Follow Friday Recommendations Friday 30th April 2010

I can't believe it is Friday again already, and certainly not the end of April! Wow, how time flies when you enjoy your work, that is for sure.

This week my follow fridays are VA's who have been a great help and support and just some of my fantastic clients. (I only mention the ones who admit to working with me on Twitter! If you are a client and want a mention do let me know, otherwise your secret is safe with me).

Huge huge thanks go to @sjabradley who has been a rock these past few months and is now chief assistant at Team HLSBS. Her work this past couple of weeks has been fantastic and invaluable.  She has even taught me a few tricks as well, much to the delight of some clients.

My other fantastic VA friends who have been a real support this year are @ArborVS and @officestuff - they talk common sense and make me look at what is important to me, they also keep me grounded.  Sometimes the solution to a problem is so simple you can't see it and it takes a friend to point it out. That's where these guys come in, and yes guys I do listen to you. They have been an incredible force in helping me take HLS Business Solutions to the next level and helping me choose my Team HLSBS members.

The whole gang at @callteam are fantastic and look after my calls and my clients calls brilliantly, sometimes going above and beyond the call of duty in order to help their clients.  I don't answer as many of the calls on there as I should but am so grateful for the teams support.

And now for some of my lovely clients.

@LucyWhittington is now a published author, her book Hotel Success Handbook is a great read, I was lucky enough to do a small part of the proof reading and I have to say a lot of the marketing advice in there applies to many other businesses, not just Hotels and Guest Houses.  Apart from being a hotel marketing guru she and Andy do the most amazing websites on Venda and WordPress platforms.  If you are looking for a bespoke site do give them a call,  they will be doing my new website later this year and I really cant wait!  She is also winding me up right now with talk of her upcoming Australian venture and yes I am a tad jealous but at least I know I can keep adding to her to do list for her return lol.

@NikkiPilkington is a social media goddess, and yes, I have said it before, you can blame her for me getting my head round Twitter.  She is the lady to go to for SEO, Google Adwords, blogging advice (she has a new blogging course about to start that I have subscribed to), facebook pages and is just the best person to go to for advice in all these areas.

@theefficiencycoach is more than just a client, she is a great friend and she is also my personal coach.  She helps people who are looking for a new career, people who are starting out in business and people who are in business and wanting to make more out of their business, so I guess that is pretty much everyone. She offers loads of advice in her blogs, newsletters and teleseminars on a regular basis and also knows a lot of really cool people on Twitter.  She is now offering social media training and has just started writing her book on networking as well. Not sure how she fits it all in!

I have only mentioned a few of my clients here today, my policy is I never shout about who my clients are.  The people mentioned above have all tweeted about working with me previously.  If you are working with me and are happy to be featured in a future #FF blog just give me a shout, and if you would like to work with me then just give me a call or drop me an email :-)

Do consider following the people above, even if you aren't looking for their particular services their tweets are useful and funny and informative, and they will introduce you to other great tweeters you would like to follow as well.

I hope you find some of this weeks follow friday recommendations useful, let me know if you take up any of my suggestions using the comments box below.

What's the difference between Call Answering and Call Handling?

One of the tweets I sometimes post on Twitter is about having your calls handled and not just answered, one of my Twitter friends suggested that it would make an interesting blog topic. So what is the difference between call answering and call handling?

Answering a call is really just about picking up a ringing phone, taking a message and passing it on in its simplest form. 

Call Handling is about knowing as much as possible about the business or person that the call is intended for, so that the person answering the call can manage it in as informed and effective way as possible.  If it’s a simple enquiry quite often the call handler can supply the information requested, be it an email address, postal address, opening hours or even information on a particular product, without having to pass the call on.

Call handling is not about misrepresenting your business or implying you are bigger than you are, it’s about enhancing the service that you currently offer; call handling can be a very effective addition in terms of customer service.

