My life has value

What an amazing statement!

I recently started listening to the podcasts from the guys over at, which you can find over at iTunes, and one of the podcasts featured the statement ‘My life has value’. The statement itself is a very powerful and emotional one which can only be defined by the individual who chooses to consider it. What I feel gives my life value does not and will never mean the same to you or the next person, the only person that can define that is you.

For me, I believe that ‘my life has value’ when I deliver value to those around me. Now in the business context this is generally easy to see and has been discussed in countless books some of which you have probably read. However, in a personal setting then what does this actually mean and more importantly how can you achieve this?

Again, for me, this means taking actions to improve the lives of those around you. In your family this may mean something as simple as being there for your kids school plays, maybe taking your wife out for lunch once a month, finishing work early once a month or maybe even do some volunteer work. Whatever it is that you do, you will know when it happens because it is something that will make you feel good, something that does not feel like hard work or a chore as it’s just a pleasure.

Every day life gets in the way; there is no way around the fact as it does get in the way. What we have to do is stop and find a way to look around in order to change the course of the day and make a difference. It’s not easy to do as it requires taking a little time and effort but it is so rewarding.

So take time out today and look around, so what you can do that will give your life more value and maybe those around you.

– Rob

Posted in Personal, Personal Develoment | Leave a comment

Good days and bad days

Ok, so the title does sound a little doom and gloom but it wasn’t really meant to be that way.

In another 5 months the business will be 9 years old. When I started the business, like many other business owners, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I had this glitzy and starry eyed impression of running my own business and being my own boss. I would ride into a clients on my trusty steed and make all of their IT systems work and when I’d finish I would furnish them with an invoice that they would happily pay. On those days where work was quiet I would take the time off and spend time with my family or maybe go for a bike ride but on the whole it would be great.

The reality is often very different and a raft of new skills that must be learned and plethora of emotions in dealing with clients. Often I would find that I would get a call to resolve a issue on a clients network which I would rush to attend only to wait long periods to receive payments for. I soon learnt that I would be working longer hours than ever before for what seemed to be significantly less pay. But it’s not all doom and gloom as I have been very privileged to work for and with some amazing people who do value the work that I do for them.

So what is this post actually about?

A sanity check for me? A way for me to rationalise a situation in my own head? Maybe, but hopefully it may help others facing the same situation.

The last few weeks have been some of the toughest times personally in business that I have had this week whereby I learned that sometimes the best client is not always the best client. There have been a great many sayings that coin the situation best and all of which say it all on paper, for example:

“You can have the biggest contract but it’s worthless if you don’t get paid”

“Some lessons you have to pay to learn”

The fact is that when you are on the outside looking in then it is all very black and white; you can look at what is happening and say “you should do this…”. However, what makes us human is our emotions and it is those emotions that will always betray us as they will remove rational thought in what would normally be a simple situation. If we look at the first saying, the rational side say “cut them loose”, “why would you keep servicing a client if you don’t get paid?”. But the emotional side happens when you have a relationship with someone in a position of power in that business who assures you “yes I understand but it’ll be sorted next week, we’re just waiting for …..” or “it’s in the post”. As human beings we want to hope for the best in people we know and ‘trust’ and this is where blind faith comes in. Even when all rational thought is crying out that something is not right you still *want* to believe that it is all going to be alright. Is this just blind faith or just a case of avoiding the reality….who knows. The next problem comes with the following saying:

“Business is business…’s never personal”

But it IS personal because that is what makes us different. After all, I know all of our clients personally so why would it not be personal? To remove that personal element would make us no different to any other IT business. Ultimately when things are great you are BUZZING but when they are not so great you will take it home at night. It will sit with you on the drive home, it will be there while you are watching TV, it will be niggling away at you as you go to sleep, it’ll be in the back of your mind while you read bedtime stories to your kids, it will keep niggling at you.

The answer?

I’m afraid I don’t know what the answer is. If there was one single answer it would be to switch your emotional side and say “this is just business” but there are very few people who can do this and those that can have been to this ‘school of hard knocks’. For me the answer comes from those who I surround myself with, friends, fellow business owners. But probably the most relevant person of all is your wife/husband. They can be your voice of reason in a very methodical way and while you may not feel any better about whats happening it helps to know that someone close to you feels the pain with you.

Also, for me anyway, it helps to write posts like this and hope that my lessons may help someone else to not feel so isolated when it happens. No matter what happens you have to remember that there is no point in keeping a client that does not pay for the work/good supplied or takes well beyond their payment terms to settle their bill.

My pearl of wisdom…..surround yourself with people that will revel in your successes and be there for you when things are not so good. You know who those people are, you’re already friends.

Posted in Business, Personal, Personal Develoment, small business | 3 Comments

Communication is key

There is a famous saying by Stephen Hawking, which was quoted in the Pink Floyd song ‘Keep talking’, which goes All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

In business and in life communication is the key to everything that we do, without it everything else falls down. In the modern age of the Internet and mobile phones it has never been easier to communicate with someone, for example you can communicate with someone via

  • Phone
  • Email
  • SMS
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Letter

This is just a few of them. But what actually happens when communication between a two parties actually breaks down?

