Monday, December 8, 2008

Barter - A Tried and True Business Option

In a time-honored practice, I joined a barter exchange this fall. (Earned back my membership fee in 48 hours.) Bartering is a traditional way of exchanging goods and services. The barter exchanges make it better.

Through a barter exchange, you don't have to trade one-to-one. This means that if a plumber wants to barter for my bookkeeping services, I don't have to use his services. The exchange keeps track of debits and credits to accounts and I can take the barter credits I receive from the plumber, the entrepreneur, and the party clown and use them to barter for a vacation condo in Hawaii. (Don't I wish I had enough credits for the condo!) Bartering has been a really good experience. I have worked for people that would have muddled through on their own if the transaction had involved cash. Did I mention that I earned back my membership fee in less than 48 hours?

Cash is king right now. People are holding on to as much cash as they can, so barter opens a whole new clientele to me. A lot of times people are free with barter bucks. It's true that I can't live solely using barter, but I can defray some expenses. I'm hoping to find a barter landscaper who works on the west side of Phoenix, but until we get one on barter, I'll have to spend my barter-bucks on things like haircuts or business coaching. Both of which would be useful.

Lest anyone think that they can bypass taxes, the government gets their cut also, in the form of a 1099 at year's end. That means barter transactions are reportable income. Heaven knows - the government can't do without their cut of my work. That's actually the one way that informal barter is better than an exchange.

Do you belong to a barter exchange? Do you barter your products or services formally or informally? How has it worked for you?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gift Certificates

In honor of the Christmas season (or Hanukkah for our Jewish friends), I now offer gift certificates for virtual assistant services on my website. You can get gift certificates in 3, 5, 10, and 20 hour increments. They can be used for any services I offer and are valid for all of 2009. Because I am a VIRTUAL assistant, proximity is not a big factor on my end, but I suggest that English is my language of choice. Don't be shy. Check out the gift certificates at:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Assessing the Business

As a new business owner with a little more than 6 months working full-time with no other visible means of support, I get to review the company a lot - mostly when a bill is due and I need to look at my financial position. I'm the first to admit that I have always been a little uptight about money, so not having a paycheck is very stressful to me.

Last year, I was put through the trauma of a 6 hour polygraph examination for a government security clearance (which I never got, because the company I was working for shed all employees except the owner - thus the decision to work for myself). Of course the examiner tries to focus on your weak spots to make sure you aren't a risk, so she found my weak spot - talking about my finances. (Yes, I also see the irony in a bookkeeper being exceedingly uptight about finances, but I don't mind dealing with OTHER people's money.) When I got home, I was talking to my father about the whole unpleasant experience and especially the grilling I got about being ostentatious and he said, "You? You're the tightest person I've ever met." Some people would be insulted, I replied, "I know!"

Truth about polygraphs - they are the most horrible things ever and now I understand how people can confess to anything while strapped into one of those things. I almost failed in the first hour, because I couldn't control my breathing. By the end, I would have confessed to almost anything - and they weren't even looking for a confession of wrong-doing.


Back to the point of the post.

With all of the bad economic news that I hear everyday and the stress I see in some friends and family members, I feel very grateful that I have the resources and abilities needed to keep my business going and I'm extremely grateful that I am not at an employer's mercy for my well-being. I'm still in business through January, probably even February. Two months ago, I was doubtful about November. Every month, Walker Administrative Solutions' imminent demise is delayed a little longer. I wonder if this is how Henry Ford felt.

I'm beginning to see the fruit coming from months of diligent networking, talking, and meeting business people. I look ahead and wonder how to schedule all of my potential work if the jobs come in. (That would be a great problem to have in my business.) I've also been very blessed with small jobs coming in to beef up the regular revenue. I just count all of my work as blessings from paying tithing and a lot of prayer and yes, I pray that this business will l work out I'll be able to support myself, and I'll be able to bless a few people along the way.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Thoughts - Perspective on the Affair

So, McCain lost the election. I was a tepid supporter (really a Mitt Romney supporter) until McCain picked Sarah Palin as his VP and then I was a lot more supportive of McCain. I really like Sarah Palin and would have fun hanging out with her and talking about the world.

