Project Management Tools

In this day and age, business owners are handling more than ever, multitasking and wearing a variety of hats. Project Management tools are available to help you and your staff access, utilize, and control projects either from a single user perspective or more intricate programs that allow for collaborative projects. They can be used to oversee everything from a simple marketing or sales plan to an elaborate construction project. These tools allow for scheduling, coordination, tracking issues and bugs, specified task lists, calendars, and messaging between staff and management, all in one meeting place accessible from anywhere in the world.

Businesses have long used integrated software for project management, such as Microsoft Office, a suite of programs each designated for one aspect of a project, including presentations in Powerpoint, spreadsheets in Excel, documents and mailings in Word, and email through Outlook. Another option is Google Docs – a free, online based office suite that allows users to create documents, collaborate with other users, and store data online.

There are also online and downloadable software options, some free with payable upgrades when you’re ready. These programs make project management far more seamless, typically with a simple setup process:

Trello
Podlio
Basecamp
Teamlab
Ace Project
Zoho Project
Huddle

See Office Solutions ME’s Business Resource Library page for more tools to help your business thrive today!

How can a Virtual Assistant help thee? Let me count the ways…

Get an Assistant!Want to know how a Virtual Assistant could help your business? Here are a few ideas to consider;

  1. Software & Program Set-up – A virtual assistant can set up your social media profiles (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc…), newsletter templates, contact management imports, Blog widgets and applications, and more.
  2. Small Event Planning and Execution – A virtual assistant can advertise your event, book an appropriate location, collect RSVPS, send out event reminders, help prepare and format your presentation, compile survey results, follow-up with attendees, and in some cases even show up with the refreshments.
  3. Print Mail Campaigns – A virtual assistant can create and format your mailing list, create a mail merge file, prepare (stamp, stuff, and seal) the envelopes, and send your mailing for you.
  4. Data Input – A virtual assistant can input contact information, type meeting minutes,
  5. Research – A virtual assistant can perform internet research for you, such as; a competitor analysis, mailing list creation, market research, report research, and more.
  6. Word Processing – A virtual assistant can assist with editing and creating documents
  7. PowerPoint Presentations – A virtual assistant can format PowerPoint presentations for a branded professional look, ensuring appropriate font and transitions for viewers.
  8. Webinars – A virtual assistant can help with the set up and facilitation of webinars, including event promotions and reminders, performing the speaker introduction, assisting in facilitating a question and answer portion, dictating the Q&A, acting as a narrator during the presentation, and following up with attendees.
  9. Spreadsheets – a virtual assistant can create and format spreadsheets for sales tracking, inventory control, schedules, budgets, cost estimates, and much more!
  10. Customer and Prospect Communication – a virtual assistant can assist with reaching out to prospects, sending birthday wishes, sending holiday greetings, sending and receiving surveys, routine customer follow-up, preparing and sending collections notices, and more.

Get a Virtual Assistant!While we couldn’t possibly list all the services that a virtual assistant could provide, however these should get you thinking… about how a virtual assistant could make your life easier!

For more information on virtual assisting and for a free consultation to see how a virtual assistant can help you and your business, contact Office Solutions ME Today!

5 Qualities to look for in a Virtual Assistant

A Virtual Assistant (VA) is an offsite administrative and business professional that can be contracted to assist you and your business needs. Some of the qualities that a business owner or manager should look for in a VA include;

  1. References – like any competent professional, a VA should come with quality references that can speak of the type of work they have completed and how satisfied the client was
  2. Examples of Work – while some work may be confidential, any competent VA should have examples of projects the they have completed or assisted with
  3. Education – if a VA does not have an official degree, the VA industry has many options available for certifications
  4. Contract – a relationship with a VA is a professional contract and should be treated as such. A VA should draft a contract that outlines the scope of work and payment that are to be expected by both parties
  5. Follow-up – as in any business contract, a VA should have good communication skills and keep their clients informed of progress

The concept of Virtual Assisting is very new to the state of Maine, but it is an idea that could be extremely beneficial to the business community.

Maine is a state full of innovative entrepreneurs that are great at what they do. Many of these companies are owned and operated by a handful of individuals that specialize in the field that they operate. A VA can offer administrative and business expertise as a contracted partner, allowing the company to maximize its resources. A VA also allows the company to avoid expensive, time consuming employment expenses that are generally associated with hiring additional employees.

For more information on Virtual Assistants and to review the education and qualifications of Office Solutions ME, feel free to visit our website and learn more!

App of the Month – Drop Box

Our Application of the Month is Drop Box.Drop Box

Drop Box – The Drop Box application allows you to easily and efficiently share files on multiple computers, mobile devices (such as smart phones and tablets), and via a web-based system. When files are added to Drop Box, they become instantly available in all locations where the app has been downloaded, and via the Drop Box website. Files can also be shared with others, even if they do not have a Drop Box account. This is a great tool for efficiency, collaboration, and productivity! Perfect for virtual professionals!

Cost: Free

For more information on Drop Box, feel free to contact Office Solutions ME!

