Best End of Day Ritual

I found that I am most productive within the first 2 hours of each work day so at the end of each day I like to make sure I am set up for a successful tomorrow.

One of most helpful things I have found over the past few years is to make a list for everything I need to accomplish for the next day. How to keep it real? I only use Post-It notes to make sure my list is reasonable and something I can accomplish.

It is surprisingly satisfactory to cross things off the list. When things are really crazy – lists help keep priorities in line as well.

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed in the AM? Try grabbing a Post-It note and making a reasonable list!

Business Attire in My Business

I own and run a web development business and not unlike other types of businesses – what you wear when meeting with clients is important and sends a message about who you are.

When getting ready to meet my clients in person – I can still hear my mother in the back of my head “wear something nice, look professional” (not that she ever told me that – but I imagine she would if I still lived with her). Perhaps older generations do not understand is that the tech business is much different than others.

If someone in my position came to meet with me in a business suit – most people might think “wow this person is really professional and put together.”

As a tech person – if I see this same person dressed in a suit – I think “wow – this person is trying to sell me something vs. knows how to solve my technical problem.” I do not think less or more of them – I just get a different message. I feel that people in our business who are comfortable with their skills and themselves will dress more casually and not “hide behind” a suit.

I am not saying you should show up in a t-shirt and sweat pants – nor do I think you should never wear a suitto a meeting. I would just make sure you are comfortable with what you bring to the table and make sure you represent yourself in a way you are proud of/comfortable with and own it.

While I agree that what you wear sends a message – the message can differ and be interpreted differently by people. For fun, next time you have a tech person come in for a meeting – just take note of their dress and see if it correlates with the thought above (selling something vs solving something). I think most of the time you will agree with my statements above.

Management Tip: The 3 Ds

Running a business can be both rewarding and stressful. Over the years – my biggest stress is that I could (and still can) be the bottleneck with projects which then causes even more stress. Wildly enough – I learned one of the most important lessons that has helped me run a business from PTA training.

“When you get any task/communication from someone else – you need to do one of three things: do it, delegate it, or dump it.”

  1. Do it:This task is important now.
  2. Delegate it: This task can be done by someone else. Let me be more effective doing something else – knowing someone else can take this on.
  3. Dump/Delete it: This task is not important and I am not going to let it sit in my list of things to do/inbox.

By doing one of these three things each time with your tasks – you can easily get through your list of things to do while making you more effective.

5 Cardinal Rules When Creating a Web Site

Over the years – working as a developer I have seen both a lot of great and horrible things with clients. In order to avoid the “horrible things” – I would highly suggest taking a moment and reading through the points below.

Step 1: So you need a web site…

Your development options:

  1. You also know someone who has a cousin who does web sites on the side
  2. You outsource it to a company who charges $10/hour
  3. You find a reputable web development company

Cardinal Rule #1

Realize your development decision has consequences. All options have costs you might not be thinking about. Not everyone wants/can spend a large amount of money on a project so they decide to choose option #1 or option #2. The initial project cost is lower on paper so you go with it. The costs you really need to consider with the first two options are often hidden.

  • Communication: How can I get ahold of you to talk about the project/status/any issues? (If this is someone who does it “on the side” or is located in another time zone – are you ok with a delay or odd hours of communication?
  • Quality: Can your cousin’s friend who does this on the side create something that you want to represent you? Perhaps sometimes – but more than often – you will get something for less money and quality and it will show.
  • Cost: Option #3 is not always the best for you either. Perhaps you have a new business and you want something really professional, but you do not have a budget to match what you want. I have seen companies put so much money into their site – that their business fails because they overspent.

No options is perfect – but you need to be comfortable with the decision and realize there are potential downfalls.

Cardinal Rule #2

Get a contract in place with guarantees/terms. If whomever you decide to work with does not want to get this in place first thing – huge red flag and good luck. This is an essential part of any business as it sets expectations and protections for both the client and developer.

Step 2: Let’s start this!

Now that you have started the process and selected the right web developers – it is time to start building your site. The fun (or nightmare) is just about the start.

Cardinal Rule #3

Never let your developer register for all needed accounts/licenses. I have seen it time and time again where a developer registered something, stopped working for their company/client and with their departure also went all the licenses/accounts. Example – your developer offers to register your domain name for you, but when they do – they then get all notifications of when it expires, and control renewal. The developer then ends their business relationship with you for whatever reason and when your domain name needs to be renewed – you have no control over it and after spending money/time on building your online presence – lose it all because your domain name has been bought by someone else. Ouch. I have seen it. Another example: your developer sets up your hosting account. The developer leaves and they stop paying for/close the hosting account. Good bye web site. Better yet – you do not own the account and cannot even request a backup of your site. OWN YOUR DATA/LICENSES/ACCOUNTS

Step 3: My site is amazing!

After the development is over – now you can enjoy the end product (or can you?).

