Author Archive

Technology is a wonderful thing

We are lucky that we live in the age we do. Technology, although abhorred by some, has given us so much, and certainly made my life richer.

I think back to when I first started working, okay perhaps not quite as far back as my dishwashing job when I was 12, but to the first office job that I had in the late 80’s.  The computers in the office had huge heavy monitors with green writing on the screen.  They only ran bespoke systems which managed stock for us or generated an invoice.  There were different computers for different tasks, there was no such thing as integration, and you had to go to the right terminal, wherever that was located, in order to carry out each task.

Mobile phones resembled portable car batteries with a handset on top.  In fact I don’t think I had even heard of the internet back then.  If I wanted to write notes I used a pen and paper, and stored all the ‘memory aides’ on little index cards in a plain blue box.

I’ve been fortunate that during my lifetime I have seen a real revolution not only in the way that we work, but also how we learn and communicate with each other.  Yes it can have disadvantages in this permanently connected world, never truly feeling like you can switch off, but just look at the advantages it has brought to us.

Collaboration is the key to moving your business forward

Many businesses feel the temptation to go it alone, they are isolated and don’t realise the opportunities that they could be missing out on.

As a Virtual Assistant I am an advocate for outsourcing, but that isn’t the only area where you can collaborate.

I run a training website for other Virtual Assistants.  Because I want this to truly be of value to other VAs I knew that it couldn’t just be a solo project.  For this to have the maximum effect I need other people to collaborate with, most notably my online training partner, Sharp End Training.  They have the technical expertise and the training courses that I need for my site but don’t have the time or the skills to create and offer.

Do you have a contingency plan?

Fate has been conspiring against me of late.  From repeated power cuts at home where my business is based, to helping a client move office and being let down on the phone line and broadband transfer.  However, all is not as bad as it seems, because I am a pessimist!  Why should this be cause for celebration amongst all these mishaps?  Well being a pessimist means I have contingency plans in place.

I work virtually which means that most of my work is done online over the internet.  To do this I obviously need electricity, a computer and an internet connection.  Fear not, although the router may have gone down with the power I have a wonderful little gadget called a MiFi.  It’s a portable wireless router and has served me very well since it’s purchase early last year. It can generate a wireless signal for up to five computers, including the iPhone and iPod Touch.  As it doesn’t need to be connected via USB if it is fully charged it makes it a really flexible little gadget.  It also means I don’t have to go running to find my nearest Starbucks or McDonalds in search of a wireless signal.  I’ve found it much quicker than the traditional mobile broadband dongle I used to use.

I don’t need a Virtual Assistant!

How to make the most out of your Virtual Assistant

Have you ever thought about using a Virtual Assistant? Perhaps you use one already, but do you use them to their full potential?

A lot of people think that they don’t need a Virtual Assistant, that they can manage on their own. That’s fine, but is that the most effective and efficient use of your time?

Take a notepad and for one day write down every task you carry out, be honest with yourself.  At the end of the day review this list and ask yourself if that was really the best use of your time.  If someone else had carried out just some of those tasks for you would that have made you more effective, if you hadn’t been carrying out those tasks could you have generated more income?

10 things I have learned about Twitter

It’s been an interesting journey over the past year for me in respect of Twitter so I thought I would share with you 10 things I have learned about Twitter.

It would be great to hear what you have learned.


You can make friends on Twitter with people from all over the world, and when you actually meet them it often feels like you have known them for years.  Because people share the personal insights as well as the business you can really paint a picture of them in your head.  It’s not all about business, that’s why they call it social media!


You no longer need to worry about watching the reality TV shows as there is such an excellent source of information on Twitter each evening you can be sure you will never miss out on the what is happening.


You should be wary of tweeting when under the influence as others on Twitter will be stone cold sober. (Please note this is not from personal inebriated experience but from being on the other side of the fence) and your followers will see a side of you they didn’t know existed.


