Author: Cate Schafing

 

Excel and Access applications to the cloud economically and safely with Amazon Workspaces

Recently there has been a major new development in cloud platform tools that allows your Excel and Access applications to the cloud economically and safely with Amazon Workspaces. This development by Amazon is truly standing them apart from other cloud providers at this stage.  We have tested and can verify excellent results with MS Access, MS Excel and other proprietary Software applications.Amazon Workspaces

So, let me explain to you, as a business owner, what this is, without the technical mumbo jumbo.

In short, Amazons new function, “Amazon Workspaces”, is a set of tools that will allow users to put their Excel spreadsheet, or MS Access application, or Word templates on to the cloud and allow all their staff to access this information.  This new feature also has backup option and security.  It allows the user to access this information via a login to the cloud on what is referred to a as a remote desktop (e.g. a window inside your operating system), so they can use whatever their business has loaded there.

It allows users to print locally where the user is located. In addition, the user has the ability to use programs and data that are remote.

Here’s a practical example of this

Last week, a client of Accede’s came to us to help them solve their dying server.  Logic dictated to move to the cloud.  They have a MS access application, a PHP based intra-web, and a proprietary software product loaded to their new Amazon Workspaces.  We loaded A few extra tools so that our client could handle

  • their shared documents and shared images,
  • auto backups,
  • photocopier/scanner document transfers
  • a range of other unique software applications.

My client uses Office 365 for all their Office Software and for their business outlook. My clients peripheral devices include Macs, tablets, hubs, printers, scanners and Windows PCs.  All my clients software and data has now been loaded to the Amazon Server, and all peripherals have been transparently  connected. As a result, all their staff can locally and remotely use this server.  We have turned off their old server locally (as this was dying and needed a full replacement or an alternative solution).

A lot of testing  has been performed on this new function and we have found that even though this client has no NBN and very poor ADSL he is getting good results from this cloud option.  This is because all of the processing and work is actually done on the server and by sending data up and down very poor internet lines.

Why Go to cloud?

Simply put; ease of use and it’s also very cost effective.  Many customers use Office 365 exchange simply because it works better.  So does this cloud feature.  It just works better, easier and has more flexibility than what most small business companies currently offer their own staff with their own servers and IT facilities; and it is so much cheaper.

I have often been asked about security.  You will find that security for exchange on office 365 is better than it was when exchange was on the average small business server.

What Amazon Workspaces offer is also more secure than what the average business offers.  So much so, that even the CIA has moved to Amazon purely due to its security.

Lack of security for cloud access is really an outrageous fear put into most business owner’s heads, due to IT people being afraid of loss of revenue.  I see this time and time again.

Cost Review of Amazon Workspaces

Based on a small business server, whose hardware, software and installation costs about 20K (this is a very average type server for say 8-15 terminals).  This 20K would be amortized over the average 4 year life span that technology and servers generally offer today.  So, the monthly cost excluding interest etc. would be $416 per month.  Plus, the average server of this type, costs about 5K per annum to maintain.  All up costs would be closer to $833 per month.

Now, if one used the Amazon Workspaces as their server, and Office 365 for their exchange one’s server maintenance is included.  On’s space, backups etc. is all included.  The monthly cost average for 10 users is just $275 per month.

The difference is clear, $833 versus $275.  Security is safer. The accessibility is easier.

Why are people not advertising how to use Amazon Workspaces?

Simply put – IT Technicians that advertise this will lose revenue.

Accede do not source their revenue from network or hardware maintenance as we are Software developers.  Our clients seek solutions to their particular needs.  Amazon really does offer a full solution for loading simple based applications to the cloud.  We continually review other cloud service providers, however Amazon is a clear leader in this area.

How could you test your Excel and Access applications to the cloud economically and safely with Amazon Workspaces without committing?

As Amazon offer this service on a monthly fee, customers can try this for a month and turn it off if it is not good enough for them.  We did this for the example I gave you at a monthly fee of about $60.  We have also loaded a single application for a client and given them access so they can test the viability of this before  investing in setting up their own virtual server etc. and this has cost the client just $40.

What does Amazon Workspaces and its setup cost?

Price varies depending on space, users, facilities etc.  If you are IT literate, you could do this yourself. However, as with any server setup, I suggest you use skilled IT people to do this for you.  An average application cost would be about $250, but a full server replacement cost, could be between $1500 and $5000, – about half the cost of a physical server setup in your office. This is really a great break through with Tools and options offered for Cloud Users.

So why not move your Excel and Access applications to the cloud economically and safely with Amazon Workspaces.

 

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Business Growth Tips: How SMEs can realistically harness their data to increase sales

Can you as a SMEs compete with Corporate’s?  Here is a Guide on how increase your sales, have life balance and make more profits.

