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Simplify – Mavericks, iOS7 and the iPhone 5s

I have not been blogging for the last couple of months, and I feel freed from it.   My coaching practice is focused on busy executives that either need to get out of their current gig and start their own venture – or look at their current gig and change their “stinking thinking” about it.  I came to realize that most of these people at not searching the Internet for advice on where to go to find that.  Very freeing – that thought. No need to write to them.  They are not there.

I have also become every busy with my own practice, and find that I find people, the old fashioned way – by meeting them.

But, on the way back from a client site on Saturday morning, I dropped my iPhone 4s which was still running iOS6.  I do not use a case, because I like the ease of using clean glass for my interaction with the phone and the cases have always hindered that. The two year old phone has been dropped so many times, I was actually surpassed when it cracked – but still worked.  It did reboot.  But I figured that eventually I would be affected again by a hanging chad or chard.

So, I had to upgrade.  Off to the ATT store and back with two new iPhones – my spouse came into 2013 with me and we retired the three year old iPhone 4 as well.  Net net, both phones were fully operational from backups in less than two hours.  Only because I had to do them sequentially.  I was, frankly amazed by the improvement. I still miss, Steve Jobs, one more thing showmanship, but I gotta admit, I am becoming a fan of the results of refining the already superior products that are in play.

I figured, since I had upgraded the phones faster then I thought I would, why not get the new MacBook Pro and try out Mavericks.  Yes I could have upgraded one of our existing machines, but I wanted to try something – a pure Mac environment – no Windows – no Microsoft Office and its constant stream of problems and slow update processes and slow performance – no Chrome and its memory hogging – no Parallels.  Just iWork, the OS and native Mac apps.

Mavericks blows me away.  The changes are small – tabbed finder windows – a form factor and resolution that forced me into full screen mode, which easily allows me to move from clean app to clean app. 16 GB of memory and a solid state drive and blazing speed. I have not used iWork extensively yet, but I use a word processor to type text into a document.  I use a spreadsheet to create simple models and I use presentation software to create simple presentations that I project from my iPad.  And for those people stuck in Windows trying to figure out how to use Windows 8 – they can open anything I share with them.

So I am going to blog going forward on one thing – a love from my past of technology and my reclamation of my photography avocation in a simplified way.  I am culling down all of my unused camera gear, and I am getting rid of extra apps on my devices that I do not need and excess computing power that sits idle. And I am going to do so whenever I feel moved to do so – blog that it is.

For the few readers that were riveted by my postings over the summer on wellness, I looked at what I was writing and realized that I was working on my own issues and not aware of it – which is why I stopped writing when I realized what I was doing and fixed the underlying inflammation issue.  I sought out three caregivers and they all told me the same thing – I was angry.  This has lead me to get rid of the things that make me angry – both in my attitude and in my life.  Ultimately that is leading to getting rid of excess stuff and relationships and ventures that do not work for me – sort of following my own branding.

There is a line from French Kiss spoken by Meg Ryans character Kate – “Happy – smile. Sad – frown. Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion.” Words to live by. The new MacBook Pro, Mavericks, iOS7 and the iPhone 5s, a simplified environment – Happy Face. It is not a vineyard in the south of France, but it is not South Bronx in the seventies.

I am also not paying someone to edit my posts.  So if you find a typo – enjoy the experience. What is the point of this post?  That we need to be authentic, We need to simplify and we need to say yes when we mean yes and no when we mean no.  I think that Meg was actually paraphrasing that line, which I believe is attributed to Jesus.  In fact the next part of it – anything else comes from the evil one – in my theology that means the crazy voice inside of my head my ego.

Time Management – Calendars for your ventures

Whether it’s for a business or our personal lives, we can hardly get through a day without checking our calendars. Time is money and time management is critical. We buy calendars with beautiful pictures representing each month, or we keep ourselves virtual with the use of calendar applications on our phones and computers. Calendars are so vital that Mac products are automatically equipped with this calendar app. The fact is, absolutely no one can run a business without a good calendar management system. As of late, we have been frustrated with synchronization between iOS and our Mac and Windows computers. Last week, we talked briefly about the use of back office, cloud-based tools, and how to set-up email and a quick website in the weeks before that.  We will return to the back office tools after we evaluate PayPals solutions entirely.  This week we are talking about calendars, and because there is a wealth of information on the Internet, we are not reinventing the wheel. Rather, we are pointing to a site that we found through a great resource for people launching an onCOREventure – Open Forum from American Express.

In fact, this resource is so cool that over the last twenty-four hours using very little effort, we moved our primary calendar to Google Calendar, and found an online sign-up mechanism for both clients and potential clients to sign up for sessions through our website that we have begun testing. We expect this tool to eliminate the use of coaches console for our practice and allow clients to manage their own calendars with our practice.  Note: In fact by the end of the next day we had the feature live on our website, fully integrated into our production calendar system.

