Tag Archives: The Virtual Alternative

Happy Anniversary to me! 10 years in business today.

Wow, where has the last 10 years gone?  It seems like only yesterday that I walked through the doors of the Toronto Business Development Centre to apply for the Self Employment Assistance Program.  We were told to turn our phones off but Siobhan was expecting to give birth to Jaden any second so I refused and put mine on vibrate.  Two very important things happening at the same time!

Fast forward 6 weeks and I started the program.  It was a blur of information and on October 24th I graduated and The Virtual Alternative was born.  It was a very scary day but the TBDC took us out to lunch at a local Portuguese restaurant and Joe, not yet my husband, picked me up and whisked me off…somewhere,,, (funny the details we remember and the details we don’t).

There have been a lot of highs and lows since then…applied for my HST number at the end of 2005 – not bad going for 2 years in business – then suffered from a pretty bad low.  But here I am, 8 years after that, still going strong and loving being self-employed.

I have some terrific clients that I enjoy working with and every day is a new adventure.  Despite some days being at the computer at 5:45 a.m. and still at the computer past midnight, I would rather stick pins in my eyes than go back to working for someone else.  I’ve made some terrific friends, worked with some terrific colleagues and wouldn’t trade the last 10 years for anything.

So, to all my clients, friends and family, thank you for your support, it’s been a pleasure working and playing with you over the last 10 years and I look forward to another 10+.

Liz

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Customer Service par Excellence!

Some time ago, I blogged about an example of customer service that stood above the crowd:  when Jennifer of Oust-A-Mouse offered me a second unit, “on loan”, to help battle my cottage mouse problem.  Well, I am extremely happy to report that I have not seen any evidence of mice…no actual critters, no tell tale droppings, nothing.

And that, despite continuing to find new spots that we never cleaned in the first place.  Needless to say, those spots are being cleaned and bleached as they are found but still no new critters have made their way inside.

We even had renovations done to our fireplace hearth and the workman took the hearth out and left the inside wide open to the outside.  Still no critters!

Many years ago when I was newly in business, I had a client named Graham who gave me a fairly small job to do and for whatever reason, it just went wrong at every turn.  When I finally completed the tasks assigned, I was incredibly frustrated with myself that a fairly straightforward job had gone so awry.  I eventually handed Graham the finished job and never sent him an invoice.   Years later he came back to me with a $3500 project, which I was able to complete on time and on budget; a project I never would have seen had I billed him for the $100 job years earlier.

In the case of Oust-A-Mouse, it wasn’t that the product didn’t work, it was that I had so many mice, I needed two units to do the job properly.

In my opinion, anyone who stands as firmly behind a product as Jennifer does should be applauded and promoted.  In this day and age of disposable everything and an attitude of buyer beware, it’s truly refreshing to find a company like Oust-A-Mouse and an owner like Jennifer who offer an exceptional product and exceptional customer service.  I hope that at The Virtual Alternative we always strive to live up to Jennifer’s example.

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Creating a Safe Environment by Liz Saunders

On Friday I wrote about a nasty experience during Jaden’s swimming lesson.  At the time, I was told I needed to speak to the Crescent Town Club’s General Manager, A.N.   Today, since I had to go to Olivia’s and feed feline horribilous, I thought “I’ll kill two birds with one stone and see if A.N. is in the office”.

On arrival at the pool office, I ran into Ken who had been my witness and instrumental in calming the situation down on Friday.  He took me into A.N.’s office and we had a meeting.  Both A.N. and Ken agreed that the other woman’s behaviour was outrageous and they will be happy to help the police in figuring out who she is.  They have a zero tolerance policy in place which they want to enforce as well, so they have every interest in finding her too.  They had a really good picture of her from their security system and I confirmed that it was the woman in question.  Apparently it shouldn’t be long before she’s identified.

We then discussed possible solutions to dealing with the issue of getting Jaden in and out of his swimming lessons…which I’m pleased to say can now continue.   I think that they were very pleased that I was not trying to ramrod what I wanted through, but was willing to work with them and be as reasonable as possible.  They clearly understand that this is an issue and that it’s an issue that will continue to grow, rather than diminish.

