10 tips for Better Team Work

Posted in Business start up, Human Resources, Management / Leadership with tags , , , on December 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa
Have you ever wondered how some groups work and some don’t? Effective team work is both profoundly simple and difficult at the same time.  Susan Heathfield of About.com published this article regarding team building that we thought is relevant for all small businesses..
Keys to Successful Team Work
  • The team understands the goals and is committed to attaining them. This clear direction and agreement on mission and purpose is essential for effective team work.
  • The team creates an environment in which people are comfortable taking reasonable risks in communicating, advocating positions, and taking action. Team members trust each other. Team members are not punished for disagreeing.
  • Communication is open, honest, and respectful. People feel free to express their thoughts, opinions, and potential solutions to problems. People feel as if they are heard out and listened to by team members who are attempting to understand.
  • Team members have a strong sense of belonging to the group. They experience a deep commitment to the group’s decisions and actions.
  • Team members are viewed as unique people with irreplaceable experiences, points of view, knowledge, and opinions to contribute.
  • Creativity, innovation, and different viewpoints are expected and encouraged.
  • The team is able to constantly examine itself and continuously improve its processes, practices, and the interaction of team members. The team openly discusses team norms and what may be hindering its ability to move forward and progress in areas of effort, talent, and strategy.
  • The team has agreed upon procedures for diagnosing, analysing, and resolving team work problems and conflicts. The team does not support member personality conflicts and clashes nor do team members pick sides in a disagreement. Rather, members work towards mutual resolution.
  • Participative leadership is practiced in leading meetings, assigning tasks, recording decisions and commitments, assessing progress, holding team members accountable, and providing direction for the team.
  • Members of the team make high quality decisions together and have the support and commitment of the group to carry out the decisions made.

If a team can get these ten factors right, success and a rewarding sense of team work will follow.

Susan Heathfield is a Human Resources expert. She is a management and organisation development consultant who specialises in human resources issues and in management development to create forward thinking workplaces. Susan is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer, and writer.

http://humanresources.about.com/od/teambuilding/f/team_work.htm

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31 Tips For Successful Outsourcing

Posted in Business start up, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , , , on December 18, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Here are 31 tips to make your outsourcing experiences as smooth as possible.

Come to an Agreement

One of the most important elements of subcontracting is making sure you and the subcontractor are on the same page and that there are no surprises. Keep these things on your list to help facilitate a smooth working relationship:

1.  Use a contract
2.  Make sure you agree on payment terms up front
3.  Don’t pay in full until the job is complete
4.  Be clear on how and when you plan to pay the subcontractor
5.  Agree on a timeline for the work
6.  Include a non-disclosure/non-competition provision in your contract
7.  Determine how you will receive project updates
8.  Clarify confidentiality expectations
9.  Build in a “de-bugging” provision that identifies a specific period of time the subcontractor will be on call to fix potential problems that arise
10.  Clarify the ownership of the project in writing

Protect Your Business

When you outsource, you are giving up some of your control over the project. Consider these tips to help you protect your business, interests and reputation:

11.  Check references
12.  Review the subcontractor’s portfolio
13.  Verify skills
14.  Consider a small test project first
15.  Be prepared to review all work before turning it over to the client
16.  Be very clear about expectations
17.  Don’t leave any details out when relaying the project request to the subcontractor
18.  Send all work requests in writing
19.  Schedule an initial call and regular check-ins, if necessary
20.  Be available throughout the duration of the project
21.  Track all payments for your books

Client Relations

The goal of the project should be to meet and exceed the client’s needs. In order to do that, follow these tips to manage your relationship with your client:

22.  Be the middleman
23.  Tell your client you are using a subcontractor, if appropriate
24.  Pad the time estimate provided by the subcontractor in your estimate for the client
25.  Don’t forget to add in time for your management role
26.  Be accountable for your work AND your subcontractor’s work

Aside from the Work

Remember the importance of the personal side of your subcontractor relationship. Here are some ways to do that:

27.  Don’t overlook the importance of complementary personalities
28.  Respect the subcontractor’s time
29.  Make sure there are no communication gaps
30.  Give praise and appreciation for a job well done
31.  Ask the subcontractor how it went at the end of the project and provide feedback

What other tips would you add to this list?

