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How to Manage Team Dynamics as an Entrepreneur

How to Manage Team Dynamics as an Entrepreneur

How to Manage Team Dynamics as an Entrepreneur

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As a biz owner, I know what it’s like to go from a start up which is a one woman team to an actual team with other team members helping me. This article gives some neat tricks on how to keep your team strong. Enjoy and share! 

Back in 2009, at a street festival in Cambridge, Mass., Todd Horton founded KangoGift alongside a team of four. What started as a concept of sending a gift to a friend via text message has since evolved into an HR software company helping to improve employee-recognition programs.

“We were successful because we were aligned to a common goal,” Horton, now CEO, told me. “We were in constant communication. We were excited about the potential and the unknown.”

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Horton and his team had earlier developed a website; they then leveraged a booth at the street festival to spark interest in their company and identify local businesses as potential partners. In the end, the team wrote 3,000 lines of code, struck deals with five local businesses and processed over 200 gifts that first weekend. They launched KangoGift in 30 days.

“When building a team, entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that people want to work on something bigger than themselves,” Horton said. “It could be a social mission — or feeling like they are working on something cutting edge that will offer an emotional benefit to people.”

Often, it’s easy for a small startup team to work together effectively. As KangoGift’s experience illustrates, founding teams can be united and driven by their shared vision for the company. However, once the company begins to add new team members, this ease of collaboration can be difficult to maintain.

Here are five approaches to teamwork you should consider:

Start thinking about teams early.
“Sometimes, when a new company is expanding, instead of building a team, an entrepreneur simply hires people for their individual technical expertise,” Rick Gibbs, performance specialist at Insperity in New York City, told me. “As a result, not much thought is given to the idea of this ‘group’ being cohesive or having the ability to work together.”

As the team begins to grow, this can lead to conflict, especially if the employees have to come out of their bubbles and work as a team yet have little in common with anyone else.

“Often, there are groups of very smart, capable people who simply clash because relatively little attention has been given to the idea of what it means to perform well on a team,” Gibbs said.

How to avoid this issue? Build a team-oriented culture from the get-go. During the interview process, hink about how job candidates might perform on teams — as opposed to hiring for individual skills alone. Especially in a startup,your first few hires will work more closely together than a more established company, so it’s essential to consider new hires’ experience with teamwork.

Also, during the interviews, ask candidates to describe specific examples of past projects they completed on a team. Include current team members in the interview process to ensure they get on well with new hires.

The tech: Building a startup team that will work well together can start with referrals, and one tool that makes referrals easier is Boon. Boon’s matching algorithms identify candidates and engage the right employees, custom rewards and gamification to inspire action. Integrations and analytics dashboards provide clarity and integrity to the program.

Foster transparency and trust.
Because startup teams can consist of people who have varying strengths and weaknesses, “Transparency is the key to success,” Seattle-based Prime Opt career coach Michella Chiu told me.

When leaders aren’t transparent with their team members, morale decreases. In fact, according to a 2015 Work Management Survey by Wrike of nearly 1,500 business professionals, 52 percent of employees listed missing information as a top stressor at work.

Transparency and trust go hand in hand. If teammates don’t trust one other, the work environment goes from being collaborative to competitive. This hurts everyone’s productivity. Set a good example by being open and honest with all team members. Communicate and share information that impacts the group.

Build a culture of trust by encouraging all employees to contribute.

“Hire great people and get out of their way,” Jacob Shriar, director of content at Officevibe in Montreal, told me. “Trust them to do good work and give them the autonomy they deserve.”

Shriar and his team recently traveled to Prague for a project, which was ultimately successful, he said he realized, because of the deep levels of trust and respect within the team.

Chiu,the career coach, agrees. “Build a solid system or set of procedures to facilitate better communication,” she said. “Make exchanging ideas easier for everyone.”

When everyone inputs ideas to the team’s successes, trust increases, not just between team members and leadership but among one other.

The tech: Social Chorus allows companies and team members to not only easily communicate in a way that helps them work together, but also to stay connected with and informed about the company.

Know how to direct energies.
When employees are asked to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them, they’ll likely expend extra energy. This can quickly lead to burnout. However, when teams are built around their complementary strengths, everyone can focus on what comes easily to him or her individually.

“It’s less about strengths and weaknesses than it is about identifying the areas an individual has the most energy for,” Karen Gordon, CEO of 5 Dynamics in Austin, Texas, told me. “This is where productive collaboration can be improved.”

Gordon explained that her company had developed its “5 Dynamics methodology” as a way of looking at work as a process, where each step requires full focus, one at a time:

Understand the complete situation, see relationships and develop creative solutions.

Build a team and excite its members about the idea.

Develop a plan using data. Create schedules, budgets, timetables, clear roles and rules. Predict problems that may arise.

Hold the team accountable for implementing the plan, then measure its performance.

Assess performance of the previous Dynamics by measuring external success and internal satisfaction within the team. Make changes to the process to improve both of these areas next time.

Build a diverse team with varying skills. Then, identify tasks based on each employee’s strengths, where he or she will excel and still feel challenged. Look at the needs of employees individually rather than focusing on creating efficiencies with blanket solutions.

“This will create a team environment that avoids burnout, fosters positivity and success and offers pathways for communication that were previously unknown,” Gordon said.

The tech: Avilar’s competency management tools identify and close critical employee skills gaps that could derail organizational success.

Show gratitude.
The greatest team in the world can become unproductive if the team members aren’t appreciated for their hard work. Acknowledge impressive outcomes of teamwork, even if it’s through a simple “thank you.”

“Any number of us working for a startup could easily find work making far more money for much bigger names, but we chose something that inspired us beyond those frills,” Divya Menon, founder of Bad Brain, in Los Angeles, told me. “When a company is truly grateful for that work and people go out of their way to write you a heartfelt text on Saturday about the work you put in, you realize how much more important that company is than just a salary or a bullet point on a résumé.”

According to Officevibe State of Employee Engagement in 2017, 63 percent of employees surveyed said they didn’t get enough recognition.

“I think it comes from a place of stress and fear, but startups have to realize that people sacrifice a lot of stability and notability to try and help out with a ‘cause,’” Menon said. “A startup is a risk for something we all believe in and think the world should have. Entrepreneurs should be really keyed into what their employees gave up to be there and let them know, meaningfully and frequently, how much it means to them.”

