One of my favorite lines for my 15 year old son in life is “close the loop.” In his lawn mowing business, he likes to assume a lot. He assumes that his clients know when he will be coming to mow their yard and when he will not. He assumes they see the same weather forecast that he does. I encourage him to simply text them to let them know he will or will not be coming today. That way, they will know he has not forgotten about them. Like any teen, I have a ways to go before he will consistently “close the loop.” I do hope though that someday he will look back and this advice will surface to make sense when he enters the working world.
Throughout my years of working, volunteering and coordinating, I have learned how important is to bring a conversation full circle. By this I mean, the person you are communicating with is not left waiting and wondering. You confirm with them that yes the requested task will be accomplished or yes you did receive their email. It is simple, yet for many it is a foreign concept.
For example, when a client sends me an email to schedule an appointment with someone, I send a simple “done” or “got it and will do by COB today.” I communicate that I have received what they want and will do it or have done. There is no question in their mind and it can vanish from their worries. Another way to ensure that people’s needs are addressed in a timely manner is set automated email responses when you are going to be out or if it is after hours. One of my clients is awesome about that. When you send her an email, an auto reply comes back that she is in with a client and she lists when she addresses emails during in workday. She closes the loop for anyone that emails her. She lets them know that their email was received and she will get to it.
Since many of my clients are on the west coast, I receive requests for tasks after my work hours. If I am able since my phone is usually in my hand, I try to send the simple words of “received and will do first thing tomorrow morning.” To ensure that I do not forget the task, I either leave the email highlighted as new or create a note for me on my phone to address during my “power hour” in the morning. It is a simple way to “close the loop” without too much effort on my part after hours.
As a virtual assistant, the number one thing I can do is “close the loop” for my clients. In the beginning, it is a great way to establish confidence in what I do for them. And in the long run, it is what makes me stand out. I encourage you to close the loop by simply replying to an email. If you think that person might question whether you received their email, cover yourself with a confirmation back to them that you did. No one wants to feel as though their email has entered an abyss or that they need to nag to have something completed.
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When I started my virtual assistant business, I knew the day would come when the headshot I had my daughter take in the backyard would not cut it. Thank goodness though for my Sara Belle. One day early on, I needed a headshot lickety split as a client who hired me requested one for their website. Sara Belle raced outside with me as I threw on a shirt that I thought was the perfect cross between business and me (all the while sporting running shorts). And in five minutes, a headshot was created. Five more minutes with a $4.99 photoshopping app on the phone and I was ready to hit ‘send.’ It was not great. I looked a tad puffier from the ad hoc touch ups, and I am still not sure what happened to the blurry trees in the background. But it would have to do…
In the beginning of this adventure, I left the ‘fluff’ like a headshot to the side and focused on the work and my mission to help small businesses. I wanted to get the word out about what I was doing and do great work for my new clients, so that I could build from there. I did not (and still do not) have a fancy website or all the greatest gadgets. And clearly, I did not have a professional headshot in the beginning. My first purchases for my business were pieces of equipment (laptop) and training that I needed and I knew would benefit my clients. However, fast forward nearly 18 months and I am in the position to add some ‘fluff.’
So one very, very cold (30 degrees on the Battery in Charleston with wind whipping) day in January, I became a model for the morning. I posed and had my hair brushed to this side and that. Hands were placed on my hips and off. My head was tilted in weird angles that made me feel goofy. But all the while I had visions of clients being dazzled in my head. I told the wonderful photographer, Ellyn Darling, just make me look skinny and younger. Realizing that the poor woman is not a magician, I do think she captured me and who I am. I now have a nice face for my business. Moral of the story, when starting a small business, there is a lot of temptation to buy into fancy equipment, websites, photos etc. But the reality is your business is your work. And if you work hard, you will some day get to be a model even if just for the morning.
It’s that time of year when days literally get shorter–at least daylight does. On top of the shorter days, the holidays are right around the corner. Our minds get filled with the details of our businesses as well as where we need to be and what needs to be done in the next couple of months.
You do not need to handle it all on your own. A virtual assistant is a perfect way to take some of that work off of your plate. Allow a VA to help with your overflowing email inbox. Or delegate your business holiday gift giving to a VA.
Need to promote your holiday specials but busy with the added work that the holidays bring? Hire a VA to manage your social media.
I promise you that more hours will pop up once you delegate tasks to a VA. It truly is a cost-effective solution that will find you more hours in the week and grow your business. Contact me today to learn more.