4 Ways Your Small Business Can Remain Competitive

May 22nd, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

4 Ways Your Small Business Can Remain CompetitiveDo you want to remain competitive and increase your profits? Of course you do! How can you still accomplish all you need to do while remaining competitive?

Here are 4 ways your small business can remain competitive:

  1. Get professional help!

Two questions to ask yourself to determine what tasks you need to get help with are:

  1. What are the things you do that drain you of energy? We all do things we really enjoy and that energize us. We also do things that tend to drain our energy.
  2. What are the things you do that don't directly increase your profits? You know—those tasks that have to be done in a business but don't directly bring in income.

Once you've identified the things that drain you of energy and that don't directly increase your profits, you're ready to call in professional help. A virtual assistant can take on those tasks, leaving you with the tasks that you feel energized about and that contribute directly to your bottom line.

  1. Market by providing valuable education

Any business owner can increase their profits by gaining new clients. The key here is to approach this with a new mindset. Instead of focusing on gaining new clients to increase your business, focus on contributing value to others. The increased business and new clients will come.

Think about how you market to your clients. Is your focus on what you do and what your services you provide? The key is to focus on our prospects and clients, on their needs, who they are, what challenges they face, and what benefits they will receive by using your services.

Another way to provide valuable education to prospects and clients is to write articles and reports, such as this one, and distribute them freely. They not only increase your credibility, they give your prospects valuable information and a way for them to learn more about you and your services.

  1. Build relationships with social networking

Marketing now needs to focus more on building relationships. That's why we've seen an increase in businesses using social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Use these sites to provide resources and referrals. Be involved and participate in a meaningful way. Building relationships at these sites can build trust and at some point you'll find people asking more about what you can do for them.

  1. Invest in your business

Sometimes the best way to remain competitive in the small business world is to invest in your business. As a small business owner myself, I know how difficult the first few years were and there were times when there was no way I was going to spend any money until I had earned a certain amount of money. However, I learned an important lesson: investing in my business. Investing in my business allowed me to hire additional help so I could take on more work. In the process my business grew, I was making more money, and actually working less because I had a team of people assisting me.

One way to invest in your business is to utilize the resource Kabbage. Small businesses can use the working capital loan Kabbage offers to invest in their business to grow and thrive.

So what are you waiting for? If you want your small business to remain competitive, then get professional help, market by providing valuable education, build relationships with social networking, and invest in your business!

Virtual Assistant Interview: Collette Schultz

March 9th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

Collette SchultzI've known Collette Schultz for several years and we met up in person back in 2010/2011 when we first traveled through Wisconsin before moving here. Collette is one of my social media account managers. I interviewed her and here are her responses.

1. When did you start your business?

In March of 2007 I started my service business and now to compliment that I'm adding affiliate marketing to it.

2. Why did you choose to become a Virtual Assistant?

There were a few reasons for starting as a VA.  My passion to learn technology, adding supplement income to the family and a dream to become full-time doing what comes naturally to me.

3. What advice would you give new and aspiring VAs?

Watch and learn from other people in the industry.  You'll make mistakes and that's ok; just don't make the mistake more than once.  Don't go crazy and try to be involved with too many networks.  Pick three and get involved.  Ask questions and share your stories.  You have to invest in your learning but don't waste your money.

4. What resources have helped you in your business? Forums, blogs, coaching, books?

The main resources are real people and mentors that worked in the VA industry.  Diane Hess, of Hess Business Professionals & Associates, was the first person that listened and took me on as a subcontractor.  While working for her I went to free forums and eventually joined Solo Masterminds, NAMS and Linkedin.

5. Share a success story or something about yourself - a hobby perhaps.

It’s been twenty years that I’ve been working and educating in the accounting profession.   In addition, I’ve taken the values and hard work from building our family farm and turned it into a virtual business.  For the business owner, I deliver remote office support, product reviews and a directory of subcontractors to meet their needs.  For the service providers that desire to subcontract I provide education, resources, inspiration and project opportunities .

6. Additional comments you'd like to share.

Operating this business has proved I'm successful.  It's a lot of hard work but it fills my passion.  The best thing about being a VA is you get to choose what kind of services to offer.  The smallest things can help another business.

7. Links to any online profiles you want to share.

Join my LinkedIn group of more than 3,200 members http://tinyurl.com/qb4za9c and visit my website for more resources http://savvysubcontracting.com

Virtual Assistant Interview: Leigh Anne Aston

February 16th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

I've known Leigh Anne Aston for several years and we've worked together on many different projects. Among other things, Leigh Anne is my primary account manager for my social media management services. I interviewed her and here are her responses.

  1. Leigh Anne AstonWhen did you start your business?

Officially 2007

(Unofficially 2006 – I was still working full-time in the corporate world and doing some VA items on the side.)

