Personal Outsourcing Task Report: Hotel & Golf Negotiation

15 08 2008

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Photo by Butler Corey on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo by Butler Corey on Flickr via Creative Commons

I’ve posted before about personal outsourcing. See here for details on my first task, and here for an explanation of what personal outsourcing is from my VA Joseph.

Since that first task I have been giving my assistant Joseph probably couple of tasks a month, and getting used to his abilities and the right types of tasks to delegate to him. I’ll post more details of those tasks as part of my Personal Outsourcing Series that I am working on.

A more recent task turned out to be a great success. Whilst it was something I could have done myself, I don’t really like the time taken ringing up places, being on hold and following up responses, so it was a great one to get Joseph to do for me.

Note: my dad had already booked this hotel direct (without any negotiation!) so the figures I used for calculating the savings are based on the prices he had been quoted.

Here is my delegation email to Joseph:

———–
Hi Joseph,

I need you to contact a hotel that can be found at http://www.xxhotelxxnamexxhere.com.

We go every year but the hotel is getting more and more expensive (note I already have my own prices from their site)

I would like you to negotiate the absolute best price for the following (you can always negotiate with hotels):

3 x Twin Executive Rooms (6 people) for 2 nights from Fri 29 August
With Breakfast for all guests

Also find out:
– Any deals on a Round of Golf at around 3pm on the Friday for 4 people (with 2 Golf Carts)
– Any deals Dinner in the Restaurant on the Friday night for all 6 guests.

I’d like to know what the best price is that you can negotiate (don’t take their first price!) for all elements individually and a combined special deal price.

I am happy for you to phone or email or both (maybe email first then follow up with a call).

I would like a quote for all options (once you have negotiated) from the hotel.

The better the deal you can get me, the happier I will be in your results of this task.

Can you get me your results (or an update) by Friday lunchtime this week.

I think you should only need around an hour total for this?

Cheers,

Chris
————-

Results:

After a few messenger conversations between myself and Joseph to clarify details, he was struggling to get a response from them (turned out he was using the address for the wrong department but that was easily rectified). Joseph used a two pronged email and phone attack on the hotel and got excellent results. I already had a price and Joseph managed to get us a £20 per person reduction on the price. But it didn’t end there, the price now included Dinner in their award winning restaurant for both nights, an upgrade to Executive rooms and golf at less than half price!

Joseph charged me about 30 minutes (though I think he spend more time than that trying to get the best results) to this task in the end so it cost me a few quid and saved us I estimate around £500 (because of the included meals and extras) on the total price for the six of us.

I think that this is a great example of the usefulness of personal outsourcing to do those tasks you don’t have the time to deal with the back-and-forth, or jobs that really you would rather someone else did for you. I put a focus on getting the best possible results and Joseph worked really well trying to achieve that goal.

Have you had any experiences with Personal Outsourcing that you’d like to share? Or do you have any questions about this task? If so let me know in the comments below!

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Here are some links you might find useful about Personal Outsourcing on other blogs:

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The Power Of: Delegation

22 07 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

This is the first of my ‘Power Of’ series of posts where I look at the power of certain skills used in work and personal life.

By Office Now on Flickr via Creative Commons

By Office Now on Flickr via Creative Commons

“When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder.” James H. Boren

Utilising the abilities and time of other people effectively is a great lifestyle skill. If you are able to effectively delegate and trust the quality of work, having people work for you can free up your own time greatly for tasks that are a better use of your time, you are more interested in or actually have the skills to do. People often have hurdles to overcome before they are willing to delegate. Common ‘arguments’ for not delegating:

– I can do it quicker/cheaper/faster/better myself

Ask yourself what your time is worth? Do you have the skills to do the task

– It’ll cost more

Again, what is your time worth really?

– It won’t be done correctly

Maybe you aren’t delegating correctly? Sometimes ‘just good enough’ really is fine, or even better than it needs to be.

Tips for delegation:

1. Set clear objectives for the task you are delegating. Begin with the end in mind. If you are unclear about what the required results are, how can you expect the person you are delegating the work to understand? (this is why Wembley Stadium took so long to complete).

2. Seek confirmation of their understanding. (Get the delegated person to explain the task back to you). You could give them instructions verbally and ask them to email you instructions/objectives back for approval.

3. Be clear, concise and consistent with your instructions. Seek not to confuse. If you are not clear they will not understand. If you are not consistent there is room for misunderstanding, doubt and inconsistency.

4. Provide a Timescale. People working for you will expand to fill the time available. Give clear deadlines (even false deadlines) as required otherwise it is easy to creep into overtime and budget problems. Deadlines generate the by-product of making your delegated resource eliminate the unnecessary.

