Archive for Planning

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.

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Planning

Posted in Business start up, Management / Leadership, Time Management with tags , , on August 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa

A good plan will:

  • State the current situation
  • Have a clear aim
  • Use the resources available
  • Detail the tasks to be carried out, whose responsibility they are, and their priorities and deadlines.
  • Detail control mechanisms that will alert you to difficulties in achieving the plan.
  • Identify risks, and plan for contingencies. This allows you to make a rapid and effective response to crises, perhaps at a time when you are at low ebb or are confused following a setback.
  • Consider transitional arrangements – how will you keep things going while you implement the plan?

The six phases of planning are as follows:

  • Analysis of Opportunities
  • Identifying the Aim of Your Plan
  • Exploring Options
  • Selecting the Best Option
  • Detailed Planning
  • Evaluation of the Plan and its Impact

MindTools.com was the source of this valuable reference article

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_05.htm

Price setting

Posted in Business start up, Finance with tags , , , on August 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Finding the right balance of offering a service at a price that is right for you and the customer is not always easy to find when you are just getting started. However, over time, an equilibrium will be reached where you realise your niche where clients are either happy to pay a nominal premium for a quality service or otherwise.

smallbusiness.co.uk has some useful hints to review whilst you are setting your strategy:

1. Analyse the position your product holds in the market.

Are your target customers those who are looking for reliability? Has your product already achieved an established image in the eyes of the market? Do buyers view it as good quality, prompt service, stylish, say?

2. Analyse your product.

Are you planning modifications or alterations which could alter its reputation or relative position in the marketplace?

3. Analyse the competition.

How do their products rate against yours? What is the relative price structure in the market?

4. Decide your pricing strategy.

Where in the price range are you going to pitch your price? Is it going to be average for the market, 5% less than the average, 5% above the average or a premium price, 25% above the average?

5. Choose some specific prices.

Estimate volume of sales, profit margin and costs to forecast the level of profits for each price.

6. Choose your price.

7. Are you be able to test market the price in a small area of your market?

This would allow you to gauge customer reactions.

http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/channels/sales-and-marketing/finding-customers/guides-and-tips/20707/guide-to-setting-prices.thtml

Effective Market Research tips: 10 Steps Towards Designing a Questionnaire

Posted in Business start up, Marketing with tags , , , on August 10, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Market research is all about reducing your business risks through the smart use of information. It is often cited that ‘knowledge is power’, and through market research you will have the power to discover new business opportunities, closely monitor your competitors, effectively develop products and services, and target your customers in the most cost-efficient way.

However in order to get useful results you need to make sure you are asking the right questions to the right people and in the right way. The following tips are designed to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls when designing a market research questionnaire.

1. What are you trying to find out?
– A good questionnaire is designed so that your results will tell you what you want to find out.
– Start by writing down what you are trying to do in a few clear sentences, and design your questionnaire around this.

2. How are you going to use the information?
– There is no point conducting research if the results aren’t going to be used – make sure you know why you are asking the questions in the first place.
– Make sure you cover everything you will need when it come to analysing the answers. e.g. maybe you want to compare answers given by men and women. You can only do this if you’ve remembered to record the gender of each respondent on each questionnaire.

3. Telephone, Postal, Web, Face-to-Face?
– There are many methods used to ask questions, and each has its good and bad points. For example, postal surveys can be cheap but responses can be low and can take a long time to receive, face-to-face can be expensive but will generate the fullest responses, web surveys can be cost-effective but hit and miss on response rates, and telephone can be costly, but will often generate high response rates, give fast turnaround and will allow for probing.

4. Qualitative or Quantitative?
– Do you want to focus on the number e.g. 87% of respondents thought this, or are you more interested in interpreting feedback from respondents to bring out common themes?
– The method used will generally be determined by the subject matter you are researching and the types of respondents you will be contacting.

5. Keep it short. In fact, quite often the shorter the better.
– We are all busy, and as a general rule people are less likely to answer a long questionnaire than a short one.
– If you are going to be asking your customers to answer your questionnaire in-store, make sure the interview is no longer than 10 minutes maximum (this will be about 10 to 15 questions).
– If your questionnaire is too long, try to remove some questions. Read each question and ask, “How am I going to use this information?” If you don’t know, don’t include it!

6. Use simple and direct language.
– The questions must be clearly understood by the respondent. The wording of a question should be simple and to the point. Do not use uncommon words or long sentences.

7. Start with something general.
– Respondents will be put-off and may even refuse to complete your questionnaire if you ask questions that are too personal at the start (e.g. questions about financial matters, age, even whether or not they are married).

