Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business

Shark TankBeing both a fan of the tv show Shark Tank and an entrepreneur I was attracted to this book. While my business is beyond the start-up phase by more than a decade I wondered how much of the information would be helpful at this point in business.

The book stays true to its name by focusing on the questions and information an emerging or aspiring entrepreneur may face. The six chapters are broken into discussing: defining an entrepreneur, setting up shop, understanding finances, marketing and selling, business failures, and a behind-the-scenes roundtable conversation with the actual Sharks – Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, and Daymond John – plus includes a tools and resources section. Sprinkled throughout are Shark Bites – sound bites from each Shark with their own personal tip – and Shark tips being small hints for business success.

Each chapter begins with a brief bio of one of the six Sharks and their thoughts on a chapter topic. I liked the Shark contributions. Additionally, key products and entrepreneurs that appeared on the show are spotlighted.

As someone who provides mentoring to emerging and aspiring virtual assistants looking to launch their own business but have limited business operations knowledge l will be recommending this book. The book gives solid explanations of the various aspects of business that are commonly asked in the start-up phase.

I was impressed with the tools and resources section and plan to further explore these references and links in more depth.

As a fan of the Shark Tank I enjoyed reading the stories about those who appeared on the show and recognized many of those featured. The roundtable discussion was insightful and demonstrated how diverse each Shark is compared to the next.

Two things I really disliked about the book were the reverse print formatting on some pages – black background and white text or dark gray background with black text. Both styles were hard to read, often including reduced font sizes.  The unfortunate part is that these sections contained the Shark Bite tips or higher value information. Placing these sections in a box or using graphic lines to draw attention would have been more impactful that the background color change.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.

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JudyAnn Reads: The No Bull$#*% Guide to Virtual Assistants for Business

NoBullshitGuideThe author, Tina Marie Hilton, gives virtual assistants a place to hang their hats regardless of the niche they serve or what the services are. All virtual assistants do ASSIST with something, be that filing, data entry, event planning, website design and maintenance, telephone calls….any task that can be assigned to someone effectively working off-site. Getting coffee might be a challenge. Getting ourselves clear about the way assisting works — as a service business absorbs any potential stigma of using the term virtual assistant.

The title of the book is intended to shock and get the readers’ attention, but the book keeps a promise not to hide the facts and truth about virtual business under a flowery blanket of filler. Hilton writes candidly about the various options for businesses who want to outsource tasks in terms of off-shore choices and the people/services available right in the community.

For new clients who are not used to working with an independent contractor to get things done, she spells out the pitfalls of micro-management in the view of the tax people. Too much control is an employee tag for taxes.

I like the section entitled: What if the Cow isn’t Really Purple? addressing the virtual assistance relationship gone wrong.  Sometimes, even with the greatest careful research there are issues. Hilton encourages the client to look again at the situation and avoid kicking the VA to the curb or giving up on VA professional assistance altogether.  Instead she encourages the relationship to:

  • Allow for the learning curve time factor
  • Be upfront with the virtual assistant that things aren’t working
  • After facing the issues, give it another try
  • If all else fails, check the contract and professionally end the relationship

While the section is aimed at the client, I would encourage professional virtual assistants to be sensitive to potential issues and take responsibility for addressing them. It is part of our professional skill to speak up if we need more direction or other information. Part of our job is to make the client look good!

Hilton points out pitfalls for the client who goes into a virtual assistant relationship without understanding the wide scope of ability that this independent contractor brings to the table. This misunderstanding can lead to worries about rates, concerns about getting tasks accomplished and a general poor perception of working with a virtual assistant.

From another point of view, Hilton encourages including more than one virtual specialist in the relationship as opposed to trying to find one person who will do everything.

For a business owner, this book is a good investment when developing a plan for outsourcing.

For the virtual assistant, the book has some good, solid identity opinions that can strengthen a virtual practice. There is a wide list of professions where Hilton has identified tasks that could very well be done virtually.

