My top 5 free online tools

I often get chatting to other small businesses owners about online software, what do you use to…….? Is that free……. ? How can I organise……..?  This is usually the way the conversation goes. So I thought I would put together a list of my favourite free online tools, all of which I never knew existed a year ago but seemed to have wormed their way into my life and somehow over the months I have become the resident expert!

  • Canva – canva.com This tool is completely free and very easy to use – it allows you to drop images and text into templates. I use this tool almost daily for social media campaigns and leaflet creation.
  • MailChimp – mailchimp.com. Is an Email marketing tool which allows you to send out email marketing campaigns to your contacts for free. Its easy to use and has some great templates that can be customised quickly. Please see my business support package for more information on how this tool can help your business!
  • BlueMail – Download the App to your phone to consolidate your email accounts. If like me you have various email accounts this app allows you to bring them all together!
  • Google Drive – free with any google email account, brilliant for sharing documents with clients and the calendar. The calendar you can download directly to your phone so you always know where you should be!
  • Trello – trello.com I am a project manager by trade and nothing pleases me more than having wall maps and visual displays of organisation! This brilliant free project management software allows you to track and prioritise projects and actions in the virtual world.

For more information on how I can help your business please stop by my website for a look around. I’d love to hear from you! 07966177480

FalconVA – Helping you do what you do best!

Large vs Small

One of my clients asked me today….. why are big companies so sh*t to deal with?

To rewind the story, I was asked by a client this week to speak with PayPal. The PayPal guest checkout on mobile devices said client’s e-commerce website weren’t working. This you would think would be fairly straightforward to communicate, identify and fix…. It seems not!

Firstly, it took some time trying to find the ‘help/contact us’ links on the PayPal site. Once the links were found, I raised an ‘issue’ (i.e. filled out a form). An automated response told me that PayPal would get back to me within 3 to 5 days. Which, to be fair they did…. My frustration came from the response they gave me, firstly they promised they would answer my issue that day…. to quote ‘Don’t worry, I will be able to resolve your query today.’ Call me crazy but reading this statement I thought! ‘Yeah great they will resolve it today’ Errrrm no! What they meant was they will send me a link to another department to raise another ‘issue’ with them. So not only did they lie to me, they also passed me to another department. Geeee thanks! Its begs the question – don’t they have phones or an internal email system at PayPal? Why do I (the customer) have to contact another department within their organisation? Can’t they talk to each other? I huffed, swore a little (Ok a lot!)  and clicked the link …filled out another ‘issue’ (form) and as yet they still haven’t got back to me.

However, once I filled out the second form I did feel the need to make a small complaint on the service I had received …. How did PayPal answer my complaint? They sent me a CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEY! And when I didn’t answer the first survey they sent it again. SO, in a nutshell the week has now come to its end, no one within PayPal has bothered answering my issue and I have 2 outstanding surveys in my inbox. Great, thanks!

This takes me back  to the beginning,  my clients question – why are big companies so difficult to deal with? Well, here are my thoughts:-

  • There is far too much bureacacy – you never get through to the person who you need to speak with first time round
  • Staff aren’t accountable to you so they won’t take responsibility
  • Staff take their salary at the end of the month whether they do a good job or not
  • The executive team make the organisation as lean as possible (usually done to increase share holder value – e.g. line their own pockets)
  • They don’t actually give a s**t about your business unless you’re a high value customer
  • And to top it off – If a large organisation owes you money, you can guarantee you won’t see it for at least 2 months. Most payment terms for big companies are at best 60 days.

Personally, I recommend you go small and buy product or service through a local small business – and here is why…

  • If you phone FalconVA HQ you will get through to me straight away
  • You will talk to a person not a machine
  • I won’t try and palm you off to someone else
  • I take a pride in my business and will resolve any issue you may have straight away
  • I pay my invoices on time – there are no ridiculous payment terms, if you send me an invoice, I will pay it
  • If your business doesn’t do well I know it will directly affect my business, so my service to you and your customer is second to none
  • When you pay your bill you’re not paying for another layer of organizational bureaucracy or increasing shareholder wealth, your payment helps me pay for my kids swimming lessons and new school shoes!