5. Set a Priority. This is useful if you have allocated more than one task to a person, but also if they have to balance several clients with requirements on their time. This is linked to setting a timescale (both elapsed and real time) but gives people a level of focus. Beware of ‘crying wolf’ on priorities; if you use a resource over and over, you need to gain their trust.

6. Reward. This can take many forms. For example, you may in work situations you will have no influence over pay and benefits, however you are still able to provide positive feedback to a superior.

7. Reporting Requirements and Communication Channels. I think that being a good communicator is the single, most important skill that anyone can possess. When delegating, it is important to define reporting requirements (i.e. when and how you want to receive these along with the communication channels (methods)). If the communication flows correctly, there is less room for error.

8. Trust. It is important to trust the person you delegate to. This is a two way process. For them to trust you, you need to behave how you would expect the person working for you to behave. Do what you say you will, be open and honest. For you to trust them this is a mindset you need to get into. To improve trust there are some tools you can use, set guidelines, empower decision making (set fair boundaries).

9. Measuring Results. If you’ve set out your requirements, as stated in the points above, and found the right person for the job, and have open and honest communication you should set out the results your require. Remember when delegating to understand what quality standards you should expect (remember when good enough is good enough). Provide feedback that is honest (this gains respect) and constructive. Also update your own FAQ, quality standards etc. as required. Remember every thing is a constant learning and reviewing process.

Conclusion
Follow the guidelines to utilise the power of delegating to free up your own time and get achieve more. In order to achieve the work:life balance you require, or at least tip the scales in your favour, you want to delegate as much as possible.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.” Ronald Regan

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What is Personal Outsourcing?

18 07 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Photo by Jspad on Flickr Via Creative Commons

Photo by Jspad on Flickr Via Creative Commons

Ohhhhh…Can’t someone else do it? Homer Simpson

This is an easy post to write, as I’ve just asked my VA Joseph to write it for me! I’ll put my feet up…

Here you go:

Personal Outsourcing

Personal Outsourcing can help grow your business Time is valuable factor in the existing world. Manage your life more efficiently by letting your virtual assistant carry out your routine and mundane tasks.

Hiring a virtual assistant makes a lot of difference in your life. You get to make time with your Family, Children, Friends and Yourself.

Virtual assistants can work for you on an hourly basis, project basis or on a monthly retainer basis.

A Virtual assistant can help you to maintain your databases, create and design your electronic books and reports, answer your routine customer service E-mail, Work with MS Word, Type and send letters or contracts, Make travel arrangements, Order services on your behalf and many more tasks.

When you “hire” a Virtual assistant you can interview him or her over the telephone and learn if your assistant has the skills that you are looking for. You must also make sure that you discuss the best way to work with each other.

Make sure that you organize yourself before allocating a task to your Virtual assistant.

In order to build a good relationship with your virtual assistant you need to have a good understanding of what you need, when you need and why you need. Clear and precise communication is required. Find the right balances for you and your VA so that your working relationship is efficient and productive. Feedback must be provided to help streamline your processes.

Deadlines and To-Do-List are not to be forgotten .Working with a VA can be a significant milestone in growing your business.

The key factor in hiring a virtual assistant is that you can keep doing what you do the best and leave the rest up to your Virtual assistant.

So there you have it. I’ll be posting more about my personal outsourcing experiences but I thought I’d put this quick post up as an introduction.

Note: This was cut and pasted directly from the word document that Joseph set me with no alteration, as was a first draft.


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Book Review: The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

30 04 2008

I finished reading the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss last night. I enjoyed reading the book and it has left me with plenty to do and think about. I finished the book in only a few days which is rare for me and shows (for me anyway) a) how easy to read it and b) how interesting and valuable I found the content.

Broadly speaking, the first half of the book (although not prescriptively) focuses on productivity. On reading the book you see that Ferriss is very consistent in his message with the key notes, talks and clips there are on YouTube. He looks at the 80/20 principle (Pareto Efficiency – 20% of input produces 80% of output) and Parkinson’s Law (the theory that tasks will expand to fill the time allowed). Ferriss’s style and explanations make the subject matter clear, it is easy to apply and is concise though not basic. Much of the items discussed in this part of the book (and you will have heard some of the principles) make you think “Yes, you are right – why aren’t I doing that now!” There are similarities in some of his points with Covey’s 7 Habits – such as beginning with the end in mind.

The rest of the book broadly deals with creating more time for yourself. Ferris is known for making people aware of the concept of ‘Personal Outsourcing’. [You will see from my other posts that this is an area I am currently experimenting with and I found out about this fascinating area of lifestyle management through Ferriss’s blog and other sources quoting his approach.]

