Tag Archives: Virtual Assistance

B.C. plus 9 by Liz Saunders

B.C. or not B.C.?

B.C. or not B.C.?

You will recall that 9 days ago, at 6:20 a.m. (in accordance with Witchy Woman’s instructions) I took my dose of B.C.  I was hoping to report back on changes or experiences but there’s been little to report.

I had no idea what to expect – which is probably a good thing because I haven’t been disappointed.  So far, I have not experienced anything that I would say was relief.  At one point (maybe 3 or 4 days ago) I thought maybe, just maybe, my head wasn’t as itchy as it’s been.  But no, that was a temporary reprieve that only lasted one day.  On another day, I thought maybe, just maybe, my left thumb didn’t hurt as much…also a temporary reprieve.

Emotionally…no change…physically…no change, except for this rotten cold which I’ve managed to pass it on to my husband.  My nausea/heartburn has returned and gone, my head is itchy and my hands and feet hurt.  Oh, and I’m not feeling very creative or funny.  Good thing work lately hasn’t required creativity!  This week was mostly about sending out faxes, capturing and recording information written on the back of postcards, booking mediations and minutes of meetings.  Nothing requiring thinking or creativity.

Can’t wait to see Witchy Woman on Tuesday and say “now what?”  Oh, and Witchy, if you’re readying this – the heck with you…I’m going to Google B.C. before I see you on Tuesday!

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

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B.C. plus 2

Nothing much seems to be happening so far, other than I finally caught the cold that’s been chasing me all week. Not sure if no obvious change is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing.

My left thumb might not be as painful as it has been – or is it just that I haven’t banged it, over-used it, picked up anything too heavy for – just not sure. Although, you would think it might be somewhat painful after doing minutes of a condo meeting and a meeting I do regularly as The Virtual Alternative, in two days.

Still …early days.

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Naturopath or Witchy Woman? by Liz Saunders

My journey continues with the CCNM but now I’m not sure whether I’m dealing with the Witchy Woman that the Eagles sang about all those years ago or not.  She definitely has black hair and today makes me wonder.

But let me digress.  I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn’t sure why I was doing the contrast showers.  Turns out that, for some reason, the contrasting temperatures act as a gentle detox – just like the castor oil packs – and my massage therapist, the wonderful Natalie, confirmed this.  I’m sort of used to them, although I missed it one day – just couldn’t face the cold water.  Nat tells me I don’t have to do really cold because it’s the contrast that counts.  I forgot to check with Witchy Woman to see if that’s true…perhaps she’ll post a comment here.

So, I’ve been going along with contrast showers, my castor oil, chia seeds, more fish oil, no strawberries and whatever else Keila has thrown at me.  The Calcarea phosphorica homeopathic has helped with the pain in my hands, somewhat, although the pain at times has been excruciating, so much so that I’ve made an appointment with the hand surgeon as a backup. 

Today just before my appointment, I heard Keila tell the patient immediately before me that if he didn’t follow her instructions, she would hound and haunt him.  At my appointment, Keila announced that it was an exciting day as she had a potential solution for me …but I’m not going to tell you what it is.  Suffice to say, it’s the name of a “beautiful colour” so I’m going to call it B.C.  The reason I won’t tell you the name, at this point, is that Keila wouldn’t tell me the whys and wherefores of choosing it, in order not to jeopardize B.C.’s efficacy (apparently, if I think I know what to expect it might affect how the B.C. works).   Keila referred to B.C. as a “deep” remedy and tells me that B.C. could have physical effects and/or mental/emotional effects…or not.

So, despite the most intense desire to Google B.C., I have not and will not.

B.C. has been ordered from Riverdale Homeopathic Clinic and will arrive tomorrow.  I must keep it away from odours, electronics, sunlight and heat until I have the opportunity to take it (if this sounds familiar – don’t tell me!!!).  This is where the Witchy Woman thing comes in:  I have to take it at twilight or early in the morning.  Seriously?  Cue Twilight Zone theme.

As a Virtual Assistant I have been asked to do some strange things:  baby-sit some legal documents in a basement, pick up and deliver a certified cheque (a courier would have been cheaper) but this twilight thing is just weird.  However, where in my business the client is always right – it is a service industry after all – in the case of Witchy Woman, I have to assume that she’s right and trust her to know what she’s doing.

