Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sales Tip 1

What do you do when the prospect is a freakin' idiot?

Before you shut me down on this one consider what I am going to say.  First of all the reason I am calling this a sales tip is because I believe that if you are going to start a business or succeed in business it will be very helpful to be able to sell.

The other day my family and I were going to the Pacific Science Center to see real fragments of the Dead Sea was everybody else.  My wife and son went early and got tickets and my daughter and I rode with my mother and father-in-law.  We were trying to find a place to park.  In our quest we were driving down an alley of sorts.  From out of nowhere a fellow who was sipping on a Latte and listening to music through his headphones almost runs into our car at about the passenger door.  Once he realizes that a car is coming down the alley and he almost ran into it he yells out a few choice words and runs to catch up to us at the point the alley will enter back to a real street.  He yells something else, pounds the side of the car with his fist and as he is passing by yells a few more obscenities. 

At this point as I was sitting in the rear on the drivers side I thought I should point out the error in this guys thinking so I rolled down the window and began to explain.  This fellow apparently had just come from the Post Office at that time I didn't understand what that had to do with anything and let the fellow know.  Mind you I was not using the same type of vocabulary as this fellow.  So rather than see and understand the error of his ways this guy began to make motions indicating he wanted to share his Latte with the passengers of our car.  I saw this coming and got the window rolled back up most of the way.  My father-in-law who was driving didn't get his window back up but also the Latte wasn't aimed exactly at his window.  Splash!

Doesn't sound much like a sales situation you say?  Well here is the deal...when you are in business and dealing with anybody you will come across times that your Point of View doesn't seem to match up to the other persons point of view.  In many sales books that I have read they put a lot of effort into techniques for how to counter objections.  I suppose this works for them but for me it feels a lot like an argument and seems to be a lot like my experience with the Urbanite Latte Guy.  My advice in sales and my own personal motto has always been, "Sell to people who want to buy!"

If somebody is objecting to what I am telling them I have a few choices.  I could sit and argue with them until I ware them down, or I could move on to work with somebody that wants what I have to sell.  That simple.  Now of course in "follow-up" sales situations sometimes you have to find out a way to make things work.  In that case you are best to give up on the technique you are using and adopt a new Point of View.  I have found that the best way to get there is to ask a lot of questions.

In my Seattle experience above if we weren't in a hurry to get into the Science Center for our appointed entry time I could have gotten out of the car and offered to buy this poor deluded guy a new Latte and ask him if there was some way I could make his life more safe.  Instead I just moved on.  That is not a bad tactic in sales as well.  Just move on and find somebody that you get along with and that you enjoy working with.  Your life will be better, I guarantee your business will be better and you will have surrounded yourself with people that have a different view about sharing a cup of coffee.


BuzzNet tags:

Thursday, December 21, 2006

No Power and Business Continuity

Link to Business Continuity

Recent events have once again brought up an age old issue for me.  In Washington State we recently had a pretty major storm.  On Thursday December 14 through the evening we had winds exceeding 60 MPH.  This following a month of record breaking rain fall in November.  We were recently knocked out by a snow storm but this wind storm gave us the one-two punch. 

I myself had the lights come back on December 19 but that didn't mean I could get on the Internet or use my phones.  That came back to a limited degree on December 20 (meaning it would come on then go off...then back on and so forth).  Today we seem to be doing pretty well.

In my case my cell phone was also only working in certain areas for days.  Gas stations that were able to open were over crowded and having much trouble.  Many businesses had to go to cash only and banks were only letting a few customers at a time into the building and allowing them some cash.

Today there are still people without power and other services and they may have to wait a few more days still.  I wrote an article on my website back a while ago about coming through just such disasters.  I thought I would put a link to it and maybe it will help.  There are many businesses for which this advice will come too late but hopefully there are many that it can still help.  I also put together a talk on the subject complete with PowerPoint slide show to go over some of the things people need to think about.  If you are reading this and you wish to have me come talk with your company or other group about the issue (and if you are close to Redmond, Washington) I would be happy to see if we can work out a time to talk. 

This is of course a pretty big issue for people and usually we only think about it when something bad has already happened.  I hope you think about it before then and are ready for whatever occurs.  Today there are many new options of what people can do to be prepared, things I could only dream about when the mentioned article was written. 


Monday, December 11, 2006

Being Cheap doesn't save money

You can save money by spending less to buy a quality item or service but being cheap costs!

I have worked with computers for over 20 years.  From the very beginning I enjoyed the network more than the actual hardware of a computer.  I have had a computer open and have swapped parts and upgraded memory or hard drives.  I have replaced power supply's and motherboards.  I don't like messing with hardware.  It's not because it isn't fun.  I believe it is a waste of time. 

I have always gravitated to the Administration of the Network resources.  The Network resources include hardware and software but they also include support people and end users.  The most important factor of Network Management is TIME!

