29 June 2006

Are your clients happy?

I run a Virtual Assistant business providing professional secretarial and administrative support to small businesses and individuals. Therefore, I am selling a service as opposed to a product. So how do I know that my clients are happy with the service that I provide - by asking them!

How on earth can you improve on processes, systems and even the service itself if you don't have honest feedback. I have produced a Client Satisfaction Survey which I send out and ask for honest answers. I then take on board all the positive and negative comments to improve my business for everyone to benefit.

I have even thrown in a couple of market research questions to ensure that I can reach my target market - killing 2 birds with 1 stone comes to mind.

Are you asking your customers about your product or service? Now might be the time to do somthing about it before it is too late!

To see how CKPA can help you in this process, contact us now.

Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions

22 June 2006

Eight guaranteed ice breakers

By Jackie Barrie of Comms Plus

We believe that a fun introduction that makes people laugh is the best way to get any event off to a good start. This article shares some of our favourite ideas, all tried and tested and known to work!

Pass the parcel
Good fun for any number. Needs some preparation though, and music! You can probably take your own CD player and CDs, but better check this is OK with the venue and remember to take an extension lead, just in case. The game works just like the kids’ version but you put a question to be answered in each layer of the parcel to be unwrapped. They can be business questions e.g. ‘Describe your ideal client?’ or social e.g. ‘What was your best ever holiday?’ You can also put little prizes in, sweets etc, perhaps with a bigger prize in the middle e.g. the entrance fee refunded.

Networking bingo
This works best for groups of 20 or more. In advance, prepare a ‘bingo sheet’. Down the left hand column, list various characteristics of the people you expect to attend, e.g. ‘solicitor’ or ‘has blue eyes’. Leave a corresponding space down the right hand column. You can choose whatever categories you wish, as serious or silly as appropriate. Copy / print enough so there is a bingo sheet for everybody (plus a few over just in case). You may need to provide pens as well. On the day allow 10 minutes (yes, just 10 minutes!) for people to collect as many signatures as they can on their bingo sheet. One person can only sign once on any page, and you cannot sign your own. The first person to collect 20 different signatures wins the prize (if it’s a paid event, I give away a bottle of champagne / wine, if it’s a free event, I give away the chance to present your business for 1 minute to the audience so they all know who you are and what you do). If you run out of time, the person with the most signatures wins (count down from 20, 19, 18 etc.). Optional extras, you can insist that they exchange business cards along with signatures. You can go through the list afterwards with a show of hands so everyone can see who in the whole audience qualifies for each category. The benefits, it’s a great ice breaker, people can get really competitive and start climbing over chairs to collect signatures! It’s not ‘proper networking’ but you do learn a little something about other people and find random connections to follow up later. It’s fun!

Pennies in a basket
This ice-breaker works for any number of attendees. Give everyone 10 x 1p coins, and put an empty basket (or other receptacle) in the centre of the table. Go round the table with everyone in turn saying something they have never done. If other people have done that thing, they put a penny in the basket. Keep going round until whoever runs out of pennies first is the winner, for being the most adventurous person in the room! Get all the other pennies back and you won’t even be out of pocket!

Warm fuzzies
A good way of breaking a big group into smaller ones. Get some fluffy balls from a craft shop, about 20 for £1. Everyone takes a ball when they arrive, creating a nice sense of anticipation. On the organiser’s instruction, they have to find the other people with the same size and colour balls. They then present to their small groups for one minute each (as BRE /BNI) on who they are, what they do, why they are good at it, and what they are looking for. You need a whistle or gong to make a loud noise every 60 seconds to keep it moving along.

Key words
You can also achieve random small groups by putting an index card on each person’s chair with a key word written on it. The key words are in groups e.g. of 5 things to do with hamburgers, 5 superheroes, 5 soap stars or whatever. It’s interesting to see who chooses to sit where! On your command, people have to find the others in their group (although I’ve had people trying to match Julia Roberts with whipped cream before!) and present to each other as for ‘warm fuzzies’ above.

Each person writes their name and two unusual facts about themselves on a piece of paper. Then screw all the pieces of paper into ‘snowballs’ and throw them to each other. General mayhem ensues! After a few moments, you stop the throwing, and everyone has to find the person who wrote the page they are holding. They then have to find out one other unusual fact about that person. Finally, they introduce the other person (and their facts) to the rest of the group.