Next step:  record anything that is “out of the ordinary” for me, whether by thought, word or deed.  In order to do that, I need any of you who know me, if you notice anything different, please tell me.  Then I might as well record the changes here so you can all enjoy my discomfiture.

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Can Political Correctness Actually be Dangerous?

A client of mine was recently approached, through her ticket desk (me), to speak at an event at St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow, UK.  The request allegedly came from Bishop Mark Jarrow.  I thought it odd so I did some research on the internet.  There is a St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow, UK (in fact, it’s the home of the Venerable Bede) and the local Bishop’s name is Mark Bryant aka Mark Jarrow.

This is where the political correctness comes in:  the language in the ticket and in subsequent emails wasn’t that of a native, English/British speaker.  My first reaction was scepticism but then I told myself, wait, maybe you’re being unnecessarily snobbish or prejudiced.  Britain is well known as a melting pot of many cultures – not all of whom speak English the way you or I do.  I remembered that at my Uncle’s funeral in a small town in northern Central Ontario, the Catholic priest was very Spanish.  Would he have been able to write an email in English that was completely grammatically correct?  Ditto a Catholic priest in a church in the Beaches area of Toronto a few years ago.   So, on with my political correctness hat and I let my client know about the ticket.

However, something never quite seemed right.  They sent a contract, which my client signed and returned (now they had her signature).  They needed her passport info, d.o.b. and full name to book her flight.  Then came the bombshell that she would need a work permit and would have to pay for it herself.

We both tried contacting the British Consulate here…they want $3.20 a minute to talk to a live human being.  After a tortuous search of the website we agreed to have the permit pulled in the UK – despite the fact that the British Consulate’s website said a Tier 5 permit would be 190GBP and the contact in Jarrow said it would be 430GBP.  I suggested they use part of the deposit they were going to send my client, but no…that was coming from a sponsor and not immediately available.  In any event, they said they were going to reimburse the cost so we were going to go ahead.

Still, something didn’t feel right at this point and when they asked me for the second time, when my client would like to travel, something clicked in me and, on my own time, I started really digging.  First I compared phone numbers and postal codes on the contract and the website (they were different).  Then I emailed the rector listed on the website and was put in touch with the real Bishop’s PA (who writes impeccable English).   Turns out it’s a scam that the local constabulary are well aware of but interestingly enough, the Toronto cops couldn’t care less about.

Thank goodness we figured out it was a scam before my client actually wired any money to them.  Oh, and for the record, my client looked up the IP addresses and they are in Nigeria.

So, when does political correctness become dangerous:  the minute we stop relying on our instinctive reactions and mask them with political correctness and the desire not to offend.

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Can you have too many friends? by Liz Saunders

In a recent blog I mentioned that we were late leaving for the cottage one weekend because of family.  Well, there was an interesting story that came out of that family incident.

We were expecting out-laws to come in for a wedding and stay with us overnight.  When I hadn’t heard from Jeff an hour and a half after their plane should have landed, I texted him saying “how was your flight?”  The response was “I think you might have the wrong number”.   And continued:

Me:  ?

Jeff:  who were you looking for?

Me:  you, of course…this is Liz…isn’t this Jeff?

Jeff:  This is Brian

This is Brian!

????  What?  Where’s Jeff?

Needless to say, I was very confused.  I know I had the right number but clearly it was no longer Jeff’s.

Eventually Jeff and Tina turned up and it turned out both had new cell numbers that I was unaware of.    So much for staying up to date!

But my conversations with Brian continued.   On the Saturday (the day we ended up in that terrible restaurant, Rombo’s) as we were driving north, I was thoroughly entertained texting with Brian and learning bits about him.  I discovered that he is a student at MUN, he likes Black Sabbath (I texted my daughter to get her to Google Black Sabbath for me which didn’t help.  When I finally Googled them and found that they had done War Pigs, I had an idea what we were talking about – who knew it was Ozzy?!), plays the bass, had a good summer job and is a fairly active individual.  I found out all of this while managing not to tell him that I am old enough to be his mother!