I enjoyed reading this book as a virtual assistant. I read it to learn ways that my services and communication could be polished for a better presentation going into a business deal with clients.

For $2.99 as a Kindle download, this book could become a valuable tool for other virtual assistants. I would be happy to be included in any book discussions about the Guide! Talk with me in the Comments.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.

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JudyAnn Lorenz of Bar JD Communications has worked as a virtual professional since 2003. She brings websites and marketing strategy together for clients.  “By addressing the desires of customers, search engines and the business/client’s own spirit, I help weave the tapestry of their Internet presence for this Big Three.”

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Kimberly Reads: Be the Ultimate Assistant

untilmateassistantBe the Ultimate Assistant: A celebrity assistant’s secrets to working with any high-powered employer by Bonnie Low-Kramen was an awesome read. I had the pleasure of attending one of her workshops recently and it has changed my entire outlook on my work environment. Attendees received a copy of the book. I read it immediately and in one day. While she was a Celebrity Assistant for 25 years to Olympia Dukakis – don’t let that fool you. She has chosen to champion for all assistants – no matter if you work for a celebrity, a CEO of a Fortune 500, a small to mid-size firm, looking to venture into the world of being an assistant or have 20 years in the game – you will nod your head in agreement throughout the book and gain many useful tips.

Chapter 1 starts off with “would you know what to do” examples. I personally learned that you can have a lost passport replaced overnight. It’s interesting to note that it is not only assistants to celebrities who are challenged by additional personal requests by their employers. Virtual Assistants are known to have to pull off small miracles frequently.

Chapter 14 talks about Gender in the Workplace. It is a discussion that has gained popularity since Sheryl Sandberg published Lean In. Bonnie explains in her book, “By definition, our roles are behind the scenes and supportive. No longer though, does this mean invisible and unheard.” We all face the same challenges and we all have to find our voice – as Bonnie preaches – “Find Your Voice.”

As mentioned above, while in the workforce this book was written primarily for the personal celebrity assistant, there are many tips to be learned by anyone who assistants someone. From event planning to good manners, to learning if you are even cut out for being an assistant – Be the Ultimate Assistant is a must read.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.

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Kimberly Latona is an Office Manager/Executive Assistant for the past 23 years. She holds a MS in Organization and Management, is an avid volunteer and is in constant learning mode taking workshops, e-courses and scouring the Internet for information that will help her strengthen her skill-set. Get to know Kimberly via her Linkedin Profile.

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JudyAnn Reads: A Virtual Assistant Assistant: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Hiring and Working with Virtual Assistants

Nick LoperThat is a long title for a book that has useful potential and has been downloaded over 3,000 times! In his bio, Nick Loper tells us that he operates virtualassistantassistant.com as a directory of honest virtual assistant reviews. Loper was an Internet marketer before that was popular! His business ventures led him to investigate the possibility for a Virtual Assistant for himself. His experience led him to write about the ways the relationship between client and virtual assistant can be improved.

The book is intended for the entrepreneur or business person who needs to hire help. Loper talks the reader through evaluations of need and whether an onsite person or an outsource person would be the best choice.

He discusses the options to hiring a virtual assistant, listing tasks that might not ordinarily be considered. Clarification of the term ‘assistant’ is strong throughout the book as is the theory of outsourcing. Everyone ‘outsources’ something, even the water that comes into the house, while ‘assistant’ applies to many more services than the stereotypical secretarial or administrative tasks.

He seems weighted toward using companies who have a ‘stable’ of virtual assistants, but also has worked with individuals. He has worked with and can speak about virtual assistants in many countries; both men and women.

Loper addresses many concerns about security with solid advice as well as certifications and organizations that represent credibility for the virtual assistant. He recommends some that are highly respected, but also cautions that certifications do not measure everything.

Rates: While there is no doubt that rates are important and we all know the differences in standards of living can lead to some lower and higher rates, I wish he hadn’t used numbers. Figures change constantly and the numbers he used can become a ‘standard’ that new business people expect when beginning to work with virtual assistants. Loper also implies it is common to hire someone at low rates, but only barely discusses the point that the lower rate people may also be offering services that have demanded a lower investment in time and equipment for them.

