November 2006  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
11/07/2006           Volume 3 Issue 11
Giving Thanks

How many of you out there are amazed that it's November already? I can't believe that 2006 (yes, 2006) is almost over.

I was lucky enough to attend the IAVOA VA Conference last month. One of the things I took away from that conference is that while everyone, including our clients, is at a different level in their business, we all face similar challenges on a day-to-day basis. Most of all, we are thankful to our family and friends who have all stood behind us while we took the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.

So, this November, to my family and friends, who without their endless support OffAssist would not be where it is today, I thank you.

To my clients, who entrust one of the most vital operations of their business, and refer their colleagues, to me, thank you.

To everyone, and you all know who you are, who helps to keep OffAssist running smoothly, thank you, too!

In all seriousness, make sure you take time this year to thank the people who've made a difference in your business; whether it's your receptionist, your family, your staff, your bookkeeper...whoever. A sincere thank you goes a long way.

In this issue...
Using the F-word in sales
Give away free items as a marketing tactic

- by Meredith Pond

In order to increase sales and help your business succeed, you need to put your name in the minds of customers. You need to create a relationship with them so that the next time they need products or services like yours, you're the first one they think of. These ideas sound simple, of course, but they may be easier to talk about than to implement.

So how do you create the customer relations that everyone talks so much about? Well, there are a number of ways, including giving great customer service, offering customers a good value, and building a fun, down-to-earth, or warm and fuzzy image.

There is another way, however, to solidify your image as a customer-friendly business that you may not be thinking of. Like the other methods, it's not very difficult, but it does involve one four-letter "F" word: FREE.

Giving away free stuff, even if it's just your advice, shows people that you're willing to help them out - that you're more of a friend than someone vying for their business. Free information your customers can use, free samples of your product, or vouchers for food or travel can make great incentives that help your customers remember you.

For example, a New York Burrito near my office recently started giving away "Burrito Bucks" These green, almost dollar-sized coupons are good for one dollar off any purchase. Right now, one of these is sitting on my desk, right in front of me where I can see it. It serves as a reminder that New York Burrito is willing to give ME a freebie, and as a result, the next time I forget to pack a lunch that's exactly where I'm going to go. If NYB can get me to spend five dollars in there, giving me a buck off will have been worth it. This is especially true since I'll probably go back more than once, even without the discount.

Giving away free stuff is a great way to drum up immediate business, plus make a lasting impression that will bring results for a long time to come.

Copyright © 2000 Meredith Pond, All Rights Reserved.

Meredith Pond and her team of top writers help you increase profits without working harder. See Meredith's editing services, advertising packages, and free business ideas at Reach her at or 801-328-9006.
Quickie QuickBooks Q & A
SL from VT asks:

Q: I am trying to clean up my vendor list and have several vendors that are duplicates with a similar name - H.E.B. and HEB Grocery. Is there a way to combine the vendors and not lose the information?

A: Yes. While you are in your vendor center, simply type the name exactly as it appears in the vendor file you want to keep and it will merge the vendor names and the data file as well. Be sure you choose the vendor file that has all of the vendor information such as the mailing address, contact, phone number, etc.

If you happen to have a similar name in your "other names", you can simply repeat by using the name you would like and select the "change type" button, which will then transfer your data to a vendor file from the "other names" list.

Important Tax Deadlines
November 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposit due for October issued payroll

November 15 - Deadline for extended Texas Franchise Tax Report

November 21 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly filers

December 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for November issued payroll

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

Spotlight On...
Simple Hellos

It's the time of year when people start thinking of cards and gifts. What could be a better time to profile Melissa Hart's Simple Hellos, a handmade greeting card business based in Olathe, Kansas?

Card making and paper arts started as a hobby for Melissa. She says, "I started scrapbooking right after I got married in 2002. The hobbies have a lot of cross-over tools that you could use, and a lot of people put rubberstamped images into their scrapbooks. It was a natural progression, I would say, to go from one hobby to the next."

Soon friends and family were asking her to create custom cards for them, and in 2004 Simple Hellos was born. "I wanted the name to be shorty, catchy, and easy to remember, yet express the function of the business. When you're sending a greeting card, you are saying 'Hello' to whomever you're sending it to. I wanted that to be reflected in the name."

Says Hart, "I have and can make so many more cards than what is shown on my site. Some stamp companies don't allow their images to be used in a fixed retail location, online or brick and mortar, but they still allow cards using their images to be sold. So, I'm kinda stuck in that I can make a million more cards, but I can't display them. However if you ask for a certain subject matter, I can normally come up with a sample or two..."

Visit Simple Hellos on the web at or email at for more information.

Tech Talk With Tom...
Wireless Networks: How to Protect Your Wireless Network
Part 2 of 2

Last month we started talking about wireless networks. We talked about the benefits they offer and some of the problems that wireless networks can create. This month we will be focusing on different wireless security methods.

You have several choices when it comes to wireless encryption:

64-bit WEP (Wired Equivalent Protection): Almost every wireless router comes with this encryption. It is very easy set up. The problem is, it can be easily "cracked". Cracking a wireless network means defeating the encryption so that you can establish a connection without being invited.

128-bit WEP: This is a much more secure version of WEP. However, given a few hours, most attackers will still be able to crack your network.

WPA-PSK (also known as WPA-Personal): This is a newer, more secure alternative to WEP, but it is not as widely supported. Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 supports WPA, so this type of encryption is the best choice if you plan to connect only Windows XP computers to your wireless network. However, if you have older wireless devices, such as media extenders or wireless cameras, that do not support WPA, 128-bit WEP will still be your security of choice.

You might also see the security method called "WPA-Enterprise." This is meant for business use and the setup for WPA-Enterprise is complex and requires special network infrastructure.

WPA2: This is the newest and most secure type of wireless encryption currently available. This should be your first choice if your wireless router and all of your wireless computers and devices will support it.

Even though one type of encryption may be better than another, any type will dramatically improve your network's security by making you a more difficult target. In most cases, a hacker will be driving by looking for "open" networks - wireless networks with no security enabled. Many hackers will not even attempt to crack a network that has security enabled.

Here are a few more simple steps you can take to increase the security of your network:
  • If you use WEP encryption, change your encryption key once a month. If someone does manage to learn your key, they'll be locked out of the network again when you change it.
  • Don't connect to unprotected wireless networks—it's possible for someone to monitor your Internet usage and even record your passwords.
  • If you do connect to an unprotected wireless network, don't visit a website that requires a password unless the website is encrypted. To find out if it's encrypted, look for a lock icon (symbol) in the lower-right corner of your browser.
  • If you use WPA-PSK to encrypt your network, set a long passphrase of at least 20 random characters. Better yet, use the full 63 characters by typing a sentence you can remember - just don't make it something that's easily guessed, like a line from a movie.
Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at
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