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It’s an interesting exercise to consider your own Thanksgiving history.  How have you spent the holiday with family and friends, past and present?  What do you enjoy most about it?  I remember one friend who loved the holiday because she got time off to get ahead as she could keep on working while everyone else took the time off to celebrate.  Personally I tend to get a bit wound up about the details of where we are going and who we are going to be with and can end up feeling a bit burdened by a sense of obligation.  But then something always brings me to my senses.  What a great holiday Thanksgiving is!

I love getting outside into the weather on Thanksgiving.  I remember when I was pregnant and joyously walking along with my husband on the path by Crissy Field one sunny Thanksgiving morning.  Another year that meant pitching a tent in the rain but we still had a great time grilling our turkey hotdogs on Thanksgiving day.  Mostly it means creating a new family tradition rather than knocking ourselves out trying to live up to that Norman Rockwellian ideal of a large family gathered together around one table, sharing a feast.

So once again this year, I am avoiding the airport and travel and connecting with the family at large virtually!  You will find us creating a new tradition with a Thanksgiving picnic at a park with our neighbors and their children.  The kids will be free to run around outside and shout their hearts out.  And I’m sure there will be plenty of delicious food, more than we need so we may enjoy the leftovers all weekend.   If I’m really lucky, maybe there will be a game or two of Scrabble or even Spite, a card game that I remember playing for hours with my family when I was younger.  That’s what I always loved about being a kid in a family, the hours and hours of just playing games together.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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How do you build trust in a working relationship with another professional that you do not meet in person?  The simple answer is that trust is like love: you have to give it to get it.  And that can be a little tricky over the Internet, can’t it?

1) Thanks to Facebook and the fun of re-connecting with friends online, I got over my own reluctance to share personal and public information.  Fortunately, I learned the lesson way back in 8th grade that you should never put anything in writing while passing notes in class that you don’t want everyone to read.  Same rules apply on the Internet.  But you probably already know that from using email in a professional capacity.   So comfort in sharing personal and public information online would be a good first step to building trust into an online working relationship.

2) Social media applications like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter seem to replicate the natural way people get to know one another offline by using word-of-mouth and referrals.  So I can meet friends of friends, the people I already know and trust, and get to know their friends too.  I can follow my own interests and curiosity to discover the people I find interesting, appealing, and trustworthy.  In doing so, I’ve noticed trust-turnoffs such as spamminess, too much direct sales effort, and sometimes, just too much whether it be personal information or number of postings.  It’s a lot like going to a party and meeting other people who are temperamentally similar.  I tend to meet one or two people that aren’t about being the center of attention and are content with longer conversations with fewer people.  You might call that reserved.  Because relationships may develop more slowly this way, I find that I trust people the longer I have known them (and the amount of time that passes in which they have done nothing untrustworthy).

3) “Trust, but verify” is good advice to follow.  In other words, I can assume that the people I meet to do business with online are trustworthy.  But I might check out their online presence, recommendations, profiles, etc. to see if it matches their representation of their services.  Yelp and online networking resources are a great way to verify someone in terms of trustworthiness.  Calling and checking references works too.  Phone consultations are a great opportunity for the client and the service provider both to verify that the person lives up to their online presence.

4) And I recommend starting out slowly, trusting someone enough to buy a small package of services, as a trial before committing to a longer term working relationship.  Many virtual assistants have developed protective policies proactively, such as payment in advance or a retainer for a fixed amount of hours.  I completely understand the need for these boundaries and clear policies in writing for both parties before engaging in the working relationship.  But as a consumer, I want to see an easy and clear exit door for me, just in case things don’t work out.  The best virtual assistants write their working agreements with the client in mind too so that both the client and the service provider feel that the terms have been clearly communicated for the benefit of both parties.

6) And finally, trust is a work in progress.  Both parties learn as they go how to best communicate, satisfy deadlines, and work requirements.  Underpromise and overdeliver is the advice you’ll hear over and over.  Enough said.  Trust in a working relationship is built on communication and doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.  But do give it time.  Just as it takes awhile to really get to know someone, it will take 3-6 months of working together to build the foundation of a trusting relationship.

What have you found essential for building trust in your online professional relationships?

Even doing just one small thing at a time does make a difference.

Yes, we are all too busy.  I am so busy with clients that I don’t have time for marketing. So busy building my business that I don’t have time for myself, much less taking on a hobby.  And yet, I found the Klutz Knitting kit impossible to resist!    I found those little bits of time that would have been lost otherwise and took them for myself and slowly but surely, stitch by stitch, they added up.

Personally, I find it gratifying to see how all the little things I do add up whether it’s knitting or marketing my business.  In fact, as I knit, my mind is at work, thinking about my business and the next steps I need to take.  So often I find myself rushing ahead on a list of tasks that it’s rewarding to slow down a bit and think things through, re-prioritize as needed, and ultimately save myself time.

Just for fun, can you imagine a Klutz start-your-own business kit?  Here’s what I came up with:

1.  First of all, it would be fun.  And why not?  Aren’t small business owners pursuing their passion?  Aren’t they turning what they like to do for fun into a business?  I hope so.  A great guide would capture that enthusiasm and adventurous spirit.  And there would be purple yarn included.

2.  And it would break a rather complicated, time-consuming learning process into simple steps.  Business planning involves tackling the complexity of the big picture, but breaks it down into the small steps that are do-able and puts them on a schedule that moves the business forward.  Marketing in particular challenges me with so many options to do it better or more.  But, thanks to a marketing action plan, I know that the next thing is something simple, like adding a sign-up form to my blog page.  Every little stitch counts.

3.  It would be put together by experts who have learned from their own mistakes.  It’s not going to prevent me from making any but it will offer  me some strategies for turning mine around.  If I drop a stitch, I can learn how to pick it up again.  And sometimes, the best thing to do is to unravel a few rows and start it over again.  If anything, taking the time to do things right is a great lesson for knitters and entrepreneurs.  If I keep on knitting and ignore a mistake, I’m going to end up with a lumpy sweater that I won’t want to wear.  If I rush to throw up a fancy website, I am going to end up with errors that undermine my professional image and does not appeal to the clients I am hoping to attract.  Instead, since I am doing it myself and know that I can make it great, I am going to have to proceed slowly to do so.

That’s just a start.  What else would be essential for a start-your-own business kit?