My support for McCain grew even stronger as I got to know Obama and his policies better. I seriously hope Obama made a lot of promises he knew he couldn't keep. I really hope he keeps as few of his promises as possible. He's a lot too liberal for my liking.

This morning I was at a mixer talking to some friends and I came to the realization that even though I may not like it, it is a good thing that the other side wins occasionally. The other side winning reminds us of what is great about freedom - our vote counts.

Some of you scratching your heads and thinking your vote didn't count because you lost. Voting isn't about always winning. It is about the voice of the people being heard and implemented. I may disagree with the majority voice, but part of living in freedom is living with the decisions the majority make. So, as part of the American experience, I sometimes don't get my way. As my Mom said, "Life's not fair. Get over it!"

Big winner of 2008 - Barack Obama. No news there.

Biggest loser of 2008 - the media. They hurt their credibility with a huge chunk of Americans, because they were so obviously biased in their coverage. Network news organizations need to remember that not all of their consumers have one opinion (although they may now because of their coverage this year) and there are other news providers out there. Alienate 1/2 of your customers and your business is in serious trouble. Old business model meets new world realities.

Ed Pastor, I'll be calling you often over the next couple of years. You are going to need a lot of constituent feedback to keep you from passing bad laws. Your office is programmed into my cell phone, so I can call you from anywhere.

I think I'm done with posting about political stuff. This is a blog about my business, after all. I really don't care about my clients' politics, just that they get the best service I can provide them. As I am fond of saying, no matter what else changes, one thing that doesn't change is that all businesses have paperwork.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts from the McCain Party

I had the chance to go to the McCain election party in Phoenix tonight. How often do you get to do that? The results might have been disappointing, but still, I was at the party.
On my way to The Biltmore, I found out where all of the Phoenix police were. (Not that my neighborhood noticed the lack. We can't get the police to patrol our area anyway.) There were no traffic violations in the Camelback corridor tonight.
When I reached The Biltmore, the staffers had us all go to the North Phoenix Baptist Church to park. It wasn't too far and the staffers seemed really apologetic about it. There were shuttles between the hotel and the parking lot, but not nearly enough buses at first. Here's a nice picture of the line.

Everyone was very nice. We were all excited to be going to the party and we got a lot of quality bonding time because there weren't enough shuttles. Such is life.
There were hamburgers and hotdogs being served at the hotel, along with munchies like pretzels and salsa. Coke or water available for all, but there were bars around also for those who wanted a little something else. (The problem with Mormons is we don't spend a lot of time at the bar, so I don't know if it was an open bar or a cash bar. Sorry.)

I was amazed by:
1) The number of families with young children there. These parents had obviously been talking to their children about the election issues, because as one 8 year old said after McCain's concession, "This means you're going to have to pay a lot more money now, Daddy." Smart little girl.
2) The number, brightness and heat of TV lights. How can these bozo's talk about being "green" when they use all that wattage? Here's a picture of one of the banks of lights. They are much more impressive without people wandering in front of the camera.

3)Through all of the disappointment of losing the election, people were calm and orderly. We heard the threats of riots if Obama lost, but the Mccain crowd just went into dissection mode. What will an Obama presidency do to America?
4) Republicans are disappointed and mad. What does this mean? There are a lot of people activated now. We're going to be plaguing our congressmen to vote the way we want them to. I know I have Ed Pastor's office number in my cell phone. His office will be hearing from me often. Congressmen need to look out for the 2010 election. It might be 1994 all over again.
5) All is not lost. We still have Sheriff Joe and Andrew Thomas enforcing the laws in Maricopa County.
Marriage is safely defined in Arizona, although sometime tomorrow someone will tell a reporter that we would have voted differently if we realized there were people involved. (We heard it when the illegal immigrant measures passed overwhelmingly, we'll hear it again. BTW - we're not THAT stupid here, we know there are people affected by these laws.) It looks like California passed their marriage initiative also. Way to go Cali!
I actually think I voted with the majority on all of the propositions this time. It kind of makes you wonder if the state legislators will ever get the hint that we don't think they deserve a raise. What is this, like the 10th election in a row that the pay raise has been defeated? Take a hint already!

