With the pandemic creating havoc, remote work for almost every industry came to the forefront. This creates a gap for companies to employ remote logistics managers.
One of my lecturers always said: “In the world of Logistics, the only constant is change”.
If you are a person that likes consistency, then logistics can seem daunting. Do not let this fool you. Logistics are only as scary as what you believe it is. Anyone with the following skills can be a great Logistics Manager:
- Be able to adapt quickly to any situation
- Have the ability to see the bigger picture
- Be great at problem solving and be calm and collected under pressure
- Continuously seek to improve systems and procedures
- And be an effective project manager, with a good ear to listen when problems arise (as this will happen very often)
What is logistics?
Before we delve into how logistics have changed the remote work industry, let’s talk about what logistics is.
Logistics management is easily one of the jobs with the most responsibilities in any company. Effectiveness has a direct impact on the bottom line. And a profitable bottom line makes everyone happy. Logistics managers handle the supply chain, implements and control the effective forward and reverse flow of goods, services and information between the point of origin and point of consumption (end user) in order to meet the customers’ needs.
The flow of information between origin and consumption is especially where remote logistics come into play. Now the employee can work remotely on anything logistics without even being at the point of origin where services and goods are stored. With effective process systems and applications for logistics and project management, remote work can be handled efficiently and in real time.
Real time management is especially important when it comes to logistics management, information, goods and services. These functions all need to flow in real time to make sure that the product, service or information is delivered to the customer at the right price at the right time. When real time management is not handled correctly it can cost a company money, you could lose information and potentially lose a customer.
Logistics managers strive to effectively control the following 6 fields when a company is product driven (remember if inventory is not sourced at the correct price there will be no profit margin for expanding):
Control the profit margin
It may seem that the logistics manager has nothing to do with profit, but this is not true. From sourcing, import duties, cost of freight, transportation and the production and how all of this is handled has a direct impact on profit.
Reduce operational cost
What is the best kick for a logistics manager? Being able to save on production or finding that bargain. Finding that great quality inbound product at the lowest price and using that for production.
This is where the logistics manager comes into play in a big way. They handle trade negotiations, transport and delivery negotiations and negotiate the best price for the company and the customer.
The logistics manager makes sure that warranties and what the product has to deliver, is true. Maximizing on reverse logistics of unwanted products in the production line, ensuring recyclability and a stable carbon footprint, lets your company stand out and make contract winning easier.
Work with the rest of the team
The logistics manager needs to make sure that collaboration between all departments happen efficiently and effectively to ensure that profit margins are made, accounts are paid, and employees know where the products are in the production line.
Keeping the customer happy
The logistics manager will make sure that the customer feels like the winner by delivering a great product at the best price at the right time. This process will ensure a greater need to your product which in turn will generate more profit.
Let us get back to the process of remote logistical management. Remote logistics management provides the function and system for supply chain management from any base point at a remote location. Materials like dry goods, services and many more are ordered to the remote location for the starting of production.
If there is not enough stock to start production, make sure to order as quick as possible. Always have an eye on buffer stock, this will decrease lead times or no production at the worst. All of these processes can be managed remotely through online collaboration tools like Asana; Monday.com; Bitrix24 and Easy Projects.
Remote logistics is especially important in material and product tracking. It is always good to have a reporting tool from the beginning that tracks materials to post point and destination. Make sure to have a status report to document flow in each level of production and delivery.
All of these seem like big words with many moving parts, which is in fact true, but it does not need to be a daunting task. Remote project managers need to stay focused, consistently check process flow and use the team on hand to minimize costs and losses.
Logistics can be fun and rewarding as the world will never stop working. As a business owner you do not need a logistics manager sitting in an office to be effective, you just need someone that is on the ball and great at managing your supply chain. At the end, if your logistics manager is sitting at home, and your client is happy, no one can lose.
