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Preparing for Employees Going on Annual Leave

9 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Employees Going on Holiday Leave

By | Business Improvement, Call Center Support, Employee Management, Time Management, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

Last year’s holiday season retail sales in the US alone topped $161 billion and 43% shoppers supported small businesses on Small Business Saturday. With the holiday season coming up, now is the time to plan out a company strategy to ensure you have backup staff handling essential business activities at all times.

Figures for Holiday Season Retail Sales

You don’t have to dread the holiday season when your employees go on leave, when the company’s manpower is down and productivity seems to nosedive. Simply follow our tips that we’ve practiced and improved upon through trial and error over 8 years of operations and you will be well prepared. You can easily handle holiday leave while maintaining a healthy culture and employer brand.

  1. Use a Workforce Management Software

Using a scheduling and staffing software or even a shared Google calendar can make your life infinitely easier. This way you won’t have clashes in scheduling vacations and can plan accurately in advance for holidays. Most workforce management softwares have additional features like communication, task management, and time reporting. Here is our rundown of some effective softwares:

Deputy

With unlimited users, shift swapping, forecasting and QuickBooks integration, Deputy is a mobile platform that can cut your time spent scheduling considerably. It is perfect for small to medium businesses employing shift workers.

When I Work

Offering templates and shortcuts with its mobile and desktop adaptive platform, When I Work is also integrated with some POS and Payroll systems and has a very intuitive user interface (UI).

Quinyx

It allows you to schedule work keeping in mind employee contracts and working time directives. You can also set up an optimal schedule matching the best employee to the most appropriate task and set up a staffing schedule taking expected sales into account.

TrackSmart

Their online time and attendance management software allows for scheduling based on employee availability and job skills. You can even set up recurring schedules. All these are accessible from all devices 24/7. These smarter schedules will ensure you are never understaffed, even for the holiday season.

  1. Be Transparent

Make sure you communicate your holiday leave policy and vacation policy to your employees as soon as they are hired. Is it first come first served? Are there any vacation blackout periods when no vacation requests would be entertained due to an expected rise in traffic or a special project? Will you be encouraging them to take their vacation in the slower periods? Communicating all this in advance will be fairer and more acceptable to your employees. Make sure any vacations are granted judiciously—with employees fully cognizant of the decision-making criteria—after due deliberation and without any favoritism.

  1.  Set a Deadline

Set a deadline by which employees can request holiday leave. Depending on your needs, this can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks before the staff wants to use leave time. This deadline should be far enough in advance for you to ensure that it does not affect a project’s productivity or deadline and you are not understaffed. Also cap the number of employees of each specialization who can take off at the same time.

  1. Get Pertinent Information

When an employee puts in a leave request, request a report on current projects. Ask them how they plan to meet deadlines before they head out the door. Nicolas Gremion told SmallBizTrends that this process “gives me piece of mind that their absence won’t be problematic and they can leave knowing that they’ve tied up any loose ends.”

Get a detailed breakdown of projects they are currently working on, tasks to be performed, access details for pertinent files and accounts, deadlines for current projects, important contact information, and any other information needed by the employees covering the vacationers’ jobs. Create a checklist of these that each vacationing employee can tally against before leaving.

Project NameDeadlineTasks to be PerformedContact PersonContact InformationAccess Details
AccountPassword
Project 1
Project 2
Project 3
  1. Delegate Tasks

Then make sure that someone is covering for the missing employee. Sometimes, that requires handing off tasks and projects to a few different people in the office instead of asking one person to do the work of two. Crosstrain employees in preparation for the upcoming holiday season, ensuring that the backup employee is fully conversant with the appropriate project training manual.

  1. Trade-off

Trade-off between your employees. Some employees may have important commitments at other times of the year that they can take time off for and then work during the holiday season. Allow employees with similar job descriptions to trade off their vacations with each other, one picking up the slack when the other is on leave. Stagger your employee vacations so you always have coverage; allow some to work the morning shift, some the afternoon shift, or schedule one set of employees for the first few days of the week and the other for the rest of the weekdays during the holiday season.

  1. Offer Incentives for Working Employees

Give cash bonuses, extra paid leaves redeemable after the holiday season, and other incentives for those willing to work during the most popular vacation periods. This will ensure that you have a productive skeleton staff even during the heart of the holiday season. It will also boost the morale of those who have to work over the holidays when the other employees are on leave and enjoying themselves.

