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Davinci Virtual Blog

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S NEW WITH DAVINCI

LATEST POSTS

How to Set Up Your Virtual Office Space for Maximum Effectiveness

When setting up your virtual office space you should take into account several key elements, such as location, personel, and the workspace itself. This will help you make sure you are choosing the best virtual solution for your business. 

Let’s start with location. 

Choosing the right location is arguably the most important decision for an entrepreneur or a company seeking to grow in a new market. When it comes to picking a virtual office solution, location should be at the top of your mind. The location you choose can greatly impact a company’s sale, performance, overhead, and overall operations. Additionally, the right location can help give prestige and give people a sense of trust when looking up your business. Davinci currently has more than 1,500 business locations around the world.  

All of these locations allow you to receive business mail, which you can then pick up on site or have it forwarded on a scheduled basis to wherever you are. Moreover, to give your company an additional level of professionalism and branding, your company name will be featured on the lobby directory listing and your customers will be welcomed to the office and assisted by a lobby greeter.  

Once you’ve settled on a location, you need to think about finding and retaining new business leads that will be coming your way. One of the most proactive ways to ensure you are getting the best of leads is to hire a live receptionist or virtual assistant service. Doing so will make it easier for you to follow up with leads and clients, schedule appointments, and make sales calls. 

Today’s clients and consumers focus highly on experience. Making it easy for them to find you and to get in touch with you will help you stand out from the competition. 

With just a few services your virtual office and your business is now up and running. Pro tip: if you’re interested in working with others and meeting professionals whom you can partner or do business with, consider visiting a coworking space. It will help you break out of your routine and it will provide you with access to unique amenities and a strong business community; these are also great places to host a meeting.

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7 Ways a Live Receptionist Can Improve Your Workday

Entrepreneurs have hectic schedules as they go from meeting to meeting and project to project. You often snicker to yourself when someone responds after you tell them what you do, “You work for yourself. It must be nice.”

While it may sound easy, hanging out your own schedule is hard and full of stressful, long, and exhausting hours. Research shows entrepreneurs log more hours than the average worker—a lot more hours in some instances. A study by the Alternative Board found that 30% of small business owners work 50-plus hours and 20% work 60-plus hours. A whopping 80% say they feel that they work too much. Another study by Penelope reveals comparable numbers, with entrepreneurs logging an average of 52 hours per week, 63 percent longer than the average worker.

One way entrepreneurs manage their busy schedules and bring an imbalance to the work-life equation is engage receptionists. But receptionists aren’t cheap, with the average salary range falling between $31,187 and $38,941 annually. Add another 30% for benefits, sick, and vacation pay, and the cost of a receptionist approaches $50,000.

The rise of live—or virtual—receptionists such as Davinci Live Receptionists provides entrepreneurs with a completely different model. No longer required to hire full-time receptionists, entrepreneurs can engage live receptionists on-demand—only using them when they need them. So, what are some of the ways live receptionists can help entrepreneurs?

1. Incoming Calls

Dealing with nonstop incoming calls can become a huge time synch. It’s hard to determine what calls require a real-time response and which ones can wait. With live receptionists, those calls that you need to answer are forwarded to you, whereas those that aren’t urgent can be forwarded to voice mail or, if you have them, other members on your team. Worried about urgent issues going to voice mail? Make sure your voice mail can get transcribed to your email or text.

2. Scheduling Appointments

Managing a calendar full of appointments can consume valuable time. With live receptionists, entrepreneurs can offload that responsibility so that they can focus on running their business and meeting with customers and partners. Live receptionists can handle meeting requests over the phone, via email, or even in text. And for entrepreneurs with busy travel schedules, live receptionists can manage the logistics related to travel. Multiple time zones and business meetings can become a huge headache to manage, something live receptionists can oversee.

3. Making Outbound Calls and Emails

Not every call requires you to be on the line. The same goes for email. Whether scheduling a meeting, placing a work order, ordering office supplies or food for a business meeting, or making a travel reservation, live receptionists can be an invaluable resource. Suddenly, rather than spending hours on the phone, entrepreneurs are focused on their businesses and customers. 

