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Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

PostHeaderIcon EnMast Member Spotlight

Not one to toot my own horn, I’m going to let the folks at EnMast Online Community for Business Owner’s do it this month since they were kind enough to feature me (with a short Q&A) in their spotlight here.

PostHeaderIcon 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

I will be participating on Saturday in a Read-a-Thon. It’s 24 hours that you’re supposed to read as much as possible. Those of you that know me, know that I love to read. I haven’t been able to read as much as I usually do (I figure I’ll hit 50 book this year instead of my usual 100). It’s okay, life has just been in the way this year. 🙂

BUT, I’m still doing this Read-A-Thon. People think I’m crazy trying to read at least 20 of those 24 hours, but I do it because it brings attention to literacy. There are a couple of ways you can support me:

1. Donate to Reading Is Fundamental. If you do, I would love for you to let me know, it makes me feel so much more motivated during the 24 hours of reading to know that others are behind the whole reason behind this. RIF is the largest children’s literacy program in the US. They do great amazing work and I’ve started it off by donating $100 to them.

2. Cheer me on! You’ll see me post on Facebook and Twitter often about how it’s going. I have a book blog that I will also be posting to during that time. Stop in, leave a comment. Throw pom poms around – whatever floats your boat.

3. Participate with me! The Virtual Assistance League is keeping track of how many virtual assistants (and those friends, family and clients that love them) are participating and keeping a log of our hours read, etc. Stop by the blog there to sign up with the coordinator, Jaclyn. There’s no cost, you don’t have to be a member of VAL, etc.

I’ll be really tired on Sunday, but I do this at least once per year (sometimes twice) and I love it. You don’t have to read 24 hours – you can read just an hour with your kids or whatever you are able. It’s just a chance to show that literacy means something to you.

Yes, it’s one of my big causes 🙂 One that is very dear to my heart. I hope that you’ll do one small thing for it this Saturday!

PostHeaderIcon How brave am I?

Years ago, at an IVAA conference, Beth Quick Andrews gave a talk that she opened with “What would you do if you were brave?”. It was a powerful question for me at the time. I chewed my lip a bit and wrote down “Grow OffAssist beyond just myself.” It had been something I was considering, but was like my ‘pie in the sky’ and I was terrified – more terrified than standing at the top of 50 story building, but she asked so I answered. Man, who knew what would become of that? Wow.

I ask myself that question each year when I’m reviewing my own business plans. Largely, though, I decide that I’m not that brave yet and just pretend that question doesn’t exist. BUT it always does make me think. I mean, what’s next? If you don’t take a leap, personally or professionally, then nothing happens, right?

Today, I attended an eWomen event with Mark Fox speaking to us about Word of Mouth marketing. I’ll give you three guesses (and the first two don’t count) what he put up on the projector? Yeah. “What would you do if you were brave?” I saw that and literally heard “well crap” in my head. Why do people keep asking me that every 5 years or so? *laughing*

The thing is, I know exactly what I would if I were brave, but I’m also the main (and currently) sole breadwinner in the family. It’s a bit too big of a risk for me to bite off right this very moment. BUT, I’m already doing things that make me feel brave. Just going to any networking event is a big step for me. I, generally, feel uncomfortable at those things and never know what to say or do. I also am attending toastmasters (which, um… I promised to do nearly two years ago!). Those are smaller steps to the bigger thing I would do if I’m brave.

Mark did, however, make me think… what crazy thing can I do to continue the fabulous (no really, my clients really are my best piece of advertising) word of mouth I already have? In a service business, that’s a little more difficult to do and being in bookkeeping makes it a little weirder. It was good food for thought.

So, the big brave thing? Not quite ready to share that. No, it’s not becoming a coach or speaker or anything like that. Who knows, maybe I’ll share it eventually, maybe that can be brave in and of itself?

What would YOU do if you were brave? You don’t have to answer, but really think about it. And be honest because it can be a fabulous business tool. That one question can change your life. Trust me. Be brave and jump when you’re ready. It’s so worth it.

PostHeaderIcon Conference Musings for IVAA Summit #ivaa10 – changes, twitter and winning

As many of you know, I attended the IVAA Live Summit in Phoenix last week. This was my 5th conference that I’ve attended for the virtual assistant industry and I must admit that my reasons for attending have changed. I still go to learn and attend the sessions, but I no longer feel compelled to stay in one that I feel is irrelevant to my business. However, this was the first year I actually left a session just because I wasn’t enjoying it. Hey, you win some and you lose some. I’m sure others were getting a lot of it.

