Happy Summer (Mindset)

A sabbath moment...

CA-American Flag

Today seems like a good day to give you a sabbath moment instead of a blog post. As Memorial Day is here, first I want to express gratefulness for those who have given their lives to protect us and our freedom.

Next, I hope that many of you were able to carve out a few restful moments this weekend away from your tasks, papers, and emails.

Finally, since the summer mindset has begun, I ask you to think about how to make it great. Ways to relax. A book you might commit to finishing. Some clean up of your files or desk. A self-care goal. Think about how you want to feel at the end of the summer and make a plan now to make it happen.

In the meantime, enjoy a photo my son took to inspire you to carve out those moments of relaxation and reflection. That’s an important discipline in learning to overcome overwhelm!

 

 

How to Write an Effective Out-Of-Office Reply

Use even small communications well

https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithpr/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithpr/

“I am OOTO until (Date) I will return to you as soon as I can.”

I received an automated reply like this from an employee of major, recognizable company. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one.)

It came across to me as clipped. Casual. Non committal. Unprofessional even.

You probably make use of an out of office responder at some point in the year–maybe regularly. Responders are helpful. They can be a great way to leave a positive impression on the writer every time you use them, so take the C+ approach.

Be clear. State that you are out of the office until a certain date. You do NOT have to say why.  Avoid the use of acronymns. (Did any of you wonder what OOTO meant?)

Provide a contact. Give the writer an alternative contact, if appropriate, especially if you’ll be out for an extended period.

Change it up. If you use out-of-office replies regularly, change the wording so it does not become overly familiar to those who write you.


State your committment to respond. Let people know that you will be reviewing your email and that they should receive a reply by ______. (You are not obligated to respond to every email, so a good way to put this is: “I will be reviewing my email again on Friday April 10. Should your email require a response, you can expect to hear from me by Monday April 13. Otherwise, thank you for the information you provided.”)

+Plus: An out of office reply is a great opportunity to be appropriately clever, and leave a pleasant vibe.  A short motivational quote, or a unique way to say “thanks” for their business is appropriate.

Let’s re-write the example above. Instead of

“I am OOTO until (Date) I will return to you as soon as I can.”

How about:

Thanks for writing! I am out of the office speaking at a conference (near the beach–rough life I know)  and will be reviewing my emails again on Friday, April 10. Should your email require a response, you can expect to hear from me no later than Monday, April 13.  In the meantime, XYZ company appreciates your business very much. Thank you for trusting us with it.

Other pointers:

  • If you choose to be clever, make sure you are appropriate to your industry. (A marketing pro may write differently than a lawyer.)
  • If on a vacation, it can paint a positive image of your company by saying, “XYZ company believes in employee wellness, so I’m currently enjoying a vacation.”
  • Turn the out of office reply OFF upon your return (or set the right on/off dates.)

Every bit of communication you do reflects either positively or negatively on you, and your company. Make even the small, routine ones like these, count!

For another resource with some helpful ideas on crafting out of office messages (some that even oppose what I’ve suggested)  click here.

 

Right click to save and share!

Right click to save and share!

Introducing our new logo!

A subtle rebranding

BB HOPE full LOGO plant on Left 1

 

Not long ago, a billboard that had been present at the entrance to our city for as long as I can remember (turns out it was 14 years or so) was changed. I didn’t see it myself because I don’t travel that route frequently. But a local radio personality pointed it out, and I knew right away which billboard she meant. She felt a void when driving past the billboard now–the familiar smiling face of the realtor featured was a sort of joyful greeting in the morning. Fortunately, the realtor plans to bring it back at some point.

Who would think that something like a billboard would make that much difference to commuters?

In a similar fashion that’s what branding is about. We get used to seeing familiar logos and colors to represent organizations we’ve become comfortable having around. But like a room that needs a fresh coat of paint once in a while, a strategic “re-branding” can bring new life to the familiar. (With that in mind, I look forward to seeing the new billboard.)  It’s a risk. After all there have been re-branding disasters. But many are successful in portraying their foundation while being more relevant to where they are going–and growing.

H.O.P.E. Unlimited is going through a bit of rebranding. Back in the latter part of 2014, I felt it was time to narrow the business focus a bit and specialize in virtual assisting. I also had regular opportunities to teach in the business soft skills niche (non-computer skills like team building, leadership, communication, time management, organization, etc. all in professional contexts.) So I subtly changed my motto from Helping Other People Excel to Helping Overwhelmed Professionals Excel.

Finding this direction to be working, I’ve continued on the path to focusing on helping entrereneurs, NPO’s and individual business execs with their everyday tasks, while also teaching or speaking to groups of employees. This meant reframing some of how I was writing blog posts and what resources I am considering writing or developing.

The most recent step was to do a little freshening of HOPE’s logo and brand palette.

Other than the motto change, H.O.P.E. has had the same logo since I started my business back in 2010.

New.logo.without.white.space cropped

I’ve always liked the bright colors, the leaves representing growth, and the fluid feel. I didn’t want to make a major change. Still, I felt some tightening was in order, and thanks to my graphic design co-hort, Amy of AT Your Design,  (who also serves on HOPE’s team) we made some subtle modifications and are happy to introduce them. (See the new version at the top of the post.)