Well, we have about 8 months to prepare for Biden's predicted disaster test for Obama. We have 2 years until the next opportunity to throw some of the bums out. Until then, we need to be diligent and let our representatives know how we want them to vote on issues. We need to find good, strong, conservative people to run for congress in 2010 to mitigate the potential damage the current crop of people will do. Let's all pray that Obama is an average politician and doesn't keep his campaign promises.

Now, I need to get to bed so that I can get up in the morning and get back to business. Yep, a day of mixers with 3 of my favorite organizations, the Phoenix Chamber, the Philippine-American Chamber, and The 3000 Club (see the last blog post for details).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Valuable Face Time

Earlier this week I was doing some online networking with other Virtual Assistants. I expressed my surprise that more VAs don't go out and network face-to-face, because I feel like I haven't seen enough people if I go to less than 3 networking events every week. I've met a couple of VAs in person, but they just don't seem to like leaving the house - or something. Anyways, I was told that many VAs don't really like to seem dominant and aren't comfortable networking.

I'll admit that networking, at least at first is uncomfortable, because you walk into a room full of strangers who all seem to have friends to talk to. So there you are, the friendless geek in the corner not talking to anyone. After you show up a couple of times, people start talking to you a lot more. I've gotten around the issue by becoming an "Ambassador" for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and greet people at the door, so they are walking into my room, not the other way around, so I have a psychological edge. By networking with enough different groups, I usually know at least one person in any room of networkers, and there are times when I know more people than not.

People often ask me where I network, because I do a lot of networking for my business. So, in case you've been wondering who I've been spending time with:
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce - They are the big organization in the area and have great educational programs and a lot of networking opportunities. I figure I need to be where the business people are and that is the Chamber of Commerce.
Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) - My client base - small businesses. ASBA also has great educational programs. I recommend ASBA for all Arizona small businesses.
Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce (PACCA) - Now, it is pretty obvious to even the most casual observer that I am not philippino. They don't seem to care. This little organization is a gem. They have great speakers at their monthly meetings. It is always good to find new people to add to your network.
Arizona Business Leads - Yep, it is a leads/referral group (like BNI, but different). I'm in the business-to-business group, mainly because it's a lot closer to home. (Just saying.)
The 3000 Club - a charitable organization that rescues produce and sends it to food banks throughout the states and provides networking opportunities for it's members. So, I get to help others and help my business? How great is that? Don't be shy about joining if you want to help. The clowns in the video above are members and just as nice and funny in person as you see in the clip- maybe even more so.
Here's a video about The 3000 Club:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All This Online Stuff

I have heard a lot lately about using online social networking to build your business. There is blogging, of course, which adds an online presence. I find it a little daunting still. I have a hard time balancing interest and relevance. Well, added to blogging is now, video blogging. Great - interest, relevance, AND a camera? They don't ask for much do they. I'm considering this. I just think I translate better in person than I do in writing, even though I know I write with a strong narrator that sounds an awful lot like me. Maybe I'll give it a shot. If I don't like the experience, I can always go back to writing. But, I kind of understand blogging. It is a bit intuitive to me - on one level, so I may have composition issues, but I at least understand the concept.

I'm still wondering how people have made a living just through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Yes, I'm on them all, but I just don't know how to translate those memberships and networks into productive, paying work. I'm still not sure that any one grows their business successfully on these sites - except perhaps the social network consultants.