I now go more for meeting other people. I work virtually and have a monthly peer meeting here in Austin, but it’s kind of awesome to meet with everyone like that. I’d much rather hang out at the bar after dinner and see who turns up and talk – yes, about business, but also taking time to get to know other people.

ANYWAY… one big difference for me was Twitter. The organizers set up a hashtag ahead of time. The interesting part of it, for me, is that because the conference is so small (about 106 people attended), most of us on there knew each other. It kind of allowed us to talk a little behind the scenes and discuss not only what was being said, but also helped us find stuff… let me explain.

Have you ever been sitting somewhere and get a huge headache? Usually you’d ask those around you and then head to the concierge desk and buy some overpriced Advil from the hotel. Aha! No longer. I saw at least twice someone asking for Tylenol or Advil and another person passing it to them. My own roommate needed cortisone cream (yes, long shot right?), and what do you know… someone came up and said “I have some in my room”. Amazing, really. I think, more than anything, I was amazed at that. People were talking about places they had visited for dinner the previous night, I used it to set up a meeting in the lobby with someone I wanted to work with. I mean, really – it was a convenience factor. And yes, I warned my followers several times to pause my tweets (Muuter has a service that is supposed to be great).

It’s interesting to watch social media shape how we interact in settings such as that. Most people had their laptops open and were tweeting, emailing, etc. BUT you could always tell how interesting the speaker was by looking to see how many people were looking down constantly compared to how many were not looking down at all – others were truly taking notes and looking up and down too. Some may say it could be construed as rude to the speaker, but I don’t think so. Some of what was going on was us talking about what they were saying, providing links, etc.

In other news… I won a gift certificate for Amazon. I heard them announce they were going to give away the prizes for the badge contest. Since I had nothing to do with the thing around my neck, I tuned it out through 4th, 3rd, 2nd… and then I heard my name. I looked at Andrea Kalli, who was seated beside me, and asked her what I won. She said the badge contest. Um… I didn’t have anything to do with them! No no no, she says, the graphic. No! I didn’t design that – I can’t even color inside the lines! No no, the thing you click on… OH!!! THAT! I’m sure Andrea though I was completely crazy.

After I finished panicking, I remembered that early on, they had sent out a graphic and specialized link and if you got the most clicks, you’d win something. I forwarded to my web guy and said “put it here, here and here” and didn’t think anything about it. I guess it worked cuz I got a gift card. Go me!

Overall, this was good Summit. I am hoping they change it up a bit, but ultimately I’m there to support the industry and have a little fun while making some meaningful connections. I just may learn a thing or two too 🙂

PostHeaderIcon Phooey on social media privacy

As with most of what I read these days, someone (Denise over at Aday VA actually) posted (tweeted) a link to this article “Social Media Privacy? Get Over It.

It’s interesting and a conversation I’ve had over and over with colleagues and friends. How much is too much information? I’m pretty open, I don’t lock or require authorization to read anything I do on social media. I talk about my kids, my reading habits, links to free Kindle books, review restaurants, complain about a client or two, rave about more than a few clients, retweet articles, I’ve probably even dropped the F-word a time or two.

I figure that at this stage in my life and career, I am who I am. I have a few people I follow that are all business all the time. Those are the ones that I tend to ignore, to be honest. It’s not all that interesting to know that yes, you are looking for clients. Get in line, honey.

So, today, if someone is following me on Twitter or Facebook, they know that my kid is sick (and has made me sick), I’m reading Under The Dome by Stephen King, my other kid had clarinet lessons last night, I have a new client I’m having a hard time getting to let go, and I just celebrated my birthday and 17 years of marriage to my husband.

Do I think you can over-share? You betcha. I’m sure if you look hard enough you’ll find things I’ve said that were inappropriate and maybe not very politically correct. But that’s also kind of how I am in real life. I can throw appropriateness out the door and be very unPC. I’m okay with that. I don’t drunkenly post or post about my late night exploits, but it’s okay to commiserate with a colleague about how her kid won’t sleep or with a client who absolutely loved the most recent movie they watched. I’m not going to hide who I am.

I mentioned above that all business is kinda boring. But I also think that your followers/friends/whatever should know what you do. Every now and then, I think it’s important to remind people “Oh yeah, hey, I’m a real estate agent” – or whatever – by saying you closed a sale or you did this or that. I follow people that forget to do that and I have absolutely no idea what they do unless I follow through to their profile information (which admittedly people don’t do all that often after the initial add). I aim to keep my stuff 80-90% personal. Seems high, but how interesting is bookkeeping – I mean really?

My point? I think it’s okay to be yourself and open about it. Others don’t, but I have yet to find a good defining reason as to why not. People cite crazies finding out where you live or where you are at. Well, frankly, that’s easy enough with public records or just dumb luck. There are so many things to be worried about – social media just isn’t one of them for me.

What is your thoughts on social media? Are we all too open? Too reserved? How do you handle your own privacy issues surrounding social media?

PostHeaderIcon The breakfast that wasn’t…

This morning, I was supposed to attend the Social Media Breakfast with a friend and colleague. We left the house at 7am and managed to go 5 miles in 45 minutes. Yeah, we turned around. You see, Austin was getting sleet at that time. So traffic… yeah, it sucked and there was no way we’d get downtown.

So, we took our own little 2-person meeting and went to Kerby Lane, where we sat by a window and watched the flakes float down.

It was a memory I’ll never lose because the conversation was really good and let’s face it, how often does it snow here? Yeah… never.

I’m sure we missed a great presentation, but also made a connection and memory that will last… that seems more important (plus we didn’t have to try to get downtown in that snarled traffic mess!)

PostHeaderIcon Networking: bibles and bumper stickers need not apply

Warning: Sarcasm ahead 😉

I had 2 networking groups yesterday with two very different experiences. The first was “great” group that a client has asked me several times to go to. It was not too far from me (about 30 minutes I figured) and she endorsed how wonderful it was. Good enough for me – and she wouldn’t be there so I’d be her replacement. Great. Right?

Oy. It actually took me an hour to get there. I’ve been spoiled by working at home and traffic is horrendous going that direction from my house – then I hit this horrible fog and it just wasn’t a good trip. I picked up a friend on the way. We arrived about 10 minutes late and they had just started introductions. So far, seemed like a friendly enough group. All smiles, not put out by having to stop for a few minutes while we apologize for being late and introduced ourselves. Awesome, right?

The first guy introduced himself and the question on the floor was basically “what ties, if any, do you have to a veteran” since it was Vet’s Day on Wednesday. No problem, I thought – whew! I hate talking at these things and my husband was in the Navy, so score! I have something to say! (big sigh of relief). Right?

The 2nd guy… he goes on a small political rant about the ceremony at Fort Hood and how different politically-sided presidents were allowed to be greeted by the soldiers (apparently, there is are different rules for sitting Presidents than past). Whatever. Another person pointed it out to him and he kept going on. At that point, I didn’t care, they all needed to move on – I just really thought it wasn’t the venue for this discussion. Whatever it was, it was so beyond inappropriate, in my opinion. He was obviously very young and very conservative. I’m mid-age and very liberal. Whatever, I don’t care. Some of my best friends and team members are opposite of my views. It doesn’t matter and we don’t talk about it because it just doesn’t matter and no one is going to change their minds and well – it’s business.

The rest of the intros went fine. Again, that guy I really didn’t see as a representation of the group. He’s young and probably all hyped up about political stuff. He’ll figure it out as he gets older. At least I hope.

But then the presentation started. The presenter was there to talk about adoption. She runs an adoption agency. I thought it wasn’t really my bag or something I would expect to see at a business networking group, but I figured I would learn something new and well, that usually makes it worth it. But she lost me pretty quickly when she started out by telling us to keep our hearts open to god for these children. And then several times mentioned that they were looking for good “Christian homes” for these children and mentioned a few churches. Had it not been my first meeting I would have asked if Buddhist, Jewish and other religion homes were excluded. Had I really wanted to show what a smart ass I can be, I would have proclaimed myself Muslim and watched Christian Home lady and Obama Basher’s heads explode together. *laugh*

My point is this… is it me or was both of those probably not appropriate for a networking event? I can see the adoption thing, I mean, it’s her business and she was looking for ideas from the group. But do you feel that God and politics have a place in networking? (For the record, it was held at a cafe, not a church). Is it just me?

Bottom line for me is that while I don’t think it’s the group – I think we just hit it on a very odd day (surely that is not normal!) – I don’t think I’ll be going back. The hour drive to get there once per week really is just too much. It did, however, motivate me to find another networking group besides my usual monthly one. Just a little closer to home.

————-

Speaking of which, my next networking group of the day was my usual Austin Virtual Assistants one. (If you are a VA in Austin, you really should join us – we’ve been together for over FIVE YEARS now!). No, we aren’t always exactly politically correct and we make jokes and we give each other honest (and sometimes brutal – for instance, one lady’s logo – it totally looked like a bug – poor thing had to change it) feedback. But we have that kind of closeness and trust that I think is very important to me in networking. And, yes, we leave our bibles and bumper stickers at home.

.

PostHeaderIcon 5th Anniversary….

In July 2004, Lana Newlander of Virtual Business Solutions and I held our first virtual assistant meeting in Austin. The story is kind of funny actually…

She posted to the listserv at IVAA that she was kind of new and had someone contact her wanting bookkeeping services and needed a contract. I replied and said I would send her one off-list. When the email went out to her address, I looked up as it was going out and noticed her email address ended in “austin.rr.com” – which meant… out of all the people that are members of IVAA, she was LOCAL!

… and I had just quoted someone that sounded really familiar to who she was talking about so I quickly emailed her again saying I had used that contract for someone that same morning and his name was Elmo (I’m not making this up) so if it was the same person, she might want to alter it quite a bit.

Yes. It was the same guy (and she got the client – and I was super happy for her). We made plans to meet and have met at least quarterly since then. Now days the VA meetings are monthly and are attended by an average of 6 people. There were many times it was just Lana and I and other times there are 12 people.

I feel so lucky to know this person and be a partner with her at the meetings. We’ve worked together and celebrated both personal and business related triumphs as well as a few setbacks.

To my fellow VAs, If you have the opportunity to meet a Virtual Assistant in your area, DO IT. Meeting Lana truly changed not only my business, but parts of my life as well. She has become a great colleague, but an even better friend.

Here’s to 50 more years, Lana!

VAC

PostHeaderIcon Book Review – Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

I don’t usually post my book reviews on my blog, but this was such a great book for business that I wanted to share it here as well…

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Wow. They get it. I’ve read various articles and blogs and books about social media and networking and how big businesses should be doing XYZ and maybe even EFG, but most of them are really blowing hot air. I’m no expert and I don’t pretend to be, but I can spot junk a mile away and a lot of these “experts” are pure junk.

I purchased this book in a whim. I heard about it, shrugged my shoulders, grabbed my Kindle, clicked a button and started reading it. It got good reviews, but I really wasn’t expecting such a thoroughly researched and written book. These folks know what they are doing and they have the stats and research to back it up.

I love social media. I have a very small business but I’ve managed to use parts of it to my advantage, while still having fun doing it. I’ve often wondered how big businesses handle it. It seems like such a monumental task for a company like Dell to even begin to enter the, as they put it, groundswell (which is my new favorite word, by the way!). This book gave me not only insight into how they are listening to, speaking with, etc us little folks out here, but what they are doing with that data.

Again, I have a small business, my take on social media is a little different than Dell, but it gave me a few ideas for how I can more effectively use it to my advantage. I really do think this is a must read for anyone involved in social media. Just read it, don’t think twice. Buy it and read it.

I enjoyed this so much that I purchased 2 copies to send to clients of mine that I thought would enjoy it. I don’t do that often, so I know it was a hit with me!

====
Product Description
Corporate executives are struggling with a new trend: people using online social technologies (blogs, social networking sites, YouTube, podcasts) to discuss products and companies, write their own news, and find their own deals. This groundswell is global, it s unstoppable, it affects every industry and it s utterly foreign to the powerful companies running things now.

When consumers you ve never met are rating your company s products in public forums with which you have no experience or influence, your company is vulnerable. In Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester, Inc. explain how to turn this threat into an opportunity.

Using tools and data straight from Forrester, you ll learn how to:

-Evaluate new social technologies as they emerge

-Determine how different groups of consumers are participating in social technology arenas

-Apply a four-step process for formulating your future strategy

-Build social technologies into your business including monitoring your brand value, talking with the groundswell through marketing and PR campaigns, and energizing your best customers to recruit their peers

Timely and insightful, this book is required reading for executives seeking to protect and strengthen their company s public image.

PostHeaderIcon TweetCamp San Antonio at GeekGyrls.com

I know this poor blog is a bit neglected, working on that soon – promise… make sure to stop by GeekGyrls.com and see the post I put up today about my trip to TweetCamp San Antonio. Many thanks to the organizers for putting on a fantastic event!