Here are some points about the re-brand:

  • The change is intentionally subtle and is more of an update than a complete re-do
  • Many of the meanings mentioned below came to mind after the logo was re-done…it was amazing how reflecting on the changes opened my eyes to so many things I want HOPE to portray…it happened very organically and naturally!
  • We maintained some consistency with the past, so that materials branded with the “old” logo are not dramatically different than the new one and there isn’t a need to go back and change everything on which the former logo appears. I see this new logo as one cooperative with the other.
  • We changed the four leaf cluster to something more modern and minimalistic. The potted plant represents:
    • A connection with many professionals who have a plant on their desk or in their office
    • A contained (organized) foundation which acts as roots.  I want to give clients a reliable foundation, and center for their admin work and professional growth
    • Three areas of service: virtual assisting, teaching/speaking, and writing
    • Upward growth: helping others excel and achieve their vision
    • Minimalism: aiming for simple, logical systems that foster results
  • We used three types of fonts:
    • Blocked font represents strong support and a clean, efficient, stable professionalism
    • Script font portrays handwriting, elegance, and friendliness
    • URL font represents creative, standout and solid resources with space to reflect and refresh
  • We maintained most of the color palette used in the past although we have added purple and replaced the black with brown, knowing that black or white can be used when appropriate as classic colors. Each color has meaning that ties in with characteristics I want to be vital parts of what we offer clients and students:
    • Brown – down to earth, stable, having substance
    • Green – growing, natural, refreshing
    • Blue – visionary, dependable, peaceful, committed/loyal
    • Orange – bright, fun, friendly, energetic
    • Purple – elegant, excellent, spiritual/faith centered

All in all, we HOPE all the elements that went into the rebrand achieve the goal of presenting HOPE Unlimited as a vital member of your business team and/or your personal development plan.

BB-HOPE-plant-LOGO

2016 Reader Survey Results

Blog SurveyThank you to all that participated in the reader survey in the month of April. The feedback was helpful and I thought I’d share the results and my corresponding conclusions here, as a transition back into the regular educational blogging that will pick up again next Monday.

The following statistics are based on the feedback of the respondents and hopefully may also reflect the feelings of the general readership. I’m also including what I’m considering, based on the feedback and my schedule and thoughts.

How may times a month do you read the blog?

Nearly 60% read the blog posts everytime they come out with 20% reading it at least three times a month. Given that about 80% read it so consistently, I’m planning to continue blogging regularly.

What frequency of content is ideal for you?

While close to 60% like a weekly post, a significant number (33%) would welcome twice a month.  One mentioned that it depends on their workload at the time, which is understandable. This is interesting, and I am thinking that I might take one Monday a month to send something very simple or visual, particularly if it is the week the 5 on the 15th comes out.  I also conclude from this that there is no need to add something separate on a different day of the week, which I had originally tried as an experiment.

Rank the types of content in order of favorite type.

Here’s the order:

  • Blog Posts
  • Quick tips
  • 5 on 15th
  • Hope & Henry
  • Video

Hope & Henry and videos only took about 10% of the votes. This helps me see that this type of content is much less preferred than regular posts and tips. Thus, I’ve decided to table Hope & Henry. I still plan to do a video here and there, but may concentrate that type of thing into other resources like courses.

Do you read/interact with my material on social media?

A little over half of respondents admitted to “not much” interacting on social media. The other almost half do occasionally or even frequently. So it’s about 50/50 whether social media activity is that valuable to my business. I’ve got an active presence on several channels, and since nearly half of people do use it, I will continue to be active. I will be, however, giving thought to reducing the level of activity.  One thing I believe I will do is to put some blog posts directly onto Linked In more often, given the business audience there.

If someone asked what HOPE Unlimited is or what Beth Beutler does, what would you say?

This had interesting responses, includes “help keep us sane” and giving practical tips. The seasoning of faith seemed well appreciated. Notable is that only a few specifically mentioned my services as a Virtual Assistant. Since HOPE Unlimited has moved toward VA and Business Soft Skill education as our main focus, I am feeling the need to be more intentional in helping readers understand what we do to help overwhelmed professionals excel. However, with my faith being very important to me, I believe there will still be a noticeable flavoring of it in my resources and services.

Bonus: How does reading this blog affect your work and your overall life?

Most, if not all, respondents, decided to answer this bonus question, which I greatly appreciate. Some quotes:

 

Reading the blog helps me to slow down and focus on things that matter.

I appreciate the honesty and personal touch.

It is a weekly break to learn new things.

I feel supported in my efforts to be organized and effective in my business.

Gets my mind to think about my work in a more organized manner so I can do it and still be calm enough to look for Jesus along the way and be a blessing to others, too.

Perhaps the most touching feedback of all came from a professional who experienced a major loss in recent years, and was slowly gaining her passion for work again, finding organization to be her biggest issue. She thanked me for doing this and “caring about us.”

That brought tears to my eyes. This is the reason we work folks…not just to make a living, but to impact lives.

Thanks for letting me into your worlds.

 

I’m back…sort of

snorklineHello readers,

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was taking a blogging break during the month of April.

April has been a full month. I turned 50, and we took a birthday cruise, surprised by dear friends that showed up on the cruise itself! I spoke for an Administrative Professionals luncheon, and got booked for a few more training classes.

Honestly, I found it pretty challenging to “re-enter” the routine after vacation, and still don’t feel that I’ve quite fallen into a rhythm yet.  It’s great that business is on a positive trajectory, and it’s requiring wisdom to balance my responsibilities.  The wall of pollen we’ve returned to hasn’t been the most agreeable. (Ah the blessing of sea air!) I realized that April was coming to an end and I didn’t feel like I’d completely rested as I’d hoped.

So while the blog is technically back, I’m extending another week or two to myself before publishing regular educational content again.

I’ll pick up next Monday with a summary of the reader survey results, and the weekly post should resume after that!

In the meantime, thank you to those who took the survey, and if you didn’t get a chance, it’s still open for a few more days.

Blessings,

Beth