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Art is a Messy Business! by Liz Saunders

Today I walked into class late (they would reduce the Woodbine bridge to 1 lane in the direction I was going on today of all days) and was extremely pleased to see that Reissa had joined us!   Yay!  And she did really well for her first day, although much like Elizabeth and I on our first day, she didn’t think so.  She’s wrong and I’m not afraid to say so.

Today was very messy.  Kathy had prepared a page of paper for Elizabeth and me that was covered in charcoal.  Then we had to do the opposite of what we did before (conté on construction paper) – we had to erase the charcoal for our contrast!  And not an easy thing – the watering can with leaves wrapped around it.  Well, I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome, but it is what it is.

charcoal watering can and plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we got to play with ink!  I had been looking forward to ink but not really sure I’m happy with this either.  And the problem with ink is that you can’t erase it, so again, it is what it is.Leaf in ink

 

 

 

 

On Sunday I ordered myself some watercolour coloured pencils because Kathy had told us that if you’re going to work with coloured pencils, these are the best – just as pencils – but have the flexibility of being water colours as well.  So, hoping they might arrive today, I drove the three students over to DeSerres and I picked up a selection of brushes.

first brushes

Then to my delight, my pencils arrived this afternoon!  Only thing is…Kathy hasn’t taught us colour yet and I forgot about watercolour paper.

New pencils

So, this week’s experimentation will be very messy at home too! But what the heck, the one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t really do anything wrong in art – especially since if I try some watercolour pencil fruit – I can eat the evidence!

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No Pictures Allowed! by Liz Saunders

Have you ever taken a picture in a grocery store so that you could remember something, possibly research it, or in my case call a friend and say “what the heck is this and how do you cook it?”?

I’ve done it lots of times.  I used to drive my friend Bruce buggy because I figured he should know what to do with bok choy…being oriental and all.  But no, Bruce was born in Canada and doesn’t have any more idea what to do with pigs feet than I do.

IMAG0088So imagine my surprise today when I went to check out a relatively new store in my ‘hood called either A-1 Premium or Al Premium (owner’s name could be Al, I suppose) and found some stuff that I thought grandson Jaden would love to see, although frankly it was making me a little queasy.   In fact, I commented to husband Joe that I felt like I’d walked into another country, the food was so varied and different.  Next thing I know I’ve got some goon following me around yelling at me “no pictures…no pictures”.   Husband Joe of course jumped to my defence before I had a chance to open my mouth.  “Why can’t she take pictures?” he asked.  “They’re just to show to our grandson”.

“No pictures!”  insisted our goon.  “You talk to Manager”, pointing to the very front of the store (we were at the very back).  “Nope”, said Joe.  “You want us to talk to the manager, you go get him”.  Well this deteriorated into “you do it” “no, you do it” and we walked away – with a goon shadow.  Next thing we know we’re being followed by our goon and a man in a red jacket who finally approached us and said “you no take pictures in store”.  And then he said something about the pictures ending up on the internet (of course, I thought “hey, great idea” – that had never been my intention).

Joe again explained they were only for our grandson – as I plotted Facebook and a blog – and red jacket walked away smiling.

As we finished our shopping – still under the watchful eye of goon – I started wondering if the fuss was about illegal aliens as employees.  What else could the big deal have been?

Still in this day and age of instant communication (have you seen the commercial where the man falls off the treadmill?) where a story of poor communication and therefore poor customer service can be spread in a heartbeat, this was very, very poorly handled.  Joe reckons we may be barred from the store for life.  I’ll have to check that out later this week.

And what was all the fuss about?  Well, here are the infamous pictures:

 

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Oust-A-Mouse Bait House Exemplifies Exceptional Customer Service by Liz Saunders

Back in the fall, our friends, Wendie and Hugh, came down to Toronto and we went to the Cottage Life Show.   While we were wandering around, I saw a booth displaying various types of insulation and I stopped to chat.  One of my questions was:  is your insulation mouse proof?  The response:  Are you kidding?  Nothing’s mouse proof.  They will eat anything…wood…steel wool…insulation laced with arsenic.  Nothing keeps mice out.  But there will be a presentation at 3:30 pm over there about how to mouse proof your cottage.

