August 2011  
Real Bookkeeping. Virtual Assistance.
Volume 8 Issue 6  www.offassist.com

Summer's End

Hello, August!

For those of you not living in Central Texas, thank your lucky stars. It's been a HOT summer. One that makes us want to rush from our air conditioned homes into our air conditioned cars and into an air conditioned store. It's usually hot here, but this summer has been one for the record books (literally!). August is traditionally our hottest month of the year, but I keep reminding myself that it means we're that much closer to Autumn.

August is bittersweet, though. When I flip that calendar page my kids start to think about heading back to school, as does their school teacher dad. As much as I sit in my home office right now wishing, just for a minute, that they would all just be quiet for a few minutes, I know I'll miss them when they're all back in school. Thank goodness for weekends!

I hope you all had a great Summer and are looking forward to getting back into work-mode!

In this issue...


Branding, to me, is about having secure sense of self for your business. I see a lot of new VAs, in particular, get caught up in worrying about their logo, their website, their blog, but they don't give a thought to their brand identity, which should come first.

Branding - It's Not Just a Logo
By Senay Johnson

Lots of entrepreneurs and small businesses have a great start simply by word-of-mouth, but when they're ready to start marketing themselves in a more formalized way they don't think about their brand and it's importance.

A brand isn't just a logo. A brand is a representation of who you are, what you do and what makes you different from the rest. I like brands that are honest about how they can provide solutions to your problems, when there is a legitimate need for a solution. It's not necessary to be all things to all people, but it is important to be THE thing to the people looking for your help.

If done right, a brand easily communicates what clients can expect from you. If they like your brand then you have a potential new client. If they don't like your brand, then your product or service wasn't what they were looking for. And that's okay, it's no fun trying to give someone something they don't really want.

There are two easy ways to start figuring out your brand and what value you offer.

First, read through your client testimonials or start asking your clients what they like and dislike about your services. You probably already know how they feel, but it makes a big difference when you ask them directly. Not only is it good customer service, but you'll actually start to see patterns and words that come up regularly. These can help form the essence of your brand and even a tagline.

When I read through the testimonials for my personal trainer client, three themes came up over and over again. She always stressed the importance of training your mind, body and spirit, proper breathing techniques and focusing on long-term health. This gave way to the development of her tagline Train. Breathe. Sustain and built the foundation for her brand.

A more formal approach is a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a technique taught in University marketing programs and used by corporations. Here you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities and threats within your industry. This is where you get honest about who you are, so you can be honest with your clients about what you can actually deliver.

Most people know about their strengths but don't want to look at their weaknesses. But just like they train you for interview techniques, weaknesses can turn into opportunities to develop yourself and in this case, grow your business. Most weaknesses listed in the SWOT analysis also go in the opportunities bucket. Threats are what economic, social, consumer and competitive trends are happening that could impact your brand and your business. A SWOT analysis can help clearly identify what's unique to your brand and position your business for success.

So before you go out to conquer the world, make sure you take time to develop your brand. It will help you provide value to your customers and make your marketing efforts much easier and more successful.

For more information on branding, visit Senay Johnson's website at http://www.senayjohnson.ca.

Article Source: ezinearticles.com

QuickBooks Tip

Upgrading to QuickBooks 2011

Q: I’ve been getting emails and messages from Intuit about upgrading to QuickBooks 2011, is that necessary?

A: If you use features beyond the basic invoicing and accounts payable such as payroll processing, emailing invoices, payment services, downloading transactions etc. then yes, you’ll need to upgrade at some point.  Intuit supports their software for two – three years then they require you to upgrade to their newest version to use these added features.  I will admit that I was resistant to the move to 2011 but there are some nice additions to the new program.  For the most part the average user won’t notice a huge inconvenience in the change.

Note: Check with your accounting professional before doing this to be sure that's how they'd like it done. YMMV!

Humor

 
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Tax Deadlines

August 1
- 2nd Quarter Payroll Taxes Due
- Deposit FUTA tax if more than $500 was paid through June 30th
- Employer's Deposit Federal Unemployment (FUTA)
- Employers File Annual Return for Employee Benefits Plan 5500
- Employers File Annual Return for Employee Benefits Plan 5500-EZ
- Employers File request for Extension filing Employee Benefits Plan Return
- 2nd Quarter Federal Excise Tax Return & Payment Voucher

August 15
- Employers Make Monthly Payroll tax deposit on the 15th of each month

August 30
- Time for businesses to consider setting up retirement plans

September 15
- Employers Make Monthly Payroll tax deposit on the 15th of each month
- Partnership Returns Due- FINAL DEADLINE
- Corporate Returns Due- FINAL DEADLINE
- S Corporate Returns Due- FINAL DEADLINE
- Estate & Trusts Returns - Final Deadline; Bankruptcy fillings use the same form
- Individuals, Farmers & Fishermen Pay 3rd Quarter Estimated Tax Payment
- Corporations - 3rd Quarter Estimate Tax payment Due
- Estates & Trusts 3rd Estimated Tax Payment
- Deadline for Corporations and Partnerships to fund SEP-IRAs for previous year

September 30
- Last day to establish SIMPLE plans for current year
- Time for businesses to consider setting up retirement plans

Tech Talk With Tom...

More Shortcut Keys

Last month I passed along some nifty short cuts that have helped me and others make their computing times faster, most efficient, or even just a little less frustrating. At the end, I asked you for your tips and tricks. Laurie Cantus over at Go2Girls (www.YourGoToGirls.com) was nice enough to share a tip I used years ago, but didn’t realize they still worked:

Heya Tom – here is one I just learned about, and not sure if you know this one yet.

Type this into Microsoft Word and press enter and see what happens. Try all of them (don’t type the “ – apparently the trick works in Outlook too, I just found out, so I had to put parentheses around it.)

“=lorem(5,7)”
“=rand(5,7)”
“=rand.old(5,7)”

This is useful for inserting filler text for document formatting purposes. It is also useful for impressing your geeky friends. I think it works in Word 2007 and higher. It definitely works in 2010. Only the “rand” works in 2011 for Mac.

Laurie Cantus
Owner, Go2Girls – Need Implementation? Boom, done.

Thanks Laurie for that great, time saving tip!

Do you have a tip, trick, or time saver you’d like to share? Send it to tom@offassist.com and we’ll include it in a future newsletter!

BTW: Have you cleaned your computer lately? A quick spray with a can of pressurized air can save you hundreds of dollars in computer replacement costs.

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

Spotlight On...

Spotlight: Houston VAs

The Houston VAs started out as a meetup group for virtual assistants in the Houston, Texas, area, but have become so much more.

They are a membership-based group and operate more like a combination continuing ed program and multi-VA practice than a professional association. Members, both VAs and potential clients, pay a nominal ($5/year) membership fee to access all the resources available on their site.

Why pay? For clients, the website offers videos and information about to make the most of your VA as well as access to full listings in the VA member directory to find exactly the type of help they need.

For VAs, the group is vital, local, and lets them pool their talents.  Clients in the Houston area who are looking for a local VA can find a whole team when they find the Houston VAs group, but each member remains an independent business owner. Members are also eligible for special training programs and discounts with some of the group's partners (like TexVAL).

If you want to learn more about the Houston VAs, check out their website. Feeling sociable? You can find the Houston VAs on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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 Patty@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Fine print: We do reserve the right not to feature anyone and a request is not a guarantee that you will make it into the newsletter. Also, if your news, announcement, etc. is time sensitive or tied to a specific date, please let Patty know in your email.


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.

The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of Time Is Of The Es-Cents.