Successful outsourcing will not only allow you to focus on what you do best, but also find other ways to satisfy clients and expand your business. By building relationships with your subcontractors that are based on trust and respect, you will be able to create a team that can accomplish just about anything…and give you a day or two off in the process.

http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/04/09/31-tips-for-successful-outsourcing/

Alyssa Gregory is the owner of avertua, LLC, a full-service virtual assistant firm. She has been designing websites since 1995, and has a passion for supporting small businesses. Alyssa provides business tips, advice and news through her Small Business Idea Generator blog.

Effective Email

Posted in Office Management, Virtual Assistance with tags , on December 15, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Email is a fundamdental part of our daily lives and it is important to communicate effectively via this medium without being misunderstood or misconstrued.

How to communicate powerfully by email

There are a few simple rules to ensure that your emails are read in the first place and stay useful to the recipient.

Subject Lines are Headlines

The headline in a newspaper does two things: It grabs your attention and informs you what the article is about so you can decide whether you want to read further. Email subject lines need to do the same thing.

Use the subject line to inform the receiver of EXACTLY what the email is about in a few well-chosen words. You might include a call to action such as “Please respond by 7 November”, and if your message is one of a regular series of mails, such as a weekly project report, include the date in the subject line too.

Because everyone gets emails they do not want (spam), appropriate use of the subject line increases the chances your email will be read and not deleted without so much as a glance.

Of course, just as it would be ridiculous to publish a newspaper without headlines, never leave the subject line blank.

Make One Point per Email

The beauty of email, compared with letters, is that it doesn’t cost any more to send several mails than it does to send one.

So, if you need to communicate with someone about several matters, write a separate email on each subject. That way your correspondent can reply to each one in the appropriate time-frame. One topic might only require a short reply that he or she can make straight away. Another topic might require more research. By writing separate emails, you get clearer answers.

However, as with traditional business letters, the email should be clear and concise, with the purpose of the email detailed in the very first paragraph. Sentences should be kept short and to the point.

The body of the email should contain all pertinent information and should be direct and informative.

Specify the Response You Want

Make sure to include any action you desire, such as a phone call or follow-up appointment. Then, make sure you include your contact information, including your name, title, and phone numbers. Do this even with internal messages: The easier you make it for someone else to respond, the more likely they are to do so.

Be a Good Correspondent

If you regularly correspond using email, make sure to clean out your email inbox at least once each day. This is a simple act of courtesy and will also serve to encourage senders to return your emails in a timely manner.

If a lengthy response is required to an email, but you don’t have the time to pull together the information required now, send a holding reply saying that you have received the message, and indicating when you will respond fully.

Always set your Out of Office agent when you are going to be away from your email for a day or more, whether on leave or because you’re at meetings.

Internal Email

Internal email should be checked regularly throughout the working day and returned in a much quicker manner as it often involves timely projects, immediate updates, meeting notes, and so on.

Nonetheless, internal emails, just like other emails, should not be informal. Remember, these are written forms of communication that can be printed out and viewed by others than those originally intended for. Always use your spell checker, and avoid slang.

http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/EmailCommunication.htm

Outsourcing: Don’t be too busy earning a living to make any money

Posted in Office Management with tags , , on December 13, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Outsourcing is worth considering when you find yourself being too busy to do what you do best. 

Tips:  Make outsourcing work for you

When outsourcing:

  • Take your time making decisions and make sure you are clear about the terms on which you and the supplier are working together
  • Make the effort to establish a solid relationship – this calls for good communication and flexibility
  • If you can stay with your supplier for several years, you are likely to get the best results. Switching suppliers can be a lengthy process, so it pays to commit to building a long-term relationship from the outset.
  • A flexible contract benefits both parties, allowing the supplier to innovate and you to react to changing circumstances.
  • Aim for a smooth transition/migration

Even with good planning, it’s a learning curve for both parties, so use it as an opportunity to modify the service level agreement (SLA) for the future.

Measure success

There should be financial benefits to outsourcing, but alternatives could include generating a higher profile for your business, more credibility, fewer defects or greater speed to market.

For further details – please refer to http://www.businesslink.gov.uk
The Business Link helps your business save time and money by giving you instant access to clear, simple, and trustworthy information.

Problem solving tips – 5 Why’s

Posted in Management / Leadership, Office Management with tags , , on December 10, 2010 by virtualcitypa

The 5 Whys is a simple problem-solving technique that helps users to get to the root of the problem quickly. Made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production System, the 5 Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and asking: “Why?” and “What caused this problem?”

