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Hardware… Finally running :)

Well, after almost 6 weeks from my original purchase of hardware, I finally have a working box.  While I still haven’t been refunded for the original machine, at least I have a working machine.  I ended finding a company that specializes in gaming machines.  I came to an interesting conclusion.  If you aren’t going to start investing in a true high end “server”, the next best thing is a gaming machine.  I’ve found that gaming machines are the most powerful machines that the average person ever needs.  This puts them into the affordable range, without investing in servers.

Now, I did do a little homework this time around.  First off, gaming machines need to be current technology, rather than 2007 like the Dell T7400 I tried.  All the components are easily purchased on my own.  In fact, I could have made the machine for roughly $300 less, but having someone else build it, warranty it and test it, was well worth the $300 to me.  And this is coming from someone that used to build machines.

The good news it that I’ve been able to hand the machine over to my contract with a barebones SUSE operating system.  Now the real fun will begin.  I have no Linux experience, and no HANA experience…  let the good times roll.

Thanks for reading,

Hardware difficulties continue

Well, as always, I learn things the hard way.  I decided to deal with a new company to get my server.  ICompNY to be exact.  They had a server with a lot of memory, for $1000.  This really should’ve been my first red flag.  But I figured, what the hell.  So I ordered it (over a month ago).  After some slow shipping, I finally get it after about 8 days.  Maybe I’m just spoiled from Amazon prime, but 8 days is pretty crazy.  Well, this thing is 50 lbs.  No joke.  I put it on the scale.  I carried this thing to far corner of my house, unpacked the “unorthodox” packaging, Red Flag #2, and attempted to set it up.   When I say unorthodox, it’s truly a big box, with some random stuffing in there to fill it up.  No original packaging (except for the keyboard).

Well, much to my dismay, it only has DVI outputs for the monitor.  I’ve been dealing with computers for a long time and this is the first time I’ve ever had not 1, but 2 video cards that only had DVI.  Red flag #3.  Well, I wait for amazon to deliver me an adapter…  that doesn’t work, so I wait for a new video card.  I get that installed, and finally I’m feeling good.  I go through my day long process of updating all the windows updates, Norton, dropbox, and everything else I need to get loaded to start using this beast.  I go to bed while a big batch of updates are processing.  I wake up the next morning and the damn thing won’t turn on.  I deal with tech support for a while, and they offer to send me a replacement.  I reluctantly accept.  Afterall, they offered to upgrade my processor for my trouble.  Which helped, since the beast was slower than my 3 year old laptop to run Windows, Red Flag #4.

I get the new machine (it takes another 8 days, and when it arrives, I’m vacation, so I’m delayed even further).  On Monday, I spend the rest of the day getting everything setup.  It’s marginally faster than the first, but still slow considering it has 64GB of RAM and an SSHD.  Well, I wake up the next morning, and the same thing happened.  This time, the power button flashes when I use it.  So I do some online hunting.  I try a couple of easy fixes, works for an hour, then shuts down again.  The only remaining fixes talk about a faulty power supply or bad memory.  Now here’s where I royally screwed up.  I didn’t do my homework to realize just how old this machine was.  It was originally built in 2007.  Doom on Me, and go figure, power supplies were a common issue.

Well, now I’m back to square 1.  I’m hunting for reasonable systems that I can plug and play or quickly build, that won’t break my bank.  AFter all of this, I’m starting to wonder if the AWS isn’t a better approach.  At least I won’t be dealing with these headaches…  Anyway, back to shopping.

Thanks for reading,

How do you keep up with it all?

After reading more of the book Traction, I find myself in a typical position…  how do I possibly keep up with everything I need to be doing?  Between the day job of consulting, running the night business, and still finding time for family and maybe even a hint of social life, it doesn’t leave much time for sleep.

Well, after reading more, I’m finding that the idea isn’t to accomplish everything.  It’s to accomplish the most important things.  I know I’ve written on it before, but I often need a reminder.  You have to prioritize and only worry about the top priorities.  Of course, this gets more complicated when you can’t decide what is the most important.  Obviously, the day job and family have to come first.  So that leaves limited hours to get the other stuff done.  So if you only have 3 hours a day to work on your business, what should you do?

Well, I’m learning, even though it’s painful, that sales and marketing has to be job one.  If you have someone else taking care of that for you, good for you.  But if much of that burden falls on you (like it does me), it means that emails, calls, if you are lucky, maybe even face to face appointments have to be the top priority.  After that, then comes the highest priorities to support sales.  For me, it’s currently setting up the free trial groundwork.  This means some coding, LOTS of testing, and of course legal paperwork.  But, I have to remember, above all, make those touches to m prospects.  Without customers, it’s just a hobby.  And I want to have a successful business.  At the end of the day, don’t worry about getting everything done.  Just worry about getting the important things done.  Everything else will either move up in priority, or will fall off the list because it wasn’t really that critical.

Thanks for reading,

Writing Down your Processes

In my quest to start running my business like a business, one of the steps to define your processes and document them.  I originally thought this would be easy.  But after a couple of hours, I quickly realized that the volume of processes my small business has is much larger than I originally guessed.  Now, the exercise was supposed to start at the high level.  I just starting documenting all of the things I do on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.  Even capturing the steps at a high level, quickly caught me off guard.

