Archive for Efficiency

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

Office organisation tips

Posted in Office Management with tags , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by virtualcitypa

With the ever increasing workloads that companies are putting on employees, staying organised is vital. Here are some tips on how you can have better office organisation, more productivity and a little peace of mind.

1. Know the times of day that you’re at your best

We all have times of the day that we’re more productive than others. Use those better periods of the day to spend on the toughest tasks you need to accomplish. Leave the easier things for the times you’re less energetic.

For example, if you’re not a morning person then don’t schedule an important meeting early in the morning if possible. Push it back to 10:00 a.m. or later. Using your time wisely is one of the keys to better office organisation.

When you’re not feeling your best it’s nearly impossible to get anything of substance accomplished. This is where flex schedules can be a big asset. If your office doesn’t have that, talk to the boss about it and try selling him on the idea.

2. Deadlines are good

Set deadlines for yourself on important tasks. By doing this you’ll notice yourself getting more done in less time. Even if you really don’t have a deadline for a certain project, set one anyway. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you can be with just this tip.

3. Control your day instead of your day controlling you.

Think about how much time you lose every day due to office distractions. Perhaps its emails that co-workers send, others who pop into your office and proceed to camp out for 15 minutes and the list goes on.

Let others know that unless their needs are an emergency, that you’re busy and don’t want to be disturbed. That’s not being rude, it’s being productive.

Every time you become distracted, not only do you lose the time during the distraction, but it’s difficult to get re-focused again. When this happens throughout the day it makes getting anything accomplished nearly impossible.

4. Cut the fat.

No, I’m not talking about a diet. Good office organisation is going to require the elimination of these things which are not of any value.

For example, if you are writing out reports that other co-workers don’t need, then stop doing it. Put out one report and send it to everyone by email.

Get with your boss and discuss the areas that you are spending unproductive time in. Let them know you could be utilising that time on the areas you are strongest in.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/123924/office_organization_tips_to_being_more.html

Budgeting effectively

Posted in Finance with tags , , , on September 2, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Business budgeting is very important in every company regardless of its size. Good business budgeting plan can business owners and executives achieve their goals and stay in competition despite difficult or unexpected financial situations.

Business budgeting is basically financial planning. It can be simple or complex depending on the nature of your business but it is best if you keep the budget presentation simple and clear. Above all, use caution when creating your budget. Make sure all information is accurate and up-to-date for effective business budgeting.

Below are several budgeting tips that you can try:

• Be realistic

Business budgeting should be based on numbers that is backed up by sensible expectations. These expectations should be based on both previous business financial performance and projected business developments.

• Business budgeting should be time-bound

Business budgeting should be prepared under a specific timeframe. The budget is most of the time based on the company’s fiscal year or you can also project a budget on a monthly or quarterly basis.

It is recommended that you break down your budget on a monthly basis even if you have already prepared it on your business’ fiscal year. To make your business budgeting easy, consider using a financial program or software.

• Make an estimate on your income and expenses

Business budgeting relies on your expenses and income within a specified timeframe. Your income should include the payments gathered from sales, interests, accounts receivable and other sources. For the company expenses, all funds that leave the company should be included. Such expenses include payroll, materials, utilities, real estate so on and so forth.
Regardless of how cautiously you plan, there is not doubt that you will come across with unexpected expenses as you run your business. This makes it very important for you to save some allowance for them in your business financial plan.

Also, it is a good thing to consider the time when both income and operating costs will be incurred. For instance, if you run a business that is seasonal, there are months wherein your sales will definitely go down. In this case, it is important to make sure to adjust the budget accordingly for the lean months.

These are just some business budgeting tips that you can try. To be honest, business budgeting is not easy but if you master it, you can be sure that you will encounter lesser financial problems in your company.

http://www.linkroll.com/budgeting/tips-for-an-effective-business-budgeting.php

Need a Translation? Top Tips for Buying Language Services

Posted in Translation with tags , , , on August 4, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Using a translation agency is a must when you are planning to do business outside the UK.

Choose your agency wisely and your project will become efficient, cost-effective and your translation will get the attention it deserves. 

Choose unwisely it most likely will be detrimental to your business.

Preparing for translation!

  • The better you plan your project, the more painless the process will be.
  • Be aware how long the original text took to create and this will be a good indicator of the translation time. 
  • Your document should be clear and precise as spelling errors can lead to translation problems. 
  • Send the document to the translation company by email and ask them to give you a quotation.  This means that you will get a price more quickly, and your prices will be more accurate than if you ask over the phone. 
  • Make sure that you check whether the service includes proofreading and a format check.  Some agencies charge extra for these services. 
  • Ask if you can discuss your project with the person who may be managing it, so that you can see if you feel comfortable with them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if the agency offers any reassurances on the quality of their translations.  This could be in the form of free trial translations, or an insight into their quality assurance processes. 
  • If you are short on time a good agency will manage your project from start to finish, leaving you free to carry on with your own job. 
  • Remember, translators employed by an agency must be native speakers of the target language; as well as also being able to understand the nuances of the original text.

And finally, Beware! Not everyone who speaks a foreign language is a translator. Make sure you hire qualified professionals for the job.

Here are some examples where meaning has been ‘lost in translation’:

  • The name coca-cola was first rendered in China as ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately it was discovered, after thousands of signs had been printed, that the phrase means Bite the wax tadpole!
  • The translation of the Pepsi slogan ‘come alive with the Pepsi generation’ came out in Taiwanese as ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’.
  • A sign In a laundry in Rome read ‘Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time’.

How to win the commitment of staff

Posted in Office Management with tags , , , , , on July 19, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Having committed staff is key for small buinesses and this is why Virtual City PA would like to refer to this article from teamtechnology.co.uk.