8. Place the most important questions in the first half of the questionnaire.
– Respondents sometimes only complete part of a questionnaire. By putting the most important items near the beginning, the partially completed questionnaires will still contain important information.

9. Leave enough space to record the answers.
– If you are going to include questions which may require a long answer e.g. ask someone why they do a particular thing, then make sure you leave enough room to write in the possible answers. It sounds obvious, but it’s so often overlooked!

10. Test your questionnaire on your colleagues.
– No matter how much time and effort you put into designing your questionnaire, there is no substitute for testing it. Complete some interviews with your colleagues BEFORE you ask the real respondents. This will allow you to time your questionnaire, make any final changes, and get feedback from your colleagues.

Juliet Mumford

http://www.intelligentinsight.co.uk

(00 44) 1536 373182

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’.

5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

Posted in Lifestyle Management, Time Management with tags , , , on July 1, 2010 by virtualcitypa

At Virtual City PA, we feel its important to remember to keep a healthy work-life balance and are here to help take the strain. These 5 tips from Sherry Rauh made a lot of sense..

1. Figure Out What Really Matters to You in Life

1. If my life could focus on one thing and one thing only, what would that be?
2. If I could add a second thing, what would that be?
3. A third?
4. A fourth?
5. A fifth?

If you answer thoughtfully and honestly, the result will be a list of your top five priorities.  Research shows that a typical top-five list might include some of the following:

    * Children
    * Spouse
    * Satisfying career
    * Community service
    * Religion/spirituality
    * Health
    * Sports
    * Art
    * Hobbies
    * Adventure/travel

2. Drop Unnecessary Activities

By making a concrete list of what really matters to you, you may discover you’re devoting too much time to activities that aren’t a priority, and you can adjust your schedule accordingly.

If at all possible, you could try dropping any commitments and pursuits that don’t make your top-five list, because unnecessary activities keep you away from the things that matter to you.

3. Protect Your Private Time

You would probably think twice before skipping out on work, a parent-teacher conference, or a doctor’s appointment. Your private time deserves the same respect. “Carve out hours that contribute to yourself and your relationship,” says Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at Kent State University, and co-author of Work Won’t Love You Back: The Dual Career Couple’s Survival Guide. Guard this personal time fervently and don’t let work or other distractions intrude. “Stop checking email and cell phones so often,” Hobfoll advises. “Few people are so important that they need their phones on at all times.”

If work consistently interferes with your personal time, Hobfoll recommends discussing some adjustments with your boss. “There’s a mythology in the workplace that more hours means more.” Demonstrate that you can deliver the same or better results in fewer hours. Your job performance “should never be judged in terms of hours of input,” Hobfoll says. Protecting your private time often leads to “greater satisfaction in both work life and personal life, greater productivity, and more creativity.”

If you’re your own boss, it’s up to you to create boundaries that keep work from intruding on family time. Lachlan Brown is president of Tech for People, a small business consulting firm specializing in Internet marketing. “I make it very clear at the beginning of any new business relationship that if I work nights and/or weekends then this is purely by choice,” he tells WebMD. “I’ve told clients more than once that if they call me at night or on the weekend that they shouldn’t expect me to a) answer the phone and b) reply until the next business day.”

4. Accept Help to Balance Your Life

Allow yourself to rely on your partner, family members, or friends — anyone who can watch the kids or run an errand while you focus on other top priorities. “Try tag-teaming,” Hobfoll suggests. “One spouse works out before dinner, one after dinner, while the other watches the kids.”

To get more alone-time with your partner, accept babysitting offers from friends and family, or try arranging a regular trade-off with another couple. “‘I’ll watch your kids this Saturday if you watch mine next Saturday.’ Tag-teaming is a great way to create extra free time,” Hobfoll says.

5. Plan Fun and Relaxation

Fun and relaxation are an essential part of living a well-balanced life. That’s why Brown makes time for weekly guitar lessons, a yoga class, a date night with his wife, and a guys’ night out a couple times a month. In addition, he exercises on a trampoline in his backyard most days of the week. How does he squeeze in all this playtime while running his business and sharing the responsibilities of raising a daughter? “If you believe that the most important thing is to be happy in life (not when I’m a millionaire or when I retire but right now) then you can always make time.”

Until you get into the habit of taking time for yourself, set aside space in your planner for relaxation and fun. Plan what you’re going to do and make any necessary arrangements to ensure you’ll be able to keep your commitment. “Remember, you make time for what you want to make time for,” Fortgang says. If something is important to you, don’t brush it aside with a dismissive “I don’t have time for that.” You are in charge of your own schedule — it’s up to you to make time.

WebMD “5 practical steps toward better work-life balance” by Sherry Rauh
Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD
http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/5-strategies-for-life-balance?

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