Encourage employee-leaders to recognize their teams in authentic ways. Lead by example to establish a culture of recognition. Thank employees often for the work they contribute individually and as a team.

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6 Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Downloads for Your App

6 Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Downloads for Your App

Okay folks, this helpful article teaches you ways to use search optimization to get the most downloads for your app. SEO is so important and I use it to help my clients with their blogs/social media. Read on for the tips..

6 Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Downloads for Your App

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Many startups spend huge amounts of money on advertising, yet neglect app store optimization. App store optimization is the most cost-effective method to organically increase your installs for a couple of reasons:

According to Forrester, a staggering 63 percent of all app installs come from general browsing in the app store. By optimizing your app to be discovered through search, you can dramatically increase the number of downloads you receive for your mobile app.
It’s free! If you have a solid app store optimization strategy and execute properly, you will get tons of organic and free installs to your app.

Here are a few tips and tricks:

1. Choose the right title.

The title of your app ranks more heavily than the rest of the meta-data, so choose it wisely. Make sure you target words in your title that you want to hit the most, words that you’re confident about. Tools like SensorTower and AppAnnie can provide you accurate traffic volumes and difficulties of certain keywords. Also, make sure you don’t keyword stuff the title; the app store will reject your app.

2. Select situational keywords.

Depending on how many downloads and how much traffic your app is already getting, you must adjust your keywords. For example, if your app is already getting high traffic and downloads, you can target more competitive keywords that have higher traffic. If you are just starting up an app that nobody knows about and isn’t getting featured, I recommend choosing keywords that have a low difficulty level and medium traffic (according to analytic tools like SensorTower or AppAnnie). There are likely some keywords that are gems that others are not targeting and may have decent traffic.

3. Localize by country.

As every app store is separated geographically by country, it is really wise to localize your app to optimize it for discovery across different languages. The app store allows you to change the meta-data within your app depending on which country is searching for your app. Some companies have used a mixture of Google translate and native speakers to help localize their apps, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to localize as well. Localization is a huge aspect of having an effective presence globally. Just think of all these untapped markets that you can reach and how easily you could acquire more users with these markets.

4. Use powerful images and wording.

Once people are able to discover your app, the rest is up to how well your app listing converts into downloads. To optimize conversions, you must use beautiful images to entice users to want to download your app. Make sure to include the most attractive aspects of your app and to include captions in the pictures as well. You’d be surprised at how a simple tweak of an image or word can translate in terms of conversion percentages.

5. Pay attention to ratings, reviews and the description.

When was the last time you downloaded an app that had one star? Ratings and reviews don’t factor in as much to discovery as the keywords and the title, but they do have a huge impact on conversion rates. Users are probably more likely to download your app if it has received a large number of positive reviews. Make sure to also include an interesting and enticing description to explain to users what your app does!

6. Follow the data.

App store optimization is an ongoing process that takes experience, time and testing to get right. Make sure to thoroughly test out keywords over periods of time, and also test out the images/description of your app to see which ones are converting the best. At the end of the day, data doesn’t lie, so make sure you follow the data and find out what works for your app specifically.

 

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Video

Business By Mr. Rogers??? 

So I was searching around YouTube for something totally different and found this unique remix featuring Mr. Rogers. If you really truly listen to the words of the song you can apply this to so much stuff in your life. Be inspired, use your mind, and chase your dreams. Whether they are personal or business, dreams can only come true if first try … and maybe try again, and again, until you get it right. https://youtu.be/OFzXaFbxDcM

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Let's Share...

 

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Marketing 101: Metrics

Marketing 101: Metrics

With an Online Business Management and Virtual Assistant Network like The Write Hand, LLC; you get top quality services that produces results you can see.  We hope you enjoy this article’ it could be quite useful across most businesses.

Marketing 101: Metrics

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In today’s world, nearly everything can be measured by metrics: Facebook likes, Twitter followers, YouTube views, etc. In a world of big data, metrics drive our behavior, but in sixteen years in business, “metrics” is a word I’ve come to hate. Although metrics can be great in determining ad or website performance, when it comes to overall marketing efforts, focusing on metrics alone may be what kills your marketing plan.

In fact, focusing on metrics can make you lose sight of your overall goals. Most great marketing successes, regardless of your product, are the cumulative result of multiple actions. You can’t depend on a direct measure of success from every single action, otherwise you would get stuck in your tracks early on. Planting and cultivating seeds takes time.

If it’s not working, maybe you’re doing it wrong

Something important to keep in mind is that sometimes marketing efforts don’t work because they are not being done correctly. You may need to put some time and effort into researching the meaning behind your dismal metrics. Could your blogging be ineffective because you have misidentified your potential audience? Have you run out of things to say? If that’s the case, start researching four to six successful companies with a similar audience. Whether you’re researching the kinds of questions they answer with their blog or what they’re doing in terms of their blog and social media, you may find some great information. Maybe there are social media sites that you should be on and aren’t, or vice versa. If you look at four to six companies in your market, you’ll start to see a trend of what’s working for them.

Bottom up marketing

Another problem with blindly following metrics can be saying no to opportunities that may benefit you in the long run. One of my favorite strategies is “bottom up marketing.” Mark Victor Hanson, one of the master minds behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, is a great example. He did every radio interview and never turned down a single opportunity; he and his co-author built an entire empire through bottom up marketing. It’s worth your while to allow exposure to build on itself and lead to success. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way (within reason), no matter how small the blog or podcast. We all want to be on The Tonight Show, but let’s face it, everyone has to start somewhere.

Stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter

Focus on the most effective ways to spend your time and money. Often, we fall into the habit of implementing marketing efforts because they’re easy. Running ads, for example, can be easy, and may feel productive. But ads should be compelling and give the viewers something to act on. The same is true for press releases.

Be realistic with your pitching efforts. Put plenty of effort into crafting a pitch that shows you researched the outlet, and have carefully considered how your product fits. Pitching yourself to national shows when you are just starting out may not be the most efficient use of your time. Remember what I said about bottom up marketing.