So, why is it so important to document your steps?  There are actually quite a few reasons.  The first and most important is that if things are documented, everyone is following the same process.  This becomes the gold standard for your business because with documented processes, you can quickly find what step was missed or done incorrectly whenever an issue comes up.  Then to make it better, you can analyze your steps to find the best way to avoid the issue from coming up again.  The next major thing you get is a repeatable process.  This is exactly what someone else is looking for when you would like to sell your business.  If you can hand over processes that are documented, and followed, that means someone else might be willing to pay you big for you business.

Last, but certainly not least, is that you get to start taking yourself out of the business.  Now maybe you love being the go-to person, having all the answers, and being able to get things done fast.  But wouldn’t you rather let someone else be that person, and give yourself time to handle the big issues your company is facing?  I know I would.  So regardless of your size, document your processes.  You can’t lose by doing this.

thanks for reading,

Passwords – Learning from a Scare

Well, today I’m going to talk about a recent experience that forced me change my own security.  I recently did a roadtrip with my 2 little kids (almost 5 and 2).  Well, we spent the night in a hotel, and long story short, my little boy hid my ipad under some furniture, and I didn’t know it was gone until we had driven about 3 hours away.  Well, the IPad didn’t have a password, didn’t have find my phone enabled, and also had my dropbox account, email, etc…

Well, I got my ipad back, but after that scare I realized that I was very lazy in my password selection.  My good friend Justin reminded me that my password could get hacked at any site…  and with one password, criminals out there will try every other site to see if the same password works.  Well, I was using the same password for everything.  (I know, I know…  I’m a little slow).  Thanks to Justin, I spent a day setting up a new Application called 1 Password, and resetting all of my important passwords, then I started moving onto everything else.

This is no small endeavor, but totally worth the time and effort.  Now I’m smart enough to have unique passwords for everything.  It doesn’t mean an account of mine won’t get hacked… but at least it’s not easy for someone to hack ALL of my accounts.

Thanks for reading,

Code Security Revisited

Well, I got some great feedback from some of my programming friends, and I wanted to pass my thoughts along, and see if anything new might be sparked.  In general, the feedback I got from everyone is that “encrypting” ABAP code is pretty much a waste of time.  If there is a developer that wants your code, they will get it.  Plus, the majority of companies out there don’t care enough to bring your code in-house, spend 80+ hours copying and pasting, creating screens, services, etc…  if they look at me in the first place, it probably means they need help, and don’t have the time to waste having their resources steal my code.  (I’m not naive, I know this could happen…  but somethings aren’t worth worrying about too much).

Then I heard back from my friend Barry, and he gave me the best advice on the topic.  He pretty much told me, if you offer something free (like my free trial), offer a scaled down version.  Provide enough functionality to showcase how good your stuff is, but don’t give away everything.  Turn off a bunch of the bells and whistles, and replace it with a message “Only available in paid version”.  This way your prospect can see it’s there…  and realize they have to pay to get everything.

In addition, I’m still looking for a good way to extract the install date of the free trial, and deactivate the software X days after.  While the code will still exist in the system, it will be a reminder that the the free offer has ended…  time to pony up some cash 🙂

Thoughts?  Thanks for reading,

The 1 year plan

Since business has been on my mind so much, here I am again.  This time it’s refining down the plan to a single year.  Now, first the time, this started to get easier for me.  It’s much easier to think in terms of a one year plan, than 10 or even 3.  why?  because for me, one year is something I personally could envision.  And that makes it even more exciting.  Again, we take the major pieces of the business and figure out where we need them to be in order to achieve the 3 year plan.  We don’t even need to think about the 10 year plan, because now we’re focused on getting to the 3 year milestones.  If we envisioned that properly, it’ll put us exactly where we need to be.

Now, the tricky part with the one plan is figuring out where you need to be…  not just where you’re going?  So for example, if you plan to hit $500,000 in sales, but you are currently at $50,000, what are you going to do to increase sales 10 times?  is it even remotely possible?  because you may completely missed reality when you did the 3 & 10 year plans.  When you stop to realistically look at what you can in a year…  well, let’s just say you  might need to rework those long term plans a bit.  It also forces you to be creative.

For example, you need to start thinking strategically.  I mentioned in a previous post that within 3 years I wanted a client independent platform for service.  Well, in order to do that, I need to my roadmap this year.  I need to figure out, at a high level, what do I want to provide.  Am I developing an entire database structure with the screens to support it?  how deep do I go into the financial side?  how much is done using web? using mobile devices? cloud?  and as soon as I started asking myself those questions, I realized there are a LOT of things I don’t know.  I don’t know much about cloud, if I don’t design in ABAP, what language should be I using to design a simple platform?  how much do I include in the process?  and on and on…

When you begin looking at the big picture, it becomes clear what you need to focus on right now.  You won’t have answers to everything, but for me, my goal became to start finding people that understood the concepts and figure out what it will take to get me there.  How about you?  what’s your one year plan look like?  Mine was a lot more learning than I expected, but it got me excited again, because I’m starting see the vision…  🙂

Thanks for reading,

Service Check up?