If in doubt, buy off your local small biz…. you’ll be a more satisfied customer, simples!

www.falconva.co.uk 

‘helping you do what you do best’!

 

Happy 1st Birthday FalconVA!

To mark the first birthday of FalconVA, I’ve spent some of the festive season thinking about the ups and downs of 2016. Like any good Project Manager this has led me on to the obvious end of project topic ‘lessons learnt’. To sum up my first year in business here are the lessons I learnt in 2016. I’m sure other small business owners will relate ….if I had been able to show myself this list a year ago it would have stood me in good stead for 2016…..

  • Don’t give away your time for free, unfortunately there are people out there who want something for nothing, or are happy to waste yours and their time. I’ve learnt to keep my consultation times down to 1hr max and will not agree to any work without hours or pay being clearly determined first. After all you wouldn’t expect a plumber to come over and service your boiler without knowing how long it would take or how much it would cost!
  • Time Keeping – with the kids at school those 6 hours before pick up can go really quickly, keep focused and use the hours wisely.
  • Skills-swap where you can. I have happily helped out a hair dresser friend on a few occasions this year – a good hair cut is expensive – It was a few hours well spent.
  • Grow a thick skin, you win some and you lose some. You can’t convert every lead so getting despondent over the lost ones is wasted energy. Move on!
  • Sometimes its better to let go of the bad £££s to chase the good £££s – it’s more efficient to fill your time with clients who are willing to pay the going rate, you’ll only end up spending a lot of hours earning not a lot of £££s!
  • Turn it around – I recently saw this quote on a marketing website “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” It really hit home with me and has helped me focus my activities for FalconVA in a much more client orientated way. I’m excited to see what the next 12 months brings.

And finally……….

  • The first year of business is tough so if someone around you is an expert in their field, marketing, book-keeping or any other and they want to give you some free advice – take it and be grateful!

Here’s to 2017! I’m already wondering what my lessons learnt will be this time next year.

 

 

My top tips on how to get organised for the New Year !

So, once the hangover subsides, the belt has gone out a notch and the post-Christmas bills come pouring in you’ll want to get back into the work mind set tout suite!

Whilst in the corporate world, not a year would go past without the introduction of another new philosophy. A big one that did go on slightly longer than some of the others was the introduction of Continuous Improvement, this came from The Japanese Kaizen Institute. Part of this process was for every employee to use a housekeeping technique called 5S.

5S relates to any workplace and forms a foundation upon which many businesses base their drive for continuous improvement. It is applicable & successful in all sectors helping to achieve high impact results. It is a systematic and methodical approach allowing teams or individuals to organise their workplace in the safest and most efficient manner.

The 5s:-

  • Sort – Sort out and separate what is needed and what isn’t!! This is a great time of year to ensure that pile of paper work gathering dust on your desk gets either filed or binned! And what about that inbox??? 
  • Straighten – Arrange items that are needed so that they are ready and easy to use. Get that new calendar and diary up to date! 
  • Shine – Clean the workplace and equipment on a regular basis in order to maintain standards and identify defects. Is your keyboard full of lunch crumbs? Mouse sticky from one too many custard creams? Time for a clean perhaps?
  • Standardise – Revisit the first three of the 5s on a frequent basis. Yes, boring I know …. What’s the saying ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’?
  • Sustain – Keep to the rules to maintain the standard & continue to improve every day.

So, whilst tidying and sorting isn’t usually top of my to do list I certainly will be actioning the above steps to ensure that FalconVA starts the new year in the most efficient way!!!

 

Kitchen Table Talent

Last week marked a year since I walked out of the Pall offices at Harbourgate never to return. With this poignant anniversary on my mind I have had some reflection this week on how I felt this time last year. When I left Pall there were obvious things I knew I would miss….. the regular salary to start with, paid holidays and benefits. The other thing I knew I would miss was of course the people (some more than others!) When you work for a company for 13 years you become good friends with many, those work friends see you through life’s milestones; weddings, pregnancies, babies etc.

