IT Essentials for Small Business

I am beginning to outline the contents for a forthcoming book on IT Essentials for Small Business. It will contain a compendium of my diverse IT & web knowledge as applied to small businesses. Larger businesses and other organizations may find the core knowledge useful, but I will be focusing on the scale of small businesses that don’t usually have a dedicated IT staff. All the important things you should keep your eyes on when working with IT in your business.

The outline will lead to related posts here on this blog in the coming days. Once I have sufficient content, the blog postings will be republished in book form and available from the usual sources in both print and electronic form, in addition to the posts here. Posts may or may not be in the order of the proposed outline and the outline may be reorganized prior to publishing. I will tag posts to collect related content items.

I highly encourage posting comments in order to make corrections or enhancements to the content prior to publishing. Feel free to ask me to cover a particular area that you feel should be included if it is not in the outline. Good ideas are aways welcome!

Proposed Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Security
  3. Office Computers
  4. Software Applications
  5. Networking
  6. Telecommunications
  7. Domain Names
  8. Email
  9. Web Sites
  10. Marketing
  11. E-Commerce
  12. Web Applications
  13. Summary

I’ll provide a mini-outline for each of these areas as I flesh them out in more detail. Feel free to comment with suggestions on other major areas that might not be included above.

Forget Windows vs Mac

Over the years, I’ve used many different personal computers and their related operating systems. The long-running debate between Microsoft Windows in it’s various versions, and Apple’s Mac OSX is no longer meaningful to the everyman. For a sample of the debate, see Olivier Prud’homme’s Windows vs Mac commentary on Chris Pirillo’s blog.

When choosing a personal computer you only need to focus on what you want to accomplish with it. You can do the most common functions with either, Windows or Mac OSX.

There are four primary uses of personal computers:

  • Web Browsing
  • Email
  • Word Processing
  • Spreadsheets

There are good applications on both platforms (Windows or Mac) that do more than the average user could ever require. So, if the only thing you ever expect to do is in this list, what type computer you choose is unimportant.

If you expect or know you have a special need, now or will have in the near future, focus on finding the software application you need first. While a version of it is likely available for either platform, it might not be. Or, you might like how one works on Windows versus on the Mac. Your software choice must come first.

Today, you can actually eliminate choosing based on the top four applications listed above and choose based on the top one–the web browser you like most. Email, word processing and spreadsheets are available as web-based applications. But, again it comes down to what you like. You may not like the web-based applications or they may not provide the functionality that you need!

Do your research on applications first. Once you find what you like and works for you, look at computers to support it.

Respond vs. React

Most of us go through life reacting to our environment. Whether that is our physical surroundings, interactions with other people, or even to ourselves! All of our actions are driven by external influences. You may think you are making a choice when you take an action, but are you really?

Responding is about seeing those external influences, but not letting them make the choice for us in what action we take. Awareness of our environmental influences is essential, reacting to them is not.

In responding to an environmental influence we are aware of it’s impact on us, but we evaluate internally how we choose to act in relationship to it. That may be not acting at all! That too is a response!

To make a response we consider our goals and other influential factors, taking all the time to think we need to consider all alternatives before making a decision on how to respond.

A response comes from an internal blend of thought and emotion. A reaction is purely emotional.

Reacting is can be good in emergency situations–a car accident, a burning building, etc. Where there is a need to act extremely quickly.

Responding is even better as it allows the application of emotion as appropriate, tempered by the thought of what is the complete picture of the situation. Even in the above situations of a car accident or burning building, responding to the situation rather than reacting may save your or another’s life! Applying your knowledge of driving, you may be able to avoid an automobile accident, or in a fire you may prevent the fire from spreading or getting out of a building in a manner you would not normally consider.

Yelling & screaming in either of the above events is reacting… does it help? Responding is what will save your life. In every day life, we may not be dealing with life-threatening events, but the principle is the same.

The more practice you get in responding to daily events, the quicker you will be able to apply the same skill in an emergency situation–avoiding the need to react, while staying calm and helping others to do the same. It will save your life, but on a daily basis, it might save a career or relationship.

Always respond, instead of react.

Passion

No, not that passion. Passion for your own life!

Do you love about your life? Your work? Maybe. Your family? Probably. Your hobbies? Much more likely!

Most people seem to be more passionate about their hobbies, than they are their work & family! Why is that? There is absolutely no reason you can not hold the same passion for your work as you do your hobbies, and love your spouse or partner and family the same as you did when you first met them or first felt the wonder of a new child in your arms.

Close your eyes and think for a moment about how you feel when you are engaged in your favorite pastime. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

How did it feel? You feel good don’t you? Come on, admit it! Wouldn’t you like to feel that way more? You can! You just have to choose to live in the passion, and let go of the other feelings. Recognize that feeling passion is an emotion. What usually holds us back and blocks that passion is not the lack of passion, but the covering up of that by other things that get in the way.

What gets in the way are only the events of the day–not other emotions! If you let your experience drive your emotions of the moment, you are reacting to your environment instead of crating the environment you desire.

For example at work, you might have tasks to perform that you do not enjoy, or work with people that you don’t enjoy. These are simple examples of external influences that you let influence how you feel about your work and colleagues. Recognize how you feel is a choice! You choose your emotional response to your environment!

