2013 Goals Exposed

2013 GoalsHappy New Year! For the first time, we have decided to make our annual goals public. Lucky for you, this is an abridged version.

We have two primary goals for 2013:

  1. Rebranding – we are transitioning from Office Solutions ME to Strategic Office Support, offering Virtual Business Management needed to build, manage, and maintain all of your business ideas. This creates all sorts of goals and opportunities for change. We will share more about this very soon!
  2. Partnering – we are excited to have initiated many great partner relationships in 2012, including web designers, graphic designers, copywriters, bookkeepers, marketing and social media consultants, and other virtual assistants.  In 2013, we want to take this to the next level!
    1. We want to keep our partners and sub-contractors BUSY, allowing us to attract and assist more clients. Our goal would be to utilize our partners and sub-contractors on at least 50% of our 2013 contracts.
    2. We’ve also started a new joint venture with Luma Coaching to offer business coaching support in addition to our implementation skills and support services. Click here for more details.

Secondary goals include:

  • Redesigned client intake process – still working on the details
  • Attend Be the Change April 2013 in Orlando Florida
  • Increased media exposure – radio, TV, local events, and social media
  • Product development – trainings, reports, and guides for entrepreneurs
  • Launch BecomeAVA.com – resources, training, and coaching for aspiring Virtual Assistants

So, there you have it, a basic outline of our goals to be accomplished in 2013. Now, please share your goals for the New Year, and any comments; we would love to hear from you!

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Thank You!

1stCelebrating 1 Year!!

It’s official! As of June first, Office Solutions ME has officially been in business for 1 full year!

This first year in business has really been a year of exploration, discovering business needs, networking and meeting fellow entrepreneurs, and developing partnerships in our community. We have truly enjoyed developing and building our business and look forward to the many years to come!

We have had the opportunity to learn so much about our clients and their businesses as we have assisted them in a vast array of support services. We have helped over fifteen different companies, with services ranging from data input, to small event planning, to Facebook training sessions. No two projects have been the same, and we have appreciated every opportunity to assist our clients!

We have recently had the pleasure of joining the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce and the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce. We regularly attend networking events held by such groups as Maine Successful Thinkers, Freedom Networking of Maine, and the Maine Women’s Business Center. We have also shown our support for such organizations as the Maine Women’s Fund – Women Standing Together, Pecha Kucha Night, the CLIMB Good Friday Breakfast, and the Maine Women’s Network, through sponsorship opportunities.

So… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Thanks to everyone that has contributed to the success of Office Solutions ME!

Thanks to our clients! Thanks to our supporters! Thanks to our coaches and mentors! Thank you for helping to make our first year in business a fantastic one!

Want to learn more about Office Solutions ME and what we’ve been up to this year? We’d love to talk to you, feel free to contact us!

Kathrine Farris
Owner & Virtual Professional
Office Solutions ME

5 Cool Tools for Business

Every business (and business owner) needs tools to get the job done. Small businesses need especially versatile tools, that they can easily master and that offer the necessary value.

Office Solutions ME provides Virtual Administrative Support, so many of the tools that we use are software based or allow us to access the software that we use.

Here are 4 of the tools that we use most often, and really couldn’t operate without;

  1. Smart Phone – Not just a phone, but a miniature computer! We use the iPhone. It allows us to access the Internet, e-mail, social media sites, and so much more from almost anywhere! We can download applications that allow us to view and alter Microsoft Office documents, make calls via VOIP, scan QR Codes, and an endless number of other geeky yet useful things.
  2. Laptop – A notebook computer is really essential for any company, but completely unavoidable for a virtual assistant! To be able to complete client work virtually, you have to be accessible and able to respond efficiently. A laptop ensures that it is possible to meet your client’s demands from (almost) anywhere. This was our most recent purchase, as we upgraded from a 6-year-old Averatec to a Sony Vaio.
  3. Scanner – Green is gold! Being able to scan and e-mail documents, instead of faxing or snail mailing is another necessity. This improves productivity and creates less waste. Plus you can then store your documents electronically and save valuable office space. We choose the Canon MX860.
  4. External Drive – Back-up is King! With all of our electronic documents and important e-mails, we need to make sure we are protecting our assets appropriately. With an external hard drive, we can create protected and encrypted back-up files quickly and easily. We chose the Western Digital My Passport Elite.
  5. Blue Tooth Headset – Multi-tasking is easier when your hands are free, so our 5th and final cool tool for this post is the hands-free blue tooth headset. There are many versions, at various prices, but they are an essential for note taking, typing, driving, and other tasks without missing a call. We have a very basic Jabra that does the trick.