Coordinate your marketing efforts

One of the quickest ways to kill a product is to not promote it; the other is to only do one thing at a time to see which one gives you the most bounce. Although testing your efforts separately to see how effective they are can be appealing, the problem with this is that it’s all metric-driven instead of building momentum. Marketing by doing one thing at a time and then waiting to see what comes of the action you took is the surest way to fail. Do a lot of things (or several, if you’re short on time) and do them consistently.

Slow and steady wins the race

Inconsistency is one of the big reasons for failure. It goes back to my “say yes to everything” advice; let your marketing efforts build, understand what your audience wants, and be consistent. If you’re short on time, find a few things that are an effective use of your time and do them well.

People like what other people like

Reviews are something you should always pursue, no matter how old your product or service. Testimonials and reviews are almost as good as a personal word-of-mouth recommendation. Why? Because people like what other people like.

Ultimately, metrics are a powerful tool, but instead of focusing on each effort’s individual metrics, it’s best to take review your metrics with some perspective. When planning your marketing efforts, I urge you to emphasize consistency. Use metrics as a tool to identify areas that can be improved, and allow some time for your marketing efforts to build on one another. Success is rarely the direct result of one action, but rather the accumulation of many efforts.

 

 

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You Have to Know When to Stop

You Have to Know When to Stop

I love for listened to Tim Ferriss by podcast for years. I am ever striving for that 4-hour work week. Someday The Write Hand, LLC will be at that place but for now I continue to strive forward. In 4-Hour Work Week, I always get warm fuzzy feelings when I hear Tim talk about his Virtual Assistant(s) and how using one can make your life so much easier and reduce business related stress. Well, in this article Entrepreneur Magazine features Tim as he talks about being happy with what you have and knowing when to stop.

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You Have to Know When to Stop

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Tim Ferriss: If You’re Not Happy With What You Have, You Might Never Be Happy

Tim Ferriss has plenty of sound advice for someone undertaking the grueling physical and psychological endurance test that is the miracle of modern air travel.

To avoid jet lag, book your flight on a Dreamliner if at all possible. Newer aircraft have improved pressure systems, which means the altitude takes less of a toll. Use TSA Precheck and Global Entry to evade the sock-footed Forced March of Doom, but arrive ludicrously early anyway and spend a few hours working in the airport lounge to avoid unnecessary stress. Hydrate. Use a zinc spray to bolster your immune system. Squirt saline into your nostrils. Pop one gram of vitamin C every hour and lysine every few hours for the duration of your trip. If you must check baggage containing expensive equipment, consider packing a starter pistol as well and register it at check-in so the airline authorities are extra attentive to your stuff and won’t misplace it. Hydrate some more. And at your soonest opportunity after arriving on terra firma, hop on a stationary bike for 10 minutes of vigorous pedaling.

I have followed approximately zero percent of this program when I arrive bleary-eyed and a few minutes late at a Santa Monica steakhouse for an audience with the superman of self-improvement. Fortunately, as he rises to greet me — clad in a reddish V-neck T-shirt and blue sweatpants by Rhone (a sponsor of his podcast) and a pair of flip-flops by Havaianas (not a sponsor) — it’s clear he’s in good enough shape for both of us. Ferriss, 39, is the picture of vitality, a walking, talking, admirably cut advertisement for the outer limits of human potential. The wildly successful author, podcaster, blogger, tango master and angel investor offers me a firm handshake and a ready smile. Having just come from a photo shoot, he’s lugging a giant gym bag and a backpack, which he admits make him feel a little like Bruce Banner — better known as the Incredible Hulk, one of his preschool idols.

Ferriss, who lives in San Francisco, is in Los Angeles for the week to tape a new TV series, Fear(less) with Tim Ferriss, essentially a televised version of his popular podcast. It will premiere on DirecTV sometime in 2017. This will be Ferriss’ second run at television. His first, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, featured the host striving to master a new field every week (parkour, tactical shooting, rally car driving, speaking Tagalog, drumming, etc.). Turner Broadcasting shot 13 episodes only to shelve the series before it aired following a back-office shakeup. Ferriss eventually got the digital rights and put the show on iTunes, where it topped the nonfiction series charts for weeks.

Meanwhile, he has also begun the laborious process of promoting a book, Tools of Titans, a 704-page bid to extend the streak of best-sellers that began with The 4-Hour Workweek, the 2007 publishing supernova that collected 26 rejections before finally finding its way to bookshelves. He followed it up with The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. This new book is “a toolkit for changing your life.” It’s a compendium of actionable wisdom — “field-tested beliefs and habits” — most of them gleaned from more than 200 interviews he conducted for the podcast, featuring everyone from Gen. Stanley McChrystal to actor-musician Jamie Foxx.

The book is, frankly, a firehose of advice. So much advice that no one person could possibly find it all manageable, let alone useful. But Ferriss doesn’t expect it to be used as a bible, with every word followed. That’s not the way self-improvement works, he says. And he should know: He has achieved guru status not by adopting every idea that comes his way but by leading a life of trial and error, and being willing to try new things and embrace only what suits his particular circumstances and ambitions. The critical element isn’t the improvement — it’s the openness to improvement, and the self-awareness to know what’s working.

“My goal is for each reader to like 50 percent, love 25 percent, and never forget 10 percent,” he writes. As for the rest of the massive volume? Maybe use it as a kettlebell. Seriously. This is a big book.

Ferriss grew up in East Hampton, N.Y., the fabulously wealthy oceanside enclave on the southern fork of Long Island, famous for its graceful shingled cottages nestled behind towering hedgerows and its Veuve-soaked summertime social scene. That wasn’t the Ferrisses’ world; they were “townies.” Tim’s father was a real estate agent; his mother, a physical therapist. Nonetheless, Ferriss recalls, “I was a very happy kid. I didn’t get new bikes very often. We ate a lot of chicken legs for dinner. But I never felt in want of anything. I wasn’t cognizant until much later of the discrepancy between what we had and what other people had.”

Besides, there were more pressing concerns. “I was a runt,” he says, “really small. I had horrible allergies, sinusitis. I got my ass kicked constantly. When kids went out to recess, that was not a safe zone for me.” He recalled one incident that occurred on the last day of fifth grade, when a pair of bullies decided to wish him well by slapping him on his sunburned back as hard as they could, taunting, “Have a good summer, Ferriss!”