Fabulous, I thought and wandered “over there” at the appropriate time.  To my surprise, the presentation was by Jennifer Cambray, the President of JNC Innovations and she was talking about Oust-A-Mouse Bait House.  I say surprise because I had already had an Oust-A-Mouse Bait House at my cottage for a few years and I couldn’t say that it had really helped.  I still had mice everywhere I’d ever had them.  Jennifer’s presentation was both very interesting and quiet scary (Deer mice, Hantavirus) and she was fielding questions as the expert she is.

oustamouse

One woman was being quite rude in her challenges to Jennifer and Jennifer handled it like a pro.  Never having been one for confrontation, I decided to wander over to the Oust-A-Mouse booth and speak to her quietly.  She was held up for some time after her talk so I spoke to her husband who gave me Jennifer’s card and suggested I contact her directly.

This is where the incredible customer service comes in.  I contacted Jennifer a couple of days later (after the Cottage Life Show was done and she was home).  I told her that we had seen no appreciable difference after using an Oust-A-Mouse for a number of years and going through copious amounts of poison.  After a discussion of where it was, how I was using it, how much poison, etc., her response:  Then you probably have such a large infestation that you need another bait house which I will send to you free of charge.  If it works, you can pay me for it!

But that wasn’t all.  As she visits Bracebridge regularly, she dropped the bait house off at Wendie and Hugh’s for me.  She also included some rat poison – just to make sure I was using the right stuff –  and gave me instructions on exactly where to put it.

Now this is where it gets even crazier:  If I’m not mistaken, she also offered to drop by the cottage in the spring to help me make sure I had everything set up right and make sure I had bleached everything that needed to be bleached, stopped up holes, etc.   I was already so blown away by her offer to send me a bait house without payment in advance that I could have misunderstood that part.

In any event, between Xmas and New Years off we went to the cottage with our 2nd bait house to place under the bathroom.   Topped up the poison in Oust-A-Mouse bait house number 1 while we were there and then couldn’t get out of the driveway (a whole other story).

So, the days are getting longer and it’s only a matter now of a few weeks (okay, maybe 7 or 8) and we’ll be able to go see how the mice did over the winter.

But in the meantime, I have Jennifer’s card on my desk as a constant reminder of what truly exceptional customer service (not to mention standing behind your product) is all about and I strive daily to give the same to my clients.

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I’ve been instructed to be creative!

Where has the month gone?  I can’t believe I actually managed to type a blog back on January 5th, what with my hand still being really sore from surgery but I guess being pissed off helped.  Thanks to Witchy and some homeopathic remedies, I’m healing well and will be back into the blogging chair soon.

Since then, I’ve had a blog running around in my head about a company that displays customer service that is the antithesis of my recent bad experience with Pizza Pizza but have not written it yet as I’m trying not to strain my wrist more than I have to.

However, I saw my dear friend Witchy yesterday and my new instructions (aside from increase this dosage, keep doing the other, rub castor oil on your arm, etc.) include:  stop for a bit every day and either call a friend, write a blog or do something creative …well, I guess writing a blog can be creative but she meant draw a picture or do something artsy.

Well, I would love to pick up a pencil or piece of charcoal or conte and do just that, butluc studio-Entrance-150x150 I am intimidated.  I don’t have a problem using a pencil to try to draw an image of a person, but that’s not what Witchy wants.  She wants me to be expressive and uninhibited and boldly creative and I am, to quote the title of an art course at Luc Studio, a “terrified beginner”.   Therefore, starting in March, I am signed up for the course “Drawing & Painting for the Terrified Beginners“.

It’s funny that I’m so intimidated as I come up with creative solutions for my clients all the time, but pick up a piece of charcoal and apply to paper….shudder.  So for now, I will call a friend or write a blog …or possibly just journal and keep my thoughts to myself.

But as sooustamouseon as I feel able, you will receive my blog about Oust-a-Mouse and it’s incredible President, Jennifer Cambray.    I hope I emulate Jennifer’s level of customer service at The Virtual Alternative, but I’m not sure that’s even possible.  More on this soon, but for now, back to fixing a database.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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