Busy professionals have many demands on their time; is it really an effective use of time for them to be answering the phone themselves to every enquiry no matter how trivial?  It’s no different to outsourcing other elements of the business such as accounts or admin.

By using efficient call handlers your sales orders can be taken for you, your delegates can be booked onto training courses, appointments can be booked directly into your diary, brochure requests can be taken and posted out direct with no involvement from you, initial sales enquiries can be taken when you run your new sales campaign – the list is endless.

Do you ever find that you cannot finish a project or report because the phone keeps ringing? Divert your calls to a call handler instead.  Do you have the children at home due to teacher training days or unplanned illness? Divert your calls.

Your caller will probably be happier talking to a person rather than an answering machine; a call handler can put your caller at ease because they have knowledge of your company and/or service.  Rather than just taking a name and number your call handler will take a detailed message, ensuring that when you are returning the call you have all the information you need to hand, you are not returning a call blindly, you have had chance to research the answers that your caller needs, making you appear more professional and saving both you and your caller time.

One of my Twitter friends had a great description of call handling, its more information driven, and answers are the voice of your business.

So next time you are thinking of switching on the answerphone to allow you to get some work done, think about using a professional call handling service instead.

So what are your thoughts on the difference between call handling and call answering and your experiences? Please feel free to comment below.

It's more than 140 characters

As some of you will know I have had a particularly bad week this past week, between being ill and finding out my cat had cancer I wasn’t having a great time of it. It culminated yesterday in having to make the awful decision to have my gorgeous 17yr old cat put to sleep.  Just over a week ago she had been fine.

I was absolutely overwhelmed yesterday by the sheer volume of well wishes, love and support I received from my Twitter friends. 

But, I shouldn’t have been.  Ever since I got into Twitter I have been one of it’s most vocal advocates, ask anyone how my face lights up when I am asked to discuss Twitter.

So what is so special about it?  Yes Twitter is a great tool for business, but let’s focus on one of the words used to describe it – Social.  It’s not all about business; it’s about building relationships, and also friendships.

I have made some great friends on Twitter over the past few months, these are people who I love to talk to about anything and everything, I am not pitching my business at them, I am genuinely interested in what they are doing and how they are feeling, and I am really fortunate to have been able to meet some of these people offline.

There are some great conversations that have been carried out just in those 140 characters, and many a fun Saturday night had by several of us chatting about something totally business free.

Twitter has examples everyday of people using it to share, the most recent example was that of Sartoti, a young girl undergoing a horrible operation, and Twitterers from around the world who have never met her sent her postcards to cheer her up after her surgery.

Sadly, most days on Twitter there is bad news, someone has lost a baby, a child, a loved one or yet another soldier has been lost and another family is suffering. It put's your own imagined problems into perspective.

But also there are the days where the good news is being shared, engagements announced, babies born and weddings taking place.

Twitter also recently helped one guy back into work after being made redundant, thanks to the support of Twitter he ended up with two job offers in just a few weeks, granted he got the jobs on his own merits, but would the opportunities have been there if it hadn’t been for Twitter.

Twitter is what you choose to make of it.  Yes I use it for business, but more importantly and much more frequently I use it for Social as well.  People love people, just be yourself on Twitter and you will be amazed at the new friendships and relationships that come out of it.

So thank you to those wonderful people who choose to interact with me on Twitter, you really do make a difference to each and every day.

Record-keeping by Amy Taylor, BSc (Hons), ACA (aka @amyaccountant)

So you have just started up in business. Do you need to go out and buy an enormous filing cabinet to keep all the mountain of paperwork you are likely to be inundated with? Not necessarily.

HMRC guidance stipulates that you should keep your financial records for 6 years in case they ever come to investigate your tax return. In such circumstances, they would want to see the original records that went into the figures on your tax return. If you do not keep the records for the amount of time stipulated, you may have to pay a penalty.