Each person in turn asks a defining question e.g. if you were an animal what would you be and why? It goes round the table and everyone has to answer what they would be as an animal, then in turn they choose their own category for themselves and the others to answer. You can set the tone yourself, e.g. If I were an animal I’d have to be a sheep because my boyfriend is Welsh (ahem).

Truth or lies
Go round the table and each person says 3 things about themselves, 2 must be true and the other a lie, the rest have to guess the lie. For instance, I didn’t get where I am today without being: a) a bar-maid b) a secretary c) a tea-lady!

Jackie Barrie founded Comms Plus in 2001. It’s a writing and design business that specialises in making complex information appear simple. You can find out more at www.comms-plus.co.uk

I thought this article could be of use to anyone new to facilitating meetings / workshops and wanted a few ideas.

Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions

15 June 2006

7 tips for a successful small business

By Robert Warlow - Small Business Success

Getting a small business off the ground is challenging to say the least. Here are some tips which will prepare the ground for running a successful small business.

Have Goals
This is where it all starts – the foundation for success. Know exactly where you are heading. What will the business ‘look’ like in the future? How will you know when your business is a success? When you wake up in the morning, do you know what actions you have to take to get you on the road to success?

Take Action
The difference between success and failure is down to the actions you take. The failures in life are the people who know what they have to do but never do it. The successful small business owners are people who take action on their ideas, ones who never say, “I wish I had done …”!

Seek Feedback
There is a saying that feedback is the breakfast of champions. During the early days of your business you must continually seek feedback about all aspects of your business. What works? What doesn’t work? What needs changing slightly? Speak to customers, suppliers, your bank manager, your accountant - anyone who can provide you with a fresh perspective.

Find Out What You Don’t Know
You can’t expect to know everything about running a business. Undertake your own skills analysis and find out your areas for development. Once you know your knowledge gaps seek out courses, books and advice, which will get you on track.

Be Focused
Let no one distract you from achievement of your goals. At the start of every day get yourself into the frame of mind that you will only do tasks which will get you closer to your goal – nothing else matters.

Take Risks!
You will never achieve anything if you’re not prepared to jump off the cliff a few times! We’re not talking about risks which will put the business in jeopardy; just risks which are planned and thought out, yet at the same time test the edge!

Think Positive
Yes, the oldest cliché in the book, but totally true. See the positive in everything. If something has not gone right train yourself to ask “What good has come out of this?” Understand that in every problem there is potential for good.

© Robert Warlow - Small Business Success

Small Business Success is a resource dedicated to helping small business owners be more successful. If you are looking for a regular flow of ideas and tips then subscribe to the Small Business Success, a free newsletter, which provides you with quick tips, ideas and articles.

For more information visit http://www.smallbusinesssuccess.biz

To see how partnering with CKPA and your own Virtual Assistant can benefit your business, please have a look at our website.

Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions

09 June 2006

Be professional in all that you do!

I belong to an industry forum where wonderful people share their advice and experiences freely.
However, a new visitor to the forum posted a 'wanted ad' and gave the rate of pay offered. One of the responses she had was from a forum member telling her she was 'nuts' and would never get someone to work for that rate. The tone was rather unprofessional and, in my opinion, uncalled for. The original poster responded that you always need to be professional in all your business dealings - whether that be your forum posts or in person as what goes around, comes around!

I totally agree with this and had the 'pleasure' of dealing with an unprofessional business person over the telephone. A prospect for my Virtual Receptionist service left a message for me late in the afternoon (after 4.00 pm). I was out of the office and couldn't call him back until first thing the next morning. He wasn't happy that I didn't call him back within minutes and wanted me to beg for his business - I politely said thank you for your time and goodbye. I REFUSE to work with people like that who try to dictate to me how I run my business and I will always say thank you but no thanks each and every time.

The reason I am writing this story? There is every liklihood that I will meet this person at a networking group I attend. Do you think I will pass business to him? I don't think so!

I truly believe in the saying "treat people how you would like to be treated" and I endeavor to do that in everything I do. Do you?

Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions