August 2007  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 4 Issue 8   www.offassist.com
Ahhhhh-gust...

Ahhhhh-gust... August, August August!

Can you hear all the parents celebrating as their kids start back to school? That's one of the biggest adjustments we had to make this year - what to do with the kids during the Summer?

We work at home so it's always a challenge when the phone rings or someone stops by to drop off paperwork. We are pretty lucky, though, since things slow down considerably during the Summer in our niche. We've been able to spend time with the kids and get our work done without having to put them in all-day daycare.

During the school year Tom and I feel very lucky to work from home. How many other parents can take off to help with the class project, fill in as a last minute chaperone on a field trip, or leave early to take the kids to the pool, all while providing top notch service to their clients?

It's great to have the freedom to disappear to the park just because - and we can always take the laptop if we need to. I absolutely love what I do.

Of course, wonderful as working surrounded by my family is, I cannot wait until school starts back up! :)

In this issue...
Reviewing Your Performance
by Aleesha Kendall

So you've made it through your first year. When you quit your job, you probably thought you'd escaped performance reviews for good, but I've got some bad news for you. It's actually a really good idea to review your performance at your own company, to take a look back and see what you did wrong and what you did right.

Did You Make a Profit or a Loss?

The first, and most important, question to answer is this: what does your balance sheet look like? You need to honestly add up all the numbers - don't be tempted to add on money that you think you're a few days from getting, or take away bad purchases that proved useful in your personal life, for example. Hopefully you kept electronic records, so this shouldn't be too much trouble. Once you know how you did, you need to look at how to do better. If you made a loss (as almost everyone does in their first year), what can you do about it? Where did the money go? If you made a profit then, well, congratulations! But you still need to think about how much of your profit to re-invest in the business, and how you can increase your profits next year. Remember that money makes money: once you're making a profit, wise investment can make it grow exponentially.

How Many Customers Did You Get?

Now, take a look at your customer database. What's the total number of people who dealt with you this year? How many is that per day, and how much did each one spend? Once you have this information, you can work out how much customers were paying you overall weekly, daily or even hourly. If it seems like a lot more than you saw, you need to ask yourself if you spent too much of their money on expenses. If it seems like hardly anything, then you're in trouble. Sorry to be blunt, but either you need to consider raising your prices, or you're just not doing enough marketing or working hard enough.

How Many Came Back?

Of course, a more important metric than the total number of customers you had last year is how many of them came back more than once. Work out what percentage of your business that was repeat business - note that this means you count someone twice if they bought from you three times overall, three times if they bought from you four, and so on.

An easy way to do this is to simply take your number that says how many times a customer has dealt with you, subtract one from all of them, and then add it up. Once you know the raw amount of repeat business, you need to divide it by your total number of customers and then multiply by 100. This gives you a percentage. If your repeat business is lower than 20% or so of your total business, this is cause for concern. Are you doing enough to stay in touch with your existing customers?

What Did Customer Complaints Say?

I hope you kept hold of every customer complaint you got, even if you fixed it at the time. You need to take a good look over what you did right, what you did wrong and what you messed up. I know you dealt with things as they came up, but looking back over everything can help you to see the big picture. It's all too easy to miss quite simple patterns when you're in the thick of it day-to-day, and looking at the complaints can reveal a trend that you weren't expecting.

What Have You Learned?

It can be useful to write yourself out a list of lessons at the end of the year, even if it's things like 'quarter-page magazine ads are just as effective as half-page ones' or 'make lunch later in the day so you eat it faster'. Your accumulated knowledge is valuable: you've paid for it in cash and in sweat, so make sure you don't forget it. See if you can come up with a list of positive things to do next year to make your business even better!

Aleesha Kendall is a successful entrepreneur who has generated millions of dollars worth of business for her coaching clients. Get savvy small business advice from Aleesha absolutely free by reading her articles today at www.articleweb.com

Source: articleweb.com


QuickBooks Q&A
Q: I'm really good with contact names and phone numbers, but have a hard time with company names. How can I search for a customer if I only have a contact name or phone number?