  1. Hire Temporary Support

In some cases, you can even hire a temporary virtual assistant to pick up the slack in an employee’s absence. Especially in the retail industry, business booms in the holiday season and having employees on holiday leave can cause a stress on operations. Hire a qualified virtual assistant to take care of ecommerce sales, provide administrative and operational support, or even act as a virtual receptionist service during the holidays.

You can even hire a temporary call center operator or a customer service center to handle customer service, field incoming calls, generate leads, and make telemarketing calls to take advantage of the boost in sales in the holiday season.

Having part-time staff as backup all year round is always a sound decision, so they can come in if you have any shortages and during the holiday season when most employees are on leave.

  1. Prep for the Manager’s Leave

What if the manager is the one going on leave? We suggest that you let your employees know far enough in advance so they can prepare. Make the manager’s calendar public so that the staff will know when he or she will be back. Ask the manager to train the second-in-command to pick up the slack. The administrative support staff must also be familiarized with how to handle certain tasks while the manager is out of the office, such as where to direct calls and how to respond to requests. Then, consider having a protocol for an emergency, so employees can determine when to call the manager while he or she is on leave.

With these tactics, you can ensure that handling the holiday season won’t be such a hassle. Let us know down below what some best practices are that you have seen or used for handling employee leave during the holiday season.

Finding New Clients

5 Ways to Find New Clients

By | Become an Affiliate, Business Improvement, Customer Service, Entrepreneurship, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

1. Word of Mouth

First, use the technique as old as time. Regardless of new technology, word of mouth is still valuable. According to Yotpo, 74% of consumers say word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions. Ask your customers to recommend you to a friend. In fact, try offering them an affiliate partnership so that they get a percentage of the payment as a finder’s fee. (We have an affiliate program…check it out!)

2. Advertising

Second, look into the many, many forms of advertising that are available. Don’t spread yourself too thin…limit yourself to two or three methods of advertising that are most likely to reach your customers. For example, if your customers are young and tech-savvy, put ads online. If they’re older and more traditional, buy ad space in the newspaper or magazines.

3. Networking Events

Third, get face-to-face with potential clients. This will give you the chance to tell a personalized story that reaches an individual on a personal level. While the local chamber of commerce is an obvious choice, there are many other options available for networking. Consider joining an organization like Rotary, Kiwanis, or Optimist. You can also look on Meetup.com to find networking groups in your area.

4. Social Media

Fourth, consider using a social media platform. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other networks are an excellent way to have ongoing conversations with potential customers. And it’s not just good for B2C companies, but for B2B as well. Entrepreneur reported that social media lead conversion rates are 13% higher than average lead conversion rates. (Need a social media manager? Hire one of our virtual assistants to do it for you!)

5. Partnerships and Alliances

Finally, consider making an arrangement with another business with the same target audience.  Brad Sugars explains, “They might attach a gift voucher or other discount offer for your products at the end of a newsletter or mailing.” He goes on to say you can build an alliance: “For instance, a Web designer and an ad agency might send each other referrals for clients who need added services.”

What are YOUR ideas for finding new clients? What techniques have worked for you?

10 Things to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

10 Things to Outsource to A Virtual Assistant

By | Business Improvement, Entrepreneurship, Remote Support Services, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

These ten tasks could be handed over to a virtual assistant to save you time, money, and energy.

You’ve got a lot of tasks that you need to finish, but you just don’t have the time to do it all yourself. When it comes to running your business, you are probably trying very hard to race ahead of your competitors, increase sales, market your brand, stay on top of your taxes, make your internal processes more efficient—the list of things to do is endless…If you are thinking that the weight is all on your shoulders, think again.

Using a Virtual Assistant can shave hours off your workweek. If you still feel a little hesitant to delegate parts of your business to someone you’ve never met, you are not alone. The idea of hiring a Virtual Assistant can feel strange at first, but what you’ll soon realize is that it’s all about selecting the right tasks for them to handle.

1. Online Research and Data Presentation

Get the help of a VA to conduct any time-consuming internet research and receive the best information on any topic, product, or competitor in a time frame that suits you.

You have an important meeting with a new client and you want to make a smashing impression? A Virtual Assistant can make a stunning PowerPoint presentation as per your specifications so that you can make the most of your time preparing your pitch.

2. Schedule Management

Every entrepreneur needs administrative support. A Virtual PA answers calls and keeps an eye on your schedule. If there are places you need to go and people that you need to call, it’s best if someone reminds you to do it. Sure, you can download some software that does it for you, but procrastination can still keep you stuck. You’ll complete your tasks much faster if you let your Virtual Assistant manage your schedule for you.