There is a useful but moderately mind-blowing section on ‘income automation’. It all sounds so easy and yet so hard at the same time. I think this is the section I will re-read to get a grip of (not because I didn’t understand it, but because I want to use it). Ferriss also reveals the business model he has used for this; fascinating for a past Business Student such as myself, but by no means a boring text book explanation. Whether I will be able to do this myself remains to be seen, but I am certainly not going to knock the approach until I’ve tried it.
The ‘mini-retirement’ ideas are truly inspiring. However, the steps to release yourself from your current job, though well argued and valid, are made to seem easier than I believe they would be for many people. Without giving too much away here, I could work at home more as I am able to create that flexibility in my job but I have an operation and service level role that would very quickly expose me if I was doing it secretly from the other side of the world. However, Ferris does argue his points well, and his direct but not dismissive approach outlines the common pitfalls, excuses etc. A constant message throughout the book is that we are all accountable to rules that ultimately we are able to control ourselves.
There are a number of life lessons and observations that again are well conveyed. I particularly like the brief note on ‘Decluttering’ which again, far from being prescriptive, is well justified and suitably concise.
The narrative style of Ferriss is direct but rather than Ferriss saying “Do this or you are stupid” his concepts make you think “Why am I being stupid and not doing this”. The book is well written using plenty of case studies, examples and quotes to get the clear message across.

In conclusion, Ferris has an interesting perspective on areas of our lives that have a major impact on our lifestyles. Whilst you may not apply all of concepts to the letter, you can easily select those elements that will bring you the most benefit in your personal lifestyle. Remember that you are the master of your own destiny and this book offers you suggestions and tools to help – ultimately their application is up to you.
As a final note I’d like to address the title “The 4-Hour Work Week”. Ferris did market research to work out the title for his book that would sell the most copies. A 4-Hour work week is a very attractive goal, but perhaps an more extreme example or goal for most people.

Highly Recommended.





My Personal Outsourcing Experiment: TASK I

27 04 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

I’ve had a Virtual Assistant for a month now. It is very much an experiment I am a trying, partly for fun and partly because I want to free up some time. After my usual copious amounts of web research, I decided to sign up with getfriday.com. I had read several reviews and heard mixed results. They seemed like a mainstream option so I though they would be a good place to try. Their team organisational structure makes sense too.

One thing that I did notice on my web research prior to setting up my account it that aside from the 4HWW and thenewlyrich blog, there aren’t many examples – so I thought I’d record my own.

Task One: Prague Trip

Reason for Outsourcing: I would consider myself an expert in web research. However, it is time consuming and I wanted to a) find out how good my VA would be at it and b) how happy I would be to have someone else do something I could do myself (remember the aim here is to free up my time).

INSTRUCTIONS:

Hi Joseph,

Hope you are OK.

I’ve got my first task for you:

My friend is taking his new girlfriend on a surprise trip to Prague in the Czech republic. I went in November with Sarah (my girlfriend).

I want to put him a quick overview of some recommendations of where to stay, what to do and tips.

Can you do some research on the internet and put together an email for me of traveller tips, I will then add to this with my own tip (it will be interesting to see what I missed when I was there!)

Some particular areas to look at:

– Recommend 3 hotels to stay in for the price range £70-120 GBP per night (Old town or close to it would be best) – look on the ‘tripadvisor’ website, and check out UK booking sites such as expedia and laterooms websites.
– Recommend 5 good restaurants to eat at and provide location and contact details
– Recommend 5 sites to see, provide location details and tips
– They are going the last weekend of May for 3 nights

All the above (and any other nice bits you find) should be presented back in a way that I can send to my friend via email.

Could you spend a couple of hours on this and I’ll see what you come back with. I also have a few extra things to look at, but I see what the initial response from you is.

Any questions just drop me a line.

I am working at home tomorrow so feel free to call anytime so we can get to speak to each other.

Also whilst I was in Prague I kept a diary. I haven’t had chance to type it up – if I was to scan and send it could it be typed up in a word document for me?

Cheers,

Chris

RESULTS:

What I received in return for this was a word document with 10 sites to visit. It had the obvious stuff on but with photos and a brief description. I’d give him 7/10 for this.

I also received an excel spreadsheet with hotel details in. I’d give 5/10 for this. Whilst it did give me a list of hotels, it wouldn’t have made my hotel selection a quick and easy task.

SUMMARY:

I think that this indicates that my VA will be able to do web research for me to a reasonable standard. The next task I want to have an element of phone work in it to see how the verbal communication fairs.