A weekly look at the latest products and services designed to help you run a better business.
A common challenge for sole proprietors is that they simply don't have enough manpower to accomplish everything. If hiring extra employees isn't possible, maybe it's time to bring on a virtual business partner.
Biz2Go, a British online resource portal for small businesses, recently launched My Virtual Business Partner, a service designed to help entrepreneurs who need the extra hands.
My Virtual Business Partner, or MVBP, connects business owners with an online network of freelance employees, saving them the cost of having to recruit and train additional staff, but creates the experience of having a partner or highly-skilled employee on board. MVBP is a pay-as-you-go service and users determine the length of the service based on their needs. Users can sign up for hourly, daily, weekly or monthly subscriptions and are assigned a virtual "partner" for the duration of that subscription.
Users also fill out a job-request form that details the work to be completed. Some of the typical tasks that virtual business partners assist with include creating presentations, doing research, dealing with customer complaints or queries, and administrative duties. The service also provides small business owners with a support network of on-call professional facilitators.
"For small businesses, time is the most precious resource," Monica Tenkar, director of MVBP, said in a statement. "For one- or two-person businesses, juggling the day to day tasks of running a business can become overwhelming. Our facilitators simply help to reduce some of this stress and allow business owners to focus on the things that really matter -- growing their business."
Tech emergencies, of course, always seem to occur at the most inopportune times. For business owners who don't have IT personnel at their disposal, Lenovo Experts Live seeks to provide 24-hour online and phone access to IT experts.
As part of the service, Lenovo experts are equipped to help business owners with anything from software application questions to a virus or spyware problem. They can also assist with setting up a computer system for a home office. Customers can either speak to a Lenovo expert over the phone or get advice by chatting online.
In addition to being available around the clock, the Lenovo Experts Live service is available to U.S. customers when they are traveling abroad. Technicians can perform repair duties remotely using advanced technology that allows them to share the user's computer system. Experts also serve as instructors to small business owners, offering them technical skills and tips for future reference.
Are you the type of business owner who frets over management decisions but doesn't know where to seek help? You might consider a new website launched this week by Legacy Associates, a management-consulting firm that offers services catered to entrepreneurs.
The site, legacyai.com, is designed to serve as a business advisory portal for entrepreneurs looking for advice on start-up ventures as well as for seasoned business owners looking for growth opportunities.
According to Terry Hill, managing partner of the Sarasota, Fla.-based firm, most business owners tend to be hesitant about seeking advice, which can ultimately be costly. "The biggest mistake many entrepreneurs make is that they delay seeking advice from a professional business adviser and seek advice only when they are in trouble," Hill said in a statement.
The company's website includes a number of business-support capabilities designed to help entrepreneurs throughout the evolution of their business, not just in trying times. The site offers users a Business Assessment Profile -- a diagnostic report that identifies areas of the business that need attention or specific areas that can be maximized for growth. Business owners can also find an Integrated Business Planning Service that offers feasibility studies, operational plans, marketing plans, and investor business plans.
Additionally, entrepreneurs can sign up for mentoring programs in which Legacy consultants work one-on-one with business owners to cultivate their leadership skills and develop a strategic plan based on their unique management style.