The other day in the shower, I came up with a pretty cool new idea.  I’m finding that I’m coming up with a lot more ideas when I step away from the day to day business of running my business 🙂  More about that in another post.  Anyway, what I realized is that my dashboard is already built in a way that can pretty easily perform a full analysis of your service business in SAP.  Well, duh!  if it didn’t, why would I expect anyone to buy it.  Now, here’s where the new part comes in.  I provide a stripped down version of the dashboard that simply extracts all of your service data.  You run it in the background, send me the files containing your data, then I analyze it, put everything into a simple report that will highlight what you do well, and areas for improvement.

Now, I’ve even taken the idea as far as having the client give me target values of where they think they are, or what constitutes good numbers vs. bad numbers.  For example, let’s say a client needs to perform an in-house repair within 36 hours.  24 hours is the target, but if it’s greater than 36, there’s an issue.  Well, with the service checkup, we can even analyze everything that is particularly bad to show you where exactly things aren’t meeting expectations.  it could be a single product, or perhaps an entire facility.

I’m still flushing out the idea, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Do you think this is a worthwhile endeavor?  do you know anyone that might be interested?  is there anything that I should be including in this service?  would you pay for it?

Can’t wait to hear your feedback.

 

The 3 Year Plan

Recently I wrote about setting up your long term vision by means of the 10 year plan.  Well, it’s great to have that long term vision, but how are you going to get there?  Well, the next step in plan has to be your three year plan.  It’s basically the same concept as the 10 year plan, but now you need to take into account what you expect to accomplish in 10 years.

Let’s explain this a little more detail.  Let’s just say that your 10 year plan has you making $5,000,000 gross revenue per year.  Now, you need to take a look at exactly where you are today.  For example, you are making $100,000 gross revenue per year.  Well, to get to $5 million, what needs to happen?  Well, first off, figure out where your gross revenue needs to be in 3 years.  Now, remember, it’s not simple math.  A lot of times your 3 year goal may end up well short of 30% of five million.  Why?  because growth isn’t a straight line.  So, a more realistic approach would be to say in 3 years, gross revenue is up to $750,000 year AND you have launched 3 new products to the market that will begin your exponential growth 🙂

Take me for example…  I have modest goals, but in order to get to those goals, I need to take my products to the next level.  What does that mean for me?  it means I need to have a platform independent offering.  Right now, everything I do is tied to SAP.  I want to move away from that limitation, and produce service products that can work alone (no huge ERP) as well as with SAP, Oracle, SalesForce.com, etc…  This change will not happen quickly, but I need to be preparing things immediately in order to make sure that 3 years from now, I have that product launched…  Get the idea?

Now the plan still needs to encompass all aspects of the business, like revenue, products, number of employees, costs, etc…  Now with a 3 year in place, it’s a little easier to guide your ship.

thanks for reading,

What’s the Value of Service Management?

This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.  One of the interesting things about service is that you often don’t even realize how important it is to your organization.  For example, when I first started my career, I thought I was going to be an engineer, building all these cool devices, and designing who knows what!  When I look back at those days, I realized that one of the things my engineering classes never really covered was to design things so they could be repaired (ideally, repaired easily).  It is very easy to design something on paper or your computer…  and not take into account the fact that it is nearly impossible to assemble because no one could even get their hand or a tool in place to tighten the bolts.

This is so often the case when it comes to service management.  Now, engineering is getting smarter about designs for manufacturing and service…  but often the system side is still neglected.  I see the same mentality in company after company that I consult for.  It’s the notion that they are used to “working around the system” because it’s “just the way things are”.  Being in the service world now, I realize just how painful that becomes for the service group, and more importantly, for the entire organization.  Why would it impact the whole organization?

Very simple…  whether you choose to believe it not, service is your best and easiest revenue source.  I know you are probably rolling your eyes… but hear me out.  Study after study talks about the cost of acquiring a new customer being 2 to 10 times more expensive than selling to an existing customer.  Take the low or the high estimate…  but I’d much rather cut out all the time, expense and pain of finding new customers.  This becomes especially true when all you need to do is keep your existing customers happy.  How do you keep them happy?  again, it’s a pretty straightforward formula.

1.  Make good products.  How does service have any impact on this?  well, if you’re collecting your data properly, you should have all of the market research of things you should be doing, as well as all of the quality information to tell you what you need to be doing better.  Often, this isn’t available until the product gets into the customers hands.  If you want to make the best products, you better be listening to the quality & service data.

2.  Give great service.  Want to keep your customers always buying from you, even if you are a little more expensive than the competition.  Stand behind your products and give your customers a great experience when something goes wrong.  If you can turn around a repair faster than anyone, offer a great warranty program, or provide your customer enough self service tools they will be happy to continue buying new products and coming back to you for any calibration, scheduled maintenance, etc.

I am a firm believer that service management, service processing, or whatever your organization calls it is the make or break factor in both of those points.  I’m sure there are more points…  but do you really need more than this to know that service is the key to a great organization.

Thanks for reading,