Use your Data to Increase SalesThe biggest difference between SMEs and Corporate’s  is that they generally have more people to give more smarts to using their data and leverage that they have to enable them to increase sales.
Learning how to realistically harness your data will lead you to increase sales that can bring you in excellent profits. I state this with specific experience.
I have created and assisted many building industry related company, from SME to corporate’s. What I write here is a guide for SME’s based these companies actual experience. Now, I won’t name the companies how have been less successful, but I will later name the company, that I know is successfully harnessing their data and really making it work for them to increase sales, profits and managing their business better.
About 5 years ago, I met 2 companies that created outdoor verandas, pergolas – that style of item for home owners. Through their introduction I then did work for Bluescope Steel. All 3 companies had data and all 3 companies were looking at leveraging their data. So what did they do, that made one company really stand out from the others that was not a corporate.

With the corporate company, Bluescope steel, their marketing division had decided to create a loyalty program to get builders to purchase more products from them. They used their data to increase sales with a loyalty program. This loyalty program planned to give some nice bonuses to the builders that repeat purchased from them. So a smart idea, that had, marketing people, sales people and finally IT people involved in preparing this process. Finally they had administration that managed and maintained the idea. So a lot of staff and money for a simple idea to be implemented. Rather hard for the average SME to challenge – or is it?
This blog is really a guide for SME’s so the 2 SMEs I refer to are real live companies. I will refer to them as SME1 and SME2. SME1 eventually went out of business, SME2 is growing and getting stronger every day in every way, from Sales, Quality, and Service and of course profits. I will review the main data groups that they collect.

Increase Sales with Accounting Data.

Both SME’s in the case used MYOB Premier. Both SMEs had the ability to refer and look at their data via the MS Office tools. So what was different. SME1. Used MYOB to record and store accounts. SME2. Used MYOB to record and store accounts – plus made the accounts and interactive part of his sales process. For example, the accounts directly linked to his sales database, and showed when a person paid, amount paid, values, costs of sales. Plus, if this client was a good client – they used this data to consider “on selling” other options to this client, and to get further referrals from this client. The ability to harness accounting data is not limited to MYOB, in fact, this same function I have used with Xero, Sage, and Quick Books.

Increase Sales with Referral Data

Both SME’s asked for referrals when with a client. SME1, wrote this down in his note book and when and if he could, he has someone attempt to follow these up. SME2, really harnessed their data again, they turned every single prospect into a micro sales person. They did this by sending every single prospect their own Business card sized referral card. This card the client could then give to friends as well as suggest referrals that were immediately entered into their personalized CRM that the manager over viewed and watched. Making sure that people were contacted in a timely manner and the valuable referrals were followed whilst the lead was “Hot”.

Increase Sales with Trade Show Data

Both clients also had exhibitions at trade shows. Both collected data. SME2 had his office staff call the referrals post the trade show, and attempt to set up appointments. He hoped that they got appointments from most of these people, but he had no idea how many he got, how many appointments he got or even how long after the show that these people were contacted. He had no idea how many he lost. SME2 however, entered all his leads immediately via his IPad, had his office staff contact them within a 48 hour period, and had sales people out to communicate. He made sure quotes were timely, and costed correctly. He had procedures and standards for every step of the way, and his reporting told him exactly which sales people were succeeding or not, and to make sure that he got the most out of his sales leads.

Increase Sales with Rectification Process (Complaints)

We all have them. The way we handle these situations shows the quality of the company. SME1 gave the manager the complaints to deal with directly. SME2, has a data based rectification process, that every call, review, call back, photos etc. is recorded. When this began there were a few cases to be cared for, however the open cases at my last check were zero, and it seemed that each case that was raised was less in quantity and less in time to resolution. Having a clear process that could be tracked was definitely working for SME2, plus it seemed from report review, quite a few referrals came out of the clients that did have a complaint that was quickly and appropriately resolved.

Increase Sales with Phone Data

SME1 had gone out of business before he could cost effectively consider using this technology. SME2 however had grown and now automatically integrates the phone call in data. So if the phone rings, the database immediately opens up that phone numbers client information. This is increasing their efficiency, personal service and giving the client a much better service than previously. Plus the manager now knows of all phone numbers of new prospects so sales and leads can’t be lost.

What’s new for SME2?

Well SME2 is discussing other tools that will harness their data. Only a week ago, we discussed more mobile version of data access to assist with QA, servicing, staged photos etc. The tool we reviewed was CRM-Map.com, as this is a google maps database interface tool that allows the storage of files and photos and is not operating system dependent.
So as you can see, SME2 really did harness their data to increase sales. SME1 has since closed his doors. So you are probably wanting to know who the SME2 is – the company I have discussed here is Utter Gutters.

Utter Gutters is a fabulous SA based company, with fantastic caring, diligent staff.  The management and growth of this company that I have been able to actively watch and participate in a small way as Accede Holdings Pty Ltd. The instigator of this growth, is not myself, but the owner of Utter Gutters. I have  been privileged to be a part of the team that has acted on his initiative, and been able to watch as he led his company to increase sales by harnessing their data.

