Your Small Business May Need a Virtual Assistant – Part 2

This is the continuation of a previous post titled, Your Small Business May Need a Virtual Assistant

7. You have a blog, but do not have time to update entries regularly. Brief ideas and thoughts or links can be emailed to your VA, who then updates your blog.

8. You need a website set up, either on a directory site or using a web-hosting service. Your VA can design a custom site or adapt a template, and can maintain it on a regular basis, adding current articles or information as needed.

9. You need a telephone conversation (i.e., conference call, teleclass, etc.) recorded. The VA records the call and transcribes the tape for the participants.

10. You dictate letters, reports, notes or memos on a cassette tape and mail it to your VA via overnight delivery. Your VA transcribes the tape, prints the letters on your stationery and mails them the following day. Or, send your VA an MP3 file of your recording. S/he transcribes the audio and emails the completed transcript back to you.

11. You cannot keep up with the volume of email and are missing important messages. You or your webmaster set up a general email account ( Your VA retrieves all email, sorts, responds to routine requests, and forwards items of importance to you at your personal email account (

12. You are going on vacation, but can’t let your customers wait for two weeks. Your VA answers the phone and email and responds to customers. You are called for urgent calls while you are away if you want.

13. You need bill paying services. You simply have all bills mailed to a post office box near your VA. Your VA sets up a checking account with payment authorization for both you and the VA. As the bills are prepared for payment, your VA notifies you how much money to deposit into the account. The bills are then paid. Another option, if available from your bank, is to use on-line bill payment services. Security features can be set up which make this a safe and simple solution.

14. You implement an advertising plan or promo. Your VA can monitor the plan, submits ads by deadlines, track expiration dates, coordinate payment, handle correspondence with advertising vendors, and continually update the advertising report and/or advertising budget report for your review.

15. You would like to write a book, but can’t get organized. Your VA can compile rough drafts, notes, fragments, letters or memoirs and get them into an editable form to begin the process of formatting the book, research publishers, and send out queries.

Virtual assistants are here to stay. The above shows that virtual assistants can and do work well for most small and home-based businesses and especially solo-preneurs. Over the next couple of years you can expect your conversations with regards to virtual assistants to go from “What is a virtual assistant and what does a virtual assistant do?” to that of “Who provides your virtual assistant services?”

Implementing the use of a virtual assistant, especially through a virtual staffing agency, is a low-cost, low-risk undertaking. If the virtual assistant doesn’t work out, you simply request another, perhaps for a better fit. What’s more, coupling the use of a virtual assistant (or several virtual assistants) with your already up-and-coming business can catapult your income and success to the next level and beyond.

Practical Steps to Building Your Business

Building a successful and profitable business is no easy undertaking. If you currently own a business this news is obviously not alien to you. Business owners know that building a business from ground up is dependent on many outside factors like competition, timing, market trends and demands, and other elements which you have very little control over, if any at all.

Assuming that all of these outside factors are in your favor, there are factors within your control that are as important – or even more important – as the outside factors mentioned above. One such factor is a business plan. Having a sound business plan can lead to having a successful business and long business life if the plan is adhered to.

That having been said, here are five steps to consider when building your business from the ground up:

1. Determine your business! What are you selling?

This question isn’t as easy to answer as you may think, and to p[rove this point we’ll use a well-known sporting apparel company. Nike is in the sportswear business, but the truth is that when you buy a pair of Nike shoes and a t-shirt at the mall you’re buying a lot more than sportswear — you’re buying an image, a feeling. You’re buying the Nike brand.

Richard Thalheimer, the former CEO of The Sharper Image and the founder of, has worked in specialty retail for more than 30 years. When asked what business he’s in, he has often answered, “convenience” or “innovation” before he specifies any particular industry, and Mr. Thalheimer has built one of the most powerful brands in America.

It’s important to keep in mind, that there’s more to a product or service than the product/service itself. More often than not your brand is what sets your product apart from your competitor’s; and your brand is comprised of the kind of service you provide to your customers, quality of your product/service, company policies like “Money Back Guarantee”, “Warranty”, and other such intracacies of your company policy.

2. Select your market! Who are you selling to?

This step is a bit less interpretive than the first, though equally important. Who are you selling to? or more importantly, what do you know about this person? Understanding your consumer is one of the keys to success. What do they do? Where do they hang out? What do they watch on television? Demographics has become one of the most important words in modern (digital age) business.

There are many demographic statistics that you should have at your disposal wehn you are building (and running) your own business. Knowing the answers to these questions can answer a lot of questions of your own when it comes to a devising a marketing strategy. Richard Thalheimer understood his market for The Sharper Image, probably as well as they understood themselves.

From an article in the LA Times some years ago, Tracy Wan, who was president and chief operating officer under Thalheimer says “Richard has the amazing ability to figure out the things that people want to have.” This ability to perceive your consumer’s desire can only be a result of knowing them like your neighbor. Understanding the demographic breakdown of your market is critical.

3. Create a marketing strategy! How do you speak to these people?

A good marketing strategy is the culmination of understanding your brand and your market demographic. As mentioned in number two, understanding your consumer can answer a lot of questions concerning your marketing strategy: Where should you advertise? What’s the voice of your brand? What kind of prices are reasonable for this demographic?

In order to engage your consumer, (i.e. sell your product to them), you must know where your advertisements will be noticed, how to speak to them, and how much they will be able to spend, among many other things. Really, this step is really an extension of the last one, because who your market is dictates your marketing strategy entirely.

4. Learn by example! Seek advice from those who have done it.

There are many books written by professionals who have already started their own business and have been successful in operating them. One that comes to mind immediately, as we’ve already mentioned him a couple of times, is Richard Thalheimer. With “Creating Your Own Sharper Image”, he shares the story of how – using practical, workable strategies – his tiny office supply company, The Sharper Image, grew into a thriving enterprise.

Remember, building a successful business is not all about the dollars and cents. Equally valuable is your brand equity and your ability to engage the consumer; your customers, which is only attainable by understanding them. Assuming there is a demand for your product, and you can compete with the other brands, following these four steps will guide you in the right direction.