Twitter is an excellent alternative to locating suppliers or services via Google.  It’s all well and good using an internet directory but how good are the results without a personal recommendation.  One Tweet asking for recommendations and you will have saved yourself hours of work and have built up a shortlist.


You can win stuff on Twitter, quite often all that is required is a simple re-tweet of a tweet and you can win some pretty cool prizes such as tickets to events, chocolate, hampers and much much more, although I have yet to win that coveted iPad.


Twitter is not the place to air your personal grievances, that is still best done in private, however, a carefully worded tweet can encourage a supplier or retailer to respond to a concern that you have, and by carefully worded I do not mean offensive.  I have heard of some really positive responses to tweeted concerns, but then again I have also heard that the same tweets can fall on deaf ears with some companies.


Twitter is an educational resource! Who would have thought I could have learned so much from 140 characters.  Sometimes you can learn purely from those 140 characters but more often you learn from the blog or article that is linked to from the tweet.  There are some fantastic minds on Twitter, not just business minds, who truly embrace what Twitter is about, and are sharing knowledge and experience on a regular basis.

Is your email address or phone number costing you business?

This post is by Helen Stothard


What email address or phone number do you advertise for your business? Chances are you may be losing custom if you do not portray the correct professional image.

Frequently we come across businesses advertising yahoo, hotmail or gmail email addresses on the Internet.  Why? For example, Joe Bloggs is a plumber by trade.  If he advertises or which do you suppose will be treated more seriously?  Which gives the perception of a professional business?

Why being too Social is bad for Business

This post is by Helen Stothard


I had an interesting conversation recently. We were talking about being yourself on Social Media.  Now I have always been an advocate of showing people your true personality on Twitter, down to sharing the mundane stuff such as what you had for dinner, the weather and your TV viewing habits.  I know some people don’t ‘get’ that side of Twitter but for me, it helps me see the person behind the tweets, I build an impression in my mind, whether it’s right or wrong, of that person, and can then tell whether or not I feel I can connect with them.

This is all well and good, but at the end of the day, you should always remember that whenever you tweet you have an audience of thousands, and you also have Google storing your tweets away to resurrect in a Google search out of context at another time.

Backup, backup, backup

You know that moment when you hit a button, and then realise that perhaps you just made a terrible mistake?

I am sure I am not alone, the Word document that crashes and you forgot to autosave, the carefully calculated spreadsheet that has mysteriously disappeared along with all your formula’s.
Well this time I went one better! In an effort to launch a major new feature of the site I had a momentary lapse of attention whilst using FTP, I thought I had deleted a recently added folder with some training material in, but no, me being me and doing a multitude of things at once, I managed to delete the whole public_html folder.  If that last sense sounds like total gibberish to you in other words I deleted the whole teamHLSBS website.  Let’s also say that I have enough I.T savvy to know better than this!

What’s the difference between call answering and call handling?

This post is by Helen Stothard

One of the tweets I sometimes post on Twitter is about having your calls handled and not just answered, one of my Twitter friends suggested that it would make an interesting blog topic. So what is the difference between call answering and call handling?

Answering a call is really just about picking up a ringing phone, taking a message and passing it on in its simplest form.

Call Handling is about knowing as much as possible about the business or person that the call is intended for, so that the person answering the call can manage it in as informed and effective way as possible.  If it’s a simple enquiry quite often the call handler can supply the information requested, be it an email address, postal address, opening hours or even information on a particular product, without having to pass the call on.

Do your suppliers listen to you? Do you listen to your clients?

this post was written by Helen Stothard

I have been reviewing several new cloud based services with one of my clients recently and it suddenly struck me that we are finding ourselves veering to a particular style of supplier, regardless of the product we are reviewing.  This has shown itself time and again over the last year in the choices that I have made in terms of products for myself and my clients.

The suppliers we are finding ourselves working with are generally new to the market, or at least newcomers in an established field.  This means that they still remember the importance of looking after the customer.

Yes, once again we are talking about customer service.  The reason being is that in the current climate it is more important than ever to listen to what your customers actually want, not just sell them the same old thing.