4. Providing Customer Service and Order Processing

Most customers say they will not call back if they are placed on hold for more than a few minutes or pushed into voice mail. Their expected response time to emails and texts isn’t much longer. And when the initiate a live web chat, seconds count. Rather than hiring expensive full-time or contingent customer service agents, live receptionists who are trained on your business are a cost-effective alternative. The same is true when it comes to order processing. In these scenarios, you have the flexibility to scale their use up or down depending on your business requirements. You only pay for what you use.

5. Helping with Administrative Tasks

Digitization of business records and communications makes it possible for businesses to have virtual receptionists to fulfill various administrative tasks. They can be done online. Staying on top of your business licenses, managing calendaring and email, and faxing documents, among other administrative functions can be handled by live receptionists. 

6. Conducting Business Development Outreach

Just as live receptionists can help entrepreneurs with customer service, they also can help in business development. Prospecting for new business can take time, and hiring dedicated sales professionals is costly. Plus, it takes significant time to train them on your products and/or services. Often, the break-even point on a new sales hire doesn’t occur until six or eight months into their tenure. Live receptionists can serve as the initial business development arm for an entrepreneur. They also can supplement existing business development teams, providing you with the flexibility to scale your business development activities up or down.

7. Improve Your Productivity

When the time an entrepreneur spends managing their email, calendar, voice mail, administrative work, and much more is added up, the tally can be huge. At the same time, the constant interruptions these things cause can sap your productivity very quickly. Research shows it takes upwards of 20 minutes to get back on track after being interrupted. This tallies to 6 hours of wasted time each week. Virtual assistants help entrepreneurs to ensure they remain focused on the business rather than recalibrating to get back into the swing of things after fielding an ad hoc incoming call or email.

To discover other ways that live receptionists can benefit your business, check out the Davinci Virtual report, “Davinci Live Virtual Receptionists: Connecting with Your Prospects and Customers.” 

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How to Run a Virtual Meeting Flawlessly: 11 Things to Do

Meetings in general have gotten a bad rap. Many of the complaints about meetings resonate loudly with many professionals—from poor planning and execution to lack of clear objectives and action items. Research shows that the average worker attends 62 meetings each month. Half of them believe they are a waste of time. This equates to 31 hours of time each month. This is a lot of time; almost 20 percent of total time spent working (assuming a 40-hour work week).

If in-person meetings are believed to be a waste of time, then the assessment of virtual meetings cannot be any better. They might be worse. One research study, for example, found that virtual meetings decrease both productivity and efficiency while increasing stress. There certainly are a lot of virtual meetings taking place: a recent study indicates 28 percent of meetings in North America this year will be virtual or hybrid meetings. 

The good news is that virtual meetings don’t need to be a waste of time. They can be just as effective as in-person meetings, if just a few best practices are followed:

1. Meet Weekly

For virtual teams, weekly meetings are important. Regularity helps ensure team synergies and project momentum. Rapport breaks down and communications between team members falter without regular set meeting times.

2. Send Out an Agenda with Objectives Beforehand

An agenda for the meeting needs to be sent out beforehand. Attendees need to know what will be covered and who is presenting or facilitating the discussion. They also need to know the objective(s) of the meeting.

3. Assign prep work

When appropriate, pre-meeting assignments need to be distributed to attendees. This will help drive better engagement during the meeting and focused discussion. Examples are varied and dependent on the meeting’s objective. For example, if the objective is to review a proposal, distributing a draft or partial draft of it beforehand would give attendees a chance to review and prepare initial questions and feedback. For a project status review, providing attendees with a project calendar and status on deliverables and due dates hones the discussion on problems and how to solve them.

4. Establish Roles

Meeting dysfunction can arise if there is confusion over the roles of the different attendees. A DACI model (decision-maker, approver, contributor, informed) will serve well here, helping to ensure that attendees don’t assume roles not allotted to them. In terms of requisite roles, every meeting also requires a moderator/facilitator, secretary, and timekeeper. Determine these roles beforehand; don’t wait until the meeting to do so.

5. Stop Report Outs

Just as they douse cold water on in-person meetings, report outs can quickly take a virtual meeting down the road of wasted time. Rather spending time on report outs, focus on problems or required decisions and ask attendees to review reports out as part of the pre-meeting preparation. 

6. Determine What Digital Tools Are Needed

Setting the meeting agenda beforehand and knowing the its objective enables organizers to determine what digital tools are required. Evaluation of a software release requires screen sharing capabilities. For organizations seeking feedback and collaborative discussion, polling and chat capabilities are a requisite. 