Please feel free to share if you have any other business tools that you can’t live without, or if you have questions about any that we have listed.

For product reviews and prices, we recommend cnet.com.

Need help getting organized and being productive? Please Contact Us for help with Administrative Support and Business Developement!

Don’t Waste Time on Social Media

Social Media Time Management

We’ve all been hearing about social media for a while now, and most of us agree that we should be using it in some way. After all, it’s FREE Marketing and Public Relations, right?
Well, almost… if time is money, then it certainly has a cost.

What are some of the ways to reduce the amount of time spent on social media?

  1. Spend less time.
  2. Become more efficient.
  3. Outsource.

Spend less time.
Yes, this sounds obvious and very simplified, but it’s true. For those that are already well versed and actively using social media, it may be a simple matter of limiting the amount of time spent per day/week. A great way to achieve this is to set a timer, or only allow yourself to access social media sites on certain days of the week.

Become more efficient.
Work smarter, not harder. This is my favorite answer.
There are many platforms available that allow you to integrate multiple social media sites. Platforms such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, allow you to view and update multiple social media sites at the same time. An RSS Feed on your Facebook page would allow Blog and Twitter updates to be viewed without any extra work by you. This and many other tools would obviously save you time.

Here are some great websites to help you learn more about using and improving social media efficiency;

Mashable
The Social Media Guide
Business Week
Wikipedia

Outsource.
This is not the answer for everyone, but if you’re not well versed in current media trends and technology (or you just don’t want to be), you can hire someone who is. This does require trust and communication by both parties, and when done correctly it has some great benefits.

Feel free to share some ways that you are currently saving time with Social Media? Or if you are having trouble with Social Media, feel free to post a question.

And for those still not convinced to use Social Media, may I recommend a video from David Meerman Scott at the 2009 Business Marketing Association National Conference.

8 considerations for a professional website impression

Does your Website give the best 1st Impression?

Your website can be crucial to the image of your business! In many cases, this is can be your first impression or a crucial follow-up. If done correctly, a website tells people what you do, shows people how you do it, builds confidence and credibility in you and your business, and encourages potential clients to contact you.

Tips to help you build/design a professional (virtual) first impression;

  1. Be crystal clear – make sure potential customers do not have to go far to find out what you do and what your business is about. Put your description on your home page, and make sure it’s clear and concise.
  2. Claim attention early – make your home page attractive to your audience, but not distracting. Use colors, images, fonts, and text that compliment each other. Remember, many visitors may not even scroll to the end of the page, never mind visit any additional pages.
  3. Look the part – you don’t have to be a web designer or HTML expert to make your website look good. There are many tools available to assist in basic creative designing. However, if you want something elaborate then it may be worth your money to outsource the task.
  4. Use testimonials – word of mouth works wonders. When asked, many customers will be glad to provide you with a short statement of satisfaction and praise. In turn, you mention them on your website with a link back to their site. This is a great way to help build credibility.
  5. Be easy to contact – offer a way to contact you on every page. Don’t make visitors have to search for your contact information.
  6. Be easy to navigate – don’t use more pages than you need, but don’t try to cram everything on one page.
  7. Don’t drive people away – be sure any external links open in a new window, so that visitors do not leave your website.
  8. Be honest – don’t go overboard, but do include Terms of Use and Privacy Statement. Let people know that you care about their privacy and what to expect when using your website or contacting you.

