Did you hear the one about the customer and the plumber? This is a classic anecdote that applies to more and more industries and professions as we realize that providing services is not about trading time for money.
Customer: “Hello, I have a problem with my bathroom plumbing and I need you to come over.”
Plumber: “What seems to be the problem?”
Customer: “Well, when I flush the toilet, the kitchen faucet drips.”
Plumber: “I’ll be over this afternoon to have a look.”
The plumber arrives, inspects the plumbing in the house, checks out a few things, flips a few switches, tests the system and fixed the problem in about 15 minutes. He presents the customer with the bill.
Customer: “$600 to do 15 minutes work?!?!”
Plumber: “It took me 10 years to learn how to do that.”
There’s more to services than just trading time for money. What about all the years it took to get your education, training and credentials? What about your life experience? The time and effort it took you to build your organization? You’re worth so much more than dollars per hour. Think about it and share your comments.
Just a little reminder today that the art of the follow up is now easier than ever. Why? Because of our ever-increasing virtual world of electronic media, social media, video, audio, smart phones and goodness knows what else will be available tomorrow!
Add these resources to what were used even 10 years ago, and there really is no reason not to follow up with your donors and sponsors for their contribution and to keep in touch with your members.
It’s so easy for organizations to post to their donors’ and sponsors’ Facebook feeds: send them a text message, record a personal video or send an email. On top of this you can use Skype, Facebook or Google Chat or Hangouts to connect and have a virtual coffee break to check in. AND add to this the more traditional ways of keeping in touch with cards, notes and gifts in the regular “snail” mail, there’s no excuse not to keep in touch with your networks. Personally, I like to mail hand-written cards and gifts. From a marketing perspective, there’s nothing more alluring than ‘lumpy’ mail, so include a pen, a block of sticky notes or a little gift with a card; the chances of that piece of mail being opened will increase exponentially. Even if you just write thank-you (for your time, for your call, for your donation, for your sponsorship…), doing so will go a long way. The combinations you can use to keep in touch are endless!
While most organizations spend time recruiting potential members, sponsors and donors, what about your current members, sponsors and donors? Do you ever thank them, take them out to lunch or send them a birthday card or gift? Your current database of contacts are your biggest fans and the most likely to refer. Stay connected with them and nurture those relationships! It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s the thought that counts.
It used to be that running a meeting on Zoom was a ‘luxury’; considered only a necessity for folks who couldn’t attend in person. It was a lot of work to set all that up in the background and run it. Oh, how times have changed! This past year has forced us to switch gears quickly and use technology to create something of a normal way to conduct meetings and conferences with a minimum of disruption.
You may not be the host of in-person meetings these days, but did you know there is such a thing as ‘virtual event hosting etiquette’? Think of all the things that need to be done and need attending to when you’re hosting an in-person meeting or event, like catering, registrations, customer care, speaker needs, documents, presentations, etc. Now do all that with a twist: no one is going to be where you are. (Yikes!)
Intrigued? Freaked out? Or are you one of those people that are thinking to themselves, ‘Bring. It. On.’?
The beauty of virtual events is that it can be organized in a couple of ways. There is what we might refer to as a hybrid virtual event which still provides an event hosted in a physical location for your attendees, but uses virtual aspects as part of the presentation, is used for messaging in the promotion of the event and provides an online outreach for those that require flexibility, where they may not be able to attend.
An entirely virtual event could allow you to provide your message, engage your audience and simultaneously obtain feedback while avoiding the “production” costs of a traditional event. Some of the more important things to consider with hosting a virtual event or meeting may include:
The Audience – Understand who your audience is for the event and if they would be receptive to attending a virtual event, perhaps if they are in multiple locations.
The Message – Focus on the material to be presented and create your presentation in such a way so you are not just reading material from a slide but showing a high level within the slide and discussing the details, allowing for feedback from the attendees and answering questions as you go.
The Technology – To host an entirely virtual event one of the first items to consider is what event hosting platform you will use and make sure it will function properly. This may include testing your own systems and anticipating what your audience will be using for viewing. There are a lot of new platforms around these days so it’s important to do your research and test, test, test!
The Interaction – Remember to interact with your audience. You may not be able to see if they are engaged or not, but you can do your best to ensure their attention by asking questions, responding to their questions and making your audience aware that you are presenting to them. You can make your meeting or event memorable by adding in:
Mail or courier a conference ‘swag bag’ to arrive to the registrants ahead of the event date. This can include things like chocolate (of course!), tea or coffee pods, popcorn, an ‘I’m attending a conference’ door hanger, hand signage to use while in a session (e.g. ‘I vote yes!’), pens, sticky notes and the list goes on…;
Arrange a food delivery so that attendees can have a meal at the same time as the event is taking place;
Email documents ahead of time, or upload to a repository and provide the link;
Conduct pre-event surveys to discuss at the meeting or event – new data gives people something to talk about;
Set up virtual networking rooms;
Set up a virtual exhibit hall;
Make sure you schedule breaks and lunch time, just as you would for an in-person conference or event.
Of course, all this leads into opportunities to enhance donor/member/attendee engagement before, during and after the event or meeting. The cliché, ‘think outside the box’ comes to mind. What we miss by attending in-person meetings can be easily made up for by a little creative thinking and planning ahead.
In order to break down the bigger picture of outsourcing your business tasks to a remote resource, let’s have a look at some of the ways to get started on the “how” of outsourcing (rather than the why, when or the where).
Starting with the basics, have a look at your business tasks and processes first, and look at your personal strengths and values (and be honest about it!) Ask people you know for feedback about you as a person. What do they think you are really good at? What things aren’t you so good at? Make a list and go from there, being brutally honest with yourself. Look closely at your list on paper – the pluses and the minuses – and determine what makes sense for you to do, and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of; it might be an ‘us and them’ kind of thing. Every business is different, so the first key to effective outsourcing is to identify exactly what you need.