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Knowing When to Quit your Business

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Knowing when to quit your business is a question that all business owners must face one day.   We could quit because our business is taken from us, or we retire, or we choose to take another path, or we simply Quit and Stop.  Information about knowing when to quit your business will arm you with options.

I have been in the same company for 34 years.  I have also been part owner in 2 other companies that are no longer trading, one I called it quits on, and another was quit on me, while I was still a partner.  So the question is when should You call it quits.

I have faced the question of “Is it time to quit”, many times over the last 34 years.  I have read other articles like “Knowing when it is time to sell, quit or restructure your business” and “How to know when to quit as CEO

But then I also read or see inspiring thoughts like the story of Colonel Sanders – KFC. Plus so many other inspiration business stories, which are easily found on the internet.

So when is it time for you to call it quits?

Personal Life Lesson

At 19 years of age, I had been blind for almost 12 months.  I had been tested, poked, lived in hospital, hourly eye drops for weeks on end,  had no friends visit (fear was the reason I later found out). Life seemed pretty bad.  In fact it went from bad to worse.  My mother signed for the surgeons to remove my eyes, I was given the pre op, then …..  Well I thought I saw space ships, so I locked myself in a cupboard – obvious protection from alien invasion for a 19 year old girl.  But what it was, was life showing in my eyes.  The operation was called off, and today, I have 20/20 vision, but not as most people have it.  I won’t go into why my vision is different, as I can do almost everything anyone else can do that has great eye sight.    For this, I credit my surgeon Dr David Tamblyn and God.

Now you probably wonder why I gave you this story.  This is because at 19 years of age, I learnt a massive life lesson.  I learnt that while there is hope, desire and energy – don’t quit and don’t be afraid.  Pretty massive life lesson.  At the age of 20, I decided to “Quit” or deferred my music degree at Adelaide University. Simply reason, physically, I could not deal with trying to see, being treated as stupid – because of loss of vision, not due to my IQ level(which is definitely very far from stupid) and the daily discrimination.  This is part of the reason I am so dedicated to the RSB.  However, this decision to stop and review for a while ended up taking me on a new path.

Quitting can lead you to other opportunities.

During the time I stopped I worked in bars, restaurants and then one day I said –NO MORE BAR WORK.  The next day, I filled in a casual position as a receptionist for 2 weeks.  During this time, I did what I though was my job, I followed the instructions on a telex to contact industry representative businesses, offer them a onetime offer for XYZ, and without knowing it, I sold 80 main frame computers in one day.  So I was offered a job in sales, with training.  This lead to being in IT, trained from Chip burner, programmer, sales, software, etc.  2 years later, I resigned and Accede began its journey.

Quitting can also take you nowhere.

About 20 years into my business career, I decided to be a minor shareholder in a company called Kiddoodles – they made wall murals for children, sold via home party sales.  About 12 months into this venture, the company needed more funds, the 2 major shareholders refused to invest further, so the company was closed.    I ended up paying out about 20K, to settle the debt that I had a part personal guarantee on (none of the other owners would pay, and I did not want my name destroyed), and this company closed.

What did I take from this experience – Experience?  Did it take me anywhere new – No!

Should you quit because of Emotional reasons, or rejections?

If you asked this question of Bill Gates, Colonel Sanders or a range of other success stories, they would all tell you – No.

We all have bad days.  When you look at this image, do you see the sun coming through the storm or a storm brewing? The fact is we don’t know, only your emotions are giving you the answer in your head.

As I have faced this question many times, I can explain that Logic and information about Knowing when to quit your business – is essential.  Here are some steps that really matter.

Step 1. Get out of your rut.

Even if this means having a walk in a park, or reading something inspirational.  Deciding such an important decision in a rut – is not the place you should be. Now, sometimes, you can’t because of health reasons, if so, see a doctor and resolve the medical issue.  If there is no resolution, then the decision may be taken out of your hands already, and you really just need to take the best steps for you financially.

Step 2. Is there Hope?

This is a big question.  I am assuming you have a business plan, you have a budget, you know your cash flow projections, you know your costs.  Based on having this information, you need to logically work out what went wrong – why this went wrong, what you have power over, what you don’t have power over and now, what ideas of hope there are.  If there is No Hope, then once again, your decision is made, and you need to work out the best way to exit the situation you are in.

Step 3. Assess the Viability of your Hope Ideas.

Sounds easy, but this takes time, logic, energy and often external support.  Each idea you have raised, you should have written down.  Now it is time to review each idea.   What do you need to do with your business to enable this idea to be successful?  Each of these steps needs to be assessed and in the end you will clearly see what option you need to take. Once again, if none of the ideas are viable, your decision is clearly made, and you need to take the best steps to exit your business.

Step 4. Plan and Implement this change.

Well the decision is now over.  You actually have decided to plan and implement this new idea and so you are moving forward with your own business.

