Call Us: +852 6380 1248

Bauhinia Blog

Outsourcing – Why All Solutions Are Not Bauhinia Solutions

Outsourcing, Not All Solutions are Bauhinia Solutions

I recently read an article about a virtual office-outsourcing nightmare. It was well worth the read, and it made me think.

I understand that although I have been working from a virtual office for all 15-plus years of my professional life, still, for much of the world – virtual often equates to fictional. At the same time – I am very much real. The entire Bauhinia Solutions team is very much real, but with new methods of working, we must adopt new expectations and methodologies, particularly when it comes to communication and data-sharing.

Hiring a virtual assistant can be a nightmare if you aren’t quite accustomed to how things will work and most certainly, if you hire a random off the internet, living in a far away land, from a culture with which you do not identify, and whose native language is not your own. Pitfalls (or challenges) such as cross-cultural communication breakdowns, different standards of excellence, as well as differences in working hours or public holidays should be expected. For some people, and for some tasks, this can be perfectly acceptable, but for most professionals who wish to be represented in a professional and expert manner, a far off assistant like one might find in India or the Philippines might not fit the bill, unless you are, of course in India or the Philippines.

Going local, but still virtual, can insure you are better grounded in your relationship with your VA on all fronts. I like this quote from the writer,

“At some point it dawned on me that I’d stumbled upon the fatal flaw inherent in any virtual-assistant relationship. To be truly useful, an assistant needs to understand everything about your life and work. An assistant is a confidant. But it’s impossible to develop a deep, trusting relationship with a guy you know only by email – a guy who communicates with you in canned professional-ese, who must be monitored by security cameras to make sure he doesn’t rob you.”

I can’t put it better myself. This is a relationship. It requires time to develop, and should be nurtured. While remote, and perhaps even more so because of it, there is an intimacy that grows when you find The One.

But the article also highlighted some flaws in task deployment that are worth mentioning.

Case 1:

“I gave him his first task. I needed a flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis. I gave him my dates. I wanted times and prices. …But after sending him my request, I heard nothing. After 40 minutes, I sent him a follow-up to make sure he’d received the task. About 40 minutes after that, he responded: “Yes I have received your email and I have started working on it.”

Huh. This task should have taken him about 10 minutes; why was he just getting started after a nearly an hour and a half? Around noon – about three hours (and $30) after I’d assigned the task – Mr F finally sent me an email to say he was done. Now I saw why he’d taken so long: Instead of looking for the best two or three flights that conformed to my calendar, he’d created a spreadsheet listing all the details of 10 flights.”

Can you spot the series of flaws here?

First, the task was insufficient in delegation detail for a new client-VA relationship. It would have been better to say, “Please find flight options for Point A to Point B, on XXX dates. This is a top-level inquiry for times and prices only. Please use no more than 30 minutes on this task.” While that may sound excessive, in a new relationship, your VA is trying desperately to impress you and deliver excellent work. Not communicating an expectation of detail and time usage is simply a misunderstanding that stems from two parties having different goals from the task.

Second, a virtual assistant, unless you have pre-agreed working hours or are hiring them full time, are also managing other clients. Sending through a request and waiting for immediate action is unrealistic. Mark tasks with realistic urgency, due dates and/or times, and gain a commitment of completion from your VA. Following the request above should have been, “The flight is in X weeks, so I would like to select a flight as soon as possible. Can you please come back to me with options no later than tomorrow at 3pm.”

Case 2:

“The weekend was coming up, and I didn’t need Mr F on Monday morning. I told him to be ready to work on Tuesday. But on Tuesday I heard nothing. Not on Wednesday either. The whole week passed.”

Unless you set the expectation (make an appointment) for your VA to contact you at a certain time, they are waiting for you to delegate tasks to them. Again, a VA will be working with a number of clients and is very rarely just sitting around chasing people for work. The best VAs are in high demand and are usually scheduling tasks days in advance. Remember, your VA is virtual and part-time. It is the client’s job to let the VA know when, what, and how. It all comes back to communication and expectations.

