The Truth About “Low-Cost” Outsourcing

Champion Assistants Virtual Assistant TeamYou’ve probably seen the ads yourself, “Quality Virtual Assistants, $3 per Hour.” Wouldn’t it be great if those ads were true? The truth, however, is that in outsourcing as in most other things, you get what you pay for.

Let’s look at the kinds of tasks being outsourced by small business owners and Internet entrepreneurs. They’re finding new freedom to build their businesses by using Virtual Assistants for a variety of needs. They’re trusting “VAs” to do things like responding to client email, keeping their schedules straight, making appointments and travel arrangements, and updating their websites.

A well-trained Virtual Assistant is someone who’s committed to helping a client grow a business by minimizing the owner’s involvement in day-to-day tasks. Not only do these virtual wonders handle tasks with little supervision, they’re also motivated to suggest improvements that save you time and money. They can help you find additional markets for your products, ways to streamline product delivery and better solutions for business automation.

Is it reasonable to expect the same from someone making less than minimum wage? Here’s the reality, based on feedback from frustrated business owners who tried “cheap” first: the time they spent redoing poorly done work and constantly supervising virtual support outweighed their original savings.

Great VAs will look for ways to increase your business while saving you money. But they don’t work for three dollars per hour! They’re highly-trained professionals running their own businesses, and they charge rates appropriate to their expertise.

As you’re looking for someone to help run your business, consider the benefits of outsourcing to a well-trained Virtual Assistant. Why waste valuable time wondering if the work’s being done correctly? Make the investment in a quality VA and spend your time growing your business, instead.

You can learn more about using a VA by listening to a teleseminar Heather Nelson did about outsourcing: Champion Assistants Virtual Assistants teleseminar

Seattle Businesses – Don’t miss this brand and marketing workshop!

Maria Ross - Marketing and Brand Expert

Maria Ross - Marketing and Brand Expert

Defining a brand strategy is essential for all businesses and a task that many small business owners find daunting.  To be successful in any economy or market, businesses need to have a defined niche and a sound strategy for how they are going to position themselves in the market place.  Regardless of how good a product or service may be, positioning and perception make all the difference.

Taking the time to define a marketing and brand strategy are a wise time and money investment that will pay off quickly.  Two of Seattle’s big brand and marketing dynamos, Maria Ross, Marketing Director for Red-Slice and Whitney Keyes of Whitney Keyes Productions, are holding a workshop to guide you through the marketing maze and help you find practical and creative ways to attract new customers  – and keep the ones you have loyal to you.  The workshop is being held February 11th, 2009, and is an excellent opportunity to get practical strategies from Seattle marketing dynamos.  For more information about the workshop, just visit: Branding Workshop.

Best,

Heather

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Microsoft cuts jobs – time for entrepreneurs to flourish!

lightbulbsglobeThe news that Microsoft is making its first mass layoffs in its 34-year history (according to the The Associated Press) is big news here in the Seattle-area as all of us are directly or indirectly impacted by the job cuts.  Microsoft is one of the Northwest’s largest employers and everyone in Seattle either works for Microsoft or has a family member, friend or neighbor working at Microsoft.  Whether or not someone we know loses their job, we know how difficult it can be working for a company undergoing an unprecedented internal transition. Champion Assistants is headquarted in Kirkland, just a 15-minute drive from Microsoft’s Redmond campus and we greatly value the impact the company has had in our region – providing jobs to so many and boosting the level of technological-savvy and development in the region.  Champion Assistants is a registered partner with Microsoft and we’re always keeping an eye out for what Microsoft is innovating.

In addition to Microsoft, the Puget Sound region is also known as being a region where entrepreneurs flourish – especially for minority-owned businesses according to Prosperity Partnership.org.  According to Washington State, women are considered minorities in business and therefore 51% majority women-owned businesses qualify for special loan rates as well as business counseling services from organizations such as the Community Capital Development Washington Business Center.  There are a number of free resources available to small business owners and entrepreneurs both nationally through the SBA and in Washington State.  I always recommend starting with free resources and exhausting them before paying for advice.

With layoffs being announced across various industries and company sizes, I think this economy will present innovators with an excellent opportunity to develop their ideas and go into business for themselves.  Being layed off can be discouraging, but realizing creative talent and ambition while working from home is tremendously rewarding.  I strongly believe that home offices will become micro-power centers of innovation over the next couple years.  Good talent rarely sits idle.

With the convenience of the home office and low barrier to entry for online sales, there is tremendous opportunity for small business to capture niche market share and sell online with extremely low overhead costs.  It isn’t all doom and gloom with layoffs.  Now is the time to fulfill dreams and stay productive at what we all do best and are passionate about.  Carpe diem!  If you are one of the many being affected by restructuring and layoffs, now is the time to develop your ideas and sell online.

Best,

Heather

Are you sitting on the sidelines or are you an innovator?

Champion Assistants supports innovators

Champion Assistants supports innovators

According to Wikipedia, “An innovator or pioneer (pronounced /ˌpаɪəˈnɪər/) in a general sense is a person or an organisation who is one of the first to do something and often opens up a new area for others and achieves an innovation“.  Not sure what an innovation is?  Check out Wikipedia’s Timeline of Historic Inventions for examples from pigment to PageRank.

You don’t need to invent a wheel to be an innovator.  In fact, just creating a useful product or service makes you an innovator in my book! Innovators are those special people who are able to take an idea, test it, tweak it and put it out there for others to consume and criticize.  Being an innovator is not for the faint or heart, but it is for the determined.