Since we use iOS devices and not Android, we like the idea of apps that live on the device.  That being said, even tough the Apple-supplied apps for Calendar and Contacts are subpar, we were pleased to see that there are a variety of calendar apps available for iOS, and I had one up and running in five minutes. We use CalenMob and opted for the paid version for increased functionality. Since I already migrated my iCal information to Google, I did not grant the app access. Frankly, with this app and with Google calendar, there is fortunately no reason for me to use Apple’s calendar.

On a roll, we experimented with another app – Contacts Sync.  One of Apple’s dirty little secrets is that contacts disappear, are doubled, tripled and in once case multiplied by ten.  Phone numbers go away.  It was so easy to get my calendar into Google, I figured why not get my contacts into Google, and this little tool had them synchronized in five minutes.  Now the cool thing is that Google seems to be pretty good at not actually losing information on my contacts – and with this tool, I can always overwrite the Apple contacts with Google’s. I was also easily able to delete the duplicates in my Apple contacts using the tool, something that I can never seem to remember how to do on my Mac.

The more we use Google’s cloud services, the more we like them.  and with apps on iOS and things like open-source tools on cross platform PC’s Linux and Mac environments, life seems to be getting easier and more affordable for new ventures to get their technology in place.

 

Show me the money

I have found myself using another line from Jerry McGuire lately: “Help me help you; so why not show me the money this Tuesday morning?”

Tuesday is our day to look at infrastructure to support the launch efforts of your venture. We started speaking to the web environments for mail and a public face, and now we want to get focused on something that most people do not want to talk about – accounting.

The sooner that you put in the tracking system for expenses and income, the sooner you will look at your venture as a business and not a hobby. We have used Quicken for the last eighteen years to track our personal expenses, but for some reason resisted setting up Quickbooks for the business, putting it off for tomorrow.

Eventually, though, it became time to pay the piper, and the inevitable happened. We started becoming successful enough that manual and Excel tracking of the business became too cumbersome. Over the last three days, I have spent twelve hours a day entering history and balancing accounts for our small business in Quickbooks after taking a class in it last month. Not fun, but very doable.

Many second career ventures are self funded to start, and start as part-time gigs, so it is easy to bypass setting up the formal business plan and accounting systems. We follow the lean start up mentality of establishing the minimum viable product and testing and refining direction, which means that these are guidelines and not formal documents that have been used to get financing from the SBA or a bank.

But eventually, it is time to act. I do not regret following the approach that we have followed so far. However, we are far enough into our launch to be certain that this is a long term business, and to determine exactly what systems and processes we need to manage that business. The tweak that I would follow is to look at the online systems that are available to help you establish affordable systems for accounting and contact management even in the guideline phase of development.

Last week, in an American Express newsletter, we found the mention of a Paypal offering that allows new businesses to use cloud services for the items that every small business needs: invoice management and collection and forecasting, accounting, contact management and newsletter creation and distribution.

The services are free for thirty days and cost ninety dollars a month after that. It is possible to buy packages and run them on your PC that do the same thing, at a higher cost. Also, there are other cloud-based services that do these things together. However, if you are using or considering using Paypal for payment processing, these might make sense.

So while I do not regret the approach that we used, if these tools were available when we started this venture early last year, I would have considered it. In fact, even though we are down the path we have chosen, I am going to review this toolkit even if it just for my clients information going forward.

We will report on it after our review, but for now, you might want to check it out yourself.

 

Web Environment – your website

Last week, we talked about setting up email. Conventional wisdom in the Internet age is that you need a website to drive your business. What we have found is actually the contrary; a website can actually put a halt on your business’s growth. We’ve all Googled ourselves out of curiosity, but what about after you meet someone at a networking event, or exchange emails? You can guarantee your new acquaintance has Googled you as well. If you have no website, they will only find your LinkedIn profile and other references that you probably do not have any control over.

We work mostly with solopreuneurs in our practice, and most people that start businesses are in that category at least in the beginning. The first thing that solopreuneurs need to remember is that you are now “the brand” or “product”. Not what you sell, but you. When Tiger Woods turned pro, his father Earle told him that he was a product now, something that Tiger and folks like A-Rod have learned the hard way.  Keep that in mind when you are considering ranting on Facebook.

So before you even start to craft your website, it is useful to complete a personal branding exercise. We start our clients with this, and then follow that up with a core values index. Our image and our core values are both vital in setting our personal brand.

For example, green is a color that we have used initially for onCOREventures. Green is the color of the heart chakra, the fourth and most core of the chakras. It is the color of sustainability and the color of “start” or “go.” Thus, green is core to our business, because these items are core to us. We have used and will continue to use my photography as the promotion of our site, because vision is important to our clients, and my vision is often expressed in my imagery. I augment this however with viable stock photography that conveys the messages.

When I started my coaching practice, I did not have the name chosen so I simply set up frederickgeiger.com and put up a four-page site. Home, what I do, who I am, and a blog.  That way, anyone that looked for information about me would find that site.  I went into a 1:1 networking meeting only to find someone looking at my photography site at fredgeiger.com.