Finally, hiring a VA is not only an oddly intimate relationship, you need to know what you really want out of it so that you find the right partner. Do you want someone to run mundane or routine tasks from your work week? If so, you need to be willing to set up formal SOPs and guidelines so that you can insure consistency throughout the work, particularly when it comes to tasks such as diary management and invoicing. Keep in mind, you are often also on the hook for the cost/time of education and training on your systems. Alternatively, are you looking for an expert VA that can take your business to the next level – do the things you can’t or don’t want to? This is a completely different type of service and requires a VA with a totally different (and existing) skillset.

At Bauhinia Solutions, for example, we offer straight admin packages as well as marketing and strategy packages. We have team members that specialize in different types of work, so we work hard to match clients with the right VA, and actually, some clients enjoy a mix – getting a broad range of services through a Client Manager who then manages task breakdown within the team. Our most comprehensive support is kind of like having an administrative assistant, a marketing manager, and on-call IT all rolled up into one.

So, is hiring a VA right for you? Hopefully this article has enlightened you, answered some questions, and will help you avoid common pitfalls going forward. Good luck!

Virtual Assistant, Elizabeth Loennborn

Bauhinia Solutions Flower

If you require assistance with your business administration or marketing, schedule a call with Nicole to discuss your needs.

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

Advertisement Banner for Launch Promotion

Bauhinia Solutions Portfolio

Project: Create Advertisement Banner

As part of the launch of her newly created app, The Dream Register, our client ran a competition and promoted the opportunity to win One Direction tickets. The advertising campaign was through Facebook. This was the advertisement we created for her.

One Direction Advertisement

Bauhinia Solutions Flower

If you require assistance with your business administration or marketing, schedule a call with Nicole to discuss your needs.

Photo Credit: Damian Zaleski, Life of Pix

Part 3: Banner Advertising, The Basics

Banner Advertising Knowledge Centre

In previous posts we discussed, what is banner advertising? and does banner advertising work? In this post we provide you with the basic terminology if you wish to start exploring banner advertising opportunities available to you.

Common Terminology:

CPC – Cost Per Click – a pricing model that only charges the advertiser when the ad is actually clicked. Although the cost can be higher, the quality of the lead is usually better, so if you are on a budget, CPC is worth considering. This can also be beneficial if you want to engage in a branding exercise on a budget. Warning – for CPC to be effective – it has to be micro-managed.

CPM – don’t be fooled by the M – CPM is the Cost Per Thousand Impressions. CPM models are excellent for branding exercises and for big splashes because you can designate how many times your ad will be seen in a specific time frame. If you have an ad with a strong call to action, CPM can save you a bundle over a CPC campaign (discounts, prizes, giveaways, etc.). These are also more “set-it-and-forget-it” type campaigns.

Click (or click-through) – someone actually, physically clicks on your ad and is redirected to your designated landing page. Sorry – there is no way to guarantee the quality of the click – that is up to you and your ad.

Impression – any time a page loads that has your ad on it. Yes, it still counts if someone clicks away before the entire page loads and Yes, it still counts if you ad is all the way at the bottom of the page but the reader never scrolled down – the server sent the info – that is what is counted.

CTA – Call to Action – your banner will be more effective as a lead generating tool if it contains a reason for the reader to click. Surprisingly, it is still far more beneficial to literally put “Click Here”. Web-surfers are lemmings just awaiting instructions.

ROS – Run Of Site – your ad will appear on any/every available page of a site, and may be accompanied by size restrictions or category restrictions. For example, a straight ROS Leaderboard will be delivered to the top of every page of a site. A hypothetical Category ROS Boombox would be delivered to any page within the specified category, which also serves the banner size designated. It is always a good idea to clarify exactly what ROS means to the specific seller.