Time is what is all about.  Time is worth something.  It is the only resource that I have as much of as Bill Gates.  We are exactly equal in that respect.  That's right I have as much time as the richest guy in the world.  I don't want to waste my time and I'm sure he doesn't.  I also don't want to waste other people's time.  That time, which belong to others is valuable to me as well.  In fact other people's time well used is the best way to get rich.  So if I truly value everybody's time then I need to come up with a plan that will use that time efficiently.

So if this is what I want to maximize in my management of a computer network then I have to put plans into place to make that happen.  I wrote an article back a while ago about my philosophy of network management.  I still believe everything I wrote back then. (Link to article

So the point here is that if I make the decision to be cheap and don't get the software that will do the job the fastest possible way then it is going to cost me.  If I am cheap and waste my time fixing a computer that I could replace for a few hundred dollars I am wasting a more valuable resource than silicon or money.  If I am cheap and hire people that can't do the job right then I am losing the battle against my competitors. 

Being smart and wise with my money is a great thing and extremely important.  Rich people usually are very cautious about spending the money they have.  Maybe even more so than the average person.  The only people that think rich people spend wildly are poor people, or soon to be poor people.  The rich make sure they only spend the money that is required to do the job.  But most rich people spend their money on the right things that make a difference.  They aren't cheap when it comes to critical functions.  They pay for good quality and good advice.  When they are cheap they may still be rich but it probably had a cost they wish they wouldn't have to pay.  That's how they learned what to spend on.

It doesn't pay to be cheap.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Time Traps (Book Review)

Recently read this book and very much enjoyed it.  This book is written with some very practical advice aimed directly at sales people.  Maybe you aren't a sales person but there are tips in here that can help you as well.  The book talks about some of the mistakes people make in just trying to manage all their tasks.  The biggest mistake is trying to manage all your tasks.

Yep, you heard me correct.  As he points out many of the tasks we take on whether in sales or not are tasks that are going to waste our time no matter if they take us 1 hour or 1 minute.  Even if they only take 1 minute they can still be a waste of time, because you shouldn't even be doing it in the first place.  There are a lot of things like that throughout the day.  If you took all the unimportant tasks and just threw them away how much more time would you have?  I bet you would also start looking for more to through away, or pass on to somebody else. 

One of the hard lessons in the book for me was hiring somebody to do important tasks that waste your time.  That is something that is difficult for me, as well as it was for him.  It is hard to let go, but the people who are most efficient are those that do.

One of the traps mentioned by Todd Duncan is the technology trap.  I have written a post about technology and asking "who is in control?"  I talked about the fact that we can manage our technology to our advantage or we can let it control us.  Todd makes a different statement which being a technology guy I have to disagree with a little.  He says that if it takes you a couple of hours to play with a gadget such as a PDA then it is wasting your time.  I would agree with him if every time you try to use the device you struggle for an hour just to make it function.  However if you have to spend a day to configure and learn about a new tool and that tool can end up saving you a hour a day then in my opinion it is worth the time.  Of course I have to learn how to use technology for my work but even besides that I often have to learn new things in business that will benefit me later and I am willing to make the investment to make that happen.  The key is whether the benefit is there or not.  So the author has a good point to a limit. 

Even with my one complaint about the technology thing I think this was an excellent book.  And if you say that a book subtitled "proven strategies for swamped salespeople" doesn't effect you because you are not a sales person then you will be missing out and for another thing maybe you should think of yourself as a sales person.  I do.  I perform many functions in business but rather than regret sales I actually look forward to the fact that I sell.

Read this book it could help. I will be reading it again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Obstacles (remove them, set them aside or climb over them)

When you are in business for a little while you are bound to come across obstacles.  The truth of the matter is that there are tons of them.  Some I have found are self-imposed.  If I manage my time poorly I have a problem.  Many of course have to do with money, and rarely that there is too much of it (although I have heard that too much money can be a problem as well and I would like to test that theory).  Some come from outside. 

I have an outside obstacle right now.  I am the only employee of my nice little computer consulting business.  I have great customers that are easy to work with.  Right now I am the sole wage earner in my family.  And about two weeks ago I got a Jury Summons.

I believe in the right and responsibility for citizens to participate on juries.  However I have attempted to get out of that responsibility because it would create a hardship for my business and therefore my family if I were to loose valuable days of business while sitting on a jury.  Unfortunately I can't really pick when a computer crashes or when my customers will have some other emergency.  There isn't anybody I can pass the work off to in my absence.  As well I don't have an employer who will continue to pay my salary while I sit on a jury.  I read the notice I got and it says if it would create a hardship for you that you can request to be excused.  I did.

I got back a letter a few days later saying my request had been denied.  I sent another email trying to explain the hardship in a little more detail and it fell on deaf ears.  The person in charge of this matter for the King County Superior Court seems to feel I am probably just making it all up and need to do my time.  I'm sure he has heard it all before and is therefore very callused to the arguments.  I'm not sure what his interpretation of hardship would be?  Maybe if you needed a triple-bypass surgery.  He says I should show up for 2 days and if I am called to a jury I can make my case to the judge.  I'm wondering why the courts would want to waste time (mine and theirs) by bringing reluctant jurors in and then excusing them because of the financial hardship it would cause? 