Along with your ‘us and them’ list, start brainstorming and list all the things you will do to build your business once you have all that extra time that comes with outsourcing.
Recognize that outsourcing is a process that takes time and planning. It’s your business, and it’s your responsibility to ensure things are done and done right. Plan for your needs, tell people what challenges you might be having, always be on the lookout for exceptional people through your circles and networks and ask for referrals. Don’t discount family and friends, either, if you are comfortable having that kind of relationship with those closest to you; not everyone is so inclined! Take the time you need to find the right people for the right work. Hire slowly, fire quickly.
The number one caveat in all of this is to remember that outsourcing is not a “set it and forget it” way of getting things done. Dropping a task list in someone else’s lap and saying “Here, you do it!” is essentially business suicide.
The key to success is finding the right balance and developing a trusting relationship between you and the resource. It’s a very fine balance, too, and one that requires finesse and management. If you micro-manage your resource, they’re going to either quit because they don’t want you constantly in their face, or they won’t take initiative to get things done without your input. If you take a hands-off approach, and leave them on their own without checking in regularly, you’re setting yourself up for disaster, with tasks done wrong, a disregard for your timelines for completion or, worse still, tasks just aren’t getting done at all. All of these scenarios translate into spending more time that you don’t have, defeating the purpose from the outset. It pays to plan ahead and spend a bit of extra time finding the balance that allows you to delineate what they’re responsible for and what you’re responsible for, and also allows for how your remote resource likes to work and how they like to check in.
It’s your business and you’re responsible for managing the resources who work for you. Keep in mind that if you micro-manage your resources for fear of not being in control, you will miss the whole point of outsourcing. Commit to regularly checking in with your remote worker. You want to make sure they are doing the work as explained to them, identifying any challenges they might have, and ensuring that they understand that they’re expected to 1) report their progress to you, and 2) immediately let you know of any problems that arise.
If things aren’t going as smoothly as would be ideal, step back and ask yourself if you’re the bottleneck. Many business owners feel a commitment to their business much like a parent’s to a baby. They gave birth to the idea that grew into the business, they have all the business knowledge in their head and they have a need to do it all to ensure it gets done right. For someone like that, it’s very hard to let go and delegate
Having all the knowledge is critical; however, it’s smarter to get out of your own way and delegate the back office tasks so that your business can thrive and grow with you at the helm. By using remote support, your time will be freed up so that you can focus on high-growth activities effectively and get on with growing your business. It’s really more about mindset than it is about logistics.
One of the first things to do when talking about outsourcing to a remote worker is to state your expectations and requirements clearly from the outset and don’t assume anything. This holds true whether you’re hiring a Virtual CFO or a teenager to cut your lawn. The resource doesn’t know what you know and they are also looking at the task from a different perspective than you are. Opening conversations with a potential resource to identify deliverables is essential.
Have an open and frank conversation about what each of you expects in that relationship. Be clear in knowing how they operate, what their reporting style is, how they like to work, where they work, in a remote support setting. Remote resources can work anywhere, from a fully kitted out office in their house or from a dining room table. You really have to get into how they operate and what makes them productive and the circumstances that allow them to thrive in being productive.
The other thing to remember, in that open conversation, is that the resource doesn’t know what you know, as a business owner. Therefore, they’re looking at the tasks from different perspectives than you are. For example, as a business owner, you may know how an audit works. If the resource you’re hiring is going to do the bookkeeping, they may live for numbers and do their bookkeeping at lightning speed. However, if they haven’t experienced going through an audit, they’re looking at the bookkeeping from a different perspective and wouldn’t pick up on things an auditor would notice. This holds true whether you’re hiring someone to do your bookkeeping or someone to cut your lawn.
Ensuring expectations are clear begins with an open conversation that results in the business owner drawing up a specific contract that outlines exactly what was talked about and what the performance metrics are. The contract must outline exactly what is expected – remuneration, terms and conditions, confidentiality, security, who’s going to provide what – and will be as detailed as possible. Both parties can then carefully review and sign the contract before work begins. (It’s a good idea to have all business contracts reviewed by your lawyer.)
In this time of instant gratification, managing our frustrations when things don’t go smoothly is important, so get prepared and be patient!
Allow yourself – and your resource – time to transition. Letting go of tasks that you have always done yourself is not merely a matter of handing over a to-do list and walking away. A time investment by the business owner is essential for providing insight to the remote worker as to how things are to be done, as well as the time frame for completion. This can be as simple as open dialogue or a conference call with all stakeholders to discuss how and when transition is to take place, scheduling, etc. Once the handover is complete, let go and trust that all will be well.
If you have provided clear instructions (and it’s your job to do so), there should be no problems.
Be prepared for a learning curve on the part of the resource. Be patient and, with time, they will find their groove and you can let go of the task completely. Manage success by checking in at periodic and scheduled intervals.
The bottom line? It’s still all about relationships. The key to successful business is building and maintaining relationships in every facet of your operations. An absolute must for business owners is to network to build relationships and gain referrals. The same can be said for building relationships with outsourced suppliers: getting the right team in place, at the right time and for the right reason creates winning relationships and goodwill all around.
Keep these last few tips top-of-mind:
The lowest priced outsourced solution may not be the best; good people cost money and beware that even these days, you still get what you pay for.
Don’t outsource a task just because you don’t want to do it! There will be tasks that only you can do because they’re important to operations and your strategic plan.
Always strike a fair deal with your resources and treat them with respect. You’re relying on them to handle important tasks for you and your business so don’t take advantage of them.