“I held it together as best as I could,” he recalls, “and then as soon as they were gone, I just burst into tears.” He still remembers his teacher, Mrs. Talmage, who witnessed the whole thing, telling him, “Don’t you worry, Timmy; you’ll show them. You’ll show them, Timmy!” (Allene Talmage passed away in November, at age 93, but her daughter Shirley remembered the retired teacher poring over Ferriss’ books with pride, even as she began showing signs of dementia.)

Within a few months, Mrs. Talmage’s prediction for Ferriss came true. While spending the summer at sleepaway camp, the longtime Incredible Hulk fan had a button-popping growth spurt of his own. “I grew five inches and gained 60 pounds of muscle,” he says. “I came back and I was just enormous, but they could not compute that I was no longer the runt. “They were like, ‘This is the guy we always beat up.’ No, this is the guy that throws you over a desk and smashes your head into the floor.” Ferriss sips his iced tea, clearly relishing the memory. “It was very Revenge of the Nerds meets Fight Club. I’d like to say I regret it. That’s horseshit. It was glorious.

“It’s going to sound bad,” he adds, “but I’m glad I went through that, getting my ass kicked and learning to navigate danger and power dynamics.”

It was around that time that Ferriss took up wrestling, and as much as anything, the sport seems to have shaped the approach to life and work for which he would later become famous. Perhaps the purest and most ancient sport there is, amateur wrestling calls for an almost elemental combination of strength and strategy, courage and cunning, along with deep reserves of grit.

“I was never the most technical wrestler,” he admits. “But my coaches definitely instilled in me the belief that if you can push yourself and practice smarter than the other guy, you can beat him. ‘The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.’ I learned to associate discomfort with getting better. And that transcended wrestling and applied to a lot of other things in life.”

Meanwhile, Ferriss took a series of service industry jobs that put the Metallica fan in direct contact with the town’s moneyed elite. He worked cleanup at an ice cream parlor, and later bused tables at an iconic seafood shack, the Lobster Roll (featured in the series The Affair), and at the stately Maidstone Arms hotel, where his uniform consisted of a clip-on bow tie and a pink shirt, which he had to pay for. “It was probably the only collared shirt I owned,” he says.

Rubbing shoulders with East End aristocracy afforded him certain benefits, like the times he served Billy Joel a cup of coffee and earned a $20 tip. But not every customer was so beneficent. “There were people who would verbally berate you and treat you like you were at the bottom of the caste system,” he says. “Think of Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers, with the sweater tied around the shoulders and the pastels, and multiply that by a million—that’s what you’re dealing with. So, yeah, I definitely grew up with a lot of venom and distaste for city people.”

There was very little fraternizing with the rich kids. But once in a while, the summer heat, bare skin, and adolescent hormones might combine to inspire a brief “Romeo and Juliet–type romance,” he says. “That was like a snow leopard—if you could manage to get a kiss from an attractive girl who was forbidden, that was really a prize.” (Ferriss is currently dating an elite athlete, though he prefers not to identify her.)

Meanwhile, he is quick to point out the irony: These days, having graduated from Princeton and become a best-selling author, an unofficial lifestyle guru to tech billionaires, and a wealthy investor in his own right, Ferris now has more in common with those one-percenters he once despised than the salt-of-the-earth types he grew up with. (“When I go back,” he says, “I don’t know which world I belong to.”) He recently returned to the old Maidstone Arms—in fact, Tools of Titans was partly written there—and he was careful to leave an extremely generous tip.

Ferriss thinks growing up in the Hamptons, with his face pressed against the glass, may have led him to overvalue money for a time, fueling his intense drive for success. Now that he’s a millionaire many times over, he’s noticed that wealth rarely correlates with happiness. “Of course, that’s easy for me to say, because I’ve had a lucky streak for a number of years,” he admits. “But I know people who have hundreds of millions of dollars who are completely fucking miserable. All they do is bitch and moan about how someone who is maybe like a frenemy now has a bigger jet than they do. It really eats away at them. And I’m like, Wow; what a gnarly conundrum to be in.”

Eventually, this intensity and focus brought him to Princeton University, where he began working on a degree in neuroscience, a field he remains obsessed with despite switching majors to East Asian studies. During his senior year, in 1999, things started to go south. His thesis wasn’t coming together. He failed to get a second interview at McKinsey & Company, the management consulting powerhouse. A longtime girlfriend broke up with him. Reeling, Ferriss decided to take a year off, but he soon found that being disconnected from school made things worse. As his feelings of anxiety and depression grew, he began to seriously contemplate suicide—a period in his life he spoke about publicly for the first time in a 2015 Reddit Ask Me Anything. “It was really just a matter of luck that I didn’t wind up erasing myself,” he says now. In typical style, he approached the idea with voluminous research, carefully considering the various methods and weighing the pros and cons of each. One of the many books on suicide he requested from the Princeton library was unavailable, so he placed a hold on it, forgetting that he had requested that mail be sent to his parents’ address during his leave. When the library sent a notice informing him of the book’s availability, his mother opened it and called him in a panic.

“Hearing my mom’s voice waver and kind of break snapped me out of my self-absorbed delusion,” he says. “I still battle my demons and have ups and downs. But I’ve become better at managing them. I think, This is just the changing of the seasons. You’ve been richly rewarded for your up periods when you have these floods of ideas and endurance and you can get five weeks’ worth of stuff done in five days. This is the tax you pay.”

He also found a lifeline in extreme physical activity: He and a friend from his wrestling days resolved to win a Chinese kickboxing national competition. He began training every day. “I went to a very rough boxing gym in Trenton where I was the only person not on work release,” he says. “I got my head pounded for a bit and eventually got accepted.” He also made a careful study of the sport’s rulebook, applying the analytical mindset that had served him so well in other areas. For example, fights took place on an elevated mat, and a participant who was pushed or knocked off more than three times automatically forfeited the match. Ferriss built his strategy around this rule, honing a unique ability to shove his opponent off the platform by practicing push kicks instead of the more common roundhouse kicks. He also made use of his wrestler’s skill at cutting weight—using radical weight-loss techniques to drop as much as 20 pounds before a weigh-in and gaining it, plus almost 10 more pounds, back by the time of the fight. “I thought, If I can focus on my strengths and cover my weaknesses enough to not get knocked out, maybe I could actually do something,” he says.

