Every Small Business Owner Should Have At Least One

A business owner with 1-4 employees or is a single-person business owner should have at least one Virtual Assistant (VA).

Virtual assistants (VAs) started out in the 80’s as home-based word processors or home-based secretarial services taking on temporary assignments from small business owners (SBOs). With the advent of technology, the first official virtual assistant was in the mid-90’s. Now the Virtual Assistant industry has expanded into an industry of professional virtual assistants partnering with SBOs providing them with services on a permanent basis.

According to Small Business Trends, the number of single-person business owners is booming, and they account for 78% of all U.S. Businesses (U.S. Census 2005 report). These business owners need assistance in more areas than just typing or word processing. They are becoming more dependent on virtual assistants for a wider variety of tasks and on a permanent basis rather than temporary.

Today VAs offer assistance with more than secretarial type of projects. They provide assistance with the mundane tasks small business owners are faced with daily. A few examples include marketing, updating websites, Internet research, submitting articles and/or blogs, writing articles and/or blogs, making appointments, returning phone calls, sorting through e-mails, etc. There are many uses for a Virtual Assistant. The time saved from not having to handle the daily administrative tasks can be used to gain new clients and/or retain current clients.

The first step in effectively using a VA is to decide which daily tasks can be outsourced. Second, establish a business relationship or partnership with a VA and, in turn, he or she will become familiar with the business and can anticipate the needs of the business owner. This will save time in communications, giving instructions, etc. In addition, virtual assistants are also small business owners, and they know how to operate a small business.

Partnering with a VA rather than hiring an administrative staff member(s) will save money and time. The cost associated with having an employee is more than having a VA. Working with a VA rather than a regular employee cost over $40,000.00 less per year, because there are no employee-related expenses to pay. In addition, it is not necessary for SBOs to train virtual assistants which will save time.

Technology and the Internet make it possible for VAs to provide assistant services to small business owners from their virtual offices. There are numerous ways of using technology to communicate; for example, Skype, e-mail, digital computer camera (webcam), teleconference or virtual meetings, video e-mails, Instant Messaging (IM), or GoToMeeting. If necessary, a VA can access the owner’s computer desktop using GoToMyPC in order to perform certain tasks. Documents can be exchanged using e-mail to send attachments. Due to technology and virtual assistants, SBOs are able to have the assistance they need without having to supply office space, office supplies, equipment, or software.

Every small business owner should retain the services of at least one Virtual Assistant on a permanent basis in order to have more time to develop and grow their businesses, add to the bottom line, close the next business deal, gain more personal time, as well as save over $40,000 a year.

Future Small Business Trends

Recent studies of small businesses shows 5 top small business trends for 2011 and it points out some of the trends that may get benefits from inline services like search engine optimization services and social media optimization services. These are the 5 trends through which virtual solutions would help in minimization of costs and business process optimization.

Variable Cost Models

This service model is different from the traditional ways services are availed. By following this model expertise will look more accessible and affordable and businesses will start to look for choosing from services available. This is a very intelligent and practical model. Accountability is another feature of this model as it will be easy to monitor all marketing activities.

Internet Business

Internet and online tools are helping small businesses to easily find, sell and support customers. Now, more and more new businesses are opting to go for internet business and establishing virtual stores rather than establishing traditional offices and stores for business. As more customers are finding it easy to get things online, more businesses are going for Internet business. Some recent surveys show that small businesses’ budget for e-commerce based development is to grow by 20% to 25% this year. If someone find it difficult to get online than there are various online marketing services available, whose job is to get business online and provide services like search engine optimization and social media optimization services.

Social Media in main stream

Social media emerged as a platform for social interactions on internet but it has quickly developed into a medium for marketing by major businesses. Facebook is regarded as the number 1 websites on the basis of visits and along with others like Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace etc., provides a lot of visibility for businesses online. Small businesses are getting a lot of advantages by investing in social media marketing and the trend is growing rapidly. According to a survey about two third of small businesses are planning to invest in email marketing and about 60% plan to invest more for social media optimization. The important thing here is to remember that a business should apply the most efficient trends and techniques and if this is difficult to do by them, than professional social media optimization services should be hired, which are available by online marketing agencies.