At this point all I can do is request a delay of one year.  Hopefully by that time I can make some arrangements that will allow me to serve without difficulty to my business.  If I don't get that delay granted then I feel sorry for the poor guys who's trial I sit in on because I will be ready to hang somebody.

Sometimes you can remove an obstacle, sometimes you can just step over it but sometimes like this time hopefully I can set it aside for a while.  Of course sometimes you have to just plow through it.  Maybe I'll write more on obstacles soon.  They come in many shapes and sizes and never at a good time. 

It helps to verbalize the pain.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Same ole, same ole

Busy day today many thoughts on my mind.  Many of them are way too complex so this one is pretty simple and straight forward. 

In business or in life there are habits that we develop.  They become part of our programming.  My family watched the movie "Click" this week and sometime life feels like we are on automatic, like in the movie.  We learn from our mistakes and then create patterns that we re-use in a similar situation.

This is a good thing for the most part however there is one question that has come to mind for me today...

If we do the same thing as before is it the reason for our success or is it that which holds us back from greater accomplishments?

The problem is we will never find out if we continue to do the same ole thing.  If you want to find out if there are greater things ahead you must RISK!  Risk can be terrifying.  You may fall flat on your ###, you know.  But I can also say there has never been a great accomplishment where somebody did not take a risk.  Mankind has been doing it for a long, long time and somehow we didn't blow ourselves up (well some have). 

Try it, the one thing guaranteed is you will get a different result.

The use of the word guarantee does not imply a contractual arrangement of any sort or any actual guarantee of different results.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Zune - will it sell? Society is the Key

The Zune was released yesterday Nov. 14 Wow.  I have read a number of things about the excitement around this device.  Of course a number of people don't seem to give it much chance of overtaking iPod.  Probably true!  At least not for a while.  So is Microsoft stupid to get into this market?  It's a huge market and with their power they can easily become number 2 in the field and that will mean a lot of money. 

Past that is there anything cool about this device?  The biggest one I can think of is the one they seem to be playing up themselves but others don't just seem to yawn at the thought.  The ability to share.  Big Deal?  Well, Microsoft introduces the concept with one simple word on the Zune site "Social".  That's it, that's why My Space and YouTube are such big hits.  The ability to socialize is powerful especially among teens.  And let's face it that the real market here isn't it?  If teens can walk into a room and identify the other devices, potentially see what others are listening to and share songs and pictures with each other you can't tell me that won't be powerful.  Love letters can be passed as a video clip from one person to another.  A prank can be pulled by sending an audio file to everyone in the room.  A guy can ask his girl to the prom by creating his own music video and beaming it over.  Like I say you can't tell me that won't be huge.

And let's talk about marketing.  So you are a band trying to get started.  You walk into a concert beam your music video to every Zune in the room and then enjoy the concert.  Same deal if you are selling Pepsi Cola.  Wow.  So teens could flip for it and Marketing companies could exploit it and...

Is there more?  You bet it has WiFi 802.11(b/g) which means the sky is the limit for what you want to do with them in the future. 

I predict iPod's are a little worried even though they are in a pretty cool lead.  Go ahead buy one today and catch the wave.  I'll be considering it.  Tell me I'm wrong.

Costs Again (but different)

So I was just doing some consulting for my church (website).  The church is Washington Cathedral in Redmond.  Here is the question that came up...somebody has a cool Laser printer that they will donate if we want it.  So do we want it?

Now as a non-profit this church has a much better position to analyze the numbers than most businesses.  In most business to purchase a Laser Printer you have to add the costs of buying the printer.  In our case here we don't ...the printer is free!  Cool huh?  So why not go for it. 

The main question to me in either case is do you need a Laser Printer?  You see all the analyzing that follows either supports or doesn't support that decision.  Could you use an Ink Jet printer?  If you want a Laser can you justify the cost.  An example I used was Coca-cola spends millions in advertising but no problem because it leads to billions in sales.  Millions sound like a lot until to realize what it buys you.

The costs on consumables (Ink, Paper) and the costs of repairs differ.  The Ink Jet printer has ink cartridges for $50-$70 (both black and color) The printer itself can be as cheap as $100 at Costco or Amazon which comes with one set of cartridges.  $100 - $70 = $30 for the printer.  This is one of the reasons as a Network Admin I don't like to spend much time trying to figure out or fix Ink Jet Printers.  Why do it, the solution to the users problem is $30 not my high hourly fee.  Now the Laser printer has toner costs far above the price of Ink Cartridges and to get a good deal you buy a few of them at a time so you have a pretty big investment.  Laser printers are coming down in price and almost disposable but the fancier ones are a lot, maybe in the thousands.  In either case if you have $800-$1200 of toner sitting around you will probably want to fix your Laser printer when it goes down.  That can be expensive.