Why not choose to feel passionate about your work? You probably were when you first started in a career or job. Close your eyes and think back to those times. Think about the things you enjoyed then, or maybe the parts of the work you still enjoy. You can bring back the passion you once felt simply by choosing to live in the passion. Then perform your tasks and interact with people from that state of mind. You will feel better about what you are doing. Don’t be surprised if you have an effect on how others perceive you and your relationships with them improve! They will start wondering why you are so happy all the time!

The same applies to relationships with a spouse, child, parent or sibling. Don’t let what they do bother you–that’s their choice. You get to choose how you feel about them! Don’t let external influences drive your emotions! That is what is referred to as reacting. Choose to respond based on your emotional state of mind, not on theirs! Again, you will have them asking why you are smiling!

Sounds great doesn’t it?

Choose to be passionate today!

Stay the Course

Stay the course, light a star,
Change the world where’er you are. ~Richard Le Gallienne

Making changes in your life is very difficult. We are all creatures of habit, and habits are hard to change. If you are having difficulty making changes, you may need to create a support sytem for yourself while you are in transition.

Support systems can come in many forms, but among the best is creating some method of accountabilty for yourself. Here are a few examples of possible techniques:

  • Create a calendar or schedule that you post and log your change progress
  • Ask a spouse or close friend to check-in with you on your progress to provide support
  • Get a buddy that is a partner in progress–you provide accountability for them, while they do the same for you
  • Hire a coach

The key factor here is to provide support & understanding while you are making major changes. While the calendar or schedule gives self-check on your progress, someone to talk with will give you an outlet to discuss the challenges of making changes, and perhaps give you some outside objective views on what might be holding you back.

Life.. and Getting Started

As the first post of 100, I’d like to offer that Life sometimes is difficult. Duh!

As I had planned on starting this list of 100 thoughts to improve your life over a month ago, I can truly understand how life does get in the way. But, most of the time, the only block is in your head! You need something to get you started. You would not have decided to do anything if you did not realistically think that it was possible… but, still you are held back from starting.

While every situation is different, the key is discovering the block and working through it. Most people have heard of writer’s block, and it is very similar and can be applied to many situations. The problem usually resides in your environment, not in your head!

We have all probably experienced the situation where you procrastinate by doing other things. Well, sometimes doing those other things first is necessary, and not just a way to delay. However, the trick is discovering the right things to do first!

It may not be easy, but explore your space or environment and see if there is anything that is obviously bothering you. Sometimes these things only exist in your head–as were mine! While I blamed it on my workspace/environment, and I found that it was really some personal issues that I had been avoiding dealing with that was holding me back. While they are not 100% resolved–it takes time to walk back out of the woods when you are lost–I have made the first steps in resolving them which has allowed me to move forward on this project.

Do some soul searching and discover within yourself what is really holding you back. Then you can get ahead on that big project you really want to do!

Rebirth of a Blog

Welcome to the first entry after a long hiatus and change in perspective. Formerly known as “Chasing a Dream – Web Site Best Practices for Entrepreneurial Soloists and Small Businesses”, this blog is undergoing a redesign and rebirth in order to support my new focus on Personal Coaching.

Since the last post in this blog, much has occurred in my life, including a move to just outside Boulder, Colorado, USA & going independent with my career–and not in IT! That’s probably what will catch most old friends eyes! having worked with computers in one way or another for over 25 years, I’ve decided I’m now going to focus on them as a tool, rather than the center of my life! I still have those sharp skills though, and hope to use them to help others when I can. I’m currently in a one year consulting contract with my former employer, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), to assist them in supporting the systems I had previously developed while there.

My main focus now is developing my Coaching & Speaking activities. I’ve left the older content of this blog in place, as it may be of use to people still, and it gives the reader a sense of my background and experience in web development.

Getting Started with Blogging for an Off-Line Business

OK, now that I’ve got your commitment to use blogging consistently for your business web site, how do you do it? Well, there are at least two aspects to how you approach this:

  • Blogging to draw customers to your off-line business (marketing)
  • Blogging as a new stream of income for your business

Of course these two aspects are not mutually exclusive. But, most people will initially approach what they do with one tendency or the other. You can always add the other aspect later. If you are building from an established off-line business, then the natural step would be to start by developing an on-line presence and identity for that business. As you develop that, and start getting an on-line reputation for content to build on your off-line business experience, then you can very easily extend your blog into becoming an income stream of its own. As most business owners know, it is always good to have multiple sources of income to help level out the hills & valleys of income when you are running business.

To get you started with more details about how blogging can be built into an income stream of its own, I’d like to personally recommend Yaro Starak’s just released Blog Profits Blueprint. It’s a free download PDF with a detailed description of how he developed his online business strategy & tactics he used to implement them. If you are serious about using blogs to expand your business on-line, I would seriously consider registering for his blog mentoring program, Blog Mastermind, which should be released next week. You can register now for early notification of its availability.

Be sure to visit Entrepreneurs-Journey and read how he made $6549.52 from blogging in March, 2007. It should give you plenty of inspiration of the possibilities blogging has to expand and enhance your business model.