You can find me online with the following information:
Twitter: @walkerva
Skype: walker.admin

Come visit. Become my friend. Better yet, teach me how to make these online social media networks profitable, so I can add another marketing tool to my virtual tool box.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Smarties - A Casualty of Aging

My nephew turned 7 last week. There was a pinata at his birthday party, which was filled with, among other favorites, Smarties. They are a perennial Halloween favorite with kids. Maybe it's because you can't just buy one little package of Smarties. I think they are only sold in the big packages for giving away to lots of kids.
Well, my 4 year old niece wanted to share her blessings with me and gave me a whole roll of Smarties to eat (such a sweet girl - sometimes). I gratefully accepted and began to dutifully eat the candy. It had been a lot of years since I'd actually eaten Smarties, so I was kind of enjoying the moment.
The first Smartie was great - just like you remember. The second was good; the third, ok. After that, there just seemed to be a lot of those little pressed sugar buttons left to eat.
When did eating Smarties become a trial? So sad. It is one of those casualties of getting older. Oh well, I still love Sweetarts.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Business Philosophy

I was at an educational seminar a week ago sponsored and hosted by ASBA, the Arizona Small Business Association. We were talking about branding our businesses to help recruit the best employees, which isn't really important to this post at all.

I was talking to Donna, one of the owners of Network Dogs, Inc. She said that she and her husband (another owner) would rather make $1 profit on 1,000,000 customers than $1,000,000 on 1 customer. Her reasoning was that they couldn't give the level of service they wanted to and didn't have the resources to handle the big contract, but they could help many small companies.

That got me thinking and today I finally found the correct articulation for my business philosophy. My philosophy is that I'd rather spend 8 hours a day working for 5 clients than 40 hours a week working for 1 client.

Here is my reasoning. My business is to provide administrative and bookkeeping services to small businesses on an as needed basis. This means that I am a contractor who sells my professional services to people who don't need a full-time employee. Spending forty hours a week, every week, working for one company makes me less of a contractor and more of an employee. There may come a time (rather soon) where I may need to go back to being an employee for a while, but I'd rather not. I'd rather have the experience that comes from working for a number of different clients. I've also found that I like working with small businesses. They are fun and interesting. Sure, I sometimes miss the corporate environment, but not enough to want to go back there forever.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's Up with This Background?

(My group of Administrators at a training meeting I hosted while at Terminix. I'm on the front row - 3rd from the right.)

I know there may be people who visit this blog and wonder what's up with the background. I thought I'd tell those who don't know me well (in addition to the obvious reference to being a busy bee.)

I spent 11 years working my way up the administrative ranks of Terminix (yep - the pest control company). When I was a new employee, working as a bookkeeper in a branch office, I talked to a lot of people who referred to their technicians as their "bug guy." Well, I am an equal opportunity type person, so I adopted the term "bug babe" for female Terminix employees and I've used the online personna of "abugbabe" for many years. (Although I try not to use it for professional forums, groups,etc., because it doesn't really soundlike you should trust me with your business.) Even though the use has somewhat diminished, I remain in my heart, a bug babe.

I was recently exchanging emails with a friend from Terminix. He asked me if I regretted leaving. I learned a lot at Terminix and much of what I learned makes me a skilled and valuable asset to organizations. I don't regret working for Terminix, even though I started in an entry level position and I don't regret leaving when I did. I left at the right time for both myself and the company. We parted on good terms.

I will always be grateful to the people who were patient enough to teach me the things I didn't know, trusted me to do the seemingly impossible - or at least my job without a lot of micromanagement, let me grow and learn and make mistakes, and gave me the confidence to try all sorts of things I had no business doing (at least by conventional wisdom). I learned there was very little I couldn't do (administratively) if I needed to, which has made this new venture into the business world, if not easier, at least faced with a lot of bravado.