Rotating – very common, but a rotating space can make it difficult to find your ad once you have placed it. In a single space, there may be a number of ads that are paying to be delivered. To optimize performance, sites will place these ads in the same position and deliver them randomly so that every time a page is refreshed, a different ad appears. Depending on the seller, CPC and CPM ads may be rotating together.

Landing Page (or Destination URL) – where the reader goes once they click on your ad. This is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT point to consider for conversion, so consider wisely and be strategic.

Roadblock – owning ALL of the available banners on a given page. These are pricey, but great for launches and generating a high conversion rate. They also ensure that you won’t be sharing space with your competition. If you spend the $$$ on a Roadblock, get creative and engaging – use the various positions in an innovative and unexpected way that will get the reader interested and want to know more.

Skin – a rare and pricey option, but oh so cool. Skins are almost always an additional service on a Roadblock or large advertising package, but they give you the option to replace the website background with an image of your own. Hire a designer for a high-quality, optimized image – always.

Boombox – generally, a square-ish advertising space, most commonly found on the right-hand column, middle third of a page. A Boombox is the most versatile unit, creatively speaking. Industry Standard size: 336×280, but may vary.

Skyscraper – a tall, thin, banner size most commonly found on the right, outermost column. These are great because you can maintain visibility as a reader scrolls down the page, but they can sometimes be challenging from a creative perspective. These do not lend themselves well to too much text. Industry Standard size: 120×600, but may vary.

Leaderboard – the wide banner across the top of a web page. Primo visibility, so generally top dollar price tags. A short and powerful statement can be very good and effective on a Leaderboard. Industry Standard size: 728×90, but may vary.

Animated GIF – these look like video, but are actually animated picture files. Low resolution and short duration make these “cheap video” that needn’t be hosted elsewhere and loads quickly, even on a poor connection speed.

Rich Media – one of the newest trends in banner advertising, a Rich Media Banner is immersive, interactive, and engaging. The possibilities are nearly endless, but can include surveys, signups, video, “pushdowns”, “sliders”, and so much more. Often times, a user can interact with the ad without leaving the content page they are viewing, which is a benefit to both the reader and the seller. With the right design, these are truly powerful tools. Expect a price tag (from your designer) to match. These can come in any size.

Symantic Linking (or Keyword search) – your ad (CPC or CPM) is delivered against content that is deemed relevant by a search algorithm. This happens most notably on search engines, but can also be a way that large publishers or rich content providers deliver ads. You select tags or keywords related to your ad and when the page contains those words in the actual content of the page, your ad appears. Excellent relevancy if you pick your keywords strategically. Funny story – a science company is advertising a particular type of equipment, very technical, capital equipment kind of stuff. They are looking at their metrics after a month of big CPC spend on Google and find that they have an almost 100% bounce rate. (That is very bad, a total waste.) They look at their very limited keywords and typed one in to see what else was showing. Sadly, they discovered that “high-throughput” and “automated” received almost no clicks, and while popular, their selection of both words “penetration” and “prick” were ill-advised.

Conversion – the Golden Ticket, the pièce de résistance, or just generally the whole reason your advertising campaign exists. A conversion can be defined by your campaign and your advertising goals. Whether it is a newsletter sign up, an inquiry, or a full-on sale – congratulations! You did it! A complete stranger has now interacted with your business; now pop a glass of bubbles to celebrate!

Virtual Assistant, Elizabeth Loennborn

Photo Credit: Jeff Sheldon, Unsplash

Celebrating Administrative Professionals’ Day

Administrative Professionals Day, 22 April 2015

Next month on Wednesday, 22nd April 2015 my team will be receiving a small gift from me as a ‘thank you’ for their support and dedication. I am grateful… Dawn has been working with me since 2008, Nicole since late 2011, Elizabeth since mid 2013, Jenifer D and Jennifer M since late 2013. Anna joined us mid 2014 and Aarti this year. We also have a graphic designer who I’ve worked on and off with since 2008 and our tech guys have been around for 2-3 years.

My gift is in honour of Administrative Professionals’ Day, previously known as Secretaries Day and National Secretaries Week.