What about when it is time to Retire?

As my husband is older than I am, this question has also been raised by us over the last 10 years.  We had plans and ideas about retirement that have been taken through the washer.  So is retirement quitting – Yes. But quitting is not bad, it can be the fact that you quit this path, to walk another and that is what retirement really is.

You need to plan how and when you wish to retire.  Does that include selling your business? Can you sell your business?  What are you planning to do in your retirement?  These questions you need to clearly answer.

What if is just TOO much.

I don’t think there a long term business owner that has not felt this at some stage in their business career.   The facts are simple.  Can you change what is Too Much?  Do you have control?  Is this something you have elected to take on for the short term in hope of success in the long term? Can you alter the plans and get through this?

I always find that if we are going where we want to go, we can carry a huge load.  However when we are “slogging” each day,  quite often what is often a basic load in success or hope times, is just too much in these times.  So make a change.  The change should not be to quit until you have gone over the emotional steps above.

What if you aren’t achieving the success you expected?

Now, this is the best question to be asking.  If the success you expected is not being achieved, the first question you need to ask is why?  The answer of why may be:

  • That you need to adjust your plans
  • learn a new skill
  • you need a skill employed you don’t have
  • your market research did not support reality
  • an outside force has come into play, that you now have to deal with.

Whatever the reason, you need to go back over the steps, review, decide, plan and finally implement.  This could be quitting or it could be making a change, or taking a new path with the existing company.

What if you just don’t have the Energy (cash) to continue in business?

I have been here many times.  Each time I have reached this point, I have reviewed the facts and made a logical choice.  However I will admit that each time, due to keeping cash flows, budgets, plans and good accounts I have had the ability to make a choice.

Choice 1 Example of Closing the Doors, but getting something out of it for the future.

I was part owner in a company on Kangaroo Island that due to a GFC and Fires could not bring back a positive ROI.  After all options were considered, the only logical option was to close this business.  However, the knowledge and information learnt on this business venture began a new option for Accede.  This was the beginning of us considering creating products that would service this unique situation. It became the inspiration to beginning product development at Accede.

Choice 2. Example Getting Smarter

Grants, what a nightmare! Yes they can help but how to get them.  After a mass of nightmares and loads of time and money invested into drain of what not to do, I found the answer.  Someone out there knows how to get this and if we pay we can access to these funds.  So, I got smarter.  I employed BDO and they assist us in gaining the grants to R and D.  I have also learnt that I can’t do everything, so I worked out my strengths and my weaknesses.  I have now partnered with People and companies that take these essential weaknesses and lead them to strength. Some of this will mean some loss of ownership and others mean a cost.

Choice 3. Example making the move while you can.

A recent hit to Accede in August of 2015 was that we lost over night $156K in debtors and wips.  What a hit in all ways.  I did the exact steps above. Plus, I added that into my goals the ability to sell Accede in the future.  I have been able to plan and implement the planned change.  Now, success is in the plan.  What we are doing now is following this plan and reviewing your progress regularly.

Non Choice – this is made for you.

If this is I the case, then you don’t need to ask this question.  All you need to do is to try to work out the best way for you to exit.

So what is the answer to “Knowing when to quit your business”?

  • Get out of the Rut
  • Keep your plans and paperwork up to date
  • Review regularly
  • Make decisions and

Enjoy being a responsible business person.

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Is Microsoft Office – Excel a viable Database?

Microsoft Office Excel as a Database

Microsoft Office Excel as a DatabaseMicrosoft Office Excel from the Microsoft Office product suite, is a brilliant tool for assessing, calculation and “what if” scenarios, which is easy to use, taught in almost all schools from primary school up, and commonly available.  But, how good is it as a database.

One of the greatest advantages of Excel, is its ease of use.  So if you need to gather a list of names and addresses, do a mail merge, or auto Email.  You can do this very easily with Excel.

One of the other advantages of Excel, is that it has a Visual Basic Application programming available within it.  This means, that a budding programmer, can use Excel and write code for it, to do a range of simple functions.  This this image is of Excel being used to invoice from.

So if Excel can do all these great things – why do people not use it for everything?

I will explain this in terms of a motor vehicle.

If you needed to run about town each day, you would probably invest in a car suitable for that function, maybe a small economical 4 cylinder car, that was easy to drive, park, and designed for short stint driving.  So If you now needed to tow a heavy trailer for a long drive, even if you could begin to tow in this car, you would probably end up damaging the car and it would stop.

So now, putting this in Microsoft Office Excel terms.

When too many people need to use the same spreadsheet and put too much data in the spreadsheet, it will crash, lock, and sometimes no longer open.

As a programmer, this is regular reason for companies contacting Accede Holdings Pty Ltd.  They have already worked out everything they want, but the spreadsheet will just no longer work.

What Signs Show that the Excels data or usage is getting too much?