7. Use Video Conferencing

Attendees often do everything but stay engaged during meetings, with 91 percent admitting they daydream, 39 percent saying they have slept during a meeting, and 73 percent indicating they did other work. Video conferencing, rather than audio only, is a great way to keep attendees from disengaging. As team members can see each other, they can gauge emotions and reactions; facial expressions humanize interactions between each of the attendees. 

8. Establish a Parking Lot

Some topics are likely to arise during a meeting that don’t relate to the meeting agenda and objective(s). That doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Rather, they need to be covered in separate meetings. These should be tracked in a digital parking lot. 

9. Establish Meeting Rules

Distractions and interruptions can happen with in-person meetings. They happen even more with virtual meetings. Meeting attendees should be banned from taking phone calls or multi-tasking. Facilitators should also make sure they engage all attendees and ensure they fulfill a role throughout the meeting. 

10. Log Clear Takeaways and Action Items

One of the reasons many meeting attendees feel meetings are a waste of time is the fact that they don’t result in clear takeaways and action items. This is more than a secretary scribing meeting minutes. The meeting objective needs to result in action items that are assigned to one or meeting attendees and include next steps (required: status communications back to the team).

11. For Hybrid Meetings, Evaluate Meeting Room Capabilities

When it comes to hybrid meetings, businesses need to ensure that their meeting rooms are equipped with the right digital presentation and video conferencing technologies. For businesses that rely on coworking spaces and day offices rather than permanent physical offices, meeting organizers should carefully evaluate rented meeting rooms to ensure they offer the right options. And if you haven’t looked at Davinci Meeting Rooms, you should do so.

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How a Virtual Personal Assistant Can Benefit Your Small Business

There are millions of administrative assistants and secretaries worldwide. Businesses and business leaders rely heavily on them to make sure meetings are scheduled and planned, executive schedules are managed, and administrative work is completed. The latest statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the number at a little more than 3.9 million. Yet, despite a tight labor market where many occupations see upwards of double-digit growth over the next decade, the number of executive assistants and secretaries (viz., personal assistants) is expected to fall at least five percent during the same timeframe.

So, what’s the cause? Is the business need for personal assistants diminishing? That wouldn’t seem to be the case. Business leaders are inundated with meeting requests, paper work, and other administrative work. And we’re not only talking about large businesses. Small businesses and even solopreneurs are turning to personal assistants for help. However, these aren’t full-time or even part-time personal assistants who work in a fixed office. Rather, these are virtual personal assistants like Davinci Live Receptionists who work remotely and on-demand, handling specified functions and tasks. 

Following is a quick look at some of the benefits businesses can realize by using virtual personal assistants:

1. Lower Cost

Many businesses and solopreneurs can benefit from a personal assistant. But hiring a full-time or even a part-time personal assistant is expensive and often more than what they can afford. Virtual personal assistants are available on-demand and provide businesses with the flexibility to only use them when they need them. This is an immensely more cost-effective solution than a permanent headcount that can run a business around $35,000 annually according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In comparison, depending on the amount of work needed, a virtual personal assistant can run as little as a few thousand dollars a year. 

2. Improved Productivity

Business leaders can often get distracted with administrative tasks and inbound and outbound communications. This can take away from valuable time spent with customers, partnerships, business development, and other strategic activities. Virtual personal assistants can assume these responsibilities, fielding incoming calls from customers and vendors and making outbound calls for everything from scheduling meetings to business development. When it comes to email, they can do the same—incoming and outgoing. Some business even leverage virtual personal assistants to manage live website chat and texting (think Davinci Live Web Chat).

3. Better Organized

Administrative tasks can add up quickly, even for the smallest of businesses. Scheduling deliveries, planning and booking travel, managing a calendar, and other activities can consume a lot of time. Virtual personal assistants can help with these, and the digital era makes it even easier to hand them over.

4. Enhanced Communications

Keeping up with phone and email communications can be overwhelming but more importantly detrimental to your business. Research shows that most customers will not call back again when they fail to reach a real human. They elect to use phone because their inquiry or problem requires intervention from a real person. Virtual personal assistants ensure that your customers aren’t put through to voice mail or when that does occur they get a timely response. 