This unofficial holiday encourages managers and small business owners to acknowledge and give thanks to their assistant, secretary, administration assistant, receptionist, office manager and all other valuable administrative people.  The Bauhinia team often go out of their way to assist our clients and in most cases, we keep it under the radar, so I feel their efforts deserve to be recognised.

Originally organised by the National Secretaries Association, which is now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the holiday was established in 1952 to recognize secretaries’ contributions to the workplace and attract new skilled office workers.  These days the industry is huge worldwide; in the United States there are more than 22 million administrative and office support professionals, in Canada there are more than 475,000 administrative professionals, and there are as many as 25,000 virtual assistants worldwide – imagine if we had the numbers from the rest of the world!

You don’t need to be over the top in your gift giving; you can acknowledge how valuable your support person is by sending a heart-felt email saying thank you.  I hope you take the opportunity to show your appreciation on Administrative Professionals’ Day.

Business Consultant, Mentor, Virtual Assistant

Bauhinia Solutions Flower

If you require assistance with your business administration or marketing, schedule a call with Nicole to discuss your needs.

Aarti Mataney, Client Manager

Aarti Mataney, Client Manager

Aarti Mataney is our HR Hotshot and Administration Expert.

Aarti Mataney, Client ManagerAn experienced Human Resources and Administration Professional, Aarti has the ability to connect and empathise with people across various roles and industries. With industry experience in the Financial Services, Telecommunication, and Education sectors, she enjoys planning, organizing, working within tight deadlines, and most importantly – getting things done right. Aarti is passionate about employee engagement, training, and development, and is skilled at gaining distinctive insight into client perspective, honoring what is of utmost importance to them.

She is fluent in English and Hindi, and is a certified TESOL Instructor (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Aarti holds certificates in Hong Kong Employment Law, Human Resources Management, and Global Business Management, as well as a B.Sc. in Business Administration from the University of California, USA.

Outside of supporting our clients, Aarti has a little one at home and each learn new things from her son, including laughing out loud for every reason.  When not dotting on her son, Aarti enjoys getting out and about, experiencing all that Hong Kong has to offer.

Bauhinia Solutions Flower

WordPress vs Joomla! Which is the better?

WordPress vs Joomla, Which is Better?

Ah the great debate… WordPress vs Joomla!, which is the better software to use? Before I get into the pro’s and con’s, let me start with what they both have in common.

They are both popular content management systems (CMS). A CMS is a type of website software that allows for easy publishing, editing and deleting of content. Both systems are open source, and therefore free to download and use. This means that they also have a strong developer community and offer additional functionality that can be ‘added on’ to the basic software – these are known as ‘extensions’ in the Joomla! world and ‘plugins’ in WordPress.

With millions of downloads, there are approximately 50 million sites built using Joomla! and 65 million sites build using WordPress, here is where they are different:

  • Joomla! is a very robust platform for mid-sized eCommerce sites. WordPress has this capability due to the extensive plugins available however isn’t as robust as an eCommerce platform.
  • Joomla! has the capacity, behind the scenes, to file, search and organize a large number of articles, however due to WordPress starting as a blogging platform, the management of articles (posts) is a little less streamlined.
  • Joomla! unfortunately lacks SEO capabilities and to get your site to a good level of search engine friendliness, you do have to invest in someone to implement SEO strategies for you. As for WordPress, search engines love the software and you can easily implement your own strategies on individual pages, posts and on the overall site.
  • Joomla! allows for multiple authors, as does WordPress, however WordPress allows you to allocate your users different levels of access.
  • Joomla! has thousands of add on’s (extensions) whereas WordPress has hundreds of thousands – both offering paid and free options.
  • Joomla! is not as intuitive as WordPress and therefore a basic user may find it difficult to navigate, update their content and back up their site if using Joomla!.
  • Joomla! and WordPress are both attacked on a regular basis by hackers and therefore it is important to ensure your site, which ever system is being used, is using the latest versions of the software, and has additional security add on’s installed. If using free add on’s you do need to ensure they are being updated as well, otherwise when updating the basic software, the additional features may not work properly. WordPress does release new updates more regularly than Joomla!.
  • Joomla! has a blogging extension, however it doesn’t allow for comments, which means you cannot engage your readers. WordPress is a blogging platform and makes it easy for readers to leave comments on your blog posts, categorise your posts and this is where you really benefit from the search engine optimization capabilities.