  • Locked file
  • Very slow
  • Cant Edit
  • See Odd Symbols
  • Sudden file size jumps

Is there a physical size limited that Microsoft recommends?

This is dependent on your own PC, its operating system and the version of Microsoft Office Excel you are using.  With that stated if you find your Spreadsheet is getting slow, then it really is time to look at solutions.

  • Possible Solutions
  • Reduce the size of your Excel Spreadsheet
  • See if there is a standard product that will do what you are trying to do in Excel, and if so, try it out and use it.
  • Question, if you are using the right tool.  For example, I have seen electricians using wood chisels to chase plaster in brick work, and they have totally ruined the edge of the chisel.  A wood Chisel is designed for wood.  The same goes with Excel and Databases.

When is using Excel as a database a good idea?

If you are trying to work out – what you want or need, and can use Excel well, then use this to work out your needs. Caution however if you wish to keep using this as a database for a business.

The reason for my caution is simple.

  • Corruption or loss of data
  • Less productivity from your staff
  • Limitations on what you can actually do – automatically
  • Not the right tool for the job.

I would equally caution you on creating a database, that you just don’t know what you need.  This is one of the main reasons that databases fail.  One of the main reasons databases do not achieve budget in time or money, is due to what programmers refer to as scope creep.  In the building trade this is known as a variation to contract.

So what are the steps to take if you have a great Microsoft Office Excel product – you are seeing some signs, or should consider using the right tool for the job:

  • Get a fixed quote including delivery time and cost to take the Excel spreadsheet you have, and for an IT professional to transfer this to product e.g. a database. Make sure they include in the quote the transfer of your current data.  An average cost could be as low as $500 or as high as $15,000. There really is no average, as excel is used in so many ways.
  • Look for products that could do this job for you – that are off the shelf
  • Look at what your competition is using to do the same job you are doing on Excel. Why did you need to create your Excel?

What to really avoid.

One of the most profitable areas for an IT company, is to fix a problem when the need is desperate.  This is because no quote is needed, and an IT company can simple charge the highest rates on an hourly basis.

Another trap I have had to ‘rescue’ businesses from, is when a spreadsheet is doing a great job and has for years.  Then the person that created it leaves, you upgrade something – and all of a sudden – nothing works.  Once again, this always happens at the wrong time, and it is always an emergency.

If you have invested the time to read this blog, you are probably using an Excel spreadsheet in the wrong way, and it is probably time, to look at the right solution.  Realize it is the businesses job to supply the tools to do the job, and it is the employees function to fulfill the job.  But if the tool is not right, one way or another – this will cost the business, either in productivity, loss of staff or loss of business.

 

Answer:

Excel is not designed to be a base holding area for Data – therefore if being used for this, you are using the wrong tool.  Excel really designed for number calculating, and it offers many features.  Excel is a great complement to a database.

So in answer to my initial question – Is Excel a Viable database?

The answer is that Microsoft Excel is not a database at all – in the tradition sense, but it is often used as a database, due to its ease for users.  Excel is an excellent complementary product to a database, as is Word, photo viewers, outlook, and other Microsoft Office products.   It is common for database products to integrate with other applications, especially those in the Microsoft Office product range. Excel can be used as a database, but only to a very limited usage.

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Are you sure your business data is safe?

Or is it just what you have been told?
Photo of Data backing up to the cloud

If I had a $1000 for each business that told me its data was safe, and then I found out that it was not, I would be able to buy a new house – Truly.

So why is it that your IT person says they have a backup and they can restore a file and it is all fine, and I am telling you here, it is not?  It is because for those of you who use a Database e.g. MS SQL , MYSQL, Dataflex, Oracle etc. these are Multi User databases.

A multiuser database has a unique method of backing up.  Most of these databases create a specific backup file e.g. a BAK file.   These files are created even if someone has the database open and is using the data.  Now here is where things become even more interesting.  Some people have really Old versions of databases, and their Bak Files need to be restored in their own version of the database, which may only work on certain operating systems etc.

So how do you make sure you are safe?

Simply, ask your IT person to do a restore and give you access to your data as it was yesterday.  Check that entries you have made this morning are not there, and that you can access, add and edit your data from yesterday.  Once you have done this – you are then sure that your data is safe.

What if you don’t have time for this idea?

Well, you are running a bit of a risk, but give these instructions to your IT person, and ask them to tell you what invoice ABC which was entered yesterday is for.  If they have the same information that you do, then you know the restoration was a success.  If not, then do not consider that the restoration worked, and get someone involved that does know about this style of database backup to review and check your backups.

What else do you need to watch out for?

UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) are really necessary in Australia as we get such extreme heat, and regular power drop outs or interruptions.  So if you don’t know when you purchased your UPS, or if it is over 2 years old, it is time to get a new UPS.  They are no longer a huge investment, and frankly, if you don’t have laptops, you may want to have a couple of UPS’s so that you can keep your server and a terminal going during a power drop out.  These should really be replaced every about 2 years.