This happened to me recently personally and it has been a very frustrating experience to put it mildly. Last summer we decided to have some work done in the garden, a job the to be quite honest I have not got the time to get done but really wanted done as it would be much better for the kids. So I did the natural thing and asked around if anyone knew of someone to do the job and sure enough someone was put forward. So he came along, I explained the job to him and we agreed a price. In mid Autumn we finally gave him the go ahead and off we went. Since he agreed to do the work he had got a new job and was training but still wanted the work so it was agreed that it could be fit around his new job. So on the first day it all went well and a lot was done, before leaving he said when he would be back and sure enough he was back again working on it. After he left again, I couldn’t recall when he said he would be back so I texted him to check and he let me know. After the third visit again he left but did not say when he was coming back so again I was chasing to find out when he was coming back. This pattern continued until the fifth day on the job where he hit some problems that was causing some major issue. He said he need to go off and have a think about it. That was in November 2011, since then I have repeatedly attempted contact without out success. The just before Christmas I had a reply to say he would be on it ASAP. I then chased it up a couple of days later but no reply. I chased it up again after the new year and got a reply back to say work had been manic and I had not been forgotten.

Now the work itself does not need to be finished until spring as the garden is not used in Winter but the issue is I have not got a clue what is happening. When my partner says ‘is it always going to be a building site?’,  ’It was better before he started’ and ‘so when is he coming back’ I have no idea what to say as I am not being told anything. The point is that all of the stress and aggravation could have been alleviated by setting the expectations at the outset and along the way. While I may not have been happy with the time frame I would at least know what to expect and more importantly be able to explain what is happening to other people when asked.

The moral of this story is just keep talking. When working with clients I always try to keep the client up to date, whether personally or via one of the team, on what is happening and when they can expect the next action to take place. Always remember; failure to communicate is a communication of failure.

– Rob

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One thing of that you come to realise as you go through life is that there is this belief that there is always ‘manyana’, tomorrow. This is seen most prominently in procrastinators and the levels at which this appears varies in the individual. The reality is that putting something off until tomorrow invariably ends up being put off for days, weeks or even months which will always end in you feeling miserable that you didn’t do what you set out to do.

Manyana is something that I have struggled with for sometime and I have tried a variety of methods to overcome this, from paper to-do lists, to electronic to-do lists, task lists in Outlook as well as many more. What all of these methods have in common is that they all rely on personal accountability, which basically means ‘how do you keep yourself accountable for not achieving the work you set out to do?’.

The curse of the procrastinator is that they will put off whatever task or work that needs to be done until such a time that putting it off is more painful than actually doing it. So the question must be, how do I ensure that it doesn’t come to this point? Well the answer to that is very personal and you must explore what works for you as there is no simple answer. For me the answer is to be accountable to others; being accountable to yourself works well for some people but not so good for others. The key for me is to make the statement on what I need to do to either friends, family, work colleagues etc, that way if I do not set out what I aim to achieve then I have to answer to others why not. Now that, for me, tends to have more pain than not doing what I set out to do in the first place. It’s not a perfect system but it is as good as it gets for now.

I’d love to hear what other have done or currently do to battle their demons.

Posted in Personal, Personal Develoment | 1 Comment

Good service

I, like many of the people that I associate with, strive to deliver good service to our clients. Indeed my basic hiring criteria when taking staff on is they must have the right attitude and personality, everything else can be taught. That may seem a little out there but I don’t think so as I run a people business that happens to do IT not an IT business that happens to deal with people.

Bad service will ALWAYS be discussed by many with the storey repeated many times. By contrast a good service will only be discussed with a select few people but they will be raving fans. In the last few days I have had a bad service from a company, I won’t go into it here, but suffice as to say I will not only avoid using them ever again but I will ensure that everyone I know does too.

As a friend of mine likes to say ‘you are only as good as your last job’…..wise words.

– Rob

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Time errors

I had an interesting call from a client this afternoon telling me that his client PC’s were all showing the wrong time by about 10 minutes. Now since they have SBS 2008 there should be nothing to worry about as it uses the Microsoft time server to keep the correct time. So after logging on to the server I confirmed that it was indeed 10 minutes adrift. A quick check showed the following:

C:Usersadministrator>w32tm /stripchart / /samples:5 /dataonly
Tracking [].
Collecting 5 samples.
The current time is 05/09/2011 16:47:27.
16:47:27, error: 0x800705B4
16:47:30, error: 0x800705B4
16:47:33, error: 0x800705B4
16:47:36, error: 0x800705B4
16:47:39, error: 0x800705B4

Since this was showing an error trying to get the time, I checked it against one of the UK time servers and got the following result:

C:Usersadministrator>w32tm /stripchart / /samples:5 /dataonly
Tracking [].
Collecting 5 samples.
The current time is 05/09/2011 16:49:46.
16:49:46, -661.4346981s
16:49:49, -661.4415467s
16:49:51, -661.4392247s
16:49:53, -661.4351922s
16:49:55, -661.4401522s

This showed that there was a clear time skew taking place. So the best course was to reset the time source to a known good source using the following commands:

w32tm /config / /syncfromflags:manual /reliable:yes /update

net stop w32time

net start w32time

Now a quick check shows that now that we are keeping much better time:

C:Usersadministrator>w32tm /stripchart / /samples:5 /dataonly
Tracking [].
Collecting 5 samples.
The current time is 05/09/2011 16:49:47.
16:49:47, +00.0726604s
16:49:49, +00.0008012s
16:49:51, +00.0017108s
16:49:53, -00.0007301s
16:49:56, +00.0486631s

Not too sure if this is affecting everyone but there does seem to be a trend, hopefully this will help others.

– Rob

Posted in IT Support, SBS, small business | Leave a comment

Useful technology

Every once in a while a piece of technology comes along is really useful. When I say useful I mean really useful, that has the potential to change the way that we work forever. Some great examples of this are the digital camera, iPod and the mobile phone. All of these devices really did change the way we did things or changed our lives.

Another one of those devices, in my opinion, is the iPad. When the iPad first came out there was a ‘gold rush’ to own one and as keen as I was to own one I held back since I am practical by nature and have to justify anything I purchase. So I sat back and waited while I built a genuine case for purchasing one. This went on for a year until finally I came to the decision that I would get one and after a quick shop around I got an iPad 1 at the right price and I have not looked back since.

Over the last few months I have built up a good collection of apps that have made my iPad into the great business tool that I need. Last week though was the first time that I went off to a conference without my trusty laptop or netbook should I need to do some support etc. I have to say that the iPad held it’s own throughout the day, admittedly I have remote access to a Windows 7 virtual PC for support. None the less it still was able to handle everything I needed to do with ease and was infinitely easier to carry around than the traditional tools of the trade.

This has made the iPad my most functional gadget purchase this year, if not of all time and I would highly recommend one to anyone

– Rob

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Downtime is good!

In the world of IT downtime is bad. It is a term that is used to describe the amount of time that an IT system, be it a sever or workstation, is in a non- functioning state which in turn causes a user or users to not be able to work in a constructive fashion. To be fair, in the IT world some level of downtime is inevitable no matter how hard you work. So based on this, downtime is bad.

So what is the title of this post all about?

Downtime is also the term that we use to describe our time outside of work where we relax and in this context downtime IS good. We live in a fast paced, always connected world where we are expected to always be available there is very little downtime. This is why it is more important than ever to plan downtime in your life. I have realised this more so this week as I have brought the family away for a break. This has been made possible by our good friends at TCG Computer Services and Data Systems who have been available to handle any issues that my business cannot handle. This has meant that I have been able to get some good quality downtime, what plans do you have in place for yours?

You can find some great tips here

As always, your feedback is welcome.

– Rob

Posted in Personal, Personal Develoment | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Not able to send emails using AirSync on SBS 2011

This is something that I recently came across when we upgraded our office server and to be honest it had me stumped for a little while, but here is what I found.

Essentially we setup our new SBS 2011 Standard server using all of the MS consoles and wizards including the wizard to created the email address domain. After a few days I found that we could not send any outbound emails from devices that were using AirSync, these included Windows 7 Phones; iPhones; Windows Phones; iPads as well as a host of other devices that connect to Exchange using AirSync (formally ActiveSync). There is a great deal of information about this but all of it related to having an invalid character in the domain name. However, having checked through the setup there were not illegal characters in the domain name yet we continued to get the same error.


What I found was that when you setup an ‘Accepted Domain’ the wizard will ask for a name as part of the wizard. This has traditionally been a descriptive name however this is where the issue seems to lie. In our case, what I did was changed the name to be the same as the domain name and it now works correctly.

Hopefully this should help others.

– Rob

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Just one minute

As a business owner you have one of the greatest gifts there is; that is you are in control of your own time. I recall when I first left my last job and started JPT Solutions I would struggle immensely to take an afternoon off as it just felt so alien, I just felt I should be working. But then, part of working for yourself or running your own business has to be that you are in control of your own time so what do you do?

As some of you will see there has not been a post on this site for some time and the reason for this is that I have been so busy with work that I have just not had any time to get to this, a poor excuse I know but none the less that’s where I’ve been at. I have been finding it increasingly frustrating as there are so many things happening that before I know it the day is over. While it is still very busy I am having to make time to get off the hamster wheel and make time for these types of activity which I do enjoy.

So I guess what I would like to do is throw this post open to the audience to see what great practical techniques you all have on handling these times and getting control back of you time. If you have the time to post up your thoughts in the comments that would be great.

Thanks in advance

– Rob

Posted in Business, Personal Develoment | 4 Comments