  1. Why did you choose to become a Virtual Assistant?

To have more control over what I was doing. I felt this was the best next step in my career.

  1. What advice would you give new and aspiring VAs?

First, contact Joel and Sue for a consultation. (That’s what I tell everyone who asks me.) Then, set a schedule and stick to it. You’ll want to try to be everything and do everything for everyone in the beginning. Set your goals AND limits and then go from there. Make sure you leave time for yourself.

  1. What resources have helped you in your business? Forums, blogs, coaching, books?

First and foremost, Joel and Sue.

I do a lot of internet research when I need to try to figure something out – utilizing LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, as well as just plain old internet searching. I also belong to the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which is a wonderful place to exchange knowledge with members from all over the world.

  1. Share a success story or something about yourself – a hobby perhaps.

My main hobby these days is reading. (I read trashy romance novels with happy endings, in case you’re wondering.) Up until a few years ago, I absolutely hated reading. I was good at it, but it was always (and I mean from the time I learned how, always) a chore. A few years ago I was prescribed progressive bifocals. That’s when we found out I have “double vision” and things didn’t line up for my eyes the way they do for most other people. One eye is higher than the other. After having prism adjustments added to my prescription, I was looking at things completely differently. After getting the new glasses, I remember the first time I read a letter Jesse brought home from school. I was about half-way down the page when I realized I wasn’t using my finger to keep me on the right line of text. It was “eye-opening” and so exciting to know there wasn’t anything wrong with my desire to read, it actually was truly a chore all along. I read practically nonstop in my spare time now. Although, I will say, I read almost exclusively on my tablet (love those e-reader apps).

  1. Additional comments you'd like to share.

Just to always, always be true to who you are and do the best your are capable of doing.

  1. Links to any online profiles you want to share.






(and my website is www.astonadminservices.com)


How to Ban Someone from your Facebook Page

January 12th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

Every once in a while someone will like your business page just to start spamming their business. And no matter how politely you ask them to stop, they won't. So you decide to ban them. But how do you do that? Here's the answer directly from Facebook as well as a screenshot of how to go about doing that.

  1. Click Setting sat the top of your Page
  2. Click Banned Users in the left column
  3. Click Banned and select People Who Like This
  4. Clicknext to the person you want to ban and select Remove
  5. Click to check the box next to Ban Permanently and click Confirm

Click on the image below to see an enlarged view.

ban users from my Facebook page

6 Steps to Better Decision-Making

January 9th, 2015 by Sue L Canfield

6 principles for better decision makingSometimes all we need to overcome inertia or fear is a plan. There are no step-by-step rules for making good decisions, but there are guidelines which will help reduce the fear and increase your chances of success.

Is it Your Decision to Make?

The easiest way to improve some decisions is to realize they’re not ours to make. Sometimes that’s obvious. You can’t sell the book you borrowed from a friend, the house you rented or the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sometimes it’s not so easy. If you know what your boss wants you to do and you know the right thing to do and they’re not the same, you have an authority dilemma. While proper business administration ties authority and responsibility, in the corporate world it doesn’t always work that way. Even if you feel you’ll be held responsible for the outcome, the decision may not be yours to make. (Though you may find yourself facing an employment decision: whether or not to continue working someplace where decisions like this even come up.)

One particularly challenging arena I have entered recently is the way my senior citizen mom manages her money. Frankly, I think she wastes quite a bit of money and spends much of it only half wisely. Thing is she’s not mentally or emotionally incompetent. She’s completely alert, in possession of her faculties. She just makes decisions which I find financially disagreeable.

Because she’s my mom it’s occasionally a subject of conversation. But it’s not my decision to make.

Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble by skipping this first step. Before you invest time and effort in the other 5 decision-making steps, ask yourself if this decision is even yours to make.


Now that we’ve decided this decision is our responsibility we have some work to do to prepare to make the best decision.

Some decisions are childishly simple. Most of us can pick what to wear, what to eat, where to go on vacation without much mental or emotional stress. Choosing who to marry, where to work and live, what to believe–these decisions warrant deeper investigation. Most decisions fall somewhere between these extremes.

Gather information pertaining to your decision from reliable sources. The weightier the decision the more information you want to gather and the more time you want to spend pondering it. During this stage be especially aware of the scientific fact that decisions are made in the emotion centers of our brain, not the logic centers. Your goal here is to create an emotional attachment after you’ve done research. If you have a gut feel for what you want, your research will be biased toward the decision you’ve already unconsciously made.

For some decisions this is the stage to ask for help. Seeing ourselves clearly is like reading the label when you’re inside the bottle. Qualified outside help can read your label to you. Consult with a friend who knows their stuff. Pay for a professional opinion. Hire a coach to work through a particularly important decision.