What about how long you could be down if the server is lost?

Cloud backups are great – until you need to get going in a hurry.  I know this personally and only too well. I really suggest you need a mix between local and cloud backup technology.  If you can restore local data and get up and going quickly, then you are only updating the changes that have happened since the last backup, and that means that you are not going to take a week to get your data back.  Getting data down from the cloud is generally faster than Up to the cloud, but even so, it could take days if you have a lot of data – and if that is the case, you can’t afford to wait days to get data back. So having a mix between the two is really necessary.

 

Remember – We only need a backup at the worst time.  Never are backups used when everything is going well – it is only necessary – just when you don’t need it.  So check that if you do need to use it – at least it will work.

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The 3 minute time manager: How effective, efficient business practices start with good personal time management systems

7-Simple-Ways-To-Help-You-Work-Smartly

If you’re struggling to perform at your best due to being time poor or lacking work life balance, it is certainly true that the work we do at Accede in building effective database solutions will support your drive to be more efficient.

However, after reflecting on the many business owners, boards and managers we’ve worked with over the years, I can tell you that your best systems for success start WITHIN.

I believe that if you spend the next three minutes reading these thoughts, you should find some keys for unlocking the binds that are holding you back.

My time doing ‘time management’

Why should I be writing about time management? It’s because I live it and refine it every day, and have been doing so for almost four decades.

Here are the things I’ve ‘managed’ being or doing thanks to my systems:

  • Single mother
  • SME owner with 34 years experience employing staff and servicing businesses
  • Entrepreneur
  • Property developer
  • Property owner and landlord for holiday and permanent rental properties
  • President of a large community based organisation with more than 17,000 active members
  • Full time Puppy Educator for the Royal Society of the Blind
  • Physical mum to a university-based son
  • Host mum to three international boys
  • Active Christian
  • Friend

And despite this ‘reasonably’ full plate, I have still kept time to focus on my health and ‘bounce’ into work each day with a smile (while still experiencing the ups and downs that all of us endure).

The vital work of Time Management

My time management skill has not appeared overnight but rather has been learned by reading, practice and application.

It began with the 1 minute manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.  I applied the ideas from this book in management and in life.

I also skilled up, including:

  • Learning to type
  • De-cluttering everything about my life
  • Using useful tools
  • Communicating succinctly
  • Applying the Hedgehog principle (The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing)

I do feel that there are no crumbs of time on my table of life and this matters to me because I have one life and I want to do the most I can with it. 

For example, before I leave home each morning I’ve reviewed by day and communications, had a cup of tea in bed and some private time with my husband, made lunches, dressed, prepared a guide dog to go to work. After dropping a boy to school I arrive at my office, greet my staff and check in on any important issues they’re facing and then settle in for my day’s actual work, all by 9.15am

The rest of the day is then clear for running my business and earning an income.

How to be time efficient in business

While applying time management to your business life is most likely to succeed if you share my core principles of tidiness and inner drive, there are certain tools I find essential:

  • An active task List
  • Act upon decisions, e.g. an email comes in, read it as soon as it is timely to do so, and then decide to act upon it, store it or delete it immediately
  • Use IT tools that help, e.g. I use office 365 exchange so my emails can be read and accessed on my phone or computer allowing me to complete actions on the road
  • Refuse ‘junk’ mail, e.g. certain schools started sending me time-wasting information but after I clearly informed them they should stop or send nothing, they all restricted emailing to only important information
  • Keep social media for personal use, and employ other people to perform social media tasks for business purposes
  • Delegate, e.g. understand the importance of your time and skill so if a junior can do a job like find an image for this blog, give it to them
  • Make time for friends but don’t get drawn into being abused by ‘users’, who can appear in private and business circles; seek out ‘winners’ to work and associate with
  • Allocate time for specific functions and stick to it, e.g. time for visiting family, walking and working out, preparing meals, shopping, etc.
  • Challenge rules and share the house duties, e.g. I expect my family to each pull their own weight such as having one of my boys set the table
  • Build proficiency and speed in key tasks, e.g. almost all of my meals are made from base products and prepared, cooked and on the table in 1 hour or less
  • Multitask whenever possible, e.g. cook a roast and do the ironing at the same time

Finally, take time for yourself to stop, read a book, smell the roses, review and enjoy life.

Now your 3 minutes are up and hopefully you have some hints and Ideas, and some references to explore.

It is your life, you only have the one chance to use it well.

Will you be happy that you have lived the best life you can?

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Women: Best choice for IT Industry

Women: Best Choice for IT Industry

Women: Best Choice for IT Industry

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and even though my son forgot, and frankly I did not have a very good day I spent time considering what it is like being a mother and being employed in IT.

I have raised a son, for the majority of his school and high school as a single mother, working, employed and employing people in IT. I found that this industry was brilliant for a mum. In fact I cannot sing the praises enough of IT and specifically business programming for mums.