I admit to a certain amount of guilt at not telling him more about me but I was having such a good time, it was really stretching me to carry on this conversation and frankly, I was afraid he would run a mile.

Eventually, I did come clean about the fact that I am old enough to be his mother (a good thing that he knows, as I know he will read this story) and fully expected not to hear from him again.  But to my delight, not only did we continue to text, we are now also Facebook friends.

Didn’t you prefer it when you could talk to me directly?

There is so much talk about technology actually reducing the amount of time we interact with each other in a real time way but I feel that I’ve made a new friend in St. John’s and look forward to texting with him.  And in fact, the other day, I was messaging with Brian and a client needed to know something about the HST in Newfoundland.  I was able to tell him in an instant – faster than he was able to Google it; who knows, there could be more incidents like that in the future,  now I have a foot on the ground, so to speak

In the meantime, I have a new friend, can anyone have too many friends?  Now, should I tell him I’m a grandmother?

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The worst restaurant in the world or just a bad day: Is customer service really that hard?

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I got a slow start to the cottage.  Normally we leave on Friday afternoon, but this particular weekend because of family we didn’t get started until about 11 a.m. Saturday.  Having arranged to meet friends in Gravenhurst to attend the Dockside Festival, we arrived first and it was definitely lunchtime.  Went into Mike’s Bar and Grill Image

and were offered a coffee …hmmm… didn’t really want coffee.  We were told that if we wanted a beer with lunch we needed to go to Rombo’s.

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At Rombo’s there was sign outside saying “let us know if you’re sitting on the patio” so I dutifully went inside to let the staff know we were there, and, thinking to speed the process up, to order a couple of Canadian’s to be delivered with the menus.  Nope, I was “shoo’d away” by Debbie, our waitress with “I’ll be out there in a minute” and a wave of her hand.   15 minutes later, my husband went in and he was at least able to order the beer and grab some menus but he also got an abrupt “I’m serving outside when I can get out there”.

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When she arrived with the beer and menus, she was surprised that we had menus and annoyed that I wasn’t ready to order immediately.

When she came back…eventually…I ordered the “gyros special” which was on the sandwich board on the street (I’m so naïve about gyros, having never had one, I pronounced the “g” – who knew it sounded like “yearos”?).  Well, that really started her attitude.   “Did you want the fries or the rings with that”, she said.   Surprised, I replied, “the rings”.   To my further surprise, when the bill arrived, the rings had cost an additional $3.95 plus tax.    Well, after lousy service and frankly not enjoying the gyros – no matter how you pronounce it – I went in to challenge the bill.

Wow, that led to an argument and the entire restaurant knew how I felt.

Being I’m in a service industry myself, and knowing that the customer is ALWAYS right, I was astonished at Debbie’s attitude.  She actually shouted at me in front of her manager that I was lying!  Double wow!

But the entire incident brought home to me how important it is to be forthcoming about issues that might arise:  “I’m sorry we’re understaffed and really busy”, “oh, shoot, I forgot your…”,  “oh, dear, that was yesterday’s special, today’s is…but if you’re really set on the gyros, I will ask the manager”, “my apologies that you felt that you were underserviced”.

I thought, If I talked to my clients or their customers the way Debbie talked to me I would have been out of business years ago.

Debbie did herself a major disservice by shouting at me in front of her management and other customers…who knows, she may even have lost her job.  She certainly didn’t get a tip.

The customer is always right, the customer is always right, the customer is always right – and service with a smile isn’t that difficult.

Should have stayed at Mike’s Bar and Grill – beer or not.

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Jim Pagiamtzis asked me 2 questions…

Not long ago, Jim Pagiamtzis asked me to think about two questions:

  1. What got me involved in the VA industry? and
  2. How can a VA benefit different businesses?

Well, the first is easy.  I got fired; I got fired by a church.  Fortunately for me (not for them), it was wrongful dismissal and I walked away with a mitt full of money.   Now a friend of mine had, years before, done a program through the government called the Self Employment Assistance Program and I before that, I had tried to start my own secretarial service.  The two sounded like they might connect so I decided to check it out.