Cardinal Rule #4

Know what your backup policy is/make sure you actually have backups. Some people think $5.00/month hosting is a great deal until they realize they do not have any backups or that backup are an added cost that they never sign up for. Whoops. I have also seen more expensive hosting packages that only keep backups for 48 hours. This may work for some people – but if there was an issue on Friday, and you get in on Monday and realize it – your backups are not going to help. Make sure you are comfortable with your backups.

Cardinal Rule #5

Keep your software up to date. If there are security updates – apply these sooner than later. No excuses. If you are worried about an update breaking something – set up a staging environment and test there. If you do not have a staging environment but feel like testing is still important – spend the time and money to get one. I have seen clients who have had a security breach because they decided it would be best if they “only update quarterly” which may sound nice in a written report to someone – but when security issues come up and there are patches – they need to be applied ASAP or your site becomes vulnerable. Resolving security issues always cost greater than applying the updates.

In summary – not everyone knows the process or what they need to do when starting a web site project or maintaining their own site. My company has helped a lot of clients from start to finish and will make sure we go over the items above. We have also seen/helped a lot of clients who had an issue with one of the cardinal rules above and I, if possible, hope reading this has made you more aware of potential things to think about when doing any web site development. Creating and maintaining a web site can be a great experience or a nightmare. I hope your experience is great!

Jappler Recommends: RedmineCRM

While recently upgrading Redmine via Bitnami I stumbled upon the coolest set of themes/plugins for Redmine since I started using it back in 2011: RedmineCRM. I instantly moved to using a customized version of their Circle theme and am going to install a few of their plugins to help workflow over the next few days.

If you use Redmine and have not looked at RedmineCRM – take a few minutes and check them out!

A Lesson in Customer Service

For the last three months I have been dealing with a company (to remain nameless) in which I have received a faulty product. When dealing with the local option without any satisfaction or respect – I decided it was time to call the corporate office. As soon as I did – I felt like someone was actually listening and willing to make the horrible situation right by me.

At the end of the day – even though this has been an ordeal I hope I never have to go through again, I have learned a lot both as a consumer and business owner.

As a customer I kept calm while talking to everyone and tried to work towards a solution. I focused on giving the respect I would like if I was on the other side – while making my case very clear. Having everything well documented (dates, times, issues, etc) made it easy to stick on the issue itself and not my feelings. Facts speak louder than yelling.

As a business owner – I realized the importance of customer service, quality, and giving my best for every task at hand. Customers appreciate and expect the best and as a business, I need to bring it with everything we put out. No exceptions and no excuses. When things go awry, and they will at some point or another, it is then very important to then not only make sure it does not happen again, but also to focus on how we make the situation right. Making things right can be the difference in a lost customer vs. a loyal customer (as well as future customers).

While I am not excited to have spent so much time, effort, and money on this ordeal, I walk away with a few things to think about and hopefully that will make me a better person and business owner.

Defining the Problem is Half the Battle

Over the last few years after seeing hundreds of projects come through my company – if I have learned one thing – it is that defining the problem is half the battle.

So many times people will send over “documentation” which can sometimes be in the form of a mockup, an email, or a full blown specifications document. Most of the time the most difficult part of the project is extracting exactly what the client is looking for and not how to properly implement it. The client might even write one thing and actually mean something else so I always make sure to have the client clearly define what it is that they want. If they cannot clearly define something – how can you define the project or even the project’s success?

All I can recommend is that before getting into a project – make sure the client can clearly (in writing) state what they want as well as how to test it (you may need to help them a little). By having both the client define what it is that they want and how we can test it (to meet the end goal) – you can then reference the what and show them the how – using their own words thus showing them they got exactly what they originally wanted.

Above all…documentation is king.

Big Small Big

I work with a number of clients that range in size and have noticed something interesting (at least to me). The bigger companies tend to have more resources, take a longer time to produce something, but in the end put out a high quality product. A lot of people inside of the big business (with big ambition) see the long development cycle and get frustrated for the long processes and decide to leave big business and start their own small business in hopes of being more efficient/quick.

Once the business is set up – the ability to release products seems amazingly simple, easy, and effective. More and more products are introduced but soon they generally all run into the same thing: quality assurance issues. Sure they can release something quickly but part of the quickness is due to the lack of polish and proper review that is needed to create a truly great product. The products are generally 90% there but that last 10% is hard to obtain. Not everything needs to be perfect – but at the end of the day, we all want something of quality so the small business puts more time into getting the right people in place for design, implementation, and testing. Soon the quick release cycles becomes longer and longer and reminds them of the big business days.

At some point the cycle will start all over again. The business owner now understands and appreciates what it takes to create something of quality while someone who works under them gets frustrated and needs to learn the lesson for themselves by starting their own company.

Lesson for the day:
There are definite pluses and minuses with quick release cycles vs. longer release cycles. The key is to find some middle ground. Respect both a shorter release cycle while still paying attention to quality.