And if you don’t have a website at all, consider these factors…

  1. Some people will not do business with companies that do not have a website.
  2. A website is a great way for you to advertise your business and allow potential customers to ‘browse’.
  3. Cost should not be a deterrent. There are many web hosting sites that offer free and low cost basic accounts.

If you have questions or suggestions about establishing a website, I would love to hear them!

10 Tips for Maximizing the Usefulness of Your Spreadsheets!

Spreadsheets (such as Microsoft Excel) are very powerful tools and when used correctly, they can make your life a lot easier. Here are a few tips to help you utilize your spreadsheets more efficiently and effectively, as well as increase readablility;

  1. Use Boarders Around Cells – spreadsheets are generally created to organize numbers and large amounts of information, and while you can see the lines on the computer screen as you are creating the spreadsheet, these lines will not print unless you add them as boarders.
  2. Use Row and Column Titles – these are essential! Don’t assume that you don’t need to name your rows and columns, plus this can come in very useful when transferring information to charts or graphs and even in writing formulas later on.
  3. Use Formatting – Make your rows and columns bold, highlight important information with different colors, bold boarders, or larger font.
  4. Format Information Correctly – If you are working with money insert dollar symbols and put a double bottom boarder on total rows. If you are calculating percentages, be sure that the percent symbol is included and you have the correct number of decimal places needed.
  5. Create Multiple Sheets – Instead of making multiple workbooks or trying to cram everything on one spreadsheet, utilize multiple sheets (tabs at the bottom) within one workbook for related information. Make sure each of the sheets within a workbook are named appropriately.
  6. Insert an appropriate header/footer – Insert an appropriate header or footer on all of the pages of your workbook. This might include the company name or your name, the date, and/or the project name.
  7. Don’t make the same changes twice – If you need to make the same changes to multiple sheets, you can change all of your sheets at once by right clicking on any worksheet tab and selecting all before making your changes.
  8. Utilize Graphs and Charts – Many people respond better to information when presented visually. Charts and graphs are great ways to accomplish this. And when the charts or graphs are created within your workbook, they will update automatically as the information is changed.
  9. Use Formulas for calculations – Formulas are one of the best parts about utilizing spreadsheets! Making them work for you is critical; they can save you a lot of time, effort, and mistakes if you can utilize them correctly. Any time you are manipulating information that is in another cell, chances are there is a formula that will do it for you.
  10. Utilize the Help feature – Any time you do not know how to accomplish something (i.e. you are searching for a specific formula), try using the help feature. In most programs, this is accessed by clicking help or the F1 will usually enable a help feature.

Bonus: Save often – As with any document you are creating, make sure you save and save often. When creating spreadsheets, you can alter and input a lot of information in a short amount of time and losing it can be quite frustrating!

I hope this information was helpful,. Feel free to comment with thoughts or questions! I look forward to hearing from you!

Kathrine Farris
Owner/Administrative Professional
Office Solutions ME

3 Tools for Your Virtual Image!

Dress for Success in a Virtual World

The corporate world is no stranger to phrases such as “Dress for Success” or “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have”. So, what happens when corporate goes consultant? What happens when the Internet becomes our primary interaction or at least our 1st impression? Do we toss these mantras out like last night’s pizza box? I say, “We adapt.”

In a virtual world, we are not judged on our physical attire, but rather our virtual one… does your virtual wardrobe consist of the following?

  1. Website – listed 1st for a reason, this is imperative to almost any business these days and the quality of various websites varies greatly!
  2. Blog or Vlog – a weblog or video log is an increasingly popular way to improve credibility and be heard. If you don’t have your own, consider posting comments on other professional sites.
  3. Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace, etc…) – a virtual networking source, a way to share ideas and ‘meet’ others.

If you already have these virtual necessities, how successful are they for you? If not, what’s holding you back?

I hope this was helpful and look forward to hearing from you! Stay tuned for more thoughts on virtual image!