But communications are more than just phone. Email remains the top engagement channel, with live web chat and text playing important roles. Email necessitates timely responses (customers expect to hear back in minutes or a few hours at the very most), while live web chat and text require live humans. Small businesses simply don’t have the time and resources to staff each of these channels. But with the help of virtual personal assistants, they can do so while making themselves look and act like a larger business.

5. Increased Business Scale

Scale is often a challenge for many businesses. Retailers have an influx in business during the holiday season. Accountants experience the same during tax season. Hospitality businesses are linked to business travel and vacation seasons. In other instances, a targeted marketing program or an influx in new business can push a small business to the brink. Hiring seasonal staff or permanent staff—not to mention training them—takes up valuable time. It also incurs financial obligations such as benefits and unemployment that many small businesses simply cannot assume. Virtual personal assistants are a great alternative or supplement when temporary scale is needed, providing small businesses with the flexibility to handle changing business requirements. 

Virtual personal assistants are a great resource for small businesses and solopreneurs. Get started today by checking Davinci’s Live Receptionists.

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Follow These 3 Essential Steps to Launch a Successful Side Business

Before the rise in popularity of the gig economy, becoming an entrepreneur typically required a big investment of time and money. Now, as the gig economy becomes a normal part of how we do business, there are more opportunities to take the leap into entrepreneurship with freelance or short-term work. Launching a side business is easier than ever, with lower startup costs and less time involved than a traditional business. However, don’t let the lower barrier to entry fool you. In order to be successful, you have to treat your “side hustle” like a true business and learn the skills necessary to work from home.

#1  Find Your Fit

The biggest mistake you can make in starting a side business is jumping into something without thinking through whether it’s the right fit for you. If you aren’t sure where to start or simply want to make sure you’re on the right track, this infographic from Entrepreneur can help you focus in on what type of gig suits your interests. Maybe you have a creative hobby making something you can sell online, or maybe you love animals and could see yourself as a dog walker or pet sitter. When you start a side gig, you are solely responsible for staying motivated, so your success depends on choosing something you will enjoy spending your time doing.

Others choose to start a side business based on an original idea. If this is you, be sure to put your idea through a few key tests. Does your proposed product or service meet a need? The best business ideas are ones that create a solution for a problem that people are willing to pay for. Is your idea simple and focused? It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of bringing your business to life, but you may run into problems if your plans balloon into something that is overly complicated. Forbes recommends starting small and focused, and then you can add as your business grows. 

#2  Build Your Knowledge Base

When you’re ready to get your gig off the ground, use this time during the preparation and early stages to learn all you can about your field and entrepreneurship in general. It takes a little investment in yourself to learn the skills required to run your own business. Learning these skills will also help shift your mindset from being an employee to being an entrepreneur. Do this alongside your regular job so that you still have money coming in while you build the skills to work on your own. 

This is also the time to start developing key relationships with potential business partners and clients. Start with people you already know, like family members, friends, and colleagues -- past and present. Then expand your contacts by attending local networking events. While you may not have a website or storefront to show potential clients and investors at this stage, you should have updated business materials. As old fashioned as it sounds, business cards and an updated resume listing your new venture will give you and your new gig more credibility. The good news is, online tools make it easier than ever to design professional-looking pieces for print and digital use… with perks! For example, online resume builders not only give you access to proven templates, they also provide writing tips from experts and a tool that allows you to track who’s actually downloading and reading the resumes you send. 

#3  Set Up Your Office and Operations

Even though you plan to work this business on the side, your workspace and daily operations should be just as organized as if this was your main source of income. Many people who start home-based businesses make the mistake of blurring the lines between work and home life. To avoid falling into this trap, set up a home workspace that is in a designated spot. Using a separate room as a home office is ideal, but even a corner of a room that you set aside will work. Set up your daily operations by getting the necessary tools you’ll need and organizing all files and supplies from the start.

Successfully running your business from home also requires setting regular “office hours.” Flexibility is one of the greatest benefits of working from home, but don’t be too flexible with yourself. Take a look at your schedule and determine when you can carve out time to work on your business, and then make this time a nonnegotiable part of your routine.

Whether your goal is to simply make a little money on the side or replace your full-time job, starting a side gig can be as unique as you are. Whatever your goals are, planning, learning, and setting up your business correctly are all essential steps to success. Don’t skip these steps because they are what separate a hobby from a hustle!

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