A: Go to the QuickBooks Customer Center. Under the Customers & Jobs tab, there is a view box. Click on this box and you will have a list of the available options. Click on the Custom Filter option and a list of your search options appears. In the For box put the information you would like to locate in the customer records.
 
Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.
 
 
Important Tax Deadlines

August 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for July issued payroll

August 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly filers

September 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for August issued payroll

September 15 - Final Deadline for Corporate Tax Returns

September 15 - 1040ES Estimated Taxes due for 3rd Quarter 2007

October 15 - U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040 final due date

October 15 - U.S. Partnership Return of Income, Form 1065 final due date

October 15 - U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, Form 1041 final due date

October 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for September issued payroll

October 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly filers

October 31 - Employer's Quarterly Payroll Tax Report(s) Form 941 and TWC (Texas Workforce Commission)
Spotlight On...
Tidewater Mail and Business Services

Stephanie Finkbeiner started her virtual assistant business, Tidewater Mail and Business Services, in April 2001. Based in beautiful Virginia Beach, Virginia, Stephanie's choice of business name was inspired by the landscape around her.

Tidewater is a full service virtual assistance firm with a special emphasis on mailing services. Stephanie works with her clients on all aspects of their mailing needs, from designing marketing pieces to printing and mailing services. Tidewater Mail and Business Services also provides mailing list maintenance and data entry services for their customers.

Stephanie's goal is to help small business owners and overworked managers with the professional services that they may not have the time or manpower to accomplish in-house. To find out more about Tidewater’s service offerings, visit them on the web at www.tidewaterbusinessservice.com.
 
Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Candy@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight in 2007.

Tech Talk With Tom...
Hard Drive Popsicles Anyone?

What noise represents morning in the office more than any other does? Is it the sound of birds chirping outside your office window? Maybe it is the sound of the office coffee pot brewing that first batch of caffeine. For many it is the sound of their computer starting up. What represents the morning better than the sound of the CPU fan spinning up? Or the delicious "beep" as your BIOS passes its start up check.

And then comes the "click click click" of the hard drive. "Click click click"? Oh no! It supposed to be a purring whir! What is this click click click?

For many, the first and only warning they get of hard drive failure is this clicking sound when their computer should be starting up. Pretty soon, the clicking will be followed by an error such as "NTLDR not found" or "Nonsystem disk inserted". Normally, this is an unrecoverable error and you need to start dusting off those backup disks.

The backups are 2 months old you say? You need that important presentation off the harddrive by 4pm? You would do anything to get that hard drive to spin up just one more time….

Well, there is ONE thing you can do.

Freeze the hard drive.

First, you'll need to remove the hard drive from the computer:
  1. Open the case.
  2. Remove the hard drive mounting screws.
  3. Unplug the ribbon data cable.
  4. Unplug the molex power connector.
Second, place the hard drive in a sturdy freezer bag and put it in your freezer. Make sure that the bag is completely closed and you've removed as much extra air as possible.

The amount of time in the freezer needed to squeeze out that one last boot varies depending on the hard drive. I usually test the drive after the first 2 hours then every hour after that. If by 5 hours you have not gotten a "non-clicky" start up, the hard drive is toast. However, chances are you should be able to retrieve your data this way. Just be ready to copy the contents of the hard drive to other, more reliable media as soon as your computer starts up.

Why does freezing the hard drive work? There are many theories, and every expert has their own favorite. For now, just enjoy the "purry whirring" of that hard drive. Oh, and get ready for that presentation!

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.

Accountant in Heaven

An accountant dies and goes to Heaven. He reaches the pearly gates and is amazed to see a happy crowd all waving banners and chanting his name.

After a few minutes St. Peter comes running across and says, "I'm sorry I wasn't here to greet you personally. God is looking forward to meeting such a remarkable man as yourself."

The accountant is perplexed. "I've tried to lead a good life, but I am overwhelmed by your welcome," he tells St. Peter.

"It's the least we can do for someone as special as you are. Imagine, living to the age of 123 and still looking so young," says St. Peter.

The man looks even more dumbfounded and replies, "123 years old? I don't know what you mean. I'm only 40."

St. Peter replies, "But that can't be right - we've seen your time sheets!"