3. HR Admin

Training your employees on how to use a new software or service can take up a good chunk of your productive time. Why don’t you leave this job to a Virtual Assistant? She could even train your staff remotely, using Skype, for instance, saving costs. A Virtual Assistant can also take care of payroll processing for you, freeing up your time so you can focus on core business activities.

4. Database Management

As a business owner, you probably have to deal with a plethora of reports that have to be completed on a regular basis, from staff timesheets to expenses or client lists. The natural idea is to let your VA do all this. A Virtual Assistant can import, export, and sort any kind of data while she can also handle spreadsheet design and general maintenance.

5. Multilingual Support

Hire a multilingual virtual assistant to communicate with employees, vendors, and customers in the languages required by your business, to give your business a global reach. A skilled Multilingual Virtual Assistant can also provide multilingual transcription services, administrative support, and technical support.

6. Customer Service Support

A Virtual Assistant can reply to customer queries within a stipulated time period. A business query can be anything from an unsatisfied customer to a potential customer. A VA can help you stay on top of your customer service tasks, creating new business opportunities, resolving and expediting cases, and replying to complaints in a professional manner.

7. Social Media Support

A Virtual Assistant can post on your social media channels on your behalf and market your SEO content, increasing the visibility of your brand, products, and services. A social media VA can help you create a social media strategy, integrating it with the rest of your marketing strategy.

8. Clients and Partners Management

It’s always a good idea to send gift cards to your clients on holidays and anniversaries. These are pretty easy but time-consuming tasks that require a creative effort. You could even get your VA to congratulate a partner or client on a new job or deal.

9. Website Maintenance and Ecommerce

Websites require constant maintenance and updates. A Virtual Assistant can provide technical and backend support and can give you a real hand when it comes to managing your ecommerce site. She can provide ecommerce support services like writing compelling product descriptions, editing lists of products or images, updating prices and online inventory, or processing orders.

10. Blog Ghostwriting

Content marketing is the name of the game today. Your blog will fetch you an incredible amount of traffic, if done correctly. A VA can help you write some quality fresh content for your blog. This is essential to add fuel to your content’s reach and drive direct traffic to your website.

Whichever tasks you decide to outsource to a Virtual Assistant, what is most important is to build trust and help her really understand your business—this will take up some time at the beginning of the relationship but it will pay off going forward. Ready to get your Virtual Assistant? Click here to contact us!

6 great websites for starting a business - entrepreneurship

6 Great Websites for Starting a Business

By | Business Improvement, Entrepreneurship | No Comments

For entrepreneurs, the internet is a great resource for learning about starting a business. However, the options for research and resources are vast and varied. It can be a challenge to navigate so many web pages. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of six of our favorite websites for getting a company started.

1. Write Your Business Plan

First thing’s first: Every owner needs to write a business plan. This can be a daunting task for someone who has never done it before. Thankfully, Small Business Administration has a helpful guide that walks you through the process. The examples and tools that SBA offers can make business plan writing so much easier.

2. Angel List

One of the biggest challenges at the front end of starting a business is finding investors. Angel List, a product of Venture Hacks, is a great internet hub that allows entrepreneurs to connect with reliable investors. Plus, this website provides templates for contracts, helping to cut down the cost on legal fees.

3. Kissmetrics

Do you plan on managing your own business website? If so, it’s important to learn about metrics–the measuring of what people are doing on your website. KISSmetrics (KISS as in “keep it super simple”) offers a two-week free trial to help track website metrics in a way that helps you grow and keep users on your site.

4. American Fact Finder

Market research is a valuable part of business that develops in-depth knowledge of who a company is trying to reach. American Fact Finder is a free website that allows users to search U.S. census data and filter by demographics such as age, race, and income. (There are similar websites for other countries out there as well.)

5. Xero

For the accounting side of starting a business, we recommend Xero. This website has a dashboard with recent sales, bills coming due, and bank account balances. It also allows you to track inventory, pay bills, and tackle other tasks. Plus, they have tiered pricing that starts as low as $9.00 a month.

6. Start-up Company Lawyer

Many startups don’t have the money for a full-time lawyer, nor do they have the time to meet with one outside of the company. That’s where Startup Company Lawyers comes in. Business owners can get legal advice through this website because it answers many of the frequently asked questions.

A Bonus Page

Of course, we would love for you to check out our own website, IdeasUnlimited. We are a global support services provider and our call center for small business service can be a valuable resource for folks who are starting a business. Check out our call center support, multilingual support, technical support, virtual assistant support, backend support services, and much more!