He was right: He won the national title. And perhaps more important, he regained his confidence and learned how to use a physical goal to keep the rest of his life on track. “It helps structure my days and weeks,” he explains. “The frequency of training acts as a scaffolding around which I can hang everything else. And it gave me a feeling of agency where I could control something.”

Participating in combat sports carried an additional benefit that only became clear in time. “It helped condition me to tolerate high stakes,” he says. “Kickboxing is a sport in which physical injury is an inevitable consequence of participating. The entire purpose is to punch other people in the head. “You learn to manage fear,” he says. “And that doesn’t mean getting rid of it. It means you are learning to take action despite fear, and that is a very useful inoculation for everything you do later.”

After graduating, Ferriss moved to Silicon Valley and wound up in a dead-end sales job with a data storage company. He resolved to start a business of his own. “First, I asked myself: What do I know really well?” he recalls. He realized that he was already something of an expert in the supplements industry, having put his neuroscience knowledge to use in college, making home-brew smart drugs in his dorm bathroom. He found, for instance, that after a few hits of a diuretic nasal spray typically prescribed for adolescent bedwetting, he could cram for his Chinese-character quizzes “and flip the pages like Rain Man.”

He asked himself another question: Where am I absurdly price-insensitive? Looking at his credit card statements, the answer was obvious. “At the time, I was spending probably $500 a month on sports supplements, and back then I made probably $40,000 pretax in the Bay Area.”

Then, a final question: What do I think I can market effectively?

Ferriss had been a student of marketing since he was a kid. He often stayed up well past bedtime, immersed in late-night infomercials. “I was curious to find out how the mind works and how we navigate our decisions,” he says. He’d study the scripts, taking notes. On occasion, he’d place an order just to see what arrived, then return it for a refund. He even kept a binder filled with ads that had worked on him. He combined all this insight into a supplements company, BrainQuicken, which launched in 2000. Sales were sluggish, but he noticed users raving about the physical results they derived from the product—even though it was designed to enhance their minds. “I was hearing from high-level NCAA athletes: ‘I’m jumping higher!’ ‘My time off the blocks is faster!’” The problem wasn’t the product, he realized, but the positioning. “I thought people wanted to be smarter,” he says, “and they do. They just won’t spend $50 on it.” He kept the formula the same but changed the name to BodyQuick and targeted athletes. Soon he had a hit.

Ferriss’ efforts to run the company without letting it consume his life are at the heart of The 4-Hour Workweek. The book’s breakaway success (there are two million in print in the U.S. alone) eventually led him to cash out and plunge into investing. His large fan base in the tech world meant he had tons of relationships, which gave him a huge leg up. He learned to focus on consumer-oriented companies, where his promotional mojo could be put to good effect. “I say yes only to deals where I can materially affect the outcome,” he says. And he stuck mostly to angel investing, because he preferred long-term commitment over the unending stress of the stock market.

The results have been impressive. His portfolio has included such juggernauts as Facebook, Uber, Alibaba, Wealthfront, and Duolingo. “I’ve had multiple investments at $25,000 that have become worth more than a million dollars,” he reports, reaching for a forkful of spinach.

With many of his startups, Ferriss’ role goes well beyond writing a check and later cashing a bigger one. He can now offer the sum of his parts—the personal knowledge, tested and retested through his own life, of how to learn from adversity and find untapped strength.

After lunch, Ferriss drops by the nearby office of one of his portfolio companies, Tradesy, a peer-to-peer digital consignment shop for women’s fashion, where users buy and sell their stylish castoffs.

Tracy DiNunzio, the company’s thirtysomething founder and CEO, who launched the business in 2014, had no shortage of eager investors when she went out to do her Series B fund-raising round. She passed on several extremely well-regarded Silicon Valley figures in favor of Ferriss. “He was our most value-added investor,” she tells me, sitting in a small conference room just off the spacious main workspace. “I knew he had already built a great brand for himself and that he had an uncanny knack for communications, but he delivered far more than he promised. We started with a brainstorming warmup conversation, and he had more ideas than we’d heard in a year. He also knew a lot more about tech investing than I expected. I don’t know how he learned it so quickly.”

“Buy lots of booze for people who like to talk,” Ferriss says with a smile.

Like just about everyone who is lucky enough to get an audience with Ferriss, DiNunzio starts with a few health concerns. Running a startup takes a toll. The company she started in her kitchen now employs 110 people. And DiNunzio recently embarked on a challenging shift in emphasis: Rather than exclusively chasing growth, the company’s north star for years, she is now aiming for profitable growth. “The operating gymnastics have become more intense,” she says. “The days are longer.”

“You signed up for the majors,” Ferriss sympathizes.

“And we’re in a late quarter!” DiNunzio replies. “How do I get my energy up so I can keep doing these 16-hour days, six days a week?”

Ferriss offers a flood of fixes: Go on a ketogenic diet, or try synthetic ketones. Meditate more. Get comprehensive blood work.

“I don’t want to know what’s in there,” DiNunzio jokes. “It’s all coffee.”

“You may discover a micronutrient deficiency,” Ferriss cautions, mentioning a friend who discovered he was low on selenium. He started eating Brazil nuts, and soon he felt like he was on cocaine. “You have ‘key man risk,’” he points out. “Of all the machines, you’re the one that can’t break.”

Ferriss asks about personnel. “You hired for growth. Has it been hard to adapt all the team members to the new focus?”

It has. “We’ve said goodbye to a lot of people who were instrumental in getting us here,” DiNunzio says. That has been the biggest challenge, especially given the personal connection he feels for her team. “It’s not the pace so much but the tax of shepherding 100-plus people through this change.”

Then the conversation turns to another new challenge. Tradesy is seeing increasing competition from other websites that are essentially copying its central concept. Some of DiNunzio’s core marketing messages are being lifted verbatim by rivals. “Nothing we’ve said in the past is still unique to us,” she says. They need a new approach.”