Freelancing and Small Businesses

Freelancers, these days, are getting more professional and establishing virtual businesses. Even large businesses are going for freelance based services along with engaging with other businesses. It is good for freelancers but this comes with a burden of working professionally and efficiently for sustaining business. The freelance business across major markets is expected to hit the figure of 150 million dollars. This is the main reason for freelancers to focus and deliver their expertise and also take sufficient care of other activities like advertising, customer care, accounting and marketing etc. search engine optimization and social media optimization services takes a sufficient part of freelance activities.

Working in the Cloud
The field of computing is ever changing and mobile computing is getting popularity because the benefits it brings are really enormous. It cuts down software development costs and gives access to best software services. Online services like Google apps, Amazon and Apple apps are trying to reach large number of users through smart phones and portable devices.

The Small Business Entrepreneur Is Ahead Of The Trends

The battle between the mass merchandisers and the small Mom/Pop retailer is a race to identify and fill trends before they become big in a specific industry. Here’s the difference between how a small business entrepreneur picks and chooses what is or will become popular and how a mass merchandiser does it.

The small entrepreneur does not have the capital, in money or labor, to follow what is hot in retail, gardening or home decor. Once items become most desirable then the mass merchandiser has started buying the items by the container load and it’s often from overseas, outside the U.S. As items manufactured locally become popular it becomes a matter of commerce to go to China, Taiwan, or S.E. Asia and duplicate them. Often the reproduction will be in the millions of each and the price will drop for the knock offs. That process is created by the perceived demand of the general public’s wants going forward.

The process of “anticipation” is predicated upon looking at small niches and extrapolating the small niches to the masses. If the item has merit for mass appeal then the mass merchandiser bets with future purchases and orders the items in larger quantities. Prices drop but the mass merchandiser is always the dog chasing the tail.

The small business entrepreneur is in a different boat. The small merchandiser is often a one or two person buying group who own the business. Approximately 3-6 months prior to receiving the merchandise they go to merchandise shows in Atlanta, Las Vegas, NYC, Philadelphia or in local communities to see what is new and novel. It is now the orders are placed for future delivery. Most small business people are buying Christmas items in the summer, Fall merchandise in the winter, etc. Due to limited capital the small business owner will “guess” on popularity of merchandise and place small orders for their shops. A typical order may be $100 – $1,000 for merchandise the entrepreneur thinks will sell and be what the customer wants once it is displayed.

If the item is popular and sells immediately there is usually a delay before the items can be replaced. Some of the items chosen do not sell and on those the entrepreneur now has what is referred to as “dead inventory”. That is cash spent with no return as well as lost opportunity to buy what is hot due to lack of cash invested in bad inventory.

It’s just a fact of life for the small entrepreneur, but it’s the lifeblood of retail. The small business owner supports the manufacturing of small lot, local manufacturers and stokes the economic flames of local business and economic growth. The small manufacturer often can not fill orders in the millions of dollars unless there is heavy investment in retooling and availability of capital at reasonable terms. Especially in the U.S. where the labor costs are high the popular items go offshore to less costly land, labor and legal liability areas.

A case in point.

In the early 2000’s one of the hottest items to emerge in home decor and retail were the live bamboo shoots that were placed in clear glass vases. Initially the item itself lacked much appeal other than in landscaping, indoor plant areas as a fill in. After several popular mass appeal home decorating magazines featured the bamboo plants in their publications it became a home decorating trend to include the plants in home decor design. The small business had ventured into the items for a trial product, or had seen the items in the magazines and anticipated the demand. The small business owner started meeting the demand with the limited inventory available for their customers. After the bamboo became hot then the growing of those bamboo shoots shifted from the local nursery supplier to the mass producers and harvesters overseas. Rather than fill an order for 50 plants, which the local nursery could do for multiple vendors, it became fill 2 orders for 2,000,000 each of bamboo shoots.

The small business owner recognized and set the trend, but the local grower and small business owners lose out when the items become popular. They can no longer buy or produce in the quantities needed and out of necessity have to move on to the next trend hoping to get it correct in their purchasing decisions.

As bad as the economics sound there are multiple reasons to support local business and local manufacturers. Here are a few of those reasons:

  • Local business recognizes local tastes & interest well in advance of mass merchandisers
  • Local business buys from local U.S. based businesses and increase employment
  • Local business encourages innovation and leading design
  • Local business add to the economic base as they are paying local property taxes, municipal and other taxes the foreign company is not.
  • Local business employs local families whether kids looking for a first job, part time employment to help families make ends meet, or employment close to home or school.

The backbone of American industry is built upon the guts of entrepreneurship that the U.S. citizens display constantly.