So thanks to the bug people who helped me on my way. I will always remain Abugbabe.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Accidently Green

I really didn’t try to start a “green” business. It was never my intention. Quite frankly, I am a man-made global warming skeptic. (I don’t really want to debate it, so I’m not going to.) But trying to work in the virtual world makes me accidently green. Here’s how:

1. I don’t commute 5 days a week. When I was commuting, I was travelling 20 miles to get to work. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with rush hour often, but it was still a long drive. I still drive for business, after all, I need to network and find clients and some clients want on-site support, which I will happily provide if they truly need it.

2. I make dual use of my home. It’s home; it’s office. Whatever it is at the moment, it is a dual use space, but please don’t tell those sticklers in the HOA. It might be against the rules. Thankfully, I’m on the board and long ago (when I was still employed – for someone else) we decided that as long as businesses didn’t add to the burden of the neighborhood by adding excessive traffic, home businesses were acceptable.

3. Oh yeah, I also use a lot of CFLs i.n my home, if you want to count those. The main reason is because I’m cheap, so CFLs are a better value overall for lifecycle and electric savings.

4. I use almost no paper anymore. Because a lot of work is passed electronically, I don’t print the reams of paper I did when I worked in offices. Some of the change comes from using QuickBooks, which reduced paper use over a specialty accounting software, which printed every transaction, usually twice, sometimes three times. So now QB payroll produces 7 or 8 pages, where the old program produced at least 30 pages of reports, all vital for good record-keeping.

I feel bad sometimes, like when I attend my Chamber of Commerce “Green” events. Those people or at least some of them are true believers. I just fell into it because of my business model. I’m sure there are others in my situation, but few of us will admit it – at least at the green-themed meetings. I’m accidently green. None of this means that I won’t use my greenness to my benefit. It's a great marketing tool. I just may need to avoid the whole global-warming, the-sky-is-falling discussions so that I don’t out myself as a skeptic.

Maybe I can plant a tree to assuage my guilt. I hear planting a tree is an acceptable alternative to truly buying into the movement or something like that. Have you ever just accidently joined a movement you don’t really believe in – for the marketing possibilities or any other reason?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Starting a Business

I’ll tell the truth…paperwork isn’t really a fascinating topic. Creating forms is fun. Collating results is fun, especially if I can create some charts to display the results. Filling out forms isn’t that much fun. It is something I’m very good at, however. No one can be a successful administrator for over 14 years without becoming good at filling out all types of forms.
If I had to fill out forms all day every day, I’d be crazy. Thankfully, office administration involves so much more than forms. If you look at your administrators, they usually answer phones, prepare reports, type memos, prepare presentation materials, research issues, file, organize, and are often the face of the organization to the customer. Most importantly, they have to keep the boss happy and make him/her look as good as possible. (How they do that is a topic for another blog post.) A good office assistant is the ultimate example of a great multi-tasker, performing any 2 or 3 tasks at the same time.
Now that I am also a business owner, I fantasize about the good ol’ days where I only had to juggle 2 or 3 things at a time. In addition to administrative work, I’ve added sales, marketing, networking, service, business management, and relationship management to everything else. It is an interesting transition to go from support staff to head honcho. So far, I’m not sure I know what a good balance is that will allow me to also have a life away from my computer. I have to find people to hire me to provide administrative services, but I also have to actually do the work – with superior quality and a quick turn-around. And my most important function is still making people look good – both myself and my client.
There are a lot of small business owners and managers in the same position as I am. That is why I decided to start my business. I realized that there are a lot of people who start a business and then they get so bogged down with all of the administrative stuff that they can’t spend the time they need to bring in customers, service customers, and see their families. It’s all about balance, and I want to help small business owners find balance and give them professional administrative support. I hope that my clients will eventually outgrow my services and need to hire an administrative employee (and use me for special projects), but before then, they may be able to invest in production employees before they incur all of the expenses associated with hiring an administrative person.
I am the middle-ground between doing it all yourself and hiring an employee. Go to the “Contact Us” page on my website to find out how to contact me about helping your business. I’ll be glad to help you determine how I can help you grow your business, not your workload.