“Imitation,” Ferriss says with a grin. “The sincerest form of driving your cost per acquisition through the roof.” He asks if the company’s slogans—for instance, “Cash in your closet”—are legally defensible. No, DiNunzio replies. They didn’t get all of them trademarked.

Ferriss suggests a different focus. “Ask yourself: What’s quantifiable that other people can’t duplicate? Number of years in business, number of customers, units shipped? Come up with something that’s empirically difficult for someone else to mimic.” Another thought: customer testimonials. “It’s something I ask myself and a lot of startups,” he says. “How do you utilize your customers? How can you get them to do the marketing for you?”

All the ideas make good sense to DiNunzio. Then, a bolt of lightning. DiNunzio mentions that Tradesy’s big advantage is its dominance in what’s called organic search. Due to a lot of back-end effort early on, postings on the site rank high in Google’s search algorithm. In fact, 70 percent of the site’s traffic comes in through that route, so Tradesy has been able to pull back on pricey Facebook ads—which is great because such users who arrive via search come in at no cost and often wind up making a purchase. Meanwhile, the other primary method for attracting e-commerce customers, through Facebook ads, usually captures people who may be valuable over time but often don’t buy anything right away.

This gives Ferriss an idea. “How could you take away this crutch that your competitors are using—given that they are far more dependent on that paid media?” he asks. He suggests a plan that many businesses would consider unthinkable: Take Tradesy’s well-developed playbook for paid acquisition and share it with the world. Just hand some of the company’s most hard-won trade secrets, free of charge, to the many deep-pocketed retailers, the Nordstroms of the world, who are relatively new to the social marketing game. Given Tradesy’s advantage in organic search, Ferriss explains, “this sacrifice is actually going to hurt your competitors more than it’s going to hurt you.” That’s because the resulting increase in competition for Facebook ads would force Tradesy’s rival consignment websites to pay more to find their customers.

“So maybe guest-author a post in an industry journal?” he suggests.

DiNunzio has a better idea. “I just got invited to speak at a major e-commerce conference,” she says, eyes twinkling. She turns to me. “I mean, what’s up with him, right?” she asks incredulously of Ferriss. “This is a more in-depth conversation about digital paid-marketing strategy than I can usually have with other e-commerce CEOs who do this for a living. And then layer on top of it the fucking Jedi strategy of making retailers crush the margins of our competitors.”

Ferriss smiles.

“Now you get why he’s so good,” she says.

Ferriss wasn’t planning on writing another book, not yet anyway. Tools of Titans began as a private project, an attempt, after creating hundreds of hours’ worth of podcasts, to simply catalog the wisdom his guests had imparted and mine it for takeaways he might apply to his own life. At the time, he was living in Paris, where he’d gone to take a class in fiction writing—a plan that soon found its way to the back burner when he realized what gold he was turning up in those mp3s.

“When I started the book, I thought it would be a cakewalk,” he admits. It wasn’t. He began, as he always does, by studying the market—purchasing “six to 12” successful books in the genre he is entering. “As it turns out,” he says bluntly, “most books of interviews are fucking terrible. They’re not actionable.” Determined to publish something authentically results-driven, he read through his transcripts, filled in gaps by conducting additional interviews, and wrote a number of original chapters himself. (Despite his faith in outsourcing, Ferriss shuns ghostwriters because they’re not able to capture his voice.)

Navigating some 700 pages of actionable advice poses several challenges for the reader, foremost among them: How do we decide whose advice to take? For instance, the chapter featuring Seth Rogen and his producing partner, Evan Goldberg, includes the oft-repeated writers’ workshop admonition to “write what you know,” a platitude Freakonomics author Steven J. Dubner categorically denounces some 50 pages later. Of course, Rogen and Goldberg make Hollywood blockbusters, while Dubner comes out of journalism. And that’s partly the point: Meaningful nitty-gritty advice tends to be situational. What works wonders for one person might be disastrous for another.

Ferriss urges readers to subject ideas to rigorous testing. “It’s only good advice if it lends itself to a good experiment,” he says. “And a good experiment is measurable and replicable.” He offers an example. We are commonly told to “Do some exercise in the morning.” To Ferriss, this is bad advice—even if it’s a good idea. “It’s super-nebulous,” he explains, and therefore someone attempting to follow this prescription will almost definitely fail. “It’s almost like taking a step in a worse direction.”

But according to Ferriss, this type of vague advice is what fills most business-oriented books. “It’s like, ‘active integrity…’” he says. “What does that mean? It’s like a cheesy motivational poster. Ninety percent of the business-book content out there consists of meaningless platitudes like that. But once you define ‘good advice’ as something you can test, it takes care of itself.” And he adds, readers who achieve genuine results become the best evangelists. “If I win over 1,000 true fans, I don’t need a marketing budget,” he says—an idea popularized by Wired cofounding editor Kevin Kelly, and, naturally, featured in Tools of Titans.

At this point, clearly, he’s got many more than 1,000 devotees. For instance, his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has been downloaded more than 100 million times. In part, that’s because Ferriss is a good host. But there’s more to it than that. As with everything else, Ferriss’ approach to the genre has been extraordinarily methodical, data-driven, and results-oriented. He decided to start with just six episodes, the amount, he reasoned, that would “maximize lessons learned: getting better at conducting interviews, getting rid of verbal tics, learning to secure guests”—even if he decided to bail. “That is a constant question in my mind for almost every single decision I make,” he says. “Even if this fails, what other benefits can I derive from it?”

The podcasting industry, Ferriss goes on, “is rife with assumptions.” For instance, “where in the Ten Commandments is it written that you have to charge $10 to $12 CPM?” (the price for 1,000 impressions). Instead, he worked backward, asking, What financial proposition would make this exciting for me? He settled on an astronomical $60 CPM and then set about creating a product that would be worth the money. “That means that when a sponsor signs with me, I want to ensure they win.” He does it by enlisting a team of people to make sure a sponsor’s e-commerce game is optimized to convert traffic into paying customers. Meanwhile, although many episodes of his show generate more than a million downloads, he sets prices around a guarantee of just 450,000. “It’s massive underselling,” he says. “Why? Because I want my sponsors to fucking love me.” Although he puts minimal effort into sales and typically insists on payment up front, the show’s ad space is booked up several quarters in advance.