Globally we are all experiencing lockdown in some way or another due to the pandemic. It’s certainly a weird time for most of us and worrying as well. Anytime we are forced out of our routine and habits, we have opportunities for growth. Resilience is now, more than ever, a critical skill as our lives are affected not just by what happens to us but how we choose to respond to those events.
What is positive thinking?
Positive thinking is a mental and emotional attitude of expecting good and favourable results, and not getting discouraged when plans do not proceed as expected. It means trying over again and not accepting defeat. It is an attitude of focusing on the good and positive in a situation, and not on the negative. With this frame of mind, you don’t accept defeat, and do not allow anything negative to affect your mood and state of mind.
A lot of people assume because you have a positive mind, everything in your life is great. I can assure you this is not how it works. Life happens, and we are all going to experience struggles, fears, insecurities and flaws. But being positive isn’t about a life without those things. It’s about learning how to move past them and keep going even when it gets tough.
It feels good to approach life from a positive perspective. If you want to start behaving in a more positive way, then you have to start with your thoughts. Your thoughts affect how you feel and behave in any situation.
When you think negatively, your energy is very low. Being sad or upset drains your energy from you and robs you from doing the things you want to do. It becomes very easy to avoid engaging in activities that you make you feel good or benefit your life. If you feel that seeing the bad in everything is your default setting, then experts say you have to think positive thoughts to counteract the negative and do this on repeat until the brain can feel more positive. It’s all about ‘rewiring’ your brain so what you do habitually leans more strongly towards the positive than the negative. Negative thinking can be terribly intrusive on your day. Negative thoughts can set up camp in your brain and crowd out any other positive thoughts, sometimes leaving you feeling low and depleted. Negative self-talk and thinking can be a hard pattern to break but that does not mean that it is impossible.
When you think positively, your energy increases. Positive thinking does not mean that you have to completely ignore negative events in your life or the emotions that accompany them. It is normal to experience hardships and have an emotional response. Rather, positive thinking means that you believe that the hard times will not last forever, and trust that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even when going through a challenging period. This keeps the negativity from greatly impacting your life.
Thinking positively can help reduce stress. It helps you to look at a situation with a new perspective. It helps you to see failure as an obstacle, not a dead end. And it helps you to stay calm, even in the midst of an ugly situation.
What does it mean to be productive? The word productive is often described as a person’s capability to do a lot of work successfully. How can we maximize our productivity in our careers? Nowadays, the most common answer would be through the utilization of a Project Management Tool.
What is the best suited software for you? A popular comparison would be of Asana verse Monday.com, which are both powerful Project Management Tools. Asana can be described as a simple, more traditional approach and better suited for small to medium sized businesses, while Monday.com is a more sophisticated, detailed option and better suited for medium sized businesses. By comparing the core features of each tool, it will allow you to select the best option for you and your team.
This can be the ultimate deciding factor and the fuel behind your system of choice; Asana is free for up to fifteen team members per a project and would require an upgrade to a paid plan to make use of certain features. Monday.com offers a free fourteen-day trial and then the option to purchase the basic plan at $39 USD per month. Asana is slightly pricier than Monday.com when comparing the paid plans but it does offer the option of a free plan and not only a trial.
Task Management is achieved by setting tasks with deadlines and then meeting the set deadlines. Asana allows you to create a task, name the task and then assign it either to yourself or a team member, accompanied with a deadline. By clicking on the task, it will expand to show you more detail, you can comment mentioning team members and attach documents or links used to collaborate. Asana displays tasks that are due soon in the ‘Home Section’, and you can see a complete list of all tasks assigned to you by viewing ‘My Tasks’. Monday.com refers to tasks as “Pulses”, you can name the Pulse, assign it to a team member, set its status and make it dependent on other Pulses. Asana has a basic and to the point task management method, while Monday.com has room for customization.