For me on leaving Pall and setting up on my own I worried that the four walls surrounding my desk at home would soon become oppressive. Thankfully this wasn’t the case…. little did I know in the early days that some of the other mums who I walked past in the school playground everyday, who I never really knew, would take me under their wing. I always thought of them as just ’school run mums’, but how wrong could I be?! These ladies are a pool of highly talented individuals who have successfully set up their own businesses and have been kind enough this year to spend some of their precious time guiding and encouraging me on my own journey. To the outside world, we are often seen as a group of women gassing over a coffee ….! Actually we are sharing ideas and top tips, guiding each other and collaborating like any successful business team. I often think with our vast array of skills, depth of experience and ability to collaborate, we’d give any corporate team a run for their money!

SO in this blog I just want to say thanks to team ‘school run Mum’ for keeping my chin up and helping me through this first difficult year as FalconVA.

Paula Hutchings – Marketing Vision Consultancy

Emma Church – Miss Money Penny

Sarah Turner – Bloom People

Bex Stafferton – Art of Healthy Living #bestbloggerintown

Kate Box – Knitwear designer extraordinaire

So whilst I lost a team of friends who I worked with at Pall, I feel honoured and privileged to have gained new friends and a new team who are pretty amazeballs!

 

How to get your business out there!

Have a new business and need to get noticed?……How, you might be asking?!

So you’ve created your website, spent months refining the words on your services page and bang, the big website launch has been and gone……. The customers aren’t exactly falling over themselves…. The phones are silent and the website traffic is zero?? You’re left thinking ‘Where do I go from here’? What’s next? How will I get my business noticed? Here are some tips on how to start that ball rolling…..

1) Network, network and network – practise that one minute elevated pitch. Look around see what event is right for your business, try a few!  Don’t be scared, everyone there was once ‘the newbie’. Be yourself and avoid the hard sell, people do business with people… If they like you – you’ll build more relationships.

2) Create a Top 10 list of companies you want to work with – target them. Write letters, make phone calls, go visit them. Follow up warm leads and follow them up again, be confident you’re the solution to their problem.

3) Offer something for free – ‘Come along to my free workshop to learn about …….’ Everyone loves a freebie!

4) Business Expos – Attend/get a stall/talk to your potential customers face to face understand what they are looking for and ‘suss’ out your competition.

5) Talk to your friends and family, make sure they know of your new venture – it’s always easier to get referrals from people you already know!

6) Don’t ever miss an opportunity. If you’re invited along – go! If you’re asked to present – do it! In the first year of business, the answer has to always be ‘yes’!

You’ve got to get out there…..  You won’t build your business sat looking at your computer screen all day. Keep at the top of your game and be confident. To coin a cringeworthy  American saying from an ex colleague, ‘go press the flesh’ and get noticed.

Good luck!

 

How can a Virtual Assistant support your business?

Think about the time you spend per week doing tasks that add no real value to your business but suck your precious time away.  You know you should be focussing on what’s really important to your business… your customers, but you just can’t seem to shake off those tasks on your to do list that just have to be done!!!

If these tasks are taking you away from working with your customers, you are losing potential revenue …. revenue which could easily cover the cost of a virtual assistant.

Why not let FalconVA take away the strain?  At FalconVA, our clients have a personal, tailor made service, which takes care of their exact business requirement. Enabling our customers to take care of their customers.


 Make your to do list – our to do list!!!

Here are some of the tasks you can delegate to us:-

Admin

Data Entry, Data Analysis and Database Management

Power Point Presentations, Excel Spreadsheets, Word Docs

Invoicing

Promotional Materials

Newsletters

Project Management

Planning

Scheduling

Organising

Documentation

Charts

Reporting

Web and Social Media

Website creation & maintenance

Social media activation & maintenance


With our complete range of services, 15 years corporate experience and the latest project management accreditation, we are your ideal business partner!

Give us a call today to find out how we can help you (07966177480) or send an email to (ElizabethMant@falconva.co.uk) and we will call you back!

 

 

Project Manager or Policeman?