“If I had followed the playbook that other successful podcasters are using, I would have quit,” he says. “It would not have been worth my time. It would be stressful. And I would not have the space to focus on the creative aspects, which are what I enjoy.”

By this point, the 4-hour man is on track to give me a 9-hour interview. In fact, he seems so relaxed that I’m convinced (haters to the contrary) he really has organized his life to give himself all the free time he can handle. But we’re on a roll. “I’m sure any one of these places would be more than happy to sell us some alcohol,” he says cheerfully as we stroll through downtown Santa Monica.

Is Tim Ferriss perfect? He’s certainly working on it. But after close examination, I can confirm that he is, in fact, still a human A few years ago, for instance, he came down with Lyme disease and spent nine months all but incapacitated. (The ketogenic diet is what helped him get over the illness.)

And despite years of focused self-improvement, he still has a few vices. Ginger cookies are one. Wine is another, which becomes apparent as we settle into a cavernous gastropub and Ferriss pores over the list. “If I have a waiter whom I ask about an expensive glass of wine—meaning, like, $5 more than a cheap one—and he’s like, ‘Nah, go with that bottle,’ like, you just got an extra tip,” Ferriss says. “Have an opinion. Do not just tell me everything’s good.”

He orders a Malbec.

“It’s important to know where you have the ability to moderate and where you don’t,” Ferriss says. “In the case of alcohol, I don’t do moderation very well. If I have one glass, I’m like, ‘I’m not properly buzzed. I might as well have two or three.’” That’s why two to four times a year, he turns teetotaler for a month.

But his biggest vice, Ferriss says, once again channeling Bruce Banner, is anger. “I have worked very hard on it,” he says. He’s used journaling and meditation to help him learn to notice his thoughts and moods as they’re occurring. “It lets you step outside the washing machine,” he explains, “so you can watch things spin, rather than tumbling around inside of it.” But the most effective therapy, he says, has been “very deliberate, supervised use of psychedelics, specifically psilocybin and ayahuasca.” He has what he calls a “dosing schedule”: very low microdoses of ibogaine hydrochloride and moderate doses of psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, every two months, and a “much deeper exploration of the other side” with ayahuasca approximately twice a year. “I have friends and relatives who would say this is the most important work I have done on myself. I feel like I have debugged a lot of my code.” That said, he adds, using psychedelics like ayahuasca “can be a really harrowing experience. It’s like a complete cleaning of your ego. I’ve felt like I’ve been torn apart and dying an infinite number of times for hours. It’s not a great place to sit, let me tell you.”

I ask if he is microdosing now. “No, because I ran out, and the legal risks are extremely high,” he says. “So boys and girls, talk to your lawyer and your doctor before doing anything I say.” The former neuroscience major has also helped to fund scientific research—more than $100,000 this year he says—on the use of such drugs for the treatment of end-of-life anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

Soon our waiter arrives to take our food order, and Ferriss puts him to the test. “If you had to name your first and second choice,” Ferriss asks him, “among the hangar steak, the burger—”

“The burger, definitely,” the waiter puts in quickly.

“Good man!” Ferriss exclaims, ordering the burger, no bun, with avocado and bacon piled on top, brussels sprouts instead of fries, and oysters to start.

Back on the subject of his imperfection, he readily admits to more than a touch of OCD-like behavior. “I’ll have books or stacks of things on a desk, and if the spaces between them are not parallel, it drives me crazy,” he says. “I’m very obsessed with symmetry and clean lines. But frankly, I don’t know anyone who’s really good at what they do who doesn’t have a bit of that. You have to give a shit to a level that is a bit pathological.”

Given his intensity, I can’t help wondering if he might have one more vice: an addiction to continuous self-improvement. Will you ever experiment with the idea of just chilling out? I ask him. Maybe write a book about, say, kicking back on the sofa, eating ginger cookies, and becoming a slob? “Some experiments are not very interesting to me,” he replies with a laugh. “It’s a matter of incentives. Why would you do it?” That said, he has taken months off and totally unplugged. “I went to Bali—no phone, no calendar,” he says. Of course, he spent most of his time studying Bahasa, “the standardized Indonesian language.”

I press him. Isn’t it possible, I ask, to basically optimize yourself so compulsively you forget to actually live your life? “Sure, and I’ve been there,” he says. “Because the study and pursuit of achievement are necessarily very future-tense. If you can’t be happy with what you have in the present, then you can never be happy. A sole focus on productivity, calibrated and measured based on some future outcome? Oh, you’re fucked, pal. You’re going to psychological hell in a handbasket if you don’t have some kind of counterbalancing practice.”

That helps explain why despite his success as an investor, Ferriss hasn’t made an investment in a startup in a year and a half. The research required too much mental energy. “Lots of tech investors participate in popular deals out of FOMO or social obligation,” he says. “I manage my own money, so if I take a break for a few years, who gives a shit?”

Instead, he is applying his freed-up cognitive capacity to new challenges: He’s tooling around with a screenplay based on The 4-Hour Workweek, a project he thinks of as “Dodgeball meets Fight Club.” Meanwhile, in order to learn the movie business, he’s planning on directing a series of short films—a project he admits may be a “take my money and set it on fire in the middle of the street” sort of venture.

So why do it? “Because I want to, and I think it will be fun.”

The last glass of Malbec is almost gone. Ferriss leans back from the table. “Mostly, I just really want to insert more absurdity into my life,” he says. “I think this is a very therapeutic and joy-inducing thing—to have, along with the productivity, a very large dose of absurdity. It’s a really good and healthy thing for me to do.”

 
 

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3 Lists an Entrepreneur Should Make…

I received a link to this article in my email and although there are some typos (which drives me batty); the information is great. This article plants the seed for entrepreneurs on a few lists that help keep you on task, moving toward bigger success. Naturally, I am thrilled to see the author mention how you can outsource tasks to a Virtual Assistant, such as The Write Hand, LLC. Our motto is, “Helping You Create More Time,” and don’t we all wish we had more time… I hope you find this article of interest!

The 3 Lists Every Entrepreneur Must Make – By Paula Rizzo / Entrepreneur Online Magazine

EntrepreneurStarting a company is like a dream come true: no one telling you when to go into the office, you can pick and choose meetings and there’s unlimited vacation. Sigh — the life of an entrepreneur. So flexible, so fabulous. If only it was that easy.