In my opinion at the church the best course of action is to decline the offer of the laser printer because the costs to operate in the first year would allow us to operate an Ink Jet printer for years and probably still buy a new one after a few years.  The costs are less total and the church could use color printing but doesn't really need Laser quality (the Laser printer is black only).  But that doesn't mean this is the best decision.  For example I had a Real Estate Agent customer who bought a very expensive Color Laser Printer years ago that would still be state-of-the-art today.  It made since for him because he printed very nice looking brochures for the properties he sells.  Not just these cheap flyers you see on the post in front of the house.  He sells multi-million dollar properties and does print quality brochures for them.  In fact he used to have these printed on 4-color presses.  That's expensive so he actually saved money and provided a quality job for his customer.  It made sense.

Don't think about technology with your emotions, have a reason the technology is needed and analyze the costs like an accountant.  Then the best part you get to decide whether to do it or not...Good Luck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Carry a VoIP phone in your pocket

This phone is something.  I haven't used it yet mostly because I can't yet find a good justification to get one.  This is pretty cool though.  I have used Vonage for well over a year now.  I have 2 phone lines from them and I use a number of virtual phone numbers which allow me local numbers in Oregon and New Mexico as well as Washington where I live.  I have loved the service.  It sounds good and the additional features are really cool.  We get voicemail in our email I can make changes online to the service and the phone rings simultaneously on my cellphone.  What could be better?  Well if I could carry it in my pocket and plug in to any computer connected to high-speed Internet, that's what.  This little baby has all the features of my Vonage phone and I can also store other files on the flas drive portion of this device.  This thing is cool.  So let's see what can I do to justify it?  I'll come up with something.

 Added Later:  I had provided a link to Amazon with information about the V-Phone by Vonage but the graphic changed and I looked and can't find it on their site any more.  Maybe they sold out or discontinued. Any way I'm leaving it here to see if it comes back at some point???  Of course you can also click on this link and search for it yourself.  Sorry about that.


Technorati tags: , ,

Efficiency - lacking everywhere?

I read this post and the phrase "strange inability to find efficient solutions" kind of popped out at me.

Link to Ernie The Attorney: The lawyerly tendency to overbill

In Network Consulting this issue has come up for me as well.  I have even been guilty of it I suppose.  One problem in my field is it's always a moving target.  Another problem is if you are busy with work there really isn't much motivation to change or to come up with more efficient ways to do work.  Until of course you have been burned a couple of times.  If you have been in business for a while you realize that you must always come up with more efficient ways to do things, it is a (or should be) a constant process.  Of course this is one of those lessons often learned in hard ways. 

I suppose in the olde days of crafts and tradesmen (I even spelled old in and olde way) you could learn how to best do something from the master and that pretty much never changed.  Then along comes technology and changes everything.  Technology has been around long before computers but computer technology changes rapidly.  I have been trying to keep up on changes on the Internet for a bit now and it seems that new capabilities come out every week.  Within a couple of months a corporate procedure could change.  All companies must be pretty adaptable.

In technology we have for a long time been in the position that we have been able to change everyone else's environment but in truth not much changed in the way we could do things.  We still had to go to the office and sit at a keyboard and poke around for a while to figure out the problem.  That was inefficient but it was the only way to do it.  Updates didn't happen rapidly and you could subscribe to a new CD every few months or even once a year with changes and updates. 

Today I do most of my work from home, I have mentioned that before.  My customer says that I could even work in my underwear.  I wondered how he knew?  (Before you get creeped out don't worry I am actually in shorts and house shoes as well as a shirt.)  I can work on pretty sophisticated stuff from my laptop.  The really cool thing, efficiency wise, is I can often work on 2 different systems at the same time.  While I am browsing the Internet for a solution and maybe even listening to music digitally, viewing a video or talking to somebody on my phone, actually maybe through Skype.  It's all very cool. 

This for me has opened a whole new door.  Because I don't have to travel to my customers where I used to be able to see 2 or 3 customers a day I can know be on 10 systems a day easily.  Have a nice lunch with my wife, weight lift (which I'm getting ready to do when I finish this).  Life is good, but how does that change what I do?  For me I am trying to develop services where I am in constant contact with my customers and their systems.  I can actually keep their systems tuned up and avoid many of the problems that used to plague people.  Patches and updates come out weekly and often a few times a week.  This is a lot to keep up with.  You could just setup your computer to automatically update using Microsoft Update, the problem is the number of updates.  It is best to not do them constantly but at off hours and then there is the problem of being an administrator of your computer.  In a network environment I don't like to grant users administrator privileges (which is probably a separate post some day).  So they users often can't update.  There are network administrator solutions and I can oversee those from home for a reasonable price.  There are many things a person can do proactively to try to keep problems from happening and that is what I enjoy spending my time on. 

