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Desiree Ashton

doing the legwork, so you don't have to

Category Archives: Delegating

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HereThere

As summer approaches, the thoughts of many business owners turn to planning when and how to enjoy some well-earned down-time away from the pressing demands of work.  This month I’ve been meeting with a number of my clients to discuss how I will help them to shift down a gear over the summer period.

While some are planning a couple of weeks on a sun-drenched lounger, others are looking forward to a series of long weekends catching up with family and friends or indulging in a number of fun-packed city breaks.  In fact, one of my clients has just recently departed for a three-month adventure to the other side of the world.  For many business-owners this would be a mere fantasy, but through careful planning and logistics, she has made this once-in-a-lifetime journey possible… while still being fully in charge of her business.

For all my clients, being in two places at once is entirely possible.  A combination of detailed briefings, stringent diary management and scheduled check-ins via Skype and email means that I can be dealing with the day to day while they focus on relaxing.  Here are just some of the elements of their business which I will be fielding:

  • Mail and email
  • New business enquiries
  • Diary management
  • Client communications
  • Invoicing
  • Social media

None of these are rocket-science, but all of them contribute to being ‘present’ for their customers and offering a seamless service.

So, when you look at your holiday plans for the summer, how are you making sure you will be in two places at once?

If you would like to find out more or enquire about how I might help you, please get in touch.

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MagicWhen did you last have a great day at the office? Is it something you experience regularly, or is that ‘great day’ feeling proving somewhat elusive? If constant fire-fighting and the pressure of a weighty To Do list are draining your energies, take a moment to consider how a little out-sourcery might transform your days from tragic to magic again:

Start with the end in mind – Get your week off to a great start by creating a thorough To Do list. This will organise your thoughts and allow you to quickly identify which tasks can be cleared from your desk and given to your virtual PA.  Once your list is collated, a quick briefing call with your PA will be all that is needed to offload those niggle-some tasks, freeing you up to focus on the stuff that really matters.

Think ahead – What’s in your calendar for next week, the week after… next month? Are there meetings or events coming up which require some background preparation?  Do you need to read up on a prospective new client? Consider tasking your virtual PA with completing the necessary preparation for you. A well-timed overview of facts and figures, not to mention some links to interesting pre-reading, will ensure you are knowledgeable, prepared and considerably less stressed on the run-up to the event.

Make room for success – Business, like life, does not always go to plan.  Take another look at that To Do list… is there anything else you can delegate to your virtual PA which will allow you to create more time in your week?  By clearing space in your diary, you build a natural contingency which will allow you to react more effectively should something change for the worse or not go to plan ….. And if your week goes swimmingly, you now have a spare slot in your diary to enjoy doing something that feels good – an extended lunch, coffee with a friend, or even sitting down to map out your next venture!

Transforming your days from tragic to magic again means tackling the problem head on and your virtual support is ideally placed to help you do this.  Some well timed out-sourcery may be all that’s needed to help you get your sparkle back.  No magic or spells required!

If you would like to find out more about how I help my clients get more out of their day, please visit my website or get in touch: pa@desireeashton.com

If you have enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy my earlier posts on Improving Your Focus and Take Control of Your Diary.

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When I first set out in business some 5 years ago, my decision to do so was fuelled by a desire to use my existing skills to support small businesses to reach their full potential.  All too often I had spoken with very bright and ambitious business owners who felt increasingly bogged down by the constant demands that running a small business entails.  They wanted someone trustworthy and reliable who they could ‘hand off’ to, while they invested some valuable time planning for and evaluating what their business was about to do next.  Since then, the tasks I have been assigned have been many and varied – everything ranging from bringing systems, templates and procedures into small businesses which have experienced rapid, organic growth, right through to assisting with research for those who are looking to dip their toe in the waters of a new market.  Each time, the business in question has found itself at a slightly complex crossroads in terms of where it might go next.  One thing I have learned is that, given the time and opportunity to think, most business owners are more than capable of coming to the right decision themselves.  All they need from me is the space and time to think.

Most recently, I have been working with two separate clients who have each tapped into my abilities to free up valuable thinking time – in very different ways.   For one, I have assumed responsibility for researching in greater depth some new ways of communicating with their existing client base.  For the other, I have been overseeing the background preparations for a relatively complex project which threatened to consume most of their working hours for the last three weeks.    As with many of the tasks which I undertake, these assignments were well within the capabilities of my clients’ own skill-sets.  What both understood, however, was that each respective task was time-consuming and labour-intensive, contributing little in terms of feeding their bottom line.

While I have operated in the background to minimise distractions and reduce noise from other areas of their business, each client has focused on the next project their business is  about to begin.  Rather than being harried, distracted and unprepared, they have invested the time and energy I have saved them into focusing on where they need to be this time next month, and how they are going to make sure they get there.

When you look at your diary for the coming weeks, how are you freeing up time to focus on what you do best?

If you would like to know more about the other ways I support my clients, please read my posts on Moving On Up and Networking.

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For many of my clients, January is a month which is synonymous with meetings.  Having already completed their own planning sessions in November / December, the start of a new year sees them depart the confines of their office to hit the open road and engage in some serious face-to-face lead generation, meetings and networking.

Most of my clients have invested time and effort into nurturing a loyal and long-standing client base.  It’s likely that they will be the first port of call for new initiatives in 2012.   Nevertheless, far from being complacent, they still understand the role that face-to-face meetings can play in allowing them to remain close to their customers.  The conversations which they have are not simply about identifying what opportunities beckon on their clients’ horizons, but also what changes and developments may have taken place in their own business which allow them to offer existing clients even more.