Successful small business are run by innovators – people who think and act ahead of the curve and able to create and adapt.  They are people who aren’t afraid of feedback because they know they can use it to their advantage to tweak improve and leap ahead of their competition.  Most people are stagnant in their own self-doubt.  I don’t know how many times I’ve left a networking event or luncheon remembering complaints and criticisms such as “anybody could have thought of that”, “My boss keeps me so busy I don’t have any time to pursue my real dreams”, “nobody would ever buy that”, and other criticisms and self-defeating thoughts.  I usually navigate away feeling bewildered, but the truth is these people just aren’t innovators.  Innovators take action!

I know business owners who sit around for months just considering whether or not to update content on their website, and exactly what content to use, etc.  How can people get consumed by such trivial matters – after all updating website content is a couple hours with provided content! – why waste so much energy when there are much bigger issues to face?  The bottom line is these people aren’t innovators.  Innovators don’t get tripped up in the small stuff.   They see the big picture, a larger goal, and put whatever they need to in place in order to achieve it.

Innovators are exciting people to be around.  They don’t sit still, stew or cluck at how things could/would/should be – they do!  Opportunities abound even in this economic climate and innovators prove this to be the case.  Nearly all of our clients sell online whether they work from a commercial office or at home after the rest of their family is asleep.  They have products they believe strongly in.  They challenge themselves to live their business dreams, take consistent action towards their goals and seize opportunities that help them along the way.  They are exciting people to be around!

I started Holiday Assistants in October 2007 after mulling it over on the side since June.  That June I was in a group of women and one of them holiday-assistants-making-your-holidays-sparkle1complained how next thing you know the holidays will be around the corner and it’s going to get stressful all over again.  A huge holiday fan myself, at first I was shocked at how she could dread what should be a festive and joyous time 5-ish months in advance, and then the opportunity lighbulb went off.  I spent the next few months doing a little research on the side and after developing basic business plans kicked myself to launching the company in the beginning of October even though I didn’t have everything planned out to the finest details.  I reassured myself by approaching the season as 1st year research and see how it goes.  As it turned out the 1st year just turned a profit (and the 2nd year was up 600%).  Why did this happen?  Yes, sound business planning and being in tune with the local community needs, but the real answer is because I took action.  I could still be thinking of this today and not getting anything off the ground.  Instead, I have a successful second company that has even been recognized as Best of the City by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.

Now is as good a time as any to step out self-doubt or other limiting beliefs and step into innovating.  It’s much easier to sit on the sidelines, but a whole lot more rewarding to take risk and reap the rewards of great ideas, persistence and passion!

Best,

Heather

Free Promotion: Increase sales with an online shopping cart!

Online Shopping Cart ExpertAchieve more sales in 2009 with the help of an online shopping cart! If you have a website, you need an online shopping cart!

Did you know most online shopping carts include autoresponders that you can set up in order to send “personal” messages to each new customer? Imagine easily automating your sales process and making your contacts aware of all that you can offer them!

Online shopping carts are inexpensive, a great marketing tool, and a fantastic way for businesses of any size to easily sell online. Our clients include solo-preneurs and small businesses selling all kinds of products from information materials to business seminars to gift products.

I would be happy to offer you a free 30-minute consultation about online shopping cart options, how they can be used for your business, and how to use them for optimal sales.

Best,

Heather

5 Essential Questions To Help You Find Your Niche

Finding your niche is one of the hardest and most rewarding aspects of marketing. Your niche is the group of individuals that are interested in your products or services. This group is who you will target your marketing plans and future products to. Knowing your niche will save you time and money in almost every aspect of your business. From research and development to marketing and sales, your niche drives your business and can be a constant source of ideas for more products/services down the road. Before you can market to your niche, you first have to find it. Here are five basic questions to help you isolate your niche market.

1.What problem does your product/service solve? Knowing the answer to this question will help you find the individuals who will benefit most from your product.

2.Who has the problem that your product solves? If you are selling insoles, for example, think about all the people who complain about their feet – athletes, cashiers & salespeople, waitstaff, elderly, overweight, and so on.  Think about all the people who could benefit from your product.  Solve the pain of your target market and they will be your loyal fans (and customers!).

3.How old are the individuals who have this problem? This will help you isolate your Niche from everyone else. If you know how old the crowd is your trying to reach, you will know some of what they are interested in, what they do, how they travel, how the communicate.

4.Do the individuals in your niche share any traits? Are they sky divers, scuba divers, race car drivers…? The more you know about your niche the more targeted you can make your marketing efforts. Individuals with shared interested have common media sources. Magazines, blogs, websites, etc.

5.What makes your product different than your competitors? Use the answer as your marketing angle. This is the one fact (or multiple facts) that sets you apart from the rest.

Just as you didn’t copy your product from something already available, you don’t want to copy your marketing plan from everyone else. Be unique, be memorable and always be honest. For help putting a marketing plan together or for implementing a current marketing plan, contact Champion Assistants at 425.605.0205.

Best,

Kristi

Happy Thanksgiving!

Champion Assistants Gives Thanks!Here in the US we’re getting ready for our big Turkey Day – Thanksgiving. I have a lot to give thanks for this year. I appreciate all of you who offered support and encouragement throughout the year, and I am certainly thankful for my dedicated team and delightful clients.

I especially enjoy Thanksgiving as a time to get together with friends and family and share a meal we’ve all contributed to. Our tradition is that everyone makes their own specialty for all to enjoy. It is always the variety of foods and spices that makes the meal great. As always, it’s the people who make the moment memorable!

I would like to thank you for reading this blog and supporting Champion Assistants.  My sincere thanks and wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Best,

Heather