For a small business owner with a ‘brochure’ website, you need to be able to manage, update and back up your website without relying on a web developer every single time.

Due to the intuitiveness of WordPress, the system caters to the most basic of computer users and therefor, updating a single page is easy.

Another major factor all small business owners should consider is search engine optimization, and with fact that Joomla lacks SEO capabilities, WordPress is the best option if you want to be found on the Internet.

As someone who has used WordPress since 2006, I’ve seen the software grow from a basic blogging platform to being the most popular software being used for all sorts of website from the basic brochure site, to membership sites, to news sites. If such sites as The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, The Rolling Stones and Sony are using it, you, as a small business owner can’t go wrong.

Business Consultant, Mentor, Virtual Assistant

Sorting Regulatory Paperwork

Support by Bauhinia Solutions

We have a client, who he is the first to admit he’s not great with the fine details of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. He was struggling with all the paperwork that he had to submit to a regulatory body and as a newly formed business, he thought he could do himself. When he discovered our services he immediately jumped on the chance to utilise our admin skills.

Our Support:

We spent some time with our client understanding all the legal jargon and sorting regulatory paperwork requirements. Then we contacted the regulatory body and asked for guidance on the errors that had previously been made. As we were learning we were also creating standard operating procedures for each step, as there were a number of forms, documentation and signatures required. We also created templates, rather than recreating a new document each time.

Within two months of starting, we had a clear step by step procedure that could be followed, even if you were completely new to the industry. The SOP also helped our client with what he needed to do from his side of the process.

Bauhinia Solutions Flower

There are many ways we can assist you with your business administration or marketing needs. Feel free to schedule a call with Nicole and explore how we can support you.

Photo Credit: Nicole Graham, Bauhinia Solutions

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Kung Hei Fat Choi, Happy New Year

Social: Media vs. Networking. What is What?

Social Media and Networking are online. Both involve friending / connecting, liking, sharing, posting, profiles… the list of similarities can go on and on. But where they differ and where the grey area ends and distinct lines are drawn varies.

This question reminds me of one that I was asked in a class at uni, studying critical thinking. It goes like this:

Can you describe a duck?
Can you describe a cat?
Now, can you tell someone who has never seen either, how they can tell the difference when they are placed side by side?

And then…
Can you describe a cat?
Can you describe a dog?
Now, can you tell someone who has never seen either, how they can tell the difference when they are placed side by side?

Social Media and Social Networking can easily be popped into this thinking exercise. It is quite easy to tell you what social media is and how it differs from traditional media, just as it is easy to tell you what social networking is and how it differs from traditional networking, but contrast the two and then tell the difference – not so easy now, is it?

Both are online. Both involve friending/connecting, liking, sharing, posting, profiles… the list of similarities can go on and on. But where they differ and where the grey area ends and distinct lines are drawn varies. I have read a great number of articles and this is what I conclude: It is about intent. Your goal. What are you trying to get from the platform and in what capacity are you using it? I truly believe that a single platform can be Social Media for one person or business and Social Networking for another.

The intent of Social Media is One-to-Many, while
the intent of Social Networking is One-to-One.

What does this mean?

Sure, some platforms are purely Social Media; YouTube and Vimeo for example, where the video qualifies it as media and the functionalities to comment, share, and like, qualify it as social. But it stands alone, no matter who publishes the content, the video is there. Pure. Social. Media.

A chat room, on the other hand, would be strictly social networking (admittedly and generally speaking not quality or safe networking, but pure networking nonetheless) where people speak to one another and engage in conversation.