Very often, the answer to the first “why” will prompt another “why” and the answer to the second “why” will prompt another and so on; hence the name the 5 Whys strategy.

Benefits of the 5 Whys include:

  • It helps to quickly determine the root cause of a problem
  • It is easy to learn and apply

How to use the tool:

When looking to solve a problem, start at the end result and work backward (toward the root cause), continually asking: “Why?” This will need to be repeated over and over until the root cause of the problem becomes apparent.

Example:

Following is an example of the 5 Whys analysis as an effective problem-solving technique:

  1. Why is our client ABC, unhappy? Because we did not deliver our services when we said we would.
  2. Why were we unable to meet the agreed-upon timeline or schedule for delivery? The job took much longer than we thought it would.
  3. Why did it take so much longer? Because we underestimated the complexity of the job.
  4. Why did we underestimate the complexity of the job? Because we made a quick estimate of the time needed to complete it, and did not list the individual stages needed to complete the project.
  5. Why didn’t we do this? Because we were running behind on other projects. We clearly need to review our time estimation and specification procedures.  

Key Points:

The 5 Whys strategy is an easy and often-effective tool for uncovering the root of a problem. Because it is so elementary in nature, it can be adapted quickly and applied to most any problem. Bear in mind, however, that if it doesn’t prompt an intuitive answer, other problem-solving techniques may need to be applied.

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_5W.htm

Inspirational quotes

Posted in Topical with tags on December 7, 2010 by virtualcitypa

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
Francis Bacon

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.
William James

Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.
George S. Patton

If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.
St. Clement of Alexandra

Inspiration and genius–one and the same.
Victor Hugo

To find what you seek in the road of life, the best proverb of all is that which says: “Leave no stone unturned.”
Edward Bulwer Lytton

Along with success comes a reputation for wisdom.
Euripides

They can because they think they can.
Virgil

General lifestyle management

Posted in Lifestyle Management with tags , , , , on December 2, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Dr. Dan Rutherford, GP highlights in this article some good pointers to improve your work-life balance that we considered worthy of sharing once more.

Exercise

Most people think of exercise solely in terms of weight loss, but it also builds muscles and bones, lifts mood and is a great way of beating stress. If you don’t do 30 minutes of walking most days, plus one or two aerobic sessions a week, you aren’t exercising enough.

If you want to make changes to your routine, bear in mind it takes three weeks to adopt a new habit, so you should draw up a plan that carries you beyond this point.

Sleep

Most adults need six to eight hours of sleep each night. When we sleep, we rest and our body is able to renew its energy. This may be why a good night’s sleep seems to improve the immune system, minimising our risk of illness.

Sleep is also important because of dreams. When we dream, we process all the events of daily life. Getting a good night’s sleep, therefore, influences our psychological wellbeing.

Stress

We all have an instinctive stress response that releases hormones into our bloodstream when we are faced with danger.

These hormones cause instant mental and physical change in us, giving added strength and endurance so we can fight or take flight.

Instead of using our stress hormones in emergencies, we live at such a pace that many of us activate them all the time – like when we are going to miss a train or someone cuts us up on the motorway.

Most tense people don’t give themselves sufficient time and space to rest after each stress-filled moment. With no release, your stress hormones keep on working, which is why there are so many people around who lose their tempers at the slightest provocation.

If this sounds like you, make learning how to reduce and cope with stress a priority.

What we drink

Good hydration is essential for mind and body, so make sure you drink plenty of water every day. Not all drinks are equal, so if you need to boost your liquid intake, watch your caffeine (and sugar) levels don’t creep up.

Where we get energy from

The food we eat is used to provide energy for every function in the body, from walking and talking to digesting and breathing.

The main types of food – carbohydrate, protein and fats – are important sources of energy.

Current guidelines suggest that we should get:

  • about 50 per cent of our energy from carbohydrates (cereals, bread, pasta and potatoes)
  • 10-15 per cent from protein (meat, cheese, soya)
  • less than 30 per cent of energy from fats (70g per day for women, 100g for men). Many of us eat more than this a day.

The actual amount of energy you require will depend upon the type of lifestyle you lead.

The recommended figures are 2000 calories per day for women and 2500 for men – but you may need less than this if you take little exercise and sit at a desk all day, and more than this if your job involves manual labour.

www.netdoctor.co.uk