May 2008  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 5 Issue 5   www.offassist.com
Keeping It Real

I got home from the 2008 IVAA VA Summit just in time to write this. What an interesting Summit this was for me. Sure, I made some great connections with other virtual assistant and bookkeeping professionals, but I also got to spend some much-needed time with my mom and sisters. I'm in central Texas and they're in the Carolinas, so that doesn't get to happen as often as I'd like.

Back to the conference! What a pleasure it was, hearing keynote speaker Dave Lieber, the Yankee Cowboy. He spoke about stories. About telling your story, and humanizing your business. I like to believe we do a pretty good job on this front here at OffAssist, but I'm not as sure as I used to be. As my business has grown, I think we may have lost some element of this. I'm afraid it may be something I've thrown to the side, that I've become more of a, "here's who we are, here's what we do, call me if you want more help," kind of person. It's something I need to think more about.

He also spoke about customer service and how it has declined in recent years. This is something I like to believe we have always excelled at. Yes, we have busy times of the year, but I feel we do a pretty good job of it.

2 years ago I attended a presentation by Beth Quick-Andrews where she asked, "What would you do if you were brave?" My answer was that I would grow OffAssist beyond just myself, and I achieved it by last year's Summit.

This year, I feel like Mr. Lieber has challenged me, personally, to not forget where I started, and to not forget to go above and beyond for my clients. I feel very fortunate to have walked away with that lesson. I find that I always bring something back from the Summit that completely changes me or my business - sometimes both.

I encourage all professionals to attend a professional conference in their field. It is an invaluable experience.

And to you, Mr. Lieber... Thank you for reminding me that I may never "fit" in the crazy state of Texas! At least now I know I won't be the only one. *laugh*

In this issue...

3 Simple Rules to Growing Your Network
by Laurie Hayes

If you want to grow your business, you must grow your network and to grow your network, you need to understand and follow only 3 simple rules.

The success of your home business ultimately boils down to the quality of your relationships.

People do not buy your product or service. They buy YOU first and foremost.

When they know you and trust you, and know you have a genuine interest in them, they become loyal customers and refer their friends.

How do you find people to build relationships with?

You can do this both online and offline.

To meet people online, simply Google "social networking" and explore your options.

To meet people offline, check your phone book for local networking organizations or ask professional friends who they recommend.

The biggest mistake people make when networking is ignoring the fact that building relationships takes time and patience. Many attend networking events and verbally "vomit" on the people they meet. They ramble on about their great opportunity, product or service and how everyone should jump on board and take advantage of it right away or risk losing the best offer they've ever had.

Has this ever happened to you? You've met someone who hasn't expressed any interest in you whatsoever or asked any questions to learn more about you, but somehow "seems" to know just what you need and insists they have the magic pill?

How do you respond to someone when they treat you that way? Do you want to spend another half hour talking to them or turn on your heels and run?

What if, however, that person asked you about yourself and was genuinely interested in you and what you do, and only after you asked about what he does, does he provide a brief explanation without a motive to sell. Would you be inclined to continue your conversation and learn more about each other and how you might be able to help each other?

In order to build a strong social network, you must be willing to learn about people - ask questions and be willing to listen to their answers. Resist the temptation to interrupt or turn the conversation to yourself and you will be rewarded for your self-control.

As you learn about people and what their needs are, offer resources or connections that can help. Focus on helping others and others will help you.

If you're shy and uncomfortable in a room full of strangers, the simplest way to overcome that is to get to know them. This can be the scariest thing to do, but at the same time, if you move past the fear and take the risk of approaching others, you will liberate yourself from your self-imposed prison.

The world is then your oyster.

I recall a networking event I attended in a neighboring city. I didn't know anyone and stood alone holding a plate of raw veggies. Everyone there seemed to know each other. They were huddled in groups laughing and chatting.

I felt awkward and was beginning to wish I hadn't gone, then forced myself to snap out of it. I traveled to this town to meet people and decided I wasn't going home until I met someone.

I approached a small group and tapped a woman on the shoulder. I told her I was from out of town and felt silly standing by myself and wanted to meet people and would love to meet her first.

That's all it took to move past my fear. After speaking with her and meeting her colleagues and enjoying good conversation, I excused myself and went on to introduce myself to another person.

This person turned out to be a graphic designer, someone who had a service that complements my business. It turned out that she provided top quality business cards that no one could beat in price and I had a keep-in-touch technology that would help her grow her business and promote her creative work. We become instant friends and alliances.

By the end of the event, I made several new connections and met some fascinating and enthusiastic people. I also won a draw to participate in a golf tournament and meet more people.

If I could give three simple rules to build a strong social network, they would be:

1. Get out of your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to others. Take risks.

2. Make it all about the other person. Ask questions, then close your mouth and listen.

3. Share resources, contacts, experience - whatever you can to help others.

Follow these three simple rules and others will reciprocate in kind. Regard networking as a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Your relationships will be stronger, enduring and reward you for many years to come.