But hybrid products such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the like allow you to make them what you will – they bend and mold themselves to your intent.

Example A: Ashton Kutcher, the most famous Twitterer of all time. His Twitter account is Social Media – a way to promote and bolster fame by making him socially accessible. Giving him a public voice. Twitter is his microphone. He is speaking at you, not actually to you. Like a presenter or a politician. He is not engaging with all 16.6 million followers. He does not want to. He couldn’t. Is he connecting with Hollywood directors, relying on his twitter connection to score an audition? Using twitter to collaborate with other artists on new projects? Nope.

Example B: Adam Rifkin, LinkedIn Super Networker, self-described as Undercaffeinated and Overconnected. Don’t know him? Type “Adam” in the search box and he is #3. He has more than 3,000 connections, can connect with more than 15 million people through his personal network, and has 23,973 followers. Adam uses his LinkedIn account to connect with people, present himself as an expert in his field, and communicate with people directly. He has written a great article about how to be a Power Networker, but what I find most poignant is, “A good rule of thumb is to connect with at least 1 and up to 3 people every day. More than 3 means you’re not connecting deeply enough.”

Do you see the difference? It doesn’t mean that you have to make a solid decision and only use networks in a single way. The platforms are hybrids and your strategy can be too. What is important is that you can understand and define the nuances of your social activities so that you can reconcile them against the performance indicators of your strategy/campaign – and get the most out of your efforts!

Example C: A restaurant creates a Facebook page. They utilize the page to promote a seasonal menu, daily specials and events, contests and updates, (Media) etc. But, the manager of the restaurant also takes a moment each day to communicate directly with 2 patrons, from wishing them a happy birthday, responding to a complaint in the public forum, or open conversations about ideas for new menu items (Networking). A hybrid plan.

Get it? Good.

Hong Kong Singapore Virtual Assistant

If you want a hand creating the right strategy for you or your business, call us today and set up a Strategy Session or Personal Workshop.

Holidays and Business, Do they Mix?

What do you do when you take leave from your business?

Having just celebrated Chirstmas and Chinese New Year is around the corner, I know quite a few people who have taken advantage of the extra long weekend to take some additional time to get away. But holidays and business, do the mix? What do you do with your business while you’re off deck, particularly if you are the business?

There are a number of options open to you, including ceasing trade while you’re away. You can basically hang up your ‘Closed… back in 5 days’ sign and desperately hope that the trade that passes you by will wait for your reply when you are open. If you’re taking internet orders, be sure to let your customers know that delivery is going to be delayed until your return, and that customer enquiries will be dealt with at a later date.

Everyone needs a break, but just shutting up shop for a period, unless it’s absolutely necessary, just doesn’t look good, and certainly isn’t good for your business.

If you have a trusted friend or relative to care for your business, this is a better option. To keep your business running at seventy or eighty percent in your absence is surely a better alternative than putting business on hold. Be clear and concise with your instructions, and be sure there are clear boundaries about which decisions are theirs to make.

Another alternative is to hire a professional to care for your business. When you are working with someone on a regular basis, you already have a formal contract, they know your business, and you know that things will be taken care of exactly to your specifications. It is essential in this case to have a current, fully updated Standard Operating Procedure manual from which the contracted person can utilise. Having a professional in place will give you the peace of mind to fully relax and enjoy your break, knowing your business is being well cared for in your absence.

We often manage our client’s businesses when they go away and generally it’s not for a weekend or a week, it can be for up to six-weeks. Contact Nicole for further information.

Virtual Assistant Singapore

Bauhinia Solutions Flower

If you require assistance with your business administration or marketing, schedule a call with Nicole to discuss your needs.

Photo Credit: Nicole Graham, Bauhinia Solutions

Page 1 of 1012345...10...Last »

Client Feedback

Can't Recommend Highly Enough

"I can’t recommend Nicole and her team highly enough as people and professionals." - Sally Dellow, Executive Coach, Dramatic Difference

{Read More Testimonials}