You may ask why, but the answer is simple.

If you are at all creative, intelligent, want a good income, and of course you need flexible time and hours then programming may just be the ticket. Good programmers are hard to find.

I would even be as bold as to say, that women make better programmers in my opinion than men. I will clarify this by stating, that in general Women are plodders they make a plan of attack and plod towards it. Men on the other hand are naturally hunters and they go full pelt and then stop. This is why most men only last 8 years as programmers. Those that last longer, you will find that in general they have a strong feminine side to their personality they are generally plodders. Those that leave programmer generally go into management, project management, consulting, teaching etc. However, women programmers get more experience, paid more and still choose their own times and work pressures.

As a woman I have been programming for 34 years. Admittedly I also manage other people. But it is programming I love. I feel great fulfillment when my code works and works well. I find that I get annoyed at my male colleagues when they do not do due diligence, or just pound through work, without seeing the end result.

The other type of better programmer is person that has not only excellence in empathy, but also in knowing what items are important / show stoppers and what are not. I have found some people just don’t understand this. Only today, I faced this miss understanding of the level of a problem. I think some programmers just do not connect to the real world.

So if you love computers, think programming is all about game creation, and you really just want money, but not feel like you are working. Studying to be a business programmer is wasting your time just stop.

I was interviewing for a job opening here in the last 3 weeks, and I was astounded by the quality and level of applicants. However for most applicants they will be looking for a long time. Either that or they will be offered help desk work, get annoyed at the pay and opportunities offered to them by IT and leave.

I did however find it interesting, how many people retrained into IT from other jobs, quite often when they found their other job too stressful. I consider IT stressful, especially when your code is supporting hundreds of lives and jobs. But this is a woman’s view point, and from what I have interpreted from my colleges (all males), they do not always consider the end use of the code.

So if you are seeking a career choice, and plan to have a family and home which you can give yourself time to be with your children when they are sick, or on sports days etc. Consider programming. It could be well worth your consideration.

 

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

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How a Business Cope with Staff Loss

image from saveup.com

image from saveup.com

2 weeks ago, one of my Key staff  in fact a person I have been training for 3 years to replace myself was head hunted and decided to go with the offer given to him. This was a shock and a blow not only to myself, but to clients and fellow employees. So how does a business recover from this?

In the IT trade, moving jobs is a common occurrence. This is not something I am proud to express, but it is a fact. So many people are working on contract today, and the demand for quality programmers is so high, that contracts constantly overlap each other, that a person can really choose not only where they wish to work, but the type of IT work that they wish to do. So at all times I prepare for staff to leave and make sure that all people duplicate each other and that all information is recorded.

We have systems that cover for staff turnover. So the core work is always being achieved, and clients are not being disadvantaged by changes of staff in a technical sense. However the human sense is affected.

This occurrence can cause impact on current staff, as they have to learn to work with a new staff member.

CRM in word tag cloudSo one part of the solution to this problem, is that for core work, you need to have good systems, in fact a good database. What can you expect from such a system? A CRM or customer relationship management systems can control not only your customer, but generally link the data you need to retain about your customer, your contacts, your quotes, your invoices can link to this as well if it is a good system.

At Accede we have recently been interfacing off the shelf CRM’s to Accounting products, estimation packages and other products. By creating this interface for the client, it is a seamless way to see the whole of the customer’s information.

Other places I have created solutions for include knowledge based systems. These systems in fact hold expertise, experience etc. from key people. Knowledge bases for a user is like talking to the expert about a problem. The knowledge base take a person through a potential issue, what questions they should ask, what possible answers they may get, and what to do next. It is a like having the expert right beside you without having them there. I have noticed, however, that this is generally the main reason that the loss of Key staff is hugely impacting.

The other part of the equation, being the human affect, is solved only by communication. This communication is essential if you wish to retain clients, build new clients and retain existing staff members.

Losing staff and clients is a fact and generally not in your control (unless you need to review your management). However retaining clients and staff is something you need to constantly work on. The key to this retention is communication. Take the time. Discuss. Share. Find ways to openly communicate in a respectful manner. Praise where praise is due. Discuss problems without being personal or denigrating. Work as a team.

Insurance of key staff, often helps with the financial aspect, but good systems will help with the core work and management. Plus make sure your staff’s work is overlapped, so that people can take holidays and the loss of a staff member can quickly be covered.

 

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

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ANZAC’s Centenial Anniversary in relation with today’s IT industry

image from whatsbestforum.com

Come this Saturday the 25th of April 2015, we in Australia and New Zealand, will remember those who fought for our freedom. This will be a special event as this is 100 years since our landing at Gallipoli. So why would something that happened so long ago, affect us and especially IT today.

Gallipoli saw a mindset change occur here in Australia. We were no longer going to be the cattle to be used and abused by the British. We became a voice and a power. Since this change, Australia has matured and grown quite well. However, we still are quite weak when it comes to standing up for our rights internationally.