5 Characteristics of GREAT Clients!

We generally work with small business owners in Maine, Companies with 1-15 employees that need a little more help or some specific expertise. We provide administrative help and expertise with no overhead costs, no employment costs, no benefit expenses, no HR headaches, and for as little as 2 hours per month.

So, what makes our clients GREAT? Here are a few things that come to mind;

  1. They trust us – Our clients have welcomed me as a part of their company, a virtual partner in helping them succeed.
  2. They value us – Our clients often call us about new projects or ideas. They use us as both a partner and a consultant. As a part of their virtual team, they see us as a resource.
  3. They don’t micro manage – Our clients understand that we are running a business, in the same way that they are. We negotiate terms, use technology, and time frames that allow us all to be efficient.
  4. They are open-minded – Many of our clients need help in an area that they are unfamiliar with. So, our tasks often include; educating, locating deficiencies, and helping to implementing new ideas.
  5. They pay us (Seriously!) Our clients have been diligent in paying us in full and on time, some are even on pre-payment schedules.

And, how do we get GREAT clients?

  1. We’re honest – We start every relationship with a contract of expectations and we stick to them. If for any reason these must be changed, we always notify our clients prior to the change and get their approval.
  2. We’re valuable – We take the time to learn our clients business and how they operate. Then we apply our own expertise and education to the needs that they have.
  3. We’re efficient – We use time and technology to deliver on or before negotiated time frames.
  4. We’re creative – We enjoy bringing new ideas and concepts to their projects and goals.
  5. We’re economical – We help our clients save time and money! We don’t use their resources and we only help when they need us!

Feel free to share your best client characteristics and what you look for! And if you think we could help you and your business, feel free to contact us!

3 Ways to Avoid a Slow Summer!

For anyone not in the tourism industry, you may be experiencing a bit of a summer slow down… With the weather getting warmer and school wrapping up, we are reminded of how business seems to slow down in the summer.

For those of us that support other small businesses, it seems like productivity can take a back seat. Either because they’re too busy to communicate or because they are so slow they went on vacation, many businesses are affected by this change of season.

The e-mails slow down, the phone calls aren’t returned as promptly, and networking may seem to fall flat. We are all aware that September brings a wave of productivity, but what can we do to keep business going and communication flowing in the summer months?

  1. Focus on Organization – Complete the projects that you haven’t been able to complete during your busy time, or that you’ve been avoiding. Finish that new website, get those new business cards designed, organize your electronic filing, etc…
  2. Focus on Education – Take a training class or get a new certification that will help you grow your business. Summer classes are usually shorter in duration and smaller in size, so they can feel more tolerable and allow you more personal attention.
  3. Focus on Follow-up – Reach out to existing and potential clients, so that when they become motivated (again), they know/remember who to call.

Good luck this summer, and remember to enjoy what you do!

For more tips on productivity and organization please feel free to contact us at Office Solutions ME!

Time Management Tips & Software

Pocket WatchTime is money, time is of the essence, time is a valuable commodity! We never have enough Time, yet we take it for granted.

So, how do we make the most of the time we have? When it comes to business, there are many tools that we can utilize to make the most of our time and maximize our efficiency!

It’s all about organization and scheduling, then sticking with that schedule and using the tools that we have available!

  1. Set Priorities – Tasks will be different for everyone and may even change depending on the week or month. They can include any of the tasks you complete on a daily weekly or monthly basis; Client Relations, Blogging, Filing, Invoicing, Prospecting, Updating Social Media Sites, Newsletters, Mailings, Reading E-mail, Updating Websites, Working on Client Projects, Staff Meetings etc…
  2. Arrange Availability – Coordinate the activities that require others’ participation. Check with those that are involved in your tasks and be sure they set aside time for you. There’s no sense in scheduling time to meet with a client if you don’t know when they are available, or setting aside time for a staff meeting when staff will be out in training. Be practical about your time usage in order to get the most out of it.
  3. Create a Schedule– After you’ve determined the most important tasks and the best times to coordinate Wrist Watchwith others; it’s time to set a schedule. Set up task in order of priority and then block off the time during the week or month that works the best for each task. You may find that Tuesday is a good day to block off an hour for website updates, Wednesday or Thursday evenings are dedicated to business networking events, Friday mornings are the best days for staff meetings, Blogging will get done on the 10th and 20th of every month, AP/AR will be best completed on the 14th or 15th of each month, and you will check e-mails at 8am, 10am, 2pm, and 4pm.
  4. Use Tracking Software – Whether this is new to you or not, chances are you will need some sort of tools to assist you. This could be as simple as setting timers or alarms on you cell phone to remind you to check your e-mail or start prepping invoices. This could also be as complex as utilizing time tracking software. There are many versions of time trackers available, some are even free.
  5. Adjust when Needed – If it’s broke, fix it! If your schedule isn’t working, then adjust it! It’s not set in stone, it’s a tool that’s suppose to make you more organized and less stressed, more efficient and more productive. So, make it work for you. And you may find that you can’t do everything… it’s okay to get help!

Here is a list of some time trackers and project managers that I’ve discovered;

Find more time Management tips;

If you have tips or can recommend any time management software, please feel free to comment!