My role, particularly during January, often centres on supporting my clients to attend such meetings.  Here are just 3 ways in which I currently do this:

Documentation / PresentationsWell-prepared documents and presentations which showcase some of my clients’ recent achievements will serve to remind their clients of the skills and experience available to them.  These can also be used to draw attention to new developments (such as new premises, or new members of staff) which enhance or extend the offer.  Personal and pre-formatted copies of all materials can be left with their client for further consideration.

Research – Being aware of new developments which have taken place within the end-client organisation engenders trust and may also allow my client to highlight areas where their service could prove particularly relevant.  Such developments may include restructures, a new CEO, a new venture or even closure of one arm of the business.  Understanding the context of their end-client will allow them to engage in a more informed and fruitful conversation.

Follow Up – Certain meetings may require timely or detailed follow-up.  A quick call or email to me will allow background tasks to be efficiently delegated so that my client can focus exclusively on preparing for and attending their next meeting.

These are 3 simple ways in which I assist my clients to hit the ground running in January…. The early bird does indeed catch the worm.

What are you doing to get ahead in January?

If you would like to find out more about what I do for my clients, please visit my website and feel free to get in touch:  pa@desireeashton.com

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As the colder weather and darker evenings mark the end of another year, December is often a time when I meet with my clients to review what has been achieved in the last 12 months and draft an outline plan regarding where and how I will support them in the coming year.

Despite working across very different sectors, planning ahead and being prepared has always been an approach which is shared by all my clients.  Many have enjoyed very senior positions within the corporate sphere so know the value of investing time in identifying where and how they can continue to grow their business and plan resource and personnel to support that.

This annual process of forward-planning highlights my clients’ understanding of the importance of targeted delegation.   Their collective aim for 2012 is to free up their time, so that they can focus on activities which build their business and feed their bottom line.  What they delegate to me will vary, depending on the nature and stage of their business, but each task has been thought-through to ensure that it is ‘SMARTER’:

SPECIFIC –  Tasks and sub-tasks are clearly listed. Verbal instructions are supported by a written summary.

MEASURABLE – Markers for ‘completion’ are agreed, milestones for larger projects are identified and diarised.

ACHIEVABLE – Current, available resources are reviewed and additional expertise/personnel are sourced, if required.

REALISTIC – Turn-around times and handover dates are agreed.

TIME-BOUND – On-going / open-ended tasks are assigned ‘check-in’ points, to review progress.

ETHICAL – Tasks are sense-checked for compliance with industry ‘best-practice’ and regulation.

RECORDED – Tasks and progress are recorded by both parties for summary review at the end of the year.

By following a set formula for delegating to virtual support, my clients create a working arrangement which allows them to spend time on their business, rather than in it.  My task list for 2012 already promises a variety of projects, touching on customer communications, social media, marketing and business development.  An exciting year!

When you look ahead to 2012, how are you forward-planning for your all-star year?

If you’d like to know more about how I might help you achieve your plans for 2012, please visit my website or get in touch:  pa@desireeashton.com

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GlovesGloves come in many shapes, styles and sizes.  As do hands.   Some of us may have a number of different gloves which we can pick and choose from, depending on whether we are going for a brisk winter’s walk in the country, or cutting a dash across town to an important meeting.   One thing is for certain, though – most of us don’t need gloves all year round.  Seasons change …. as does the climate in business.

There are many businesses who currently find themselves in the equivalent of a harsh winter.  Sensing the onslaught of a cold front, they do the equivalent of securing the windows and throwing draught excluders across the door.   All sensible measures to keep out the chill.  They will sit it out, and wait for the fair weather to return.  Meanwhile, as they would in real life, they resort to carefully planned rations to see them through.  In business terms, this translates into a tightening of belts which can impact on resource.

Over the last year, as I have spoken with different businesses, a common concern they invariably share is how, in light of tightening their belts, they can continue to operate as a healthy, functional business.   In ‘staying put’, they do not want to ‘stand still’.  Quite a dilemma.  Keenly aware of limited resource and a growing To Do list, they face the frustrating choice of either doing it themselves, or accepting that it will not be done.

In speaking with me, clients often become aware of a third option available to them – virtual support.  It’s a solution which they may have been aware of, but unless they have experienced the benefits of virtual support before, it can sound daunting.  So, for anyone who finds themselves in the dilemma noted above, here is a brief insight into what you might expect to experience when looking to draft in virtual support.

My first meeting with a prospective new client will always focus on discussing what types of problems they are experiencing.  What is it that is taking up their time?  What elements of that are they comfortable to delegate?  Is this an area that I can start to support?  The key at this stage is identifying the type of support they need – in other words the right glove.   It is very common for there to be a number of tasks and sub-tasks which seem initially unrelated but which can be loosely grouped together to form the semblance of an interim supporting role.  As I begin working through the tasks, new ones often crop up while old ones are done and dusted and so can be ticked off the To Do list.  In some cases, my supporting role ends with me handing back a list full of ticked checkboxes and my client has the reassurance that I am no more than a phonecall or email away should they ever need me to step in again.   In other cases we  arrive at the stage where we can see a regular pattern of  tasks emerging and can start to develop a job specification which will allow them to recruit more permanent staff.  Either way, the support – or glove – which I provide is comprised of whatever my clients need it to be.

Regardless of whether my clients are going for a jaunt across the fields or a dash across town, my role is always the same – to keep their hands warm.

If you are considering employing virtual support you may find it interesting to browse through some of my other posts.  Alternatively, if you have a specific question relating to what I might be able to do for you and your business, please visit my website and feel free to get in touch.