With that being said, we still let our citizens be abused by other countries, laws, and charlatans. We seem too afraid to stand up to other countries, and seem only content to ride along as long as we don’t create too many waves. Therefore, what is the correlation between this and IT? Well read on.

Australian have always been a creative people, and here is why I state this:

Aboriginals and their skills with living in this harsh land and their mystical skills displayed in their relationship with our land. For example, did you know not one aboriginal was in Darwin when cyclone Tracey hit, but many Anglo Saxons were?

Think about some of inventions that we have created. E.g. Hills Hoist, Baby Safety Capsule, WIFI hotspots, the Paper Notepad, Plastic wine casks, Electric drill just to name a few. We have created out of need. They say that Need is the father of all inventions. Remember when our soldiers left Gallipoli, we had invented in that difficult area and site, a self-shooting gun, that fired when a water can filled to a set position. Need certainly is the father of all invention and this is testament. So how do inventions affect IT? Simple, IT is created by ideas or Need, and here is where we excel.

We at Accede are contacted from all over the world because of our creative ability, backed up with skill, history and cost effectiveness. We are not alone. Here in Australia IT absolutely creates solutions and it does this in a truly cost effective and time effective manner. We are really world leaders. So often I hear of code being created here and sold off shore. Our Government supports R and D, and this R and D is creating Export dollars for Australia. We do however as a country need to consider how we sell our inventions, e.g. completely, license or partial.

I recently spent many hours reviewing websites for software companies. In the USA, I saw mainly, sales or management of Virtual Companies or Programmers. Here in Australia, custom software, products created, and those for sale are huge. Even in Accede when our sales to clients have been quiet our R and D broke new boundaries. We have created quite a few new products, and are still doing this.

So our freedom that was purchased at such a high price, that we remember during this Saturday anniversary, has really bought us creativity in IT. Now, I challenge our IT industry, to be world leaders, not only in IT creativity, but in IT export. We really do lead the world in IT. We need to take the next step and learn how to really take our products from here in Australia to the world and to bring in the export dollars to Australia.

So my blog is a call to action for all of us involved in IT. For those involved and have skills in Exporting and commercializing join with IT and let’s make Australia a leader in this area. Truly, our skill base and the creative environment we live in makes us uniquely positioned. Let’s leverage from this position.

 

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

 

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Hope behind Endings

Accede Holdings begginings endings
Accede Holdings begginings endings

image from one-story.com

For those who read my blogs, you will know I am currently in Lent. Last week’s my studies took me to consider Death/Endings. To top this off, I have felt like death warmed up. In fact I have been in bed for days. So whilst laying up and getting over this horrid cold, I have had time to consider Endings.

All the endings I have faced have been painful and hard. I may have felt glad it was the end of a bad situation, but even with that, endings are painful and hard. However, without endings, there cannot be beginnings. I wondered why they are painful and hard, my logic understands that this is part of a process, and one that is necessary. I am not a person who fears change, I have accepted that Change is the only constant in life. So why, I wondered are Endings hard and painful?

As stated, I have had time to ponder.

When a relationship comes to an end, whatever the reason, without meaning to, we review or at least need to review. We see both the good and the bad. We see happiness and sorrow. We call this mourning and we do need to do this, so that we can let go and move on. Even a bad relationship we need to mourn, not due to missing the other person, but to allow ourselves to put things into perspective. How often people who have issues find when they explore these issues, that they need to go back and mourn or review a past relationship. Moving on without mourning, really creates many issues.

I wondered why in Lent we need to Give up and Take on things. By giving up something generally that something that creates clutter in our lives (too much food, too much shopping, too much alcohol etc.) we give ourselves the space to review which in my opinion is the Taking on of something the review.

Endings are rather interesting. I have been reading about some old traditions regarding the end of a year and the start of a new one. Quite often this time is spent in festivities. Brushing away the old, and welcoming the new. Some funerals are a celebration of a person’s life, and a renewing of old friendships.

So in business. A contract comes to an end. Why do we have such a range of emotions Gladness, hollow, empty, happy, satisfied the list goes on. The emotions are natural and need to be allowed to be reviewed. We review so that we can improve. If we allow ourselves to review, then we can improve. Nothing is more helpful than experience. But experience will only cement itself to being useful if we review what has past ended.

I am now in my 34th year of being a business owner and employee. I am preparing for my own succession my own ending at Accede. I still have habits of reviewing my performance on a weekly basis something I have done since my first 6 months in business (note: I lost 18 secretaries in my first year of business pretty bad boss!). I have learnt, and now I am passing this on. Endings are natural, but even being natural, expected and accepted they are painful and they hurt.

I realised that this is just a fact and a fact I have to accept. My only hope as my succession comes, that the pain and hurt I feel, I hope to minimise for my staff, my clients and my friends.

Only time will tell.

Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.

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