Workflow Management is the optimization of your company’s business processes through automation. This includes mapping, planning and coordinating all parts of your business structure. Workflow in Asana is created through views such as lists, Kanban boards, calendar and timeline formats. Monday.com operates in a similar way, it allows you to see different visualizations for Pulses without having to switch between browser tabs. Monday.com shows a list view of your Pulses with a mini progress bar for each one, it also shows the visualization of your choice in the section above the fold. You can change the Pulse statuses in Monday.com using a drop-down menu in the list section, you can stretch and shrink Pulses in the timeline view or drag-and-drop cards in the Kanban board. Monday.com gives you more freedom to customize your workflow than the traditional approach of Asana.
Communication is a key factor to a successful team; a team must establish communication standards and a shared task management system contributes to those standards. Asana gives you the option to comment at task, project and team levels and Monday.com only lets you comment on tasks. Asana allows communication between your team in various ways, you can comment directly on a task or start a conversation in a dedicated window within a project. If you have a team page, you can host team discussions and post announcements on one dedicated page. The inbox keeps track of all communication, alerting you when a conversation has started, when you are mentioned in a comment or when a team member prompts interaction. Monday.com offers one way to communicate with your team and that is at task level. When you click a task in a project, a window will open, and this is where you can leave update. Here is where you can leave comments, mention other users, add GIFs or attach files and links. Monday.com offers the use of an inbox, that will display all communication on the subscribed boards, even if you are not assigned to an item or mentioned in a comment.
Integration is a method of coordination that allows various software systems to work together. Asana offers over 100 integrations from Dropbox to Slack. Monday.com does not match that number. The the integrations offered by Monday.com are useful, though this feature is dependent on each individual business and will depend on your preference. Asana is a clear leader in integration.
What is the best Project Management Tool for me as a Virtual Assistant? My conclusion and chosen tool of productivity is Asana, simple is better.
Starting out as a Virtual Assistant
So, you have made the decision to leave the world of mono-employment and move out into a new realm, the exciting world of Virtual Assistants – congratulations, you have taken the step towards an exciting and gratifying career. You have your decision made, your big ‘Why’, your ‘What’ and your ‘How’ sorted. You know you have so much to offer as a VA and can’t wait to get started.
In considering your ‘Why’, you would either have come across this career path, personally known someone, or even have been following the career of one who has chosen to be a VA, and his would have struck that chord within you that made you sit up and take notice of this being the path you want to be walking. So, what’s next – have you considered finding a Mentor?
What does it mean?
The word Mentor conjures up different meaning for different folk. A Mentor is basically someone that has more experience, skills beyond those which you currently possess and from whom you can learn and benefit.
During your work career you would have had some Mentorship along the way, even if it was not an officially appointed Mentor as such, there would have been those who were showing you the way, teaching and guiding you in your work career. Perhaps you didn’t perceive them as Mentors at the time, but they were there.
When is the best time?
There is no specific point or level in your career that is ‘best’ in having a Mentor, neither is there any limit to the number of mentors that you may interact with. There will ALWAYS be a benefit in having a Mentor, ALWAYS something to be learnt, shared or emulated. Some will help and strengthen you in one area and others in a completely different area. It is all about the learning, the teaching and sharing of knowledge, the interaction and the paying forward of skills and expertise learned from another.
Choosing a mentor
Mentors come in all forms and do not necessarily need to be in the exact field in which you operate. You will already possess a great toolbox of skills in which you have experience and expertise, however, there is always space for honing them and adding a new sharp edge. Look for someone that displays the same values that you have, possesses some of the skills you would like to add to your own toolbox and is willing to listen to you, guide and direct you, but mostly, someone that you really admire and inspires you to succeed as they have. Approach them. Tell them that about your admiration of their success and ask if they would be willing to act as your Mentor. Many would be honoured to be exactly that.
As VA’s we should be constantly learning and evolving, so, the old saying with a twist here is ‘Learn Smarter, Not Harder’ and what better way than with someone who has already walked the path successfully.