Interview Tactics: He recommends asking the virtual assistant applicants to do some tasks as an experiment. These are not free work, but a test where all applicants have the same tasks. He uses the term resume and most virtual assistants use the term profile, but I believe this isn’t a deal breaker once the need is defined. Virtual assistants must be transparent about experience regardless of the terminology. Clients need to know where and how a virtual assistant has or has not worked.

Policies: It is sweet that he recommends appreciation, bonuses, and fair pay practices for the virtual assistant. Loyalty is fostered by clients who take the time to inform, involve virtual assistants and who respect the person they do not see.

The author wins all five stars for me in other similar reviews because he devotes a large part of the book to ways an entrepreneur can sensibly take charge of business and the virtual assistant relationship. The leadership people I’ve worked with have been other virtual assistants as a subcontractor. Clients right out of the box have not been able or willing to do this and it has left me at a disadvantage more than once.  Beginning at the beginning, Loper recommends working out a mission statement for the business, then building a management manual so that the plan is all worked out before the virtual assistant comes on board. The plans are all living and expectations are for change, but there are fewer surprises with a system of some sort in place.

I found the book to be sensibly structured from first learning what a virtual assistant is and that outsourcing is not a dirty word through the analysis of need and the structure of a sound leadership plan that doesn’t leave anyone hanging.

Knowing this book was written for the client, I read it because I wanted some more information that could make my virtual business stronger and help me in better marketing practices. Even as some details may become more dated or obsolete, there is a useful foundation in the book for readers. I’m glad I have it and recommend it as a useful foundation resource. I’m sure I will be referring to parts of it in the future. I will be writing reviews of the book at BarJD.com, GoodReads.com, and at Amazon.com.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.

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JudyAnn Lorenz of Bar JD Communications has worked as a virtual professional since 2003. She brings websites and marketing strategy together for clients.  “By addressing the desires of customers, search engines and the business/client’s own spirit, I help weave the tapestry of their Internet presence for this Big Three.”

Additionally, JudyAnn is one of The Naked VA’s Intriguing Virtual Professionals. Click here to read her interview.

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Book Review: Business Confidential: Lessons for Corporate Success from Inside the CIA

Recently my family visited the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Growing up in the tv spy era with popular viewings such as Get Smart, Pink Panther cartoons, James Bond movies, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I was thrilled to check out what this adventure may hold. While I fully realize Hollywood’s version of espionage holds little resemblance to reality I was curious and wanted to take it all in. I’ll admit I was surprised to find a business book, Business Confidential: Lessons for Corporate Success from Inside the CIA by Peter Ernest and MaryAnn Karinch in the gift shop. This was a purchase I had to make. What insights would the CIA have about running a successful business?

Being a virtual assistant who operates as a solo businessperson I was unsure how much, if anything, would be relevant to my single woman operation or if everything is guided towards larger business models with actual employees and board rooms. And the worst case scenario would be I’d simply learn about the National Clandestine Service (NCS) and get a peek inside the minds of those in a very secretive world. Being curious about espionage I figured it was a win-win.

While much of these writings are intended for businesses with employees there are still insights, tips, and suggestions that can be applied to being a solopreneur.

The writings are narrated by Ernest as he draws upon a wealth of experience during 36 years with the Central Intelligence Agency, most of it in the Agency’s National Clandestine Service (NCS). The chapters discuss hiring the right individuals to support your mission (applying the adage hire for attitude, train for skill), building a committed team, with focuses on information collection and techniques (I particularly enjoyed this section as I do much internet research work), with focuses on interpersonal skills, presuming success, and meeting change with intelligence to name just a few.

The Path of Persuasion section caught my eye for how it outlined clear steps to close a sale – from delivering the presentation to handling any objections to assuring clients their trust is firmly in the proper place with you and your business.

