Category Archives: Outsource

Working Anywhere and Everywhere

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Digital nomad is not a title or a profession. It represents the mindset and lifestyle of people who have chosen or allowed to break free from a cubicle and make their living working anywhere and everywhere.  New technologies enable us to do so. One of my recurring nightmares now and then is a dream where I find myself working in a gray cubicle covered
with yellow sticky notes,  eight pairs of eyes looking at me all at once. This dream motivates me to get back on my laptop and learn new software in addition to developing  multitude of other new skills. Wikipedia states that “traditional nomadic behavior is increasingly rare in industrialized countries.”  Times are changing partially driven by corporate economies
of scale and societal circumstances.  I see this trend from cubicle to home based work expand in the future across national economies both in developed and emerging markets.

Read more about Digital Nomads on digitalnomads.com.

Protecting Laptop Data

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If your small business is among the many that have remote workers, you could be sending sensitive customer data, credit card or Social Security numbers out the door.

Half of all organizations reported a laptop or other mobile device stolen last year. Each customer record may cost a company $150 more in legal fees, notification costs, and other expenses, according to Inc. magazine.

For about $9.95 – $149 per month, you can give a laptop its own GPS system. Free trial is available. If MyLaptop GPS is installed on your laptop, the stolen machine will report its location as soon as the thief connects to the Internet.

Encrypting the hard drive will keep thieves from using the data. The Enterprise edition of the Windows Vista has an encryption feature built into it. Other systems cost from $50 to $120 per computer.

Without encryption or a GPS system, your only course of action is just to report the theft to police. Always keep laptop serial numbers in a handy place. If the unit goes to a repair shop, the police will be notified.

Treat your laptop like a wallet. You wouldn’t leave your wallet in the car or laying around where someone could pick it up.

Should I Start A Wiki?

Logo of DokuWikiImage via Wikipedia

 

I have written about several web-based collaboration tools, but have not dedicated any space in this blog to wikis. I often use Wikipedia and have been involved in projects completed by utilizing wikis as collaboration platforms. Now it’s time to shed some light on them as wikis can be very effective in managing group projects.

Tikiwiki.org features a pretty sophisticated collaboration and project management or maybe even an online community platform. TikiWiki can be your Groupware/CMS (Content Management System) solution. It has the following features:

  • Wikis (like Wikipedia)
  • Forums (like phpBB)
  • Blogs (like WordPress)
  • Articles (like Digg)
  • Image Gallery (like Flickr)
  • Map Server (like Google Maps)
  • Link Directory (like DMOZ)
  • Multilingual (like Babel Fish)
  • Bug tracker (like Bugzilla)
  • Free source software (LGPL)

DokuWiki provides less customization options than TikiWiki. Small business owners may prefer this solution as it is easy to implement and use. Some organizations may even set DokuWiki up as a website, especially when they need to provide information such as guidelines or purchasing policies.

The most popular wiki (open source) currently available is MediaWiki with familiar interface (Wikipedia).

Creative instructors can use wikis to make courses more interactive and engage today’s students in a range of environments such as high schools, small colleges, universities, and online schools.

For more detailed information about wikis go to Stewart Mader’s blog Grow Your Wiki.

Not convinced? Watch Wikis In Plain English.

Extra credit assignment:  Watch Blogs vs. Wikis.


Should Micro-Businesses Outsource?

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I had a conversation recently with a small business owner who realizes that her work is piling up and she needs to hire additional help for office management, filing and marketing tasks.  She is currently not outsourcing or hiring employees as she knows she would have hard time losing control over certain aspects of her business.

After further discussion I realized that the main issue for her was TRUST. How can she find someone she can trust? Can she rely on recommendations and/or probationary periods to figure out that a certain person /company is a right fit? Would it be a good idea to hire friends or relatives, especially when someone has had bad experiences in the past?

Then we talked some more about pros and cons of outsourcing.

PROS:

>Reduction of stress.

>Decreased workload.

>Delegating unpleasant tasks.

>Efficient use of business owner’s resources and time.

CONS:

>Added expense.

>Finding the right person/company may take time.

>Delegation can be difficult.

>Idea of signing a long-term contract not appealing.

>Training issues.

We agreed that she should thoroughly assess her needs and make a list of most frustrating tasks causing her stress. In addition, she needs a SPA day as she has not taken any time off for a long time.

Maybe a massage chair in her office would be a good idea?