Hopefully I will always remember that there may be a more efficient way and will keep looking for them.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wish you were here

When I recently met with Rick of J. Scott he said that he was jealous of the fact that I can do most of my work from home now.  I can login to servers and workstations of my customers as well as the websites I maintain.  I can download patches without having to put a CD in the drive and clean up most issues on a computer.  I can also write code and zip and email the result to my customers after they let me know over the phone what they need (I used Microsoft Access).  I pretty much don't have to go to the office of my customer at all.  In fact I have never been to one of my customers offices.  It is CJ Plumbing and is partially owned by Rick as a side hobby because he just doesn't have enough to do apparently.  He ordered a server and I picked it up from J. Scott and set it all up then delivered it back.  Rick then took the server into the offices of CJ's Plumbing and plugged it in and turned it on.  He also plugged the workstations in and got me some IP address info.  I then logged into the server from home and helped with workstations as needed.

It has all happened quite naturally over the last couple of years and sometimes I don't even think about how huge this is, or didn't until Rick said something.  I don't drive as much, hardly every have a work commute.  In the past I used to drive to one or two customers a day which could easily account for 2 hours of driving not to mention eating out at fast food restaurant and spending that money as well as spending my valuable health.  I have all that time back and now eat much healthier lunches and dinners at home.  If I need to work a little late not a huge problem I can still stay home with the kids if my wife needs to run an errand.

This is quite simply the future of the Internet.  You could say that it will keep people inside and they will never get any exercise.  I suppose that could happen but in my case the regular hours and being close to my weight equipment and healthy snacks has mean I get more exercise and my health has improved (so there).  This is not all that there is to the new wave.  Microsoft just released Internet Explorer 7 and it incorporates a Feed Reader.  I don't even have to browse much any more to get the information I desire.  It comes to me.  I also set up Google Alerts as well as Windows Live Alerts and those arrive from time to time in my Email.  So there again better time management.

More and more we will see information coming to us.  And not that useless information we call spam, but good stuff the stuff we need to see.  It's all going to be right there.

The funny thing was that I have thought over the course of the last few months how much I would like to be in Rick's place building houses, developing land and that sort of stuff... he does some pretty cool things.  After my visit though I realize that it would be fine so long as I can build the houses from my living room.  Not yet but some day.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good Customer Visit

I sure got to have fun today.  It's always a pleasure to work with the customer I visited today.  Rick Neumann of J. Scott Construction.  (Website)  The time usually goes pretty well while I am there and we have a good time.  Rick is one of my favorite customers because even though he is SUPER busy running the construction company in which they build houses and commercial properties he takes the time to not only talk to me and find out what I think about things but he takes the time to try to learn about technology.

He has a real passion for computers and the networking.  You can also tell he has a passion for a lot of things and maybe even life itself.  Rick really seems to appreciate what I do for J. Scott and I have always believed that is because he knows more than the average customer about the technology.  He understands more specifically what it takes to fix a problem and therefore appreciates the solution.  Of course also because he invests some time to learn about the technology he also save me time by directing me specifically to the problem. By understanding and defining the problem not only does he save me time but he saves himself money.  Now of course maybe somebody like him shouldn't be spending time on tech stuff because he has a construction company to run, but you can't do much about your passions can you?

I became acquainted with J. Scott Construction and Rick because of Lona Hyatt.  Lona worked previously for another customer and then moved to become the CFO at J. Scott.  They developed a need for a network guy and as Lona and I had a great working relation previously she recommended me.  Lona was another great person to work with on the computers but of course at J. Scott she has Rick to do things and I often work with him.

It was a great day at a great customer and that is ALL because of great people.  Isn't every great experience in life?  It's not the place, or the stuff, or the's the people.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Windows Live Writer Beta

Ok, enough with the Beta software.  As I have started blogging now I became interested in this product.  I can't yet recommend it for the production environment as I haven't finished testing it.  Actually I just started testing it and this is my second entry using the tool.  But so far it is pretty cool and I haven't even played with adding the rich text stuff.  Looking forward to more playing and in a couple of weeks maybe it is something to look at.  For now just make yourself aware of it.

Things I like so far are:  being able to set up multiple blogs as I am trying to maintain more than one, and not having to login to them in order to write a post.  I also like being able to view the result as if I was looking at my blog without yet posting.  The spell check works more like my Word program (duh) which is nice since I previously lost a post trying to make my spell check work in Blogger.  I probably did something wrong but still frustrating.  I'll see how other things go, looking forward to easily inserting Tags such as technorati tags with the easy tool.  I played with doing that by hand and it's not the most fun I've ever had.  I'll see if this is better. 

I also added the Blog this add-in for it and used that to create this particular entry...Coool!

Link to Windows Live Writer Beta

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


A brief observation:

If you are completely and fully competent you will be destined to always do the job you at which you are skilled.

If you are completely incompetent you won’t have a job at all.

If you are semi-incompetent (or carefully plan your incompetence) you will be supported by more competent people and you can manage them.

(I would pick the last one)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Who is in control?

This is something that bugs me about technology…take that back it bugs me about people. Maybe at the core of it I’m bothered because it bugs me about me. Technology should be around to serve us. We created it for our own use and it should do exactly that. It should not determine how our lives or days go. This isn’t just hi-tech but some pretty simple stuff also. Some examples.