For my coaching practice, I had a colleague build a quick site in Dreamweaver, which was overkill, but I already had a hosting contract in place, and I knew how to setup a website myself. Since I already had set up a WordPress site for our church, adding the blog was trivial – for me.

If you have nothing of the sort in place, and if you already completed what we talked about last week, and used Google to set up your email, then it is a simple process to launch your website on Google as well..

From the sites section of Google, first choose “Create a Site.” You can then see that there are a variety of templates that can be used, and you can work on your site before it is published and made public. Once you are satisfied with it, you can then point your domain name to it. If that is your personal name, you can always redirect people to your new site, or not. Currently, I still have my old personal photography site active at fredgeiger.com, and I have redirected frederickgeiger.com to my current site.

There are many other ways of setting up a site, some very affordable and some very costly. But if you are hanging out your shingle and do not have a live website, do not be surprised if you are not always taken seriously.

You can also create other sites to experiment with different ideas – or use as a private intranet for your associates or contractors as you grow your company. Tools such as Google Drive make it easy to store files and access them online from any web browser.

The most difficult part of any process is setting yourself in motion. Do not let the fear of taking that first plunge stop you from having your own site. Setting up your own site that emits your core message to potential clients is a quick, very uncomplicated task. This also means that you don’t have to empty your wallet on creating a website for a business that does not have a definite direction yet. The one thing that I have learned in my many years of working with startups of all sizes is that the worst decision is actually the decision not made. Make decisions that complement your core values, and then take action. Ready, set, go.

Launching your web environment

I often find that many of my clients ask me for advice.  Coaching, in its purest sense, does not give advice; we are trained extensively NOT to give advice. In fact, in order to be accredited by the International Coaching Federation, we have to show through our coaching that we do not give advice. So what is the first thing all clients want? Advice, of course.

Since that is out of the question, we must take a different route. Instead, we become storytellers, narrating the success stories of others. But then, clients will want follow-up recaps. If you’re someone that is up late in the night, searching for the solutions to their most pestering thoughts, then I’m doing something for you: I am starting a weekly Tuesday blog series on tools, tips and techniques on how to authentically launch your onCOREventure. Once these are finished – all I need to do is send a link as a follow-up.

Most onCOREventures, whether they include the creation of a new business or just a new way of showing up in retirement activities, require web technology.  This usually starts with acquiring a domain name and setting up email and a website.  Setting up a domain name is very simple, and most people have no trouble taking this step.  Providers of web hosting and email services are usually more than happy to offer you low-cost domain name registration, which seems fantastic. But then, things take a turn. These providers then sell you a whole bunch of services that, for the average person just wanting to boost their web presence, are difficult to use and setup.

For our clients that are not tech-savvy and do not want to empty their wallets or spend all their time setting up their web environment, we usually suggest that they consider the use of Google Apps because of the great results that other clients have experienced. I say this owning stock in Microsoft and having wanted to use Microsoft Office365 for this, and I am still trying to get it to work.  But SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, Office, Office 365, Office for the Mac, Office 2010 for the PC, Office 2013 for the PC, the Hotmail to Outlook migration – seriously? – I have over thirty years of using Microsoft Office and operating systems and I am still struggling to get it to work using the cloud and my Mac-PC hybrid environment.

That being said, if you want the web to just work, use Google Apps.  Assuming that you have a Domain Name for your venture and simply a dream of it being done, you need to get a Google Apps account for your business.  You can get started here to find out more information.  If you are ready to get started right now, you can start out by paying five dollars a month for one user.

But, you can get started in less than an hour and kick the tires on the technology simply by going to this link.  You can set up your account free for thirty days without a credit card, and then direct your domain name for email to Google.  If you already use GMAIL for your email, you can add your own customer domain to your existing GMAIL account, and get all of your mail in one place.  Many people in corporate like to keep things separate, but I have found that in working with people embarking on their onCORE ventures, the line between business and pleasure dulls, and simplicity is key.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you plan your effort.  Let’s say that you are using onCORE.com for your domain name.  So far, all you have done is register your domain name with someone like Godaddy.com, or Network Solutions or Register.com.  You can set up an account for yourself with Google for Google Apps.  So in my case, I would setup a new Google apps account for frederick@oncore.co.  Once I did that I could then go to Godaddy, which is where I have registered oncore.co and change the MX records with them to point to Google.  About an hour or two later, I will be able to send and receive mail from frederick@oncore.com through my GMAIL user interface on my iPhone, iPad or through a web browser.  If you want to use your Mac Mail or Outlook client to get and send your mail, you can easily do that.  Because Google does a great job of proving wizards, videos, and documentation on how to set things up, I am not going to do that.  This is one of the reasons that I suggest to clients that consider this route because of its clarity and thoroughness.

Once you are done with this, and you want to set up a website with Google without paying someone to host it for you, you can use Google Sites. You can even play with the site and customize it to perfection before you put it on display for the public eye.  We will cover this use and other uses for the sites feature next Tuesday in our weekly blog series on how to take your onCOREventure to market.