Regardless of the size or nature of your business I believe you’ll find valuable information, plus unearth some core principles of the spy world and how it all works, that you can apply to your business strategy. I did.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.

P.S. Museum Bonus Review:  If you happen to be in the Washington, D.C. and are curious about if you should visit the International Spy Museum my reply is “YES!” Our family truly enjoyed it all. Allow for about 2-2 1/2 hours for the self-guided tour. There’s much to see…and experience. Some areas are interactive — from beginning to end.

Before entering the Briefing Room, and after you bypass several security clearances, you’ll be given the opportunity to assume a new identity cover. Memorize your identity’s facts, nod your head to the agent along the wall, and the Briefing Room doors will slowly glide open where you can enter and accept your assignment, if you choose.

Witness firsthand some of the tiniest devices used during the history of espionage. Be on the look out for James Bond’s Aston Martin car. It’s a beauty like no other. Feel the vibrations reverberate through your body when you stand inside the bomb shelter and listen to the story of the Manhattan Project. Near the end, have the chance to use your new identity to assist in the covet assignment and perhaps be invited to become part of an elite team. Upon exiting the museum, learning of the high percentages of spies globally who crisscross around the D.C. metro area, you’ll find yourself taking a second glance at those you pass on the sidewalk. . . wondering, if perhaps . . . .

The International Spy Museum’s Facebook Page is here if you’d like to interact, learn some spy trivia, or participate in one of their events.

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Book Reviews: 3 Mini Reviews = 2 Ebooks + 1 Paperback

Book Review: 10 Fundamentals of Online Branding for Small Businesses & Professionals (eBook)
written by Mary H. Ruth

Inbound marketing was a bit of an enigma to me. I’d simplistically thought it was only getting links back to your website but it’s so much more. This mini eBook speaks the theories behind the practice, leaving the technicalities for another book or a consultation with the author.

With new focused emphasis on communication, conversations, and community building I can understand how over the long-term inbound marketing is a viable method.

One of my favorite sentences is [paraphrased] “It’s all about dialogue not monologue when on the Internet and with inbound marketing.” That’s golden!

If you can’t list the ten fundamentals on online branding then don’t delay in reading this book. It will whet your appetite and introduce you to a whole new way of marketing. Whether you incorporate one or all ten, making these habitual in your routine, results are sure to follow. Being purposeful and habitual in your efforts are key.

I found this mini eBook to be a quick read with a conversational writing style that I found appealing. The author presents the materials as well as her reasoning so the reader can better understand the process.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.


Book Review: Work at Home 101: Your Work-at-Home Starting Place
(eBook)
written by Jill Hart

I’m a fan of Jill Hart’s writings and when I saw this mini eBook I had to read it too. This mini eBook highlights the four main ways to make working at home possible and is a nice introductory book to her earlier book titled, “So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom” (co-authored with Diana Ennen) which goes into more depth.

I enjoyed reading the interviews with those working in the various WAHM scenarios and getting their firsthand impressions. The tips and lists provided are practical and accurate to make a successful start for a home-based business.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.

 

Book Review: Alpha WAHM Blueprint: An Empowerment Guide for Work-at-Home Moms (paperback)
written by Karri Flatla

The Alpha WAHM Blueprint really grabbed me and I read it through in one sitting. Each page grabs you and propels you to keep reading – section to section. I found my head nodding in agreement as I’ve shared several of the same thoughts and experiences as the author. I especially enjoyed reading the ‘tales from the trenches.’

The author encourages readers to read through the book once, then go back a second time to work through the blueprint exercises. I couldn’t agree more. Don’t be afraid to scribble notes in the margins along the way. This is a building process that may take some time to marinate to ripeness and grow into a full rich flavor that signifies your own personal WAHM lifestyle. I like that the exercises are written so that the blueprint will be tailor made for each WAHM reader – no cookie cutter tactics here.

The book fills me with hope for work-at-home moms to create a lifestyle they want – satisfying both their family and career needs.

Interested in getting your own copy of this book? Check out the ordering link here.