I’ve often worked on projects and felt like I’m the Police Officer of the team – Why would this be? Probably because I’m often in situations whereby I need to communicate with the project teams regularly to make sure the tasks that need to get done are done by the required date. I need to communicate clearly and concisely ensuring the teams understand the requirements and complete the tasks in the time frame given.

In order to draw some credible similarities between the two roles I thought I would have a look at the skills required to be a Police Officer:-

At the top of the list is:-

  • Effective communication skills, including tact and diplomacy. This is an essential skill for a project manager on any project, however large or small. Communicating with team members often from different backgrounds or even cultures can be tricky and needs managing. More importantly, each team member needs to know and understand what they need to do and when by. Often a lot easier said than done!!
  • A sense of personal responsibility, integrity and resilience. If the project team don’t believe in the project manager, the project is doomed before it’s even started. Part of being a successful project manager is dealing with the ’non-believers’, be it stakeholders or project team members who simply don’t buy into the project and would rather be doing something else!
  • Professionalism, honesty and trustworthiness. The project manager needs to be able to effectively communicate to all stakeholders in the project, however far up or down the hierarchy they may be. Key stakeholders are trusting the project manager to deliver, they will want to know those milestones are being hit – on time and on budget!
  • Confident and calm manner. When a project is getting towards the go-live date and stress levels are rising, this skill is essential! One of my favourite quotes on a challenging project ‘another bomb in Beirut wont make any difference – it’ll just move the rubble around!’ Despite the bombs, the project still went live, on time and on budget!
  • Good literacy skills in order to accurately record details. Each project is different one client might want their project plan managed through an Excel spreadsheet, another via a Project Management tool like Clarity or in Microsoft Project. The project manager needs to keep up to date with these tools, and ensure they can use whichever software the client requires.

This list isn’t exhaustive! What needs to be identified is that each project may be different and each client individual, however the skills to be a successful PM (or Police Officer it seems) are the same. Whether you are a kitchen company with too many installations on your hands or a publican looking to expand into new premises – With our first class communication and organisation skills at Falcon Virtual Assistance, we can help you get your project over the finish line on budget and schedule!

Often, small to medium companies put off hiring a project manager due to fear of cost. This is often a false economy, as the business owner finds themselves without the time to dedicate to the project and the schedule over-runs. The cost of a delay in the project will often be more than the cost of the Project Manager.

Call us today for a no-obligation chat – 07966177480!!!

Petersfield, Hampshire

 

Does my business need a website?

When I decided to set up my own company my first thought was – I need a website. Why was that my first thought? For me it was easy…. I need to showcase my skills and I need a shop window to do it. My clients need to know who I am and what I do.  

When you’re looking at spending hard earned cash, the first question you should always ask is WHY?

If you’re not sure whether you need a website…… here are some of the reasons why you just might:-

  • Customers…… Customers and more Customers. Amazingly, the internet was used by 3.2 billion people in 2015!
  • You need a shop window.  If your business exists in the social media world e.g you have a Facebook page – Your customer will be looking for the next click, more than likely they will be looking to find out more information about you or your product. A website can hang all your social media together, like a tree with lots of branches!
  • You want to showcase your products. You know you have a great product or service your customers should be biting your hand off to buy from you……. time to show the world just how good they are!
  • Its free. There aren’t third parties taking a cut of your profit by selling your products for you!
  • You can influence your customers – you can identify your customers problem and sell your business as their solution! ‘Summer wardrobe a bit out of date……. Time to treat yourself!’
  • You can communicate directly with your customers, blog about special offers, events that are coming up, show photos of new products/ promotions.
  • Your customers can look at your website whenever/ where ever they choose ….. its 24 hours a day and at their convenience!
  • The world wide web is global.  Is your business seasonal? ‘Can I only sell my knitwear products in the winters months’? Winter months are all year round if you count both hemispheres in your marketing strategy!

The reasons are endless….If you are a small business / start-up and you’ve realised you need a website, give Falcon Virtual Assistance in Petersfield a call…… we can set up your online presence and give you lots of useful advice! Packages start at £299.