5 Top Tips for All Your No-Fuss Black Friday Shopping
It’s already November, and the ads for the annual Black Friday 2019 specials are displayed everywhere! This day in the annual calendar marks spending of epic proportions and usually kicks off the holiday shopping season even in South Africa. Never one for shopping in malls or overcrowded shops, I’ve always favoured online shopping with delivery. It’s convenient, I’m not frustrated by long queues or afraid that my toddler might get lost, abducted or throw a tantrum for some toy or chocolate that is displayed right by the checkout line. I don’t have to drive so there’s no fight for parking close to the mall entrance or the constant buckling up of children when they must get in and out of their safety seats. Any mom would second me here that it’s a skill and a task best left to days when you are on vacation, relaxed and have absolutely no schedule or deadlines to keep in mind.
Shopping Online is an Acquired Skill
Despite all the benefits online shopping offers South Africans still prefer malls for their biggest shopping spends. I believe it’s because they are still a bit scared of being defrauded when shopping online. A type of fear of the ‘virtual unknown’. So, I decided to shed some light on this topic so that my virtual assistant colleagues who are planning to fill up on their technology during Black Friday can navigate any possible pitfalls successfully. Not to mention my clients shopping for their year-end gifts!
My Top 5 Check Points for Making Sure You Get the Best Deals:
Plan Your Purchases
I probably don’t need to say any more… or do I? You will be surprised how easy it is to overspend when the 60% discount banner is flashing in front of every website and online shop you open. That’s why it’s essential to determine upfront what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend on the day’s purchases. Especially if your thinking of purchasing expensive items like electronics.
The most important piece of advice when it comes to online shopping? Makes sure to buy only from reputable shops. Ask for recommendations from friends and family and choose well-known brands until you can identify new reputable online retailers for yourself. Avoid the stampedes by registering a profile on your online shop of choice. Try to do this at least a week before the actual day. The reason is that you still need time to search and compare similar products. Not all retailers offer the same discount and it makes no sense to buy the first discounted product you see just to realize afterwards you could have saved an extra R1,000 on that same product.
Make a Wish List
Use the retailer’s online option to put certain items in your checkout basket or if they offer the functionality, create a wish list to store your favourite items in during your week of research. Now remember many retailers only display their discounted merchandise at 12 am when the online shops open so you may not know which of your favourite products are on sale. What I did last year when I wanted to buy some of my favourite expensive sandals was to choose which ones I liked beforehand and I stored them in my checkout basket.
Set the Clock for Eleven Thirty pm
At this point it would be noteworthy to tell you that my husband just raised his eyebrows at me when I told him I would be getting up at 11h30 that night to finalize my purchases. Well needless to say, never has a man under-estimated the powerful attraction of shoes on sale more than at that moment. When my alarm went off, I ran to the kitchen for a strong cup of coffee and by the time the online shops went live at midnight I simply opened my basket to see which of my favourites were on special and which weren’t. The shoes that were still full price were deleted within seconds and my checkout and payment completed within the next 5 min.
Use Comparison Tools
At this point I want to impose a few words of wisdom on those of you not yet comfortable with online shopping. Just because someone flashes an ‘ON SALE’ or ‘MASSIVE DISCOUNT’ sign at you doesn’t mean the item is really a great deal. You need to shop around, know your prices – the normal prices and compare these with the ‘promotional’ price. So, if you’re not a seasoned online shopper, compare prices first. If it’s not a great deal – then don’t buy it! The numbers never lie, and you can eliminate any emotional spending before it rears its head.
Bringing it Together
There are really some amazing deals to be had every year, but the secret is to be a smart shopper. You can use Black Friday deals to purchase your family’s Christmas gifts, your holiday reading list or technology and electronics for your business. What you buy is up to you, but hopefully the ‘how to do it effectively’ is less daunting after reading today’s blog. Happy shopping everyone!