Those perks were likely on the “perk” side of the pro and con list you made before going into business for yourself. But the real truth is that now you’re busier than ever. You’re likely wearing the hat of HR, IT, marketing and business development teams, just to name a few.

Structure and organization are key to success as an entrepreneur. I know because without my lists I could never get anything done at home, work or play.

For those entrepreneurs needing a little help in the organization department, here are three lists you should be making:

1. To-do list
You have to have one. I structure mine with daily tasks but you may find that a weekly list works better. Another option is to organize your to-do list by project or client.

It’s easiest to plan ahead and make sure not to include too much on the list at once. Try to really be aware of what is feasible given the time frame and resources you have available. I make my to-do lists for the next day before I leave the office at night. I run through everything that is coming up and what has to be handled the next day. I include any appointments and meetings on the list as well. Then when I come in the following day, I just refer to it as my roadmap and hit the ground running.

2. Outsource list
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I get it, control is a difficult thing to give up — especially when we’re talking about your business. You’ll do whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful. So why not give the to-do list to someone else?

Outsourcing will provide you the freedom to focus on the tasks you’re really good at — and hopefully increase your chances of making more money. So, make a list of all the mundane tasks that are necessary but that you don’t need to physically do yourself. Responsibilities like making appointments, booking travel, uploading your blog posts and maintaining your social-media platforms can easily be outsourced. Investing in the help of interns or virtual assistants will be worth the trouble, as the time you will save is staggering. Make sure to also make a list of all the projects you want to work on once you have some extra help to get the busy work off your plate.

3. To-become list
I’m a big fan of Oprah’s mantra: “You become what you believe.” Once you set an intention to do something it becomes so much easier to attain it. And taking it one step further and writing it down can really seal the deal. In fact, Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor at the Dominican University of California found that writing down goals will make you 33 percent more likely to achieve them.

This list can include anything that you want for your business and your life — daydreaming is definitely in order for this list. Think big. Even if you can’t figure out how exactly you’d achieve that goal, write it down anyway. Making a to-become list will get you motivated, hold you accountable and remind you of what’s important to you and your business. Keep this list somewhere safe and set a reminder in your phone every few months to check it out and see what you’ve become.

 
 

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3 Mistakes to Avoid when working with a Virtual Assistant

3 Mistakes to Avoid when working with a Virtual Assistant

I have no desire to recreate the wheel if it rolls along just fine. As a Virtual Assistant, I am very much in tune with my strengths and the strength of others. So when I found this article written by Dorie Clark, I felt it was right on and worth sharing. Using a VA can certainly help free up some your time on tasks that aren’t your specialty but you still have to make sure the job is getting done to your desired vision. And as Dorie mentions, I too have subscribed to the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, although in all honesty, I’m still trying to perfect that vision – haha. Frankly, I just like what I do and enjoy being the go-to chick that makes success for my clients.

Dorie Clark – Contributor to Entrepreneur Online Magazine – September 29, 2014

Like many entrepreneurs, I was introduced to the concept of working with a virtual assistant, or VA, by Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. He extolled the benefits of outsourcing repetitive work (or tasks you aren’t good at or don’t enjoy) so you can focus on your most valuable tasks. Lured by the idea of following the 80/20 rule (i.e., spending my time on the 20 percent of activities that generate 80 percent of my returns), for the past six years, I’ve worked off and on with VAs locally and around the world. They’ve handled a variety of tasks for me, including transcription, sharing articles on social media, uploading and formatting blog posts, audio and video editing, writing interview questions, and more.

If you’re considering hiring one — or would like to improve your working relationship with the ones you’re currently contracting with — here are three mistakes to avoid.

1. Failing to scope out your tasks. Well before you hire a VA, it’s useful to make a list of tasks that you’d like them to perform for you. In my case, it includes things like booking travel arrangements, uploading blog posts and sharing articles on social media. Creating an accurate task list can help you select a VA with the right experience and aptitude. Once you hire your VA — either through personal networking, placing an ad or perhaps by using a service such as Zirtual — you’ll also want to put the same level of advance thought into describing each individual task you’d like accomplished. This is especially critical if you’re dealing with an overseas VA whose cultural reference points may be different than yours; they may not understand that booking a Boston to Atlanta flight with a layover in Los Angeles is a very, very bad idea. You can save yourself a great deal of trouble later by being very precise in your instructions and trying to anticipate questions your VA might have or ways things might go wrong.

2. Not making time to review their work. It’s tempting to think that once you hire a VA, you can delegate the task and then forget it. But, at least at first, that’s definitely not how it works. You need to build time into your calendar to review everything they do, so you can catch problems early and offer suggestions and feedback. Some VAs may be hesitant to alert you if they’ve hit a roadblock or don’t understand your instructions. So checking in frequently and monitoring their progress in the early days can ensure they’re not going down blind alleyways trying to follow instructions they’ve misconstrued. It’s easy to get busy and ignore your VA temporarily; they’re not demanding your time the way a client would. But if you want them to be effective, plan at least 30 minutes per day to review their work early on. That gives them timely and actionable feedback, and will save you money because they’re less likely to have to go back and redo tons of work.

3. Not creating a system. One of the best things I did with my most recent VA was developing an “assistant’s manual” prior to her starting the job. I wrote down step-by-step procedures for the most common tasks I’d be asking her to do and put all the relevant information, such as website passwords or frequent flier numbers, into one easy-to-search document. (Depending on the task, you could also consider making online videos to demonstrate procedures to your VA.) That ensured she wasn’t constantly barraging me with basic questions and she could quickly become self-reliant. When she took on a new task, I also instructed her to write up the procedure and include it in the manual, so that it could become an ongoing reference tool for the future. The goal is to enable an easy transition and avoid having to reinvent the wheel when there’s been a long gap in between performing a particular task (such as uploading a blog post to a particular website with its own layout quirks).

Working with a VA can exponentially increase your productivity – but that’s only if you fully leverage their time and talents. You’ll never harness the real benefit if you’re constantly having to clean up mistakes and do things over again. The only way to avoid that is by planning in advance and setting up the systems that will enable them to succeed.

Full credit and article here

 

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