to save your work, documents, presentations, client list, correspondences and whatever else is important to your business operations.  And what makes Google Drive a better, you can save it offline to your desktop.  Beautiful!
  6. Google Calendar – I live by my Google Calendar.  I upload every meeting, every task, invite others to shared events, set reminders in advance to remind me of due dates and deadlines.  And I get every update and notice sent to my phone and tablet.
  7. Maps – I travel to my clients in LA.  And although I grew up in LA, I don’t always know every side street, dead-end and little area or district.  If I feel like I’m not that familiar to where I’m headed, I pull out my phone, type in the address and let the voice guide directions be my GPS.  It hasn’t failed me yet.  Also, Google Maps tells me where other businesses, buildings and anything of importance to me and my businesses.

I don’t want to lead anyone thinking that Google is the be all to end all, but it does offer a host of very useful tools for newbies and seasoned business owners who need to do more with pocket change.    And who knows, you might find more uses with Google than you ever imagined.

“Free”-lancer

Merriam-Webster describers a freelancer as:

“A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization” and/or “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer”

In other words, a freelancer is an person pursing their own professional footing independently.    Maybe they have a business of their own, maybe not.  Maybe they’re working their way in that direction.  Many of us have started out as freelancers.  Offering our services here and there, in between other gigs and maybe a full time job.

Then we have those “free”lancers who help out others…for FREE.  Kind of nice of them, right?  How supportive are they to offer their time and energy into something we believe in so much.  Yet, pro bono work can make you wish you were flying solo instead.  Don’t get me wrong, whenever we can get a helping hand that doesn’t send out an invoice, we’re excited and thrilled to have it.  However, sometimes, free help has its own price.

The best people to ask for help from are those closest to us: our friends and family.  They know us, they love and support us and are more likely to support our business dream.  They are also the most likely to offer their help because they want to show us they care.  Be wary, though.

  • Make sure never to ask too much of someone’s “free” help.  You may need a lot more of their time and services, but don’t ask for it all, or at least, not up front and not right away.  Your friends and family have a life too.  They have family and friends and a career and bills to take care of.  Asking them to help with too much of your business is like asking them to put your priorities above their own.  Helping you will quickly turn into something they’ll regret, then quit shortly after and leave you back at square one.
  • Set agreed upon deadlines.  This ensures you know what is being taken care of and when it should be completed.  It also lets whoever is helping you know that you’re on a time crunch, you need things taken care of sooner rather later.  But also let them know that if they cannot complete the task in whatever amount of time you guys agreed on, to call you so you can find someone else who can as soon as possible.
  • Have a backup a person ready just in case.  And it wouldn’t hurt to have that person be someone you’re paying. You might be thinking, well why not pay someone during the first go-around?  The truth is, very few people have all the money they need right off the back to get their business rolling.  And a lot of the time we need someone who will help for no  cost.  Now, if that “free”lancer can’t get the job done, see what you can spare to hire someone.
  • Barter. Barter-barter-barter.  You may not be able to pay someone, but you can definitely offer them something they want or need that doesn’t require cash.  It never hurts  to ask.  See if there is some service-for-service deal they’re willing to make you, agree to conditions and go from there.
  • If a “free”lancer isn’t working out, move on!  Seriously.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in, ‘well, that’s my friend,’ or ‘that’s my sister-brother-cousin-uncle-aunt-niece-whoever’ .  It’s better to cut your losses sooner and save the relationship instead of trying to spare their feelings and waste precious time waiting.  A lot of successful things happen due to the right timing, and if you’re waiting for your “free”lancer to get it together, you may have missed the boat.

The next time you think about asking and accepting someone’s offer for help, weigh the pros and cons of having this “free”lancer.  Will you be better off just trying to figure everything out on your own?  Can you afford to hire and pay someone?  Is this person someone you can rely on to help you as best they can and if it doesn’t work out, can you still maintain the relationship?  The best things in life may be free, but in case, check for any hidden costs.

All About Business Event

ALL ABOUT BUSINESS
WORKSHOP

Sponsored by

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
5:30 – 6:30 pm

West Valley  Los Angeles Business Source Center
18645 Sherman Way, Suite 114
Reseda, CA 91335

(818) 705-9977

{all information is provided by and belongs to the Valley Economic Development Center}