  1. A computer should not decide that you must look at and read email whenever they arrive at your Inbox.
  2. A computer should not determine when you go to a meeting or what you should do at that meeting, or for that matter what you should do any time of the day.
  3. A phone should not decide that it is time to answer a call.
  4. A TV should not decide when you can watch a show or movie or anything else you wish to watch on the device.

Question: Wouldn’t it be stupid if a car decided where you were to go?

This seems easy enough and yet many people seem to let the technology force them into situations.

Opinion: This isn’t a technology problem. People…I, let situations throughout the day guide what I do rather than sticking to the plan. The problem is sometimes there isn’t a plan so of course I don’t have an idea of what I should acomplish. But often I do have a plan and it is up to ME to make sure I stick to it. Truth is because I work with technology so much I don’t let it guide my day that much I use it to help me get the plan for the day accomplished. I see however many people who aren’t as comfortable with technology letting the technology guide the day. An old school example of this is the parents (not mine) who have to watch a show on TV when it is broadcast because they don’t know how to operate the VCR. I believe that in the future the concept of “broadcast” will go away. We will be able to pick what we want to watch when we want to watch it. That is so long as whoever comes up with content has created it yet. So I will watch episodes of my favorite show whenever I wish (without having to record it) with some limitations. For example I can watch episode 10 & 11 but 12 I have to wait for because it hasn’t yet been created…bummer.

My goal by the way is to help people take control of technology so that it will help them accomplish their goals and plans for the day. So I have technology mostly mastered but it’s other things that distract my day. Still it’s not their fault it’s my fault. Heavy!

Confession: Junk Mail and Phone solicitations don’t bother me (that much). The reason is because I can throw it away or refuse to answer the call (thanks to caller ID I know when I am getting a call I want to answer).

And further more I also don’t like when computers decide to crash, I mentioned this in my first post and will probably mention it again. I believe that I can take control of the technology and very much so limit when problems arrise if not eliminate them all together. However if I refuse to upgrade my software and my hardware I will most likely fall victim to the technology. That’s experience talking. I have experienced a greatly improved lifestyle by taking control of technology and other things. I have watched enough sci-fi movies and television shows to know that if we let technology take control it will rule us or maybe try to eliminate us. So the goal of getting control of technology and of other distractions really relates to getting control of time. And THAT is a powerful thing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Breaking My Own Rules

Like a civilized society a civilized corporate network is based on the laws that exist and the enforcement of them. Very legalistic view I know but boy if your goal is actually uptime and not always being the hero by swooping in and recovering after the major crash then this philosophy sure seems to work. If only I had a police force or better yet my own military to enforce my rules…ok back to reality.

This week I found a reason to break my rule. First the reason is Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) The rule is that I don’t like to put Beta software onto production workstations. They leak memory usually and other things have problems. You see IE7 is not yet a released piece of software. It is so far along in the Beta process that it is called Release Candidate 1 (RC1). I have had it installed on a non-critical computer for a while now. It has done fine but I hadn’t thought of actually using the software yet.

The real problem: back a while ago I added MSN toolbar to my IE and loved the tab browsing and other features such as Phishing Filter, Pop-Up blocker and recently I have been playing with RSS feeds and Windows Live ( So back a while ago I updated the toolbar and I started getting IE sessions lock up on me. It would happen mostly when I closed the session. It wouldn’t close and I got a blank page saying it was “about”. I couldn’t figure about what? So then I happened upon the LIVE toolbar. (figured it’s better than the dead toolbar apparently I was using and upgraded.) Now my sessions started locking if I clicked on a link that opened a new IE session it would sometimes lock up. Results varied. But basically I was having to go into Task Manager and nuke iexplore.exe a number of times a day. Sometimes every half hour. I contacted Microsoft they acknowledged the problem, said they were working on a permenant solution and gave me some tips that “had helped some users”. They didn’t help but I think eventually they did. I had to do a disk clean up of temp files and run a program to remove fragments left over from Windows Installation programs. So that clean up I think eventually helped but not immediately. I tested and still had the problem.

Now remember back to my test computer with IE7. I started thinking you know I have been running that computer for a while now and haven’t had any problem. So I began a more rigorous testing of that machine and felt good. I also found out that IE7 is likely to release this month. I decided not to wait. I cleaned up again and instead of re-installing the Live toolbar I installed IE7 RC1. I’ve been a few days now and the results are great. The odd thing is my computer has actually speed up in the process. Must be using memory more efficiently. I have all the features that I cared about from the previous toolbar, better improved tabbed browsing, and some enhanced search capabilites (I can pick and choose search engines on the fly there are many of them out there such as eBay, Amazon, Wikipedia, etc (I tried to find one for Encarta but haven’t yet, sad). So there you go Beta software actually performed better than released software. You know thinking about it I broke the rule before also I installed Miscrosoft Expressions – Graphic Designer and had upgraded a few times in their process. So far I have come to depend on that program.

I’ve broken the rules, and now it’s a good thing I don’t have a military because they would shoot me on the spot as a traitor.