You must keep the original documents for anything showing tax deductions, for example P60s, and bank statements, but for most other records you can keep them filed electronically, as long as they are legible and show all the information on the front and back of the documents. Such electronic files can be stored on CD, memory stick or any other suitable storage device. Thus removing the need for that enormous filing cabinet.

Examples of the types of records you need to keep to prove your income are items such as sales invoices, till rolls and paying-in slips. For expenditure, you should retain records such as receipts, purchase invoices and cheque book stubs.

If you are VAT registered you must also keep a VAT account, showing how you calculated the VAT due to or from HMRC, as well as VAT sales and purchase invoices and import and export documentation. If you are a limited company, you will also need to be able to show accounting records proving your assets and liabilities, as well as your income and expenditure. Your accountant will be able to help you with this.

There are further requirements for record-keeping if you are an employer, and these include all PAYE records, including employee benefits and statutory payments made.

Best practice is to reference every accounting record you keep to the relevant book of entry, so for example, your first item of expenditure for the year might be numbered 001, and you would then include this reference in the line of entry into your cash book and write it on the receipt itself. File each record numerically in a lever arch file or clear plastic wallet for smaller items so that they are easy to find in case of any query by suppliers or customers, or investigation by HMRC.

The HMRC penalty regime asks that taxpayers take reasonable care over their tax affairs, and in the event that you have made an error on your tax return, a clear filing system and helpful attitude to the investigators reduces the risk of a penalty.

If you would like any advice in this area or any other areas of accounting or tax, please contact me on 01767 260282 or, 

Follow Amy on Twitter @amyaccountant.

Amy Taylor Accountancy takes every care in preparing material to ensure that the content is accurate and up to date. However no responsibility for loss to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of this material can be accepted by Amy Taylor Accountancy

Follow Friday Recommendation Friday 2nd April 2010

This week my follow Friday recommendations are for the people who are working with me on several new and exciting projects at the moment. All will become clear over time!

My first #FF is for @efficiencycoach, working with Heather has made so much difference to my business and to me.  The future is looking far rosier than I ever thought possible, and she is helping me make the transition from being self employed to running my own business.  She is in incredibly intelligent woman, of which I am reminded every time we have a conversation, and her humour and common sense keep me sane. I really look forward to our Skype chats each week.  If you are at or approaching a crossroads in either your career or your business don't hesitate to contact Heather, you will never look back.

My next #FF is @ReceiptAngel, working with Barry and Kay has not only introduced me to a fabulous product, but their support and friendship has meant a lot to me.  They are always eager and encouraging and again full of common sense.  Barry in particular has a habit of taking my ideas and stretching them, turning something simple into something so much more.  And of course how could I not love a couple who are so hugely supportive of the VA industry and have the same goals for it as I do!

Another #FF is @ShoegalSedgwick who is always so wonderful to talk to, it's lovely to talk to someone who is as enthusiastic about their business as I am about mine, and who sees the bigger picture and embraces collaboration as much as I do as well.  We have some interesting projects afoot with @Paula6thLevel who is such a lovely lady, and between us, working together, we are all going to have a fantastic future.  

@Paula6thLevel deserves her own #FF, my lovely friend is always cheery and full of humour, and we have such a laugh together it really doesn't feel like work.  Again she is so supportive of what I do, and when I recently got to meet her for real, was every bit as lovely as I had hoped, if not more.  I am working on some exciting new projects with her, and every time we talk we come up with yet  more ideas.

I must also give huge thanks to @sjabradley,my fellow VA, my voice of reason, my port in a storm and my buddy.  I am so lucky to be working with her, and she keeps me on the straight and narrow on those days when I really need it, and is one of the first people I call to celebrate good news.

I feel terrible for not mentioning everyone, there are so many people that I love to talk to on Twitter, who add value to my day, and make it such a wonderful place to be, but the page would go on forever if I did.  Please just know that if I interact with you on Twitter then I already feel you are worthy of a #ff of your own.