Top tips to having dedicated support from colleagues and co-workers:

The most powerful motivators are not monetary. They include a variety of things, such as:

* a sense of achievement
* a feeling that the job is worthwhile
* thanks or recognition from respected people
* a sense of having made a difference
* contributing to a long term vision
* developing a new understanding
* bringing organisation into a situation of chaos
* building up knowledge, skill or experience

Not all of these are of the same importance for each individual – different people are motivated by different things. This is of particular relevance when deciding how to tackle the issue, because there are (broadly speaking) two approaches:

1. developing a standard approach
2. enabling staff to develop their own approach

The problem with option (1) is that it often presumes that employees have a particular type of motivation. If they do, then the approach you introduce will work. But if they don’t then your standard approach will not win their commitment (at most you will gain ‘compliance’ with your appraoch which, in a customer service environment, is just not good enough). Proponents of this option may argue that a standard approach is required to achieve quality – but if supposed “quality” is achieved at the expense of staff commitment, then the level of customer service will be poor.

The value of option (2) – which enables staff to become the architects of their own customer service – is that staff can incorporate the things that motivate them in to that approach. You need standards as well – but if staff are involved in the development of those standards then then are much more likely to be committed to them.

Customer Service Workshops

Staff can become architects of the customer service through a workshop-based approach. Take your team offsite for a couple of days, and take them through a syndicate-based process where they:

* think about their own experiences – good and bad
* define what is (generically) good customer service
* apply those definitions to their own environment
* ask a customer to make a presentation (followed by Q&A) on “the type of service I want from you”. Have syndicate discussions afterwards to review the issues raised.
* get them to produce an action plan to follow up on the workshop.
* appoint a follow-up manager, to make sure that all the output from the workshops is supported by management, and progress on actions are regularly communicated to everyone involved

This approach gives staff:

* direct exposure to customers’ views of the service they provide
* the opportunity to shape the future customer service (and thereby implicitly include what motivates them)
* full support from management
* an efficient communication mechanism to see that their suggestions are being acted upon

These are the essential components for winning commitment of staff to better customer service.

http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/customer-service.html

Time management tips

Posted in Time Management with tags , , , , on June 30, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Plan your actions
Changing time management habits takes time and effort, and it is always much easier when you have a simple system of practical rules and hints that are easy to keep in mind.

Know what you want from your time
The proven way to do it is to set goals, and to set them SMART. The rest of the time management tips below will help you be effective in achieving your goals and making time management decisions.

Learn to see the difference between urgent and important
The important tasks are those that lead you to your goals, and give you most of the long term progress and reward. Those tasks are very often not urgent. Many urgent tasks are not really important.

Know and respect your priorities
Aim to do the important things first. Remember the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of reward comes from 20 percent of effort. One of the aims of time management tips is to help you refocus your mind to give more attention and time to those most important 20 percent.

Plan your actions for achieving your goals
Convert your goals into a system of specific actions to be done. The first significant point of planning is the planning process itself. It is a known fact, and you will see it for yourself, that the planning process stimulates your brain to come up with new efficient solutions. It programs your subconscious mind to search for shortcuts. It makes you much more prepared for each specific action. Besides, planning will help you to identify potential conflicts and crises, minimizing the number of urgent tasks.

Planning can also significantly lower the time spent on routine maintenance tasks, leaving you more time on what you like to do or for what you think is important for your long term success.

Also remember that planning and related time management tips work best when you review your plans regularly.

Schedule time for your tasks
Your concentration can be easily lost in the sea of many boring or less important things waiting to be done in your head. Undone things circulating in your mind are also a big drain of your mental energy. Most often, there is no way to get those things out of your mind except of either doing them or scheduling them in a trustable system, convincing your mind that they will be done in due time.

Know how you spend your time
Keep a time log during some time interval, like a week, and then analyse it to see where your time goes. For example, what percentage of time you spend on urgent and on important activities, what people you devote most time to. You are likely to be surprised, and you will see much better if you could use more time management tips. This is also an effective way to get a feedback on how well time management tips and techniques are working for you, and where you need some adjustments.

Personal time management leads to building a stronger foundation for your success.
www.time-management-guide.com

Measuring success

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , on October 1, 2009 by virtualcitypa

Measure performance and set targets

The www.businesslink.gov.uk website is an excellent resource for small businesses to get practical advice. We thought this article was particularly useful and wanted to highlight this topic for all our customers.

The importance of measurement and target-setting
Performance measurement and target-setting are important to the growth process. While many small businesses can run themselves quite comfortably without much formal measurement or target-setting, for growing businesses the control these processes offer can be indispensable.

The benefits of performance measurement
Knowing how the different areas of your business are performing is valuable information in its own right, but a good measurement system will also let you examine the triggers for any changes in performance. This puts you in a better position to manage your performance proactively.

One of the key challenges with performance management is selecting what to measure. The priority here is to focus on quantifiable factors that are clearly linked to the drivers of success in your business and your sector. These are known as key performance indicators (KPIs). See the page in this guide on deciding what to measure.

Bear in mind that quantifiable isn’t the same as financial. While financial measures of performance are among the most widely used by businesses, non-financial measures can be just as important.

For example, if your business succeeds or fails on the quality of its customer service, then that’s what you need to measure – through, for example, the number of complaints received. For more information about financial measurement, see the page in this guide on measurement of your financial performance.

The benefits of target-setting
If you have identified the key areas that drive your business performance and found a way to measure them, then a natural next step is to start setting performance targets to give everyone in your business a clear sense of what they should be aiming for.

Strategic visions can be difficult to communicate, but by breaking your top level objectives down into smaller concrete targets you’ll make it easier to manage the process of delivering them. In this way, targets form a crucial link between strategy and day-to-day operations.