Update: I had a customer install IE7 and after doing so lost connection to the Internet. On the other hand I thought I should try a couple more machines. I successfully installed on another of my computers and at a test computer at a customer setup similar to the one where it didn't work. So far all my tests have been successful so I'm not yet sure why the other one didn't work.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Get 'er Done

On days like today if you really want to have customers years or maybe even weeks from now you set everything else aside and focus on a project. Today I set aside the whole day so that I could make sure I got a couple important projects done for a customer. I made sure that everything was lined up so that I could make these things happen. I had a couple of things to get done on an database created in Microsoft Access. I didn't think they would be difficult, but I was determined to meet the deadline.

Sometimes the planets all line up and everything goes just right. The report changes were done within 2 hours. So now I had the rest of the day to figure out what to do. Well there is always something pressing to do but I took a few minutes to run an errand and get tea with one of my favorite wife. Life is good.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What does it cost?

What does what cost? Exactly! Often people want to know what something is going to cost. I am learning how to deal with this question. Back in the early days I could deal with it by saying it costs what it costs. There was a lot of trust. Those were kind of the good old days. Now you don't get away with that as much. The whole computer things isn't so new any more. Used to be nobody knew how really to measure these projects that well. I read a number of documents in business magazines such as Forbes and Harvard Business Review. It seemed clear to me that there was not an easy way to measure not only the cost but the return on the cost (ROI for those of you Accountant types).

Now it's different. I still don't know if many people know how to measure the return on the expense but that doesn't matter. People have to control their costs no matter what, so they want to know, "what is it going to cost?" So you have to pick a number and hope that you can live with it later. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't . The average is what you want to deal with. Of course the longer you are in the business you have a better idea what it will take to make a project happen. You pick a number and you can't add too much to it for difficulties that may arrise because the other people you may be bidding against may have a lower number. Which there is another cost...what does it cost to sit idle? Boy you don't want to start thinking about those costs.

The funny thing is that now it's not enough to know what it costs but you have to justify the expense. Of course to justify the expense and write up the appropriate backup and documentation to go along with an invoice takes a lot of extra time, and that is going to cost somebody. Hopefully not me because if I spend all my time writting backup documents I can't make much money doing actual work, or I have to do like the big guys and start raising my rates to allow for a little idle time. Of course if you do good work then you are too busy to spend all of your time doing that, or you have to hire somebody to do one or the other. Boy now there is another person around and that raises the costs. Now I will be like the big guys, I'll have employees and they will need more time for oversite. So now I have to spend time meeting with the customer, writting backup and managing employees. Oh yeah I'll probably have to spend time finding a good Health Insurance plan and figure out other benefits for my employees.

May sound like a it's an adventure. It's business and that collection of businesses make the economy and it is sure fun to be a part of it. It's also nice to get away from it to go to a hotel somewhere walk up to the desk and say how much is a room?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Deciding for my customer

Why would I do that? Ok sure there are times that it is tempting. This is a follow-up to managing my own services for the customer. As I said in that post there is definatly the need to take control of the account or there will be no control whatever. This is a slightly different situation, this one is about assumptions. There have been times (and one recently or I wouldn't be writing this) where the tone changes with a customer. The relationship becomes strained. I tend to assume I know the reason, and then I act on that assumption. In the past things began to go downhill from that point.

For me it seems to happen soon after I send a big invoice. By big I mean that it represents 1 or 2 months if my time. It means I completed a time consuming project and because I devoted so much time to it I don't have much money coming from any other source so now I need the cash (I don't necessarily but the people I owe want to be paid).

So now for some reason my customer takes a long time to pay. This makes everything stressful. This has happened a few times and usually ends the relationship. Here is what I'm doing different this time...nothing. I don't mean I am doing the same thing I have always done, I mean I'm doing nothing.

I have decided not to put words into my customers mouth. I am not going to decide for them. I am going to wait to hear it from them. I will let them do the talking. So I had to wait a while. Waiting...waiting, then I heard. It wasn't as bad as I had decided it was. In fact it isn't bad at all. There may be a future here. I still don't have any money yet but hopefully there will be for years to come. I don't know, that's my customer's decision.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Being in my own business for about 16 years now has been great. There have been many wonderful times. I’m sure that if I went on about them you would tune me out right away. So instead I’ll talk about one of my mistakes. Ok, so it’s difficult to zero in on just one but this is one that I have been coming up against recently. My business is a corporation. That’s nice but before that I was what we call a Sole Proprietor, a one-man shop-except of course that my wife works with me some. I do a few different things for customers including network administration and also I have written some custom software using MS Access. Here is the thing, in both of those areas I have believed that if I just did the best job I possibly could the customer would be happy and they would continue to want to use my services.

My Thinking - I should continue to do a good job and to research in my fields of interest and stay on top of the systems and result-the customer will be happy. In other words I need to mind my shop. The customer on the other hand is the best person to look after their own interests. They will make sure that they utilize me as a resource for their business. They know what their Business Plan is and their Mission Statement. They will make sure that I fit in with those and that the work I do is for the betterment of the company as a whole. They will also manage the amount of time and therefore money they use of my service to be in line with the financial interests of their business.