Pareto’s principle, the 80/20 rule, applies here. You will get nearly all the relevant information with a very little amount of research in most cases. You may know if you’re the type who has an itchy trigger finger or are more likely to research the decision to death. (The latter is much more common.)

Make a chart with clearly stated pros and cons on either side of the page. When you realize there aren’t any more significant pros or cons to add to the list it’s time to be done with the research phase.

Finding Why

We’re almost ready to make the decision. One last thing: finding why.

Remember I mentioned that decisions are made in our emotions centers, not our logic centers? This is your chance to be excruciatingly honest with yourself about what you want and why. Telling yourself that you’re buying the house you can barely afford because of the neighborhood or the schools when it’s really because you’ll finally have space for a workshop will be backfire in the long run. We’ll endure a tight budget if we have a good reason to. If we’ve lied to ourselves about our motives, about the why, when times get tough we’re more likely to bail on a decision which may in the long run have been right for us.

Know that it’s okay for decisions to be emotional instead of logical if they still make logical sense. Sure, a nice neighborhood and a good school are great aspects of a new home. But if you’re choosing between two homes that both have all the basic requirements, know you’re real reasons. Life’s big decisions go through a dip; a point where we can push through because we truly believe or give up and back out. Knowing your motives will give you the strength to push through when it matters.

Of course, knowing your motives might also move you to act like a grown up and make the right choice, the best choice, instead of the one you’re secretly wishing for.

Make the Decision

Yes, deciding is one of the steps. It’s human nature to reach this point and then waffle. What if there’s something we’ve overlooked? Maybe more research will help. Maybe someone else should decide. Maybe we can ignore the whole thing.

The longer you wait to make the decision the more likely you are to find reasons to choose the most comfortable option or to choose simply not to choose. (Not deciding is a decision).

Resistance wants you to make decisions based on fear. Even if you are being chased by a hungry lion, fear is not a good decision-making tool. Don’t give Resistance time to wear you down and frighten you into submission.

You see the target. You’ve drawn the bow. The arrow is aimed.

Let it go.

Take Action

Decisions happen inside our heads. Like the arrow there must be action for decision ever to mean anything.

Resistance isn’t finished with us yet. If we’ve decided to start the healthy habit of walking every day but we never set an alarm, don’t buy decent walking shoes, don’t go to bed early enough, don’t make plans to meet with a friend, we may kid ourselves that the universe is conspiring against our decision.

During your research phase you should have seen what resources (time, energy, attention, finances) will need to be allocated to implement your decision. Their availability will affect the decision you make. Now you just have to be willing to spend what you promised yourself when you made the decision.

The biggest decisions meet the strongest Resistance. Sometimes “biggest” means bearing the greatest risk. Often though, “biggest” means carrying the most emotional impact.

If this decision is about creating something remarkable, unexpected, personally important, creative, Resistance will work hard to stop you from implementing it. Your unconscious will protect you from the perceived risk of emotional exposure the way a mother bear protects her cubs.

Keep your copy of The War of Art handy. Review the underlined, dog-eared, highlighted, note-covered passages. Don’t let Resistance make you back down.

Reflect and Adapt

Decisions worth spending time and effort on are rarely “set it and forget it”. During and after implementation, review the decision. Does it still make sense? Once again, expect a fight from Resistance. Know your enemy. Look him in the eye and push him out of the decision.

If new information comes to light, revisit the research phase. Check again to be sure that the facts support your decision.

Ask yourself why for the hundredth time. That vague feeling of unease may be the conflict between your real motivation and the lie you told yourself.

Some decisions are fundamentally empirically right. Some decisions we know should never be unmade. When facts or feelings seem to challenge these, know that it’s Resistance trying to ruin your life. A sword through his liver does the trick nicely.

Most of life’s decisions aren’t necessarily permanent. If new facts, greater awareness, or new circumstances warrant a change, don’t let stubbornness, our innate need to appear consistent, prevent you from humbly acknowledging the changes and making whatever adjustments are necessary to be true to the right decision–even if it turns out that’s not the decision you made.

Decisions rarely involve life and death. But any decision requiring more than a moment’s thought probably involves risk. Your goal in this decision-making process is not to avoid risk, but to understand, minimize and accept it. Growth and change always involve risk.

It’s my experience that the bulk of bad decisions are caused by fear-driven inactivity. Most of life’s regrets come, not from what we’ve done, but what we’ve failed to do.

Get the boat away from the dock. Head out into the blue. There will be hard work, challenges, perhaps storms, maybe even shipwreck. A life worth living can’t be lived sitting on the dock.

This post was contributed by Joel D Canfield.