Article courtesy of www.thefreelibrary.com

Laurie Hayes, founder of The HBB Source, and creator of The Complete 12-Step Guide To Starting A Home-Based Business, helps employees become successful home-based business owners. Get her free ezine packed with helpful resources at www.thehbbsource.com


 
 
Tax Deadlines
May 15 - Texas Franchise Tax Return

May 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for April issued payroll

May 15 - Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (if tax year end is 12/31)

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

June 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for May issued payroll

June 15 - 2nd quarter 2008 estimated tax payments due

June 15 - US citizens overseas 2007 tax returns due (or file 4868)

June 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly filers
Tech Talk With Tom...
Spring Cleaning!

Have you looked inside your computer case recently? How about just at the back vent? I'm betting most of us have not. Even I, a consummate computer junkie, always manage to find an excuse not to look at these areas. After all, my office is cleaned regularly; shouldn't that keep my computer from getting too dirty?

Unfortunately, the answer to this one is, "No." No matter how clean your work area, your computer will still serve as a major repository for the building's dust. Think Fort Knox, but with dusty bunnies instead of gold bars.

As a rule, most computers should be cleaned every 5 months. Why? All that dust and dirt can do bad things to computer components. The dust restricts air flow inside the case. This causes the computer to heat up. Hot computers tend to run slower and have shorter life spans than cool computers. Second, dust can hold condensation. This condensation can cause your case, and important electrical connections, to begin to corrode.

Here is a list of cleaning tips to help get you started:
  1. If you need to spray, spray a cloth. Never, and I really do mean absolutely never, spray liquids into a computer, or onto any component.
  2. Use fresh water or rubbing alcohol to clean. Solvents may leave a residue or corrode sensitive components.
  3. Never get a component wet, or leave standing water in the case.
  4. Make sure the computer is off and unplugged before starting a cleaning session.
  5. If you unplug peripherals from the back of the computer, make sure you mark where they go.
  6. Never use a standard vacuum inside the computer case. If you feel you must vacuum, use a special, battery-powered vacuum designed specifically for this task.
  7. When cleaning fans, do not let them turn. This can damage the fan or, in rare cases, damage the computer itself.
Happy Spring Cleaning!

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.
Spotlight On...
Dyanna Larson - www.inkthinkva.com

Hi! *looks around nervously* I'm Dy Larson. You don't normally see me around these parts, so I'm a little nervous being front and center this month.

I'm a copywriter and I specialize in business ghostwriting. I write the spotlight column every month for Candy, and am the managing editor for the OffAssist newsletter as a whole. If this surprises you, I'm glad - it means I'm doing my job write (sorry, couldn't resist) and you didn't know that I've been here for the last three years.

I am one of several virtual professionals who works with OffAssist as part of Candy's diverse team. I also run my own VA business, Ink Think, specializing in copywriting, ghostwriting, and editing for small to mid-size businesses and solo entrepreneurs. And I hate to talk about myself.

Instead, I'm going to take this opportunity in the limelight to say a few words about our fearless leader. Candy and I met in 2004 when I was a stir-crazy SAHM, writing for my own sanity and trying to find a way to both stay home and pay the bills. Candy introduced me to the world of virtual assistance and the real, legitimate work-at-home lifestyle it offers. She pushed me, obnoxiously hard (I thought at the time) to go for it!

She held me accountable when I put off filing my DBA and helped me find a web designer willing to do my first site for some ghostwriting since I had no budget. She also showed enough faith in me to be my first client. I am here in the limelight because this good friend and better businesswoman pushed me to reach for my dreams. She still inspires me, though she'll laugh when she reads that.

I just want to say, "Thanks!" Without you, Candy, there'd be no Ink Think and my life would be the poorer.

To see a few examples of what I do when I'm not writing very public thank-you notes, check out my website at www.inkthinkva.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.

QuickBooks Tip
Q: Sometimes we forget to close all the windows we've been working with before closing our company file. How can we find what windows are open and close them all quickly and easily? This would really reduce the clutter when we reopen the QuickBooks file!

A: It is very easy to clutter your work area when you are working within QuickBooks, but fear not! It is possible to quickly close the QB windows at once instead shutting them down one at a time. First, pull up the list open windows by selecting View, then choose the Open Window List option. To close all of the open windows, go to the Window menu and click Close All. It's good practice to do this at the end of each work day when you close the company file.

Learning new things takes time. If you forget to close all those windows, you can still open the file the next day without all the clutter. While opening your file the next time, just hold down the Alt key. QuickBooks will then open your company file with no windows open in the work area.
Humor: Not the Entrepreneurial Type
A business owner called his lackadaisical child into his office and announces some great news, "I've decided to make you a full partner in the family business."

"Excellent," the child says.

"Now, where in the company would you like to work?"

"Hmmm," the child ponders aloud, "I hate the printing department. I get panic attacks just walking by bookkeeping. I can't stand the smarmy people in marketing..."

The father looked taken aback. "Well then, what WOULD you like most as a full partner?"

Without pausing for thought the child replied, "I would like you to buy me out."

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 VA Lab Designs.