Reality Check! Ok so that isn’t how it turns out.

Why? Well I can’t say that I really know the answer to that question but the best I can think is that they are busy. The Executives of the company that are aware of those things such as the Business Plan and Cash Flow are busy. They don’t have time to manage me as a resource so they pass it down a level or two in their company and hope that those people can get it done. Well those people usually aren’t ready to write software specifications or deal with the implications to the company of one choice over another. They just want all their friends to be happy. So do I, but then somewhere down the line the Executives come in to review what has gone on. Amazing to me that this doesn’t happen on a monthly schedule, sometimes not even on a quarterly or oddly sometimes not even on a yearly schedule. But when they do they wonder why these certain things were done and why the heck did it all cost so much. They wonder why it isn’t making a bigger difference. Now there is a problem. My unrealistic goal is to hand invoices to customers that they are happy to pay. They are happy because it was small change compared to the wonderful effect it had on the business. Good one huh!!

So what is the answer? Right now I am under the assumption that I can’t do it all. It’s time to grow up and act like a real business. Ok this isn’t a new realization but a difficult one. It is not easy to grow from a one-person operation to a multi-person operation. But I have to. Some how- some day I have to. Because it is impossible to run around and administrate computer networks, write software and do the management of those things that the customers need so desperately. They don’t just need the work done they need somebody to manage the work being done. They aren’t going to do it they are just going to go from one consultant to the next until they find somebody that will do ALL the work for them. This isn’t a bad thing.

There are still a few problems that I haven’t quite figured out yet but I’m working on them. First The Cost, it’s going to cost more, that’s just the way it is. That is where my sales experience is going to come into play. Next how am I going to do the management for them and yet help them achieve their business goals according to their business plan? Don’t know. Another is how am I going to get some of the time of the Executives on a periodic basis so that I can make sure they are happy and that objectives are met. The answer for all this I fear is something I didn’t think I was ever going to have to do but appears to be essential. I believe the answer to all my problems actually is GOLF!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Network Administrator

I hope to begin to put down some of my thoughts about network/software administration and running a business in this blog (maybe even unrelated stuff that comes up). I tried to put down ideas on my company website before I became aware of the concept of blogs. I had heard about them for a while but being busy keeping networks running I didn't realize they were exactly what I was looking for...a way to write down some of my thoughts if for no other reason than that some day I can go back and read over them to remember how brilliant I was before I became so stupid. That's maybe a subject for a future post or maybe I should find a good therapist of some sort to help. I hope to come up with something to say often (even if it does turn out to just be for me) but there will no doubt be a shake-down period of this whole process. Maybe I'll get better as I go or maybe just become more stupid. Here goes...

I have a vision of how networks should run. In the process of running my own business there have been times when I scanned throught the job listings in newspapers and now of course throught the Internet (some days it's like that). Many of them describe network administration jobs as On-Call available 24-7. Popular phrase. I can't help but look at that and wonder what is wrong at that place? When I was younger (oh so long ago) I remember the excitement of having a computer/server crash, rolling up my sleeves and saying, "well it's going to be a late night". There were times I was on the phone with tech support people until 2AM. Finally the job was complete except that come 7AM people were going to return to the office and want to work. I hopped that the system would cooperate but just to make sure I went home got 4 hours sleep, got up, took a shower and was back in the office to make sure it was ok. I suppose some times that has to be done. And I have to admit it was a little exciting.

Even in college I was not into cramming for tests. I did not do well staying up late at night to study for a test the next day. I tried it a few times and it didn't work well for me. So I adopted a method of scheduling out my studies and I did them when they were scheduled. When pre-test night came I ate a good dinner (school cafeteria style) relaxed and got to bed early. That is only partially true. Sometimes I would go find a group of students cramming for the same test and see if I could have any fun with them, then I went to bed. Usually it worked out pretty well.

Why can't network administration work like that? I like to create a regular maintenance schedule and set policies, as well as develop hardware and software standards. In addition to that I like to spend my time developing training programs for the employees to teach or "empower" them to use the programs they have on their desk to do the job they need to get done. There are more things than that of course such as trying to tie the IT goals to the Corporate Business plan so that the IT department is not just a Zen type area for Computer Geeks but actually a place that supports the Mission of the company. Whoa!!! So for me Network Administration is less about computers and circuits and more about people. Double-Whoa!!!

Is that too much to ask? Seems so. I have yet to find many customers where that works. It works for a while and I have had good success, but then something changes. People want to do whatever they wish, don't have time for training and when it all comes crashing down just want you to "fix it" no matter how late you have to stay up. If you can't stay up (because you are no longer young) then somebody who can is brought in. It's how I see it. I believe there is a better way. Maybe some day I'll hire a bunch of young guys to stay up late instead of me (guys who liked cramming for tests in all-nighters) and every once in a while I'll go find them and see if I can have some fun with them.