Virtual Businesses Can Be “Green”

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Virtual Businesses may have local clients, but they mostly conduct their business virtually. Their employees don’t have to travel the road more than couple times a week, therefore contributing to less traffic and air pollution. Remote workers working from home don’t take up parking spaces and therefore they don’t add stress to other people.

Did you know that a typical office worker uses 12,000 sheets of paper annually? Virtual businesses and remote workers conduct business via phone, email, online workspaces and webinars. They could print on both sides of paper whenever possible.

Sunshine is free – virtual workers can do most of their work during daylight hours and use Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent lights.

They can set their thermostats to 65 degrees during working hours. No need to discuss the “right” temperature with several co-workers.

They can turn computers and printers off after work and use sleepmode features.

They can work in their PJs, do less laundry and use less make up – better for them and for the environment!

How do I choose my Virtual Assistant?

In the process of choosing a VA or Multi-VA practice you need to make sure they are the best fit for you or your company, capable of doing the work you want completed. Check them out by going to their websites and the websites of any organizations the VA belongs to. Make sure to ask many questions to become familiar and comfortable with your choice. Be ready to answer the following questions during the first interview with your Virtual Assistant candidates:

What does your company do?

Can you describe your business processes (office hours, preferred methods of communication, computer hardware and software you use, filing systems, contact management)?

What are your business goals for the next year? 

How do you process the information coming to you?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Do you have an assistant at this time?

What tasks would you like to assign to your Virtual Assistant?

What is a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistants are entrepreneurs providing administrative, creative, and/or technical services. Utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery, they assist clients in their area of expertise form their own offices on a contractual basis.

Virtual Assistants are not employees of your company. They partner with your firm , get to know you personally and may assist you in maintaining close contact with your customer base. Communication between a business owner and his/her VA is accomplished using phone, fax, email, overnight mail and instant/text messaging.

Virtual Assistants can be contracted to do the work of: Executive Assistants, Secretaries, Data Entry Specialists, Clerks, Tax Advisors, Bookkeepers, Medical Transcriptionists, Web Designers, Real Estate Sales Assistants, Internet Researchers, Event Planners, Project Managers, Marketers, and for multitude of other assignments.

Education and experience levels of Virtual Assistants vary. Generally they have multiple skills including advanced computer skills in addition to experience in office management

They are small bsuiness owners who define their success by customer satisfaction.

Sources: ivaa.org and iavoa.com


Hello world!

“Outsourcing” is a word that triggers different reactions and opinions. Many of us may probably think of customer service agents in distant countries answering our phone calls we place to get information from credit card companies or airlines.  Perhaps you may think of big corporations who lay off their workers due to jobs being taken overseas.

Outsourcing can be a lifesaver for small businesses who don’t have neither a need nor resources for full time staff.  It is amazing how many highly skilled professionals have left corporate America to make a living by freelancing or starting their own businesses.   They can lend their skills and expertise to help small business owners or other busy entrepreneurs.   Majority of projects can be completed off site when it comes to business plan writing, editing, web application development, marketing support services, project management, graphic design or web design.

Geoffrey Moore’s best-known idea is the chasm. He defines it as the gap between “visionaries,” customers who seize on new gadgets, and mainstream “pragmatists” who need convincing before they buy. In his previous book, Inside the Tornado, he explains how companies can cross the chasm and take advantage of a cyclone-like demand for their products.

His book, Living on the Fault Line: Managing for Shareholder Value in the Age of the Internet, was placed on the Business Week bestseller list. His prescription for success: Quickly adopt new strategies that take advantage of the Web and be prepared to shift quickly. Focus on moves that will boost the stock price. Hire outsiders to handle such things as accounting and delivery.

Moore says when a company is delivering a new set of products, it must focus on product development first, sales later, and customer support after that, shifting resources and outsourcing functions as they become less important.

Check out Elance, ifreelance.com or hire a Virtual Assistant.

Then it’s time to start all over on the Next New Thing. At that time, conflict may arise between engineers who want complicated gadgets and marketing people who want the engineers to make something people can use. He asks them to focus on their common goal: sales. Other Moore’s laws:

* Focus on what you do best. “Outsource the context, insource the core.”

* Forget quarterly earnings.

   Spend to adapt the business to the Information Age.  Profits will come.

* Decide who you are, whatever your culture emphasizes. Play to that strength.