Horror of horrors, one of the things I had to do to qualify for the program was stand in front of a room full of other hopefuls and explain what my idea was and why I was ideally suited to start a VA business.  Like most people, I would rather have walked down the street naked – okay, well maybe not naked – than talk to a room full of people.  On top of that, one of the other hopefuls told me my idea was “stupid” – in a heavy Russian accent.  I have no idea how I got through that day, but I was accepted into the program in 2003 (and so was the Russian guy) and I have never looked back.

The trickier question is how can a VA benefit various businesses; tricky because there are so many answers to that question.  As Michael Gerber states in The E-Myth Revisited, most new start ups fail in the first 5 years because they try to do everything themselves, not just whatever it was that got them into business in the first place.

One of the ways a VA can assist almost any entrepreneur is by doing customer service:  this happens to be what I enjoy the most.  This can take the form of answering the phone (receptionist), booking appointments/calendar management (admin assistant) and trouble shooting (tickets or customer service desk).

There are numerous other tasks that a VA can do including research, project management, presentation preparation, invoicing, collecting on outstanding invoices (some do the entire bookkeeping gig).  I have prepared documents, edited/proof read web pages, manuscripts, documents, Powerpoint presentations; called client’s customers and elicited testimonials for the client and then written the testimonial for the customer to sign; mass mailings, mass e-mailings and acted as gatekeeper.  One of the strangest things I’ve ever done was babysit some documents in the basement of a law office…for 3 days!

The real benefit of using a VA for any of the above tasks or others, limited only by your imagination, is that the VA can do one, two or many of the tasks.  A VA can be hired for a specific task, for a specific period (May), or a block of time (5 hours).

The only limit is your imagination.

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Can Political Correctness Actually be Dangerous?

A client of mine was recently approached, through her ticket desk (me), to speak at an event at St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow, UK.  The request allegedly came from Bishop Mark Jarrow.  I thought it odd so I did some research on the internet.  There is a St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow, UK (in fact, it’s the home of the Venerable Bede) and the local Bishop’s name is Mark Bryant aka Mark Jarrow.

This is where the political correctness comes in:  the language in the ticket and in subsequent emails wasn’t that of a native, English/British speaker.  My first reaction was scepticism but then I told myself, wait, maybe you’re being unnecessarily snobbish or prejudiced.  Britain is well known as a melting pot of many cultures – not all of whom speak English the way you or I do.  I remembered that at my Uncle’s funeral in a small town in northern Central Ontario, the Catholic priest was very Spanish.  Would he have been able to write an email in English that was completely grammatically correct?  Ditto a Catholic priest in a church in the Beaches area of Toronto a few years ago.   So, on with my political correctness hat and I let my client know about the ticket.

However, something never quite seemed right.  They sent a contract, which my client signed and returned (now they had her signature).  They needed her passport info, d.o.b. and full name to book her flight.  Then came the bombshell that she would need a work permit and would have to pay for it herself.

We both tried contacting the British Consulate here…they want $3.20 a minute to talk to a live human being.  After a tortuous search of the website we agreed to have the permit pulled in the UK – despite the fact that the British Consulate’s website said a Tier 5 permit would be 190GBP and the contact in Jarrow said it would be 430GBP.  I suggested they use part of the deposit they were going to send my client, but no…that was coming from a sponsor and not immediately available.  In any event, they said they were going to reimburse the cost so we were going to go ahead.

Still, something didn’t feel right at this point and when they asked me for the second time, when my client would like to travel, something clicked in me and, on my own time, I started really digging.  First I compared phone numbers and postal codes on the contract and the website (they were different).  Then I emailed the rector listed on the website and was put in touch with the real Bishop’s PA (who writes impeccable English).   Turns out it’s a scam that the local constabulary are well aware of but interestingly enough, the Toronto cops couldn’t care less about.

The real church in Jarrow has now added a disclaimer to their website about this scam under the “Jarrow Lecture” tab.

Thank goodness we figured out it was a scam before my client actually wired any money to them.  Oh, and for the record, my client looked up the IP addresses and they are in Nigeria.

So, when does political correctness become dangerous:  the minute we stop relying on our instinctive reactions and mask them with political correctness and the desire not to offend.

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